What Happened to Mollie Burkhart’s Children?

Mollie Burkhart occupies a significant role within ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ a historical drama film directed by Martin Scorsese that follows the story of Ernest Burkhart and his involvement in the 1920s Osage Nation Murders. Mollie Kyle belongs to a wealthy Osage family in Oklahoma, who unwittingly falls prey to the greed of William Hale, a seemingly friendly local man with a penchant for violent manipulation. As such, after Hale’s family secures a tie to Mollie through her marriage to Ernest Burkhart, Hale’s nephew, trouble quickly knocks on the latter’s family doors.

Within the film, the audience witnesses Ernest carry a torch for Mollie while he simultaneously plots her family’s brutal demises. Once the truth about Hale and his nephew’s crimes comes out in the light, it irreparably breaks Mollie and Ernest’s own little family, forever changing their and their children’s lives. Therefore, since the film depicts a story based on reality, people must be curious to know what happened to Mollie Kyle’s real-life children.

Mollie Kyle’s Daughters: Anna and Elizabeth Burkhart

As depicted in the film, Mollie and Ernest Burkhart lost one of their children while the latter was undergoing a court trial. Anna Burkhart contracted whooping cough at the young age of four and passed away shortly after. Within Scorsese’s film, the child’s death moves Ernest into testifying against his Uncle, William Hale, an instance that occurred in real life, though its relation to Anna’s death remains indiscernible.

Ernest Burkhart pled guilty during his trial in 1926 and saw imprisonment for his involvement in the murder of Mollie’s sisters. The same year, Mollie divorced her Burkhart and started a new life with her children, Elizabeth and James. Although not much is known about Elizabeth’s childhood, one can infer the hardships she must have faced due to her connection to Burkhart through her extended family’s unrelated testimonies.

Elizabeth grew up to marry Claude Henry Shafer and lived in Fairfax at some point in her life. She also likely had a relationship with her brother, James, and his family since her niece, Margie, refers to the woman as “Aunt Liz” in interviews. Nothing more is known about the woman as far as public knowledge goes.

Mollie Kyle’s Son: James “Cowboy” Burkhart

While James Burkhart, better known by his nickname “Cowboy,” remained relatively out of the public eye in his lifetime, his daughter, Margie Burkhart, has shared bits and pieces about her father’s life since. The woman describes her father as loving but also recognizes his chilling temperament. As one of the only survivors in a family targeted by his own father, James had a difficult upbringing.

James’ Granddaughter, Margie Burkhart// Image Credit: ABC News/YouTube

During Burkhart’s trial, James was nine years old. As such, he was old enough to understand the gravity of the situation. Furthermore, only three years before his father’s imprisonment, the boy almost fell victim to one of Burkhart’s murderous schemes. Rita and Bill Smith, Mollie’s sister and brother-in-law, died in a bomb explosion at their house. Mollie was planning to spend the same night at her sister’s house and only changed her mind after James’ ear infection compelled her to reach out to a doctor. Thus, his father’s court conviction only further added to James’ trauma.

As a child, James saw ostracization by his own Osage community, who blamed his mother, Mollie, for bringing Burkhart into their lives. As such, the boy turned his anger to the world and started drinking in his early teenage years, an issue that carried on into his adulthood. Although the same affected his marriage and the life of his children, daughters Doris and Margie, he managed to quit by the time the latter turned fifteen.

By 1959, Ernest Burkhart underwent early release from his imprisonment and became a part of his son’s life again in varying capacities. James introduced his father to his children and even asked him to look after his house once, hinting at a close relationship. Nevertheless, he held onto a level of contention, considering their visits often ended in anger for James.

Eventually, James passed away in 1990. His legacy lives on with his daughters, Doris and Margie, with the latter remembering him as the loving father who kept her and her sister in line when needed but also spoiled them on Christmas.

Read More: Did Ernest Burkhart Really Love Mollie? Explained