Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, 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 seventeen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History, and Murder and Mayhem in Southeast Kansas.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wyatt Earp

Many people, when they think of the Old West, automatically think of places farther west than Missouri--places like Dodge City, Kansas; Tombstone, Arizona; and Virginia City, Nevada. Actually, though, there was period of time immediately after the Civil War when the Ozarks region was the Old West.
For instance, Wild Bill Hickok's shootout with Davis Tutt immediately after the Civil War on the square in Springfield is widely considered the first gunfight of the Old West era. And, as I've mentioned in previous posts, the lead-mining town of Granby, Missouri, was one of the wildest and most lawless towns in America in the years leading up to and immediately following the Civil War. Then there was Baxter Springs, Kansas, at the edge of the Ozarks, which lays claim to the title of "First Cow Town in Kansas."
Another example is the fact that Wyatt Earp; who, of course, went on to Wild West fame as a lawman in places like Wichita, Dodge City, and especially Tombstone; got his start as as a lawman when he was hired as the constable of Lamar, Missouri, in the fall of 1869. Earp left Lamar, though, about a year later under a cloud of suspicion, and he was subsequently sued twice in Barton County, once over an allegation that he had failed to turn over public funds that he had collected while serving as constable and a second time over a charge that he had falsified court documents. In fact, although dime novels, movies, and TV made Wyatt Earp into a hero and a romantic legend of the Old West, a cloud of controversy or suspicion hovered over much of his whole career. The point at hand, though, is that it all started here in the Ozarks, America's first Wild West.

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Anonymous Martyn said...

Great new book, Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane: Deadwood Legends by James D. McLaird looks at the truth behind the myths of these two Wild West characters. Really worth reading.

March 31, 2009 at 12:05 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

There is a lot of material on the lawlessness in Granby after the Civil War, but you mention its lawlessness before the war. That seems to be the consensus, but most sources are vague and lack specifics. The most detailed account I've found is A. W. Bishop, Loyalty on the Frontier . . . (1863). What other sources have you found? The more specific the better.

March 31, 2009 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

You're right that I've probably just bought into the popular idea that Granby was lawless before the war as well as after it. I really don't have much in the way of documentation to support the assumption. I do know that Cy Killian, father of Jake and the other notorious Killian brothers, was supposedly killed on the streets of Granby in about 1858 by a drinking buddy.

April 4, 2009 at 10:40 AM  

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