Missouri and 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.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Lynching of Daniel Reed

As most of us know, lynching was pretty common in America during the 1800s and early 1900s. In fact, I think it was probably even more common than most of us realize. Only the most sensational lynchings were widely reported. Many others occurred that received only passing mention in newspapers of the time. One of the latter was the lynching of Daniel Reed in Joplin, Missouri, on Thursday, October 8, 1874. In fact, this event was so obscure that I failed to run across any mention of it during my fairly extensive research for my Wicked Joplin book, and I only recently became aware of it.
Reed was arrested in early October in Vernon County and brought to Joplin for trial on a charge of allegedly having stolen two mules from John Depriest of Joplin. Reed claimed he was innocent because he had won the mules from Depriest in a game of cards, and he said he'd be able to prove his case at his examination, which was scheduled for Monday October 12. However, he never got a change to present his evidence. In the wee hours of the morning of October 8, Reed was taken from his guards by a party of about thirty "disguised men" and hauled to the "most thickly settled part of the city," where he was strung up to a tree.
A local newspaper, the Joplin Bulletin, regretted the fact that "our city has received another blot on her name." At this time (1874), Joplin had recently incorporated and was trying (rather unsuccessfully, I might add) to emerge from the "reign of terror" that had characterized the place during the early 70s when it was still just an unincorporated mining camp. The Bulletin further admitted that the mob was guilty of murder and that lynching Reed was a greater crime than the crime of theft with which he had been charged. At the same time, however, the local paper tried to justify the lynching to a certain degree by pointing out that Reed was considered "a desperate character" who had no friends in Jasper County, despite the fact that he had lived there for some time. The paper also reported that Reed supposedly confessed to stealing the mules before he was hanged.
The Fort Scott Monitor, on the other hand, opined that the whole affair "looked suspicious, to say the least." The Monitor implied that there were already whisperings of vigilante justice when Reed was handed over to Jasper County officials in Vernon County, that the Jasper County officials knew of these rumors but failed to take any action to prevent the lynching, and that some of the deputies were even in on the lynching. The Monitor said there was at least a fair chance that Reed was innocent as he claimed, and the paper also reported that the hanging was badly handled and that Reed's body ended up being badly bruised and butchered because of the botched execution.
The Granby Miner reported that three or four of the men suspected of being among the mob that lynched Reed were overhauled and arrested as they passed through Granby on the night after the hanging and that they were taken back to Joplin for examination. Nothing is known, however, about the outcome of their cases. More than likely, they were probably never punished. Lynch mobs rarely were.
Sources: October 15, 1874 Mount Vernon Fountain and Journal and Leavenworth Weekly Times.

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