Sunday, April 7, 2013

Death of Ma Barker at Oklawaha, Florida

Oklawaha, Florida - Where Ma Barker Was Killed
One of the most notorious outlaws of the 1930s met her fate in a two-story lakeside cottage at Oklawaha, Florida.

Ma Barker, born Arizona Donnie Clark, was portrayed by the media of the time as one of the leaders of the Barker/Karpis gang.  This group of outlaws carried out murders, kidnappings and robberies from Minnesota south to Arkansas during the early 1930s.  They were contemporaries of and as well known as such infamous 1930s outlaws as Bonnie & Clyde, John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson.

Ma Barker
Courtesy of the FBI
The FBI got on their trail after a kidnapping in the upper Midwest and the gang splintered, with different members going in different directions. Ma, who some gang members later claimed couldn't plan breakfast without help, headed south to Florida with her son, Fred Barker.

After a brief stop in Miami, they ended up in the charming lakeside community of Oklawaha.  Located just south of Ocala, the village sits on the northern shore of Lake Weir, a beautiful body of water that is popular for boating, fishing and other outdoor activities.  There they rented a lakeside cottage and quietly tried to wait out the manhunt that was sweeping the nation for them.

Weapons captured after shootout with the Barkers
They didn't make it.  On the morning of January 16, 1935, the Barker hideout was surrounded by FBI agents. A call to surrender was answered with a hail of machine gun fire and a massive gunfight, known today as the "Battle of Oklawaha," erupted.  When the smoke cleared, Ma Barker lay dead in an upstairs bedroom, her deadly "Tommy Gun" still in her hands.  Fred Barker lay dead nearby.

The Ma Barker House still stands in Oklawaha, but is in private hands today.  To learn more, please visit

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