ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma
Inside Robbers Cave
The mouth of Robbers Cave
takes on a unique, triangular
appearance. Carvings dating
from the 1870s are inside.
Entrance to Robbers Cave
A trail leads up a steep bluff to
the original "Robbers Cave"
and its beautiful views.
Traces of an Outlaw?
The date 1877 can be found
carved in the rock inside
Robbers Cave, along with
names of obscure outlaws.
Robbers Cave State Park - History
Closely associated with the legends that grew surrounding the Old West outlaws Jesse
James and Belle Starr,
Robbers Cave State Park certainly has the look of an outlaw hideout.

Located in the picturesque San Bois Mountains about five miles north of Wilburton,
Oklahoma on State Highway 2, the park has a rich history that goes far beyond the legend for
which it is best known.

Archaeologists believe this area of Oklahoma has been inhabited for thousands of years. In
prehistoric times, as today, the Robbers Cave area was rich in wildlife and natural food
supplies. Deer, bear, squirrel and other wildlife abounded in the region, as did nuts, berries
and edible plants. As a result, the area was frequented by early Native Americans who came
here in search of food.

By around 900 A.D., the people living in the Robbers Cave area came under the influence of
the dominant Native American religious and ceremonial center at Spiro Mounds. For
hundreds of years the leaders of the Spiro culture wielded vast influence throughout
Oklahoma and adjoining states. (For more information on Spiro Mounds, please click the
"Oklahoma Home" button at the top of this page.)

The Spiro culture eventually declined, however, and by the 1600s the Robbers Cave area
was used primarily as a hunting ground by the Osage and Caddoan tribes. French fur
trappers undoubtedly passed through the area, as is evidenced by the continuing use of so
many French names in the region today. Some examples include the Sans Bois Mountains
and the Poteau River.

The real "claim to fame" for Robbers Cave, though, is as a legendary hideout for infamous
Old West outlaws. Among the names commonly associated with the cave in local legend are
those of Jesse James and Belle Starr.

Of the two, Starr can most closely be associated with the cave proximity. Constantly involved
in nefarious dealings, she was married into a family of Indian Territory outlaws. It is known
that for a time she lived in a cabin about twenty miles north of Robbers Cave and is generally
accepted that she associated with and often welcomed some of the area's most notorious
outlaws into her home. These outlaws were constantly battled and pursued by deputy
marshals from the U.S. District Court in Fort Smith. They used hideouts similar to Robbers
Cave on numerous occasions and it is reasonable that local tradition associating the cave
with "robbers" is probably true.

The other name commonly associated with Robbers Cave is that of Jesse James. The
acknowledged leader of the James-Younger Gang, James and his associates operated
across territory stretching from Arkansas to Minnesota. Whether he actually ever used
Robbers Cave is impossible to determine, but he did operate a few times in the general
area. His most notorious crime in the region was a stagecoach robbery near Hot Springs,
Arkansas.

Robbers Cave became a state park in 1935 through the efforts of Carlton Weaver, a state
legislator from nearby Wilburton. He so loved the region that he devoted key years of his life
to the creation of the park leaving only the request that he be buried here. His grave can be
visited near the park entrance off Highway 2.
Delicious beef delivered to your home from Kansas City Steak Company
Copyright 2010 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Custom Search