Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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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.

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was looking at some old letters someone gave me, they were in a desk bought at an action sometime ago. In one of the letters written from a man doing business in lansing. He mentioned 20 prisoners were being brought in from Galena. He said among them was the Stafflebacks, an old lady and her three sons. He mentioned she was around 65 yrs and looked very hard. He said they were thought to be responsible for 17 murders. He wrote that when she was brought in she said, she wasn't guilty and the Lord knew it. He also mentioned she got 21 yrs, but the boys received a life sentence. Just thought you may enjoy,

February 15, 2010 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Very interesting! What the man said in the letter seems to go along with information I came up in my research, except that the Staffelbach sons were originally sentenced to death before having the sentence commuted to life in prison.

February 23, 2010 at 6:34 AM  
Anonymous Joey Barger said...

my great grandfather: decorated war hero Charles Denver Barger, was a Staffelbach before being adopted. would have been 5 at the time, i wonder if he was one of the young mens' son?

March 5, 2013 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

It's possible your great grandfather was the son of one of the Staffelbach boys, but, even if he was, it would be hard to say which one he might have belonged to. There were at least two other sons besides the two that got sent to prison for the murder. The oldest one got in trouble a time or two in Joplin during the 1880s for disturbing the peace and was considered mentally unbalanced. I don't think he moved to Galena with the rest of the family in the 1890s. May have stayed in Joplin or may have died.

March 8, 2013 at 8:29 PM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Yes, Charles Denver Barger was son of George and Cora Staffelbach. He was born 1893 at Mount Vernon, Mo. George was one of the ones convicted of the Galena murder.

May 1, 2013 at 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a descendant of these people. My grandfather was James Leonard Staffelbach.

March 22, 2018 at 5:49 PM  

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