Volume 7, Number 1 - Fall 1979

My Recollections of the Cook (Fleagle) Brothers
Vernon Worthington

I take the Taney County paper and I see you had a program about Jake Fleagle. I would like to add a few words.

I owned a grocery store in Hollister at the time the Cook brothers (Fleagle) lived in the area and they traded with me. My wife's people lived at Lead Hill, AR., and on the Sundays we went to visit them we passed the Cook brothers’ place on South 65 highway. They had the poorest police dog on a chain in the front yard fastened to a wire where he could run back and forth. I had a meat market in the store and I would save meat scraps for that poor dog.

Jake came to my store only about three times, but the other brother came in three or four times a week. He drove an old Model A black sedan. They rolled their own cigarettes and had me order brown cigarette papers which were supposed to be made of straw.

They made a lot of home brew and I ordered a special kind of malt by the case for them. Some of the boys that lived near the ‘Cook brothers’ would go down at night and play cards and drink home brew together. One night one fellow stayed all night and told that they all slept in the same bed. When there were fires burning in the woods they would always get out and help the neighbors fight them. We all found it hard to believe when we found out these brothers were outlaws.

The brothers told me that they were going to raise chickens, and I thought; "Mercy me, eggs back then were selling for l2½¢ a dozen." I felt kind of funny as he always gave me a twenty dollar bill when he bought groceries and people didn’t see many 20 dollar bills back in the late 20’s.

I owned ten acres out on 65 about half-way between Hollister and The School of the Ozarks and we lived there. My wife and daughter used to walk down to the store after school was out. This one brother came to town about that time of day for groceries and the mail. He would pick up my wife end daughter and bring them to the store.

One hot day he was buying a case of malt and I said to him, " I sure would like to have a cold bottle of home brew." He said, "Do you like home brew?" I said, "Yes." He said, "The next time I come to town I will bring you some." In a few days the car drove up to the back door of my store — I heard bottles rattling —it was Jake himself. He had the home brew in a box — about a dozen bottles. He put them on the floor and said, "My brother said you liked home brew, so I brought you some." I put them in the ice box and thanked him. He was dressed in a brand new pair of overalls and jacket and wore a big, broad-brimmed black hat. He sat down at the end of the counter but he didn't have much to say.

It was about time for the Post Office to close so I ask him to watch the store for a few minutes while I went to pick up my nail. He ask me to ask for his mail and I told him that I had forgotten his name. He said that their mail comes to the Cook brothers. However, they had no mail that day and he left.

Sometimes the brothers went to the barber shop run by Chick Muller and Jack Jones (next to the English Inn Hotel) for a shave. Chick said that Jake never would let him put a hot towel over his face. I guess he didn’t want his eyes covered.

It was only a few days after Jake had brought me the home brew that he was captured at the depot in Branson. It was told that the F.B.I. had intercepted a letter Jake had written to Buddie to be on that train. Jake was to get on the train at Branson and the other Cook boy was to pick them up in Hollister. The brother that was to make the pickup hung around the store waiting for the train to arrive and had his car parked at the depot. When the train arrived and the conductor told the depot agent about the shooting, the brother jumped into his car, went to Branson, followed the group up the stairs to Dr. Mitchell’s office then disappeared. The way I heard the story was that Jake was killed on the train — not on the platform. The law entered the coach from each end. They saw Jake sitting in a seat and told him to stick up his hands. He went for his gun and got it part way out. The law shot him in the stomach, the bullet went through his belt.

Later the law went out to the house and found no one there. The house was a box house and the inside was finished in heavy building paper. I was told the Fleagle brothers had guns hidden in each room between the paper and the outside wall. Jake’s dad came from Kansas and held a sale of the household items on a vacant lot in Hollister, next to the old Post Office. There was a man there from Mincy that used to live neighbors to the Fleagles in Kansas and said that the old folks were nice people.

Secretary’s note: This story came in a letter from 82 year old Vernon Worthington, who now resides in Citrus Heights, California. He had read Edith McCall’s account of our September 9 meeting in the Branson Beacon.


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