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.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Deadly Day in Ladore

On Tuesday, May 10, 1870, seven men, identified initially as either "Texans or straggling outlaws from the Indian Territory," rode into the town of Ladore, Kansas, looking to raise hell. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad had announced its intention to make Ladore, located about six miles north of present-day Parsons along the Neosho Division of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, a junction point of the M. K. & T.; and the place pulsed with rowdy activity in anticipation of the expected boon. L.A. Bowes, foreman for the contractor that was building the M. K. & T, recalled 30 years later that Ladore was "the toughest place I ever struck. Whisky was sold in nearly every house in the town. Vice and immorality flourished like a green bay tree." But even the citizens of a raucous town like Ladore drew a line, and when the seven rowdy strangers got liquored up and crossed it, only one of them rode out alive.
The seven "hard-looking characters" hit town about noon, according to Bowes, and "commenced to fill up on tangleleg. About dusk they began operations by knocking men down and robbing them. As they were heavily armed, they soon had full possession of the town and had everything their own way."
That evening about seven o'clock, the seven hombres went to a boarding house kept by James N. Roach about a quarter mile south of town near the railroad and asked to stay the night. They were refused because of their drunken condition, but they didn't take well to the rejection. Two of the desperadoes guarded a stairs leading to the second floor, where about 25 construction workers were boarding, while the other five took possession of the lower part of the building. One of them struck Roach with a revolver, knocking him to the floor unconscious and apparently lifeless. According to a contemporaneous account published in a Fort Scott newspaper, the men then "proceeded to a bed occupied by two daughters of Mr. Roach, aged...twelve and fourteen years" and dragged them outside, where they "ravished them during the entire night, using a knife to complete the accomplishment of their hellish purpose." During the night, a quarrel erupted among the desperadoes over one of the girls, and the leader of the gang shot and killed one of his own men. Mr. Roach revived during the middle of the night and could hear the heartrending pleas of his daughters but was afraid to stir, knowing the men would kill him.
Near daybreak the outlaws left, taking the younger girl with them. An alarm was sounded throughout town, and search parties, consisting of citizens and construction workers, went out looking for the villains. The one who had the girl was quickly overtaken and hung to a large limb of a hackberry tree not far from the Roach home. Two others were located still in town, having fallen into a drunken sleep in one of the saloons, and they joined their comrade on the makeshift gallows. The other three were caught on the road to Osage Mission (now St. Paul) and brought back. Two of them were hanged beside their pals, while the third man was spared because, according to Bowes, the girls said he did not participate in "the deviltry indulged in by the others." By eleven a.m., five men were hanging lifeless side by side from the hackberry limb.
Bowes recalled that all five of the outlaws were rounded up and held briefly in a log barber shop with several men standing guard over them before any action was taken against them, although this was not reported in the Fort Scott newspaper. Bowes said the men were then taken out one by one for the girls to identify before they were strung up.
The five men were left hanging until about three o'clock Wednesday afternoon, when the bodies were finally let down. They were laid out in a row while a large grave was dug, and all five bodies were buried together. According to the Fort Scott newspaper, the universal feeling in the region was that "the summary manner of inflicting justice was entirely justified by the circumstances" in the Ladore case.
According to Bowes, "Ladore became a good, moral town" after the mass hanging. "The 'Wild Bills,' 'Texas Jacks,' 'Buckskin Joes' and 'Alkali Ikes' left for more congenial climes, and the town settled into a quiet, peaceful village." Actually Ladore only lasted a couple of more years after this incident. The M. K. & T Railroad ended up bypassing Ladore when it could not reach agreement with area settlers on a price for their land, and Parsons flourished instead as the junction point of the railroad.

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