Dead Women Crossing, Oklahoma

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Dead Women Crossing, located at the center of the image. Weatherford is to the southwest.

Dead Women Crossing is a small unincorporated community on Deer Creek near Weatherford in Custer County, Oklahoma, United States, at elevation 1,509 feet.[1][2][3]

Origin of the name[edit]

Susan Woolf Brenner, a university student from Weatherford, investigated the origin of the name Dead Women Crossing. Her report, Dead Woman's Crossing: The Legacy of a Territorial Murder, was published in Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 60 in 1982.[4] Michael Norman and Beth Scott describe Brenner's findings in their book Haunted Heritage.[5]

On July 6, 1905, a schoolteacher named Katie De Witt James filed for divorce. The next day, she carried her 14-month-old daughter Lulu Belle to a train station in Custer City. Katie was going to visit with her cousin who lived in Ripley. Her father Henry DeWitt came to bid farewell; her husband Martin James did not come to the station.[5]

A few weeks later, Henry became concerned that he had not heard from his daughter. He contacted a sheriff, who suggested hiring a detective named Sam Bartell. Bartell started his investigation from Clinton, but nobody remembered seeing a woman and a baby there. Then on July 28, 1905 in Weatherford Bartell learned that Katie and the baby spent a night in the house of William Moore. They were brought to this house by Moore's sister-in-law Fannie Norton, a resident of Clinton who also was known as Mrs. Ham, and reputed to be a prostitute.[6] In the morning Norton, Katie and the baby left in a buggy; Norton returned alone two hours later. Then Norton went back to Clinton.[5]

Later Bartell found out that two women and the baby were seen around Deer Creek. The detective also was able to find the baby. The witness testified that Norton left the baby with a boy, and asked him to take the baby home. The baby was unharmed, but her clothing was covered with blood.[5]

While locals searched for Katie, Bartell tracked down Norton, who denied she murdered Katie. Later that day Norton committed suicide by poison.[5]

On August 31, 1905, Katie's remains were found near Deer Creek, about twenty miles east of Clinton. Her head was severed from her body. Katie's father confirmed these were remains of his daughter.[5]

Many questions about the murder went unanswered.

  • Did Katie and Norton meet on the train by chance, or had Norton sought out Katie? Was Norton somehow involved with Katie's estranged husband, and if so what was his role in the murder? Katie's husband had a strong alibi for the time of her disappearance, but he did not take a part in her search, and showed no interest in finding her.[5]
  • Why were Katie's remains not found for two months? The area was extensively searched. Did somebody move Katie's body later, and if so, who did it? The only suspect in the case, Fannie Norton, was long dead by that time.
  • Why did Katie leave the train at Clinton, rather than continuing to Ripley as planned? What did a schoolteacher find in common with a prostitute?[5]


Coordinates: 35°34′04″N 98°39′03″W / 35.56778°N 98.65083°W / 35.56778; -98.65083