Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, 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 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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ozarks Lynchings

A chapter in my Desperadoes of the Ozarks book deals with lynchings in the Ozarks. The last couple of decades of the 19th century and the first two or three decades of the 20th century have been called the "lynching era" in America because of the large number of extralegal executions that occurred during that time. In particular there were a lot of lynchings of blacks by white mobs.
The racial violence was not quite as prominent in the Ozarks as it was in the Deep South, primarily because there were fewer blacks to begin with. Also, the frontier Ozarks had a history, dating back to the region's settlement in the early 1800s, of resorting to vigilante mobs or "rough justice" in dealing with heinous crimes not only by blacks but by whites as well.
So, the chapter in my book doesn't deal specifically with black lynchings, although the area's three most noted racial lynchings (i.e. Pierce City in 1901, Joplin in 1903, and Springfield in 1906) do receive particular focus. The chapter is just an overview of the subject of lynchings in the Ozarks, both black and white. If you want to read an in-depth account of racially motivated lynchings in the Ozarks, I would recommend Kimberly Harper's White Man's Heaven.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Missouri Kid

Another chapter in my Desperadoes of the Ozarks book is about William Rudolph, the so-called "Missouri Kid," who, along with sidekick George Collins (shown at left) robbed a bank at Union, Missouri, in late December of 1902 and a month later killed a Pinkerton detective who was on the trail of the robbers. Rudolph and Collins were arrested at Hartford, Connecticut, in early March of 1903 and brought back to Missouri, where they were greeted by a group of admiring fans, including several young women, almost like returning heroes. Given the nickname the "Missouri Kid" by a sensationalist newspaperman, Rudolph escaped in July of '03 and went on the lam. He was apprehended again in January of '04 in Kansas, brought back to Missouri, and convicted in March of '04 of first-degree murder in the killing of the detective. While his trial was going on, Collins, who had already been convicted of the same crime, was hanged from a scaffold in the courtyard next to where Rudolph's trial was taking place. Despite several appeals, Rudolph himself was launched into eternity a year later using the same rope that had been used to hang Collins. I received my author copies of the Desperadoes book less than a week ago, and just a day or two afterwards there was already at least one review of the book posted on the internet at the following URL (the same review was also later posted on the Amazon website): http://dadofdivas-reviews.blogspot.com/2011/10/book-review-desperadoes-of-ozarks.html

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Meadows-Bilyeu Feud

Another chapter in my Desperadoes book is about the Meadows-Bilyeu feud that culminated in the killing of Steve Bilyeu and two of his sons by Bud Meadows and his cohorts in late November of 1898 south of Ozark near the Christian-Taney county line. One newspaper called the feud, which had been building for months, a neighborhood feud, but it was really more like a family feud, because both Bud Meadows and his brother Bob had married into the Bilyeu family. Steve Bilyeu's land and Bud Meadows's land adjoined, and the source of the dispute was a fence separating their properties. The two men had put up the fence together, but Meadows apparently felt that Bilyeu was not contributing his fair share to the upkeep of the fence. The argument came to a head on Nov. 28, 1898, when Meadows and his pals started taking down the fence, and Bilyeu and his associates showed up armed to try to stop them. The confrontation left three Bilyeus dead and Meadows and four of his sidekicks indicted for murder. Meadows was convicted of 1st degree murder but later had the conviction overturned and was granted a new trial. However, the second trial never took place, as the charges were basically dropped.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Olyphant Train Robbery

One of the chapters in my upcoming Desperadoes book is about the train robbery that occurred at Olyphant, Arkansas,in early November of 1893. It's sometimes called the last great Arkansas train robbery, although that title seems a little misleading, because it suggests that there were a number of other great train robberies in Arkansas when, in fact, there were very few others, if any, as far as I know. At any rate, the train robbery in question happened when Train No. 51 of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway stopped during its run from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, to Little Rock about ten o'clock on the night of the 3rd to let off a passenger at Olyphant, a small community a few miles south of the Jackson County seat of Newport. During the holdup, the train's conductor fired shots at the bandits and was killed when they returned fire. The bandit gang was composed of eight men, all of whom were captured over the next few weeks. Most of them had previously been law-abiding farmers from the Siloam Springs (Benton County) area of Arkansas, and they had hatched the robbery plan as a get-rich-quick scheme. Three of the desperadoes paid with their lives for their greed when they were executed the following spring in the only triple hanging in Jackson County history.

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