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 9, 2017

A Murder with a Hint of Scandal

The murder of wealthy Tulsa businessman Samuel C. Davis in Joplin, Missouri, on the night of December 18, 1916, was a mystery to lawmen who investigated it in the days that followed. Was it just a burglary gone wrong? Was Davis targeted by his business enemies? Or did the motive involve romantic jealousy? No one ever knew for sure, because the case was never solved.
The forty-four-year-old Davis, half Creek Indian, worked as a cowboy as a young man but settled down to become a respected citizen who made a small fortune in oil, gas, and real estate investments. He and his wife resided in a stately mansion in Tulsa, and their daughter married the son of Tulsa's mayor.
But Davis's world began to spiral out of control in early 1916 when divorcee Daisy Carter, a former professional swimmer, approached him about securing a home loan for her. The two became romantically involved, and Davis began drinking heavily. He spent lavishly on his paramour and provided her with homes in Tulsa and Joplin.
When he started divorce proceedings against his wife, she filed charges of adultery against him and Daisy. In June of 1916, Davis and his lover were bound over for trial on the adultery charge, but the charge was apparently dropped as a result of the divorce settlement in which Mrs. Davis was to receive $84,000 and other valuable property.
On Monday evening, December 18, Davis and Ms. Carter went to a movie theater in Joplin, accompanied by Daisy's mother and also her housekeeper. After the movie, they returned to Carter's house on North Jackson in Joplin and were surprised by a masked intruder with a revolver in his hand. Davis whipped out his own pistol, and the two shot at each other. Davis's shot missed, but the intruder's did not. Davis fell and died almost instantly. The three women closed the door to the room where the intruder was and held it shut, but they opened it and let him escape after he threatened to shoot through the door.
Investigators had no clear theory of the crime at first, but they soon discounted robbery as a motive, because nothing had been disturbed in the house, even though the intruder was known to have been there close to half an hour before the movie goers arrived home. Lawmen adopted the theory that the assailant was an enemy of Davis who had lain in wait for him, but what kind of enemy no one ever knew for sure. Davis's divorce had been scheduled to become final later in the week, and he and Carter were supposed to get married the following Sunday. Was it the intruder's purpose to make sure they didn't? Or was it someone who hated Davis for another reason?

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