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.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Elusive Frank Martin

As I've mentioned previously, I often find secondary topics to write about while I'm researching a primary subject. I don't necessarily take much notice of the second topic, though, unless I encounter the same subject again later on. If I run onto the same topic more than once, I usually begin to think that maybe it's a subject worth writing about.
An example is the case of Frank Martin of Laclede County, Missouri, that occurred circa 1880. When I first read about this case it didn't strike me as particularly fascinating, even though it had an element of romantic intrigue, but I've run onto multiple items about the case in 1880s newspapers and have begun to think that, if it was followed so closely at the time, maybe it's worth writing about now.
Briefly the facts of the case are these: Martin, a young man of about 20 years old, killed a man named George Mizer in Laclede County on June 9, 1879 (one report says Mizer was Martin's uncle). In February 1880, Martin was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang, but while the case was being appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, the sheriff's niece, Maggie Wilson, who apparently had fallen in love with the jailbird, helped him escape in November of 1880. She and the fugitive absconded together, got married, and settled down together in Tennessee. Martin, though, was recaptured in Sullivan County, Tennessee, about the first of September of 1881 and brought back to Missouri aboard a train. As the train slowed for a hill near Dixon (in Pulaski County just east of Laclede), the prisoner, even though he was shackled at the wrists and ankles, leaped from the train and made his escape, as a search turned up no trace of him. He was later recaptured at his father's farm in Laclede County, but in the meantime, the Supreme Court had granted him a new trial on the murder charge. He was retried in Dallas County on a change of venue in April of 1882 and was found not guilty. His wife, meanwhile, had given birth to twin babies after having been held briefly in the Laclede County jail for aiding her husband in his first escape, and the couple was, as one newspaper worded it, "rewarded by an opportunity for them to live in peace a wedded life begun under such adverse circumstances."

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