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, April 2, 2017

Killing of John C. Sewell

Sometime in April of 1881, John, George, and Pascal Tucker got into a dispute at Ash Grove, Missouri, with a young man who was "a crippled cousin" of John C. Sewell, and the argument escalated into a melee when the twenty-three-year-old Sewell came to his kinsman's aid. The Tucker brothers; aged 36, 34, and 24 respectively; were, according to the Springfield Express "noted for getting into nearly all the rows that take place in Ash Grove." John and George were married and lived about two and half miles southwest of Ash Grove, while Pascal lived at home with his widowed mother in the same general neighborhood. Sewell, on the other hand, lived northeast of Ash Grove in the Cave Springs area. He "had a good reputation and was well connected."
Although young Sewell came to the aid of his cousin during the April fracas, the three Tuckers quickly overpowered the other two men, forcing them to retire from the fight. During the fray, one of the Tuckers reportedly fired a shot, but nobody was hit.
A few months later, on Saturday, July 23, Ash Grove hosted a barbecue for the Brothers of Freedom. (This was a somewhat militant farm organization that organized in Greene County in the early 1880s to oppose a tax levied on land for construction and operation of the Kansas City, Springfield, and Memphis Railroad.) The gathering turned into a drunken, rowdy occasion, and the Tuckers renewed their quarrel with John Sewell. However, Sewell, who'd lived in the area all of his life, had too many friends backing him up, and the Tuckers, relative newcomers to Greene County, walked away from the initial confrontation. But only long enough to arm themselves. They went to a store and got a pistol and went back out looking for Sewell. Catching him alone on the outskirts of town, one of the brothers struck Sewell over the eye with a club. Sewell jumped back, but Tucker went at him again with the club. Sewell drew his revolver and "either fired or attempted to fire," according to the Express, "but something was wrong with his pistol."
One or more of Tucker brothers then rushed toward him and fired five shots. Two bullets struck Sewell in the head, either one of which would have been fatal. Sewell lived just a couple of hours. An inquest was held shortly after the incident, and the jury found that Sewell had come to his death at the hands of a pistol fired by Pascal Tucker.
All three brothers were indicted for murder, but they were all acquitted at their trial in May of 1882.
Alas, that wasn't the end of tragedy befalling the Sewell family. Sewell's mother was already dead, and his father, Jacob, and his youngest brother, McClure "Mack," soon moved to the Galena, Kansas, area to work in the lead mines there. Sometime around the first part of 1885, Jacob and Mack moved to Fort Scott, Kansas, and than back across the state line to Nevada, Missouri, where they arrived in July 1885. Both the father and son were murdered there in early August while they were camped on the north edge of town. Their killer was eventually found guilty of murder and hanged in Nevada the following year.

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