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, August 7, 2016

Murder of Jacob Woolford

I have written quite a bit about murders and other incidents of violence in Missouri and surrounding states during the late 1800s that were motivated largely by personal and political hatred left over from the Civil War, but of course there were even more such incidents that occurred during the war. One was the killing of Jacob Woolford in Reynolds County, Missouri, in August of 1861.
On Monday, August 26, a party of about ten Southern men called at a mill run by Jacob Woolford on one of the forks of the Black River north of Lesterville. Woolford was a Union sympathizer who had apparently incurred the ire of one or more of the Southern men. When he appeared at the door of his mill, several of the men opened fire killing him almost instantly. After the murder, the gang found two Union soldiers at the mill and took them prisoner.
The identity of the killers remained unknown or unclear for a number of months. Finally, during the latter part of 1862, Edmond Falkenberry was arrested as a suspect in the murder, and he gave a full statement about the crime to the provost marshal at Pilot Knob on December 5, 1862. He named himself, James Stout, James A. McClurg, E.G. Clay, John Quigley, Joseph Quigley, Albert Wilson, William Wilson, Tolbert Hunt, Thomas Falkenberry (Edmond's brother), and William H. Copeland as participants in the incident. Edmond Falkenberry said that John Quigley was the "captain" of their squad, and he identified James McClurg and William Wilson as two of the principals in the actual murder. He said McClurg fired the first shot, and that Albert Wilson later told him that he (Wilson) had fired the shot that actually killed Woolford. Falkenberry himself claimed not to have been on the immediate premises of the mill when Woolford was shot but instead was some distance away. He also said that, as far as he knew, his group only planned to capture Woolford and take him south, either as a prisoner or a conscript, to the camp of Brigadier General William J. Hardee, who was organizing troops for the Confederacy in Arkansas. Falkenberry said he did not know that any of his comrades wanted to kill Woolford.
Sometime around the first part of 1863, James Stout and James McClurg were arrested for their part in the crime, tried and convicted by military commission, and sentenced to death. The two were shipped to St. Louis to await the execution of the sentence, but McClurg escaped, either in route or shortly after arrival. Stout also escaped a short time later.
William Copeland surrendered voluntarily about the time of Falkenberry's statement and was held for his part in the killing of Woolford. He was sent to St. Louis with a recommendation for lenient treatment since he had surrendered voluntarily and had complied with the terms of his parole. He later was either tried and found not guilty or was pardoned and released. Falkenberry and his brother also appear to have been given lenient treatment in the Woolford killing.
Most of the rest of the men involved, however, remained at large, and they had still not been captured in February 1869, four years after the war, when Missouri governor Joseph W. McClurg offered a reward of two hundred dollars each for their apprehension. Apparently, however, they were never brought to justice.

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