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 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, September 29, 2013

Headlee Murder Aftermath

Last time I wrote about the tremendous bitterness engendered by the Civil War, the part it played in the murder of Rev. S.S. Headlee in July of 1866, and the angry reaction of Southern sympathizers throughout the state of Missouri to the killing. The anger of the Southerners had scarcely slackened one year after the crime.
Sometime in the spring of 1867, the citizens of Webster County elected Henderson McNabb County School Commissioner. Although McNabb was not one of the men directly implicated in the murder of Headlee, he was the leader of the mob that had prevented him from preaching at Pleasant View, and his election to office outraged Southern observers like O. S. Fahnestock, the editor of the Springfield Leader. During the spring and early summer, the Leader and the Marshfield Yeoman sniped back and forth at each other over the murder of Headlee and what Fahnestock and his co-editor, D.C. Kennedy, saw as a lack of will on the part of authorities (all of whom were, of course, Unionists) to do anything about the crime. McNabb's election to office especially rankled them.
After several exchanges between the two newspapers, the Yeoman concluded, "It seems the murder of the Rev. S.S. Headlee was a crime of such frightful turpitude that its contemplation has horrified the editor of the Leader into hopeless insanity.... He demands for the blood of one man, the execution of the Radical party. He arraigns as accessories before and after the fact the loyal people of Webster County." The Leader answered in its August 15, 1867, edition, "With all candor and earnestness, we do confess 'that the murder of the Rev. S.S. Headlee was a crime of frightful turpitude,' and we do arraign the Radical party of Webster County as accessories after the fact, because they have endorsed it by electing to office the man who is guilty of the crime...."
Alas, the outcries of men like O.S. Fahnestock produced little action on the part of authorities. The man who actually pulled the trigger in the shooting death of Headlee was ironically named William Drake (although he was no apparent relation to Charles Drake, the man after whom the Drake Constitution was named). William Drake was finally indicted for his part in the murder of Headlee about a year after the crime, but he did not actually go to trial for another four years. In 1870, about the same time that the stranglehold on Missouri politics that Radical Republicans held for several years in the wake of the Drake Constitution began to relax a bit, William Drake was finally brought to trial for the murder of Headlee, and McNabb was tried as an accessory. Both, however, were quickly acquitted. The grip of the Radical party might have been relaxing a bit, but it would be another several years before it would completely lose its grip and all the onerous provisions of the Drake Constitution would be removed.

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