Volume 8, Number 11, Spring 1985
Over 50 members and guests gathered on March 10th at the Friendship House of The School of the Ozarks to hear winners of the 1985 Historical Essay Contest read their prize-winning stories. And to listen to Dr. Robert Gilmore, director of Bransons Southwest Missouri State University Center review his book "Ozark Baptizings, Hangings, and Other Diversions."
All essays were judged by Associate Professor of English Sarah Klinefelter of The School of the Ozarks. All three winners were 9th grade students. Essays will be printed in future issues of the Quarterly.
Third place winner Kristal Roberts, a student in Mrs. Connie Buells General Business class at Hurley High School, traced the history of Crane, MO. The town began one hundred years ago as a county settlement around Hickory Grove School. She also told how postal decisions gave the town its name, the coming of the railroad which dictated the layout of the streets, and the progression of early businesses whose buildings still form the nucleus of its trade center.
Bizzy Brown, a student in Ed Seilers Gainesville High School History Class, read her second place paper entitled "The Life and Times of Roscoe Red Jackson." Jackson was the murderer of Pearl Bozarth and was executed at Galena, Missouri on May 21, 1937, the last criminal to be hanged in Missouri. Miss Brown interviewed the son of Jacksons defense attorney, G. W. Rogers, and researched Rogers files on the criminal and his defense. She narrated the earlier troubles of Jacksons conflict with the law; detailed his final crime and the search which led to his capture; and, the events surrounding the trial and hanging.
Sherry Pryer, first place winner and a student of Mrs. Buell, also wrote about the hanging of Jackson. Hers was a human interest story, and she wove into the framework of the crime and punishment its impact on the people involved. In warmly descriptive prose she introduced Jacksons distraught father and told of the condemned mans last minute "conversion". She set the scene and recounted the emotions of the crowd that filled the square at Galena to witness the hanging, and wrote of many citizens who left town or locked their doors because they wanted no part of the proceedings.
Dr. Gilmore, himself a "farm boy" from the Ash Grove area, explained that, beginning in 1960, he had begun his research into the "entertainment value" of such events as hangings in the public square. He interviewed people then in their seventies and eighties and filled a file with anecdotes involving pie suppers, play parties, picnic-debates, literary evenings and spelling bees.
For further information he pored through many of the 55 weekly newspapers which were published in the area between 1885 and 1910. There, like the original subscribers, he read of cultural activities enjoyed by city dwellers but not available in the Ozarks. The hillfolk, to enjoy some "culture" in their isolated lives, turned every local social into an event, the more dramatic the better, Gilmore pointed out. Restricted from such "pleasures of the devil" as whiskey, card-playing, dancing, and theatricals by their puritanical religion, they dramatized baptizings and hangings instead.
Gilmore illustrated his points with many anecdotes, concluding with the tale of Jody Hamilton, who was hanged in Ozark County before an "audience" of 3,000 witnesses. With the gallows as a stage, Jody made a lengthy speech, interrupting himself to sing some songs. When his singular performance had ended, the final dramatic note was sounded by the springing of the gallows trap.
Date: June 9, 1985
Place: Friendship House, Banquet Room, The School of the Ozarks.
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Program: Dr. Robert Flanders, director of the Center for Ozark Studies at SMSU, will speak on the White River in Ozark history.
Dining: Buffet or Table Service. Student help available to carry trays.
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