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 sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cora Hubbard--Female Bandit

After Cora Hubbard helped a couple of male sidekicks hold up the Pineville Bank in the summer of 1897, one area newspaper compared her to Belle Starr, the so-called "Bandit Queen." In actuality, of course, Cora's notoriety never approached that of Belle Starr, but Ms. Hubbard did cause quite a stir in the southwest Missouri region for a brief time, not only for the audacity of her bold act but also for her unrepentant atttitude about the deed she had committed. In fact, she seemed quite proud of having committed the crime and, after being captured, even posed for pictures wearing the men's clothes she had donned for the robbery and holding the rifle she had wielded. A pistol that was recovered from the crooks when they were caught had the initials of one of the Dalton gang carved on its handle, and Cora claimed the weapon belonged to her and that she had been with the Daltons several years earlier. Cora seemed to like the idea of shocking people, but in the end the only thing her unabashed attitude got her was a good long stretch in the Missouri state pen. She was let out after serving about seven years, but what happened to her after that is not known.
I've had articles about Cora Hubbard published in Wild West and The Ozarks Mountaineer, and a version of her story also appears as a chapter in my Ozarks Gunfights book.


Monday, January 25, 2010

The Staffelbachs

Galena, Kansas was founded as a lead mining camp in the late 1870s, and it was a wild and rowdy place during its early days. Several notorious incidents happened in the vicinity during the late 1800s, a couple of which I've already mentioned in previous posts. Perhaps the one that is most famous (or infamous) locally, however, is the murder (or murders) committed by the Staffelbach family in 1897. The Staffelbach home sat near present-day West 7th Street in Galena, and the family consisted of the mother and several grown sons, all of whom were shady characters. The old lady ran a house of ill fame out of her home, and the boys were in and out of trouble for a number of petty crimes. In the summer of 1897, they graduated to murder when two of the sons killed a gentleman caller who came to the house one night in the wee hours of the morning and insisted a bit too strongly upon seeing one of the female occupants of the house. The body was dumped in an abandoned mine shaft not far off 7th Street. After the body was discovered, the Staffelbachs were quickly suspected of the crime, and soon the whole gang was rounded up. At their preliminary hearing and trial, several other crimes came to light of which they were suspected, but they were tried only for the death of the gentleman caller. That was enough. The whole family, including the old lady, were convicted on various counts and given sentences of varying severity. The two sons who had actually commited the deed were given the death sentence but later had the penalty commuted to life imprisonment.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bill Doolin's Southwest City Bank Robbery

When I wrote about the Daltons' fiasco at Coffeyville last time, I remarked that Bill Doolin has been mentioned as possibly having been the gang's supposed "sixth rider." What is known for sure is that Doolin soon organized the remnants of the Dalton gang into the Wild Bunch (not to be confused with Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch) and almost reenacted the Dalton disaster when he and the gang held up a bank in Southwest City, Missouri, in May of 1894, a year and a half after the Coffeyville caper. The townspeople of Southwest City opened fire on the outlaws the same way the citizens of Coffeyville had done with the Daltons. The outlaws returned fire, and over a hundred bullets whirred through the air on Main Street in a gun battle that one observer described as akin to war times. The outcome, though, was very different from what happened at Coffeyville. When the shooting stopped, one townsperson lay mortally wounded and a couple of other had lesser injuries, while the robbers had run the gauntlet of the citizens' guns and escaped with about $3,500 in cash and only minor wounds. Bill Doolin was finally captured about a year and a half after the Southwest City robbery. He escaped about six months later but was tracked down and killed by a U. S. deputy marshal only a month or two after his escape.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

The Daltons' Coffeyville Fiasco

Although Coffeyville, Kansas, is not actually a part of the Ozarks, it's close enough to my hometown of Joplin that I consider it to be in the general region. So, I've included a chapter on the Dalton gang's unsuccessful attempt to rob two Coffeyville banks simultaneously in my book about notorious incidents of the Ozarks.
The holdup attempt occurred on October 5, 1892. The Daltons had grown up hearing about and idolizing their notorious cousins, the Youngers, and the Youngers' even more infamous sidekicks, the James brothers; and Bob Dalton had supposedly boasted that he meant to top the record of Jesse James. Instead, the whole gang was virtually wiped out by vigilant townspeople who armed themselves when they realized the banks were being robbed and shot the outlaws to pieces. Four of the five gang members were killed, and the fifth was seriously wounded.
The story of the failed holdup attempt has been written about fairly extensively, and one of the elements of the story that continues to fascinate students of the Old West is the question of whether or not there was a so-called "sixth rider," as popular myth holds. This person, so the story goes, acted as a lookout on the outskirts of town and managed to escape when the shooting started, and there has been much speculation about the person's identity, if, indeed, he existed. Some, for instance, have claimed that Bill Doolin was the sixth rider.
Local residents who met the Daltons coming into Coffeyville on that fateful morning reported seeing six men, and their testimony has given rise to over a hunded years' worth of sometimes wild speculation. None of the citizens in town, however, saw more than five men, and Emmett Dalton, the only outlaw who survived the ill-fated holdup attempt, also said the gang numbered only five. I think Emmett was probably telling the truth, but many people love a mystery and will eagerly advance a marvelous explanation while scoffing at a simpler, more logical one.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Blalock-Fry Gang

Although they didn't rival the James gang, the Youngers, or the Daltons, the little-known Blalock-Fry gang had an unsavory reputation that made them notorious throughout southeast Kansas during the late 1880s. Centered at Columbus, the gang consisted of several brothers and a cousin from two different families. One or two of the parents were also involved in aiding and abetting the criminal activities of their sons, and a Blalock sister named Clara, although she had previously had an outstanding reputation in the community, ended up implicating herself as the "secretary" of the gang.
The gang pulled off a series of burglaries, arsons, and other petty crimes in southeast Kansas and then finally escalated to murder when two of the Blalocks gunned down Columbus constable David Gordon in March of 1888. The whole gang went on trial for various crimes, and nearly all of them, including the Blalock mother and the Fry father, were convicted. The two Blalock brothers, John and William, were convicted of the most serious charge--killing Gordon.
I had an article about the Blalock-Fry gang published in the October 2009 issue of Wild West Magazine. The gang's story also composes a chapter in my book about notorious Ozarks incidents.

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