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, September 13, 2010

A Galena Lynching

Last time I mentioned that, although Joplin may have been the most populous of the mining towns of the tri-state region and probably had the most notorious reputation, several of the smaller mining towns in the area also witnessed more than their share of crime and rowdy behavior, and I cited Webb City as an example. Galena, Kansas, was another prime example. From its founding in the spring of 1877, Galena was a rough town where fights and even killings were not uncommon, the first murder being the shooting death of William "Tiger Bill" St. Clair at the hands of Bob Layton and friends in June of '77.
Galena was still a rowdy place over twenty years later near the turn of the century. The town witnessed an especially large rash of crime during one two-day period near the end of April 1899. The Joplin Globe reported that Galena "has been 'going on' at a lively rate for the past day or so, the old town having been the scene of cutting scrapes, exhibitions of cowboys on a rampage, murder and lynching, as well as larceny and other things. A history of the city for the past two days could be dished up in such a way as to rival the slaughter of the most bloodthirsty pirates or the lawlessness depicted in the most sensational of the dime novels."
The most shocking crimes during the spree were the murder of a black woman named Laura Canafax by her lover, Charles Williams, and the subsequent lynching of Williams by a mob of black men. After Canafax's body was found strangled to death on April 24, a coroner's jury quickly declared that she had come to her death at the hands of Williams, and the suspect was lodged in the local jail. During the wee hours of the morning of April 25, the mob of about fifteen men formed at the jail, broke the lock to Williams's cell, and invited him to come out. When he refused, they fired four bullets into his body, killing him instantly.
In addition to the murder and lynching, there were also two knife fights and a couple of lesser crimes committed in Galena during the same two-day period.

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