Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of 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 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, January 19, 2013

Execution of Joe Core

At the time of the 1889 History of Laclede County, Missouri, the execution of Joe Core on March 5, 1880, stood as the only legal execution ever to occur in the county. As far as I know, it still holds that distinction.
Core was indicted in February of 1879 for the murder of George E. King, which occurred sometime shortly before the court session. Prior to the murder, the two men had been involved in a couple of disputes dating back at least several months. King's son did some work for Core, and King ended up suing Core for the wages he felt were still due to his son. Apparently, either the verdict went against King or he was not satisfied with the amount of the award, because soon afterwards someone burned some wheat stacks belonging to Core. Core believed that the culprits were King's two sons and another young man and that they had done the deed at King's instigation. Core brought charges against King over the incident, but King was found not guilty. Core felt that justice had not been served and still held a grudge against King.
On the day of the murder, the two men met on a road near King's home, somewhat by accident. The old quarrel was renewed, and Core ended up shooting King to death.
At his trial in August of 1879, Core claimed he shot King in self defense when King came at him with an ax, not knowing he (Core) was armed with a pistol. Core was nevertheless convicted of murder and sentenced to hang. The fact that Core beat King with King's own ax after shooting him no doubt undermined his claim of self defense. At any rate, the verdict was upheld when it was appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, and the execution date was set for March 5, 1880. On the day before the hanging, people started pouring into Lebanon to witness the coming spectacle, and by noon of the appointed day, the largest crowd ever assembled at Lebanon up until that time had gathered. Promptly at l p.m., Core was taken to the edge of town, where a scaffold had been erected, and the final preparations were made. After mounting the gallows, Core was asked whether he had any last words to say, and he said "no" he was ready to proceed. The trap door was sprung at precisely 1:19 p.m., and Core dropped into eternity, dying almost instantly from a broken neck.    

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