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.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Another Murderer Lynched

I don't want to go back to the days when people were denied due process. There were too many people in those days who suffered for crimes they didn't commit. Still, when I see people nowadays who are almost certainly guilty of murder or some other vicious crime getting off scot free or getting released after spending only a few years in prison, I can't help pining, on some level, for the summary justice that was often meted out in the days of the Old West. If a man was known to have committed a heinous murder, there was a good chance that, one way or another, he was going to hang for it, and often the one way was the vigilante way.
As I indicated above, the problem with such lynchings was that occasionally the victim turned out to be innocent. Blacks, in particular, were not infrequently the wrongful victims of mob violence by whites. However, white criminals were also often strung up by other whites.
One instance of such an extralegal hanging was the case of John Richmond, a Lawrence County (Mo.) man who stole a mule from a farmer living near Halltown on August 19, 1878, and hightailed it to Kansas with the animal. He passed through Chetopa, Kansas, disposed of the stolen mule shortly afterwards, and started back toward Missouri. Richmond, however, had been pursued by a party of men from Lawrence County, and when they reached Chetopa, they gave authorities a description of the thief. R. H. Clift, who was both a deputy U. S. marshal and city marshal of Chetopa, went out after the fugitive on August 25 and came upon him not far outside Chetopa. Richmond at first offered no resistance and said he'd go with Clift but then quickly drew his pistol and shot the lawman in the neck, and Clift died that night.
Richmond continued to Missouri, foolishly returning to his home territory of Lawrence County, where he was arrested on August 28 at the home of his father-in-law on a charge of stealing the mule. The next day or later the same day a posse from Chetopa, who had followed Richmond from Kansas, showed up and informed Lawrence County authorities of the murder of Clift. A few days later, after a requisition for Richmond's return to Kansas was issued by the Kansas governor and granted by Missouri authorities, the prisoner was put on a train bound for Chetopa. When the train pulled in at Chetopa near midnight on the night of September 5, a mob of masked men promptly appeared and forceably took Richmond away from the two law officers who were escorting him. The next morning Richmond's body was found hanging from a bridge about a mile southwest of Chetopa with his feet not quite touching the ground.
It was later learned that Richmond was already a fugitive from Arkansas on a murder charge at the time he stole the mule. As I say, mistakes were sometimes made in the dispensing of summary justice in the Old West, but apparently the vigilantes got it right this time. At any rate, no effort was ever made to apprehend or punish any of them.       


Anonymous CC Clift said...

Hi Larry,
RH Clift is my husband's great, great grandfather. Thanks for sharing his story. We are trying to locate the grave -- do you have any suggestion or insight for us? Thanks!

August 15, 2012 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Good to hear from a descendant (or wife of a descendant) of Marshal Clift, but I'm afraid I have nothing to go on as far as locating his grave is concerned. Good luck in your effort, and please let me know if you find anything.

August 17, 2012 at 8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John B. Richmond was my g-grandfather. He named my grandfather "Charlie" after Quantrills horse, according to my grandfather. He also was not the best husband in the world as I understand. Thanks, Alan Richmond

February 21, 2013 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Yes, not only was Quantrill's horse named Charlie, but Quantrill himself was often called Charlie by his men. Anyway, good to hear from you. I've now heard from a both a descendant of Clift and a descendant of Richmond.

February 26, 2013 at 2:09 PM  

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