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.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Fate of the Benders

The story of the Bender family, who killed about eight or ten people in the early 1870s in Labette County, Kansas, along the road from the Osage Mission (present-day St. Paul) to Independence may not, strictly speaking, qualify as having occurred in the Ozarks, but it is a fascinating bit of criminal history. So, it's included in my book about notorious incidents of the Ozarks.
One of the enduring mysteries of the story is the question of what ultimately happened to the family (consisting of Old Man Bender, his wife, their daughter Kate, and Kate's older half-brother). What is known for sure is that, after their horrendous deeds were discovered when the graves of their victims were dug up, they fled south into Indian Territory with a posse in warm pursuit. Reports differ as to what happened after that. The best evidence seems to suggest that they were overtaken and summarily killed on the spot by the vigilante posse, then buried in a common grave. Some reports, though, suggested they had made their escape, and rumors that the family was still alive and residing in distant lands continued to surface for many years.
The Bender story is commemorated by a historical marker at the intersection of Highways 400 and 169 north of Cherryvale.

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