|Birth: ||Mar. 9, 1892|
|Death: ||Jan. 24, 1948|
A career grifter and gambler, Herbert Farmer was in and out of local jails in Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma for much of his youth. In about 1910 his family settled in Webb City, Missouri, a community near Joplin in the then-booming lead- and zinc-mining region known as the Tri-State district. As an adult Farmer made the Joplin area his home.
In Webb City, Farmer's family became acquainted with the Barker family, and for a while Ma Barker's sons "were practically raised by Herb Farmer's mother." Though the Barkers left Webb City for Tulsa, Oklahoma around 1915, Fred Barker returned often to visit the Farmers, and he and Herb Farmer remained friends, though Farmer was perhaps 13 years older. The FBI's official summary of the Alvin Karpis-Barker gang's career stated, "It is safe to assume that Fred Barker received considerable education in the school of crime from Farmer," and later an agent noted that "Barker and Karpis are known to be henchmen (especially Barker) of Herbert A. Farmer."
In 1916 Farmer began serving a five-year sentence for assault with intent to kill in the rehabilitation-oriented Oklahoma State Reformatory, but in a few months he was transferred to the state penitentiary. During this time he schooled younger inmates in the ways of pickpocketing and con games and in the penitentiary made friends with veteran bank and train robber Frank 'Jelly' Nash. He served less than two years and upon his release headed west, adding to his record more arrests for assault, larceny and swindling in Colorado, California, Utah and Texas.
In about 1927 he and his wife bought a farm of 23 acres (93,000 m2) roughly 7 square miles (18 km2) south of Joplin, Newton county, Missouri just east of the Redings Mill community. Deafy Farmer's farm was not only a safe place to "cool off," it was "one of the best underworld postal offices in the country." The Joplin safe house operated with no recorded interference from authorities until June 1933, when the Kansas City Massacre drew federal attention.
When Fred Barker or his partner Alvin Karpis shot to death a county sheriff in West Plains, Missouri in December 1931, Barker brought Karpis, as well as his mother and her boyfriend, across the state to Herb Farmer's place. When Farmer was indicted on conspiracy charges in 1934, the gang gave him $2500 of the Hamm kidnapping ransom to help pay his legal expenses. However, during questioning in respect to that crime Farmer, unprodded, twice slyly wondered aloud if Fred Barker might have been involved in the Union Station killings.
Farmer made his official living in the hotels and gambling halls of two nearby "safe cities," the resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas and Kansas City, with occasional forays into Reno, Nevada and St. Paul, Minnesota, where at the time of his arrest in July 1933 he was negotiating for control of a lucrative craps concession. Though Hot Springs chief of detectives Dutch Akers knew Farmer to be "the number 1 man for the [St. Paul-Kansas City-Hot Springs] gang organization at Joplin," and though six months before his arrest for obstruction of justice in the Kansas City Massacre case he "took an old man and his wife from Hot Springs to Reno, where he cleaned them for $50,000 in the race track con," when he was arrested he was trading chickens and butter for groceries and he alone of the conspiracy defendants could not make bond.
Deafy Farmer was indeed almost completely deaf. In the 1934 conspiracy trial all of the defendants took the stand, except Deafy Farmer; he was so deaf, his wife said, that questioning him would be useless. In 1933 he was described to the FBI as "a very dangerous man, a killer, and his best known line is the con game.... his favorite weapon being the knife."
Farmer served two years in Alcatraz for his participation in the conspiracy to free Jelly Nash. After his release he returned to Missouri. He and Esther sold the farm and moved into Joplin, where they lived until his death on January 12, 1948.
In October 1966 Esther married Harvey Bailey, "dean of the American bank robbers," after a year-long courtship. She died in 1981. They had been 'in the business' together many years earlier, running in the same circles of 'mob acquaintances'. He died in March 1979 in Joplin, Missouri.
Esther Mary Bailey (1888 - 1979)*
Note: Wife, Esther M. Farmer. Death date is not on the stone because she was buried with her second husband John Harvey Bailey in a nearby plot. Harvey is listed as famous on Find a Grave
Forest Park Cemetery
Maintained by: I Remember When
Originally Created by: DSnyder
Record added: Jul 02, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 54404487
Added: Oct. 9, 2013
Added: Aug. 7, 2012
Added: Aug. 16, 2010