Jackson Barnett, the "Richest Indian"

For the detailed story about Jackson Barnett please consider purchasing

"The World's Richest Indian, The Scandal Over Jackson Barnett's Oil Fortune" by Tanis C. Thorne

"Not just the life story of Jackson Barnett, this is a story of the government's failure to meet its trust responsibility to protect 'restricted' or 'incompetent' Indians from those who preyed upon them and their oil-generated wealth. It is the story of the culture of greed that gripped early Oklahoma--a complex, sad, and sometimes ugly story, masterfully told."-Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., University of Arkansas at Little Rock

More information about this book, it's author, and purchasing info is avalible at the website of the publisher Oxford University Press, Click Here.

In the meantime...

Jackson Barnett, the "Richest" Indian

The story about the "Richest" Indian in newspaper articles and pictures.

Documents & Links ... What's new   (Last updated July 7, 2003)

Jackson Barnett, Before The Money

  This story starts in the early 1850s near Muskogee, Oklahoma with the birth of Jackson Barnett. Jackson's father, Siah Barnett, was a mixed-blood Creek Indian connected to the prominent Barnett family. Jackson's mother, "Thlesothle", was a mostly full-blood Creek Indian. Jackson's father and mother both belonged to the Tuckabatchee tribal town.   [Barnett genealogy.]

 Jackson was said to be a great lover of horses when young. It is said that sometime during his adolescence he was thrown off a horse and hit his head. This trauma apparently caused Jackson some damage which affected his future mental development. He evidently did not emotionally and intellectually develop well. He was described as having the mind of a child. He did not understand money or have social skills but was by all accounts a calm and unaffected person.

 By the mid 1850s Siah and Thlesothle had separated and sometime after Siah and his new wife Mary migrated much further southwest near the town of Bryant in Okmulgee county. Jackson lived with and around his mother (who had remarried), his half-brother Tecumseh Andrew, and other maternal kin as was the traditional Indian custom. It is said that sometimes he would visit and stay with cousins near Humboldt, Kansas. Jackson worked for many years for John Leecher (his uncle), the owner of a ferry near Muskogee on the Arkansas River. Jackson's half-brother Tecumseh also worked on Leecher's ferry. Meanwhile his father Siah, his uncle Jim, and James Fife operated a store near Bryant (dates unknown) near Bryant in southwestern Okmulgee county. They would travel regularly to Muskogee to pickup supplies and goods to sell in their store. It can only be assumed that during some of these trips Siah would visit with his son. In late June 1891 while operating the ferry Jackson's brother Tecumseh fell into the river and drowned. Word of Tecumseh's death eventually spread to relatives in Kansas and apparently the Barnetts at Bryant. It is said that Siah Barnett decided that he would go to Muskogee and bring Jackson back with him to Bryant.

 When Jackson came to the Bryant neighborhood he lived with his half-siblings and cousins. Eventually his relatives built him a cabin but many times he would prefer to stay in the woods even in his increasing age. While Jackson would by choice or nature not take care of himself like a "normal" person he evidently was extremely resilient and healthy for he lived to a ripe age. The relatives no doubt felt a bit ashamed of their "strange" kin but still they cared enough to keep food and fire wood in his cabin if he needed it. By the time of the Dawes Enrollment in 1899 his relatives probably filled out the application for him. When it came to select an allotment Jackson refused to make a selection and an arbitrary allotment in Creek county was made for him. Jackson was declared legally incompetent by the Indian officials and a guardian was appointed to handle his affairs. His guardian allowed an oil company to drill on his allotment for oil and it was on this allotment that Jackson's future fortune would spring in 1912.

[Muskogee Times Democrat, Feb. 9, 1916]


Cushing Allotment Develops 14,000 Barrel Well Today -- Owner Demented.


Lives in a Cabin Near Henryetta, Where Relatives Take Food and Fuel, Which Are His Only Wants.

When Jackson Barnett, a demented Creek Indian, is running wild in the woods of Okmulgee county, down near Henryetta, the Gypsy Oil Company today brought in a 14,000 barrel oil well on Barnett's allotment in the Cushing Field.

A Telegram received at the United States Indian Agency here today brought the information that the gusher had been brought in on the Barnett allotment in the S2 of the SE4 of section 5-17-12. The drillers are unable to control the gusher, the telegram says, and oil is flowing from the well into a creek.

Portrait photo of Jackson Barnett is a fullblood Creek. He has been declared an incompetent. He is not able to care for his property, his mind is deranged, and he lives in a hut in the woods near Henryetta. He roams through the woods, living on herbs and bark, and what game he can kill. While he drew down oil royalties to the amount of $3,000 a month before the big gusher was brought in, he care nothing for money. He does not know what money means and does not care. All he wants is to be left alone to live his life his own way.

Relatives, it is said, let him wander, and always keep a supply of food and fuel in his cabin.

He has no children, and all the money that is coming in from his allotment will no doubt go to his brothers and sister. While he is alive the government is keeping his property intact and investing his surplus wealth.

[Muskogee Times Democrat, May 10, 1917]


Washington, D.C., May 10-(Special)- Carl J. O'Hornett, guardian of Jackson Barnett, a full-blood Creek Indian of Henryetta, has appealed to Senator Owen and Congressman Hastings to intercede with the Department of the Interior to permit the investment of Barnett's $800,000 surplus cash in Liberty loan bond. The cash is idle in the sub-treasury of the United Sates but there is some doubt here about Indian Commissioner and R. C. Allen approving the loan. It is suggested that Allen may not regard it as a safe investment.

[Muskogee Daily Phoenix, June 8, 1917]


Jackson Barnett's guardian file application for permission to buy $700,000 of them.
OKMULGEE, June 7-(Special) Application has been made to the department of the interior by Carl J. O'Hornett of Henryetta, guardian of Jackson Barnett, the wealthiest Indian in the United States, for permission to invest about $700,000 of Barnett's gold in Liberty bond.

Barnett holds an allotment in the Cushing field which yields him an income of more than $50,000 per month and he now has $755,000 on deposit in state and national banks in the United States treasury. His guardian desires to invest all of this money in the Liberty Loan. Barnett lives in a cabin near Tiger flats and spends about $60 per month.

[Muskogee Times-Democrat, July 25, 1919]

Barnett's gift of $25,000 to church is given approval

Washington, July 25 - The commissioner of Indian Affairs has approved the donation of $25,000 made the First Baptist Church of Henryetta, Okla. by Jackson Barnett. In addition to being a restricted Indian, Mr. Barnett's affairs are looked after by a guardian, which made the matter an extremely technical one. He is possessed of a fortune estimated at more than a million dollars, which was derived from oil royalties principally. He is unmarried and has no relatives. He is a member of the church receiving the donation and lives a very simple life with few wants or desires. The church is now constructing a new building at a cost of $50,000.

[Muskogee Daily Phoenix, September 7, 1919]


Jackson Barnett's Next Gift Goes to Brother Who Fed Him When Poor

A check for $25,000 has been written by the cashier of the United States Indian agency, and will be mailed at once to the First Baptist church of Henryetta, of which the Reverend E. D. Cameron, former Muskogee preacher, is pastor.

This is a gift to the church by Jackson Barnett, wealthy Creek Indian, whose income is so large form oil royalty in the Cushing pool, that he will never be able to spend it during a lifetime.

Barnett is a member of the church and wanted to make a contribution for a new church building. Through the field agent he asked to be allowed to make the gift, and it was approved by the department.

While he has no desire to die a poor man, Barnett is developing into a sort of philanthropist. But he cannot make any useless gifts, because he is a restricted Indian and all of his expenditures are checked by the Indian superintendent at Muskogee.

Jackson now has another gift which he will submit to the department for their approval. He wants to give $50,000 to his half-brother, Dave Barnett, who lives at Bryant, Okla. Dave Barnett is an old-time full-blood with long gray hair. He has not been fortunate in getting oil on his land, and he and his daughter are making a meager living from a hilly farm. Before oil was found on Jackson's land, his brother Dave fed and clothed him and took care of him when he was ill and in need. Now Jackson wants to do something for his brother.

He wants him to have enough to live on during his life time, and wants to see that Dave's daughter receives a good education.

Dave was in Muskogee last week with Henry Harwell, postmaster at Bryant. He said that Jackson wanted to do something for him, and he came to ascertain the attitude of the department. He was told that if he was really a brother of Jackson, and his brother wished it, the gift would probably be approved.

Although the Indian office in Muskogee has handled hundreds of thousands of dollars of Jackson Barnett's money, the rich Indian has never been to Muskogee. He is now planning a trip here and call on the Indian officials, who are custodians of ...

Jackson's home built by his guardian Carl J. O'Hornett near Henryetta, Oklahoma.

Jackson's homeJackson's home

[Muskogee Times Democrat, January 31, 1920]


Jackson Barnett and "Kansas City Woman" Attempt to Get Married

Officers combing state for couple

Jackson Barnett, millionaire Indian incompetent and 70 years old, is trying to get married. In fact, he may be married at this time, although latest reports received at Muskogee indicate that the rich old man is still at large and single, despite his strenuous effort to break into the ranks of the benedicts. Reports said hem disappeared from his home at Henryetta with a woman companion either early Friday or late Thursday.

Comb State for Him.

Up to a late hour Saturday afternoon, the government had not been able to lay it's hand on Jackson and his near-bride, but the entire east-side of the state was being combed in an effort to locate the "marrying old couple." Reports at the Indian agency from Holdenville and Okemah were that Jackson and his companion, had been unable to secure a license at either of those places but that probably would try at other places before despairing.

"It's all an attempt of some schemers to get hold of Jackson's money," declared Joe Strain, acting superintendent for the Five Civilised Tribes who is trying to get in touch with Indian field clerks to get their assistance in foiling the couple. They know the old man won't last much longer and they have put this woman up to the trick so they come before the government with a claim on Jackson's millions and compromise for a few thousand dollars."

Ask for Licenses.

First reports of the attempt of the old couple to get married were received at the Indian agency late Friday. A telephone message from the field clerk at Okemah was to the effect that Jackson and his companion, "a middle-aged woman from Kansas City," were trying to get a marriage license from the county clerk court. The court clerk has applied for information to the field clerk, who had put his foot down on the securing of the license.

Jackson was asked how long he had known the woman and why he wanted to get married.

Known Her Only a Day

"Oh, I got acquainted yesterday," he is reported to have said, "and I liked her pretty well, so though we'd get married."

The next call for help was from Holdenville early Saturday. The field clerk was told to notify other field clerks in neighboring counties and to spread the news among the other county officials in an effort to prevent the marriage.

Mr. Strain has notified Carl J. O'Hornett, Jackson's guardian at Henryetta, who is scouring the country to locate his ward. Other's have also been put on the couple's trail.

Barnett is about 70 years of age and has never married. His money came from dozens of oil wells located on his allotments from the government.

Many Seek His Money.

In the past few months various organizations have made efforts to get large donations form him, but were unsuccessful with the single exception of the Baptist church at Henryetta, which is to build a $25,000 structure with his money. Barnett's wealth is variously estimated at from $1,000,000 to $3,000,000.

[Muskogee Times Democrat, February 23, 1920]


With Indian Missing, Williams Issues Injunction Against Charity Plan.

'Kidnaped' again by persistent 'lover'

With Jackson Barnett again missing - reported "kidnaped" by the same woman whose first effort to marry him proved futile three weeks ago - an order restraining Barnett's guardian and the Indian agency officials from allowing gifts to charities of $1,500,000 from the old Indian's estate was issued Monday morning by Federal Judge Robert Williams upon application of the National Surety company.  The hearing for a permanent injunction was set for Saturday morning. 

Disbursal of the million and a half dollars as proposed is illegal and can not be carried through, insists the surety company, which is bondsmen for the guardian, Carl J. O'Hornett of Henryetta and for David Buddruss, cashier at the Indian Agency.  Neither the guardian nor the agency has any authority under the law to spend the money, it is alleged.

Also named in the petition as a defendant is Gabe E. Parker, superintendent for the Five Civilized Tribes.  The surety company has been on O'Hornett's bond of $25,000 since July 1912, it is claimed, while Buddrus' bond of $400,000 was made in February 1913.

To Protect Bond Company.

"While this suit was filed simply to protect us," said Judge N. B. Maxey, attorney for the complainant, "we have been unable to find any authority in law for such an expedition of funds.  If the courts decide against us, then we are protected at any rate.

According to the petition, Barnett now has funds of about $1,5000,000 - practically the same as the proposed gifts to charities.

Officials at Washington now are revisiting former estimates of the amount to be expended on the proposed charities, according to Mr. Parker, who returned Saturday.  With the total funds estimated at a million and a half, it is said that the expenditures will be well under a million dollars - if they are made.

Gifts Total Million and Half.

Tentative plans call for the erection of an Indian hospital at Henryetta with endowment of the institution.  Gifts to churches and other charities bring the amount up close to a million and a half dollars.

According to Mr. Maxey, the "gift" of $25,000 recently made by Jackson Barnett to a church in Henryetta was in the form of a loan and did not render the bonding companies liable to collection for the amount

Woman Gave Two Names.

Henryetta, Oklah. Feb. 23 - (Special) Where is Jackson Barnett?

Believed to have been "kidnaped" Saturday night for the second time by a woman who gives her name on some occasion as Ida Bartell of Oklahoma City and on others as Mrs. Lowe of Kansas City, the aged Indian millionaire's whereabouts today are veiled in obscurity.

According to reports from Barnett's farm six miles from here, the persistent "suitor" who failed in her first attempt to get away with him about three weeks ago, called again about 8:30 o'clock Saturday night, invited the incompetent old man to "take a ride" and whisked him away.  The last that was seen of the high-powered car was when it plunged into a swirl of dust with its hood pointing north.

Sheriffs and other officers over all of eastern Oklahoma and surrounding states were immediately notified but no trace of the "elopers" has been found.

It is thought that the automobile was a service car from Okmulgee but efforts to locate it have been futile.

The first alleged attempt of the Bartell-Lowe woman to marry Barnett was frustrated when then pair drove up to the courthouse in Holdenville about three weeks ago to seek a license.  A crowd recognised Barnett and the pair abandoned their effort to get the license.

[Muskogee Times Democrat, February 25, 1920]

Jackson Barnett and Wife as Photographed at Coffeyville

Jackson Barnett, millionaire Creek Indian of Henryetta, and Mrs. Anna Laura Lowe Barnett, who were married at Coffeyville, Kansas, Monday after a sensational "development", posed for the photographer at the request of the Times-Democrat correspondent yesterday morning, and the result is shown above. When the picture was taken both Barnett and his wife were clad in nobby leather coats which they wore when they left Henryetta in a motor car. The rakish tilt of Barnett's hat and the Barney Oldfield slant of his cigar would indicate that he is anything but displeased with his lot.

Guardian O'Hornett Finally Gets Conference with Barnett and His Bride; Result of Secret Meeting Not Disclosed; Pair Still in Coffeyville

Coffeyville, Kas. Feb. 25-(Special)-Overcoming the objections of Mrs. Anna Laura Lowe Barnett, bride since Monday of his 68-year-old Indian ward, Carl J. O'Hornett, Guardian of Jackson Barnett, gained entrance Wednesday morning into the honeymoon suite at a local hotel and held a conference with the elopers, whose sensational dash for the Kansas line Sunday night and the subsequent marriage Monday morning made more than one officer wonder were they got through.

O'Hornett had been denied admittance to the room of his ward Tuesday night by the bride, but Wednesday morning, accompanied by his attorneys, Nott and Welch of Coffeyville, he succeeded in negotiating with the Indian. The conference was conducted through attorneys McGugin and Keith, also of Coffeyville, who were hastily engaged by Mrs. Barnett. He did not succeed in seeing old Barnett alone as he had desired.

Mrs. Barnett hurled defiance at her husband's guardian and urged him to allow them to return to the Barnett home near Henryetta without molestation. Otherwise, she declared, they would not return. No answer to the ultimatum has been made by O'Hornett, it is understood.

Meanwhile the bridal couple are seemingly enjoying themselves despite the virtual surveillance to which they are subjected by the Coffeyville police and secret service men. They are, however, allowed their freedom and apparently have no though of worry.

[Muskogee Dailey Phoenix, Feb. 27, 1920]


'Leap Year' Wife of Millionaire Indian Stands Careful, Defiant Guard Over Spouse

Millionaire is 'broke' but funds still keep coming

Officials Think Some Interested Third Party Is Financing Barnett's Defence - Officers Here Mum.

Coffeyville, Kan. Feb. 26 - An attempt to kidnap Jackson Barnett was frustrated here late this afternoon through quick action on the part of his wife, according to employees at the hotel where the couple are living.

They said that while Mrs. Barnett was using telephone on another floor, a large gray touring car containing two young men drone to the curb outside a window where Barnett could be seen sunning himself.  Men in the car held up a fish pole and pointing toward the river beyond the city they attracted the attention of the Indian and as he was about to join them one of the party rushed into the hotel to meet him.  The wife appeared on the scene and shoving her husband into his room turned on the intruders with a pistol.

Third attempt to steal him

This is a said to be the third attempt to kidnap or entice Barnett away from the hotel.  Her attorneys are said to have employed private detectives from Kansas City to guard the couple.

In a statement dictated to a porter Mrs. Barnett said: "Our home is in our apartment at the hotel. I have the right to defend that home against any invader.  I am not a gun woman but the trespasser who crosses my threshold to assail my husband may expect to be shot.

"We are through with Oklahoma, Kansas is our home, and in Coffeyville, if possible.  Oklahoma refused us our rights as American citizens and Kansas accepted us, therefore we, will continue to make Kansas our home."

One of Mrs. Barnett's attorneys left the city today and, it is said, has gone to Wichita, Kansas, to apply to the federal court for an injunction to prevent Carl J. O'Hornett of Henryetta, Okla., Barnett's guardian, or any government official from handling any of Barnett's various funds pending the decision in the annulment proceedings which government attorneys here gave notice would be started.  The action is being held in abeyance pending the arrival here of certified copies of the federal and state court records from Muskogee showing Barnett has been adjudged incompetent.

Up to Kansas Jury

Harold McGugin, one of the attorneys for Mrs. Barnett, today said he expected to institute legal proceedings should federal authorities insist on annulment proceedings.  His contention is that the Oklahoma federal and state court decisions are not binding on the question of Barnett's competency, but that a Kansas jury must pass on the matter before the marriage can be set aside unless Barnett is taken from the Kansas jurisdiction.  The attorney said if Barnett should be kidnaped or enticed into Oklahoma then the decision of that state would apply.  If the question of sanity becomes an issue it is expected both sides will bring alienists from all over the country to give testimony as to Barnett's mental fitness.

Bride gets the money

Mrs. Barnett herself tonight denied a rumor that her husband was without funds to fight the annulment proceedings.  She is known to have a preliminary sum of $1,000 wired to her credit yesterday, and it is said several thousand dollars additional were to be brought here today.  Federal officials believe the ... [end of copy]

For background information about Anna Laura Lowe see this scandelous Confidential Report dated April 28, 1920.

[Muskogee Daily Phoenix, Aug. 7, 1921]


Orders Custom Made Sport Roadster and Will Build $300,000 Wigwam Here

Jackson Barnett, 'millionaire' Creek Indian is 'stepping out.'

(photo from Ebay.com)
He has been playing the ponies at the Windsor races at Detroit Mich., and now his wife, Anna Laura Barnett, who was accused of kidnapping him when they ran away to Coffeyville, Kans., and married, announces that Jackson is coming back to Muskogee and build himself a $300,000 wigwam.

Word of Jackson's mingling among the high steppers at Detroit reached Muskogee yesterday in the form of an interview with Mrs. Barnett.

Craves Speed

Mrs. Barnett declares in her interview that Jackson became so enthusiastic over the races that he has gone to Toronto to buy a fast horse, which he will train at Muskogee and enter in the Windsor races next year.

According to the statement credited to Mrs. Barnett there will be a 160 acre park around the $300,000 wigwam to be built there.

"We are going to have a swimming pool, a garage and a stable. We have already ordered a special made automobile. The house will be of stone and have a red tile roof. Our beautiful mahogany will cost $25,000. Jackson and I have been living long enough in a 30-acre homestead and in an ordinary cottage," according to the interview.

About the only trouble with "Chief" Barnett as husband, according to his wife, who says she is superlatively fond of him, "is that he insists on walking Indian fashion (single file) when we go down the avenue together.

Tell of Indian Traits

"He drops into his old habit often." she said, "and when he walks in front of me, as the Indians used to walk in front of the squaws, I am afraid he will be run over by automobile."

"Chief" refuses also to be henpecked," she said. Silence, eternal silence, is his forte whenever his plans are interfered with.

"I am the boss of the house," said Mrs. Barnett, "but I seem to do as the chief wishes."

Mrs. Barnett told the reporter the chief is now being allowed $600 a month by the government, but she expects the Harding administration will allow him $50,000 a year out of his enormous income.

Jackson in field near Muskogee, 1922
Jackson on his newly bought farm,
on West Okmulgee ave., Muskogee, 1922.
Portrait photo of Jackson and Laura Portrait photo of Jackson and Laura Portrait photo of Jackson

[Muskogee Daily Phoenix, Feb. 2, 1923]


$550,000 Endowment Fund For Bacone, Murrow From Which he Draws $20,000


Agreement to Foil 'Schemers' Reached in Washington and Assures Him $50,000 Yearly Spending Cash

Jackson Barnett yesterday voluntarily stripped himself of most of his wealth.  He signed away more than a million dollars and for the remainder of his life must be content with an income of about $50,000 a year.  Mrs. Barnett is given outright $550,000.  With another $550,000 is created an endowment fund for Bacone College at Muskogee and the Murrow Indian orphan's home.  This sum is given to the Baptist home mission society of New York, which had administration control over Bacone and the Murrow home.

Announcement of the agreement was made in Washington yesterday.  It was reached at a conference of the Barnetts with Charles H. Burke, commissioner of Indian affairs, Victor Locke, superintendent of the Five Civilized Tribes and A. J. Ward, tribal attorney.

At His Own Request

The various trust agreements involved were made, according to Mr. Burke, "because designing persons" sought not only to gain control of his property now but were scheming to make claims after his death.

Bacone college now will have the largest endowment of any state educational institution, Dr. B. D. Weeks superintendent, said last night.  He had been awaiting for several weeks announcement of the agreement which was the primary purpose of the Barnetts' visit to Washington.

Disposal of Barnett's fortune was arranged at his request to keep it out of the hands of these "designing persons" when he dies, Burke stated in Washington.

The plan assures Barnett an income of $50,000 a year during his life and disposes of the bulk of his estate, including his allotment in the Cushing oil pool of Oklahoma, and liberty bonds and cash approximating $1,500,000.

In Sensational Marriage

Barnett, who has no living relatives with legal or moral claims upon him, according to Burkes's announcement, has been in the public eye more prominently perhaps than any other Indian, not only because of his great wealth but because of his sensational marriage about three (sic) years ago when his bride is alleged to have kidnaped him from his guardian in Oklahoma and taken him to Kansas, where they were married.  They recently purchased a home at Forty-eight street and Okmulgee avenue.

Out of the $550,000 gift to Mrs. Barnett, she establishes a trust fund of $200,000 through a Washington bank with the provision that Barnett is to receive $7,500 of the annual income.

The entire gift to the mission society is deposited with a New York trust company which agrees to pay him $20,000 a year from its proceeds as long as he lives.

It is explained that the gift to the society, which will go to its permanent endowment fund, is not a denominational or church donation but is made solely because the organization has administrative control over Bacone college and the Murrow home.

To Balk Varied Schemers

Barnett, in addition to the $27,500 a year thus assured to him from these two gifts, retains title to his allotment in the Cushing oil field which is bringing him more than $18,000 annually, and is receiving about $5,000 a year interest on loans which have been made.

According to Commissioner Burke, Jackson's wealth seems to have been a magnet attracting designing persons of every character from all parts of the country.  Indian department official have been called upon to devote much time and energy in the thwarting of impossible and fantastic schemes to secure his wealth.

"Definite knowledge has recently come," Burke said, "to the Indian office officials that the grafters are not content with making encroachments on this estate during the lifetime of its owner, but have gone so far as to hunt up persons who will claim to be his heirs upon his death and have secured from them contracts for 50 percent of their interest in his estate and which claims will be prosecuted when Jackson Barnett dies.

[Muskogee Times Democrat, May 31, 1923]


But This Time It's In California Where They Intend to Remain

Carl J. O'Hornett of Henryetta, guardian in name only of Jackson Barnett, wealthy Creek Indian, will have to hurry if he expects to recover any of that $550,000 awarded Mrs. Barnett in the recent settlement of Barnett's estate.

Jackson's mansionNews has been received in Muskogee of the purchase by Mrs. Barnett of a palatial residence in Los Angeles. At the office of the commissioner of the Five Civilised Tribes, it was stated that if the report of the purchase is true, Mrs. Barnett acted entirely without the knowledge of the Indian office.

Immediately after the distribution of Jackson Barnett's fortune in Washington last winter, Mrs. Barnett went immediately to California, leaving her husband in Muskogee. She made one or two other trips to the Pacific coast before packing up the family trinkets and departing for a long stay. The news of a purchase of a California home by Mrs. Barnett confirms rumors that the Barnett's intend to reside just as far from Oklahoma and it's probate courts as they can get.

Attacked Distribution

O'Hornett is attacking in the federal courts the distribution of Barnett's fortune on the ground that he as guardian was consulted and did not approve the settlement. For a long time prior to the actual division of the estate, O'Hornett was ignored by the Indian offices in the handling of Barnett's affairs. By his court actions the guardian would have paid into his hands the more than a million dollars involved in the Washington settlement under which Bacone College and Mrs. Barnett were the chief beneficiaries.

The Muskogee Indian offices still are sending Barnett his monthly allowance of $2,500. It is remitted to a Los Angeles bank with which the Barnett's have made financial transactions.

[Muskogee Daily Phoenix, May 30, 1934]

Jackson Barnett, Whom Oklahoma Enriched but Couldn't Educate
Dies in Palatial Home; Not a Cent to Woman Who "Kidnapped" Him

Mrs. Barnett Found Jackson, 70, Living As Though Penniless

When Oil Was Found on His Land, Indian "Became Shuttlecock in Game of Battledore"

Jackson Barnett lived for 70 years in his shack near Henryetta with his dogs and ponies, and until he became wealthy was allowed to shift for himself and eke out an existence as best he could. Even when fortune came to him and oil that yielded a monthly income of $90,000 was discovered on his allotment in Creek county, Barnett refused to leave his home or change his mode of living.

With the discovery of oil on his apparently worthless land in the Cushing field, however, Barnett became, as described by Federal Judge John C. Knox of New York, "a shuttlecock in a game of battledore in which the stakes were high." Known as the "world's richest Indian" Barnett was solicited and importuned for donations, kidnapped, and married by an adventuress, and harassed and annoyed by his attorneys."   [more+]

[Muskogee Daily Phoenix, June 3, 1934]


Jackson Lived Alone Near Henryetta Until Gold Rushed From Scrubby Acreage


Battle for Indian Millions Just Starting, a Heirs Flock to Agency Here.

The death of Jackson Barnett last week brought to a sudden close one of the strangest and at the same time one of the sordidly romantic stories in the history of the rich Creek nation and began another.

Jackson Barnett was "the world's richest Indian".  As oil gushed forth from his 160 acres in Creek county - land that had been given up as unproductive, and which had been allotted him as punishment for his participation in the ill-fated "Crazy Snake" rebellion - Barnett's fortune was estimated at $90,000 per month, and 10 years later, as oil continued to pour from his properties, it was still estimated at more than three million dollars.

At his death, Jackson Barnett enjoyed a monthly income of $2,500 and had more than $1,900,000 on deposit with the superintendent of the Five Civilized Tribes.

For 70 years Jackson lived among his dogs and ponies in a log cabin shack near Henryetta.  Unkept, unlettered, dirty, the millionaire Creek was considered a "scrub" Indian, unable to meet the requirements of the Creek tribe.  An outcast, Jackson lived alone until "black gold" poured out of his allotment.

It was there that Anna Laura Lowe, a Kansas oil promoter, found him, and rushed the millionaire "scrub" across the Kansas state line to marry him.  Mrs. Lowe is reported to have made several trips to Barnett's cabin to woo the aged Creek incompetent.  Jackson later said that he refused several times to marry Mrs. Lowe, an attractive white widow, because she called when it was "getting dark."

Against that marriage the Indian bureau cried in protest.  They insisted that Jackson was incompetent, did not understand the intent of marriage vows, and that the extent of his participation in the marriage ceremony had been a "grunt and a grin."   [more+]

[Muskogee Dailey Phoenix, June 8, 1934]

Jackson Barnett Buried In Hollywood Cemetery, Far From Native Plains

Hollywood. June 7 - AP - Far from the rolling plains of his native Oklahoma, Jackson Barnett, reputedly the world's wealthiest Indian, was buried today in Hollywood cemetery.  The Rev. Frank Gibson, and Episcopalian minister, conducted brief services.

(Thanks to Allan Ellenburger)
Accompanying the body to the final resting place was Mrs. Anna Laura Lowe Barnett, who Wednesday won her court battle to prevent the government from sending the aged Creek's body to Oklahoma for burial.

Mrs. Barnett, whose marriage to the Indian recently was annulled in federal court, said she would prosecute her fight to obtain a widow's share of the estate. 

Barnett died May 29 of a heart ailment. He was 92 years of age.  Funeral services were held May 31, but the government halted burial plans, insisting his body be sent to his birth place for interment among his tribal ancestors.  Mrs. Barnett obtained a restraining order preventing the undertaker from sending the body to Oklahoma.

The story continues...

Because Jackson and Anna's marriage was annulled shortly before Jackson's death Anna then had no effective legal claim to the estate as Jackson's "widow". Because of this, Jackson's estate then fell to his natural heirs. The fight over Jackson's began in the local courts but because of the growing claims to the estate the case was removed to the Federal Court of the Eastern District of Oklahoma in Muskogee presided by Judge Robert L. Williams.  Immediately after Jackson's death the local and Federal Court began to be deluged with legitimate and phony claims to the estate.  

Estate case
The taking of depositions from over 600 claimants and witnesses around Oklahoma and even other states began in March 1935 and ended in February 1937.  The trial to determine the heirs and live in-court testimony began in March 1937 and ended in June 1938.  Throughout this time Jackson's legitimate nieces, nephews, cousins had the tremendous task of countering the many phony claims by filing legal briefs and presenting witnesses to the contrary.  In the beginning each individual legitimate niece, nephew and cousin was presenting largely similar and complementary claims but eventually they decided to join forces and present a united claim to help counter the illegitimate claims.   The most persistent phony claim was from a Negro woman who claimed to have been married to Jackson and had a child.  Others were from supposed cousins in Tennessee and Kentucky.  Even before Jackson's death it was known to the government officials that there were many unscrupulous people patiently waiting for the day Jackson died when they would swoop in and make their "claim" to the estate.  Also, some persons with the Barnett surname were approached and induced by lawyers to try and cash in on Jackson's fortune.   T

Finally, after 5 years of taking testimony and depositions from real and alleged relatives who lived close and far and legal maneuvers from attorneys and government officials Judge Robert L. Williams came to a decision. On December 16, 1939 he filed his opinion in the case and on January 2, 1940 decreed and awarded half of the estate to Jackson's paternal nieces and nephews and the other half to his maternal cousins. The court's judgment was then appealed by the losing parties to the circuit court and later Supreme Court to be tried but in both cases the initial court ruling was held valid, without further trial.

In July 1943 the Department of the Interior decreed that out of Jackson's estate: $142,421.92 in cash, bonds valued at $207,160.09, and $166,150.00 in other monies, for a total of $515,732.01 would be distributed amongst the heirs.  The 13 nieces and nephews each received $12,485.07 (roughly $130,000 in 2002 dollars) and the cousins each received $9,710.61 more or less.

See these records from the "Estate Case" (equity case 4556):

The "estate case" was not an actual "probate" case but a civil "equity case".  This particular federal equity case dealt with Jackson's estate.  The original records are located in the SW National Archives in Fort Worth, Texas.  They are part of the "U.S. District Court records" (Record Group 21), Eastern District of Oklahoma, equity case #4556.

Index of persons who testified in the Jackson Barnett "estate case" 1935-1938+. This indexes the depositions and court testimony.
    • Some miscellaneous testimony about Jackson's maternal relatives.
    • Download a text database (53k) of the witnesses.

Legal fillings  made in the Jackson Barnett "estate case".  This is an incomplete list, 1934-1938 only.

"Findings of fact and conclusions of law"  regarding the heirs of Jackson Barnett, July 18, 1938. A summary of all the claimants groups and who were judged the true heirs of Jackson Barnett.

"Notice to Attorneys"  in the Jackson Barnett Case about payments.

Box list and location  of the original "estate case" records in the SW National Archives, Fort Worth, Texas.

• A scandelous Confidential Report about Anna Laura Lowe dated April 28, 1920.

A gallery of known Jackson Barnett related photographs.

There is also a considerable amount of information concerning the government's internal affairs and their legal maneuvers regarding Jackson Barnett in the "Records of the U.S. Attorneys and Marshals" (RG 118), Eastern District & Western District, also in the SW National Archives.  There are dozens of boxes of original letters, reports, and documents.

See these other sites that mention Jackson Barnett:

The History of Drumright Public Schools - Mentions Drumright oil field

Winners of the West article, 1938

"Tulsa World" article, 1982

"The Invasion of Indian Country in the Twentieth Century ..."    by Donald Fixico - Chapter one is about Jackson Barnett.

Mott vs. U.S. @ FindLaw.com

United States vs. Equitable Trust Co. of New York @ FindLaw.com

Congressional Records

• H. R. 4186: "To authorize the sale and conveyance of certain property of the estate of Jackson Barnett, deceased Creek Indian" (James F. O'Connor - Montana). Seventy-eighth Congress; Second Session (1944). Committee on Indian Affairs.

• S. 1710: "To authorize the sale and conveyance of certain property of the estate of Jackson Barnett, deceased Creek Indian" (Elmer Thomas - Oklahoma). Seventy-eighth Congress; Second Session (1944). Committee on Indian Affairs.

• Senate Report 820 (S. 1710): "Jackson Barnett, Deceased, Sale of Certain Property." Seventy-eighth Congress; Second Session (1944).

Back to CIR.