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.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Jodie Hamilton and the Parsons Family Murders

Another chapter in my Desperadoes of the Ozarks book is about Jodie Hamilton's murder of the Parsons family in Texas County, Missouri, in the fall of 1906. Jodie worked for sharecropper Carney Parsons, but in October Parsons prepared to return with his wife and three kids to Miller County, where the family had formerly lived. Parsons sold his crop to Hamilton, but the two men got into an argument as Jodie was seeing the family off.
Reports vary as to whether the argument was over the price of the crop or involved a saddle Hamilton had apparently sold to Parsons, but all agree that it involved some sort of business deal. After Parsons and his family set out, Hamilton became more and more convinced that he had been cheated, and he started in pursuit of Parsons to try to make things right. The argument escalated when Jodie caught up with the family north of Houston on the Success Road just west of the Big Piney River, and Jodie ended up shooting Parsons with a shotgun blast and finishing him off by beating him with the barrel of the gun. Parsons's wife came to her husband's aid as he was struggling for his life, and Jodie also bludgeoned her to death with the gun barrel. He slit the throats of the Parsonses' six-year-old and three-year-old sons before finishing them off with the gun barrel to keep them from identifying him and finally beat in the brains of their one-year-old child to stop it from crying.
Hamilton was readily captured, convicted of murder, and sentenced to hang in late December of 1906. Although the killings of the five members of the Parsons family was one of the largest and most gruesome mass murders in Missouri history, Jodie elicited sympathy from some observers when he started professing religion from his jail cell and issuing statements exhorting young people not to follow his wayward example but instead to follow the straight and narrow path. Jodie started receiving letters of support, and some folks even composed poems about him. The convict went to the scaffold on December 21 with a sure-footed step, a song on his lips, and a friendly attitude toward the people gathered to witness his execution, cementing the legend of Jodie Hamilton that persists even today among longtime residents of Texas County. But, as I say in my book, who sang for the Parsons family?

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