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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cedar County Raid

In my previous post, I mentioned that Jasper County guerrilla leader Thomas Livingston was killed at Stockton, the seat of Cedar County, while leading a charge on the courthouse there in July of 1863. Another interesting incident of the Civil War that occurred in Cedar County was William Quantrill's raid through the county in April of 1863. Quantrill had recently made a trek to Richmond, Virginia, seeking a commission as a colonel in the Confederate army, and he and his men were on their way back to their Jackson County stomping grounds around Independence. During their foray through Cedar County, the gang killed seven members of the Eighth Missouri State Militia Cavalry, who were on their way home from Springfield, and at least four civilians, including Baptist minister and state representative Obadiah Smith, a Union sympathizer who incurred the guerrillas' special ire because of his friendship with hated Kansas Senator Jim Lane. For a more complete account of Quantrill's Cedar County raid, see my article on the topic in the April/May 2002 issue of The Ozarks Mountaineer.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thomas Livingston

In my last post, I mentioned Tom Livingston's killing of Union troops near Sherwood, Missouri, during the Civil War and the subsequent destroying of the town by Federal soldiers in retaliation.
Livingston was an interesting character who refutes the common perception of Confederate guerrillas in Missouri. Today they are thought of by many as little more than outlaws who merely used the Civil War to indulge an already-established proclivity toward lawless behavior, but, in reality, such a stereotype fits a relatively small number of them. Livingston, for instance, was a well-respected merchant and smelter in Jasper County prior to the war, and many of his followers were landowners and established citizens of the county. Livingston lived at a place called French Point, located on Center Creek just a mile or two west of present-day Oronogo, which was known as Minersville during the Civil War, and most of his men, as I pointed out last time, came from the western half of Jasper County in and around Sherwood.
Livingston was killed in July 1863 while leading a charge on the courthouse at Stockton in Cedar County. Acording to one story, he was brought back to Sherwood and buried in the cemetery there, but a second, more likley story, says he was buried in an unmarked grave at Stockton.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sherwood, Missouri

A town that used to be but no longer exists and that is closer to my neck of the woods than Dubuque, Arkansas, which I wrote about a few days ago, is Sherwood, Missouri. The latter town was situated at the present-day intersection of JJ Highway and Fir Road in Jasper County between Joplin and Carl Junction. There are several houses at or near this intersection today, but all of them are of relatively recent origin. The only relic that remains of old Sherwood is a cemetery, at the end of a narrow lane off Fir Road just east of the intersection.
At the time of the Civil War, Sherwood was the third-largest village in Jasper County, trailing only Carthage and Sarcoxie. On May 18, 1863, Jasper County guerrilla leader Thomas Livingston surprised and overran a foraging party of Union soldiers southeast of Sherwood, killing about twenty of them. Most of the dead men were black soldiers stationed at Baxter Springs, Kansas, and the next day Federal troops from the post came back to Missouri and burned Sherwood to the ground, because most of Livingston's men lived in and around the village. Most of the civilian refugees from the destroyed town fled to Texas, and Sherwood was never rebuilt.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dubuque, Arkansas

I suppose a person who is interested in history is, by definition, interested in things gone by, but one class of "used to be things" that I'm particularly interested in is former villages and towns of the Ozarks that no longer exist. One such town was Dubuque, Arkansas.
It was located on the south bank of the White River just below the Missouri-Arkansas line near where the community of Diamond City is now situated a few miles north of Lead Hill, except that the actual town site of old Dubuque was covered by the waters of Bull Shoals Lake when the dam was completed in 1951.
During the first half of the nineteenth century, Dubuque was the northern-most point for steamboat travel on the White River, and the town was a receiving point for merchandise headed to Forsyth and other places upstream via the old Dubuque-Forsyth road and a shipping point for furs and other goods headed downstream. Today, much of the old road is likewise covered by Bull Shoals.
During the Civil War, Dubuque was a Confederate stronghold and the site of a lead smelter that supplied bullets for rebel forces. It was the scene of several minor skirmishes, including one in November of 1862 when Captain Milton Burch led an expedition of the Fourteenth Missouri Cavalry (Militia) into southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. In his after-action report on the mission, Burch explained, "I thought it best to visit the vicinity of Dubuque and break up the harbors of the rebels who have with impunity infested that portion of the country." The result of the raid on Dubuque, according to Burch, was twelve Southerners killed and one taken prisoner. Among those killed was a man named Oldham, who was the postmaster at Dubuque.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bud Blunt

The last but not the least of the Granby (Missouri) desperadoes was Allen "Bud" Blunt (also spelled "Blount"). Bud was born around 1850 at Poplar Bluff (Mo.) in Butler County and moved with his family, including three brothers and two sisters, to Granby in the early 1860s. Although he was involved in a scrape in late 1873 when his pal John Cole was shot and killed on the streets of Granby (see my previous post on Hobbs Kerry), Bud, like a lot of outlaws, seemingly started off on the right side of the law, running for city marshal of Granby in 1874 as the candidate of the Workingman's Party. In 1877, though, he and a gang that included George Hudson and Bud's older brother, John, galloped into the nearby town of Webb City and shot up the place, wounding a couple of innocent bystanders, because a friend of theirs had been incarcerated there for public drunkenness. Shortly after this incident, Hudson and the Blunts moved to Colorado, where Hudson and Bud Blunt assaulted and robbed one man and, according to Blunt's own later testimony, killed another near Leadville. Around 1880, the Blunts ambled into Arizona Territory, where Bud got beat up by a man named McDonald at the mining camp of Tip Top and killed the man in retaliation. He was sentenced to the territorial prison for the crime, but Wyatt Earp, who knew the Blunt boys, intervened on Bud's behalf and helped get him released after a couple of years. Bud returned to his home territory after his release but couldn't stay out of trouble. He was arrested for stealing horses (one report says mules) and sentenced to the Kansas Penitentiary. Released around 1890, he boarded an eastbound train in Granby later that year and, near Ritchey, killed a brakeman who was trying to remove him to the smoking car because of his drunken behavior. Acting quickly, the conductor shoved the killer off the train, and Blunt was found later the same day in a ditch near where he was kicked off, having drunk himself into a stupor. He was arrested, convicted of first degree murder, and sentenced to hang. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison, and Blunt was pardoned around 1900.
As I've chronicled during the past couple of weeks, Granby had at least five desperate characters who not only were associated with the town during the post-Civil War era but who lived there during most of their youth and early manhood, and this number does not include brothers and other sidekicks of the notorious quintet. If another town of comparable size produced as many infamous characters during America's Wild West era as Granby, I don't know what that town would be.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bob Layton

Yet another of the nest of villains inhabiting Granby, Missouri, during the latter half of the nineteenth century was Bob Layton. Bob and his family, consisting of his parents and several sisters, came to Granby from Tennessee near the start of the Civil War when he was a young boy five or six years old. Layton first etched his name in the annals of outlawry on the evening of June 16, 1877, at the fledgling mining town of Galena just across the Kansas state line. Nursing an old grudge, he and three other Granby men burst into Dykeman's Restaurant and opened fire on William St. Clair and Harry Campbell while the latter were seated at a table taking dinner. The ambush mortally wounded St. Clair and left Campbell with a flesh wound. A hastily formed posse pursued the attackers and briefly exchanged shots with them, but Layton and his cohorts made a clean escape. St. Clair was known as "Tiger Bill" because of his reputation in the area as a rough character, but it's not known what supposed wrong the Granby boys were avenging. Around this same time, Layton became a part-time sidekick of the notorious George Hudson, but it's also not known with any certainty whether Hudson came along on the Galena escapade.
What is known is that Layton and Hudson, along with Hudson's brother Jack, were passing through Batesville, Arkansas, on the evening of November 7, 1879, and tarried in town long enough to get into a barroom brawl. They conked one man over the head with a pistol and fired a shot at another one. A posse followed them to their camp outside town and captured George Hudson after an exchange of lead, but the other two men escaped. Layton came back to Batesville the next night to try to break George Hudson out of jail and was shot and killed after he was recognized and ordered to halt but went for his gun instead. Thus was cut short the promising criminal career of Robert Layton.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

George Hudson

I've discussed a couple of notorious characters of late nineteenth century Granby, Missouri, in my previous two posts, but the king of the Granby outlaws was, without a doubt, George Hudson. He was rumored to have already killed a man when he was a young teenager in Mississippi before coming to Granby with his parents and siblings in the late 1860s. Then, over the next twenty years, he killed five more men in four known incidents, including a murder for hire on the streets of nearby Joplin, and was rumored to have killed others. Hudson's felonious record was so extensive that it is hard to imagine how he was allowed to go free for so long, but he and his family had such a stranglehold on the lawless town of Granby that few dared to oppose them. Hudson was finally gunned down in his Granby saloon in 1892 by a deputy who was trying to arrest him for a crime he had committed years earlier during a brief sojourn in Colorado.
For a more detailed account of Hudson's murderous shenanigans, look for my article in an upcoming issue of Wild West Magazine on the "autocrat" who sat on the "criminal throne" at Granby.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hobbs Kerry

Another notorious character who lived in Granby, Missouri during the late 1800s was Hobbs Kerry. The Kerry family moved from Arkansas during the late 1850s, and Hobbs and his older brothers, Albert and Toby, grew up in the rough atmosphere of the booming mining town. In the summer of 1870, Toby Kerry was killed in a fight over a card game while visiting a soiled dove's camp on the outskirts of town. A year later, Albert shot and killed a man named Dunlap in a row that also involved a prostitute. On a December night in 1873, John Cole and Bud Blunt were walking on the streets of Granby when they were ambushed from the dark shadows. Cole died from shotgun wounds, while Blunt made his escape. Albert Kerry, who had recently been made city marshal of Granby, and his brother, Hobbs, were suspected of the crime and arrested but released for lack of evidence.
About two years later, Hobbs Kerry drifted to nearby Joplin, also a booming mining town, where he met Bruce Younger, half-uncle of the infamous Younger brothers, and made the acquaintance of two members of the James-Younger gang. In June of 1876, he and the two gang members rode north to link up with Frank James, Jesse James, Cole Younger, Bob Younger, and one other man. In early July the eight gang members robbed a train on the Missouri Pacific Railroad just east of Otterville in Cooper County. Kerry, though, was quickly captured after he came back home to Granby and started flashing cash around. He received a light sentence in exchange for his cooperation, but by the time he gave his incriminating testimony, the other members of the gang were already headed north on an ill-fated mission to rob a Northfield (Minnesota) bank.
For a more detailed account of Hobbs Kerry's brief outlaw career, you might want to read my article in the October 2008 issue of Wild West Magazine.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Jake Killian

A week or so ago I mentioned the fact that Granby produced a lot of desperate characters during its heyday as a mining town in the mid to late 1800s. One of them was Jake Killian. In fact, all the males in the whole Killian family were a bunch of hard cases. I have an article about the Killians that will be published in a future issue of Wild West Magazine. So, I don't want to steal my own thunder by going into a lot of detail here, but here's a brief version of their story. The Killian family moved from Arkansas to Granby during the mid 1850s. The father, Cy Killian, got beat to death with a whiffle-tree by a drinking buddy on the streets of Granby in the late 1850s. During the Civil War, an older brother of Jake named Mart was taken from a jail in Carthage and strung up to a tree near Spring River by bushwhackers who rode down from Barton County to avenge an outrage on a Lamar saloonkeeper's wife. Jake himself was shot and blinded in one eye during the war while wrestling a fellow soldier named Norton for a gun after getting into a dispute over a card game. After the war, Jake killed William Lake, owner of a traveling circus, when the circus came to Granby in 1869. In 1873, another of Jake's older brothers, Ben, got into a row at a similar traveling show in Granby, and an innocent bystander was killed during the ensuing gunplay. Two years later, Jake's younger brother, Thomas, and two other men killed one of the citizens who had served on the grand jury that indicted Ben Killian for murder. Then in 1878, Jake Killian was killed by William Norton, the same man who'd blinded him during the war, on the streets of Empire City, Kansas (now part of Galena), when he went there in search of revenge. So much for the Killian family.

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