The Osage Indian murder investigation, conducted by a young Bureau Of Investigation in 1923 Oklahoma, is one of those cases lost in time and in all probability, lost in the smoke and fanfare of the later gangster era. At the time of the opening of the Osage murder case, J. Edgar Hoover was still the assistant director of the Bureau Of Investigation (later named FBI) answering to William Burns and Hoover would not be Director yet for another year. However, with his continued leadership of the Bureau and the devotion and tenacity of the agents involved, there's no doubt that this investigation is probably the one that put the Bureau of Investigation "on the map."
During the 1920s, the Osage tribesmen were some of the richest people in the world. Each Osage owned a percentage of the tribe's oil wealth, commonly known as a "headright." As a result of not being well educated, many of the Osage often had "guardians" who managed their fortunes. And this, sadly, is where the crimes begin.
If you're an active or retired lawman, and you ever thought you worked a case involving total chaos and frustration, you'll need to take a trip back to the Osage Reservation, Oklahoma in 1923 and examine the Osage Indian's discovery of oil on their land. The result was massive - and we mean massive - corruption and murder that followed as the "white man" tried to steal it all. In fact, there were apparently about sixty questionable murders at the time. Federal jurisdiction only covered a handful of them as "crimes on a government reservation."
The Osage case file is released at fbi.gov and is sixty five volumes long. In a very preliminary review of the opening volumes, SA Calvin Weakley makes no bones to SAC Findlay and on to Burns and Hoover, via a letter from SAC Findlay, that there is no confidence by Weakley in solving the cases. In this regard, Findlay wants to have SA Tom Weiss "re-instated" back into the Bureau because he believes Weiss can solve it. And he does with the help of others such as SA Frank Smith, a survivor later of the Kansas City Massacre of June, 1933. During the investigation, the Bureau sent 4 agents undercover into Osage territory, one as a "medicine man!" (SA Weiss had left the Bureau in 1923, but was working on the Osage case for the Governor of Oklahoma.)
The story of the 1920s Osage Indian murder investigation is a massive one.
There is, however, an easier way to get started.....and it's short and to the point.
A chapter from our friend and writer Jim Doherty's book "Just The Facts: True Tales Of Cops And Criminals" tells it all. From his many real life crime studies, "Blood For Oil" is a non-fiction account of the Osage murders and the resulting investigation. It's rich in history of the Osage tribe before and after the turn of the century; the wealth acquired from land purchases and oil findings with a taste of dusty and dirty exploitations of the white man. Based in Oklahoma in the 1920s, a true story of horrendous greed, multiple murders and a people who didn't want to talk. Many [including the FBI] thought the murders would go unsolved. Like the other intensely interesting stories within Doherty's book, this chapter is well researched, and will no doubt catapult those interested into wanting more.
"Blood for Oil" won the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America for Best Short Non-Fiction.
Read "Blood For Oil" today! Reproduced here with Jim's consent.
Bureau agents involved in the Osage murders investigation include the legendary, Special Agent In Charge (SAC) Tom White; SA Frank Smith, SA Alex White, SA Gene Parker, SA Charlie Davis and SA John Wren. More about SA Wren and his heritage is below.