Missouri and 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 fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Taney County Vigilantism

If I were asked to describe or summarize vigilantism in the Ozarks, one of the first subjects that would come to my mind would be the Bald Knobbers of Taney County. As most people familiar with the Ozarks and Ozarks history know, the Bald Knobbers were a so-called "law and order" group that arose during the 1880s in Taney County to counter the lawlessness that had plaqued the county since the Civil War. They were such eager disciplinarians, however, that the anti-Bald Knobbers arose in response to the Bald Knobbers' heavy hand, and the two sides warred with each other for a few years before disbanding.
Recently I was reading some online newspaper entries from the old Springfield Express, and when I stumbled upon an account of a triple hanging that occurred in Taney County in the name of vigilantism, I found it interesting that the event occurred in the spring of 1882, because this predates by almost two years the formation of the Bald Knobbers.
The three victims of the 1882 lynching were Tom and John McClanahan and a man named Meex Snapp. Reportedly they had recently burglarized a store at Kirbyville and stolen a horse from a farmer, and they had been implicated in various other criminal offenses throughout the previous year. Finally, by early April of 1882, local citizens had apparently had enough. The trio were taken to the pine trees south of Kirbyville and strung up. So, it seems that vigilantism already had a good foothold in Taney County even before the Bald Knobbers came along.
By the way, one of the Bald Knobbers' victims in 1886 was Sam Snapp, who was a little too vocal in his opposition to the group to suit the Knobbers. I don't know whether he and Meex were related, but it's very likely they were. If so, that might partially account for the resentment Sam seemed to harbor against vigilantism in general and the Bald Knobbers in particular.

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