Volume 9, Number 3 - Spring 1986

Taney County Baldknobbers

This document is a true story which actually happened near Forsyth, MO over 100 years ago. Written for the centennial issues of the Taney County newspapers but never published.

The I. J. Haworth Story

I was born in the swamps of Kentucky, February 14, 1859, on a little creek called Mayfield Creek in the Mississippi Swamps. I was raised there until I was 13 years old. My mother died when I was 4 years old and my father died when I was 13 years old. My uncle, Jurd Haworth came and got me when I was 13 years old and brought me to his home near Forsyth, where he adopted me in the year of 1873, and this has been my home ever since.

The law enforcement at that time was so weak here that they organized what they called a Vigilance Committee to help the officers enforce the law, but in place of doing this, they violated it right on the start, whipped men, running them out of the country. A couple of boys lived on what they called Taney City Ridge by the name of Frank and Tuber Taylor. These boys owed a man, by the name of John T. Dickison, who ran a store and post office at Taney City Ridge. These boys went into the store one day and made arrangements to pay the bill. Afterward they got drunk and went back a night or two later, caused a row and shot both him and his wife, then hid out. The Bald-Nobbers were on their trail, hunted days and days for them and while the Taylor boys knew they were being pursued, sent the Bald-Nobbers word that if they would agree to give them a fair trial they would come in and surrender, which they did. The second night after they surrendered, they were both hanged.

Bill Taylor, a younger brother, who was attending school at Marionville, Mo., and a buddy of his, Mac Dimmit, who owned a horse and buggy started down to Forsyth and on the way down, Bill bought the horse and buggy from Mac Dimmit, after which Dimmit left on foot for Marionville, while Bill went on to Forsyth in the buggy. On Dimmit’s return trip to Marionville, he was drug on a hillside and killed. Bill Taylor was accused of the killing, arrested and put in the Forsyth jail where he stayed, chained for 6 months, contending he had nothing to do with the killing. The grounds of arrest were the fact that Taylor had bought the horse and buggy, an overcoat, etc.

When the trial came up he filed an affidavit that he could prove that Mac Dimmit was seen 10 miles north of where he left him at the time of trade, by two men named Bill and Mac Timbers of Lead Hill, Arkansas. Another affidavit was filled asking the court to appoint an anti-Nobber sheriff in his particular case. The Court ordered this sheriff to go to the extreme edge of the county and appoint or select a jury, whichwas done. Within three days 40 men were appointed and out of these 40 men a jury of 12 men was selected. There were to be no men on the jury unless they were qualified anti-Bald-Nobber. Trial was begun, evidence was out that the affidavit Taylor filed was true; he swore he came to Forsyth by way of, what he called "the wilderness road" to White River. He went down the north side of White River to Forsyth. The state proyed by a Bald-Nobber that no man was on this road the day Taylor was supposed to have travelled it. Taylor proved, by two other men, that they did go up and down this road that day.

The court instructed the jury that they must believe the affidavit was true and since the state admitted it was true and by so doing, he was aquitted.

Taylor’s mother, in payment of the lawyer’s fees, turned over her farm at Taney City Ridge. I. J. Brown was the attorney, and I heard him tell Bill to get out of the country and never come back if he didn’t want to be killed. Taylor left and nothing has been heard of him since.

As I have told you, I have been here since 1873, and after this it was necessary for everyone to be on one side or the other and I took the side of the antiBald-Nobbers. I was outspoken and didn’t care who I told this to, although I was criticized by many. I managed to rent a farm ten miles below Forsyth, known as the Dick Moore Farm. I had a long lease on it, even though some of the Bald-Nobbers wanted the farm and I rented one of them 15 acres in the lower end of the field, and he planted corn. There was a lot of the land not cleared at the lower end of the field, (bout 50 acres), the end that I had rented. Hogs broke in and ruined a lot of his corn, he hired a man to go down and kill some of the hogs, which he did. BaldNobbers layed this on me since I lived on the place. I had the place rented for the next year although several Bald-Nobbers wanted it. They could not get it if I wanted to stay, so they decided to scare me out of living on the place. The next year I still kept possession of the place but I didn’t live on it. I stayed at my uncles.

About 20 Bald-Nobbers came to my home one evening, on horseback. They kept pretty well hidden by the woods and other buildings on the place. One of the horsemen rode up to the gate and called me out. He said his name was McGill and asked, "Are you going to tend that farm down there again?" I said, "Yes Sir, I am." He replied, "We have come to notify you that you can’t do it." I told him, "I’ll tend that place


if every ear of corn cost me a dollar." He said, "If you want to do that we will crack your neck." Guns from other Bald-Nobbers who were hidden in the shadows of the buildings started roaring, shooting into the roof of the house. They turned around and rode off and went about a mile south of where I lived to Ed Boyd’s, took him out and whipped the britches off him.

About a week later, this group sent a man to my house to see me. He brought a petition with several names on it, wanting me to join the Bald-Nobbers. I refused. Some of the men’s names on the petition were good characters and some were the worst in the country. Some of them were, or had been in the penitentiary. In fact, every ex-convict in the country was on the petition. He said, "You’ll either join the band or leave the land." I told him I would do neither. He said, "You will always wish you had." I told him never to come into my field again and if he did I’d fix him. He said he’d fix me the next time he saw me. The next day I started to Kirbyville, met Billy Mitchell, who had a gun on his shoulder. I had a pistol and got ready to shoot. He passed me and we never exchanged a word.

The next day after the shooting occurred, a congregation of neighbors came in. While they were there Cap Kinney and two or three other fellows came in. I didn’t think much of the fellow and asked, "What business have you got here?" He said, "I am here to tell you that the Bald-Nobbers never done that shooting in your house last night. You are a big liar.

I said, "You get out of my yard, because I know there is a man here that would be glad to kill you and I do not want you killed here." He left.

About 55 years ago, a meeting was going on at Oak Grove Schoolhouse. Andrew Cogburn, a young fellow who was also against the Bald-Nobbers and as outspoken as I was at the meeting. Sam Snapp, who lived near the schoolhouse was also there; in fact Cogburn and Snapp came together. They were tying their horses down a ways from the schoolhouse when Cap Kinney came down and asked Cogburn if his name was Andrew Cogburn. He said, "Yes," Kinney said, "Well I have a warrant for you, put up your hands." Snapp said Cogburn had his hands above his head but Kinney let go and killed him. This caused a commotion in the church and people came running down to the scene. Cogburn’s sister came down and found it was her brother who was shot and had a spell. One of the Bald-Nob women said to Cogburn’s sister, "Why don’t you have a fit?" Sam Snapp got scared and left since he was the only living witness to the shooting of Coghurn.

Everyone seemed to be afraid of Snapp. The BaldNobbers appointed a man to go over to Snapp’s house and kill him. He went over to Snapp’s house at night, they were eating supper, he and his children.

The man to do the killing got to the window, saw the children and since he was Snapp’s brother-in-law, he reported back to the Bald-Nobbers the next day that his heart failed him and he couldn’t shoot. Someone was then summoned to do the job; a man by the name of Middleton. He was to make the killing the first time he saw Snapp. Middleton was at Kirbyvilie and Snapp happened to come along; as he came down the street he was singing a song that the people had written about the Bald-Nobbers. I can remember but one verse of this song:

"There is one old blue Gobbler, that strutted all around, but when he saw the General, he wished he wasn’t in town.

Middleton came out on the platform in front of John Kintry’s store as Snapp came down the street. Middleton objected to Snapp’s singing this song, got into a terrible argument, Middleton drew his pistol and killed Snapp. The next day Snapp was buried in the Snapp Cemetery near Forsyth, after three trials to find a grave. We dug into two graves, but in the third we struck a big rock about one and a half feet and Snapp’s grave was only this deep. My aunt, who was at the funeral said, "They have struck solid rock. They have killed the wrong man, they will have to pay for this one.

That evening a gang of us went to a house near the grave yard to see if we were going to stand for any more of this, My uncle and two of Snapp’s brothers were there. There were about 17 of us in all. We held a council of war to see what we were going to do. We decided to let the law have its course. This was a voting proposition and carried by one vote. Sam’s brother, Fayette Snapp, made a good talk, and my uncle also made a talk and they were in favor of letting the law take its course. Sam’s other brother was not in favor of it and he made a proposition; if we would take the brush he would go to Springfield and buy us each a gun and we would kill each of them as we came to them, and he especially mentioned one man who had been a friend and said, "If he comes in-to the bead of my gun I will kill him as quick as any other man. Uncle went there in the interest of peace, made several talks trying to keep this down and finally made the proposition to leave it to a vote of the house.

At the meeting, Fayette Snapp was in favor of letting the law handle Middlleton, and he said he could get him or have him taken and he’d have it done regardless of cost. The sheriff arrested Middleton, put him in jail at Forsyth, they had trial and he was sentenced to 10 years in the pentitentiary. That night he broke jail and ran off. A search began and he was located on the 2nd of July on the Buffalo River, in Arkansas, by Jim Holt, a marshall.


Holt went to work just across the field cutting sprouts, trying to get a chance at Middleton, but he never did. Close to where Holt and Middleton were working, a 4th of July celebration took place and both of them went to it. Holt had tried all day to get a chance at Middleton, but never did and he was afraid he would get away again, so he finally went up to Middleton and asked him if his name was Middleton. He said it was. Holt said, "You’re under arrest." Middleton said, "I don’t know that I am," and reached for his gun. Holt said, "Yes you are." beat him to the draw and shot Middleton. Holt came to Forsyth to collect a reward that was offered for Middleton. The county $750.00 and Snapp offered around two thousand dollars. He met the court and demanded his pay.

Cap Kinney happened to be there and "butted into" Holt for killing Middleton, which stopped proceedings for awhile, but finally got back to the collection of the reward. Kinney butted in again, but Holt turned and faced Kinney and said, "Now listen, Kinney, if you butt into this again I’ll shoot you as full of holes as a sifter," and Kinney never butted in again.

During this time the Nobbers had 18 men killed, and one conviction, the law looked helpless, so we appealed to the state for help. An old man by the name of Col. Prather, who represented us, met with us one afternoon at Forsyth, and told us how to go about it and we started. We called on the Adjutant General and he came down here. He called a meeting and we met. Cap Kinney was at the meeting and the case was argued pro and con, but never got anywhere on account of Kinney, since he butted in all the time, but the General told him it becomes necessary to kill a few men in the Country in order to protect the decency of the country. "It has just about come to that," he pointed out, "and I am going to give you, Cap, 24 hours to disorganize this thing." Kinney said, "I can’t do it." General said, "That’s strange to me that it could be organized and can’t be disorganized." Cap said to the General, "could you give us 48 hours." The General said, "Yes, Sir, I’ll give you 48 hours and understand this thing is to stop right now and be disorganized." Cap called them together, pretending to disorganize them.

The Killing of Cap Kinney

Bill Miles, Jr., a farmer who lived on Taney City Ridge, also an anti-Bald-Nobber was not a very good friend of Kinney’s. Cap Kinney was appointed receiver of goods at Forsyth, belonging to Jim Berry. A lawsuit resulted; it was to have been held at Kirbyville. Trouble was, of course, always just around the corner, and in those days, almost everyone packed a gun. Kinney had his gang with him and our people, the anti-Bald-

Nobbers, stacked our guns in Tom Layton’s house when we got to Kirbyville. While we were there we got word from the Bald Nobbers that they were coming over and disarm us. About that time we looked out and saw them coming; we appointed a spokesman, all got up with our guns and met them on the street. Kinney, their spokesman said, "We have come over here to disarm you," and our spokesman said, "You are not going to do it." Kinney said, "We are doing this in the interest of peace." Our man told him, "This is a pretty way to start a fuss and we will setfie that right here; you might disarm us after we’re dead, but not while we are living."

No one except our spokesman said a word. He said, "The best thing for you to do is to get out of here," so they left, and Kinney said, "We will be selling the goods at the store tomorrow." Our spokesman answered, "You will never live to sell them."

On Sunday, Bill Miles, his brother, and Kinney made friends. This, however, was a little scheme so Bill could get at Kinney anytime he wanted to let him have it.

Monday morning Cap was at the store, ready to sell the goods. Bill Miles was in town, and of course, went into the store. Cap said to Bill, "You Son-of-a-bitch, I told you not to come in this store while I was in here," and he reached in the shelf and got a pistol. Bill was standing near the opening of the counter. Kinney said, "You Son-of-a-bitch, I’ll kill you." He pulled his gun, but Bill shot him in the wrist, breaking both bones, and that caused Kinney to drop his gun. Bill stepped up to the opening and shot Kinney again and he fell behind the counter, then Bill stepped behind the counter and shot Kinney three more times. He said he couldn’t see Kinney, but could hear him struggling and hollering. Bill broke his gun and reloaded it and stepped out. About that time Jim Delong, stepson of Kinney, ran in and said, "What in hell is going on here?" Bill pointed his gun at him and said, "If you take another step further you’ll find out what is going on. Delong immediately jumped down from the steps and went back to his printing office. Bill sent to the sheriff’s office and gave himself up. His dad came right down after Bill sent for him. He came to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff was, in reality a BaldNobber himself. Bill’s dad said, "I don’t want this boy hurt." The sheriff said to him, "You are not running this are you?" Bill’s dad replied, "No, I’m not running it but if there’s a hair of that boy’s head hurt, it will take a wagon load of you damned Bald-Nobbers to pay for it." They took Bill to the Springfield jail for safe keeping. Bill’s friends wanted a trial on this killing, but didn’t want it to be held around Forsyth, so a trial was held in Springfield. It lasted about a week


behind the sheriff could see him shooting. The Miles started shooting at the sheriff and one bullet hit him close to the eye and he fell dead. Jim Miles, shot in the groin, could not get up. The people who were at the picnic could hear the shooting, but they just figured it was fire crackers, and not being able to see the spring for the brush, just passed it up. My wife’s aunt said, "They are having a sham battle down there." The crowd at the celebration were about half and half, in other words, there were just as many Bald-Nobbers as there were anti-Bald-Nobbers. One of the anti-BaldNobber women said to the sheriff’s wife, "Now why don’t you faint?"

This, of course, started a big hunt for the Miles, since Jim was wounded and couldn’t walk and had to be carried by them. They hunted up and down the road for them, but didn’t find them. Bill and Manuel, and Rufe Barker carried Jim down to a big holler called Iron Mountain Holler, it was getting dark, and they had to carry him about six miles further east that night. They took him to a man’s house, called the Thurman Bend on White River. The next day, Bill and Manuel left Jim there and hid on the man’s place in a big washed out holler. They laid in the holler all day while the hunt was taking place, and during the hunt they came within 10 feet of them a couple of times, but they were so well hidden in the holler that they never saw them. Manuel was anxious to kill one of them since he could have so easily, but Bill talked him out of it. That night the hunt went on until daylight but they never found any trace of them.

The coroner, of course, was made sheriff after the sheriff was killed. On the 6th of July, Bill’s dad sent word to the sheriff to come over and get Jim, and be sure he didn’t bring anybody but himself, and he would deliver Jim to him, but would not deliver him to a bunch of Bald-Nobbers. So the sheriff went over by himself, Jim was turned over to him and was taken to Forsyth and put in jail.

My uncle Jurd came over to my house, knowing the Bald-Nobbers had it in for me and told us to leave, at least until Bill and Manuel were arrested. "Because they are going to get somebody and it might be you." So we left on foot to Arkansas to another uncle of mine, Ben Nave. We stayed there three or four days and we got word that Bill surrendered and Manuel had left the country. Then we went back home.

The morning after the killing, Tom Wisdom, my neighbor, came over to my place where I was cutting oats and walked around and asked me if I had heard any news. I told him no, that I hadn’t heard anything. I was busy and kept on with my cutting and he asked me the same question again, so I gathered that something must have happened and I asked him if he

had heard anything, he said, "Yes, them dam Miles boys killed our sheriff." Of course, I was surprised and asked, "Do you know that to be so?" He said "Hell, yes." I asked, "How come they killed him?" His answer, "They just went down to that spring and killed him." "I want to tell you something," I said, "I don’t believe they ever done it, but if they did, I don’t endorse such killing as that." He said, "That’s what they done." I was busy and told him. "If you hear any more about it let me know this evening." When he left I was very uneasy and could not stay there. I had a fellow helping by the name of Henry Andrews. I told him, "Let’s quit and go to the house and find out all about this." Then we went back to the field and finished cutting the oats. That evening Tom came back. "Tom," I asked, "Have you heard any more?" He said, "Yes, but it wasn’t just like I told you this morning."

"You just came down here with a pack of lies and must have known better this morning. If you hadn’t you wouldn’t have said anything. You knew the boys never done that, and I don’t want you to come around here any more." I told Henry then, "It is mighty dangerous to work in this field anymore," so we went to Arkansas.

Quite a bunch of us congregated and went over to the jail, where Jim was. A rope was stretched around the jail so nobody could get right up to it. Old Bill Miles said, "Let’s go around and see how Jim is getting along." We knew that we couldn’t get past the rope. We said, "We will tend to that when we get there." When we got there, Old Bill reached in his pocket, got his knife out and cut the rope, and walked up to the jail door. The rest followed. The sheriff, sitting on the hotel porch just across the street from the jail saw this going on and he walked out. "The high sheriff is going home," he said. He left, and no word has ever been heard from him since.

A few days later a sheriff had to be appointed. This was a little favorable to the Miles. About a month later Court set. Bill was brought down from the Greene County Jail and put in jail at Forsyth, pending trial.

The Courthouse had burned some time before, so court was held in the Forsyth schoolhouse. Miles filed a motion for change of venue, it was granted and sent the case to Ozark. Bond was fixed up for both and they were turned loose until court convened about a month later. The Miles were arraigned before the court, pled not guilty, trial was held and both were acquitted.

The hanging of John Bright and killing of Geo. Williams, Deputy Sheriff of Taney County.

Fifty years ago, John Bright, who was claimed by some to be crazy, killed his wife. Sheriff of Taney County at that time was Fayette Cook and George Bright was arrested and all things looked like he was


going to be mobbed. Cook, who lived about ten miles up Swan Creek, didn’t think they would mob him, so he went home that night and left George Williams at the jail to guard Bright. Williams told the people if they got Bright out of jail that night it would be over his dead body. When they came to the jail, started to tear it down, Williams came to stop it and was killed. They finally got Bright out of jail, took him about a quarter of a mile from town and hung him. The prosecutor set in to find out who the gang was that killed Williams. Sheriff Cook appointed me and Jim Leathers as deputies and we arrested ten or twelve and bound them over, but sent three of them to the jail at Ozark. We three took them up there on horseback. That night about midnight we stopped at Garrison to feed our horses and get something to eat. One of the fellows had a horse that was bad to break loose. He bought a good heavy rope to tie the horse and we were going to hang the three fellows. We got to Ozark about daylight and turned them over to the sheriff, they were put in jail and we returned to Forsyth. The next day two or three of the prisoners’ friends went up to Ozark to try to get them out of jail. While they were there they got to fussing around and were put in jail and held there.

John Bright was taken down from the tree, but the rope was not taken off his neck. The body was taken over to the court house lot and left there. Some of the hogs around started eating on it. Somehow all the fellows that were in jail arranged for bond and nothing was ever done about it.

Robbing and Killing of Jim Brown and John Manus

Jim Brown, who lived near Forsyth was down in Arkansas and coming home. On the way he robbed two or three houses down around Protem. The people were trying to catch him, but he reached his grandfather’s house at Taney City. The next morning the posse that had been trailing him came up to his grandfather’s place. Brown, who had gotten wind of them following him, left the house and went down to a holler north of the house about a quarter of a mile. They asked his grandfather if he knew anything about Brown’s whereabouts, and he declared he knew nothing, but they knew he was there or had been there, so they scattered around the place and started searching. John Manus, a young man about twenty years old was in this posse and a cousin of mine, Will Nave, too. I had gone to Forsyth and heard about a killing and that it was my cousin Nave who had been shot. Of course, I went right up to where they were making the search, but it was Manus who had been killed. A doctor had been summoned when I got there, Doc Bladin, to take care of Manus. They were in the yard

and Manus was on a cot. I could see it was not Nave, so I inquired who it was and Doc said it was Manus, he was shot bad and it was just a matter of time before he would die. He had started down in the holler and just before he got to where Brown was hid he shot him in the stomach, Manus fell to the ground. He had a Winchester rifle, and Brown came out of hiding and came up to where Manus was to get his rifle and when he got within a few yards of Manus he told him, "Well, I’ve got you and will get the rest of them and your rifle." Manus grabbed his rifle and shot Brown’s arm practically off and shot again and hit him in the side, although the bullet did not bury itself. Again the chase set in for Brown and there were probably fifty or seventy-five in the crowd and they had their necks bowed to get him. They hunted all that day, that night and the next morning about eight o’clock they found Brown, trailing him by the blood from his arm. He had gone into a man’s spring house and eaten some of the butter and things that were kept there. They could tell he was bleeding freely and could not have gone much further. About a mile from this, at a farm house, which was on a hillside, the barn being down a slope from the house. He was laying in the corner of a fence in some brush. Everyone was scared of him, or rather, we did not know but what he would still kill several of us. They sighted him in the brush and called him by name and asked him to surrender. He got up and started staggering away and one of the bunch shot him in the back and he fell with his face down in a patch of dogwood sprouts about a foot and a half high. His face could not be seen, but they knew it was Brown, and when his face was raised up, the sun was shining down brightly, a young smart alec in the crowd said, "Jim, you don’t look as good as you did the last time I saw you." I said, "Well, if Jim Brown was alive, you would be running like a whipped dog. You know there is no danger in him now and that is the reason you tallc that way." We carried Jim up to the house and laid him on some boards and made arrangements for his burial.

After arrangements were completed we went over to where Manus was. They had moved him to a man’s house, named Tom Phillips. We were to find out how he was, and when we got there he was dead. Then we went down to Swan Creek, but on the way we stopped at John Smithton’s to have a meeting. As we approached one of the party said, "Now is the time to make a Bald-Nobber out of John H. Haworth." I said, "Boys, I’m going to tell you something. You are not going to make a Bald-Nobber out of me."

"If we take a notion to make one of you we will," they said. I told them, "You just as well not undertake it." I knew they were all Bald-Nobbers and I wasn’t


and I told them so, but I did have one friend who was a Bald-Nobber and he said, "If John Haworth don’t want to go into this thing we are not going to make him do it." He said, "He is as good a man as is in the country but he is against the Bald-Nobbers, I am a Bald-Nobber and I am a friend of Haworth. So he rode out of the crowd and told me to come with him. We rode down the road about 200 yards, out of sight of the others and he told me on the way, "If they ever do try to get you into this again you let me know," and I told him that I wouild. We separated, he went back to his gang and I to Forsyth. They followed me into town, and again he came to me and told me, pointing to one fellow in particular, "Watch him." I was never bothered again about this.

The following was told me by Mr. Simmons, who served 14 years in prison for this crime.

When Simmons came back from the penitentiary, he told me he had joined the Bald-Nobbers at the start, and he understood the agreement was to enforce the law and not break it. The first thing they did was to notify him to break it, and he told them he wouldn’t do it. They let him go that time, but called him again later, and again he told them, nothing doing. The next time he told them he would not do it, they told him if he didn’t they would take him and give him a good whipping. He went that time. They met at an old Millhouse east of Chadwick, about two miles and when they got there, they began laying the complaints and he interfered and told them that they had better not do it. They told him, "You’re a coward." He said he wasn’t but that wasn’t what he went into this for. He did go with them and when they got to the house he saw there was no chance to do anything with them, so he left, and just as he got to the railroad, east of the house, he heard some shooting and slipped back and found that they had killed two fellows, Green and Eden. One of them was lying on the floor and his wife had his head in her lap trying to do something for him. Another shot was fired about five minutes after the first; that one went to his head and shot her finger off. The next morning the dead were taken care of and the hunt began for the murderers.

Billy Walker, about twenty, who was shot in the fracus, was engaged to be married and went east. He wrote a letter to his girl, wanting her to come back there and they could get married. Her father took the letter and went to the sheriff with it. The sheriff said, "You write to him and tell him you’ll be there on a certain day. We will find out from the agent here just what time of day the train would arrive at her destination. She will tell him the number of the train she will arrive on and all about it. Tell him what sort of dress

she will have on, etc." The sheriff said he would go with her and he would arrest him on the spot: He caught him, brought him back to Ozark and put him in jail. By this time there had been a number of arrests made. There was one fellow in particular they were interested in and they wanted to get hold of him before he could run off, but he went to Springfield, and the officer followed him. He went to a hotel to stay all night. The officer got a room next to his in the same hotel. Sometime during the night the man got to talking in his sleep. The officer heard him and got where he could hear what he was saying. In his sleep talk he mentioned two or three fellows names who were in on the killing of Green and Eden. He immediately arrested him, put him in jail and ordered the sheriff not to allow anybody to talk to him until he came. The officer went back to Christian County and told the officers that the man had told him the names of three fellows who did the killing, but did not tell them that he had heard him tell it in his sleep.

They immediately arrested two of the men that he had mentioned in his sleep and they let down their hair and confessed. They took them to Ozark and put them in jail. The officer then went back to Springfield and told the fellow he had in jail there, that these fellows had told everything, so he confessed. During the confession of these three, of course, they told of a lot of others who were implicated and after they were all rounded up twenty or twenty-five were arrested. Trials were held for the four and they were sentenced to hang. The jail was on the second floor of the Courthouse. The sheriff was afraid if they built a scaffold in the court yard and brought the men out of jail that the Bald-Nobbers would mob them, so he had a scaffold built right up against the side of the building even with the platform of the scaffold so that all that would be necessary would be to take the men out of jail, let them through the opening, get them on the platform and hang them. The men were taken from the cell and brought out on the platform. They were dressed in black gowns and caps. The ropes were adjusted and the sheriff asked them if they had anything to say. When the trigger fell, Billy Walker came loose from the noose and fell to the ground. This knocked him out some, but they came down and carried him back up to the platform, and as they were carrrying him back, he had enough life in him to tell them, "Do a better job next time." He was again brought to the platform and was hanged.

In the years of 1913 and 1914, I rented a farm at Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, which consisted of 160 acres and I paid $1,000 rent. John Wood, a friend of mine who I associated with near Forsyth lived about a half mile down the holler from me. After I had been


there quite a while we had several visits, and one day while we were talldng he asked me this question, "Did you see the hanging of the Bald-Nobbers at Ozark?" I told him, "No." He was living here at the time of the hanging. He asked me how many they hung, and I told him three. He said, "Do you know that Wiley Mathus, the man who escaped the hanging lives just east of Fort Gibson, between Gibson and Bragg on the Greenleaf Mountains." I said, "Now John, how do you know this?" He said that he’d bought wood from him several times and talked the matter over. Mathus, however, was living under the name, Charlie Jones. He asked me, "Do you suppose they’d get him if they knew where he was?" and I said, "V\T~y, yes." Woods then said, "You better go over and buy some wood from him and you can find out exactly where he is located, etc." So the next day I went over and did buy a load of wood from him, and was satisfied this was the right man. I wrote the sheriff of Christian County and told him I was satisfied I had located the right man and that he was going under the name of Charlie Jones, and that he was cutting wood and selling it for a living. The sheriff immediately wrote back and told me that if I was sure it was him to have the officers there arrest him, have him put in jail and he would come and get him. Of course, I felt in my own mind that I could be mistaken, and if it was him, he had had enough trouble and if he was an innocent man, it would certainly be bad, so I never wrote anymore about it, nor did anything about it.

At the time the Bald-Nobbers were first organized, people didn’t take it very seriously, but as it grew, more interest was taken and more men were taken and it became rougher and rougher and there were so many killings taking place that it was time something was done. Of course, I was against them all the time and it was really two years or so before I was really riled up, and we, the anti-Bald-Nobbers, had our meetings, talked over what we ought to do and what we were going to do, but never seemed to get anything done about it. The thing, and the main thing that really got us anti-Bald-Nobbers started was when they killed Andrew Cogburn. We began to get scared and for a year or more after that, a number of us hardly slept in our houses, we lived out in the woods to save our hides. Wesley Brown and I had a camp where we stayed at night, which was located between my house and his home, called the old John Stoupt place, and I lived on what they called the old Haworth. If a bunch of Bald Nobbers went by my place going south, they would have to pass by the side of the camp and we would see them and follow them until they had passed his house. If they went north, we would follow them past my house. We did this for a whole season. The next time we got together was when Snapp was killed. The Snapps were considered at that time and were as fine a family that lived in the Ozarks. We had our meeting as set out previous, but this time we all meant business and were organized in such a manner that we would have killed the killer on sight, and we had laid plans and hid out trying to get a chance to shoot them on sight, but it seemed that each time, we chose the wrong spot or we missed them somehow. We were, however, responsible, for we did get rid of three of the Bald-Nobbers, Branson, Funk and Kinney. All of these cases came to trial, hearings were held in different counties, and in each case we came clear. The jury never was out for more than five or ten minutes in any of the cases. As I said above, if the opportunity had come there would have probably have been ten or fifteen Bald Nobbers to our credit.

Of course, this condition has now changed decidediy and there is no feeling either way. I do not write to hurt anyone’s feelings and each chapter in this writing I have described, as nearly and as truly as it happened, and the main idea of this writing is to tell the people of today just what the times were back 55 years ago. Anyone reading this, and who has any doubt as to anything I have said, would be welcome to come to me and I would try to describe, and prove everything I have written.


This volume: Next Article | Table of Contents | Other Issues

Other Volumes | Keyword Search | White River Valley Quarterly Home | Local History Home

Copyright © White River Valley Historical Quarterly

 Springfield-Greene County Library