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, September 29, 2014

Murder of Lewis Litterell

On the night of November 29, 1862, two men called at the home of 48-year-old Lewis Litterell in Pulaski County, Missouri. Lewis's wife, Mahala, went to the door, and according to her later statement, one of the men wanted to know who lived there. When she told him "Lewis Litterell," the man asked whether he was a Union man, and she said he was. The man said he and his partner were taking a message to Waynesville and needed Litterell to pilot them. When Mahala replied that her husband was sick, the man who had been talking turned to his partner and told him to hold his horse. The first man dismounted and went into the house to "talk to the old man," as Mahala phrased it. The unknown man asked Litterell, since he was unable to travel, whether he knew anyone else who might pilot them, and Litterell mentioned a neighbor named Robertson. The two night-time callers then left.
Presently, they reappeared, however, and one of the men again went into the house while the other held his horse. The intruder pointed a pistol at Litterell and ordered him to get up out of his bed and be "damn quick" about it. He told Litterell to get the best horse he could and pilot him and his partner to Waynesville.
That was the last time Mahala Litterell saw her husband alive. His dead body was returned to her a couple of days later, and at or near the same time, Larkin "Lark" Salsman of neighboring Camden County, was brought to her house in the custody of the local Enrolled Missouri Militia as a suspect in Litterell's murder. Lark told Mrs. Litterell that it was his brother, John Salsman, and Pete Cuswell who had taken her husband away.
On December 9, when Mahala Litterell and her deceased husband's sister-in-law, Cynthia Litterell, traveled to Waynesville to give statements to Union authorities there about the kidnapping of Lewis Litterell, Mahala said she believed the men who took her husband away to be Lark Salsman and Pete Cuswell. Cynthia's testimony essentially agreed with Mahala's except that Cynthia said Lark Salsman, the man brought to the Litterell house by the EMM, did not look like either of the two men who took Lewis Litterell away.
Lieutentant Thomas Thomas, assistant provost marshal at Waynesville, forwarded the women's statements to Rolla the same day he took them, and he also reported that Lark Salsman had already been killed by the EMM before the Litterell women gave their statements. Whether he was shot while trying to escape or was the victim of summary justice is not known. Thomas also added that John Salsman and Pete Cuswell were yet at large.
Authorities at Rolla, upon reviewing the paperwork forwarded by Thomas, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to assign guilt, and presumably no further proceedings in the case took place.
Source: Union Provost Marshal's Papers, Relating to Two or More Citizens, Missouri State Archives microfilm roll number 1591.

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