|End of the Baldknobbers
(from Chick Allen)
The end of the Baldknobber was in Christian County, around Ozark, Missouri, and was a gruesome a story as history has to tell:
On March 11, 1888, a farm family in Christian County was aroused by screams and gunfire from the home of their nearest neighbor. The elderly man ran to the home with a pounding heart and through the open door in the light from the fireplace, saw bodies over the floor, bleeding and moaning.
There had been eight of the family and relatives staying all night in this 16-foot cabin.
The farmer's son was dead and also the eldest man of the family lay with his skull split with a bloody axe laying nearby.
Before being injured, his daughter tore the mask from the marauder and clutched it in her hand the mask bore ugly horns and weird markings. It was evident that the culprits were the Baldknobbers. As possible, the sheriff and prosecuting attorney arrived with the coroner from Ozark, the county seat of Christian County.
The sheriff picked up the shotgun that was left on the floor and examined it, finding a crack in the shape of an "S" on the stock.
One man had been able to shoot a Baldknobber in the leg before he was hit with an axe. The daughter was questioned about the man who wore the mask she had grabbed, and she said she did not know him but he was young and had no beard or mustache.
The sheriff could not find any reason for this terrible and cowardly atack. The Knobbers had tried to cover up the incident by hanging two young men who were suspicioned of having a part in this killing.
(THEY KNEW THIS TERRIBLE MURDER MUST BE SOLVED)
The sheriff and prosecuting attorney knew the man who wore the mask was young and had a bullet wound in his leg and they had the shotgun found on the floor. They knew this terrible murder must be solved so they decided to go to Sparta and try to locate a man with a wounded leg. They continued questioning people there and talked to an old man who repaired watches, sewing machines and guns.
The sheriff showed the gun to the old man and asked him if he had ever seen it before. "Wal, I can't be sure," he said, "seems to me I ought to know it. Yeah, I recollect it now a young fellow brought that gun in two or three months ago and wanted to swap it for a rifle that I had. Yeah, I remember the crack in the stock shaped like an 'S', but I did not swap with him because he wouldn't give enough."
When the sheriff and prosecuting attorney left the shop they knew that the description fit a man the sheriff knew and that if they could find him and if he had a wounded leg they would have their man. They left their horses and cut throught the woods to the cabin of the man who had brought the gun into the repairman's shop.
When they got in sight of the cabin, they saw a young man come out and start to saddle his horse; they saw how feverish he was with excitement. When the horse was saddled, he went back into the cabin and got a package and started to mount.
The sheriff told him to halt and edged in between him and the horse, asking him what he had in the package. "Nothing," said the young man and the sheriff stepped forward and grabbed the package from him.
He ripped off the covering and found a black Baldknobber mask. The man said it was not his, that he found it and did not have anything to do with the killings. The sheriff stated that he would have to go to jail anyway. He handcuffed him and told him he would change his mind about his story when the hill folks started to tear down the jail and threaten to hang him.
After he was in jail, they talked of a way of scaring him into talking, and decided the threat of hanging by the people scared him most and they would find a group of men they could trust and have them come to the jail on the pretense of hanging him.
When the men were outside the jail, the young man heard the words "Hang him," and he beceame more fearful and agreed to a confession if the sheriff would protect him.
He admitted that he was a Knobber and he named the band of Knobbers, one of them a deacon.
(continued above right)
|Above, trail alongside Dewey Bald Mountain. 6/30/08 Photo credit, J. Heston. Location: Paul & Ruth Henning Conservation Area.
Dewey Bald Mountain was another meeting place of the Baldknobbers in Stone County. Wash Gibbs was the out-law leader in Stone County. He lived in a log cabin in the valley of Roark Creek at the front of Dewey Bald. Another meeting place was atop Scissors Bald Montain in Taney County. There was a hiding place in a circle of rocks on top where the Civil War soldiers made bullets of lead and this was a look-out for anyone who might interfere.
|(End of Baldknobbers continued)
He said that they met on a bald near Chadwick the night before the killing. "We initiated a new member and then they were talking about how the farmer and his family had been shooting off their mouths about the Knobbers and that the old farmer had killed a dog and said he had killed a Knobber. And that is the reason they went to the farm house to teach them a lesson."
He named about 25 men but said only a few went into the cabin. He named a young man named Bill who had been shot in the leg and who had his mask jerked off by the daughter of the old farmer.
After the confession, the Knobber was hauled off to Springfield jail and soon 25 men were arrested and confined under heavy guard in an old hall in Ozark (as the jail was too small).
(ONE OF THE MEN ESCAPED. THE OTHERS BEGAN SQUEALING ON EACH OTHER)
One of the men escaped. The others began squealing on each other.
The grand jury in Ozark started a serious investigation and the charges ranged from unlawful assembly to first-degree murder. The man who escaped was tricked into going to West Plains by a so-called friend to see his sister and the sheriff was there to meet him.