Nat Kinney (1839-1888) has a popular image of a romantic, swashbuckling westerner, a champion leader of the Bald Knobber vigilantes in Taney County who knew how to harness both men and horses. His image, like that of the vigilance committee itself, is often exaggerated and partly fabricated. As the tourist industry grew in the White River Hills, so did the exploits of Nat Kinney and the "Knobbers."
This essay will build upon earlier observations and offer selected material from collections previously unused in Bald Knobber journalism. Materials from the Kansas State Historical Society, the Missouri Adjutant General Collection in the Missouri State Archives, and the Greene County Circuit Court (introduced in the Spring 1993 issue) add a sharper focus to Kinney’s persona and vigilance activity. Aspects of Kinney’s fabled exploits are entertaining and sometimes true, but additional analysis can be equally dramatic, compelling, and offer much needed historical context.
Variously described anywhere from 6’2" to 6’5" in height and weighing some 220 or 250 pounds, Kinney was a physically imposing figure. Accounts of his "smaller" size in Kansas newspaper stories in the 1880s probably reflect that he did not have the legendary reputation in Kansas that he later acquired in Missouri’s sensationalized press. Still, Kansans in Topeka remembered "the herculean form and stentorian voice of Big Nat’." In Missouri, Richard Prather, who grew up near the Kinney household in Taney County, later described Kinney as "broad and thick chested. He wore a bushy, sandy beard and mustache. His gray-blue eyes looked out from under bushy brows that were almost bristly. I have seen those eyes twinkle good-humoredly, and I have seen them glare with blazing wrath. In fact, his was a dual personality if I ever knew one." And it is in a selective drawing upon these two sides of his personality that writers have traditionally characterized Kinney’s temperaments
Ugly descriptions of Kinney understandably came from political opponents and victims on the receiving end of violence associated with Kinney and the Bald Knobbers, while Bald Knobber apologists, principally descendants of the Alonzo Prather family and journalists who interviewed them, have portrayed his better qualities. In reviewing the folkloric and newspaper accounts about Kinney, it is easy to imagine that he may have been a manic-depressive or a person with a serious personality disorder. Richard Prather, only seventeen at Kinney’s death, may have been more right than he knew about Kinney’s "dual personality."
Nat Kinney was born in New York, lived in Virginia, and spent time as a Union soldier in the Civil War. He drifted to Indiana, apparently spent a brief time in Colorado, and moved to Nosh Falls in eastern Kansas by 1875 where he was a small farmer. In 1877 at age 36, he moved to Topeka, a town undergoing tremendous economic and population growth. While there, Nat worked as a teamster, boarded at a local hotel, and became manager for a public hack service owned by a Gen. Terry. If the owner was Topeka Alfred H. Terry, a U.S. Indian Commissioner and Indian Peace Commissioner, principal in railroad construction to military posts, and negotiator in tribal consolidation and peace treaties, it was probably from him that came the many western tales about adventures on the Indian frontiers attributed to Kinney in Taney County. Known for his stories of the West, Kinney repeated what he heard in Kansas from his famous employer.
Kinney was well remembered in Topeka for his brawling ruffian’s life. Yet, an old Kansas militia mate recalled Kinney as a help to travelers at the Topeka train depot, giving directions and aid. In Missouri, his contemporaries observed his passionate rhetoric devoted to a pursuit of vigilante leadership and political power. Despite the heat of his leadership, his neighbors testified to his pleasure in the quiet of family life, his pride in children, and his love of fine horses.
In Kansas, tension was mounting between railroad owners and labor. In the wake of violent labor strikes during 1878 Kinney joined the Topeka Rifles, a local militia employed on behalf of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway and local merchants to suppress public unrest. These nationally-reported strikes were the first major railroad strikes in American history. A local newspaper referred to Kinney and three other large men in the militia group who presented a conspicuous physical threat to any opposition as "The Big Four."
Because of his superior height, his comrades chose Kinney as color sergeant to carry the flag, and this group became known as the Capitol Guards. In militia meetings Kinney exhorted his peers with an emotion and eloquence that gave him something of a reputation as an orator. Nat also displayed considerable skill both as a marksman and as a horseman, winning a number of local competitions. He kept several race horses quartered at the local fair grounds, and in 1879 his Capitol Guards shared a prize silver cup given for a victory at the Bismarck Grove fair grounds near Lawrence. Always social, and convivial with men who belonged to local organizations, Kinney livened many public gatherings. In 1880, at the Bismarck encampment, he paraded with fellow guardsmen and was remembered as "a rough man, rather a hard citizen, but good natured to a wonderful degree, his peers delighted in playing practical jokes on him.
In 1880 Kansas voters approved a prohibition amendment and Kinney left Topeka. The Topeka Daily Commonwealth later said, "Kinney left Kansas with that rough and rowdy element that went when the open saloon disappeared. He was of that class, and it is a part of the population never missed. Their room is preferable to their company." Journalists labeled Kinney a drunken brawler "not very favorably known" and even a "veritable coward" who picked fights with men greatly his physical inferior. One report even recalled how a prominent Kansas legislator knocked Kinney unconscious with a billiard cue in a local saloon. The press said he headed for southwest Missouri where, by March 1882, he was working as a saloon employee on Springfield’s public square.
Although J. C. F. Kinney was owner of the Springfield saloon, no extant documents indicate a kin relationship between him and Nat Kinney and Nat did not become the saloon owner recorded in Ozark folklore. By Summer, 1882, Springfieldians organized a local militia, the Springfield Light Guards. Anxious to serve, Kinney gave himself the title of Captain, but as in the Civil War and Kansas, Kinney’s peers denied his election as an officer. This nevertheless, is the origin of Kinney naming himself "Captain," a title he craved.
In December 1882, headlines of "Christmas Crimes" shocked Springfieldians—a fight in Kinney’s workplace left a man mortally wounded. Nat Kinney’s role in the fight, if any, is undetermined. Perhaps the altercation caused the loss of the saloon owner’s bond to the city ($500 to $1,000), a circumstance that may have made the owner quite irritated. At any rate, Kinney quickly left town the following month for Taney County. Purchasing land in January 1883, he located along the Springfield-Harrison Road (the primary north-south road), just a few miles north of Kirbyville.
Soon after Kinney’s arrival in Taney County, he became politically active. Nat, again, established local notoriety as a speaker, this time as a proponent of the Grangers’ agricultural reform, a populist movement that agitated for fencing livestock as well as crops. Kinney loved blooded stock lines, and as concerned livestock raiser worried about profits, he was not enamored by the prevailing open range practices and the promiscuous breeding of stock. Ruffian though he was, Kinney was part of a new wave of immigrants to Taney County, one that offered progressive competition to traditional users of the open range. In 1884, he left agrarian third-party politics and declared himself a candidate in Taney County for state representative on the Democratic ticket (not Republican as stated in twentieth-century accounts).
Unlike many Bald Knobbers, Kinney did not run on a Republican ballot probably for the same reasons that he never became an officer in the Civil War, in the Kansas militia, or in the Springfield militia--his volatile personality and proclivity towards violence did not endear him to the local Republican leadership that included many more educated, professional, progressive men than the Democrats. The Republican elders wanted a more polished candidate. The Democrats, however, lacked candidates with broad appeal and enlisted Kinney, almost by default, in order to mount a credible political race.
Local Republicans countered Kinney with a proven vote-getter, James Johnson, a multiple-term state representative and former county sheriff. In a three man race joined by Greenback candidate, James R. Van Zandt (the incumbent), Johnson won easily despite a strong showing by the newcomer Kinney (Johnson 582, Kinney 421, and Van Zandt 92).
Kinney’s defeat scarcely restrained his ardor for becoming a local leader in Taney County. Despite local folklore claiming it to be the first, Kinney did organize a Sunday School conspicuously placed on the Springfield-Harrison Road, north of Kirbyville. The Oak Grove school became a visible central Taney County landmark. (There was an antebellum Sunday School on Beaver Creek, by 1880 Taney Countians were attending Sunday School conventions in Springfield and were members of Sunday School encampments.)
From the lecturn, Kinney, his pearl-handled pistols resting openly on the pulpit, expounded upon the virtue of strong leadership as the best way to direct men to the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, Kinney’s reputation as a frequent visitor to saloons drew the wrath of critics, and his supporters soon became derisively known as the "Sunday School Crowd."
Kinney continued to promote the local Democratic party, and became a leader of a modernizing coalition of Bald Knobbers whose membership contained Republicans, Democrats, and persons of no political alignment. This fraternity had several things on its agenda. Claiming a high moral ground, they declared their intent to enforce "proper" domestic relations, demanded punishment for crime, and complained bitterly about corruption in local government and low county revenues. They had a particular hostility toward "low class" open range squatters, traditionalists who Bald Knobbers perceived as lacking personal or social discipline, living parasitically off government land, and paying no taxes.
Strictly speaking, "squatters," or landless citizens, amounted to 85% of Taney’s population in the early 1880s. But being landless did not necessarily mean impoverished, as stock profits from herding could be very rewarding and upward economic mobility for squatters was a reasonable expectation. People selected for vigilante punishment, however, were primarily illiterate or semi- illiterate squatters living with few material possessions on the open range--or in other words, those victims least likely to prosecute their tormenters through standard judicial procedures. Vigilantes hoped that intimidation of these people would convince others to conform to their vision of a progressive future. Modernizers wanted a county of landowners paying taxes to the county treasury and all the appearances of capitalist progress to attract investors in railroads, lands, and mineral development. While educated village elders like Alonzo Prather, J. J. Brown, and others, anticipated these changes, Nat Kinney was the brawn to persuasion in the countryside.
Kinney’s support grew among Taney County’s new modernizing immigrants, who joined with others to bring order to their county through law, evangelical morality, and education. Many of these changes required money. Some of this came from the filing of land patents, which made property owners liable for county taxes. By the mid-1880s, land patents had increased, but a minority of settlers had entered barely 20% of Taney’s land, which made for a very modest tax base. Meanwhile, squatters or those enjoying a frontier "claim," continued to live in traditional southern mountain lifestyles. Kinney and the vigilantes targeted this group of people--they attempted to intimidate them in rhetoric and physical attack for about one year--Spring 1885 to Spring 1886. Compounding local animosities, area outlaws apparently imitated Bald Knobber actions and blamed their own lawlessness upon the vigilance committee.
Bald Knobber leaders were excited by potential profits promised by modernization. By 1883 the railroad had reached Christian County at Ozark and Chadwick, and new surveys came through three Taney County corridors--one in extreme western Taney, and two that promised to make "boom towns" out of Forsyth and Kirbyville. The proposed railroad market would reach into northern Arkansas for increased exports of stock and timber and mineral ore from the newly discovered "mines" in Boone and Marion counties and in southwest Taney. Speculators invested heavily in central and eastern Taney real estate, but according to an article by Mary E. Mahnkey in 1933, it became a big joke among some local citizens. The investors had come in ahead of the Frisco railroad, and "always stayed ahead," as the railroad failed to extend its lines. The longer the wait during the 1880s, the more frustrated and embarrassed investors became.
Bald Knobber spokesmen were also angry over alleged corruption in local government, especially the 1882- 1884 administration. A depositional document in the Adjutant General Collection written in spring of 1886 asserts that "the Layton band of outlaws" had killed a great deal of stock (stock of newly arrived immigrants) and had stolen considerable stock throughout the county. Despite these purported crimes, Sheriff John Moseley and deputy sheriff William Miles failed to arrest the band, prosecutor T. C. Spellings refused to prosecute them, and circuit] county clerk Thomas Layton and deputy clerk J. J. Reynolds protected them. Denied the normal operation of justice, outraged residents organized the Citizens Committee (or Bald Knobbers) to demand community standards of justice in the countryside.
Many Taney Countians concluded that it was time to fight fire with fire, but they were quickly met by a local opposition. These opponents were led by locally prominent Democrats who later became part of the "militia group" promoted by veteran officeholder J.J. Reynolds. Although initially popular, the Citizens Committee vigilance movement attracted a critically negative press, and by 1886 most organized local violence, either contemporary or historically, was blamed by the outside press on the citizen’s committee membership.
The vigilantes wanted the squatters and friends of the "courthouse gang" to adopt the modernizers views or leave the country. While no elected officials or well known tax-payers were ever attacked, squatters received beatings, whippings, and were threatened with worse.
In the middle of the "vigilante year" on a September evening in 1885, Kinney and several Taney County men were in Springfield carousing with freighters at the wagon yard west of the square and playing ten pins with local blacks. As a result of his excessive drinking that evening, Kinney lost his balance and fell through a wooden sidewalk.
Kinney subsequently sued the City of Springfield for $5,000. Complaining of "great bodily and mental pain," he claimed he had lost the ability to work. Several vigilante associates, especially staunch Bald Knobber and later Taney County sheriff Galba Bran-son, testified for him and a local jury awarded him $1,500 for injuries.
Litigation, however, continued. The Springfield city attorney W. H. Johnson took the case to the St. Louis Court of Appeals. (See the Spring 1993 Quarterly for an article on this case.) At the time of hearing in Greene County, Kinney appeared in the Springfield courtroom "limping about and appearing to walk with great pain and difficulty." However, in depositions taken for the appeals case the following year, a juryman observed Kinney in town "walking like a sound man." In fact, after the reputed injury, local men were with Kinney at a camp on Finley River, where, for sport, Kinney "engaged in tests and trials of strength and lifting heavy weights" and "lifting and throwing about some of the men with ease." Moreover, depositions subscribed to by Republicans and Democrats, former Bald Knobbers and Anti-Bald Knobbers alike, claimed that Kinney’s injury had not deprived him of regular work, as Kinney had claimed, or of electioneering throughout Taney County in 1886. Testimony by both Bald Knobber-Methodist minister James Van Zandt and Anti-Bald Knobber Democrat leader Thomas Layton, who was also secretary of Taney’s Democratic party, for example, indicated that Kinney was lying. Other well-known citizens like John Moseley, pro-militia supporter, former Taney County sheriff and local miller, and A. C. Hensley, Bald Knobber, schoolteacher and ferry operator on White River north of Kinney’s property, supported Van Zandt and Layton’s testimony. The litigation, however, did not end until after Kinney’s death in August 1888. The St. Louis Court upheld the $1,500 award to his widow, Maggie Kinney, basing their decision upon negligence of the City of Springfield, and observing that evidence of Kinney’s character was not germane to the case.
While the Kinney litigation continued, a local disaster exacerbated Taney County’s problems. On the night of December 19, 1885, the county courthouse burned to the ground, the apparent result of an arsonist’s torch. Many believed the act was designed to destroy county financial and tax records to help cloud the issue of who was and, especially, who was not paying county taxes. Immediately, the Bald Knobbers and Anti-Bald Knobbers leveled charges at one another, though it was never determined at the time who was actually responsible.
The leadership of both Bald Knobber and Anti-Bald Knobber groups were property-owning citizens, thus, it seems unreasonable that either side would have planned or sanctioned the alleged crime--the destruction of the tax records could only endanger the tax status of both leaderships. Moreover, Democrat Anti-Bald Knobber Thomas Layton successfully rescued the abstracts to Taney County’s land, while Republican Bald Knobber and county treasurer Charles Groom, salvaged the records showing who had paid taxes.
There are other possible explanations for the courthouse fire. Barring a legitimate accident, or a confused arsonist of either side, perhaps an opportunist like Nat Kinney, or a hireling of his, was the scoundrel. Kinney had just won a legal judgment in Greene County Circuit Court, one that upon appeal by the City, produced neighborhood depositions that characterized Kinney as a fraud. Kinney had narrowly lost his recent bid to become an elected official to the county’s highest office, and had antagonized Republican Bald Knobbers by his local chairmanship of the Democratic party. By surreptitiously burning the courthouse, Kinney might inflame an already outraged citizenry calling for reform and become chosen to represent the county in the legislature. Would Kinney risk arson? Probably not. Then, who would?
A more compelling reason to burn the courthouse may involve a conspiracy to cover financial fraud.
Corruption in the courthouse was the vigilance committee’s primary charge against officeholders prior to the 1884 election, and probably provoked the greatest anger of the "good men of Taney County." The burning took place just as citizens had employed an outside auditor to conduct a compliance and performance audit of county business. This audit would have examined the county fiscal management back past the arrival of Nat Kinney in Taney County. The county’s property holders had, in fact, been concerned about fiscal mis-management for almost twenty years. While Nat Kinney was not historically involved in this issue, J. J. Reynolds, a Democrat officeholder and the principal proponent for the organization of a local militia, was. The county’s bond debt dating from Reynolds’ mid-1870s administration as presiding county judge, had risen dramatically over the years. Many tax-payers did not understand why they owed such a significant and growing debt.
After the courthouse burned, Kinney, the Bald Knobbers, and the Anti-Bald Knobbers all stepped up their call for law and order.
In the 1886 election Democrats needed a vote-getter to challenge the influence of Republicans and Kinney again became their man for the legislative seat, and Kinney campaigned feverishly throughout Taney County for state representative. The audacious evangelical proselytized at Sunday School attempting to gain political favor and engaged in county-wide stump speeches.
In Spring 1886 two benchmark events took place. The first in Nat Kinney’s life, the second, for what became local folklore. In April, Bald Knobber leaders in Forsyth formally disbanded the vigilance committee. For a year, these village and agricultural elites had supported a violent moral crusade for what amounted to a new market-oriented capitalism. Taney County’s open range society depended upon an economic tradition devoted to unrestrained access to natural resources (e.g., grazing and timber land and game and fish) while social institutions (church, school, and government) were few and exerted little influence on the frontier population as a whole. Richard Prather remembered that his father Alonzo advocated the end of the Citizen’s Committee, but Kinney opposed it, causing a breach of friendship between the two. From this point on, the local conflict ceased to be under the direction of an active vigilance committee, and had further degenerated into the mere prosecution of personal vendettas.
In the contemporary correspondence between citizens in Taney County and the Missouri governor and his Adjutant General’s office in Jefferson City, on April 18, 1886, Alonzo Prather wrote to Adi. Gen. James Jamison thanking him for the advice he gave in a speech in Forsyth. Prather praised Jamison’s help in heading off the formation of a local militia, which most probably would have organized much of the "lawless element." The absence of a state-armed militia, said Prather, eliminated the potential for widespread violence in the county. Prather said that these disgruntled men "keep up a racket of talk, but I think it is all talk. Some of the friends of the Coggburns have gone to Kansas where more of the gang reside with the avowed determination to return and kill Capt. Kinney and a few others they have threatened, but I think it is all bluster and brag."
Unfortunately, for Kinney, they did return. An important harbinger for the beginning of the vendettas had begun about two months prior in February, 1886, when Kinney shot and killed Andy Coggburn at the Oak Grove Sunday school house--an incident symbolic for much of what followed. Kinney killed a man half his age in a showdown over "honor," not over the complaints of the vigilance committee. The code of honor on the frontier was largely an unarticulated set of rituals, but the code of honor permeated society. Perceived wrongs to one’s self or family, or public embarrassment or humiliation, often resulted in taunts, challenges and deadly gun battle. Kinney, the older more experienced man, easily killed the young, inexperienced Coggburn (as did George Middleton in May 1886 kill young Sam Snapp). The youthful friends of Coggburn and Snapp committed themselves to revenge. Later, the Miles brothers gained the upper hand over Kinney in August 1888 and Kinney’s defenders in July 1889.
Secondly, subsequent local accounts reported a great crowd of "500 Bald Knobbers" in Forsyth in April 1886 at the Jamison meeting; this is a myth, or at least a misstatement. True, several hundred people were there, but they were there as citizens to protest the formation of a local militia--one that local government would have to pay for if formed. County revenues, already strained, would be required to pay for all stores, arms, and the mustering of an active militia. A crowd of men, 235 of them, signed and presented a resolution to Jamison, denouncing J. J. Reynolds and his confederates. Reynolds claimed he had the backing of several dozen men who wanted the militia, but they were in a decided minority. Petitioners to Jamison claimed that successful implementation of civil and criminal law was currently in force.
Local spokesmen who supported the efforts of the former vigilance committee and those of the pro-militia group saw victory in local politics as the means to pursue their own agendas. The upcoming 1886 races attracted attention far beyond the borders of Taney County as political rhetoric filled the air in this crucial campaign year. Kinney, as chairman of the Taney County Democratic party, ran his second county-wide campaign for state representative. And, by now, Republicans in this "Keep-Sake" District of southwest Missouri were nervous that Kinney and the Democrats represented a serious challenge to regional Republican solidarity. The Missouri Democratic legislature, in 1882, donated the Keep-Sake district to the Republicans when reorganizing new Congressional districts. The counties were Barry, Christian, Greene, Lawrence, McDonald, Newton, Stone, Taney, and Webster. Taney, in fact, was the only county where Democrats posed an electoral threat in the district.
In Jefferson City, Democratic Secretary of State Michael K McGrath had both political and economic interests in Taney County. He had speculated in land along a proposed railroad corridor near Kirbyville. In fall, 1885, he visited Taney County and spent time with Democrat county clerk Thomas Layton. McGrath--a lawyer, fourth-term Secretary of State, and journalist--returned to Jefferson City and in November 1885, published an influential article in the Jefferson City Tribune, "Mob Law in Taney County." The story was widely reprinted, and for the first time, journalists across the state began covering "Bald Knobberism." The Democrats hoped to seize this opportunity to drive a political wedge into Taney County as many newspapers engaged in editorial bashing of the Bald Knobbers. Except for apologetic press in Taney, statewide journalism, as a whole, censured the vigilante movement.
By the Summer of 1886, night riders began raiding in neighboring Douglas and Christian Counties. Missouri newspapers eagerly sensationalized the regional violence. In Taney County, an imperious Nat Kinney personalized the local conflict, claiming in one interview that "…the best men in the country gradually drifted to my side, and it became a war between civilization and barbarism." Kinney’s view of the situation was hardly universal. For Republicans in southwest Missouri, the whole circumstance was politically explosive.
Taney County Republicans intensified local campaigns. In the crucial races for prosecuting attorney and state representative, they imported well-known regional Republicans to file for office. In this daring political move, perhaps engineered by attorney and land speculator Alonzo Prather, local Republicans demonstrated how worried and serious they were in keeping the local courthouse Republican. Col. H. E. Havens, a railroad developer, Republican newspaperman, multiple-term Congressman, and leader of his party in southwest Missouri, announced his candidacy for prosecutor. Sam Dial, former Union officer, Arkansas state representative and receiver of the government land office in Harrison, Arkansas (Alonzo Prather’s old job), had moved to Kirbyville and came to confront Kinney for state representative. In a four-man race for representative the new Kirbyville resident Dial finished first and Kinney second, 398 to 349 (Irvin had 267 and Van Zandt 98). In this fashion, party loyalists, Havens and Dial, and local Republicans dramatically reconstituted solid Republicanism in the Forsyth courthouse in fall 1886, and the "KeepSake" District in southwest Missouri remained solidly Republican.
While regional journalists debated over who held the high moral ground in the quarrels between former and current vigilantes, Nat Kinney, himself, continued to appear at public meetings. Prather, Kinney, and others delivered patriotic speeches at Decoration Day services, Independence Day gatherings, and played a conspicuous role in the nationally popular Civil War encampments. Kinney, thwarted in his bid for regular party success, returned to the emerging populist movement and became prominently involved in the Agricultural Wheel.
In August 1888, Billy Miles killed Nat Kinney in Forsyth; in a purge of old hatreds, Kinney became the only recognized vigilante leader slain. He did, however, briefly command a following of extralegal vigilantes. Kinney died, however, frustrated in never having achieved the public success he craved as an officer in the Civil War, a militia officer in Kansas or in Missouri, or in becoming an elected political official.
The Anti-Bald Knobber claims that Nat Kinney, personally, was largely responsible for the bad name given to Taney County "Knobberism" is plausible given his truculent nature and a commitment by hot-tempered ruffians to see him dead. For it is primarily after the "official" abandonment of the vigilance committee in Spring 1886 that Kinney and the pro-militia group continued the conflict with each other while newspapers followed the events, propelled of course by Secretary M. K. McGrath’s sensational journalism. Kinney, in effect, became an outlaw when he lost the sanction of the local power structure for his rough ways. He was no longer useful. He, accordingly, left mainstream politics. Yet, with the utility of his lawless ways at an end, a violent man like Kinney had to be suppressed. Accounts of Kinney’s funeral indicated that very few people attended his burial north of Forsyth held by the GAR and Sons of Veterans. Richard Prather led the procession with a single muffled drum, the only drum corps member that came. There was no grave marker at the site until a century later. As fewer people sided with Kinney after the 1886 vacation of the vigilance committee, and as news spread about his lawsuit against Springfield with both Bald Knobber and Anti-Bald Knobber testifying against him, and as he suffered his second defeat for state representative, so, fewer people cared to be seen with him, even in death.
His untimely end in Taney County was a combination of his own forceful and uncompromising attitude, and a result of contending local factions who used him as a pawn to further their own intrigue, whether that be vigilante justice or Democratic aspiration. The cumulative result is this multi-faceted tale, unique in Ozarks history, in Missouri history, and the history of the American frontier.
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