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.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bill Cook

From an early age, Bill Cook seemed destined for a life of crime. When he was only about five years old, his mother died, leaving his father to take care of Bill and his several siblings. Bill Cook Sr. apparently had neither the means nor inclination to tend to a whole passel of kids. He left them in a small cave in northwest Joplin in the side of a hill with an older sister in charge and merely checked in on them from time to time to bring food. Later young Bill stayed briefly with the older sister after she married but mainly got shuffled from one foster parent to another. When he was ten, he was placed with a foster mother but became incorrigible and left home when he was about twelve. Told that he had to stay where he was placed or else he would be sent to the reformatory, he chose the reformatory.
Bill Cook's crimes and troubles with the law only escalated from there, and he spent the next nine years or so in and out of the reformatory and the Missouri State Penitentiary. Then, during the wee hours of the morning of January 2, 1951, Cook wrote his name in the annals of American crime when he committed what, at the time at least, was one of the worst mass murders in U. S. history. He had flagged down motorist Carl Mosser and his family (wife and three young kids) a couple of days earlier on Route 66 in Oklahoma, jumped into their car, and forced Mosser at gunpoint to drive him pell-mell across the country. After more than two days of criss-crossing back and forth through the Southwest, Cook brought his hostages to his hometown of Joplin, where he killed all five of them near the intersection of 30th and Maiden Lane after almost being discovered by a Joplin policeman. He then dumped their bodies in an abandoned mine shaft in northwest Joplin, the area where he had grown up.
Cook then went on the lam and killed a couple of more people in southern California before finally being captured in Mexico and brought back to the U. S. to answer for his crimes. He was executed in late 1952 in California for one of the latter murders. His body was brought back to Joplin and buried in an unmarked grave at Peace Church Cemetery at the northwest edge of Joplin.
My book Ozarks Gunfights and Other Notorious Incidents contains a more complete version of Bill Cook's story, as well as twenty-four other incidents, all of which I've mentioned over the past few months. Now that I've mentioned all of them, I will try, for at least my next few postings, to talk about other things besides notorious incidents covered in my book.

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