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.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Killed Over Fifty Cents?

Details concerning the following incident are sketchy, and I can't seem to find verification from any other source that the incident even happened, but according to the Springfield Missouri Weekly Patriot, this is what happened: sometime during the middle of December 1875 in Newton County, Missouri, a man named Short came into the tent of F.W.M. Moore, where another man named Gideon was seated. Short, who had an ax in his hand, sat down and started sharpening it and began talking with the other men.
Soon, Gideon got up to leave. As he was passing Short, Short demanded payment of a fifty-cent debt he supposedly owed Short. However, Gideon denied the debt, and he and Short exchanged some heated words before Gideon passed on, exiting the tent. After he was gone, Short told Moore not to trust Gideon because he never paid his debts. Overhearing the remark, Gideon returned and demanded to know what Short had said. Short repeated the remark, and Gideon called him a "God damned liar."
"You'd better not call me a God damned liar," Short said, as the argument moved outside the tent, but when he took a step or two toward the other man, Gideon drew a revolver and commanded him to halt. Just as Short shouted "Don't shoot!" Gideon fired, and Short fell to the ground. "I'm shot!" he cried and asked Moore to help him. As Moore went to the fallen man's aid, Gideon started to leave but quickly came back and told Moore to stand aside as though he planned to shoot Short again. Moore leaped between the two men and told Gideon to leave--that Short was already hurt enough. Gideon then fled and was last heard of near Washburn in Barry County. Whether he was ever caught, however, was not reported. How long Short lived after the shooting was also not reported, but he apparently did die, because the Missouri Patriot called the shooting a "brutal murder."
As I said, I'm not sure how much of this story to believe since I've been unable to verify it from other sources, but I find it interesting because, if for no other reason, it shows the value of fifty cents in those days. Fifty cents doesn't sound like much money to us to be killing and getting killed over, but it would have been equivalent to at least a half day's wages if not a full day's wages. That's like fifty to a hundred dollars today. Looked at from that perspective, I realize that people are still killing each other today for such insignificant sums.
The fact that this incident happened in and near a tent suggests that it probably happened at a mining camp, which means it probably happened at or near Granby. The fact that Gideon was spotted soon afterward at Washburn adds credence to this idea.


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