Osage Murders

Photos of Henry Roan and Reta Smith

Osage Murders: Photos of Henry Roan and Reta Smith (Public Opinion, via Newspapers.com™)

The Osage Murders (also called the Reign of Terror) were a series of murders and suspicious deaths of members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma, primarily between 1921 and 1926. 

The Osage had become wealthy after oil was discovered on their land in the 1890s, and conspiracies to exploit and control Osage wealth soon proliferated. During this period, dozens of Osage were murdered in attempts to obtain their oil rights. (The exact number of killings is unknown and may be much higher.) 

The Bureau of Investigation (the predecessor of the FBI) was eventually sent to investigate the crimes. Most of the Osage murders were never prosecuted; however, high-profile trials of William Hale and John Ramsey ultimately resulted in their conviction for the 1923 murder of Henry Roan.  

The book (2017) and movie (2023) Killers of the Flower Moon are based on these crimes.

Learn more about the Osage Murders through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.


Articles and Clippings about the Osage Murders

"What the Osage Nation Comprises" 15 Feb 1912, Thu The Wynona Enterprise (Wynona, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Osage Indians Richest People in the World" 22 Aug 1916, Tue Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii) Newspapers.com "Osage Indians Piling Up Wealth So Rapidly That Uncle Sam Is Worried" 12 Dec 1920, Sun The Springfield News-Leader (Springfield, Missouri) Newspapers.com "Trust Period Would Make Too Many Millionaires" 02 Jan 1921, Sun Tulsa World (Tulsa, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Guardianship Regulations" 10 Feb 1921, Thu The Osage Journal (Pawhuska, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Robbery the Motive in Whitehorn Murder" "Indian Woman Murdered at Fairfax" 03 Jun 1921, Fri The Hominy News-Republican (Hominy, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Osages Cannot Sell Royalty On Allotted Land, Interior Department Officials Rule" 01 Sep 1922, Fri The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Leasing Oil Lands From Indians For Song Laid to New Group" 21 Feb 1924, Thu The Osage Journal (Pawhuska, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Osage Prosecutor to Attempt Solution of Mysterious Chain Of Gruesome Indian Murders" 28 Dec 1924, Sun Tulsa World (Tulsa, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Fiends Pursue Osages" "Long List of Bloody Tragedies Charged Up to Crime Ring" 12 Mar 1925, Thu Shawnee News-Star (Shawnee, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Big Sensation Disclosed by Files of Court" "W. K. Hale, Rich Rancher On Trial At Guthrie" 06 Jan 1926, Wed Henryetta Daily Free-Lance (Henryetta, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Osage Killings" "Review of the Tragedies and Incidents Connected with Them Graphically Told" 07 Jan 1926, Thu The Ardmore Statesman and Weekly Ardmoreite (Ardmore, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Fear of Killers Fills Osage With Whispers" (photos of Henry Roan, Reta Smith & Henry Vaughn) 26 Jan 1926, Tue Public Opinion (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.com "Osage Indian Reign of Terror" 18 Feb 1926, Thu Haskell News (Haskell, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Osage Murder Cases Held Punishable Under Federal Laws by Supreme Court" 01 Jun 1926, Tue Corsicana Daily Sun (Corsicana, Texas) Newspapers.com "Osage Indian Confesses to Killing Woman" "Hale Offered Him $600 and Automobile to Kill Anna Brown" 03 Jun 1926, Thu The Cleveland American (Cleveland, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Trial Is Ended by His Plea" "First Man Tried in Osage Murder Case Enters a Plea of Guilty" 09 Jun 1926, Wed Sapulpa Herald (Sapulpa, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "U.S. Tightens Grip on Osage Ring" 10 Jun 1926, Thu The Oklahoma News (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Central Figure in Osage Indian Murder Ring" (photo of Mollie Burkhart) 20 Jun 1926, Sun Morning Examiner (Bartlesville, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Hung Jury in Hale-Ramsey Murder Trial" (photos of William K. Hale and John Ramsey) 25 Aug 1926, Wed The Enid Daily Eagle (Enid, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Reign of Terror Victims" 30 Oct 1926, Sat The Frederick Leader (Frederick, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Hale and Ramsey Given Life Terms for Roan Murder" "Case Will Be Appealed" 30 Oct 1926, Sat Tulsa World (Tulsa, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Mystery of the Osage Murders" 23 Sep 1934, Sun St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Newspapers.com "Parole Granted to Hale" 01 Aug 1947, Fri Blackwell Journal-Tribune (Blackwell, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com "Reign of Terror Recalled" "Oklahoma to Close Books On Infamous Osage Murders" 08 Nov 1959, Sun Sunday Times Signal (Zanesville, Ohio) Newspapers.com "Osage oil land allotments were worth killing for" (photo of oil wells on Osage lands in 1905) 29 Sep 2002, Sun The Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) Newspapers.com "At a glance: Who's who?" "Headrights became reason for people to kill in Osage County" 12 Jan 2014, Sun The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) Newspapers.com
"Osage Murders," Newspapers.com Topics (https://www.newspapers.com/topics/crimes-mysteries/osage-murders/ : accessed April 13, 2024)