Lynching of Daniel Reed, Revisited
The other facts of the case, as outlined in my prior post, were these: Reed supposedly stole a span of mules in Joplin from a man named John Depriest in September of 1874. Reed was arrested near Nevada and lodged in jail there, awaiting transfer to Jasper County authorities. A posse from Joplin arrived in Nevada on or about Tuesday, September 29, and after some hesitation on the part of Vernon County officials, the prisoner was turned over to the posse. Reed was brought back to Joplin and placed in jail to await a hearing the following Monday, but during the wee hours of Thursday morning, October 1, 1874, he was taken from the jail and hanged by a mob of about thirty disguised men.
Reed had claimed he was innocent because he had won the mules from Depriest in a game of cards. He said he'd be able to prove his case at his examination, but, of course, he never got a chance to present his evidence.
A local newspaper, the Joplin Bulletin, regretted that the wild and wooly town of Joplin had received another blot on its reputation, but the editor tried at the same time to justify the extralegal hanging to some extent by painting Reed as a desperate character and by claiming he confessed to the mule theft right before he was hanged.
The Fort Scott Monitor, on the other hand, opined that the whole affair "looked suspicious, to say the least." The Monitor implied that there were already whisperings of vigilante justice when Reed was handed over to Jasper County officials in Vernon County, that the Jasper County officials knew of these rumors but failed to take any action to prevent the lynching, and that some of the deputies were even in on the lynching. The Monitor said there was at least a fair chance that Reed was innocent as he claimed, and the paper also reported that the hanging was badly handled and that Reed's body ended up being badly bruised and butchered because of the botched execution.
I recently ran across a couple of other newspaper reports that lend credence to the idea that Reed might have been innocent of the stealing charge. A correspondent from Granby wrote to a Lexington, Missouri, newspaper asserting that Reed had, indeed, won the mules and that he had five witnesses ready to testify to the fact. The letter writer said that Reed’s innocence was shown by the fact that he loaded up the wagon to which the supposedly stolen mules were hitched and left Joplin in broad daylight.
I also found a follow-up report in the Monitor that reiterated the belief that Reed was innocent in much stronger terms than the same paper's earlier report. The editor not only flatly declared that Reed was not guilty of stealing the mules, but he gave what he thought to be the real reason the man was lynched. Reed knew too much about the blowing up of the Hannibal Smelting Works in Joplin in July of 1874, a crime in which Depriest and some of his sidekicks were implicated, and they were afraid Reed might talk.
For my next blog entry, I'll try to come up with a fuller account of the blowing up of the Hannibal Smelting Works.