Volume 4 , Number 4 , Summer 1971


Double Murder and Lynching in White River Valley

By Emory Melton, Attorney Cassville, Missouri


About a mile northwest of the Central Crossing Bridge on Table Rock Lake in the White River Valley, a double murder occurred slightly over a century ago, which resulted in the only lynching Barry County has ever experienced.

The site of the tragedy, which took place early on a Saturday evening, December 4, 1869, was a small country store operated by Jack Carney and his bride of ten months, Cordelia, in the village of Schell Knob just west of the Stone-Barry County line.

(When a post office was established at this location on July 12, 1872, the postal department dropped—whether by accident or design it is not known—the "c" from Schell and it hasn’t been used since).

Henry Schell, Sr., was born in 1810 at Lutesville in the southern part of Eastern Missouri and came to the Barry and Stone County area in 1834, where he promptly married Elizabeth Yocum, and started a family that would ultimately include six sons and six daughters. Before leaving Schell Knob and moving to the Big Sugar Creek country of McDonald County in 1845, his name had been appropriated for the area now making up the Shell Knob community. It quite likely grew from the fact that Schell was the first permanent settler and that he lived on or near a "knob".

Apparently there are no written records to confirm it, but the oldest "old-timer" of them all, John Sanders of Cassville, who was born near Shell Knob and is now in his 95th year, believes there were stores located at the present site of Shell Knob prior to the Civil War period of 1861 to 1865.

The slaying took place in a double log building located about 400 feet West and slightly south of the present school house site at Shell Knob. Shortly after the marriage of the young couple, the Carneys had obtained the double log structure, one end of which was used as a residence and the other end of which was used as a store building. It stood just south of the present road bed of Highway 39 in what is now the eastern edge of Shell Knob.

Carney was 20 years of age and his wife was 21.

The murder took place about dark on Saturday evening, but was not discovered until Sunday afternoon when a resident of the community called at the store for a package of goods he had purchased the day before. The door was not fastened, and, on entering, the visitor found Carney lying dead on the floor. He had been shot twice, both bullets having entered his head near his mouth, and apparently had died immediately. A story from the Missouri Patriot (Springfield), on Thursday, December 16, 1869, noted that the young wife had apparently been shot in the upper chest and that when the shot was fired her clothing took fire and was entirely consumed down to her waist.

Patrons who had visited the store on Saturday immediately voiced their suspicious of a young man named George Moore, a 28-year-old ner’do well who had been reared in a large part by the Carney families. Word was immediately sent to Sheriff John H. Moore (no relation) in Cassville to arrest young Moore if he should be found in that area.

Moore had spent a large portion of the day Saturday lounging about Carney’s store and was seen there about sundown of the evening. Moore and Carney had been acquainted from childhood. About a year previous to the slaying, Moore had robbed an elderly man in the neighborhood and immediately fled to Arkansas where his mother resided. At the time of the robbery he was working for John Carney (the father of Jackson Carney) and while there was sent by John Carney to take the elderly man, who had gotten drunk and was not in condition to be trusted alone with his team of horses, home. While going home with the old man, Moore robbed him and then fled. Nothing was heard from Moore until a few days before the double slaying when he made his appearance at Gadfly (a now extinct town located just West of Purdy), in Barry County. He remained there two or three days and then left, going directly to Carney’s store where he

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arrived on Saturday about 11:00. Moore spent the entire afternoon at the Carney’s store and apparently the two enjoyed the afternoon visit, even indulging in a friendly scuffle. The patrons of the store that afternoon later noted that there was every appearance of friendship between the two young men, but as soon as the last visitor had left the store Moore got down to the business for which he had apparently made the visit.

A few minutes after he was last seen at Carney’s—between sundown and dark—three pistol shots were heard in the direction of the store by a neighbor who resided about a quarter of a mile away.

About two hours later, Moore sought lodging for the night at a house about nine miles from the store in the direction of Cassville and remained there over night. He was traveling by horseback. On Sunday, he attended church at the Homer school house near Cassville, and on Monday the Sheriff arrested Moore about a mile and a half south of Cassville and lodged him in the county jail.

At the time of the arrest, Moore was wearing the hat of the murdered victim and had Carney’s revolver strapped around him, while Moore’s hat and one of the pistols were found in the store where the slayings occurred. On his person, $201.00, which had been taken from the store, was found. The money was found, a little of it in each of his pockets with some in the lining of his pants, his coat and his vest, and here and there a bill pinned to the inside of his clothing.

Shortly before the slayings occurred, Cordelia Carney had dyed some woolen material with a yellow dye. In making change at the store, she had handled some of the bills while her hands were yet wet with the dye and the dye had gotten on some of the paper money. Some of the money which Moore was found to be carrying had traces of the yellow dye on it.

Sheriff Moore transported young Moore to the county jail, which was a new jail and which had been built and accepted by the county on October 10, 1867, some two years earlier. It was built of log construction and was a rather formidable structure. It had been built, as per the order of the county court "six feet from the county courthouse".

The Barry County Courthouse, a two-story brick structure constructed in 1856, was located in the center of the public square in Cassville on the site of the present Barry County Courthouse.

Carney was a member of one of the truly pioneer families of Barry County. Thomas G. Carney and his family settled in extreme east central Barry County in the 1830’s. He was the father of John Carney and the grandfather of Jackson Carney. John Carney, father of the slain storekeeper, had attained a considerable degree of prominence having served as county judge from 1863 to 1868. As a result of the prominence of the family, and the ruthless nature of the murders, indignation was at a high point in the eastern part of the county.

On Monday evening, a large company of friends and relatives of the victims converged on the county seat with the announced purpose of carrying out summary justice.

The December 9th issue of the Barry County Banner, which was published in Cassville at that time, carried a detailed account of the affair. An exerpt follows:

"When these circumstances all came to light on Monday evening while Moore was in jail, some of the relatives and friends of the deceased combined for the purpose of taking the prisoner out of jail and executing him, and the Sheriff only saved him Monday night by secretely taking the prisoner out of jail and running him to the country."

"The deceased were buried on Tuesday, and on Wednesday some one hundred or more citizens came into town about noon, as was understood by the Sheriff for the purpose of hearing the trial, many of them being witnesses, balance generally friends and relatives, and before the Sheriff was aware of it, having been assured that the prisoner was to have a trial, he was surrounded and the keys of the jail demanded, at the same time enforcing their demand by presenting revolvers, and no denial would be received, was the word.

"The sheriff knew he had to encounter an enraged and injured, deeply injured, people, and that they meant what they said, and gave them the keys, and in about five or ten minutes this man, George Moore, could be seen dangling in the air suspended to a rope. But before he was hung he was given a few minutes to say what he desired. He denied the authorship of the atrocious deed, but it is generally believed he did not think they would hang him. But they did, and George Moore is no more."

It was estimated that some 200 men, virtually all of whom were residents of the vicinity of the crime, gathered at the lynching on the southeast corner of the public square in Cassville. Several wooden goods boxes were procured from nearby stores and placed under an extending arm from the bell post which stood at the southeast corner of the square. Suspended from the bell post was a bell which

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had been purchased by public spirited citizens of Cassville in 1868 and which was used chiefly for the purpose of calling the students to school and the worshipers to church. It was from this post that young Moore met his doom.

It is interesting to note that on February 20, 1877, the belt was donated to the Cassville School District and was removed from its post on the public square to a school building which had just been constructed. It continued to do service for the school district until 1939, but after 27 years of retirement the bell was in 1966 enshrined on the school grounds in Cassville...Not for any significance as to the lynching, but simply because it was the first and only bell ever used by the Cassville schools.

The lynching occurred shortly before the noon hour on Wednesday, when Moore was placed atop the boxes with a rope around his neck, the other end of which was fastened on the end of the extension to the bell post. Legend has it that the boxes were suddenly jerked from beneath the prisoner by Watt Carney, who was a brother of the slain merchant. The body was left hanging throughout the afternoon and at dark was taken down and transported to the Oak Hill Cemetery, at the east edge of the Cassville city limits, and there buried in an unmarked grave. On April 15, 1887, another body, which had met death on the gallows, would be interred beside Moore. Ed Clumb, who was hanged on that date in Cassville, had been tried and convicted for a double murder in Capps Creek Township west of Monett in Barry County. Like Moore, Ed Clumb was one of a kind. He was the only person ever to be legally hanged in Barry County.

Jackson and Cordelia Carney are buried in the Carney Cemetery near the Stone-Barry County line in eastern Barry County south of Wheelerville.

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