Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written eleven nonfiction books, two novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Springfield: The Seamy Side of the Queen City, Murder and Mayhem in Missouri, and The Siege of Lexington, Missouri: the Battle of the Hemp Bales.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Monte Ne

Monte Ne was a resort town developed in northwest Arkansas's Benton County in 1900 by lawyer, politician, author, businessman, and silver miner William Harvey "Coin" Harvey. Harvey had gained fame during the 1890s promoting the free silver cause. In 1894, he published a book entitled Coin's Financial School, which presented his arguments in favor of silver and gave him his nickname. During the 1896 presidential campaign, he stumped throughout the U.S. for silver candidate William Jennings Bryan.
Located just east of Rogers, Monte Ne began as Silver Springs, but Harvey changed the name to Monte Ne (meaning "mountain water") after he purchased 320 acres that included Silver Springs. In 1913, Harvey started the Ozark Trails Association to promote a system of roads known as the Ozark Trails and to indirectly promote the resort. Featuring the world's largest log hotels, Monte Ne remained popular until the 1920s, when it began to decline. However, it was the site of the national convention of the Liberty Party in 1931, and Harvey was nominated for president at the event. Harvey died in 1936, and much of the resort was sold off in lots. For almost the next 30 years, part of the site was used as a summer camp for girls, called Camp Joyzelle. The camp closed in the early 1960s during construction of Beaver Lake, and most of what remained of Monte Ne was submerged by water when the lake was filled in 1964. However, parts of it are still visible, especially during times of low water. The accompanying photo shows the remains of the resort's partially submerged amphitheater.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Shooting of Isaac Whittenberg

Late in the evening, on or about January 24, 1863, two men came to the home of 21-year-old Isaac Whittenberg in Webster County, Missouri. One of them barged into his house with a revolver drawn and demanded that Whittenberg pilot him to the home of a neighbor named Alexander. Whittenberg resisted the idea at first but complied under threats from the intruder. He dressed and accompanied the unwelcome caller outside, where the other man, a Wright County resident named Thomas Paul with whom Whittenberg was slightly acquainted, awaited on horseback. Whittenberg mounted Paul's horse, riding double behind Paul, and the three men started toward Alexander's house.
Whittenberg learned that the man who had burst into his house was named Todd, and Paul let Todd go first, advising Whittenberg that it was best to let Todd take the lead because Todd would just as soon shoot him (Whittenberg) as not. When the threesome neared Alexander's place, Whittenberg was allowed to dismount and start back on foot toward his house. He had not gone more than fifteen or twenty steps, however, before the two men rode back and overtook him, and Todd demanded that he give up his pistol. When Whittenberg said he did not have a pistol, Todd promptly shot him in the breast and fired a second shot before Paul intervened to prevent Todd from firing again.
Paul was later arrested and charged with the assault on Whittenberg, while Todd apparently was nowhere to be found. However, the victim, who was recovering from his wound, testified at Paul's trial in Springfield near the end of February that he felt he owed his life to Paul. He said Paul had intervened to stop Todd from shooting him a second time and that he felt Paul had done everything he could to protect him. Paul was accordingly acquitted of the charges against him.
What intrigues me about this case is the possibility that the man named Todd could have been notorious Quantrill guerrilla George Todd. I have no evidence that such is the case, but I do know that Todd and some of Quantrill's other men did participate in the Battle of Springfield in early January of 1863 and the Battle of Hartville later the same month. And Paul's description of Todd as just as likely to shoot a man as not sounds like an apt description of George Todd. It's possible that George Todd, tiring of regular Confederate service, was trying to get back to his old stomping grounds of Jackson County and thus needed local men to pilot him through the territory. It is known that some of Quantrill's men did, in fact, return to the Kansas City area shortly after the Battles of Springfield and Hartville.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Horrible Crime and a Swift Retribution

The July 28, 1870, Springfield Leader chronicled a rape and the subsequent lynching of the rapist that occurred in Henry County, Missouri, under the headline "A Horrible Crime and a Swift Retribution," and I've adopted the headline as the title of this post. Citing the Clinton Advocate, the Leader reported that "a half-breed Mexican, by the name of John Coleman," caught a young woman named Miss George while she was out "blackberrying" near Calhoun in Henry County and, under threats of murdering her, accomplished the rape.
The girl came back to Calhoun weeping and told her brother-in-law what had happened. A vigilante posse of about twenty men formed and went in search of "the fiend." That evening five black men succeeded in capturing Coleman and brought him back to town. Miss George identified him as the man who had attacked her, and he also had a butcher knife in his possession that she identified as one he had used to threaten her and accomplish "his hellish purpose."
Friends of the girl wanted to string Coleman up immediately, as soon as he had been brought back and identified, but law officers insisted that he should have a fair trial. Soon afterwards, though, the mob flourished their pistols, dragged the accused out into the street, and produced a rope, again demanding summary justice. The law officers and the town's leading citizens, however, again intervened and were able to get Coleman safely to jail. Later that evening, the angry mob broke open the front door of the jail in an attempt to get Coleman, but the horde was yet again driven back by armed citizens and officers.
The next morning, the accused was brought out of his cell for a preliminary examination, which was witnessed by the friends of the young woman. The proceedings were allowed to continue unmolested until evidence tending to show Coleman's guilt was introduced, at which point the determined vigilantes again decided to take the law into their own hands. They surrounded the defendant, dragged him to a nearby locust tree with a rope around his neck, and suspended him to the tree, although he apparently had already strangled to death before he was hoisted up.
The locust tree was reportedly located on the "courthouse square"; so it's not clear whether the lynching took place at Calhoun or Clinton. Since Clinton was (and is) the county seat of Henry County, one would assume the reference to the courthouse square would place the event at Clinton. However, except for the reference to the Clinton newspaper, Calhoun is the only town mentioned in the story.
The Advocate reported at the time that this was "the first instance of mob rule in Henry County." As far as I know, it was also the last, but it was definitely not the last hanging--just the last illegal one. (See my post of November 26 about the legal hanging of John W. Patterson.)
By the way, the only John Coleman living in Henry County at the time of the 1870 census (taken just a couple of weeks before this incident) was a 35-year-old native of Kentucky. I doubt that very many half-breed Mexicans were born in Kentucky in 1835; so it makes one suspect that the newspaper's identification of Coleman as a "half-breed Mexican" might have been a deliberate mischaracterization or an unsubstantiated rumor meant to play on the prejudice of readers in an attempt to mitigate the gravity of the mob action.
The newspaper account cited above does not give the exact dates that these events occurred. Presumably they must have occurred sometime near the middle of July.
By the way, I'll be giving a presentation this coming Tuesday (December 9) at 7 p.m. at the Library Center on South Campbell in Springfield about my Wicked Springfield book, which, as the name implies, is about the notorious history of Springfield (from its earliest days through the beginning of Prohibition).

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Killing of Toby Carey

In the chapter on James-Younger gang member Hobbs Kerry (also spelled Carey) in my Ozarks Gunfights book, I mentioned that Hobbs's brother Toby was killed on July 15, 1870, by a man named Bennett during a row over a card game at a “cyprian camp” near Granby. I recently ran onto an article in the Springfield Leader that sheds a little more light on the topic.
Citing the Neosho Investigator, the Leader says that the incident happened on a Saturday (which, if true, would mean it happened on July 16, not July 15) at a place called Shipman's Ford on Shoal Creek during a "scene of disgraceful, lewd, drunken debauchery." Bennett, Toby Kerry, and several other young men had joined "a party of prostitutes" on the creek and were engaged in playing cards and drinking whiskey. "With such elements," according to the Leader, "quarrels were inevitable." When Bennett and Kerry got into a dispute over a game of cards, several of the young men drew revolvers, and the two principals in the argument began firing at each other from six paces away.
Kerry was shot first in the hand and then in the breast, after which he tumbled into the creek dead. Kerry's friends fired several shots at Bennett as he turned and fled through a cornfield. He was seen on horseback the following Monday morning as his friends were trying to get him out of the territory, and it was reportedly confirmed at that time that one of the shots fired by Kerry's friends had struck him in the leg, shattering the bone. At last report on Monday, a party of men from Granby were in pursuit of Bennett, and Kerry was buried at Newtonia the same day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Murder of James G. Clark and Hanging of John W. Patterson

In December of 1868, James G. Clark, residing near Roscoe in St. Clair County, Missouri, made a trip to Sedalia to buy lumber for a project on his farm. While in Sedalia he met a young man named John W. Patterson, who had a wagon available, and Clark, who had good bit of money on his person, hired Patterson to haul the lumber for him. Starting toward Roscoe with the lumber, the pair passed through Henry County. Shortly after passing through Brownington in southern Henry County, the twenty-four-year-old Patterson hacked Clark to death with a hatchet, took Clark's money (which amounted to about $400), and also took a watch off the body.
After dumping the body on the prairie a short distance off the road, Patterson started back toward Sedalia in the wagon alone. At Brownington, he unloaded the lumber, tried to trade the watch he had taken from the murdered man, and also mailed a letter to his father, who lived near Carthage in Jasper County. Meanwhile, some kids out for play happened upon Clark's body very shortly after it had been abandoned. Wagon tracks in the soft ground around the body made it apparent that the body had been left there by whoever was driving the wagon, and a posse immediately organized and started in pursuit of the driver. At Brownington, the lumber that Patterson had unloaded was found with some of his victim's blood on it, and local witnesses stated that a young man and an older man had passed through the community together but that the young man had come back alone. In addition, the letter the young man had written had not yet been mailed, and the postmaster opened it and found that the young man's name was John W. Patterson.
Patterson was trailed back to Sedalia and located at a hotel there, where he had put up. He still had most of the money that had been taken from Clark with him, and some of the men who had joined the posse recognized Patterson as the man whom they had seen riding in a wagon with an older man shortly before Clark was killed. Patterson was arrested and taken back to Henry County. On the way, he confessed to killing Clark, claiming at first that he did so in self defense before admitting that he had killed him for his money.
Patterson was placed in jail at Clinton and shortly afterwards was indicted for murder. He won a change of venue to Morgan County, however, and was transferred to a jail there. The calaboose where he was housed was described as a "rickety building," and he soon escaped, despite the fact that he was supposedly closely guarded. He disappeared and was not heard from for several years.
Then, about five years after Patterson's escape, his father died, and the murderer applied for his share of the estate. The detectives were thus once again put on his trail and he was eventually tracked down in Illinois, where he was now living with a wife and a child. He was brought back to Missouri and tried at Clinton in April of 1881 for Clark's murder, with his wife and young child in attendance. He was convicted on April 23rd and sentenced to hang on June 10.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Stay Out of My Watermelon Patch

On August 25, 1864, sixteen-year-old William C. Crawford saw a man climbing a fence on his father's farm east of Lebanon and watched the man go into the watermelon patch. However, the man, who turned out to be a private in the 16th Regiment Missouri Cavalry Volunteers named Marcus Spence, was dressed in civilian clothes and young Crawford didn't know him. The boy watched Spence cut open a watermelon and plug a couple of others before moving off to what Crawford called the "lower end" of the patch. Crawford came up to the fence and, when he saw Spence still in the watermelon patch, he raised his rifle and fired.
The shot hit Spence but apparently wounded him only slightly, because his first instinct, he later said, was to go back to his assailant and "wear him out." On reconsideration, however, he decided there might be more than one person that he would have to deal with, and, therefore, he moved on off out of the watermelon patch.
Charged with assault with intent to kill, Crawford was arrested and taken before the provost marshal at Lebanon. When questioned on August 29, he stated that he at first thought the man was "old Dass Carter" and that he only shot at him after he realized it was someone he didn't know stealing from his watermelon patch. "I would not have shot Spence," he declared, "if I had known him. I would as leave done shot my father."
Spence made no mention, however, of watermelons in his statement taken three days later. He said he was on his way to the home of Josephus McVay, where his wife was temporarily staying. (McVay had been Spence's captain when Spence had been in the home guards earlier in the war.) Spence claimed that he was cutting across a tobacco field but otherwise minding his own business when Crawford shot him.
Shortly afterwards, General John B. Sanborn, commanding the Southwest District headquartered at Springfield, ordered that the charges against Crawford be dropped and that he be released. No doubt, the fact that Spence was not seriously hurt factored into the decision.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lynching of Jacob Fleming

I think I observed in one of my posts not long ago that lynchings in America during the 1800s and early 1900s were a lot more common than most people today probably realize. The only ones we still hear about today are the sensational ones like the lynching of the three black men in Springfield during Easter weekend of 1906. A lot of less sensational lynchings have been almost forgotten. Indeed, lynchings were so common that many of them were not even widely reported at the time. I don't mean to suggest that they were an everyday occurrence. Far from it. But they happened frequently enough that, unless some particularly sensational circumstances attended them, they might have been reported in the local newspaper but scarcely anywhere else. Another case in point was the lynching of Jacob Fleming at Osceola, Missouri, in June of 1871.
On Saturday, June 17, 1871, James Hughes and Jacob Fleming were among a group of men drinking in John Anderson's saloon, the Arcade, in Osceola in the middle of the afternoon. Hughes was described as a quiet, inoffensive man who normally didn't drink. On this occasion, though, he was somewhat inebriated but not obnoxiously so. The 24-year-old Fleming, on the other hand, was considered a desperado and a bully. The two men exchanged words, although the exact nature of the brief argument is uncertain. One report said that Fleming asked Hughes to play poker with him and that Hughes replied that he only played a straight game, apparently implying that he thought Fleming might play a crooked game. For whatever reason, after the brief exchange of words, Fleming promptly pulled out his pistol and shot Hughes twice from close range, once through the jaw or lower part of the face and once through the throat. Hughes fell to the floor, gravely wounded, but later tried to rise, asking for a gun so that he might go after Fleming. Instead, the wounded man was removed to a nearby building and still later to a private residence, where he died that evening about three or three and a half hours after the shooting.
A coroner's inquest was held over Hughes's body almost immediately after he died. Six different men who had been in the saloon at the time of the shooting gave testimony. Most said they had not even realized there was an argument between Hughes and Fleming until they heard the first shot. Two or three of them said they then turned in time to see Fleming fire the second shot from point-blank range, after which Hughes fell to the floor. Only one, a man named Thomas Brown, was close enough to the action to be able to give any testimony relevant to the nature of the quarrel that led to the shooting. He said that he and Hughes started toward the bar together and that when Hughes spoke to him, Fleming interjected, demanding to know whether Hughes had spoken to him. Hughes reportedly said, "No, I'm speaking to this man," (meaning Brown). "It's his treat." Brown then said to Fleming that Hughes seemed to know a lot about his (i.e. Brown's) business. Fleming agreed, and he and Hughes then exchanged a few words. The next thing Brown knew, Fleming had his arm extended toward Hughes, and Brown heard two shots but claimed not to have actually seen a weapon.
Shortly after the shooting, Fleming, a husband and a father of two small children, was arrested and placed in the St. Clair County jail. Later that night, rumors that a mob might take the law into its own hands spread, but law enforcement officers appealed for calm and nothing happened. However, on June 29, 1871, the Osceola Herald reported that Fleming had been granted a change of venue to neighboring Benton County and would soon be transferred there. Late that night, apparently spurred on by the prospect that Fleming might get away with murder if he his trial was moved to Warsaw, a mob decided to act. No doubt the mob was also prompted, at least in part, by Fleming's reputation for prior bad acts. He had reportedly joined the Union militia near the end of the Civil War and participated in several killings, house burnings, and similar acts. Then, shortly after the close of the war, he supposedly killed a man at Osceola and was not even arrested for the crime. To top things off, just five or six months before the Hughes affair, Fleming was said to have fired shots at a man at Roscoe (a small community in St. Clair County), shooting off part of the man's ear. At any rate, a mob of about 100 disguised men rode up to the jail and demanded the keys. The demand was refused, but according to the 1883 History of Henry and St. Clair Counties, the mob "came on business" and would not be denied. They forced the door to the jail with a heavy hammer and then also broke open the door to Fleming's cell. They marched the prisoner to a nearby area that the county history called "the old brick yard," where they quickly strung him up "without words." Fleming reportedly made no appeal and met his fate stoically. A couple of weeks later, an out-of-town newspaper claimed that the Osceola Democrat, in reporting the lynching, had said that "everything was done up decently and to order."

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