Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, 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 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.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Billy Martin

The romantic escapades of Billy Martin of Laclede County, Missouri, constitute another chapter in my new book, Murder and Mayhem in Missouri. This subject, like the Slickers and the slave burnings at Carthage, is something I've previously written about on this blog. So, I won't repeat the whole story here, since anybody who is interested can check out the previous posting in October 2010 (or better yet, read the expanded version of his story in my upcoming book). However, I will add a few details or observations about Martin's story.
For one thing, I called him Frank Martin in my previous post, and he did go by that name occasionally. However, his full name was William Franklin Martin, and he usually went by Billy. Also, the murder of his uncle George Mizer that I wrote about in my previous post was not Billy's first killing. In July of 1878, about a year before the Mizer shooting, Billy had gotten into an argument with two other young men at a wheat threshing. One of them apparently threatened Billy with a pitchfork, and he pulled out a pistol and killed one of them and wounded the other. In addition, Billy's killing of his uncle was not his last serious crime. In the mid-1880s, a few years after he had been cleared of all charges in the Mizer case, he was convicted of stealing a pair of horses and sentenced to the state pen at Jeff City.
He was released after serving about three years of his four-year sentence, came home, and resumed his life with Maggie, the girl who had helped him escape from the Laclede County jail after he had been sentenced to death for killing his uncle and was awaiting the outcome of an appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court. He and Maggie had married while on the run together, and she had stood by him through thick and thin. Apparently, they ended up having a happy life together after Billy was released from the state prison in the late-1880s.
I said in my previous post about Martin that I had run onto newspaper articles and so forth about his case several times but that I had never attempted to write extensively about the case because, despite the obvious contemporaneous interest in it and despite the element of romantic intrigue, it had never struck me as particularly exciting or dramatic. Suffice it to say, I was wrong.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

William F. Martin was found not guilty of the murder of George Mizer. So you commit that this was not his first killing is incorrect. It is said that a man confessed to the killing on his death bed that William did not do it.

November 20, 2014 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Yes, I probably should have said it was not the first time he had allegedly killed someone. As you say, he was found not guilty when he was retried on a change of venue at Buffalo. However, he was found guilty and sentenced to hang at his first trial in Laclede County. So, whether he actually killed Mizer is still somewhat in question. I realize there were other suspects in the murder even at the time the crime was committed, but the deathbed confession needs to be taken with a bit of skepticism as well.

November 23, 2014 at 5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I`m a great grandson of William and Maggie I will stick to my story that he was innocent. If you will go to find a grave in Ellensburg Washington read what a niece of George Mizer said. George would have been my great great great uncle also.

December 28, 2014 at 10:31 AM  

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