Cravens, Benjamin S. 1a

Birth Name Cravens, Benjamin S.
Also Known As Maust, Charles
Gender male
Age at Death 85 years, 10 months, 3 days



Ben started his outlaw career early in the 1890's. His crimes consisting of cattle rustling, horse stealing, highway robbery and murder. By early 1900 he had already escaped from Kansas prison, county jail at Topeka Kansas, and the Pottawamotamie county jail at Tecumseh Oklahoma. In 1901 he robbed the store in Guthrie Oklahoma killing the owner. During his escape he also shot and killed an Oklahoma marshal. Although he continued his exploits he established his alias as Charles Maust married and had at least two children. Under this alias he was arrested for horse stealing and sent to prison in 1908. Upon his release in 1911 he was re-arrested as Ben Cravens for murder, after a tip from the barber at the prison. He was sentenced to life of hard labor in 1912. He attempted at least one escape after his arrest. After a lengthy illness he was parole in 1947. He continued to claim his innocence until his death. Ben Cravens was dubbed the last of the bad men the outlaw no jail could hold.


The Daily Oklahoman, January 26, 1912

Ben Cravens s southwest Missouri boy, farm hand and jockey, the rider of many winners on Missouri and Kansas tracks, has been wanted by the United States government since March 1901, for the murder of Assistant Postmaster Alvin Batesman at Red Rock, Oklahoma, then in the Otoe Indian Reservation. Rewards aggregating $10,000 it is said are on Craven's head $6,000 of which is offered by the Anti-Horse Thief Association. Cravens was indicted for the murder of Bateman and the indictment was only recently received by another federal grand jury sitting at Enid.

BORN IN 1861

Cravens was born in 1861, and is now therefore about 20 years old. His parents were farmer folk who located in Chautauqua county, Kansas, while Ben was a lad. Chautauqua county was on the northern boundary of the Osage County, then the greatest breeder of outlaws in the southwest, and it was the call from this country that made Cravens a bad man. As a lad he was a school bully and in his teens he became mixed up with numerous shooting affairs at country dances and such places.

As a school boy he was a student of Thompson B. Ferguson, later to become governor of Oklahoma territory and of Bird S. McGuire, now congressman from this Oklahoma district. Schooling was not much to his liking, however, and he became a farm laborer, working for the neighbors in that locality and later riding race horses for a Putnam county (Mo.) man. A chronological history of the man from the time he was 18 years old to the present is considered now of the great interest.

History Of His Life

1879 – Cravens, then 18, finally answered the call from the Indian country and became a whiskey peddler among the Osages, Kaws, Otoes, Poncas and Creeks, down in Oklahoma along with Lige Higgins and Henry Starr. He operated in the vicinity of Lela ad Morrison in the Otoe and Pawnee Indian country, along the Cimarron river in the Creek country.

1893 – Had a a fight with "Dago" Williams at Chautauqua, Kan., was witnessed by Sam Dima of Lela, who recently identified Maust as Cravens and by Bird McGuirty now congressman.

Broke Kansas Jail

1895 – Seen in Eldon, Kan., by Henry Dawson, now of Morrison, who also recently identified Maust as Cravens' about this time Cravens made a daring escape from the Shawnee County (Kan) Jail.

Dec. 1896 – Cravens was desperately wounded in a duel with officers, led by A. O. Lund of Blackwell, then a deputy United States Marshal; there had been many highway robberies, including the robbery of a general store at Hewens, Kan.; Lund learned that Cravens and "Kid" McElhaney, known as "Diamond Dick," were planning to rob the Bank of Blackwell accompanied by Deputy Sheriff J. R. Cox, Jack Hunter and William Sherr, all of Blackwell, and L. W. Clark of Baxter Springs, Kan. Lund had a trap for Cravens and McElhaney, into which they walked; a duel occurred, during with McElhaney was killed and Cravens wounded. Cravens was guarded at Blackwell by Lund for several weeks. Lund recently identified Maust as Cravens by the wounds Cravens received in the Blackwell battle.

Sentenced to 20 Years

Jan. 17, 1897 – Having been turned over to Chautauqua county by Lund, Cravens was convicted and sentenced to serve twenty years in the Kansas State Pententiary at Lansing for highway robbery; he was at Lansing three years, working in the shops, in the coal mines and later in the prison kitchen. He was seen there by Yardmaster David A. Walker of the prison and Maust was recently identified by Walker as Cravens.

Leaves State Pen.

November 14, 1900 – Cravens escaped from the Lansing prison with E. F. Estelle and Sam Smith, both life terriers. Estelle a Frenchman had killed a man at Marshall county during a jail break and Smith, aged 23, had killed a man during a train wrecking in Butler county. The three men shaped wooden revolvers to resemble .45's and with these they held up the prison guards. Smith was killed and Cravens received a bullet in the top of his head. He escaped in a cornfield. Estelle was captured several years later at Memphis, Tenn. for a train robbery near Quincy, Ill., and is now in the Joliet prison. When his term expired he will be returned to Lansing to complete his life term.

December, 1900 – Cravens appeared at the ranch home of "Uncle Joe" Webb in the Otoe country. When he went to the penitentiary he left a horse and several head of cattle with Webb to keep for him. He forced Webb to accompany him to the barn loft and cut the bullet from the top of his head with a razor. He swore Webb to secrecy, not wanting Mrs. Webb to know of the operation.

Appeared at Dover

January, 1901 – Cravens appeared at the home of Bert Welty, near Dover, in Kingfisher County, Okla. Welty had been serving a term in the Kansas prison for horse stealing and knew Cravens there. Welty had recently been pardoned by Governor Barnes of Oklahoma at the solicitation of Col. A. A. Ewing, now living in Guthrie. Ewing acted because of Welty's parents, being friends of Ewing.

March 18, 1901 – Cravens and Welty attempted to rob the Schwartz store at Red Rock of which Alvin Bateman was manager and also assistant postmaster. They got $1,200 in money and during the fight that resulted Bateman was killed. In escaping Cravens mistook Welty for a pursuer and shot him. His wounds were critical and Cravens left him to die on the Otoe prairie, according to Welty's confession later to Bird S. McGuire, then federal prosecuting attorney. During the Red Rock robbery, Cravens, with a Winchester rifle forced nine men to stand with their hands up while Welty got away with the booty. The story is told that Cravens wanted money in order to get married. When Welty was shot by Cravens he dropped the sack of booty in a wheat field, where it was found perhaps by cowboys.

A Narrow Escape

March 18, 1901 – Cravens in escaping sought refugee in the ranch house of Isom Cunningham in Pawnee county. The house was surrounded by officers, headed by George Foster of Perry. Cravens thought Mrs. Cunningham had "peached" on him and threatened to kill her. Opening the door Cravens shot his way through the officers, killing Deputy Sheriff Tom Johnson of Pawnee and escaped.

Scheme Failed

April 1, 1901 – Attempt made to catch Cravens at Catrose, Okla., with decoy letters from his sweetheart. When Cravens asked for his mail an officer was present, intending to shake hands with him and then grab him. Cravens avoided the handshake and darted from the door, leaving the thoroughly alarmed officer open-mouthed. Cravens, however, dropped the letter which fell into the officer's hands.

1902 – Adopted guise of traveling salesman and went over the southwest with his grips frequently visiting saloons and was often under the eyes of officers who were looking for him. This life he kept up off and on, for several years.

1902 – Reported as the head of gang of highwaymen who held up party of wealthy oil men in Osage county, getting all their valuables.

1902 – Located on ranch in Woods county, a woman telephoned Deputy sheriff Pilio Jayne at Perry that Cravens and her husband were then on a certain ranch. Sheriff George Foster of Perry and Sheriff Pat Oates of Alva, investigated. Cravens got news and fled after the woman's story was verified.

Heard of in Mexico

1904 – Early – Reported in Guadulajara, Mexico, posing as son of a Pennsylvania governor and about to wed a millionaire miner's diner. Oklahoma authorities investigated the report.

1904 – (Late) – Reported in Oklahoma City; he was seen by a territorial official who recognized him, the official gave money to another man for the purpose of getting Cravens drunk and then capturing him, the other fellow got drunk instead and Cravens escaped.

August, 1905 – Rode in wagon with two traveling men, George W. Fanning and Ed W. Northington, between Glencoe and Morrison, Okla.; the driver knew Cravens and talked with him but both traveling men were too afraid to act, he exhibited an ugly wound through his body which he had recently received and said it was cured by an aged Cherokee Indian woman; he seemed tired and exhausted and while riding in the wagon led his horse behind.

December, 1905 – Located visiting his aunt in the Seminole Indian country near Wewoka, Sheriff W. A. grace and posse of Pottawatomie county, attempted his capture, but he failed.

March 21, 1906 – Reported captured in Nebraska, investigation made by Sheriff McGehee of Perry.

September, 1906 – Reported in Cripp Creek, Colo., where he was joined by his cousin, Norris Watkins, of the Osage country; Watkins was under federal indictment for murder and was out on bond.

Reported Taken Again

October, 1906 – Reported captured in Guthrie by Sheriff Bart Murphy; Sheriff Foster of Perry, failed to identify him, and he was released.

August 8, 1907 – Reported captured at Osceoia, Neb., identified as Cravens by Chaplain J. D. McBrain of Lansing prison, who as prosecuting attorney in Chautauqua county, had sent Cravens to the prison, was shackled and taken to Lansing, where the prisoner proved to be only a wandering Jew jewelry peddler, named Albert Scattier.

October 4, 1907 – Reported visiting his parents and brother near Princeton, Mo., made himself known to some old acquaintances; plans to capture him failed.

June, 1908 – Reported living as Mexican on Navajo Indian reservation in New Mexico; deputy sheriff there identified him.

Arrested in Missouri

1908 (later) – Arrested in Missouri; later attempted a jail break; a letter was sent to Kansas prison authorities regarding him; hand writing recognized as Cravens; then Charles Maust, who has been identified by many as Cravens; went to the Jefferson City penitentiary to serve a four-year term.

March, 1910 – On tip given by prison barber that Maust was Craven, whom he had shaved in the Kansas prison, an identification followed by William Duckett, record man at the Lansing prison.

March 11, 1911 – Maust identified as Cravens by William McClaughry of the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth.

April 1, 1911 – Cravens identified by A. O. Lund of Blackwell.

Identified by Wounds

August 1, 1911 – Lund again, visited Jefferson City and identified Maust as Cravens by wound marks on shoulder and through body, near kidneys, received in fight with Lund. Also identified by J. H. Livingston, Bertillon expert at Jefferson City.

September 4, 1911 – Witnesses subpoenaed in Oklahoma for re-indictment of Cravens at Enid for Bateman murder.

September 15, 1911 – Cravens re-indicted by federal grand jury, case presented by John Embry, United States attorney.

October 10, 1911 – Cravens indictment papers forwarded to United States Attorney Lyon at Kansas City for use in transferring Maust as Cravens to federal jail in Guthire.

October 21, 1911 – Congressman McGuire gave out statement, including Welty confession, relating to Red Rock robbery and Bateman murder.

Maust Released

November 1, 1911 – Oklahoma witnesses subpoenaed to appear at Jefferson City on November 8 to identify Maust as Cravens.

November 8, 1911 – Maust released from Jefferson City prison; immediately re-arrested as Cravens and taken before United States Commissioner Geisberg for preliminary hearing; Maust identified as Cravens by A. D. Lund of Blackwell, Sam Dunn of Lela, Henry Dawson of Morrison, Postmaster Walker of the Lansing prison and J. H. Livingston of the Jefferson City prison; trial attended also by Postoffice Inspector Leahy of Guthrie.

November 10, 1911 – Maust brought to Guthrie federal jail by United States Marshal Martin of Kansas City; J. H. Livingston and Deputy Marshals Al Coff and Chris Madsen of Guthrie, prisoner wore Orgeon boot to prevent escape.

November 13, 1911 – Maust identified by Adjutant general Frank Canton.

November 15, 1911 – Preliminary trial papers from Jefferson City filed for record in United States circuit court at Guthrie.

November 17, 1911 – Al Jenings has been interested also in trying to get a pardon for Welty.

November 20, 1911 – Developed that deputy marshals had visited Mrs. Welty, mother of Bert Welty; understood she will be subpoenaed as identifying witness against Maust.

November 21, 1912 – Congressman McGuire reports letter received from Mrs. Anna Bateman urging that President Taft pardon Bert Welty, although Welty and Cravens had murdered her son at Red Rock. (The Daily Oklahoman, January 26, 1912)


Relation to main person Name Birth date Death date Relation within this family (if not by birth)
Father Cravens, Benjamin Bomar1 Jan 183330 Nov 1921
Mother Watkins, Louisa Jane26 Apr 183911 Sep 1881
    Sister     Cravens, Frances Serena 7 Jul 1857 23 Aug 1946
    Brother     Cravens, William Edwin 12 Jan 1859 1 May 1939
    Sister     Cravens, Julia Ann 14 Dec 1860 24 Apr 1942
    Brother     Cravens, John Frank 31 Aug 1863 21 Jan 1944
         Cravens, Benjamin S. 16 Nov 1864 19 Sep 1950
    Sister     Cravens, Naomi Jane about 1864 about 1947
    Brother     Cravens, Elijah Thomas 2 Aug 1866 11 Nov 1949
    Sister     Cravens, Sophia B. about 1868
    Brother     Cravens, George T. 24 Jun 1874 1 Mar 1937
    Brother     Cravens, Walter A. 25 Aug 1876 14 Feb 1880
    Brother     Cravens, Daniel 19 Feb 1878 24 Aug 1965
    Brother     Cravens, Milan G. 24 Jan 1880 25 Dec 1906

Family Map

Family Map

Source References

  1. Find A Grave
      • Page: Memorial# 43760172

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Last change was the 2019-06-22 15:00:49