Ma Barker’s Hideout Finds a New Home

Ma Barker House

The Ma Barker House, site of an infamous FBI shootout in 1935, was floated by barge across Lake Weir to its new home on Carney Island. Michael Warren Photo.

OCKALAWAHA, FL — The infamous hideout of the Ma Barker gang made a journey by barge across Lake Weir to a new home at the Carney Island Recreation and Conservation Area, where it will be opened to the public as a museum. The two-story cracker home was the site of a shootout with the FBI in 1935 that left Kate ‘Ma’ Barker and her son, Fred, dead after four hours and thousands of bullets fired.

The 61-year-old woman died with a Tommy gun in her hands, according to the FBI.

Ma Barker Movie Poster

Kate ‘Ma’ Barker was a Depression-era legend and reputed mastermind of a criminal gang that included her sons. The gang was responsible for a string of crimes across the nation including highway robbery, bank robbery, kidnapping and murder. J. Edgar Hoover famously called Ma Barker ‘the most viscous, dangerous and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade.’ Other reports suggest she was an accomplice to her sons crimes, but not the mastermind or leader.

Agents found the hideout after arresting her son Arthur in Chicago. They discovered a map of Ocklawaha and a letter that referenced a local alligator named “Gator Joe.” The clues led them to the house. (A popular local restaurant on the lake’s north shore is named “Gator Joe” after the famous alligator.) The legendary local building is the site an an annual “Ma Barker Day” hosted by the Lake Weir Chamber of Commerce.

The home will soon be open to the public where visitors will be able to see bullet holes in the walls and furniture.

Carney Island Recreation and Conservation Area is located off E. Highway 25 in Ocklawaha at SE 115th Avenue. The county park includes boat ramps, picnicking, hiking trails and views of Lake Weir. The park is located on the former site of a 25-acre citrus grove. It is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. with admission of $7 per vehicle.