Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Cave Spring, Greene County, Missouri

Whether a town was one of the first ones settled in a particular area was not necessarily a good predictor of whether it would flourish. Other factors; such as whether other towns were built nearby, whether a good road system was developed to and from the town, whether a railroad was constructed to the town; were probably more important. An example of a town in Greene County that was one of the first to be settled but that never amounted to a whole lot and that has now declined to the point that there's not much left is Cave Spring in the northwest part of the county.
According to Moser's Directory to Places in Missouri, the first resident of Cave Spring arrived in 1839. At that time, Springfield was one of the few other towns in Greene County and the only important one. The first store was established at Cave Spring in 1848, and the town gradually grew for a number of years after that. By 1868, the place was populous enough to sport a high school. After a few years, though, a small pox outbreak scared away teachers and students, and the school closed, never to re-open.
A post office was established at Cave Spring about the same time as the high school or perhaps a couple of years later. It remained until 1907. At the time of Holcombe's History of Greene County was published in 1883, Cave Spring had five stores, one blacksmith shop, and one church.
A profile of Cave Spring in the Springfield Leader in September 1894 gives a fairly detailed picture of the village at that time. W.C. Wadlow was a pioneer physician who'd been practicing in and around Cave Spring for over 17 years. A.E. Neff had his blacksmith shop located on Main Street. He had been there for 13 years. Thompson and Taylor had a millinery and dressmaking shop, also on Main Street. Thomas Bricker, located in the north part of Cave Spring, did all kinds of repair work, ranging from horseshoeing to doctoring a threshing machine. C.M. Patterson was still at his "old stand" on the north side of the square, where he sold groceries and other goods. There may well have been other businesses, but these were the only ones mentioned.
In 1968, Cave Springs had one store and several dwelling houses. I'm not sure what's there now, but I'm pretty sure it's not much.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

An Old-Time Small Town Street Fair

A lot of small towns in the Ozarks still hold annual fairs or festivals of one sort or another, and some of theme still have a bit of an old-time feel to them. But they're not quite like the old-fashioned street fairs and county fairs from the first half of the 20th century, such as the one that Weaubleau, Missouri, used to hold from at least as far back as the 1910s and continuing at least into the early 1930s. A look at the program for the 1928 Weaubleau Street Fair will give readers a flavor of what the old-time street fairs were like.
The three-day fair opened on Thursday, September 6 featuring music provided by the Weaubleau Band and a variety of other events and contests. A 50-yard foot race for boys 15 and under and a similar dash for men and boys over 15 kicked things off in the morning. Winner of the boys race received a dollar while the men's race winner got two dollars. The morning events ended with a reading contest for ladies, which yielded a $2 prize for the winner and $1 for second place.
The afternoon featured more music and a women's foot race. The day concluded in the evening with yet more band music and a performance by a man who did juggling and other marvelous feats.
Friday morning featured horse riding contests and a fat man's foot race. (No word on how fat you had to be to be eligible to enter.) There was also a driving contest. I assume this meant driving an automobile, but it might have meant driving a horse and buggy. The afternoon featured horseshoe pitching contests, one of which was reserved for men 70 years of age and older. There was also a declamatory (i.e. speech) contest for boys and girls. The day's events also included what was called simply a "pulling contest." I assume this was a contest pitting one person's horse against another person's horse to see which one could out-pull the other, although it might have been what we nowadays call a tug of war pitting humans against other humans.
Saturday was the climax of the three-day street fair. The day's events included livestock and poultry judging, a baseball game between Weaubleau and a neighboring town, more horseshoe pitching, egg races, a tug of war between attendees from Hickory County vs. those from all other counties, and, of course, more band music. The night events included the giving away of a grand prize (a new automobile), an old fiddlers' contest, more amazing feats, a Charleston dance contest, and a male quartet singing contest.
The Index from neighboring Hermitage announced the next week that the 1928 Weaubleau Street Fair had the largest attendance it had ever had and that a good time was had by all. Winner of the grand prize automobile was a man from St. Clair County who had held only one entry ticket.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Murder of Sheriff Turley

On Wednesday morning, February 27, 1889, in Van Buren, Missouri, a local citizen tried to collect on a $35 note that had Carter County sheriff Elvin G. Turley's name signed on it, but Turley realized immediately that someone had forged his signature. A quick investigation determined that Amp O. Thomason was the guilty culprit and that he had also forged the names of at least two other local men.
Twenty-two-year-old Thomason and another young man, James Taylor, had arrived from Kentucky about six months earlier and opened a saloon in Van Buren. Around the middle of February, they closed the Van Buren saloon and left for Winona, announcing they planned to open a new saloon there.
Still on Wednesday morning, Sheriff Turley, taking along Deputy George Henderson, set out for Winona by train. About noon, the officers chanced to meet Thomason and his sidekick at the depot in Low Wassie when the train made a stop there. When Turley stepped up to Thomason and told him he was under arrest, Thomason started to reach for his revolver, but both officers closed in on him before he could draw it, and the sheriff grabbed his hand. Thomason fell backward, trying to wrest his hand away, but the sheriff still had a grip on him. "Jim, if you ever mean to help me," Thomason yelled to his partner while still on the ground, "now is the time." Taylor, who was thought to be Thomason's half-brother, promptly pulled out a revolver and fired at the sheriff but missed. Stepping closer, he fired again, and Turley fell dead, dying almost instantly. Henderson made a move toward Taylor, but the desperate young man shot the deputy in the leg and made a break for some nearby woods with Thomason scrambling to his feet and straggling along behind.
A posse quickly organized and went in pursuit of the fugitives, but they escaped. Carter County offered a reward for their capture, and a week or so later, the Missouri governor placed a $300 bounty on Thomason's head and a $200 one on Taylor. Despite the rewards offered, no clues as to the whereabouts of the fugitives turned up. Turley's widow offered to up the reward so that it would be lucrative enough to attract professional bounty hunters if she could collect on her husband's $2,000 life insurance policy. However, the company refused to pay, reportedly because a pint bottle of whiskey was found in the sheriff's pocket after he was killed.
Twenty-five years went by with no word on where Thomason and Taylor might be. Finally, in February of 1914, Carter County authorities received a tip that the two fugitives might be holed up in Texas. At the request of the county officials, the Missouri governor renewed the state reward for the capture of the two men, except the amount was only a $100 now. Later in the year, acting on a supposedly reliable tip, Carter County sheriff Orren Munger traveled to Texas to try to effect an arrest, but the fugitives had left the place where they were supposed to be a couple of days before the lawman's arrival.
Thomason and Taylor were never apprehended, although a rumor filtered back to Missouri a couple of years after Munger's burnt run to Texas that Thomason had died of tuberculosis.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Roy Daugherty and the Fairview Bank Robbery

My book Ozarks Gunfights and Other Notorious Incidents contains a chapter on Roy "Arkansas Tom" Daugherty, and I've briefly summarized his "career" on this blog before. He was one of the few outlaws whose criminal career spanned both the Old West era and the gangster era. After spending a considerable time in prison during the late 1890s and early 1900s, Daugherty returned to the southwest Missouri area upon his release and soon resumed his criminal career, graduating from fast horses to even faster automobiles.
Today, let's take a look at one of Daugherty's specific capers in the southwest Missouri area: the robbery of the First National Bank of Fairview. He and his cousin Albert Johsnon, a former Barry County deputy sheriff, had held up the Farmers and Miners Bank of Oronogo, north of Webb City, on December 13, 1916, and then a month later, they teamed up with Jesse Cutler and William Massee, setting their sights on pulling off a job in Fairview, fifteen miles east of Neosho.
About 3:00 p.m., January 15, 1917, the gang pulled up to the side of the Fairview bank in a “new, seven-passenger Buick touring car.” Massee stayed behind the wheel with the engine running, while the other three men hopped out, donned masks, and entered the bank. Whipping out their revolvers, the gang members forced the cashier to open the vault and then herded the cashier, his wife, and a bookkeeper inside. The robbers made the hostages face the wall with their hands above their heads while the bandits gathered up all the cash in sight, about $2,500 total. The gunmen then closed the door on the hostages, took off their masks, and walked nonchalantly out of the bank to the waiting getaway car, which took off to the north at “a high rate of speed.”
Unbeknown to the crooks, the cashier’s wife had held the vault combination to keep it from locking when the door closed, and the hostages emerged from the vault to give an alarm as soon as the gang was gone. A posse quickly formed and gave chase, north through Wentworth and toward Reeds, but the lawmen had tire trouble and lost all trace of the robbers, forcing them to call off the pursuit.
In mid-February, Johnson, Cutler, and Massee were arrested in Joplin after a fifth gang member, who’d been ill at the time of the robbery and unable to participate, grew angry and turned them in because they refused to share the booty with him. Johnson and Cutler then implicated Daugherty as the leader of the gang, but Arkansas Tom was nowhere to be found at the time.
A day or two later, Daugherty was located in Galena, Kansas, and arrested there by two Joplin detectives. He freely admitted participating in the Oronogo and Fairview heists but steadfastly clung to the thieves’ code of honor and refused to say what role, if any, the other captives had played in the robberies, despite the fact that they’d implicated him.
In late February, Daugherty drew eight years in the state penitentiary for his role in the Fairview robbery, while his sidekicks got off with lesser sentences. Given an early release in late 1921, Arkansas Tom soon went back to the bank robbing business by holding up the Bank of Asbury. He was killed in a shootout with Joplin police in 1924 while still on the lam from the Asbury caper. He is buried in Joplin’s Fairview Cemetery.

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