Tuesday, September 15, 2015

GIRL OUTLAW: The Death of Flora Quick Mundis aka 'Tom King'

The exciting, checkered and lawbreaking career of Flora M. Quick Mundis,  who went by the name 'Tom King' is believed to have come to a violent and sad in January of 1903 in Clifton, Arizona.  Some records have her name as "Flora B. Quick" but many descendants seem to favor the "M".

At about 4:30 a.m. on January 28, 1903, in apartments over the Siranas Italian Saloon, a woman known locally as "China Dot" was shot four times by William Garrison. 

A bullet smashed her check entering her brain, one passed through her breast piercing a lung, one cut through her liver with an upward angle severing her spinal cord and paralyzing her. One bullet broke her right arm.

The shooter, William Garrison, son of Globe, Arizona James Garfield (former mayor of Springfield, IL), then turned the gun on himself. A bullet in his right temple took the top of his head off.

At the time of her death in 1903, after seven years living in Clifton, the papers of "China Dot", said local papers, revealed her to be "Mrs. F. B. Neal" of Warrensburg, Missouri.  As to the 'China Dot', it was said she earned her nickname by being a consort of the Chinese men who were in the area working for various mining companies. These Asian workers suffered racial prejudice and superstition as bad, perhaps worse, than local Hispanic, Native-American and African-Americans.

An alleged diamond trove valued at about $1,500 was missing and had been since the day of the shooting.  This was a common theme when popular working girls died. Many prostitutes gave the appearance that they were better off than they were for a variety of reasons. Often officials and family found they had little more than enough to cover the cost of a burial.

In a short time it was being claimed this was the noted Oklahoma female outlaw, 'Tom King" aka Flora Quick Mundis.  Details are lacking as to how this identification occurred other than one mention of a telegram sent to Missouri. One early newspaper had claimed she never allowed a photograph, and even granting some hyperbole, the issue of identification remains a question mark.

The news accounts are shallow of many facts. It is apparent that in several cases the news stories were more fiction than fact.  Colorful characters attract lurid tales like a magnet on a merry-go-round. She could have only been a successful escapee by using sexual allure; instead several articles indicate she merely outwitted guards.

Some researchers, on genealogy and historic sites,  have also expressed a question if the woman in Arizona might have been the sister of Flora.  Ellen Quick McGee apparently disappears after heading to Oklahoma but one story seems to indicate that the woman followed her sister in many ways.  

A tantalizing article appears in 1894 that seems to support the possibility.  The only article that gave good details on an Ettie/Effie (spelled both ways in some articles) McGee was "Tom King" Caught in Fredonia, KS." Weekly Oklahoma State Capital of Aug 11, 1894 that gives her an alias of Jessie Whitewings. This woman was masquerading as a man but was described as flaxen haired, 23, and very fleshy by this time.  It said was of her that she had been in Fort Sill and El Reno. I did find in the 1889 OKC Directory a listing for a "McGee, J. b-10 l-32 Noble, wife". Noble was a street south of Reno, about the SW 3 or 4th region now. This may or may not be the same couple but the time period is correct. Could she have disappeared to Arizona? If not, where did she go? Is it possible the labels about Flora being a fallen woman might have confused the two sisters?  If Jessie was in Guthrie at the same time as Flora it might be easy for such a confusion to have occurred. Was "Jessie Whitewings" the sister or was someone else simply using the name?

The woman who, as a young woman, had ridden the streets of Guthrie in fine dresses, who masqueraded as a man to become a highly successful horse thief, had, according to articles about her death, had become a prostitute. This seems out of character for a woman who donned, successfully, the male persona to effectively lead an outlaw life.

Most stories, even some that alleged to be actual local interviews, were labeled by at least one reporter as totally false and the creation of overactive imaginations among newsmen. Whatever the true case was, she was a woman who kept her secrets.  Even to her alleged death there is a veil of mystery. Most news accounts indicate she was identified as Tom King but there is scant information about who made that identification. One article indicated authorities sent a telegram to Missouri seeking information on the person named on papers found in China Dot's rooms in Clifton, Arizona. The response returned an identification as "Flora Quick Mundis."  No articles indicated who made that ID in Missouri or if anyone who had actually seen Flora/Tom viewed the body of China Dot.

She loved adventure and excitement and I am sure that she is pleased that after over one hundred years her story can still generate a lot of adventure, mystery, and excitement.  It is the way she would have liked it.

Rose Dunn aka "Rose of the Cimarron", along with "Cattle Annie", "Little Britches", Jessie Finley (Finley), and Flora Quick Mundis aka Tom King would fill dramatically the void left by the mysterious murder of Belle Starr in 1889 near Eufaula.  A fascinating page of truly unique history...found in Oklahoma...on the fringes of "Hell."

Select Sources:
"Tom King". Guthrie Daily News (August 18, 1893, pg.1). Identifies her alleged history and labels her a "female horse thief."
"Mrs. Mundis Breaks Jail." Guthrie Daily News (June 28, 1893, pg. 1). Identifies jail break out of June 27 in Oklahoma City. Notes among those escaping were" William Roach (rapist), Ernest Lewis (Train robber), Mrs. Mundis alias Tom King ('noted female horse thief') who had escaped from jail just the week before.  The escape was made by cutting the steel bars of the cells and digging through the brick wall.
"A Bad Girl."  Weekly Oklahoma State Capital (Guthrie), (August 26, 1893, pg.1). Identifies her as living in Guthrie at corner of Grant Avenue and 4th Street. Notes no scandal had been attached to her until she swore out an arrest warrant on charge of rape for Dr. Jordan (who had disappeared from town).
"She Loved Excitement." News (Frederick, MD) (Sept 16, 1893, pg. 2). Identifies her as wife of livery man and horse dealer, Mundis.  Notes she had 'disappeared' some six months prior and that it was understood she was a 'daughter of a Cherokee Indian of some prominence.' Where, and why, she disappeared for some six months is a matter of some speculation. Other sources indicate she returned with her hair short, wearing men's clothes and calling herself Tom King.
"Tom King Breaks Jail." Phoenix Arizona Republican, December 10, 1893, pg. 4).  Notes escape from El Reno jail, O.T. Unlikely she will be captured, it states, because she was on a 'fleet horse' and 'was riding like the wind.'
"A Horse Thief." Gettysburg (August 21, 1894, pg. 1).  Shares the story she was a "quarter" Cherokee, that her people lived near Springfield, Missouri, and that 1 and one half years ago she was arrested on charges of being complicit with the Wharton Train Robberies and horse theft. Verifies she had escaped first from the Guthrie jail, then the Oklahoma City jail and then the jail in Canadian County, El Reno.
"Chinese Dot Dead Clifton Tragedy" Phoenix Arizona Republican (January 29, 1903;1). First of several articles beginning the process of identifying 'China Dot' with first one name, Mrs. B.F. Neal, and then to Flora Quick Mundis aka Tom King.
"Tom King Dead." Oklahoma State Register (February 5, 1903, pg. 1). A short piece that identifies, for some reason, the person who shoots the woman identified as Flora Quick Mundis, aka Tom King, as someone named "Fletcher."
"Miss 'Tom King' - Oklahoma Girl Bandit" by Nancy B. Samuelson (Twin Territory Journal, Dec.-Jan. 1990-1991, pp. 8-9).
"Flora Quick aka Mrs Mundis aka Tom King aka China Dot" by Nancy B. Samuelson (Quarterly of the National Association For Outlaw And Lawman History, Inc. {NOLA}, Oct.-Dec. 1996, V.22 N.4 pp. 22-27).
"Shoot From The Lip" by Nancy B. Samuelson (Shooting Star Press, 1998, pp. 6, 50-51, 111, 154, 181, 186).

"Bob Dalton's Bandit Bride" by Harold Preece (Real West Magazine - Mar. 1965 p10).
"Flora Quick, Alias Tom King" by Leola Lehman (Golden West magazine - Nov. 1966 p20 & The West magazine - Oct. 1974 p32);
"The Making of an Outlaw Queen" by Robert F. Turpin (Real Frontier magazine - Mar. 1970 p26).
"The Outlaw Was No Lady" by M. P. Lehman (Real West magazine - Oct. 1972 p.65).
"She Was The Jailor's Killer Sweetheart" by Glenn Shirley (Westerner magazine - Mar./Apr. 1974 p.46).
"Chris Madsen's Elastic Memory" by Nancy Samuelson (NOLA Journal Jan-Mar. 1992 p9).

["Chinese Dot Dead Clifton Tragedy" Phoenix Arizona Republican (January 29, 1903;1); Chris Enns at http://chrisenss.com/flora-mundis-lady-horse-thief-an-excerpt-from-the-bedside-book-of-bad-girls/ and various articles imply and state she was a prostitute.  However, a look at her time line indicates that prior to her adventures as a horse thief, there did not appear to be adequate time for a long term employment in the trade of a soiled dove. It should be remembered that newspapers and facts did not always go together during the late 19ths and early 20th century; opinion was as good as fact and rumor better than hard evidence.]

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