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.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ned Christie

Born and reared at Rabbit Trap in the Going Snake District of Indian Territory near the present-day community of Stilwell in Adair County, Oklahoma, Ned Christie was a Cherokee statesman who served on the executive council of the Cherokee Nation senate. However, he is mainly remembered for his noted, five-year standoff with U.S. law enforcement after being accused of killing U.S. Marshal Daniel Maples in 1887 at Tahlequah when Christie was about 35 years old.
Accused of the crime by an acquaintance named Parris who had been drinking with him on the night of the incident, Christie declared that he was innocent and refused to give himself up to federal authorities, fearing that he could not get a fair trial before "hanging judge" Isaac Parker at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Christie, who had been acquitted of killing a Cherokee man a year or so earlier, became a fugitive from federal justice, fortifying his home near Rabbit Trap against attack and developing a network of Cherokee allies who would alert him any time a U.S. law officer was in the area. To federal authorities he was now a wanted outlaw, but to many Cherokees he became a hero.
In September 1889, Christie had a shootout with a posse under legendary U.S. marshal Heck Thomas at his cabin. The marshals set fire to the cabin, and the combination of smoke and gunfire drove Christie's wife and son out of the cabin and wounded both Christie and the son. Believing that Christie was dead, the marshals left, but he was rescued from the burning building after they left, and he later recovered.
Christie built a new home, called "Christie's fort" because of its strong construction, not far from the burned out one, and in 1892 a different party of lawmen came back and surrounded the home. Finding that gunfire and even cannon fire was ineffective against the fortified building, they finally blew a hole in it with dynamite and ended up killing Christie with a hail of bullets.
In 1918, a man came forward who had witnessed the murder of Marshal Maples, and he said that Christie did not do it. Instead, he implicated another acquaintance of Christie named Trainor, who, along with Parris, had been wanted for illegal whiskey operations at the time of Maples's killing. Trainor had apparently killed Maples to avoid arrest, and he and Parris had framed Christie for the crime.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Going Snake Massacre Part II

Last time I wrote very briefly about the Going Snake Massacre that occurred in present-day Adair County (near the present-day community of Christie). The events that led up to the massacre are probably at least as interesting as the massacre itself.
Zeke Proctor's killing of Polly Beck that led to the massacre also occurred in present-day Adair County a few miles west of Siloam Springs, Arkansas, on Flint Creek at the Hildebrand mill. Polly Beck, who had something of a reputation as a loose woman, had been married to Steve Hildebrand, former owner of the mill, but he had been killed during the Civil War, and she was running the mill with Jim Kesterson, who was either her fourth husband or her lover.
Although the Proctors and the Becks were both mixed-blood Cherokees, a rift had developed between the two families. A number of reasons have been suggested for the rift. Although Zeke Proctor, like Polly Beck, had a white father, Proctor was a member of the Keetoowah Society, a Cherokee group that strongly favored traditional tribal ways and resented white encroachment on the Cherokee way of life, while the Becks were not members of the society. Like most Keetoowahs, Proctor had fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War, while the Becks had fought on the side of the Confederacy. (Generally speaking, the rift among the Cherokees dated back to their removal from the Southeast during the 1830s when the tribe split into a Treaty Party that did not strongly oppose the removal and an Anti-Treaty Party that did. Whether this split was a specific factor in the Proctor-Beck feud is not known, but the Keetoowahs mainly grew out of the Anti-Treaty Party.)
As a member of the Keetoowahs, Proctor resented Polly Beck's relationship with a white man, and a somewhat dubious report also suggested that Proctor might have had a romantic interest in Polly himself. At any rate, he particularly resented Kesterson, because, at least according to some reports, Kesterson had once been married to Proctor's sister and had abandoned her and her children.
Proctor, who had a reputation for brawling and was even said to have previously killed at least a couple of men, showed up at the mill about February 13, 1872, to confront Kesterson. Apparently they argued and ended up going for their guns. According to most reports, Polly tried to intervene between the two men and ended up taking an accidental fatal bullet from Proctor's gun, while Kesterson escaped with a minor injury.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Going Snake Massacre

Resulting from a jurisdictional dispute between the U.S. government and the Cherokee court system, the Going Snake Massacre was a shootout in the Going Snake District of the Cherokee Nation (present-day Adair County, Oklahoma) on April 15, 1872, between U.S. marshals and Cherokee citizens. Ezekial "Zeke" Proctor, a Cherokee, was being tried in a Cherokee court for the killing of Polly Beck, also a Cherokee, and the wounding of Jim Kesterson (or Chesterson), a white man. Believing that Proctor would not receive the punishment he deserved in a Cherokee court, Kesterson had petitioned a federal court to have him tried by the federal court, and ten marshals were sent to arrest Proctor in case he were acquitted by the Cherokee court.
Before the trial even got started, however, a shootout erupted between the marshals and Cherokee bystanders, who resented the presence of the federal law officers. Seven marshals and one Cherokee were killed, and several people wounded. The next day, Proctor was acquitted in the Cherokee court, which was allowed to retain jurisdiction. There's a lot more to this story, but I'll save it for another time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Cleburne County Draft War

The so-called Cleburne County Draft War was a violent encounter in Cleburne County, Arkansas, near the end of World War I between local officials determined to enforce the Selective Service Act of 1917 and a group of Russellites (forerunners of Jehovah's Witnesses) who were resisting conscription.
On the morning of July 7, 1918, Sheriff Jasper Duke and four deputies traveled to a rural area southwest of Heber Springs in search of delinquents who had not registered for the draft, and they arrived at the home of Tom Adkisson, whose son Bliss had been delinquent since October of the previous year. A shootout ensued, and posse member Porter Hazlewood was fatally wounded.
Duke returned to Heber Springs to recruit more deputies. With approximately 25 men, he returned to the Adkisson home, but during the interim Adkisson had also recruited more men, other deserters and delinquents from the area. Another gun battle erupted, this one lasting about 45 minutes, before the resisters fled and set fire to the underbrush to discourage pursuit.
Later that day, sheriffs and deputies from surrounding counties reinforced the Cleburne County posse and bloodhounds were brought in. The next day, thirty members of the National Guard arrived to bolster law enforcement officials. During the next couple of days, the soldiers and posse members raided through the countryside arresting draft resisters and their sympathizers and confiscating goods and ammunition that might otherwise be available to the resisters. A Russellite preacher and his family were put in jail, and another man and his son were arrested for carrying a copy of The Finished Mystery by Charles Taze Russell (founder of the Russellites). The book condemned the federal government for demanding that "peace-loving men" sacrifice themselves to the "butchery of their fellows" in the name of heaven, and it urged resistance to military service. Such revolutionary notions as refusing to kill one's fellow men were, of course, considered subversive.
On July 13, the same day the National Guard returned to Little Rock, a son-in-law of Tom Adkisson surrendered in neighboring White County, and several other resisters, including the Adkissons, turned themselves in during the next few days. Tom and Bliss Adkisson were charged with the murder of Hazlewood. Tom was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, while Bliss was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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