Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, 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 eighteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Murder and Mayhem in Southeast Kansas, Bigamy and Bloodshed: The Scandal of Emma Molloy and the Murder of Sarah Graham, and Midnight Assassinations and Other Evildoings: A Criminal History of Jasper County, Mo..

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Robber Lynched Near Minersville

About 8:30 p.m. on the evening of November 10, 1873, two men burst into the home of James A. Hunter four miles north of Minersville (now Oronogo) with revolvers drawn. They found twenty-six-year-old Catherine Hunter still up but had to rouse her husband from his bed. Putting their pistols to Hunter’s head, they demanded his money. The thirty-five-year-old Hunter handed over his pocketbook, which contained only about seventy-five cents.
One of the intruders stood guard over Hunter and his wife while the other ransacked the house in search of valuables. Hunter recognized the man guarding them as a fellow he'd seen in Minersville that very day, but he kept mum. Meanwhile, the other robber broke open two or three trunks, a washstand, and a table drawer, but the search proved fruitless, yielding only a pair of gold bracelets belonging to Mrs. Hunter. The desperadoes carried off their ill-gotten gain without further molesting the couple. 
The next morning, Hunter trekked into Minersville to report the crime. He swore out a warrant before Justice Isaac Fountain, describing the robbers. Hunter and Fountain began scouring the town for any sign of the crooks, and they soon spotted the man who'd stood guard over Hunter and his wife the night before. As they placed him under arrest, Hunter remarked, “Last night you had me; now I have you.”
The culprit identified himself as Alfred T. Onan. He and four companions were all taken into custody and guarded overnight at Minersville. The next morning, November 12, the five prisoners appeared before Justice Fountain, and all were discharged expect Onan, who was held in lieu of $1,000 bond to appear at the circuit court in Carthage on a robbery charge.
Onan lived on Shoal Creek in Newton County, but he was also known around Minersville, where he sometimes worked in the mines. He was about thirty years old, was stoutly built, weighed about 180 pounds, and had red complexion and a light mustache. He was supposedly a desperate man who had been through many “hard scrapes and close contests,” and, according to at least one report, he claimed to have ridden with notorious Confederate guerrilla leader William Quantrill during the Civil War. He might have been a desperate man, but records show he was not a Quantrill man.
The plan was for Onan to be escorted to Carthage later the same day after he was indicted by Justice Fountain, but the guards, who had been up all night watching the prisoners, fell asleep and let the train go by. Resorting to a back-up plan, they loaded Onan into a buggy about sundown and started for Carthage with him. The posse had proceeded only about a mile when they were waylaid by a party of about fifteen disguised and armed men. The mob demanded that Onan be turned over to them, and the guards offered no resistance. While part of the gang covered the guards, the others took Onan a short distance into the woods and hanged him from a blackjack oak tree.
As soon as the lynching had been accomplished, the vigilantes released the guards, and they returned to Minersville to report what had happened. The next day, November 13, Fountain headed to Carthage to report the travesty of justice. On his way, he rode by the scene of the lynching and saw Onan’s dead body still “dangling between heaven and earth.”
This blog entry is condensed from a chapter in my latest book, Midnight Associations and Other Evildoings: A Criminal History of Jasper County, Mo.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Disappearance of Mary Margaret Fullerton

The disappearance and presumed murder of Mary Margaret Fullerton in early 1868 was one of the strangest and most sensational criminal cases in southwest Missouri history. Yet, it is also one that many people have probably never heard about because the woman’s body was never found, because Judge Lynch meted out vigilante justice in secrecy, and because the whole affair was not widely reported.
In 1866, a teenage girl named Mary Williams and a young man named Daniel Hosey eloped from their Ohio home and came west. Mary's husband proved to a shyster. Adopting various aliases, he often traveled away from home conning people out of their money and sometimes even compelling Mary to accompany him disguised as a young boy. 
In the fall of 1867, Hosey came to Jasper County alone and settled in Sarcoxie. Going by the name Captain A. G. Hutton and representing himself as a single man, he made the acquaintance of Mary Margaret Fullerton, a thirty-six-year old widow with a pretty sixteen-year-old daughter named Mary. “Hutton” sent for his wife, telling her to don her male attire before she arrived, while he struck up a romance with Mary Fullerton. When his wife got to Sarcoxie, she passed herself off as a poor, sickly lad named Tommy Turley whom Hutton had befriended and taken as his traveling companion. Feeling sorry for the “boy,” Mrs. Fullerton took Tommy into her home. Then on December 15, 1867, Hutton and Mary Fullerton were married in the presence of his first wife, with “Tommy” helping the young bride-to-be prepare for her nuptials.
Hutton tried to finagle Mrs. Fullerton into signing over her estate to the daughter he had recently married, but she refused. Resorting to a more desperate plan, he announced that he needed to move the ailing “Tommy” to the lad’s relatives in Ohio, and he offered to give Mrs. Fullerton a hundred dollars and pay her expenses if she would accompany the sick boy and take care of him during the trip. Margaret balked at the proposition but finally relented.
Leaving his new bride at home, Hutton, his first wife in the persona of Tommy, and Mrs. Fullerton struck north in a wagon through Lawrence and Dade counties headed for Sedalia about the middle of February, 1868. That was the last anyone ever heard from Margaret Fullerton.
Hutton and his wife (i.e. Tommy) continued to Sedalia before returning home to Sarcoxie in early March. When Mary Fullerton asked where her mother was, the two were unable to give a satisfactory answer. Hutton now claimed that "Tommy" was actually his younger half-brother, but Mary also began to have doubts about Tommy's identity, especially after seeing him in possession of some female clothing belonging to Mrs. Fullerton.
After remaining at the Fullerton home for about two weeks, Hutton and Tommy once again struck out for Sedalia. Before reaching Sedalia, Hutton told his first wife to change into her female attire and to assume the identity of Mrs. Fullerton so that she could sign the widow’s name to a power of attorney. Hutton had the document drawn up at a lawyer’s office in Sedalia, and his wife executed it on March 29th by signing the name “M. M. Fullerton.” Mary then left for St. Louis, while Hutton returned to Sarcoxie in early April with his power of attorney in hand.
Almost as soon as he got back, he started selling off parts of Mrs. Fullerton’s estate, and when questioned about the propriety of his actions, he produced the power of attorney. In some cases, Hutton accepted considerably below-market value for the property, and his haste to liquidate the widow's assets increased suspicion against him. By the middle of April, the excitement against "Hutton" reached such a pitch that some of his neighbors took matters into their own hands. They first arrested him on suspicion and lodged him in Sarcoxie. When burglars tools were found among his effects, the vigilantes grew even more aroused, and on the night of April 27 they took him from the Sarcoxie home and strung him up to a tree about three miles east of town. 
About the time of the lynching, Gilbert Schooling, Sarcoxie postmaster, set out for St. Louis to try to trace a letter found among Hosey's belongings that was addressed to "William Lee" from a St. Louis address and signed "M. M. F.” Schooling assumed the initials referred to Mrs. Fullerton, but instead of finding the older woman, he found Mary Hosey pretending to be Mary Margaret Fullerton. Schooling had the young woman arrested and took her back to Jasper County. During the trip, she confessed the scam that she and her husband had pulled, but she said everything she had done was under duress from him. She said she thought her husband had killed Mrs. Fullerton the first night after they left Sarcoxie together, but she herself had nothing to do with the murder. She had slept through it and her husband had refused to talk about it when she woke up. She agreed to try to help locate Margaret Fullerton's body, but no sign of the body was found.
Schooling reached Jasper County with his prisoner in early May, and she was charged with accessory to murder. Her preliminary hearing was scheduled for early June, but before that date, she was granted a change of venue to Lawrence County. By the time the citizens around Sarcoxie learned of the venue change, Mary had already had her hearing in Mt. Vernon on June 1. She was released for lack of evidence, especially the lack of a body. Mary left the area the very next day, and on June 3, the date the hearing had originally been scheduled in Jasper County, a posse of men rode into Carthage from Sarcoxie only to learn that Tommy (i.e. Mary Hosey) had already been released.
This blog entry is a greatly condensed version of a chapter in my latest book, Midnight Assassinations and Other Evildoings: A Criminal History of Jasper County, Mo.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Jim Kunze's Murder of Constable Owen Booth

On the night of December 22, 1896, Owen Booth, constable of Clay Township in north-central Douglas County, Missouri, learned that 20-year-old James Kunze, who was wanted for burglarizing a store on nearby Dry Creek, was attending a dance at a residence near the small community of Bryant. Accompanied by Findley Township constable Perry Gentry, Booth went to the location about 10:30 p.m. to arrest the fugitive. Booth sent Gentry inside to make sure Kunze was there, and Gentry came back and said he was.
Booth called Kunze outside, telling him he was under arrest, and the wanted man soon sprang from the house and took off running. The constable gave chase and yelled for Kunze to halt, but the fugitive paid no mind. Booth then fired a couple of warning shots into the air above the fleeing man's head, but this, too, did not deter his flight. Finally, the constable took aim and fired at Kunze, but he missed his mark and, instead, hit an innocent bystander in the leg.
By this time, Kunze was nearing a fence, and his pursuer was close on his heels. The fleeing man was in the act of jumping the fence when Booth made a grab for him. Kunze whirled and fired, sending a pistol ball into the constable's head and killing him instantly. The murderer then made his escape, as several bystanders looked on without attempting to stop him. A posse was organized shortly afterward but could not locate Kunze, who was thought to be headed for Arkansas "through the jungles of Taney County."
Sure enough, Kunze was apprehended in Bentonville, Arkansas, less than a month later, and the Douglas County sheriff made preparations to go after him. As he was getting ready to leave, however, he telegraphed authorities in Bentonville and learned that Kunze had escaped.
A few months later, in May of 1897, the fugitive was taken into custody again in El Paso County, Colorado, where he was going by an assumed name. Douglas County officers traveled to Colorado and brought Kunze back.
He was tried during the September 1997 term of Douglas County Circuit Court and found guilty of second degree murder. Sentenced to ten years in the state penitentiary, he was received there in mid-October and discharged in April 1905, after having served seven and a half years, three-fourths of his assessed term.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Madame Yale Comes to Missouri

About 1890, 38-year-old Maude Mayberg claimed she had found an elixir that she called Fruitcura which had transformed her from sickness to health after doctors had given up on helping her. Calling herself Madame Yale, she soon started marketing Fruitcura in newspapers and at personal appearances across the country. Her message also emphasized beauty in addition to wellness, as she claimed she had transformed herself from a "sallow, fat, exhausted woman" into one of the rare beauties of the period. In keeping with her emphasis on beauty, she introduced other skin care products such as "Blood Tonic," "Complexion Bleach," and "Blush of Youth." A forerunner to modern-day beauty gurus like Gwyneth Paltrow, Madame Yale preached her "Religion of Beauty" through a series of "Beauty Talks" all across the land. At a time when cosmetics were considered a "questionable moral choice" for women, Madame Yale claimed her products would "transfer women from the inside out" rather than just cover up imperfections with makeup.
In late 1894, Madame Yale was scheduled for an appearance at the Tootle Theatre in St. Joseph, Missouri, on December 1. In the lead-up to the event, it was promoted in local newspapers. The St. Joseph Herald proclaimed that Madame Yale would "tell women all about health and beauty. She herself is her own best advertisement. At 41 years of age, she is as beautiful as it is possible for a woman to be." Her "beautiful rounded neck...is as white as the down on a swan's breast. Her hair is golden, and there is a gleam of sunshine in the hazel of her eyes." The Herald made it clear that the lecture was for women only, as men were not to be admitted.
The day after the lecture, the Herald was even more effusive in its praise of Madame Yale, emphasizing, however, that her extraordinary beauty had not come naturally to her. Her beauty and charm had, instead, been largely obtained through years of treatment and hard study. "The question of beautifying the female has been made a life study by her and that she has been most successful can be readily seen by a glance at her features and figure, which have all the plumpness and freshness of a miss 18 years of age" even though Madame Yale was 42. The newspaper also praised Madame Yale for her "admirable stage presence." She was "graceful in all her movements" and was "a ready and pleasing speaker." From the drop of the curtain, Madame Yale had the undivided attention of the audience, said the Herald. She was thoroughly informed and never paused or stumbled in her delivery. During her lecture, Madame Yale claimed, among other things, that the aging process held no terror for her and that she expected to retain her current beauty even if she lived to be 75. In addition to hawking her beauty products, she also emphasized exercise and diet. Madame Yale demonstrated some of her recommended exercises and was a gem of "delicate grace."
Madame Yale continued to be well known into the early 1900s and made a fortune from her beauty products, estimated at about $500,000 or 15 million in today's dollars. Her career finally fell off after the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed in 1906 and two years later the government sued Madame Yale for "misbranding of drug preparations." One critic observed that her "marvelous preparations" had been shown to be "marvelous humbugs." Madame Yale gradually faded into obscurity, although her products continued to sell on a smaller scale for another twenty years or so. 

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Robbery of the Rozier Bank of Ste. Genevieve

Shortly after ten a.m., November 1, 1939, two men stopped their car outside the Rozier Bank of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, left the engine running, and entered the bank. Unmasked and armed with shotguns, they ordered four bank officials into the vault, and two customers, who strode into the bank about that time, were also forced into the vault. While one of the bandits stood guard over the hostages, the other began ransacking the tills behind the cashier cages. One of the bank officers was able to sound an alarm located inside the vault, and the robbers fled with about $2,200.
Sheriff Lewis Ziegler and Ste. Genevieve city marshal Henry Drury responded to the alarm and took up the chase as the robbers fled south out of town. In an effort to outdistance their pursuers, the bandit pair ran their car into a ditch just as they turned onto a farm-to-market road on the outskirts of town. The officers came upon the car almost immediately, and Drury jumped out of the lawmen's car with Ziegler right behind him. The bandits opened fire with a shotgun and a rifle, and Drury returned fire with his revolver, but Ziegler's revolver jammed. Drury was struck by a shotgun blast, and he and Ziegler both fell back. Seizing the opportunity, the robbers jumped into the officers' car and took off. Drury's injuries were considered severe at first, but a few days later he was on the road to recovery after numerous buckshot were removed from several parts of his body at a St. Louis hospital. The abandoned bandit car was identified as having been stolen the previous night from a citizen living about five miles south of Ste. Genevieve.
Meanwhile, the robbers continued their flight, and area law enforcement officers were alerted to be on the lookout for the two. They were spotted an hour or two after the holdup as they sped into Arcadia, about fifty miles southwest of Ste. Genevieve, and turned south on Highway 21 (present day Highway 72). Two state troopers gave chase, and a running gun battle at speeds exceeding 70 miles an hour ensued. The robber who wasn't driving hopped into the back seat and exchanged fire with the trooper who was riding shotgun in the pursuing state patrol car. About thirteen miles south of Arcadia, the bandits ditched their car and took to the rugged woods and hills near Glover.
A manhunt was organized, and the next morning a railroad signalman reported to authorities that he'd seen a man who was walking along the tracks near Piedmont take to the woods when the train approached. The man was arrested about noon at the depot in Piedmont, where he was trying to buy a ticket to Poplar Bluff. Identified as 34-year-old Patrick Palmer of Cape Girardeau, he admitted under questioning that he had participated in the bank holdup. He implicated ex-con Clifford Pyles of Ste. Genevieve as the "fingerman" in the robbery, and the 29-year-old Pyles was arrested the same day. Pyles admitted that he had suggested the Rozier Bank as a target and helped plan the crime. The man who had actually helped Palmer pull off the holdup was identified as Eddie "Red" Haggert, but he remained at large.
On November 4, Palmer pleaded guilty, and later in the month he received a sentence of 15 years in prison. Pyles initially pleaded not guilty but later changed his plea to guilty, and he also received 15 years in the big house.
Meanwhile, it was learned that Haggert's real was Marvin Atkeson, and he, like Pyles, was an ex-con. Atkeson was arrested on November 6 in Augusta, Arkansas, for carrying a gun, but he was not identified as a participant in the Ste. Genevieve bank robbery. Put on a detail to work off his fine, he escaped and was not caught again until April of 1940, when he was taken into custody at Fort Dodge, Kansas, on a public drunkenness charge. Identified as a wanted man, he tried to slash his throat while awaiting extradition to Missouri, but the suicide attempt was foiled. He was then brought back to Missouri, where he pleaded guilty to the robbery charge and, like his cohorts, received a 15-year sentence.
Newspaper stories at the time of this incident pointed out that it was the first bank robbery in Ste. Genevieve since May of 1873, when the James-Younger gang had held up the Merchant's Bank of Ste. Genevieve, which was principally owned by the Rozier family, the same family that still owned the Rozier Bank in 1939. So, in a sense, the same bank that had been robbed in 1873 was also robbed 66 years later, although it had changed its name and relocated to a building about a block away from the original bank. 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Missouri Bank Robberies Fall 1905

A newspaper article that originated in Chicago and circulated in papers throughout the Midwest in early 1906 detailed an outbreak of bank robberies that had occurred in the middle states the previous fall. At least thirty bank robberies had occurred in the states of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Indian Territories, and Texas during the last three months of 1905. Missouri, "which invented train robbery," usually led all the states of the Union in bank robbery, according to the article, but the Show-Me State had lagged behind the surrounding states during the most recent outbreak of bank robberies. Still, Missouri was the scene of at least a couple of bank robberies during the designated period.
In the wee hours of the morning of November 3, 1905, burglars broke into the Bank of Creighton (located in Cass County about halfway between Clinton and Harrisonville), blew the safe with nitroglycerine, and made off with slightly over $4,000. Rewards were offered for the apprehension of the robbers, but no trace of them was found, at least not in the immediate aftermath of the crime. This robbery occurred less than a week after burglars had broken into a bank at Kingsville in neighboring Johnson County and blown the door of the vault but failed to penetrate the inner safe, thus coming away empty-handed. The robbers did get a very small amount of money, however, from the local post office, which they also broke into.
The Chicago newspaper article mentioned a bank robbery at Eldon, Missouri, in late November 1905, but I could find no mention of this incident in Missouri newspapers of the time. The Chicago article also mentioned a bank robbery at Shelbyville in early December 1905, but this was actually a post office robbery. The thieves broke into the post office through a rear door and then blew open the safe with nitro. They made off with a little over $100 in cash and about $700 in stamps and money orders.
The Chicago newspaper story claimed that the modus operandi was very similar in nearly all the bank robberies that had occurred throughout the Midwest. The robbers usually worked in gangs of four and their main tools in breaking into safes were almost always nitroglycerin and soap. The soap was used to make a "lip" or a mold by caulking the crack between the door and the main body of the safe. The nitro was poured into the lip, a percussion cap and a long fuse were inserted, and then the robbers would retire a safe distance and use the fuse to ignite the explosive. The robbers themselves also tended to share certain traits. They were neither young nor old but instead tended to be somewhere around 35. They were almost always white, as bank robbery was "unknown of negroes," and they were usually ex-convicts. 

 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Lynching of Montgomery Godley

About 11:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, 1902, several black men were drinking and supposedly involved in an altercation on West Fourth Street in Pittsburg, Kansas, where a "colored ball" was being held at the nearby Jenness Hall. When city policeman Milt Hinkle arrived on the scene and ordered the men to break up the melee, one of them, Joe Godley, greeted him with an insult. Hinkle undertook to arrest Godley, but he resisted and was aided by two of his brothers, Montgomery (aka Mumford) and Jess Godley. In the ensuing scuffle, Hinkle pulled his pistol and several shots were fired, although it's not clear how many, if any, Hinkle fired himself, because one of the Godley brothers managed to wrest the pistol away from Hinkle. The young black man then fired a shot with the officer's own gun that struck Hinkle in the head, killing him within minutes.
Two of the brothers, Montgomery and Jess, were quickly arrested and taken to the city jail, but Joe managed to escape. Within an hour, a mob formed and marched on the jail. A young lad named Doty, who claimed to be able to identify which man shot Hinkle, accompanied the mob. The vigilantes broke into the jail and overpowered the guards. They went first to that part of the jail where Jess Hinkle was being held, but Doty said he was not the man who had fired the fatal shot. Taken to the part of the jail where Mont Godley was being held, Doty identified Mont as the killer. The cell was promptly broken into, and Mont was taken out and strung up to a nearby trolley post about 1:00 a.m. on Christmas morning.
Hinkle had lived in Pittsburg almost twenty years and was serving his second stint as a city policeman at the time he was killed. Mont Godley's brother Will and an uncle, French Godley, were two of the three victims of the notorious lynchings in Pierce City, Missouri, in August 1901. Joe and Jess Godley had already left Pierce City and were living in Pittsburg at the time, and most of the black people who still lived in Pierce City also left as soon as the atrocity occurred, including Mont and the rest of his family. They joined Joe and Jess in Pittsburg.
Almost from the time Montgomery Godley was lynched in Pittsburg, there was some doubt as to whether he was the man who had actually shot Hinkle. Many people, including a number of law officers, thought Joe was the one who did the actual shooting, but several of those who agreed that the mob probably got the wrong man still tried to justify the lynching to a certain degree by saying that, even though Mont might not have been the actual shooter, he was equally guilty because of his scuffling with and resisting Officer Hinkle.
A manhunt for Joe Godley was quickly undertaken in the wake of his escape, and he was finally arrested in California in April of 1904 and brought back to Kansas. He was tried for murder in February of 1905 and promptly found not guilty. Was the quick verdict of acquittal at least partly an attempt to justify the mob action of two years earlier, an act of denial that the vigilantes had gotten the wrong man?

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