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The Ruthless Outlaw Cullen Baker
Cullen Montgomery Baker was without a doubt, one of meanest, cold blooded killers in the Old West. He once shot and killed a black slave woman simply because he didn’t like her looks and Cullen Baker did not like black people. At least a dozen dead men were left by him and those who rode with him. Some have even said hundreds.
Baker was born in Weakley County, Tennessee, in June of 1835. He was one of seven children. When he was four years old, his family moved to Texas. As he grew Cullen became known as a smart hard working lad. Many commented on his kindness, a trait that would soon change. At this time, his only peculiarity was, he preferred riding a mule rather than a horse.
Between the years of 1854 and 1856, Cullen drifted aimlessly around Texas and Oklahoma. He tried to settle down on several occasions but always managed to get into trouble. He would have to pull up stakes and move again. After 1856 he wandered into Arkansas and Kansas territory.
When he was 15, some boys teased him about his ragged and ill fitting clothes. One of the bullies stomped on his foot. The bully would most likely have been killed if the others hadn’t pulled him off.
In 1851 Cullen turned 16. He was 5’ 9” tall five feet nine inches tall and weighed about 160 lbs. He was described as having sandy hair, blue eyes, and a light complexion.
At the age of 18 years old, he started a fight with another man in a saloon. Somehow the incident turned into a full scale barroom brawl and Baker was knocked unconscious by a tomahawk. For sometime afterwards Baker tried sticking to the straight and narrow and even got married to a pretty girl named Jane Petty in 1854.
However, it wasn’t long before Baker was back to his old ways, drinking and getting into fights. In one fight he came close to beating his opponent to death. Several others had witnessed the altercation and he was soon arrested. Later, Baker assaulted one of the witnesses who had testified against him, shooting him in the leg with a load of buckshot. The man died a few days later. Dodging the law, he took off for Arkansas where he stayed with an uncle.
His wife gave birth to a baby girl, Loula, in May of 1857. Jane died about 3 years later and Baker took the child back to Texas to live with his in-laws. He remarried in 1862 to Martha Foster and shortly thereafter enlisted in the Confederate Army. Little is known of his military service, except he was considered a deserter.
In 1863, Cullen and Martha were farming, but Cullen wasn’t cut out for that kind of life. He got the old wanderlust again and began to roam around Northeast Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. While he was in Perry County, Arkansas in March of 1864 he was captured by a lawless band of marauders called the "Jayhawkers." After they realized Baker was no threat to them, and actually a prospective recruit, they accepted him into their gang. He later became their leader.
The Western Frontier
In November, 1864 Baker led his group of Jayhawkers to intercept some Arkansan’s, mostly old men, women and children who were fleeing the state and heading west. Some believe Baker thought this was unpatriotic, others believe more than likely he just wanted to rob them. Baker caught up with the group crossing the Saline River in the Ouachita Mountains. When the group’s leader refused to return Baker shot and killed him. Baker promised the others they would not be harmed, but once they had returned across the river, the gang shot and killed 9 more men. The incident became known as the Massacre of Saline.
Baker’s second wife Martha died on March 1, 1866 leaving him a sorrowful, inconsolable wreck. It is thought he actually went mad from grief. Cullen was known to whittle exquisite carvings of squirrels, birds, rabbits and other animals. His next project was to carve a life-size replica of his dearly departed wife. The completed figure was so incredibly lifelike it shocked his neighbors who at first sight thought she had risen from the grave. Cullen dressed the wooden effigy in Martha's finest clothes and jewelry and practically made a shrine to her memory.
One day Baker returned home to find his house had been plundered by federal troops and Martha's fine clothes and jewels were stolen. They also used his wife's picture for target practice. Enraged, he immediately went in pursuit. In town he learned there were eighteen of them camped nearby. Cullen asked for volunteers but no one seemed interested in becoming involved in this particular venture. Only a lone one armed man stepped forward. However, the pair succeeded in killing most of the federal troops.
On one occasion in October 1867, Cullen encountered government troops hauling supplies to the federal garrison at Boston in a wagon. The wagon was under heavy guard. Cullen stopped to chat with the officer in charge and during the conversation the officer remarked "We are on the look-out for Cullen M. Baker. We hope to meet him someday." Baker smiled and replied, "I’ve been anxious to meet that man myself."
As they parted, Cullen impulsively decided to capture the wagon in spite of the heavy guard. He headed the convoy off at a ferry known as "Hubbard's Bridge." Baker could be quite ingenious at times. Baker charged the troops dragging cane and brush behind him and yelling, "Come on, boys! We've got 'em! Let 'em have it!" The squad of soldiers thought they were being attacked by an entire gang. After Cullen shot the driver the rest scattered in terror, leaving the wagon which contained food supplies.
Baker then forced a black man named Charles Johnson to drive it. Cullen distributed flour, bacon, and coffee to folks along the road until the last of the food was gone. Then he unhitched the mules, burned the wagon and later sold the mules in Louisiana.
By the fall of 1867, Cullen had organized a guerrilla militia. The man who had become his closest confederate was Matthew Kirby. Kirby was also known as "Dummy" Kirby because of his ability to imitate a deaf mute. The militia disbanded in December of 1868, when Baker and Kirby split up.
In early January of 1869, Cullen and Dummy were riding together again. They discovered Thomas Orr, an enemy they thought they had killed, hadn’t died. They decided to return to Arkansas and finish the job not knowing the decision would end with their deaths.
On the night of January 5, they camped out at Forest Home, a former stomping ground of Baker’s. The following morning the two bought a bottle of whiskey and rode to Cullen's former father-in-law, Billie Foster's home. On the way, they met Foster and told him he had returned to settle some financial accounts left over from his marriage to Martha. The three of them returned to the Foster house not knowing Orr was inside. Orr saw them coming and escaped out the back door and hurriedly set off to inform his "Band of Six" Cullen was back.
What exactly happened after that is uncertain but there are at least two versions of the story. The first version says Foster and some friends had laced a bottle of whiskey and food with strychnine and Kirby and Baker both died from poisoning. Their bodies were then shot several times.
The second says Orr had an affair with Baker's second wife Martha and Orr and his men ambushed Baker and Kirby at the Foster home.
In either case, Baker and Kirby ended up dead and being shot numerous times. Their corpses were then dragged through town and later taken to an army outpost near Jefferson and put on display.