The James Grigsby Gang was a criminal organization that operated in northeast Arkansas between 1886 and 1891.[1]


The gang’s existence is known from a single article in The Daily Arkansas Gazette. According to the report, they were established in Sharp County. The gang was built upon a rigid hierarchy with members bearing titles such as President, Vice-President, Bookkeeper, and Treasurer. They were aggressive and “oath-bound” thieves who specialized in stealing cotton. At their peak, although the gang’s numbers were not determined, their influence was felt in Independence, Lawrence, Randolph, Jackson, Prairie, and Monroe County. If one member of the gang was arrested, the others would converge to form an alibi. This strategy enabled them to avoid punishment on many occasions.

It’s unclear when local authorities realized that the string of robberies was the work of an organized gang. It took the combined efforts of the sheriffs from Jackson, Independence, Sharp, and Randolph County to bring them down. Once key members were tried and convicted, the rest scattered. Reporting on the trial of Thomas Perkins, the Gazette’s correspondent wrote, “I believe that two or three others…are in the penitentiary, and all the others have fled the state or are hiding out in the mountains of Northwest Arkansas.”

One man, Joe Ridens, escaped from jail at Powhatan circa 1890. Another man, Higginbottom, was convicted in Lawrence County, but given a new trial. [2]



“Thomas Perkins Sent up for Four Years for Burglary.” Daily Arkansas Gazette. July 17, 1891. p.3


[1] James Grigsby is the only named leader in the available sources, hence the title of this article.



[2] Higginbottom was indicted with two other men for conspiracy and grand larceny in 1888. In this particular case, seed cotton was the main target. This case sheds light on how the gang might have operated. Seed cotton is not only valuable, but much easier to steal than a full bale.