Killing of Aeneas Ridge
One of the suggestions I received had to do with the death of Aeneas Ridge, Jr. in Christian County, Missouri, in 1883; so that's what I'm going to write about today. Aeneas Ridge, Jr. was the grandson of Major Ridge, a Cherokee Indian leader who was killed in the late 1830s, along with two other leaders of the Treaty Party, by the Anti-Treaty faction in the wake of the tribe's forced removal from the Southeast along the infamous Trail of Tears.
In the fall of 1882, the grandson, who was one-fourth Cherokee, had shot two black men in Indian Territory and fled to Christian County, where he stayed with the family of Joe Danforth, to whom he was related by marriage. On June 12, 1883, Danforth and young Ridge were doing some lumber work at a sawmill Danforth owned along Piedlow Creek in northern Christian County when four law officers arrived with a warrant for his arrest for shooting the black men. The posse consisted of George Whiteside, ex-sheriff of Dade County and then a deputy in Christian County; Jim Armstrong, a deputy from Dade County; Jim White, the marshal of Greenfield; and a black man named Taylor Smith from Springfield. The four men, according to a Springfield newspaper report of the incident, went to the sawmill expecting trouble because of the "reckless and desperate character" of the man they sought. Danforth, Ridge, and some other men were seated on a pile of wood engaged in conversation when the lawmen arrived and Whiteside leveled a shotgun at the group and told them all to put up their hands. Instead the men scrambled for cover, and Ridge supposedly pulled out his pistol and fired two shots from behind a tree, the first one at Armstrong and the second at Whiteside.
Whiteside returned fire, continued the newspaper report, striking Ridge in the arm, which caused him to come out from behind the tree far enough for Whiteside to get a clean second shot, which struck the fugitive in the face. Ridge then sprang out from behind the tree completely with his hands raised in surrender and took a few steps toward the lawmen before collapsing and dying within minutes.
Ridge's body was taken to Springfield, where a coroner's jury held later the same day exonerated Whiteside on the grounds of justifiable homicide. The charges against the lawmen were later revived, however, when witnesses who had been on the scene at the time told a grand jury that the lawmen started shooting immediately as soon as Whiteside told Ridge and his friends to hold up their hands and that Ridge only took cover behind the tree and pulled out his pistol after he had already been shot. Whiteside was arrested in early February of 1884 and taken to Ozark and charged with murder. The other three members of the posse were also charged with murder, but all of them were eventually acquitted, despite the best efforts of an all-star prosecution team that included Ridge's kinsman Elias Boudinot, Jr.