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.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Vigilante Murder of a "Sanctified" Preacher

About 1900, D. M. Malone, a former Methodist minister who’d recently embraced the holiness movement started preaching his newfound gospel of Christian perfection in the Little River area of northwest Pemiscot County, Missouri. The holiness movement emphasized union with God or “sanctification,” and those who claimed to have achieved such a state often considered themselves accountable only to heaven. Malone soon learned that many of his neighbors were resistant to his unorthodox religious beliefs, but what really riled them up was his unconventional lifestyle and his mistreatment of his wife. Rev. Malone might have thought he was following the laws of God, but it was his flouting of the laws of man that ended up getting him killed.
Around the beginning of 1903, Malone left his wife, Alice, and their children at home while he took a trip into Arkansas and Mississippi. When he returned, he surprised Alice by bringing a good-looking, twenty-six-year-old “grass widow” named Mary “Molly” Friel home to live with them as their “housekeeper,” claiming that Alice was incompetent to attend to her household duties. The forty-six-year-old preacher had made Molly’s acquaintance while proselytizing in neighboring New Madrid County prior to his trip, and the pair had made the journey south together.
Alice, who had been married to Malone for almost twenty-five years, objected to the new living arrangement, but the preacher said Molly shared his holiness fervor and was indispensable to his evangelical work. Malone and the young woman tried to convert Alice to the sanctified sect, but the thirty-eight-year-old Mrs. Malone “could not believe their doctrine,” and she also greatly objected to her husband having “another wife.”
Malone and Mary continued traveling and preaching together, although they largely avoided the New Madrid County area where she was from, having incurred the hostility of the people in that vicinity with their “holiness” meetings and their growing intimacy. When they were home, though, all that stood in the way of their “entire sanctification” was Malone’s wife. Their attempts to convert Alice having failed, they started plotting to put her aside. Accusing her of being crazy and a danger to others, they even resorted to tying her to a bed.
Meanwhile, some of Alice Malone’s neighbors rose to her defense, and “an internecine war” developed between Malone and his “Holiness” allies versus an “Anti-Holiness/Malone” faction led “by no one in particular.” The mounting tension came to a head on Saturday night, April 25th, when some of the anti-holiness crowd fired several shots into the Malone house in an attempt to “whitecap” the preacher and his paramour.
Instead of backing down, Malone had his wife arrested on an insanity charge, claiming she’d tried to kill someone. A constable brought Alice to Caruthersville on Tuesday, April 28th, and lodged her in the Pemiscot County jail.
Alice denied she was crazy, and most people thought the insanity charge was trumped up. Her arrest so inflamed her neighbors that the local justice of the peace swore out a warrant against Malone for wife abandonment and gave it to Constable W. J. Mooneyhan to serve. When Mooneyhan showed up at the Malone residence on Wednesday the 29th, however, Malone greeted him with a Winchester in his hands and two revolvers strapped around his waist.
Sizing Malone up as a desperate man, Mooneyhan left and reported the incident to county authorities, who swore out a warrant for Malone’s arrest on a charge of adultery. Mooneyhan then rounded up a posse of about eighteen men and set out to serve the warrant late Friday night, May 1, 1903. They surrounded the house and waited until dawn before demanding the surrender of Malone and his distaff partner in holiness. When Malone again resisted, one of the deputies sneaked up and set a fire underneath the house. Malone surrendered, and the fire was quickly doused.
Mooneyhan took the prisoners to his house with plans to convey them to the county seat at Caruthersville the next day, and two deputies were retained as guards. Shortly before midnight, a masked mob, reportedly including some of the same men who’d acted as Mooneyhan’s deputies that morning, rapped on the door and shot Mooneyhan dead when he refused to hand over his prisoner. Malone made a dash for freedom but was gunned down, while Mary Friel managed to escape and hide in an orchard until the mob retreated.
The next morning, one of the deputies who’d been detailed as a guard took Molly to the county jail at Caruthersville. Interviewed there a day or two later, she implied that Malone had compelled her to live with him. From an adjoining cell, Alice Malone overheard the reporter’s conversation with Molly and went into a rage, berating both her husband and Molly. Alice said she couldn’t forgive her husband but that she blamed Molly more than him.
Shortly afterward, Alice was declared sane and released. She returned to her home in Pemiscot County and lived there several more years. How long Mary Friel was held in jail or the final disposition of her case is uncertain. Twelve men were rounded up as alleged members of the mob, and three were eventually convicted of second degree murder for killing Malone.
This post is condensed from a chapter in my book Yanked Into Eternity: Lynching and Hangings in Missouri.

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