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.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bertie Brixey, Part Two

Last time I mentioned that the Officer Down Memorial Page website says Sheriff Bertie Brixey of Webster County was killed by his best friend in November of 1914 and that the killer was later lynched by a mob on the square in Marshfield. As I suggested last time, Brixey was indeed killed in November of 1914, but, after additional research, I've concluded that the more sensational details are apparently not true.
What I have learned since last time is that a man hired a buggy and team at Marshfield on Saturday, November 21, 1914, and drove the buggy to Niangua, where both buggy and team disappeared after he hitched them to a rail. Returning to Marshfield, he reported the incident to Sheriff Brixey, and the lawman set out the next morning for Niangua to try to determine who had taken the buggy and team.
For some reason, the sheriff suspected a young man named Edgar Bartlett of having knowledge pertaining to the buggy and team, and he aggressively questioned the young man, even striking him a time or two about the face. Despite the rough treatment, Bartlett said he knew nothing about the disappearance of the buggy and team.
Brixey let Bartlett go but later approached him again near the young man's home, where he resumed grilling him and accused him of having a concealed weapon on his person. Bartlett bolted away and ran toward his nearby home with the sheriff in pursuit. Inside the house, Bartlett armed himself with a shotgun and ordered the lawman to halt or he would shoot. When Brixey nevertheless started to enter the home, Bartlett fired, and the sheriff fell dead.
The missing buggy and team were found the day of the shooting incident, although it's not clear whether they had already been found before Brixey confronted Bartlett. Also, there was an intimation that at least one of the parties involved (probably Brixey) had been drinking.
Bartlett was arrested and charged with murder, but public sentiment seemed to be in his favor. At his trial in January of 1915 he was acquitted. The jury initially split eleven for acquittal and one for conviction before reaching a unanimous verdict in favor of acquittal. Not exactly the type of controversial verdict that would have given rise to mob lynching, as the ODMP website suggests. Nor did I come up with any evidence that the two men involved in the confrontation were acquaintances, much less best friends.
I'm a little disappointed in my findings, though, because the killing of a sheriff by a man who hardly knew him resulting in a verdict of justifiable homicide isn't nearly as dramatic as the murder of a sheriff by his best friend and the subsequent lynching of the killer. That's a story I would have liked to have written. The truth doesn't make nearly as good a story.

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