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, July 3, 2016

Murder of Minnie Grimes and Swift Retribution

In the spring of 1886, a young man in his mid to late twenties named Francis "Frank" Lyle, who lived with his brother north of Hume, Missouri, near the state line, was courting a seventeen-year-old girl named Minnie Grimes, who lived just across the border in Linn County, Kansas. At some point, the courtship developed into a serious romance, or so Lyle thought, but by May, as Frank pressed her to marry him, Minnie started trying to extricate herself from the relationship. Her parents reportedly opposed the match, partly because of the age difference.
Minnie had also developed an interest in another young man, William Scott, and on Sunday evening, May 9th, she went out with her new beau, infuriating Lyle. The next day, he left his brother's house, packing a .22 revolver, and trekked into Hume to buy cartridges and a pint of whiskey. He then hiked across the border to Minnie's house, drinking the whiskey along the way to steel his nerves. At the Grimes residence, Lyle was told Minnie was at the nearby home of Henry Spencer. He then struck out across the field toward the Spencer place.
Minnie was walking along the road near the Spencer residence with Mrs. Spencer when the girl saw Lyle coming toward them a little after four o'clock in the afternoon. Minnie told her companion that the young man probably wanted to see her, and she walked out to meet him. Lyle demanded to know once again whether Minnie would marry him, and when she still refused, he promptly pulled out his revolver and started firing. Minnie fell at the second shot but recovered and ran toward the Spencer house. Lyle then unloaded his pistol, firing the rest of his cartridges into her back. Meanwhile, Mrs. Spencer, at the first fire, ran toward a nearby field to alert her husband.
Minnie fell again as she neared the Spencer home, and Lyle walked up, calmly reloaded his revolver, and again emptied it into Minnie's now-lifeless body. All told, he reportedly fired from ten to fourteen shots. For good measure, he slashed her throat with his pocket knife after firing out all his cartridges and then picked up a fence board and clubbed her face "to a jelly."
Henry Spencer and a neighbor named Howard, whose aid he had enlisted, reached the scene shortly afterward and found Lyle still there, supposedly guarding the body, as he said, to keep predatory animals away. He offered little resistance, freely admitting that he had done the bloody deed and was "d----d glad of it." He said he would "learn these western girls that when they promised to marry a man, they would keep their word."
Spencer tied the villain up while Howard guarded him with a shotgun, and they then summoned authorities. One or more law officers arrived to take charge of the criminal, but, in the meantime, a mob formed and promptly took Lyle into custody themselves. A man who was passing the scene in a buggy stopped to inquire what was going on. Informed of the situation, he asked one of the mob whether they expected to wait until dark before stringing the desperado up. The vigilante replied that they "didn't expect to wait a minute," and the passerby got back in his buggy and drove away so as not to be a part of the grisly incident. At least one report, however, said the lynching did not take place until about nine or ten o'clock that evening (May 10), when the vigilantes strung the murderer up to a tree at the head of Walnut Creek just inside Kansas, about a mile north and three and one-half miles west of Hume.
Lyle was left hanging all night, and his body was not cut down until about 11:00 a.m. the next morning, when an inquest was held at the scene. Afterward, Lyle's body was turned over to his brother, G.T. Lyle. Meanwhile, Minnie was buried in the Littell Cemetery at Pleasanton, Kansas.

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