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.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Britt's Killing of Renno, Springfield, 1838

I mentioned last time that grocery stores acquired an unsavory reputation, at least among temperance advocates, during the 1800s because most of them sold liquor, and the word "grocery" came to be almost synonymous with "saloon." A grocery was not a place for a respectable woman to do her shopping. Instead, women concerned for their reputation usually shopped at dry goods stores, general stores, or confectionaries. Groceries were reserved mainly for men, and many of them came to be seen as de facto saloons.
Such a grocery was the business of R. J. McElhaney on the Springfield public square during the pre-Civil War days. One day in early 1838, a group of men were inside the store drinking and having a good time when a man outside the store, looking for some rough sport, suggested to Jonathan Renno, another bystander, that he ought to go inside and clean the place out. Renno accepted the dare, marched inside, and took hold of the first man he came to, who happened to be Randolph Britt.
In the struggle that ensued, Britt took out a knife and stabbed Renno to death. Britt was convicted of manslaughter and spent a few years in the state penitentiary at Jeff City.
My book entitled Wicked Springfield contains a more detailed account of this incident. It also chronicles several other similar affrays in early-day Springfield. In addition, it covers in some detail what might be called general vice, like liquor violations, gambling, and prostitution. I'll be signing copies of the book at Half Price Books of the Ozarks on the Plaza Shopping Center in Springfield on Saturday, November 3 from 1-3 p.m.  

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