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 ten nonfiction books, two novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Civil War Springfield, Wicked Springfield: The Seamy Side of the Queen City, and Murder and Mayhem in Missouri.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hudson & Blount Again

I've written previously, both on this blog and in my Desperadoes book, about George Hudson and Bud Blount, perhaps the two most notorious of a whole slew of notorious men who came out of Granby, Missouri, during the post-Civil War days. However, I ran onto a newspaper story in a historic Colorado newspaper recently that sheds new light on a criminal episode in which the two desperadoes were involved in 1879 at Granite, Colorado.
After making a notorious name for themselves in Missouri during the early and mid 1870s, the pair took off for Colorado in the late 1870s and promptly resumed their criminal careers around the booming mining town of Leadville. Based mainly on information supplied by Blount after he was arrested for murder back in Missouri in the early 1890s, I said in my Desperadoes book that he and Hudson waylaid a man named Shultz at Granite Pass in early June 1879 and stole from 1,500 to 1,700 dollars from him. The real facts, as revealed by the newspaper report I recently read, are slightly different. The incident took place in late May, not early June, and it took place at Granite (17 miles south of Leadville), not Granite Pass (which is a completely different place in Colorado) Also, the man, whose full name was Henry Shultz (or Schultz), wasn't exactly waylaid, if you think of "waylaid" as being ambushed along the road somewhere. Instead, Schultz was a storekeeper at Granite, and Blount and Hudson walked into his store and promptly struck him a heavy blow on the head. They then stole $1,500 and absconded to a nearby saloon, where they joined in a card game. As Blount and Hudson were wont to do, they soon got into a barroom brawl with another customer of the saloon, a blacksmith named William Ward. Ward reportedly gave one of the desperadoes a thrashing, and he (either Blount or Hudson) marched out of the saloon and promptly returned with a pistol. The outlaw fired a single shot at Ward, killing him instantly, and the two hombres made their escape before the shocked bystanders could do anything about it. The Colorado newspaper did not identify either Blount or Hudson by name, but based on similarities between the newspaper story and the story Blount told from his jail cell (later corroborated by Mr. Schultz), it is obvious that the Granite crimes were the work of the Granby desperadoes.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Raid on Florence

Few towns in Missouri escaped the Civil War untouched by at least one attack from either Confederates or Federals at some time during the war. Many were virtually wiped off the face of the map, including the small village of Florence in Morgan County. On Thursday morning, July 9, 1863, a gang of bushwhackers galloped into the town and took possession of the place by flourishing their firearms and shouting orders. The guerrillas began plundering the general store of of E. F. W. Smith and stealing and drinking whiskey from the grocery/saloon of S. S. Burns on the opposite corner of the crossroads village. Six men, constituting most of the adult males in the village, were lined up in the street near Smith's store. Led by a man whose name was also Smith, the bushwhackers compelled the captives to say whether or not they would take the oath of allegiance to the Union. Only two had the guts to admit they would, but the reticence of the others apparently did not save them from the wrath of the gang, because the desperadoes ended up shooting four of the men in cold-blood, at least two of whom died either immediately or shortly afterwards. According to a report that appeared in the Jefferson City Missouri State Times almost a month later, only the screams and entreaties of the local women prevented further bloodshed. Laden with plunder, the guerrillas mounted up and rode away, but three of them soon came back and announced their intention to burn the town. The clerk of the grocery was forced to pay ten dollars before he was allowed to retrieve the store's books, and then the desperate trio set fire to both the grocery and the general store. The three men also set fire to one residence, and they demanded and received money from some of the other citizens in order that their houses might be spared. Announcing that anybody who tried to put out the fires would be shot, the three men then rode away. Among the guerrillas recognized by the townspeople were Robert Wilson, Thomas Jobe, Jack Smith, Matthew Smith, and Young Harrison.
A report in the immediate wake of the raid differed in a few respects from the more thorough report that was issued a month later. The initial report said four men were killed, while the later report confirmed only two deaths, and the earlier report said that four or five houses were consumed by fire. Both reports agreed that the leader of the band was named Smith, but neither said whether he was Jack Smith or Matthew Smith. The first report also suggested that the raiders hailed from south of the Osage River in the Buffalo neighborhood of Dallas County, but this is questionable, since at least a couple of the guerrillas (i.e. Thomas Jobe) were living in Cole County at the time of the 1860 census.            

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Missouri Territorial Regulators

In the past, I have researched and written about the Regulators of Greene County, Missouri, a post-Civil War vigilante group that arose around Walnut Grove in response to an outbreak of crime in that vicinity and beyond. In researching this group, I became aware many years ago that there was also a group calling themselves the Regulators during the territorial days of Missouri. I assumed at the time of my initial research that the two groups were probably quite similar. They were, in fact, akin in that they both arose in response to a perceived outbreak of crime, but there were also several key differences.
One key difference was that the Greene County Regulators arose in response to horse thievery and other kinds of direct theft of property, while the territorial Regulators, who were centered around St. Louis and St. Charles counties and were most active in 1815 and 1816, arose in response to an outbreak of counterfeiting. Also, the territorial Regulators were apparently not quite as violent in their treatment of the supposed wrongdoers as the Greene County bunch was. The Greene County vigilantes summarily hanged three or four men within a matter of a couple weeks, and the group then quickly died out, reportedly because they had been so effective in ridding the region of crime. The territorial Regulators, on the other hand, lasted a little longer but mostly meted out their justice in the form of whippings. During the reign of the territorial Regulators, as was often the case with vigilante movements, a lot of men got accused of crimes (counterfeiting, in this case) that they likely did not commit, and several wrote letters to the Missouri Gazette and other newspapers denying their involvement in passing fraudulent notes.  
  

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.       
 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Emancipation Day

Emancipation Day commemorating the freedom of African Americans from the bondages of slavery is celebrated at various times throughout the country. (In fact, Emancipation Day, commemorating the feedom of various formerly enslaved people, is celebrated throughout the world.) For instance, in Washington, D. C. emancipation is celebrated near the middle of April, because the District of Columbia slaves were freed in April of 1862, nine months before Lincoln's famous Emancipation Proclamation the following January. In one recent year, as you may recall, the IRS moved back the due date for filing one's income taxes because the normal due date (probably the 15th) fell on D.C.'s Emancipation Day. The states and regions of the U. S. South celebrate Emancipation Day at a various times, depending on when the slaves in that state or that area first learned of emancipation. In Texas and some other states or parts of states, for instance, the date is June 19, often called Juneteenth. In fact, I think that much of Missouri celebrates the anniversary of emancipation on Juneteenth.
In southwest Missouri, however, many communities still celebrate Emanciaption Day on the first weekend in August, since that is near the time slaves in this area first learned of the Emancipation Proclamation. I know that Joplin is one such community, and I'm sure there are others. The tradition of celebrating in early August has been going on continually (or very nearly so) as long as I've lived here and probably much farther back than that--all the way back to 1865.
But Joplin is not the only place that commemmorates Emancipation Day in southwest Mo. in August. At least, I know for sure that there were others that did so in the past. Golden City, for example, held a big Emancipation Day celebration on August 3 and 4, 1897. The evening of August 2, according to a brief piece in a Kansas City newspaper, was spent roasting and barbecuing beef and mutton so that there would be enough to last the next two days. All kinds of amusements were set up on the grounds, and the festivities drew not only black people but also many white people, "including a large number of suspicious characters." However, the celebration, featuring speakers from throughout southwest Missouri apparently went off without a hitch.

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