Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of 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 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.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Benders: A Mystery That's Not a Mystery

I've mentioned the Bloody Benders of southeast Kansas in at least one previous post, but recently, while doing historical research for another topic, I came across a newspaper article about the Benders that, while not exactly shedding new light on the story, does tend to confirm what I was already convinced of--namely that the so-called mystery of what ultimately happened to the Benders is not really mystery, despite the fact that the historical marker erected by the Kansas State Historical Society and the Kansas Department of Transportation at the intersection of Highways 400 and 169 near the site of the Bender Mounds proclaims the Benders' ultimate fate "one of the great unsolved mysteries of the old West."
The fact is that the Benders were overtaken and killed by the posse that went out in pursuit of them when they fled after their horrific deeds were uncovered. I have been virtually sure of this for some time, not only because it's the most logical conclusion to reach when one knows all the facts surrounding the case but also because several members of the posse, who at first refused to say what had happened, revealed in later years what had actually occurred. The 1880 newspaper article I recently came across contained another such statement, given about seven years after the Benders' disappearance by yet another member of the posse. The posse member described how the Benders had been trailed and overtaken and then shot to death after the posse gave them an opportunity to deny their guilt, which they did not do. Thus ends the "mystery" that's not really a mystery, but I know it really won't end, because people are more fascinated by the marvelous than they are by the truth. As the posse member told his readers in 1880, though, if you hear any sensational story about the Benders escaping to Mexico or returning to Germany or some other such fantastic tale, "you can put it down as a canard."

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