Missouri and Ozarks History

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

Monday, February 6, 2012

Springfield Murders

One often hears or reads that our society is going to hell in a handbasket, and the speaker or author often cites the high rate of crime nowadays as Exhibit A. However, I've long maintained that things aren't really any worse nowadays than they were in the "good old days" if one takes into consideration the increase in population.
For example, I recently ran across an article in an 1887 issue of the Springfield (Mo.) Express listing the homicides that had occurred in the city during the previous seven years. There were eight murders. Nowadays that many murders might take place in Springfield in a single year. (The average from 2001 to 2010 was seven murders per year.) However, considering that the population of Springfield has increased fifteen or twenty times (from about 10,000 in 1887 to near 200,000 nowadays), the murder rate was actually twice as high in the 1880s as it is now. One might not be able to say the same thing about all violent crime in Springfield, but I doubt that the increase in overall crime has outpaced the increase in population by much, if at all.
An interesting sidelight to the list of murders in Springfield from 1881 to 1887 is that two of them were committed in Nat Kinney's saloon. Nat Kinney, of course, was the man who moved to Taney County about 1883 or 1884 and quickly became leader of the Bald Knobbers. It's little wonder a Taney County man remarked, after the Bald Knobbers began enforcing their own brand of justice, that he did not believe a former Springfield saloonkeeper was a proper arbiter of Taney County morals.

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Blogger Larry Wood said...

As an addendum to this post, I should add that the Kinney's saloon in Springfield where the murders were committed may not have been the one Nat Kinney was affiliated with, because there was more than one man in Springfield named Kinney who operated saloons. It's also possible, even likely, that more than one Kinney might have been in the saloon business together.

June 1, 2012 at 10:35 AM  

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