Missouri and 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 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, April 19, 2009

Joplin's Notorious Dead, Part Three

Moving to to another Joplin cemetery, Ozarks Memorial, we find Wilbur Underhill, known during the late 1920s and early 1930s as the Tri-State Terror, because of all the banks he robbed and people he killed in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Largely forgotten today, he was, at one time, considered every bit as desperate and dangerous as Bonnie and Clyde or any of the other gangsters of the Depression era. One of his associates was Harvey Bailey, mentioned in my previous post.
Underhill grew up in Joplin and first got into trouble in his hometown during the late 1910s pulling off burglaries and then strong-arm robberies. After he was finally killed in Shawnee, Oklahoma, by agents of the fledgling agency that would become known as the FBI, his body was brought back in January of 1934 to Joplin, where thousands of curious people reportedly turned out for his funeral.
Mass-murderer Bill Cook is buried in an unmarked grave at Peace Church Cemetery at the northwest edge of Joplin. A native of Joplin, Cook kidnapped five members of the Carl Mosser family on Route 66 in late December of 1950 and, after forcing the father to drive pell-mell across the country for a couple of days, brought the whole family back to his hometown, where he killed them in the early-morning hours of January 2, 1951, and dumped their bodies in an abandoned mine shaft in the neighborhood where he had grown up. Later Cook killed a man in California, was executed for the latter crime, and was brought back to Joplin for burial. My upcoming book about notorious incidents of the Ozarks will contain a chapter on Cook.

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