Death of Ma Barker - Oklawaha, Florida
Death of Ma Barker - Oklawaha, Florida
Ma Barker House
The cottage where outlaw Ma Barker and her son,
Fred, were killed in 1935 is on private property in
Oklawaha, Florida and is NOT open to the public.
Oklawaha, Florida
Ma Barker's last hideout was
in Oklawaha, a small town on
Lake Weir just south of the
city of Ocala, Florida.
Ma Barker in Life
Also known as "Machine Gun
Kate," Ma Barker was one of
the most notorious American
outlaws of the 1930s.
FBI Photo.
Death of Ma Barker - Oklawaha, Florida
The Battle of Oklawaha, Florida
Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Updated: March 31, 2013
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Barker Death House
Ma and Fred Barker met their
fates in this two-story cottage
on the shores of Lake Weir.
This photo was taken at the
time of the raid.
FBI Photo
Barker Gang Weapons
This arsenal of guns was
found in the house after FBI
agents battled it out with Ma
and Fred Barker on January
16, 1935.
FBI Photo.
To visit Oklawaha today, it is hard to believe
that one of America's most notorious outlaws
met her fate in this charming Florida town.

Yet it was in Oklawaha, on the north shore of
Lake Weir, that FBI agents killed Ma Barker
(also known as "Machine Gun Kate") and her
son, Fred, on January 16, 1935. The house
where the infamous "Battle of Oklawaha"
took place still stands, but is not open to the

Born Arizona Donnie Clark at Ash Grove,
Missouri, on October 8, 1873, Kate "Ma"
Barker was the mother of a group of outlaw
boys who were among the most infamous
criminals of the 1930s. Their notoriety was
comparable to that of Bonnie & Clyde, John
Dillinger, Al Capone, "Pretty Boy" Floyd, "Baby
Face" Nelson and others.

So far as the records indicate, Ma Barker's
boys began their life in crime when their
family relocated from Missouri to Tulsa,
Oklahoma in 1910. Two of them - Herman
and Lloyd - became involved in Tulsa's
"Central Park Gang."  Herman Barker was
arrested that same year for highway robbery
in Webb City, Missouri, and then again five
years later for highway robbery in Joplin,

From this beginning, the list of crimes
committed by the Barkers and their
associates grew dramatically.  By 1921 their
crimes had grown to include murder and
attempted bank robbery and the Barker name
was becoming notorious in Oklahoma,
Missouri and Kansas.

A string of robberies, attempted robberies,
murders and other crimes followed. In 1927,
Herman Barker died by his own hand after he
was stopped at a roadblock in Wichita,
Kansas. He was implicated in the murder of
a Wichita policeman.

Fred Barker, meanwhile, had been serving a
prison sentence for burglary. While in the
Kansas State Prison he met and befriended
another outlaw, Alvin "Creepy" Karpis. When
Fred and Karpis were released in 1931, they
almost immediately formed the infamous
Barker/Karpis Gang and began a terror spree
of murder, kidnapping and robbery.

On November 8, 1931, the Barker/Karpis
Gang killed the police chief of Pocahontas,
Arkansas - Manley Jackson - and then one
month later shot and killed Sheriff C. Roy
Kelly in Howell County, Missouri.

Bank robberies and murders of law
enforcement officers, attorneys and citizens
followed as the crime spree launched by the
gang spread north from Oklahoma and
Arkansas all the way to Minnesota. Then in
1933, Karpis and the Barkers expanded their
criminal enterprise to include kidnappings.

They took and ransomed businessmen
William Hamm in 1933 and Edward George
Bremer, Jr., in 1934. These kidnappings
drew the attention of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) and a nationwide manhunt
was launched for the outlaws.

The role that Ma Barker played in these
activities is disputed. She definitely assisted
the gang and knew of some of its activities in
advance. Alvin Karpis later claimed that she
"couldn't plan breakfast" by herself, but the
FBI and national media considered her to
bea major player in the gang.

Ma definitely traveled with the Barker/Karpis
Gang and was proficient with weapons,
including the notorious "Tommy Gun"
(Thompson submachine gun) favored by the
gangsters of the 1930s.

The kidnappings of Hamm and Bremmer
proved to be the straws that broke the gang's
back. Under pressure from the FBI (then
called the Bureau of Investigation), the gang
members split up and spread out in various
A major break came when Arthur "Doc"
Barker was arrested in Chicago on January
8, 1935. A search of the hideout being used
by Doc and several other gang members
produced a map of Florida on which agents
found a hand-drawn circle around Lake Weir,
a beautiful freshwater lake just south of
Ocala, Florida.

It did not take them long to find the two-story
lakeside cottage where Ma and Fred Barker
were hiding out. The place had been
recommended to the outlaws by a hotel
manager in Miami after Fred asked whether
he knew of a quiet place for rent.

Led by Agent Earl Connelly, a team of FBI
agents surrounded the cottage at Oklawaha
before sunrise on the morning of January 16,
1935. A demand was made for surrender,
but no response came from the house. Two
more calls for surrender followed, but no
reply was heard.

The agents then fired tear gas grenades at
the windows of the house. A voice could be
heard yelling out, "All right, go ahead!" Either
Fred or Ma then unleashed a hail of machine
gun fire at the agents from the second floor of
the house.

The fire was returned and for approximately
one-hour the "Battle of Oklawaha" was
waged between Fred and Ma Barker in the
house and FBI agents on the grounds. The
battle continued until no more return fire
could be heard coming from the bullet-
riddled cottage.

When agents entered the house, Ma and
Fred were found dead. Ma Barker died in an
upstairs bedroom with a machine gun in her

The "Ma Barker House" as it is known in
Oklawaha still stands, but is in private hands
and is not open to the public. There are no
markers at the scene.

Memorabilia and even an alligator foot
associated with the gang can be seen at the
nearby Gator Joe's Beach Bar & Grill, a Key
West style restaurant that was in operation at
the time of the raid. It is located at 12431
Southeast 135th Avenue in Oklawaha.

Oklawaha today is a charming lakeside
community known for its hospitality and
scenery. It offers a number of cottages and
small hotels, as well as boat rentals and
more. It is unincorporated and can be found
between Ocala and The Villages.
Gator Joe's in Oklawaha
On the north shore of Lake
Weir, Gator Joe's restaurant
was in operation at the time
Fred and Ma Barker were
hiding out in Oklawaha.