History of Callaway County, Missouri was published in 1884 by the St. Louis National Historical Company, Chapter XVI. Transcribed by Heather Patten, May, 2004.
The Murder of Judge Israel B. Grant | Atrocious Murder – Murderess Hung by a Mob
Suicide at Potterville | Kessler Hung by a Mob | Citizens Denounce the Action of the Mob
A Tragedy at Carrington | Colonel George W. Law | Anderson Coffman Killed
Death of Mrs. Miller Wilburn | William Harvey | The Jail Delivery
Although sixty years have passed since Callaway County was organized, but one legal execution ever took place in the county – this occurring in 1835. This fact speaks volumes for the people, and shows unmistakable evidence of their character as law-abiding and order-loving citizens.
The first murder committed in the county of Callaway was that of Judge Israel B. Grant, which occurred December 29, 1835. We copy from the Fulton Telegraph:
Judge Grant had come to Fulton on that fatal day (living in the country), and left town at noon to return home. About nine o’clock at night his horse came home with his saddle and bridle on. His wife, knowing that his horse sometimes managed to unhitch himself, supposed that her husband had stopped at Jones’ Tanyard, post-office, to get his mail, and the horse had gotten loose from him. She at once sent a negro boy, about twelve or fifteen years old, who had been in the habit of taking care of the horse, with the horse, with instructions to go as far as the post-office. On arriving at Mr. Mosby’s, who was then living at the first house west of James Driskell’s farm, he was informed that the Judge had passed there about dark, and also at Mr. Driskell’s he received the same information. While talking with Mr. Driskell, the man Conway came along on his way to the house of his owner, William Cowherd, who lived where Gilson Harrison now resides. Conway professed to have come directly from Colonel William Grant’s, to whom he was hired, and said he had seen nor heard nothing of him.
On the boy’s arrival back at home without any tidings of his master, the man Jake, who was not to be found when the boy left, was at home, and Mrs. Grant in great alarm sent him on the same horse over to Colonel William Grant’s and to other neighbors to give the alarm, and soon the whole neighborhood was out in force in search for the Judge, which continued until about nine o’clock the following morning, the number of those in search being augmented to the number of about 100 persons, many of them being from Fulton. About nine o’clock, our informant states, that one of the Judge’s gloves was found by, he thinks, Mr. John Payton, – but it must have been William Payton, since his name and not John’s appears among the names of the witnesses, – who easily traced where the body had been dragged over the leaves, on which now and then could be discovered marks of blood, to a large log not far from the roadside, which he at once noticed had been removed from where it had bedded; upon clearing away the leaves, which had been piled up against the log, he discovered the hand of a human being, when he gave the signal that brought the searchers together. The log being removed, the body of the Judge was found – his throat having been cut from ear to ear, and many stabs in the body. His overcoat and dress coat had been removed and were found under another log near by, and a corn knife was also found near by, all bloody, and was recognized as belonging to the Judge by having his initials cut upon it. This gave rise to suspecting the man Jake, who had all the time been among the searchers for the body, and his clothing and two bank bills found upon his person being examined and found bloody, he was at once charged with the crime, which he at first denied, but subsequently, after being swung up for a time to one end of a rope, he confessed and told all about it, implicating Conway as an accomplice, who was first tried and convicted at Columbia, his master having taken a change of venue to Boone county for the trial, and Jake was the principal witness in the case. The following, we are informed, were some of the points of circumstantial evidence in the case: Conway left Colonel William Grant’s between sundown and dark without getting his supper, and a short time after he left the house the sound of a bugle – such a one as Conway was known to have and was seen to take away with him – was heard some distance off from the house, which was understood to be the signal for their meeting.
Immediately on his being implicated by Jake, a committee was at once sent in great haste to arrest him. On their arrival at Mr. Cowherd’s they found Conway in the same clothing he had on the night before, save his shirt, which he had exchanged for another. Blood was found on some parts of his clothing, and also on the shirt he had pulled off; but he claimed to have gotten it on there while killing hogs two weeks previous. His coat sleeves had a good deal of blood on them, which had been washed or otherwise cleaned off of the surface of the goods, but upon application of white cloths moistened to the sleeves, it was discovered that the goods were saturated so that the white goods were very much blood stained, thus showing very conclusively his efforts to cover up his crime.
The reason for the murder was to obtain the money Judge Grant had received for a lot of cattle, which he had a few days before sold in St. Louis. They were committed before Archibald Allen, a justice of the peace of that township, December 30, 1835.
Austin A. King, afterwards governor of the State, who at the time resided in this place, by appointment of the judge, defended the murderers. Judge David Todd was the judge of this circuit. Hon. R. W. Wells was then attorney-general, James Basket, clerk, and John Coats, sheriff. The court convened at a special term, May 16, 1836.
The following is a list of the witnesses: George W. Bralley, James H. Driskell, James Mosbey, William Payton, William Mateer, William Hays, Samuel Boon, James Grant, Miriam Pledge and Thomas B. Warren.
John Bartley, William Childers, Samuel Humphreys, Joel McConnel, Benjamin Ficklin, John S. Henderson, Aaron Wells, William Sims, Thomas Glendy, Isaac Oliver, Silas King and John M. Allen. The jury returned the following verdict: –
The jury find the prisoner at the bar, Jake, guilty of murder in the first degree, as charged in the indictment. JOHN BARTLEY, Foreman.
Sentenced May 18, 1836
“This day comes the attorney-general for the State, and the prisoner was led to the bar in custody of the sheriff, and it being demanded of him whether he had anything to say why sentence of death should not be pronounced against him, upon the finding of the jury in this case, sayeth “he hath nothing further to say, than what he hath hitherto said;” it is, therefore, considered by the court that the prisoner be hanged by the neck until he be dead, and that this sentence be executed upon him by the sheriff of this county, on the 20th day of June next, between the hours of twelve o’clock, M., and two o’clock, P.M., of that day, and that he be remanded to the jail of this county, to be closely confined, until the said execution is made. It is ordered by the court, that the clerk forthwith issue a warrant signed and sealed, as the law requires, commanding the sheriff to do and perform this sentence as the law requires.”
The place of their execution was just below the dirt bridge, on Asylum Street. Conway was executed first, but we are unable to give the precise date; we are informed, however, it was about thirty days before Jake’s execution.
[From the Missouri Telegraph of October 2, 1860.]
On Saturday last one of the most cold-blooded and cruel murders was perpetrated, on the person of Miss Susan Jemima Barnes, that it has ever been our misfortune to chronicle. All of the white persons belonging to the house were gone to church, some two miles distant, and the negro woman was sent into the field to work. Miss Barnes lived about eight miles east of this city, with her brother and mother.
Some time during the day, perhaps about twelve o’clock (as Miss Barnes had herself prepared dinner), she was most inhumanly butchered. It seems that she was sitting in the kitchen knitting at the time she was first attacked. Between the kitchen and the east room of the dwelling there is a small passage through which Miss Barnes fled and passed into the east room. There she was also attacked either with a shovel or a pair of heavy iron tongs. The shovel handle was very much bent, and was straight in the morning.
From the east room she passed to the west, leaving a strand of the yarn, with which she was knitting, behind her. In the west room she was overpowered, knocked down, and her head so beaten and broken that not a whole bone remained, except the right cheek bone, which gave no indication of being fractured. Her brains were scattered over the floor, a large pool of blood under her head, and every indication of a terrible struggle having taken place between her and the murderer. There were the marks of bloody hands on the wall, blood on everything about the house, and an evidence that, in all probability, a knife had been used at some time during the difficulty, as Miss Barnes’s hand was very much cut.
A coroner’s inquest was held by Mr. James L. Grant, coroner of the county, when the following facts appeared: –
Several difficulties had occurred between Miss Barnes and the negro woman, Teney; and the negro, so long as no white man was present to punish her, was impudent and insolent. On Saturday morning the woman was sent into the field to shock corn. She wore a dress of rather peculiar color. In the afternoon, and before the murder was discovered, the negro was seen by one of the neighbors with a dress of different color. The negro said, at first, that she had taken that dress to the field with her and had changed there. Afterwards she said she had gone to the house and changed dresses there. Although the negro was suspected, there were no questions asked her, and she was narrowly watched. The investigation by the coroner continued till a late hour on Saturday night, when an adjournment was had until Sunday morning at eight o’clock. On Sunday morning about half-past ten o’clock search for the dress was made by Mr. William Booth and Mr. Solomon H. Thomas, and it was found concealed in a corn shock in the field where the negro had been working. It was brought down and shown to the negro. She at first denied that it was hers, but subsequently admitted that she had murdered her mistress. The dress was precisely the one described by the neighbor, Mrs. Miller, who saw her in the morning, and was all bespattered with blood.
A large number of persons had collected, and the most intense excitement prevailed. The jury, however, went into the kitchen where the negro was and took her acknowledgment there, excluding everybody but the jury, officers and attorney. The woman’s statements were contradictory and unsatisfactory. She evidently did not expect detection, and had not prepared herself against such a contingency. So contradictory were her statements that the jury refused to hear her further, and prepared a verdict in accordance with the facts given by the witnesses and the confession of the negro.
She was immediately taken in charge by the deputy constable, Mr. H. Willing, who proceeded with her with all speed towards Fulton. The excitement among the bystanders was so intense that the constable feared there might be some violence attempted. He therefore procured a horse for the negro and came on with all speed. He was, however, too slow. The crowd, incensed beyond endurance, put spurs to their horses and overtook Mr. Willing about three miles east of this place.
There they demanded the body of the negro, and Mr. Henry Willing, finding himself surrounded by a company of some forty or fifty exasperated men, allowed the mob to take her from him – in fact he could do nothing else, without subjecting himself to the most imminent peril.
We understand the mob took her a short distance from the road and hung her to a tree. We have heard that she was taken down and buried the same evening.
Below we give the names of the jury empanelled by the coroner:
“James E. Dulin, William Craghead, George Harris, William Sanders, Samuel H. Dudley and John Craghead.”
To us, busy with the schemes and cares of this life, – so busy that we seldom allow ourselves to think that it must all end at last in death, – the desire to “shuffle off this mortal coil” before the death hour that stern fate has ordained for that dread event, is certain evidence of insanity. We can, perhaps, imagine that the aged, who have seen the companions of their youth fall off, one by one, by the wayside, until they seem almost alone in the world, and whose powers are wasted by disease, – we can, perhaps, imagine it possible for them to long for death. But to see one in the full flush of youthful manhood, untainted by disease, with health and energy and the bright promises of the future, beautiful as “apples of gold in pictures of silver,” such as ever flit before the vision of youth, – for such an one coolly and deliberately to resign it all, and descend willingly into that narrow grave whose very stillness makes our flesh creep, and whispers to us of horrible things – of the gloom, of corruption, of the worm, and of the awful uncertainty beyond, is bitterly incomprehensible.
Frank Shaier was one of these strange suicides. Several years ago, he left his friends in Germany, and having an uncle, Konstantine Shaier, living at Harrison, Ohio, he removed to that State. For some years he was employed in Cincinnati, driving a delivery wagon for a furniture house. He is said to have come to Missouri a year previous to his death, and to have worked the summer following his coming in the bottom opposite Claysville; and about seven weeks before his death he came into the Pottersville neighborhood, and began work at the pottery of the Caldwell Brothers. He was about twenty-four years of age, and impressed those who knew him, as a quiet, courteous, well-educated young man. He was industrious, and gave no evidence of derangement. He complained of pain in the head. On Wednesday before his death, he seems to have come to the conclusion to give up his life. Very quietly and very deliberately, though in a very bungling manner, he sought to accomplish his awful purpose. Going into a portion of the kiln where he would not be interrupted, he took off his apron, folded it up neatly, then removed his hat and laid both aside. With a stone hammer he commenced striking himself on the forehead, fracturing the bone and inflicting a ghastly wound. But this process was too tedious and painful; so, laying aside the hammer, he drew his knife and endeavored to cut into the wound and force the blade into the brain.
Failing in this, he stabbed himself several times. But fate seemed against him, for at every stroke the blade was stopped by a rib. Death seemed to avoid him. His patience was exhausted, and he gave up the attempt and came out of the kiln. Then a fellow saw him all mutilated and bloody. Others were called, and the would-be dead man was conveyed to his room. Drs. Brooks and Ramsey were summoned and dressed his wounds. They found the wound in the forehead three and a half inches long by two and a half across, and they removed from it several pieces of the skull bone. There were also severe gashes on the head, made by the knife, and several wounds in his side. The patient appeared to be perfectly rational, and said that every body was down on him, and he was tired of living. He survived until Saturday, the 21st instant, and then at mid-day, –
“One more unfortunate,
Weary of breath,
Had gone to his death.”
The following is the verdict rendered by the coroner’s jury: –
State of Missouri, county of Callaway, ss:
An inquest at Pottersville, in the county of Callaway, on the 21st day of October, A. D., 1877, before me, R. R. Dunn, justice of the peace of said county, upon the view of Frank Shaier, then and there lying dead, A. J. Nichols, J. R. Ebersole, James R. Foster, R. Erwin, T. S. Dunn, R. T. Nichols, good and lawful men, householders of the township of Cedar, in the county aforesaid, who being sworn, and charged diligently to inquire, and true presentment make, how, and in what manner, and by whom, said Frank Shaier came to his death; upon their oaths, do here find that the said Frank Shaier came to his death by wounds inflicted with a stone hammer and knife, in his own hands. In witness whereof, as well the aforesaid coroner as the jurors aforesaid, have to this inquest put their names, at the place, and on the day and year aforesaid. R. R. Dunn, coroner; T. S. Dunn, J. Foster, A. J. Nichols, J. R. Ebersole, R. Erwin, Robert Nichols, jurors.
[From the Telegraph.]
Many of our readers are already aware of the fact that our usually quiet city was on Friday last, August 15, 1873, the scene of a most unfortunate and melancholy affair, which has occasioned intense excitement, not only in our county, but throughout the entire State. In the performance of our painful duty, we shall endeavor to give as faithful and as impartial an account of all the circumstances connected with it, as possible, in order that no injustice may be done to any parties, for as is almost inevitable in such cases, incorrect and exaggerated reports have already been scattered abroad.
As was generally understood, a special term of our Callaway Circuit Court was held in Fulton, on the 15th instant, for the purpose of trying the Kesslers, who were under arrest, charged with stealing two mules from J. W. Brown, Esq., of this county. Not only was it believed that they were guilty of this crime, but it was reported that they had committed many other offences, stealing horses, jewelry, etc., from other persons. Kessler, Sr., was believed to be an old and hardened offender, who had not only been guilty of theft in a number of instances, and had brought up his boys to follow his example, but had frequently made threats of violence in case efforts were made to bring them to justice. Houses were to be burned, and several men were warned to have large amounts of money with them when he called for it, or serious consequences would result. All this so well calculated to exasperate the citizens residing in the vicinity of Kessler’s former residence, had its effect, and they evidently came to the conclusion that safety to themselves and their property required them to pursue the course they adopted. Accordingly, when Kessler and his son Gus were brought to Fulton some weeks ago, their removal from the jail at night was probably all that saved them from hanging on that occasion. They were kept in Fulton only one night, and then removed to Jefferson City for safe keeping, until they could be tried.
On the evening of the 14th instant, Colonel Saw, our sheriff, sent his deputy to Jefferson City with a note, requiring the Governor to furnish six men to guard the prisoner safely to Fulton, as from indications, it was probable there would be an attempt to take them from the deputy sheriff. We learn that Governor Woodson deemed it best that a guard should be obtained from Callaway, and that outside interference, as that would seem to be, should be avoided if practicable, and advised that a sufficient number of men be summoned for that duty in that county. Two men, Mr. John N. Burnett, of Cedar City, and Constable Miles, of Cedar township, were called on to assist in bringing the prisoners to Fulton; and all went on well until the train had got about three miles from Cedar City. About this point, the younger Kessler effected his escape, by a plan which had probably been previously devised. It seems that he was allowed to enter the water-closet (both being fastened together and the old man standing at the door); that very soon he managed to get rid of his handcuffs and crawled through the window. Very shortly the guard was informed by the father of the escape of his son; the train was stopped and Bennett and Miles got off and went back to endeavor to rearrest him.
At Bigbee station, young Boulware (T. A.) called on W. W. Dundon to go with him to Fulton with the prisoner, as he had then no one to aid him. Mr. Dundon got on the train and all reached Fulton without any further delay. No demonstration was made at the depot, and the prisoner and guard were conveyed thence to the court-house, which they reached at about half past eleven o’clock A. M. Upon the arrival of the prisoner he was taken into court, and the grand jury having found an indictment against the Kesslers, Judge Burckhartt appointed Messrs. A. W. Harris and Samuel Blount to defend them. Honorable John A. Hockaday had been employed to assist Mr. J. G. Provines in the prosecution. A large number of citizens assembled in the court-house, but except some curiosity to see the prisoner, but little excitement was manifested. After a conference with Kessler, his cousel asked a short time to consult and determine upon their course, when the court adjourned for an hour. They at first intended to ask for a continuance in order to better prepare for trial, as he asserted strenuously that he was innocent and could procure evidence to show it, but seeing from the temper of the crowd that danger was imminent, and postponement would prove fatal to their client, they concluded that the best course would be to plead guilty, as that seemed the only course that promised to save his life, and it was evident that he would be convicted if a trial was gone into. Mr. Harris, on the calling of the case, shortly after one o’clock, P. M., plead guilty, and made a few remarks. Kessler was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in the penitentiary – the judge taking occasion to make an appeal to the large crowd present, in behalf of law and order.
After this, the spectators dispersed, but a large number kept near the court-house, and it soon became evident that there were prospects for trouble, when the prisoner started for the depot, or when they should reach it, yet everything seemed calm upon the surface. The sheriff, Colonel Law, seemed to feel certain that he would encounter a mob at the railroad. Shortly before the train was due, on which he was to leave for Jefferson City, Kessler was taken to a carriage near the court-house square, which he entered with Colonel Law, prosecuting-attorney Provines, constable Arthur, and Mr. Dundon. A mounted guard of eight or ten men had been summoned, and they were assembling at the carriage, just as it started. It appears that the owner of the vehicle and driver, Mr. F. W. Henderson, was deprived at this moment of the reins by one of the mob, who took the driver’s seat, and at once commenced whipping the horses, and attempted to drive off at a furious rate. From the best information we can get before the carriage had gone more than fifteen or twenty yards, a pistol was presented at the head of Kessler by the driver, either for the purpose of shooting him or preventing him from attempting to escape. Colonel Law says he told them not to shoot, and at the same time knocked or raised the pistol upwards, and it went off, the ball going through the top of the carriage. Instantly a number of men rode up to the carriage, and commenced firing into it rapidly, apparently regardless of who was shot. These men seemed to spring up suddenly, having been unnoticed before. It is supposed their horses were tied near and they suddenly mounted and rushed forward. Still the number seemed to be small, and the conflict was kept up briskly until the carriage was more than a hundred yards from the starting point.
The guard fired a number of shots, but they did not take effect as far as it is known. Colonel Law had no pistol even. Arthur succeeded in getting out of the carriage very soon, without a hurt. Provines got out also, before it proceeded far, but from his fall and the shooting, sustained some injury. Mr. Dundon was shot in the neck, the ball ranging downward into his chest, the same ball having chipped out a piece of his left ear. Colonel Law was shot in two places, one ball entering his left hip and another entering his body six or eight inches above, which went to his spine. Having possession of the carriage, they drove rapidly up towards the Female College, on the Mexico road, and stopping near the graveyard, not far from Mr. Cole’s residence, they placed a halter around Kessler’s neck, dragged him from the carriage and hung him.
Colonel Law and Mr. Dundon, although so terribly wounded, were carried along as the carriage went and driven back by Mr. C. F. Manchester to the residence of Colonel Law. There the wounded were taken out and placed in the house, and nearly all the physicians in Fulton shortly made their appearance, and set about doing all in their power for the relief of the wounded. It was indeed a terrible scene; it has never been our lot to seem men endure greater agony, but a large number of friends gathered around them, and ever since, all has been done to alleviate their suffering that was possible. We omitted to say that Miss Ophelia Law, daughter of Colonel Law, was so terribly shocked, when she heard the dreadful intelligence, that for nearly twelve hours fears were entertained that she would not live. Great efforts and continued attention were required to restore her, but she is now rapidly recovering.
In common with all good citizens, we sincerely deplore the sad result. While it is true that but few can regret that the prisoner met such a doom, guilty as he was of the offence charged, yet he was executed, it may be, at the cost of other valuable lives. Men honored and respected have been stricken down at the post of duty, and felon taken from the custody of those into whose hands he had been placed by the law. The provocation was terribly great, but it should be remembered that unless the laws are respected there can be no order or safety in a community. By this action on their part, a grave injury has been done the county and State, to say nothing of the fact that they committed an offence which may occasion further trouble. We trust that this example will not be followed in the future, but that all who have the reputation and welfare of Callaway county at heart will refrain from and discourage such proceedings hereafter. We learn that the coroner’s jury have not yet completed their investigation, which has been private.
“The following threatening letters, written by Myers, alias Kessler, to a gentleman in the eastern portion of the county, have been furnished to us for publication:
Cincinnati, O., May 7, 1868.
Mr. _____ _____. Sir: I am here at present all right. I am very sorry your people pursued me like they would a wild bear. I never wronged a man in your county, nor in the State, since the war closed. I tried to keep Lewis from stealing. My best friends know that it was reported by Jackson and others that I was trying to get Lewis hung before the war, and as quick as he was dead the same party said that I should be hung too. For what? Because I lived off of the enemies of the Southern men during the war. I had no interest in the South when the war broke out. I took that side. Oh, what a people! I wish you would write to John Wilmott, at St. Joe. He knew me for twenty-five years. You need never be afraid of me if I should come to your county. Never follow me day or night. I have got the names of those men that done this thing. They must pay for the loss that I have sustained in leaving your county. I never can repay Mr. Brown and others for their kindness to me through evil as well as good report. I wish I could write more; the train will soon leave. _____ _____ owes me $4. I want it. One of his sons-in-law helped to kill Lewis, and one that wants to be had better get up and dust. Tell _____ _____ he had better keep $1,000 where he can keep his hands on it, for it might be the cause of saving his life.
St. Louis, May 12, 1868.
Dear Sir: On my return here last night, I received your letter of the 6th inst., with a draft for $50, which I received the money on. I was very thankful for it, having spent nearly $100 on my trip to Pittsburg and back. I have found a few of my friends that followed the old Red Ranger through the war. I think I may come to your county and finish some work that I should have done before I left. Those ten mobbers can’t effect me in the least. Had it not been for you, I should have killed some of them before I left. All I ask of them is this; they have caused me to lose in the sale of my property alone $800. Some of them are wealthy, and can pay for hunting me down like a wild beast, as if I had harmed them. They all know they done wrong. They sent to St. Louis to have me arrested; I was told so by an officer, a friend of mine. The more they do in that way, the worse it will be for them. If they should catch me, they can’t get all my friends. If I do nothing more, I think they can’t sleep very sound after swinging Lewis up and down till they choked him to death. I am truly glad he is dead; still they done wrong. They would have done the same with me and George, if they had the power. Curse their bad hearts. I can hardly let them be, till I can hear from them. All I want is pay for what they caused me to lose. Please stick this notice up on Mr. Allen’s grocery, after all has retired, so that no person can suspect you. I don’t think I can go to California. I think I will go to Arkansas and settle down. George is with me. Salis is gone.
May 12, 1868
To the men that tried to mob me in Callaway county, Missouri. You caused me to lose $800 in the sale of my property; pay or cause to be paid to me, through some of my friends, that amount, and all will be well.
Pursuant to a call signed by four hundred citizens of Callaway county, a meeting was held in the court-house at Fulton on the 23d instant, August, 1873, for the purpose of giving a public expression of the sentiments of the people, respecting the recent proceedings by which the sheriff, Colonel Geo. W. Law, was killed and others wounded, and a prisoner hung.
On a motion of Mr. John G. Provines, Thomas B. Hariss, Esq., was called to the chair, and Messrs. A. W. Harris and Jas. B. Snell elected secretaries.
The chairman spoke at some length in explanation of the object of the meeting, after which, on motion of A. W. Harris, a committee of nine was appointed to prepare resolutions for the action of the meeting. The following gentlemen composed said committee: From Fulton township, D. L. Whaley and J. G. Provines; Liberty township, N. D. Thurmond; Nine Mile Prairie township, Thos. R. Rogers; Auxvasse township, Geo. W. Stucker; Cote Sans Dessein township, J. R. Bryan, Jr.; Round Prairie township, Henry F. Renoe; Cedar township, Abner Holt; St. Aubert township, William F. Powell.
The committee having retired, Mr. A. W. Harris was called for and addressed the meeting. Mr. D. R. Bailey being next called for, spoke at some length; also Mr. J. B. Snell, Prof. J. N. Lyle and John H. Jameson, after which the committee, through their chairman, Mr. N. D. Thrumond, reported the following preamble and resolutions, which were adopted:-
WHEREAS, The county of Callaway and city of Fulton have gained an unenviable reputation throughout the State and nation by the sad event which occurred by the hands of a mob in the city of Fulton, on August the 15th; and,
WHEREAS, It is the sense of the law-abiding citizens of Callaway county, that justice should be done to all alike; therefore, be it resolved,
First, That we, as citizens of the aforesaid county, and State of Missouri, do express our sincere sorrow and grief for the death of Colonel Law, whom we have ever regarded as a perfect and accomplished gentleman, a law-abiding citizen, a most brave and efficient officer; that in him we have lost one whose position in society can be filled by but few; that we tender to his family our heartfelt sympathy in their great bereavement.
Second, That we condemn most unequivocally mob law in all its forms; that in this instance we believe that those engaged in said mob should be brought to justice; and that we believe it the duty of every law-abiding citizen to assist the officers of the law in a fearless and impartial discharge of their official duties.
Third, That we sorrow with Mr. Dundon in his affliction, and hereby offer our sincere sympathy to him.
The following resolutions were offered by Mr. John G. Provines, and on motion unanimously adopted and ordered to be incorporated in the proceedings:-
WHEREAS, On the 15th instant a mob of the citizens of Callaway county attacked a prisoner in the hands of the officers, and by violence took him from the hands of Sheriff Law and others, his assistants; and –
WHEREAS, Without provocation our sheriff was shot down in the discharge of his official duties and has since died; and –
WHEREAS, As peaceable, quiet, law-abiding citizens, we cannot indorse such violation of law; therefore be it –
Resolved, That we denounce the lawless acts by which the mob took possession of the prisoner convicted, condemned, sentenced, placed in the hands of the officer and on his was to receive his punishment.
Resolved, That we do not countenance, indorse, or wink at such a violation of all law, order and common decency.
Resolved, That the assault upon the sheriff and his posse, made by a creedless and lawless mob, by which four innocent lives were subjected to exposure and death, and the prisoner himself, after condemnation, as much the subject of protection as any man in the land, were forced to pass through the fiery ordeal, was such a violation of the law as is not justified by any but the most aggravated circumstances of guilt.
Resolved, That in the death of Sheriff Law we recognize the death of a brave and gallant officer, a pure and stainless citizen, a gallant soldier and an incorruptible gentleman.
Resolved, That as citizens, we will pledge our every effort to see that the honor of the county is vindicated and the disgrace of this mob wiped out.
On motion of Mr. A. W. Harris, the press throughout the State was requested to publish the proceedings of this meeting. A. W. Harris, chairman; Thomas B. Harris and J. B. Snell, secretaries.
“On Thursday evening, the 11th instant, a most unfortunate affair occurred in Carrington, resulting in the death of Doctor Joseph Rickey, a well known practicing physician of that place. The facts, as far as we have been able to ascertain, are as follows: A dispute arose between Thomas Sampson, who had charge of his father’s saloon, and Doctor Rickey, in regard to an old account. Hard words passed and Doctor Rickey, during a personal altercation which followed, drew his knife and cut Sampson, inflicting a slight wound on the back. After supper, the parties met again at Rhine’s store and renewed the difficulty, both drawing pistols and firing. Sampson was uninjured, but Dr. Rickey received a fatal wound in the bowels. Immediately after the shooting, Sampson left the store and has not been seen since. After receiving the wound Dr. Rickey went and sat down in a chair, and was conveyed to his home and every attention was given by Doctors Brooks and Kerr, but it was impossible to save him, and he breathed his last at nine A. M. Saturday morning. He leaves a wife and children to mourn his ‘sudden taking off’ in the very prime of life. Both the parties in this sad affair have a large and respectable connection in this county.”
The Fulton Telegraph of August 29, 1873, said: –
It has become our melancholy duty to announce the death of Colonel George W. Law, sheriff of Callaway county, which occurred on last Saturday, the 23rd instant, resulting from the two wounds received by him at the hands of one or two parties connected with the mob on the 15th instant. The wounding and death of this brave and true man and officer has justly been regarded, not only in our own community, but throughout the country, as a calamity of no ordinary character, for while as a citizen he was without reproach, as an officer he was efficient and faithful. Of the sad circumstances connected with his death our readers are already sufficiently advised. The people of the county that claim him as one of their citizens feel that their loss is irreparable.
To those who knew Colonel Law any eulogy is unnecessary. Plain and unpretending, yet possessing a most excellent judgment and liberal education; modest, yet wielding a large influence; generous, affable and prudent; he was recognized as one of Nature’s nobleman, who would at once inspire respect and confidence. As a soldier the South had none more gallant and true; devoted to her cause, he at an early stage of the war went forward and remained in the field until disabled by the loss of one of his arms in battle. Returning to his comfortable home, in the southeastern portion of Callaway, he quietly pursued his avocation, farming, until he was elected to the office he held at his death. So much was he esteemed and so highly were his services during the war valued and appreciated, that he could, beyond question, have been elected to any office in the county he desired, over any competitor. After his election he soon removed to Fulton with his family, where he resided until his death. It is needless to present here a detailed account of the affair in which he received the fatal wounds; the circumstances attending it have been heralded throughout the entire county. Although his suffering was very great, it was borne with a fortitude such as is seldom witnessed, and until a few hours before his death his mind appeared to be entirely unaffected.
He was visited by a large number of friends, among whom we may mention Colonel Gates, sheriff of Buchanan county, who came to Fulton expressly to see Colonel Law, both having been officers in the same regiment. He arrived when his friend was sinking rapidly, and, as has been remarked by another, it was a solemn scene. “Two rugged men, who had stood where death was rife, where bullets whistled and cannon roared, were there together.” In a low voice he spoke to him: “Do you know me?” “Yes,” responded the dying soldier; “that voice I would know anywhere.” He was not permitted to be disturbed afterwards, and expired in a few hours. He was buried on the next day (Sunday), on his farm near Reform, his remains being accompanied to their last resting-place by many of the members of the Fulton Grange, to which he belonged, together with a large number of sorrowing relatives and friends. Colonel Law was nearly forty-four years old. His wife died about two years since, and he lost eight children; three are yet living, two of whom are too young to feel their great loss. Thus has passed away one of the best of men, one who was endowed with those qualities that mark the noblest minds; but though he is no more, long will he live in the hearts of the thousands who mourn his loss.
On February 14, 1878, “Boy” Oliver shot and killed Anderson Coffman in Cedar City, Callaway county. The Fulton Gazette of February 22, 1878, in speaking of that affair, said: –
On the counter, behind the open door of the store room of William T. Pullman, in Cedar City, was stretched the lifeless body of Anderson Coffman, who a few hours before was in the possession of robust health, in the prime of hale and hearty manhood. A white sheet was thrown over the body, and as we entered the room we felt a chill of horror at the thought of the tragedy, and of which we had gained a faint glimmering on our way thither. Shrinking away from the awfully still thing that lay there under the ominous white sheet, we neared the group of men around a stove in the rear end of the store. Their faces were none of them familiar; but it was not difficult to understand that he who sat half hidingly behind the old-fashioned box stove, with its high drum heater, and upon whom the eyes of all persons seemed to rest, was a prisoner.
Turning in the direction of the silent thing under the sheet, and turning our gaze upon the faces of the men standing there, we were told, as plainly as the glance of the eye could speak, that he who was sitting there and trying to appear so much unconcerned, was answerable for the deed that had been done, of which the lifeless body was a mute but impressive witness. From near midnight he had been sitting there under guard, keeping company with the man whose life he had taken. The scene was painfully oppressive. A dead silence pervaded the room, and the sound of one’s foot-step as it echoed through the long room was even startling. Noting our look of inquiry, one of the men present told us that the inquest would be held in about an hour, or as soon as ‘Squire Hughs had arrived. With this, we withdrew. At the doorway as we passed out we fell in with a group of men, who proved to be witnesses, waiting to be examined before a coroner’s jury. From their conversation we learn most of the particulars. A not from J. L. Coumley had given us the main facts of a fatal shooting, and by moving on the double quick, as soon as we had received it, we managed to be early on the ground. But people were beginning to arrive from the country, and the group of witnesses soon had quite an audience. The affair was eagerly discussed on all sides, and all appeared to regret it deeply. Anything calculated to bring reproach upon the name of the community for peace and good order was earnestly deprecated. It was so hard to make people abroad believe that anything that happened in Callaway county could be other than a downright disposition of the people to devilment.
It appears that a party was in progress at the Hughs House, the object of which was to raise money to aid the work of protecting the city against the encroachments of the river. The community are generally interested in the work, and the attendance was large from far and near. As a precaution against any disturbance during the progress of the party, the board of trustees of the town had appointed Mr. Anderson Coffman and Mr. Filmore Pasley a special police, and charged them with the duty of keeping order about the building where the party was in progress. Until about ten and a half o’clock everything passed off nicely. A few were drinking, and there was a crowd of men and boys on the porch outside, listening to the music and looking on. The ball-room was a vacant store across the hall from the sitting-room of the house, the windows of which look out into the porch. Attending the party were Henry T. Oliver and William Oliver, known respectively as ‘Boy’ and ‘Bill.’ The young men are cousins, and live at Holt’s Summit. ‘Boy’ Oliver is about thirty years of age and unmarried. His wife, who was a Miss Stokes, died about two years ago. He is the son of Benjamin Oliver, deceased. His mother is now the wife of Ap. Epperson, at the Summit. Bill Oliver is the son of Henry C. Oliver. He is about twenty-three years of age, and lives at the Summit with his father.
The young men were in the ball-room. Bill had requested the company of a young lady in the next dance. A colored boy was standing on the porch near the window where the young lady Bill had addressed was sitting, and made some offensive remark about the matter. Bill at once went outside to ‘bounce’ the colored boy, and was making some move to get hold of him and was apparently very angry. Being a little more demonstrative than the men on duty, to preserve order, Mr. Ed. Parker made the remark to him, to keep quiet. Continuing his loud talk and blustering manner, Mr. Anderson Coffman, of the special police, stepped up to him and directed him to keep quiet.
Bill Oliver then turned on him, and asked what he had to do with the matter. Coffman answered that he was a policeman, and it was his duty to keep order. Oliver replied, he did not care a damn for any policeman in the town, or something to that effect. Coffman, it appears, moved towards Oliver and called to Pasley to come, and they would arrest him. Oliver kicked Coffman, when Coffman drew his revolver and struck Oliver over the head with it, inflicting a scalp wound, which bled profusely. Coffman then took hold of Oliver to pull him away, when Oliver caught hold of a post of the porch, and called for ‘Boy’ Oliver. In an instant, Henry, or ‘Boy’ Oliver, as he was called, came rushing out of the hall leading to the ball-room, and seeing Bill hanging to the post, his face covered with blood, turned upon Coffman with great fury, exclaiming, ‘You! Damn you! Did you strike him?’ and seizing him by the shoulders, shoved him out into the street, Bill following close on to them. In the street Coffman stumbled, and ‘Boy’ Oliver was seen to wrench from him his revolver, saying, as he did so, ‘Do you know who has got hold of you now?’ Damn you! I’ll let you know who I am; I am ‘Boy’ Oliver.’ As soon as his revolver was wrenched from his grasp, Coffman wheeled and ran across the street to Lynes’ porch, and thence east towards Pullman’s store, with the Olivers in pursuit. As he reached the porch, two shots were fired at him with the revolver by ‘Boy’ Oliver, the shots taking effect in the front of Lynes’ store, on a line with the second story windows.
“On reaching Mr. Pullman’s store, Coffman instantly closed the door and called for help, to keep his pursuers out. Mr. Thaddeus Collard stepped forward and put his hand against one of the doors (the doors were double), and Coffman put his shoulder against the other door, when the Olivers arrived and commenced to kick and push against the half of the door at which Mr. Coffman was pressing and at one time partly opened it. At this, ‘Boy’ Oliver, stepped back a few paces, leveled his revolver and fired. Coffman instantly exclaimed: ‘I am shot; I am a dead man.’ Still pressing against the door, he gradually sank against the floor, and expired in a few seconds. Shortly afterward the door was pressed open, and the two Olivers entered, ‘Boy’ still having the revolver in his hand. Mr. Thaddeus Collard spoke to them and said: ‘Boys, you can’t do him any more harm; he is dead.’ They at once quieted down, passed out of the store and returned to the ball-room. ‘Boy’ Oliver was immediately arrested and placed under guard. Next morning an inquest was held on the body of Coffman, when the facts above were elicited. The Olivers were held for trial at the circuit court, and were finally cleared, Bill soon after the murder, and ‘Boy’ after lying in jail more than a year.”
Mrs. Miller Wilburn, a former resident of St. Louis, had been married but a year when she became the victim of insanity. R. L. Wilburn, her young husband, by advice of physicians, placed her in the lunatic asylum at Fulton for treatment. The husband was devotedly attached to his young and beautiful wife, and removed to Fulton, entering into business here, in order to be near her. The wife’s insanity had resulted from the birth of a child, and the gloom was deepened by the subsequent death of the little one.
Under kind and judicious treatment at the asylum she began rapidly to recover her mind, and became bright and cheerful in disposition. It was thought best that her husband should not visit her at first, but he daily took the long walk from town to the asylum to inquire about her welfare, and would go to a point that commanded a view of the hall upon which she was placed, and with the aid of an opera glass would gaze at his wife. After remaining in the institution about six months, she seemed to have so far recovered that her husband removed her from the care of the physicians, and the reunited pair engaged boarding at the house of Mrs. Nichols, on Nichols street. For two months all went well.
On Friday, the 29th day of March, 1878, Mrs. Nichols and her daughter went to spend the day with friends in the country. At train time Mr. Wilburn left for McCredie, expecting to be absent for several hours. Mrs. Wilburn and Mr. Oliver, another boarder, and the servants were the only persons at home. Soon after dinner, about half-past two o’clock, Mr. Oliver heard Mrs. Wilburn calling in somewhat excited tones to the servant. He was descending the stairs, intending to go down town. When Mrs. Wilburn saw him she told him she was going to have a spasm, and requested him to call in the nearest physician. The servant girl came to remain with the lady while Oliver ran to the next door for Doctor Wilkerson, and finding him away from home hastened on to the office of Doctor Howard. When Doctor Howard arrived he found Mrs. Wilburn in spasms. He sent next door for Mrs. Wilkerson. Mrs. Wilburn told them he had found a paper labeled “strychnine,” that she had stirred it in a glass of water and drank it, and then burned the paper. She said she was sorry she had done it, but she supposed they could do nothing for her; that she should die very soon. As soon as the physician learned she had taken poison he endeavored to administer an emetic; but she passed so quickly from one convulsion to another that it was impossible for her to swallow. Her suffering was horrible. She died probably within fifteen or twenty minutes after the physicians arrived.
The news quickly spread, bringing to the house a crowd of sympathizing lady friends, who at once prepared the body for burial. The nature of the death admitted of no delay. A messenger was sent to tell the shocking news to the absent husband. From what was learned of the sad occurrence, Mrs. Wilburn made deliberate preparation for death. She was dressed with great neatness, and had evidently bathed and dressed for the occasion, prompted by that exquisite sense of delicacy that characterizes a true lady. She had on a fresh calico wrapper; her shoes were still unlaced. The agony of the young husband, who had left her bright and beautiful in the morning and returned in a few hours to find her a corpse by her own hand, was terrible to behold.
On the 27th of June, 1879, William Harvey made an assault upon Frank Brown, of Shamrock, Callaway county, with a knife. Brown was the teacher of the public school near Shamrock. As water was getting scarce, he forbade Harvey’s son to take any from the well. The evidence showed that the boy reported this to Harvey, who was at work with two others harvesting wheat near by, and that Harvey said he intended to take water from the well as long as there was a drop in it.
On Friday, June 27th, Brown was at the Shamrock post-office, where a large number of persons had collected to get their mail. Harvey was also present, entering the store after Brown’s arrival. He touched Brown on the shoulder and asked him to go with him to the back part of the store, as he wished to see him. Brown complied with his request. Harvey said that he understood Brown was going to refuse him permission to take water from the well, and that the directors had given him permission to get it. Brown replied if he had been the directors, he would not have permitted it. Some witnesses said Harvey called Brown hard names. Then Brown struck Harvey on the face with his open hand or fist. Harvey commenced striking him with a knife – striking very rapidly – inflicting five wounds, one on the upper part of the breast, one on the side, one on the thumb, one on the upper part of the right arm, and one on the head. There were a number of other cuts on Brown’s hat and clothes. They were separated.
Harvey mounted his horse and rode away, one man throwing a weight at him as he went. He was pursued, and left his horse and went into a house and tried to get a gun, but failed. As the pursuers came up, he left the house and hid in a thicket behind a log, where he was surrounded and captured. Some apprehension caused him to be taken to Mexico, whence he was brought to Fulton and placed in jail. Brown bled copiously, and after Harvey and he were separated, he started to go across the street to the drug store, but fell from exhaustion. He was carried to the store and his wounds dressed – five-eighths of an inch of the knife having to be drawn from his skull. He lingered for some time between life and death, and was deprived for a long time of the use of his arm, forefinger and thumb. Harvey was sentenced to two years in the penitentiary.
On Tuesday morning, between eight and nine o’clock, this usually quiet village was thrown into great excitement by the report that the prisoners had escaped jail. The first intimation we had of the affair was the appearance of Captain Speks, the jailor, at the court-house, inquiring for the sheriff. His face was covered with blood, which was streaming down from several cuts on the head. He seemed scarcely to be conscious of what he was doing, and those who saw him guessed, rather than learned from any knowledge they could get from the old gentleman, what had happened. After asking for the sheriff the captain went back to the jail, accompanied by a large number of citizens. The jailor led the way into the cells. Only one man was left in possession, George West, who was committed several weeks since for shooting a horse.
It was some little time before Sheriff Pace was found. He and Constable Carner, with a number of citizens, started in pursuit of the fugitives as soon as it was possible, but of course, under the excitement, there was very little system in the pursuit. Mrs. Dreps informed them that the prisoners had gone down the creek. At the time, however, the parties started in pursuit, it was not known how many escaped. Mr. Maine soon returned with a boy ten or twelve years of age behind him. The little fellow was committed a few days before for burglary and larceny. From his story, Sam Bratton, the negro who killed another negro at Stephen’s store some time since, and Albert, alias Curly Young, had planned their escape the night before. Their plan was to knock the jailor down when he brought their breakfast next morning, and then escape before it was known. Once out, they would make for the Missouri river, where they would get a skiff and paddle their way down to the Mississippi river.
This story of the boy gave the pursuers a clue to their route. The boy says they threw him over the fence and forced him to go along with them. They left him after they got a half mile down the creek. The boy, when found, showed no disposition to escape. I fact, it was stated by some, that he was playing marbles when found. The pursuers made a thorough search of the woods for two or three miles down the creek, but failed to find the runaways. No doubt they were three or four miles away before the party started in pursuit. The sheriff has offered a reward of $25 for their capture. He has also taken the necessary steps to intercept them, should they attempt to cross the river or go down it.
George West says he knew nothing of Sam Bratton’s intentions to try to escape until Monday night. Sam told him he was going to get out of jail. George says he tried to dissuade him from the intention, telling him he ought to stay and stand his trial like a man. Sam said it was death anyhow and he would rather die trying to escape. When Captain Speks took their breakfast Tuesday morning, he asked them how they were getting along? Sam said, very well, but said he would like a drink of water. When the Captain returned with the water and handed it to him, Sam took the water and sat it down and rushed through the cell door, the Captain trying to push him back. After he got out into the passage or hall, he said, “Captain, I am going out of here.” George saw him raise his hand and heard several blows, but does not know what he struck with, but thinks it was the leg of the stove. After the Captain fell, George thinks he remained about twenty minutes before moving. He said it was about fifteen minutes before any one came after the Captain left the upper part of the jail.
If George’s estimation of the time is correct, the fugitives had at least fifty minutes the start of the pursuers. Sam and George were in the same cell; Young and the negro boy were in the other cell. All were up stairs. After knocking the jailor down, Sam took the keys and unlocked the door of Young’s cell. It is to be hoped they will be captured, especially the negro, as he is a dangerous man. It is thought somewhat doubtful whether Captain Speks will recover from the blow he received at the hands of Sam Bratton, the jail breaker.