Sam Hildebrand Rescued from Jail
Sometime around the early part of 1868, Hildebrand allegedly killed or participated in the killing of a man and woman in northern Arkansas. According to the Hildebrand legend, as recounted by latter-day apologist Carl Breihan, the man killed was the former brother-in-law of a friend of Hilderbrand's who had deserted the friend's sister and taken up with a black woman. The friend supposedly asked Hildebrand to help him teach the "guilty pair" a lesson by giving them a flogging, but the man and woman ended up dead from drowning. Breihan's reference to the man and woman as the "guilty pair" suggests that, in the Hildebrand myth, deserting one's wife for a black woman was apparently worse than murder.
According to an article in a St. Louis newsapper that I recently ran across (reprinted in a Springfield paper), the couple killed was an "old man and his wife," with no indication that it was a mixed marriage. After the killing, Hildebrand was arrested, convicted of murder, and sentenced to be hanged. He was lodged in jail at Pocahontas, Arkansas. (Breihan says Jacksonport.) Sometime in late 1868 or early 1869 just a few days before the scheduled execution date, Hildebrand escaped with the aid of friends on the outside. According to the newspaper article, Hildebrand's cohorts donned the uniforms of Federal soldiers and arrived at the Pocahontas jail with papers ordering that Hildebrand be turned over the them for "government action." The sheriff complied, and Hildebrand and his friends were long gone before the fraud was discovered.
Hildebrand returned to southeast Missouri where he had been "roaming around...as fearless as a lion" at the time of the July 1869 newspaper article. Missouri Governor McClurg had just returned from a personal trip to St. Francois County, where he had gone to try to assuage the fears of citizens in the area who were terrified of Hildebrand and to help organize posses to track him down. Some people even wanted the governor to declare martial law, but he resisted such a measure, because the majority of people opposed it. In fact, in at least one county (perhaps St. Francois) the majority of citizens were reported to be in sympathy with Hildebrand.
Despite the intense manhunt, Hildebrand eluded capture. He was finally killed in 1872 across the Mississippi River in Illinois during a confrontation with law officers, who did not know his identity at the time.