The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

I am informed that Jim Davis settled the Newt Turnbo Place on Gooley’s Spring Creek in Ozark County, Mo. He lived at the lower end of the farm. Mr. Davis married Margarette Castleman daughter of Alex Castleman. Bobby Holmes and Jim Barnette lived at the foot of the hill on the west side of the creek opposite the Turnbo residence. On the side of the creek where Mr. Barnette and Holmes lived is a field in which is a grave that is almost obliterated by time and for the want of being cared for. This grave is near 40 paces from the present channel of the creek and 100 yards more or less below the upper corner of the field fence on the creek side. This grave was made long before any settlement was made on this water course. The history of which was furnished the writer by Elias Keesee. Who said that back in the early settlement of Ozark County, Mo. and Marion County, Ark., a man by the name of Jake Hines controled a band of horse thieves. It was supposed to be a secret organization that is they planned their opperations in a way that no one knew of it but themselves unless one of their number divulged it to outside parties. This gang of thieves was very annoying and troublesome to the settlers for the members of this band stole horses all along White River and its principal tributaries. One of the men who was known to belong to this gang was John Pritchet who divulged a lot of secrets known only to the gang which frustrated some of their plans of opperations in stealing horses from the settlers. When the leaders of the band learned that Pritchet had been talking too much it offended them and they were determined to get rid of him by putting him out of the way and the surest way to do that was to take him to some out of the way place and put him to death, and so they caught him on White River and made him go with them up this stream which was then only inhabited by wild beast. When they reached the creek bottom that we mention where the field is now the band found it to be a wild and lonely spot just suitable for their black crime which they were now about to commit. They halted their captive and told him he had only a few minutes to live for they would send him where he would not be able to tell any more tales against them. The man begged them not to kill him and he would ever more be faithful to them but they told him that he had fooled them once and they dare not trust him any more and now said one of them, "Get ready in a hurry to pass in your check to the bank that never fails and that is death". They now made him kneel down and one of the men by the name of Murdock placed himself a few feet in front of the doomed man and shot him in the forehead with a rifle ball. The bullet passed entirely through his head and he fell backward with hardly a struggle. The murderers after cursing the lifeless form for a minute or more turned around and walked back down the creek. The murdered man was not discovered until there was nothing left of him but the skeleton and part of the garments he wore, when he was killed. "Black John Graham discovered the remains while out hunting one day on this creek in the condition named. Pritchet when he was shot wore a pair of pants made of striped bed ticking. A few weeks before Mr. Graham found the remains I and my father Paton Keesee were hunting one day on this same stream and had rode down in sight of this bottom and saw a bunch of buzzards sailing a circle close down to the tops of the trees but thinking it was a dead deer they were scenting and we both being very tired we paid no attention to them and left the creek and rode up the hill on the west side and went on home. As soon as Mr. Graham discovered the remains he gave notice to some of the settlers on Little North Fork and several men collected on the scene of the murder on the following day and made an investigation how the man came to his death and the verdict was that he had met death by foul means and that the murdered man was John Pritchet for he was identified by the remnants of clothing found near the bones. But the details of the murder did not leak out until a few years afterward. A few of them brought grubbing hoes and a shovel with them with which they dug a grave near the spot where the bones lay and picking them up they placed them in the grave and collecting all the pieces of his clothes they could find they dropped them in the grave with the bones and filled in the dirt and as the men took their departure one of them remarked "It is not common for one horse thief to kill another horse thief but I suppose it is true in this case for they all knew that Pritchet belonged to the clan.

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