• Dennis McCaslin

Our Arklahoma Heritage: Crawford County born bank robber Matt Kimes

Updated: Mar 23

Valentine Kimes - 1811-1892

A Crawford County family who can trace their lineage all the way back to Maryland during the founding of the United States had at least a couple of bad apples that fell from their family tree who were among some of the nation's most hunted outlaws during the Prohibition Era.

The Kimes family, whose family history can be traced back to Franklin County, Maryland during the signing of the Declaration of Independence, made their may to Arkansas through a series of generational moves. Along the way they lived in Virginia and Missouri before eventually settling in northern Crawford County in and around the Chester community.

The Kimes family were such a presence in the area that a large cemetery that lies just west of Freedom Road near Chester with at least fifty-six burials still bears the family name.

But one of the more infamous offspring of the family didn't make it back to the family plot.

Matthew Kimes, a notorious bank robber, jail escape artist and cold-blooded killer met his fate in Little Rock on December 14, 1945 when he was run down by a poultry truck, a nondescript end to a notorious career.

Matthew Kimes and his brother George Kimes comprised part of the Kimes Gang in the 1920s, beginning their outlaw ways at a young age as little more than petty thieves but quickly moved on to bank robbery.

Their thieving occurred throughout Arkansas, Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. They were responsible for the death of a number of law enforcement officials. including two in Oklahoma.

His first bank robbery was in Depew, Oklahoma on June 30th, 1926 just a day after he finished serving a jail term for burglary. A couple of months later he and his gang robbed another bank in Beggs, Oklahoma and a few days after that in Covington, where they looted two banks in simultaneously.

They almost robbed a third one but were foiled because the outside bank clock was a few minutes off from the clocks on other two.

On August 13th, 1926 Kimes took time off from robbing banks to marry a 16-year-old girl named Bertha Bozart.

On August 27, 1926, Sequoyah County, Oklahoma Deputy Sheriff Perry Chuculate and another officer stopped a speeding vehicle. The vehicle, which was stolen, contained both Matthew and his brother George Kimes.

As the officers approached the car, the Kimes brothers opened fire, killing Deputy Chuculate.

The outlaws were both convicted in connection with the murder of Deputy Chuculate and sentenced to 30 years in prison. George was sent to prison at McAlester but while Matthew was still in jail awaiting transfer, members of his gang forced their way into the facility at gunpoint and rescued him.

They soon after robbed a bank in Sapulpa.

Matthew continued his crime spree with the Cotton Top Walker Gang, which was responsible for the murders of Patrolman Coke Buchanan, of the Borger, Texas Police Department, on March 19, 1927; Deputy D. P. Kenyon and Deputy Almer Terry, both of the Hutchinson County, Texas Sheriff’s Department, on April 1, 1927; and Chief W. J. McAnnally of the Beggs, Oklahoma Police Department, on May 18, 1927.

The 1927 killing of Chief McAnally occured when Kimes and eleven members of the gang returned to Beggs and looted two banks of $18,000. During their getaway Kimes gunned down McAnally in thge street in front of the bank. .

The law caught up with him in Flagstaff, Arizona and he was given a life sentence at the state pen at McAlester.

After several years behind bars authorities must have figured Kimes was reformed as he was given a leave in November, 1945 to go quail hunting Unable to resist the temptation, he robbed a bank in Texas and went on the lam.

Before lawmen could re-capture him Matt Kimes, one of the 1920s most notorious bank robbers and escape artists was run over and killed by a truckload of chickens in Little Rock on December 14, 1945.

His body was returned to Crawford County and he was buried in the Gracelawn Cemetery on Oak Road in Van Buren next to his parents, Cornelius and Lillie Mae Kimes.

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