Missouri and Ozarks History

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Missouri Land and Livestock Company

I've been reading The Ozarks: Land and Life by Milton D. Rafferty, former professor of geography and geology at Missouri State University in Springfield. The section I read most recently dealt with the history of the beef cattle industry in the Ozarks. Rafferty mentions that the Missouri Land and Livestock Company, a large Scottish-owned company, played a big role in the early development of the industry, which tended to be centered in southwest Missouri, because the relatively flat lands of the Springfield Plateau were better suited to raising cattle than the more mountainous areas of the Ozarks.
About 1882, the Missouri Land and Livestock Company purchased about 350,000 acres of land near Neosho and began importing purebred Angus and Hereford stock. (In the early days of white settlement in the Ozarks, livestock had often been allowed to range free and intermingle, and there were few purebred cattle.) The company started not only raising high quality livestock but also began selling them to the surrounding small farmers and ranchers, and that, of course, provided an impetus to the development of the industry.
Despite the important influence that the Missouri Land and Livestock Company had on the cattle industry in the Ozarks, there is very little on the Internet about this company, as opposed, for instance, to the Ozark Land and Lumber Company, which had a huge influence on the timber industry in the region and about which you can find a lot on the Internet. However, I did find one interesting item that pertains to the Missouri Land and Livestock Company and that confirms the important role it played in developing the stock industry in the Ozarks. It is a letter written by a resident of Washburn, Missouri, that was published in the National Tribune in 1889. (The National Tribune was a Washington, D.C. newspaper devoted to the interests of former soldiers of the Civil War, especially Union soldiers, and most subscribers were former soldiers.) The Washburn letter was touting Barry County as a good place to live and farm, and part of what the writer said was this: "Every alternate section of land is held by a company known as the Missouri Land and Lumber Company. This company is fencing large tracts and seeding it down to tame grass, and this will, in a few years, be the greatest stock country in the Southwest. For farming I cannot recommend it as a whole, but for fruit and stock raising, good water and good health, the world cannot beat Barry County."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lynching of Irwin Grubb

In June of 1885, Irwin Grubb and Dorson B. Anderson traveled south by wagon together from Lawrence County, Missouri, supposedly headed for Texas. Anderson, who was described in contemporaneous reports as a deaf mute, had earlier lived in Henry County. On the night of June 19, the two men camped in McDonald County about three miles north of Pineville. Some people who lived nearby heard three shots during the night but thought little of it. The next day, however, the wagon passed through Pineville with only one man in it. A couple of days later, the wagon was found along with a money box that had been broken into and its contents taken. About a mile away one of the horses that had been pulling the wagon was found killed and its saddle covered with blood. About the first of July, a boy saw buzzards circling above a hollow not far from Pineville, and upon investigation he found Anderson's body.
Grubb was soon identified as the man who had been with Anderson in the wagon, and he was located back in Lawrence County, arrested on suspicion of murder, and taken back to stand trial. On the trip back to McDonald County, Grubb reportedly confessed, saying at first that he had killed Anderson during an argument and scuffle over a broken saucer but later admitting that he had shot him while he slept and then shot him again and again when Anderson tried to rise. The officers who were taking Grubb back to McDonald County laid over in Neosho with their prisoner, and it was predicted there that Grubb would never reach Pineville but would "adorn a post oak tree instead" somewhere between Neosho and Pineville. A mob did, in fact, form, but not until after the officers reached Pineville. The mob was dissuaded from taking the law into its own hands, and Grubb was promptly taken back to the Jasper County jail at Carthage for safekeeping until his trial.
Grubb was returned to Pineville in late October for trial but was granted a continuance at the November term of court. Afraid that Grubb might "escape his just reward," as one newspaper phrased it, a mob once again formed. (This was apparently at least the third time that a mob had formed bent on vigilante justice in the Grubb case.) When the deputy and the guard who were watching the prisoner left the jail to get a drink of water, two or three men with pistols suddenly appeared and shoved the weapons in the lawmen's faces. They were ordered to throw up their hands, and when they complied, the rest of the mob appeared. The angry mob demanded the keys to the jail, but the guard, who was named Bacon, refused, saying he didn't know where they were and wouldn't hand them over if he did. The mob then threatened to kill him. Bacon's wife, who lived at the jail with her husband, upon overhearing the conversation, grew alarmed and said that she knew where the keys were and would get them if the mob promised not to hurt her husband.
She produced the keys, and the mob went into the jail and ordered Grubb to come out. When he complied, they took him to a tree just north of the Pineville square and hanged him, not far from the spot where Dr. Albert Chenoweth had been shot down by an assassin less than two years earlier.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hanging of Crawford, Lavinia, and John Burnett

Crawford Burnett and Lavinia Sharp were married in Patrick County, Virginia, on December 29, 1810. They went on the have at least four sons and three daughters, but the only ones whose names are known were John, born about 1811, and Minerva, born about 1820. Sometime after 1820, the family moved to Kentucky, and from there they moved to the Fayetteville, Arkansas, area sometime before 1845.
On August 12, 1845, a man living near Fayetteville named Jonathan Sibley or Selby was killed, and suspicion almost immediately attached to the Burnetts. They were thought to have killed Selby for his money, since he was known to keep large sums of cash on his property. A fifteen-year-old daughter of the Burnetts soon confessed that her parents had, indeed, planned the murder and that her brother, John, had carried it out.
The couple was arrested, but John fled the territory. Crawford and Lavinia were tried in early October of 1845, and on October 11 both were found guilty and sentenced to death for being conspirators before the fact in the murder of Selby. A gallows was built on a hill south of Fayetteville. On November 8, 1845, the condemned man and his wife were marched up the gallows and dropped into eternity in a double hanging that was reportedly attended by almost everybody for miles around. Lavinia was the first woman legally executed in Arkansas and one of the few who has ever been put to death by the state.
Shortly afterwards, John Burnett was captured in Missouri and brought back to Arkansas for trial. He, too, was convicted, and on December 26, he was hanged from the same gallows from which his parents had been executed a month and a half earlier.
The hill where the three were hanged became known as Gallows Hill and was supposedly used for executions until the Civil War. After the war, it was taken over by the government and became part of the National Cemetery.

Friday, February 7, 2014

More on Monday Hollow battle

Last time I wrote about the Battle of Monday Hollow (aka Dutch Hollow, aka Wet Glaize, aka Henrytown)that occurred in Camden County, Missouri, northwest of present-day Richland, on October 13, 1861. I've since done a little more research on this action and have a couple of things to add to what I said last time. One of things I said last time was that the Missouri State Guard force was about 500 strong. A few days after the battle, a St. Louis newspaper placed the number of Missourians at about 800. So, if this source is to be believed, the Union forces, consisting of only two companies, were even more outnumbered than I suggested last time. The total State Guard casualties, according to this same newspaper report, were 63 killed, 40 wounded (many of them mortally wounded), and 40 taken prisoner. In addition, the Federals were said to have captured 30 horses and a good number of rifles and pistols. All this with only the loss of one man killed and a couple of horses killed on the Union side. These latter figures may well be accurate, but I have a little difficulty believing that the Union didn't inflate its count of enemy killed and wounded. That's just the way it was during the Civil War. Each side, the Confederate as well as the Union, tended to exaggerate the other side's losses while downplaying its own casualties.
I said last time that the Missouri troops were apparently under either Colonel William Summers or Colonel Myscall Johnson. Apparently, Summers was a lieutenant colonel and second-in-command in Johnson's regiment, and Johnson was not present at this action, having recently been injured in some sort of accident. At least "accident" is the word the St. Louis newspaper used. Not sure if that means he had been wounded in battle or hurt in some other way. In other words, I'm not sure whether the word "accident" was being used facetiously. At any rate, Col. Summers was in immediate command at this action, and he was one of the ones taken prisoner. I also said last time that these men in Johnson's and/or Summers' command were apparently part of General M.M. Parsons's 1st Division of the Missouri State Guard. I think maybe I was wrong in that assessment. A couple of sources that I've found since I wrote my previous post suggest that Johnson was a colonel in General James McBride's 7th Division. This is probably true, but some of the men involved in the Wet Glaize action still appear to have been part of Parsons's command. So, perhaps the Southern force at Wet Glaize was more or less a mishmash of more than one command.
Also, last time I spelled Johnson's given name as Myscall. This was apparently an error, although I have seen it spelled that way. His full name was John M. Johnson, and the most common spelling for his middle name was seemingly Miscal. Johnson was born in 1827 about ten miles or twelve east of Vienna, Missouri, in what today is Maries County, near a community called Lane's Prairie. He grew up there and at Bloom Garden between Vienna and Lane's Prairie. Both Lane's Prairie and Bloom Garden do not exist today, at least not as anything more than perhaps a cemetery to suggest that a community once existed there. Before the war, Johnson was a farmer, Methodist preacher, lawyer, and one of the more prominent men of his area. After General Price took most of the Missouri State Guard into the Confederate army, Johnson seems to have become a captain in the 10th Missouri Infantry. In 1862, he apparently tried unsuccessfully to raise his own regiment, and after that he seems to have operated somewhat independently and gained a reputation among Union observers as "notorious." In late December of 1863, Colonel R.R. Livingston, commanding the Union post at Batesville, Arkansas, issued a proclamation saying that anyone who would turn himself in and disavow allegiance to the Confederacy would be protected but that anyone caught in arms against the Union who was not dressed in a regular Confederate uniform and otherwise part of the official Confederate army would be executed immediately. Prodded by this proclamation, Johnson turned himself in and was allowed to return to his home in Maries County, Missouri. After the war, he returned to practicing law and became the commissioner of public works and the financial agent for Maries County. In 1872, he and a partner started a newspaper at Vienna, and he was briefly its editor. Johnson died in 1874 of pneumonia.

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