Ozarks History

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

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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.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Killed Over Fifty Cents?

Details concerning the following incident are sketchy, and I can't seem to find verification from any other source that the incident even happened, but according to the Springfield Missouri Weekly Patriot, this is what happened: sometime during the middle of December 1875 in Newton County, Missouri, a man named Short came into the tent of F.W.M. Moore, where another man named Gideon was seated. Short, who had an ax in his hand, sat down and started sharpening it and began talking with the other men.
Soon, Gideon got up to leave. As he was passing Short, Short demanded payment of a fifty-cent debt he supposedly owed Short. However, Gideon denied the debt, and he and Short exchanged some heated words before Gideon passed on, exiting the tent. After he was gone, Short told Moore not to trust Gideon because he never paid his debts. Overhearing the remark, Gideon returned and demanded to know what Short had said. Short repeated the remark, and Gideon called him a "God damned liar."
"You'd better not call me a God damned liar," Short said, as the argument moved outside the tent, but when he took a step or two toward the other man, Gideon drew a revolver and commanded him to halt. Just as Short shouted "Don't shoot!" Gideon fired, and Short fell to the ground. "I'm shot!" he cried and asked Moore to help him. As Moore went to the fallen man's aid, Gideon started to leave but quickly came back and told Moore to stand aside as though he planned to shoot Short again. Moore leaped between the two men and told Gideon to leave--that Short was already hurt enough. Gideon then fled and was last heard of near Washburn in Barry County. Whether he was ever caught, however, was not reported. How long Short lived after the shooting was also not reported, but he apparently did die, because the Missouri Patriot called the shooting a "brutal murder."
As I said, I'm not sure how much of this story to believe since I've been unable to verify it from other sources, but I find it interesting because, if for no other reason, it shows the value of fifty cents in those days. Fifty cents doesn't sound like much money to us to be killing and getting killed over, but it would have been equivalent to at least a half day's wages if not a full day's wages. That's like fifty to a hundred dollars today. Looked at from that perspective, I realize that people are still killing each other today for such insignificant sums.
The fact that this incident happened in and near a tent suggests that it probably happened at a mining camp, which means it probably happened at or near Granby. The fact that Gideon was spotted soon afterward at Washburn adds credence to this idea.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Murder of Philip Schall

I think most people have a general notion of the division caused by the Civil War, but I sometimes doubt whether we fully appreciate the depth of the rancor and the length of time it lingered even after the war. I know that the amount of bitterness left over from the war in Missouri and surrounding regions during the late 1800s never ceases to amaze me, even after years of researching and writing about the period. I've previously written about a number of violent incidents in the late 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s that were brought about to a large extent by personal and political rancor that lingered after the war. Another example was the killing of Philip Schall in Fredericktown, Missouri, on August 17, 1872. In what was a considerable exaggeration, given the frequency of such incidents, one report in the wake of the killing called it "the most brutal murder for political hatred ever committed."
Schall, who was described as "a harmless man and a Republican" noted for his docile disposition, was driving his team of oxen home while under the influence of liquor when he encountered Thomas Mathews upon "the most public street" of Fredericktown. Mathews, a young man who was connected to some of the most prominent families of Madison County, was described as "a violent, blood-thirsty and revengeful man," and it was believed he was a leader of the local KKK, which had recently been threatening and abusing peaceable citizens in the area. Schall hurrahed for Grant, and Mathews shouted for Greeley (presidential candidates), saying he could whip Schall or any other Radical in the county.
Mathews continued to taunt Schall trying to get him to fight, and the two men finally got into a shoving match. Some bystanders pulled the two apart, but Mathews continued to taunt the other man while holding his right hand on a pistol in his pocket. Suddenly he struck Schall with his left hand and at the same time drew the pistol and fired two quick shots at Schall. Up to this point, Schall had not fought back other than to exchange shoves with his assailant. But now he cried, "Damn you, you have shot me!" and knocked Mathews down with his fist. He jumped on top of Mathews and commenced beating and kicking him, while Mathews drew a dagger and stabbed Schall in the hand. Suddenly, Schall collapsed and died almost on top of his assailant, having been shot through the head.
Mathews was arrested on the evening of the killing (a Saturday), and a coroner's jury that met that very night reached a conclusion in accordance with the facts stated above. Mathews was to be arraigned on Monday, but I have not seen a later report that gives the disposition of his case.
This report is from a Union sympathizing newspaper, so it might be a little biased. However, the facts are probably fairly accurate. I know, for instance, that the KKK was, in fact, very active in south central and southeast Missouri in the years after the war. At any rate, the incident is one more example of the incredible amount of hatred and bitterness engendered by and left over from the Civil War.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Murder of John Marshal

During the frontier and Old West days of America, any time young men, separated from the mollifying effects of domestic life, gathered in relatively large numbers, there was apt to be violence, or at least a disproportionate amount of crime was committed by such individuals. This is still true today to some extent, of course, but it seems there was a higher percentage of jobs back in those days that attracted young, unattached men in large numbers--soldiering, mining, punching cattle, building railroads, lumbering, and so forth.
An example of what I'm talking about was the murder of John Marshal in the fall of 1869 by James Hagget and Thomas Carroll at a saloon in eastern Greene County, Missouri, on the line of the South Pacific Railroad, which was then being built to Springfield from Rolla. (The railroad would reach Springfield the following spring.) All three men were described as "railroad hands," and the Springfield Missouri Weekly Patriot opined that the crime appeared to be a "brutal murder without any provocation whatever."
The few details of the killing available in the days immediately after the incident were provided by a witness named Michael Donovan, who himself was a railroad worker and was present at the scene during most of the affray. Donovan told a coroner's jury that on the evening of Friday, November 26, Hagget, Thomas Carroll, and John Carroll went to the saloon, located about a mile and a half from the railroad contractor's office, to retrieve a revolver that Hagget had pawned with the saloonkeeper. Donovan went part of the way with the three but stopped at a boarding house (where he apparently had his quarters) before following the other three men to the saloon. When he got there, the saloonkeeper, a man named James Topin, was just opening the door for Hagget and the two Carrolls, and all four of the railroad hands entered the saloon together. Hagget announced that he had the money to redeem his pistol, ordered whiskey about the same time, and paid for both the whiskey and the revolver, which was turned over to him. The men, particularly Hagget, apparently started slugging down the drinks at a rapid pace. They had been there about twenty minutes, according to Donovan, when John Marshal showed up.
Soon Thomas Carroll and Marshal got into an argument about some money that Johnson had lost on the Iron Mountain Road. (Not clear whether this means literally that he dropped or otherwise lost the money on or near the road bed or simply that he lost it while he was helping build the Iron Mountain Road.) When Johnson grew irritated and told Carroll he didn't want to hear anymore about it, Carroll got up and knocked Johnson to the floor. Johnson got back up and asked Carroll why he had knocked him down, adding that he didn't know why Carroll would treat him in such a manner because he thought they were friends. Carroll replied that if Johnson didn't shut up, he would knock him down again. "May be you could not do it," Johnson challenged.
At this point, Hagget joined the fray. Stepping over with his revolver drawn, he told Johnson that if Carroll couldn't do it, maybe there was somebody else who could. Realizing the perilous situation he faced, Johnson conciliated, allowing that, as long as Hagget held a revolver, he probably could do it. The quarrel temporarily abated at this point, and the four men went back to drinking. When the saloonkeeper suggested that they had had enough, Hagget promised to leave after one more round, and Topin gave in, supplying the additional drinks.
When Hagget and the Carrolls finished what were to be their final drinks, Hagget ordered yet another round, and Topin refused to serve them at first. Both Hagget and Thomas Carroll, however, drew their revolvers and demanded the drinks. The saloonkeeper again relented but immediately left the saloon, along with Johnson, after pouring the drinks.
Standing outside the saloon, Johnson called Donovan to the front door, and he walked outside, where the two men started a conversation. They were quickly interrupted, however, by Hagget, who came to door with his revolver drawn and fired a shot in their direction. Donovan claimed not to know whether the shot was directed at him or Johnson. Cursing Johnson, Donovan, and the bartender, Hagget told them all to leave or he would blow their brains out.
Donovan went around to side of the building, while the bartender took shelter behind a pile of wood, but Johnson foolishly went back into the saloon. The barkeep followed Johnson into the saloon, but quickly re-emerged after putting out the light and then went to a neighbor's house. About five minutes later, Donovan heard two shots from inside the saloon. He also heard some noise that sounded to him like the knocking about of barrels and bottles. Shortly after that, he heard Marshal moaning in pain and complaining that he had been shot. He then heard Hagget tell Marshal to hush up or he would shoot him again.
At this stage of the melee, Donovan apparently decided that the better part of valor was discretion, and he retreated toward the rooming house. On his way, though, he met some other men who had been attracted by the sounds of gunfire, and together the men headed back toward the saloon. On the way, they heard the sound of more gunshots. When they got to within about 100 yards of the saloon, Donovan once again could hear Marshal moaning and groaning. He and the men accompanying him went closer to the saloon, and Donovan crept up to the door. The sounds coming from inside the building told him that Johnson was being beaten, but he could not see what exactly was happening because it was too dark inside the saloon. At one point, Donovan heard Hagget tell Johnson to shut up or he would kill him. Then he heard John Carroll plead, "For God's sake, don't kill him."
However, the damage had apparently already been done. Donovan again retreated toward the boarding house. After procuring a light, he and several other men returned to the saloon and went inside. They found all parties lying on the floor. Johnson was near death, while the other three men were apparently dead drunk. Hagget climbed to his feet and put his revolver in his belt. Donovan and the others, however, took it from him, and upon examining it, found that it was missing all but one round. Hagget admitted killing Johnson and said he was sorry for it but there was nothing he could do about it now. Upon inspecting Thomas Carroll's gun, the men found that it had not been fired.
The next morning Donovan and some other men loaded Johnson into a wagon and took him to Springfield, where he could be treated for his wounds, but he died within a day or two. A special jury impaneled on Monday charged both Hagget and Thomas Carroll with murder in the first degree. Hagget was arrested and brought to Springfield, but Carroll could not be immediately located.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to readily learn the final disposition of this case.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Killing of Ed Daugherty

A shooting affray disrupted the small town of Willow Springs, Missouri, on the evening of June 25, 1885. According to one report, Ed Daugherty, "a gambler and a hard case generally," had for about two months been embroiled in a feud with William Hughes, proprietor of the Willow Springs Hotel, supposedly because Hughes objected to Daugherty using the hotel for his gambling operations. On the night in question, Daugherty reportedly went to the hotel, where he confronted and theatened Hughes, using "the foulest language known to the blackguard ilk."
Afterwards, Daugherty met Hughes on the street and, flourishing a pistol, commanded the hotelkeeper to arm and defend himself. Hughes (who was called "Captain Hughes" and presumably was a veteran of the Civil War) then went home, retrieved a shotgun, and went back out on the street. When he neared Lockey's saloon, Daugherty reportedly fired a shot at him from inside the saloon, and Hughes advanced into the building and returned fire. The shot struck his assailant in the breast and face, and Daugherty died within thirty minutes.
In the aftermath of the incident, the Springfield Express reported, "Public sentiment justifies Hughes in the killing on the grounds of self defense." Another newspaper account said essentially the same thing in more expressive language, stating that "the verdict rendered is, 'Served him right.'"
Daugherty was reported to be about 35 years of age at the time of his death, and he left a wife, who was said to be "an estimable lady," and one child.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Murder of Thomas Budd

I have mentioned before that the murder of Thomas Budd is one of the crimes often attributed to notorious Taney County guerrilla Alf Bolin. Budd is usually referred to as "Old Man Budd" and his age given as about eighty years old in the legendary accounts, but he was actually only about fifty-five years old at the time of his death, which no longer seems particularly old to this aging writer. According to the legend, Budd had made a trip from Christian County into Taney County to get a load of corn, was on his way back home, and had just crossed the White River when he was waylaid by Bolin's gang. He was supposedly forced to get out of his wagon and wade back into the river, where he was shot several times, and the current carried his body away after he was dead.
It may be true that Budd had ventured into Taney County from Christian County when he was killed, but the 1860 census lists him as living in Taney County. At any rate, he lived close to where southwest Christian County borders Taney County, in the present-day vicinity of Spokane. About the only other things that are known with some degree of certainty about this incident come from a statement given by Jacob Aleshire to a Union provost marshal.
Although the exact date of the document is unknown, the murder happened, according to Aleshire, sometime near the end of September 1861. Aleshire, who himself lived in southwest Christian County, said that Budd was at his house when about thirty men under David Jackson came to the house and took Budd away. Aleshire's statement is somewhat contradictory in that he first seems to say that Jackson himself was in charge of the band that came to his house. This cannot be true, however, since David Jackson was killed at Forsyth in July of 1861 during the skirmish in which Union general Thomas Sweeny ran the Southern forces out of town. Aleshire later says that Dan Hilliard was in command of the men who took Budd away. At any rate, Aleshire makes no mention whatsoever of Alf Bolin. It's quite possible that Bolin was among the band, but he almost certainly was not its leader.
Aleshire said that three days after Budd's abduction, he and some other men went out and found Budd's body on Camp Creek in Christian County (near present-day Highlandville) about a quarter of a mile from Green Gideon's place. The body had been burned and disfigured, the ears and nose having been cut off. Aleshire complained that, in addition to kidnapping and killing Budd, the gang also stole some store goods and some clothing from him and his family, including some shoes and a table cloth that belonged to his daughter. They also took Budd's horse and saddle.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Neosho Bank Robbery

In my previous post about the Irish O'Malley gang's 1932 robbery of the Avilla (Mo.) bank, I mentioned that the gang later also robbed a bank at Neosho. The latter caper occurred on March 2, 1935. The men who pulled off the job were unidentified at the time but were later reported to be the O'Malley gang.
In the early morning of March 2, which was a Saturday, Leslie Cooper, janitor of the First National Bank of Neosho, was waylaid as he walked across the public square in Neosho and forced him to open the door to the bank on the south side of the square. From inside the building, the bandits "greeted" the bank's employees as the business opened for the day, tying them up and guarding them as they awaited the opening of the vault, which was controlled by a time lock.
The Joplin Globe reported the following day that the gang consisted of four or five bandits but that only three participated in the actual robbery, the others acting as lookouts or getaway drivers. Another report put the total number of gang members at seven or eight, and Leo O'Malley himself was supposedly one of the men who stood lookout outside the bank. No one was harmed during the holdup, but according to the Globe report, the bandits "used threatening language" toward the hostages. After securing between $8,000 and $18,000 in currency and negotiable bonds, the gang fled in two cars, one of which was reported to be a 1934 Chevrolet coach. The bandits went west out of Neosho before separating a short distance outside town and going in two different directions.
About three months after the Neosho caper, the O'Malley gang was broken up and most of the members arrested when they started ratting each other out after one or more of them were captured following a Fort Smith (Ark.) bank robbery. O'Malley was captured in Kansas City and extradited to Illinois on a prior kidnapping charge. Declared insane, he died there in 1944.
Sources: Joplin Globe, March 3, 1935 and Wes Franklin's "Our Gangster Connection" in January 5, 2013 Neosho Daily News.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Avilla (Mo.) Bank Robbery

About two o'clock in the afternoon of May 18, 1932, the Bank of Avilla, Missouri, was held up by two bandits who entered the bank with revolvers drawn. Neither man wore a mask, although one wore sun glasses and the other had his face painted with some sort of brown substance to disguise his appearance. In a report published in a Joplin newspaper later that same afternoon, the pair were described as young men, but the next day a different Joplin newspaper said they were middle-aged.
The holdup men forced cashier Ivy Russell and bookkeeper Evelyn Shelton to lie down behind the teller's cage, and they and ordered Mrs. C.R. Stemmons, who was Russell's sister and a customer of the bank at the time, to take a seat in a chair at the front of the bank. Another customer, Harry Hightower, entered during the robbery, and he, like the bank officials, was made to lie on the floor.
The robbers then forced Russell to get up and retrieve the bank's cash from the safe. The take amounted to about $2,000. Threatening Russell, the bandits ordered him outside to their car and took him along as a hostage during their getaway. The bandit car, reported to be a 1929 Model A Ford sedan, sped west out of town along Route 66. The bandits turned north about two miles outside Avilla and drove about two more miles before stopping at the side of the road, where they bound Russell's hands and feet with tape, shoved him through a hedge row into a wheat field, and sped away.
The telephone operator at Avilla reported the robbery immediately after it happened, and law officers from Joplin and other surrounding towns were put on the lookout. Meanwhile, Russell was able to work his way free, and, hailing a ride, he was back at the bank less than an hour after the holdup. He reported that he saw the bandits head west on a back road after they shoved him through the hedge row, but no further trace of the outlaws was reported.
The men who held up the Avilla bank were later identified as part of the Leo "Irish" O'Malley gang, although two men hardly constitute a gang, and I'm not sure whether it's even definitely known that O'Malley himself was one of the two men who pulled off the Avilla job. In addition, the title "O'Malley Gang" was apparently something of a misnomer, as Leo O'Malley was supposedly not even the leader of the gang. The gang was reportedly made up mainly of ex-cons from Missouri who had started out as the Ozark Mountain Boys. However, newspapers had dubbed the outfit the Irish O'Malley gang after they pulled off a number of robberies in southwest Missouri, northeast Oklahoma, and surrounding region. Another report says the O'Malley gang came about as a result of the merging of the Ozark Mountain Boys with another gang.
After the Avilla robbery, the O'Malley gang committed a number of other crimes in the four-state region over the next few years, including robbing a bank at Neosho, Missouri, in early March of 1935. About three months after the Neosho job, the gang held up a bank at Fort Smith, Arkansas, and most of the members of the gang were caught and sentenced to prison in the wake of the Fort Smith robbery.

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