Thursday, September 13, 2018

Hanged For Tearing Down Old Glory

William Bruce Mumford
Dear Friends,

I was asked an interesting question lately. It had to do with people showing disrespect for the flag of the United States of America. A flag that many have died preserving. A flag many of respect and fondly refer to as "Old Glory."

A reader wanted to know if anyone has ever been punished over their showing disrespect Old Glory?

Since there is a lot of talk these days about Confederate monuments and people disrespecting our flag, my reader's question sort of started me thinking about a story that I'd heard when I was in New Orleans many years ago.

The story had to do with a man by the name of William Bruce Mumford. He was born in 1819 in North Carolina, but his family later moved to Louisiana. The repatriation of New Orleans to the United States came in late April of 1862. Forces under U.S. Navy Commodore David Farragut took control of the city in April but a formal surrender was not established until May 1st. By that time, U.S. Army General Benjamin Butler took charge of New Orleans.

Commodore David Farragut met with some "political resistance" by both citizens and local officials. New Orleans Mayor John Monroe was an ardent Confederate who believed in the cause of maintaining the status quo as was the case before the war. Yes, he wanted to maintain Southern aristocracy and keep the institution of slavery in place.

Just for the record, while many like the mayor did not see blacks as equal to them and wanted to see the continuation of slavery in the South, slavery was really on the way out by the 1860s. This was mainly due to Great Britain which ended slavery in 1833 and was putting a great deal of economic pressure on the South to follow suit. Great Britain wanted Southern cotton and was a huge trading partner with the South.

While Commodore Farragut's fleet approach New Orleans on the morning of April 25th, Mayor Monroe had his secretary Marion A. Baker go to the roof of the City Hall and hoist the flag of the State of Louisiana so that Farragut would see it. It's said that when all of New Orleans' defenses had failed them, Southern pride didn't and Monroe ordered the flag hoisted in defiance.

When Commodore Farragut saw the Louisiana state flag, which was seen as a Confederate flag during the war, he immediately sent two of his Marine officers ashore with a formal demand that the city surrender and lower their flag at once. He also noted that the other Confederate flags flying on the customshouse and the mint, which were both United States Federal buildings before being captured by Confederate troops, be taken down as well.

Monroe sent word back that he didn't have the authority to formally surrender the city. He also advised Commodore Farragut that Confederate General Mansfield Lovell was the proper military authority but he was not present. Monroe also refused to lower the flag over City Hall. It was General Lovell's troops who hoisted the Confederate flags over the customshouse and the mint. Monroe said that was Lovell's responsibility, his was City Hall.

Confederate General Mansfield Lovell refused to surrender the city and in fact refused to surrender his forces, then left New Orleans. On the way out with his troops, he left the whole "decision" of surrender to the mayor and the City Council. As insane a situation as it sounds, the mayor met with the City Council over the issue of surrendering at 6:30 that evening. After the meeting, the mayor issued a statement that read in part: "We yield to physical force alone, but maintain our allegiance to the Government of the Confederate States."

Bottom line is that after a great deal of talk, the mayor refused to lower the State flag, nor raise the flag of United States which the mayor and the city council saw as their enemy.

Commodore Farragut soon lost patience with the mayor and his blather, and sent two of his officers, Lieutenant Albert Kautz and Midshipman John H. Read, to City Hall with a written demand for the "unqualified surrender of the city, and the raising of the United States flag over the Mint, Custom-house and City Hall, by noon that day, Saturday, April 26th, and the removal of all other emblems but that of the United States, from all public buildings."

Believe it or not, the mayor acknowledged his demand and sent back a message that he would formally reply "by two o'clock if possible." In the meantime, a large armed crowd gathered outside the New Orleans City Hall.

With a mob now taking up the mayor's cause, the mayor realized that things were getting out of control and he needed authorities to preserve order. The mayor actually called a militia of what was known as European Brigade for assistance. The European Brigade was made up of foreign residents in the city. With their help, the mayor declared himself "commander-in-chief of army and civic forces."

He turned City Hall into his headquarters, and immediately requisitioned arms, horses, and provisions to stand off Commodore Farragut and Union General Butler's forces believing Confederate troops were en route from Lovell to bail out his bacon. The mayor even went so far as to declare martial law, and he immediately established a make-shit military court.

Then Commodore Farragut send the mayor a message. In it he stated "because of evidences of insubordination on the part of citizens and authorities, the fire of the fleet might be drawn on the city at any moment."

Commodore Farragut stated "The election is with you. And it is my duty to notify you to remove the women and children within forty-eight hours, if I have rightly understood your determination."

Reading the message, the mayor responded, "As I consider this a threat to bombard the city, and as it is a matter about which the notice should be clear and specific, I desire to know when the forty-eight hours began to run."

U.S. Marine Captain Bell who delivered the message replied, "It begins from the time you receive this notice."

The mayor is said to have then looked at his watch and said, "You see it is fifteen minutes past twelve." He then reiterated his defiance to lower the State flag of Louisiana. Captain Bell returned to his ship the USS

While some say Captain Bell returned to his ship and took matters into his own hands, most agree that it was Commodore Farragut who finally had enough and sent a detachment of U.S. Marines ashore to take down the flag over City Hall.

Supported by Union Sailors who manned two howitzers, the Marines went to the customhouse first and there raised the American flag. They then went to Lafayette Square and City Hall, where they formed a perimeter on the St. Charles street side of the Square. With a command the streets, the Marines kept guard on the armed crowd that was massing above and below the Square.

With U.S.Marines situated where they needed to be, Captain Bell and Lieutenant Kautz entered City Hall and went to the mayor's office. The Captian informed the mayor, "I have come in obedience to orders to haul down the State flag from this building."

The mayor replied, "Very well, Sir. You can do it, but I wish to say that there is not in my entire constituency, so wretched a renegade as would be willing to exchange places with you."

Captain Bell and Lieutenant Kautz found the roof. The mayor watched helplessly as Lt. Kautz used his sword to cut down the State flag and raise the United States flag.

So on April 26th, U.S. Marines from the USS Pocahontas raised the U.S. flag over the customhouse and City Hall in New Orleans. As the Marines raised the flag on the mint, a large crowd gathered. A man by the name of William Bruce Mumford was in that crowd.

The Marines told them that the guns from the USS Pocahontas would fire on that position if anyone tried to remove the flags. Mumford and seven others decided to remove the U.S. flag from the mint, and the USS Pocahontas fired on their position.

Mumford was injured but not killed. He attempted to take the U.S. flag and give it to the mayor as a gift but onlookers tried to tear it from him as he walked by. Nothing was left of it when he reached City Hall.

1862 Flag of the United States of America
Commodore Farragut turned New Orleans over to Union Army General Butler on May 1st. A few days afterwards, General Butler heard about what took place at the mint and he had Mumford arrested. Mumford was charged with "high crimes and misdemeanors against the laws of the United States, and the peace and dignity there of and the Law Martial."

On May 30th, he was tried by a Union Army Military Court. He was convicted of "treason and an overt act thereof by tearing down the United States flag from a public building of the United States." Fact is, while City Hall was a city building, the mint building was a United States Federal building.

On June 7th, before his execution, Mumford spoke about his loyalty to the Confederacy. Then just before noon, Mumford was hanged in the courtyard of the mint itself.

On June 18th, after hearing about what took place, the Louisiana's Confederate Governor Thomas Moore called Mumford "a hero and a model." When Confederate General Robert E. Lee heard about what happened in New Orleans,  he sounded more like a lawyer than anything else and wanted to know how Mumford could be executed for a crime committed before New Orleans was formally occupied.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis called General Butler a war criminal "worthy of hanging." Of course Davis didn't mention how General Butler later assisted Mumford's widow by finding her a job in Washington after the war.

Mumford was originally buried in Cypress Grove Cemetery in New Orleans. His remains were transferred almost 100 years later to Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans by the Ladies’ Confederate Memorial Association when they build a Confederate Monument there in 1950.

William Bruce Mumford was a North Carolinian native and resident of New Orleans. To my knowledge, he is the only person who was ever hanged for showing such disrespect for the flag of the United States of America. More accurately, the only man who I've ever heard of who was hanged of showing disrespect to our flag.

And while I'm sure all of us today feel the same way about Old Glory as I do, I'm fairly certain some will surely write to tell me that Mumford most likely didn't see Old Glory as his flag since he swore his allegiance to the Confederate States of America and their flag. And frankly, they would be right since Mumford probably died swearing his unwavering allegiance to the Confederacy and the "Stars and Bars."

Flag of the Confederate States of America
(1861–1863)
So now, if someone should ever ask if you've ever heard of anyone really being punished for showing disrespect for the flag of the United States of America, you too can say that you know of someone who was actually hanged for tearing down a United States flag. You can tell them that it took place in New Orleans in 1862 during the Civil War at a time when passions ran high, and some folks didn't take kindly to people showing such disdain for Old Glory.

Tom Correa

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Cattle Fraud -- Targeting Unsuspecting Investors Today



In the Old West, cattle rustling was seen by badmen as a lucrative way of making a living. Rustlers didn't care if cattlemen took the time to raise a herd of good quality beef. They simply didn't care about the endless days sweating over keeping seed stock, calves, good grass, finding feed, bills, water, and market prices. Rustlers saw stealing cattle as an easy way of making fast money.

Some writers have led people to believe that badmen rustling cattle from Mexico and bringing those scrawny cows over the border for sale here in the states was a priority for lawmen in the Old West. But frankly, that wasn't a priority for the law back in the day.

While it's true that Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp was dispatched from Prescott, Arizona to Tombstone after the Mexican government complained to Washington D.C. in the late 1870s about the problem of American rustlers stealing Mexican cattle, the Mexican government was not concerned about American rustlers taking American cattle into Mexico to sell dirt cheap. And yes, that was the real problem with rustlers on the border.

In reality, in the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, the vast number of cattle that were stolen from ranchers here in the United States were in fact moved as fast as possible South across the border to sell cheap in Mexico. American rustlers knew that they would be able to unload their stolen herds off at ranches in Mexico. Those ranchers would buy the cattle for a quarter or less of what the stock was worth in the States. The rustlers would make quick business of it, put money in their pockets, even if it was a lot less than what they could have gotten on American markets, and return North. Mexican ranchers would get prime American beef. Outlaws would make out. And of course, American ranchers would get screwed.

For the rustlers who wanted more than what the Mexican ranchers would pay for the stolen herds, the rustlers would re-brand the stock and attempt to sell their stolen herds to unsuspecting buyers here. Either way, either running the stolen cattle South across the border or altering cattle brands, this was a dirty business that one would find resulted in their dancing on the end of a rope if caught.

Of course, there are other sorts of crimes relating to cattle. In a post not too long ago, I talked about how "herd books" were altered to make business partners think a ranch had more cattle than one had when it fact it didn't. Of course that was only one type of cattle fraud.

As with any sort of fraud, it had to do with criminal deception intended to result in some sort of financial or personal gain. It had to do with someone being swindled by a double-dealing criminal type who had the intention of deceiving others out of money. The swindlers did what they did by typically making unjustifiably claims or spouting accomplishments that sound good. Such tricksters, those who are impostors, fakes, scam artists, use deceit to accomplish their crimes.

Cattle fraud takes place more than people know. Yes, even today. And the fraud that takes place today in the cattle industry along with the investment industry can result in the loss of millions of dollars to ranchers and investors, banks and loan companies.

The difference between a cattle rustler and cattle fraud is the scope of the theft. As with my article on how business partners could use altered "herd books" to embezzle money from their partners, modern forms of cattle fraud have now expanded to business and investment schemes all meant to defraud someone of their money.

In 1903, Frank C. Bosler of Wyoming's Iron Mountain Cattle Company had enough of his ranch manager John C. Coble known to us by his Tom Horn fame. Coble is said to have embezzled ranch operating funds and used that money to pay for Tom Horn's legal defense and later Horn's funeral after Horn was hanged for killing a child. To recoup his losses, Bosler sued Coble in court. A bitter lawsuit took place where Bosler accused Coble of cattle fraud by cooking the ranches records, it's herd books, all in an effort to steal from Bosler.

Coble cooking the books to obtain funds from Bosler to buy non-existent cattle is what criminals do when they commit cattle fraud. And while I know it has nothing to do with the point of this article regarding cattle fraud today, I know some of you may want to know what happened with the lawsuit between Bosler and Coble?

Some say it was because of Coble's political connections that Coble won the lawsuit and his counter suit against Bosler which net Coble about $20,000. As for Bosler, he did not recoup his loses but he was happy to be rid of Coble. And as for John Coble, he tried to manage other ranches but that didn't worked out. Some say it was because of his reputation of not being honest. In the long run Coble went broke and later shot himself in the head in the lobby of the Commercial Hotel in Elko, Nevada.

As for cattle fraud cases?

Cattle fraud cases usually involve large scale business investments and huge sums of money. Criminals who commit cattle fraud usually target investors in a swindle. Swindlers ask for funds from unsuspecting investors. The swindler will make promises to investors that cattle will be bought. Of course, that's a lie. The con artists, swindlers, who do this have no intention of buying cattle.

Instead, the swindler uses the "new investment" money to use for his or her own expenses, to cover some of their tracks buy giving small taken payments to earlier investors as "returns" to keep them pacified, and as seed money for another scam. Profits never exist because the scam artists never makes investments as promised.

Please don't think cattle fraud con artists only target gullible investors in the livestock community. It's a fact that they also target banks, and other financial institutions, by getting loans or by obtaining lines of credit for non-existent business projects.

This has been going on for many years. And while this is not just some recent criminal fad and really has been taking place since the 1800s, other than a very lengthy case that started in the 1980s that is still not settled, below are some of the larger cattle fraud cases that I thought you might find interesting.

The first that I've listed here took place in 2011. It was a huge case where many lost their life savings. Two cattle fraud cases in 2016. They are on a smaller scale but still criminal activity and demonstrate how the scam differs. The rest are cattle fraud cases which resulted in the millions of dollars being stolen. They took place this year, 2018.

On August 29, 2011, NPR reported the following:

The Man Who Roped Investors Into A Cattle Con

Kevin Ray Asbury, who this summer pled guilty to three counts of fraud for promising the same cows to multiple investors, built a million-dollar home and drove around in a Mercedes.

What do you get if you combine the Ponzi-scheme of Bernie Madoff with a wily Midwestern rancher? While Madoff's mastermind plan was becoming clear in New York, out in tiny Howard County, Mo., there was another crook who was swindling dozens of farmers across the country.

For two years, mustachioed and smooth-talking Kevin Ray Asbury ran a racket that went a little something like this: He lured customers with top-shelf Angus cattle. They would buy into the herd, or sell their own for breeding.

The only problem was Asbury kept using the same cows, telling multiple investors they were theirs. With their money, he moved on up — built a million-dollar home and drove around in a Mercedes. Everyone in town just thought he was doing really well — until the scheme cracked.

How The Scheme Unraveled

All at once 27 people across several states — some as far away as California — began raising the alarm. They all came to one person first: small town Sheriff Charlie Polson.

Sheriff Charlie Polson, who runs a bare-bones police force in Fayette, Mo., kept a handwritten list with the names of the people across several states who raised an alarm about Kevin Ray Asbury.Jessica Naudziunas for NPR

"Evidently [Asbury] had a good line that people believed in, so you see where it gets you, and several of the victims said, 'No, I just took him for his word and wrote him a check for $90,000,'" Polson says.

The sheriff went over to the ranch, and if you are near a place with that many cattle, you can tell with your eyes shut. But, there was nothing there.

Polson knew this case was bigger than any other in his county, and the victims were getting restless, some threatening to ride into town with guns blazing. Then came a complaint from a couple nearby who reported a bad check from Asbury for $32,000. Polson wanted to arrest Asbury right there on a felony charge, but Asbury's brother Randy, who is now a state legislator, paid less than a fourth of the bad check to keep his brother Kevin out of jail.

"I felt that possibly I could've maybe brought some justice to some of these individuals if I could've arrested him and put him in jail and started the first criminal proceedings that I had," Polson says.

He urged the couple to decline the payoff, but they were out tens of thousands of dollars and wanted to pay their bills. They ended up being some of the only victims to get any restitution.

I can say and I've said many times 'If it sounds too good to be true' until I'm blue in the face, but there are still going to be willing victims out there and people who just don't listen.

The others were like Jim Steinmetz, who was a successful farmer long before he got caught up with Asbury.

On a recent day, Steinmetz is parked at the end of a rocky driveway off a rural road about 40 minutes from his home. He gets out of his black flat-bed pick-up truck, leans against it and looks down. Out here standing on the parched grass, it's well over 100 degrees and flies are buzzing in the heavy air. Behind him is huge new house that seems out of place.

"And that's the house that they built, and I know he was just getting moved into it when everything started to happen," he says.

In 2008, Steinmetz invested over a half million dollars in what he thought was a good opportunity. He expected a strong return from owning the high-quality Angus cattle. Right now in Missouri, the going price for the type of cow Asbury offered could fetch over $1,000 each. It was fine for a few months, the ranch was full of cows; then just three months after the money changed hands, the pricey Angus cattle disappeared. Squinting into the midday sun, he can hardly bring himself to look at this house because he's one of the people who helped pay for it.

"This is the first time I've been back," he says. "I didn't want to torture myself. The only thing you can possibly do is get yourself in trouble if you come back over here. That's why you don't come by. Bad memories."

The money, trust and cattle were gone. To this day, no one who was scammed could tell you where their cows ended up, or if they ever really had any.

Jim Steinmetz, who was a successful farmer well before he met Asbury, invested more than a half million dollars on Asbury's Angus cattle. And Steinmetz lost it all.

In the summer of 2008, Kevin Asbury was getting nervous; he knew what everyone else now knows, too. So, he fled to Florida. His victims were out more than $5 million.

The drama crested when officials at the oldest bank in Missouri, The Callaway Bank, realized they'd been hit. They had provided Asbury with a $4 million line of credit almost sight unseen, after he showed their agriculture specialist some cattle that, it turns out, were on someone else's land. The FBI was called in. Later, the bank ended up losing more than $2 million. Asbury and his lawyers declined to comment for this story.

'If It Sounds Too Good To Be True...'

So, thousands of nonexistent cows, and a local boy rolled around in luxury out of nowhere, but no one asked any questions. Were these victims or fools, taken in by rural America's Bernie Madoff of cows?

"You can be a victim and a fool," says Jeff Lanza, a retired FBI agent who spent 20 years investigating corruption and fraud in Kansas City. He's seen it all.

"You know, I can say and I've said many times 'If it sounds too good to be true' until I'm blue in the face, but there are still going to be willing victims out there and people who just don't listen," he says.

That's little consolation back in Howard County, where you might say Sheriff Polson is Kevin Asbury's last victim, though he didn't lose money or cattle. This was actually the second cattle-rustling Ponzi-type scheme in Howard County in the last five years.

Kevin Ray Asbury pled guilty this summer to three counts of fraud and now awaits his sentence from a federal judge. At the most, it's expected he'll serve nine years in prison — about as long as it took him to turn from cattle rancher to Ponzi-scheme rustler.

--end of article.

On July 7, 2016, Iowa's WQAD News reported:

Iowa man sentenced, ordered to pay nearly $400k in restitution for cattle fraud scheme

OTTUMWA, Iowa — An Ottumwa man was sentenced Thursday, July 7, to two years in federal prison for defrauding nearly $400,000 from 11 victims.

Jeffrey Lewis DeWitt, 28, will also serve three years of supervised release following his prison term and must pay a total of $395,968 in restitution to his 11 victims, says a press release from United States Attorney Kevin VanderSchel.

Last December, DeWitt pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conversion of mortgaged property.

DeWitt sent an email to the victim with information and details on the purchase of cattle, which DeWitt promised would be sold within three weeks for a guaranteed profit. The email included purchase prices, resale prices and information on who would repurchase the cattle.

DeWitt knew that information was needed for the victim to get a loan. He used the loan money to purchase the cattle, but only gave his victim a check that was returned for insufficient funds.

DeWitt also admitted to selling the livestock and hay he had mortgaged to the Farm Service Agency without authorization, depositing the funds into accounts held by his parents. He admitted to selling more than $200,000 of collateral.

Other victims had been told that DeWitt would purchase cattle, seed and hay on their behalf but didn’t. He also created fake invoices and checks.

-- end of article.

On October 11, 2016, The Caldwell County News reported:

Joe Nelson Sentenced To Prison Term For Cattle Fraud

A Braymer man was sentenced to two years in prison without parole for cattle fraud schemes that cost his victims $262,000.

Federal prosecutors announced Monday that Garland Joseph Nelson, 22, of Braymer, also was ordered to pay restitution.

Nelson admitted that he sold at least 114 mortgaged cattle that were pledged to the Farm Service Agency and spent funds for himself, rather than remitting sale proceeds to the FSA. He also received two loans to buy and raise cattle but then sold livestock under different names to keep the proceeds.

Nelson also removed identification from cattle that were owned by others. He co-mingled the cattle with his own and with those owned by his neighbor and landlord, in order to sell livestock undetected.

-- end of article.

On January 5, 2018, Agweek Wire Reports reported the following:

Arrest made in four-state cattle rustling, fraud, embezzlement case

EXETER, California — A California man has been arrested for a scheme involving stealing cattle, investment fraud and embezzlement that spanned four states, Tulare County, Calif., Sheriff Mike Boudreaux says. Seven victims from California, Colorado and Wyoming lost a total of $1.5 million.

"This is 21st Century cattle rustling and embezzlement at the highest level," Boudreaux says.

According to a statement from Boudreaux's office, agricultural crimes detectives from the Tulare County Sheriff's Department traveled to Texas to arrest Justin Tyler Greer, 36, in the case.

Greer was arrested on December 28, 2017, in Tarzan, Texas, with assistance from a Fugitive Task Force made up of officials from the Texas Rangers, Midland County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office, Martin County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service and the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Special Ranger Unit.

On June 13, 2017, Sheriff’s Agricultural Crimes Detectives were contacted by seven victims who provided statements and evidence that showed a combined loss of $1.5 million through cattle theft, investment fraud, embezzlement or a combination of all three. Each victim identified Greer as the suspect.

For many years, Greer had been a widely-known and respected cattleman in Tulare County. He bought and sold large numbers of cattle on a regular basis as a broker and managed several herds of cattle for various people across Tulare County. Many of the cattle managed by Greer were owned by ranchers in other parts of California, Wyoming and Colorado.

According to victims, in April and May, Greer failed to meet his financial obligations, causing them to look closer at their business dealings with him. Two of the victims issued audits into the numbers of cattle they owned that had been managed by Greer. Those audits showed hundreds of cattle had been stolen.

Other victims in this case had invested as partners with Greer. They later learned that the cattle they had invested in either weren’t Greer’s to sell in the first place or the cattle never existed at all, Boudreaux says.

During the investigation, detectives worked closely with the California Bureau of Livestock Identification Brand Unit, as well as criminal investigators with the State of Wyoming Livestock Board. Working together, detectives learned that more than 900 head of cattle had been shipped into Wyoming by Greer.

"We recovered 900 head of cattle back to our agricultural partners," Boudreaux says. "These cattle had been illegally placed on pasture in Wyoming."

They were later recovered by investigators with assistance from the State of Wyoming Livestock Board. The Sheriff’s investigation of Greer spawned a parallel criminal investigation by the U.S. Forest Service, which is handling the investigation of the cattle Greer sent to Wyoming.

Greer had been doing business through a multitude of financial institutions with various accounts within each institution. Detectives authored and served more than 25 search warrants for these accounts as well as various offices, residences and a variety of electronic devices. From these searches, detectives obtained and reviewed thousands of financial documents and associated evidence which strongly corroborated the victims’ statements and losses.

Greer, who faces charges of grand theft, investment fraud and embezzlement, was extradited to Tulare County on December 31, 2017. His bail is set at $1.9 million.

The investigation was overseen by the sheriff’s cattle liaison who was appointed to the special position last spring. He worked closely with detectives from the Sheriff’s Agricultural Crimes Unit. The investigation lasted more than six months.

"We, at the Sheriff's Office, placed no limits on the use of resources for this investigation and the protection of our agricultural partners. Given the complexity of this case, I am proud of the amount of progress they made to get this case to this point. And I very much appreciate the assistance of other law enforcement agencies throughout the Western United States.” said Sheriff Boudreaux.

-- end of news article.

On June 26th, 2018, Missouri television news KCTV5 reported:

Clinton, Missouri, man pleads guilty to cattle fraud scheme

A Clinton, MO man pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to a $4.7 million investment fraud scheme in which he defrauded 89 investors who believed they were purchasing cattle for resale at a profit.

Cameron J. Hager, 42, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.

He admitted to engaging in the fraud scheme from July 2015 to September 2017 in which he solicited victims to invest in a "cattle fund" used to purchase herds of cattle to be sold at a profit.

The United States attorney of Missouri says Hager never actually purchased or intended to purchase any cattle.

From the $4.7 million that he received from 89 investors, Hager deposited more than $394,000 into his business bank account, as well as to make payments on the mortgage of his residential property and to purchase multiple trucks and vehicles.

Hager convinced the victims that he would locate herds of cattle that farmers in distress needed to sell and use investor funds to buy the herds.

Hager is subject to a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole and a sentence hearing will be scheduled after the completion of an investigation by the United States Probation Office. The wire fraud charges related to e-mails sent to a victim investor.

-- end of news article.

On June 28, 2018, Drovers News reported the following:

Arrest In Texas Over 8,000 Cattle In Fraud Scheme

A Wichita Falls, Texas, man has been arrested on theft charges in a case that encompasses more than 10 counties in Texas and Oklahoma, 8,000 head of cattle and outstanding loans of more than $5.8 million.

Howard Lee Hinkle, 67, was arrested without incident on June 27, 2018, and booked into the Wichita County Jail. He was subsequently released on bond pending trial.

He allegedly defaulted on several loans at the First United Bank in Sanger, Texas, with past due balances totaling more than $5.8 million. Hinkle’s arrest is the result of an investigation led by Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) Special Ranger John Bradshaw and Troy McKinney.

The investigation began in March of 2017, when bank officials contacted Bradshaw about the past due loans. When bank representatives acted on a court order to gather the approximately 8,000 yearling cattle put up as collateral they were unable to locate any of the animals.

Hinkle had purportedly told the bank the cattle were located on properties scattered across 10 counties in both Texas and Oklahoma.

Bradshaw enlisted the assistance of fellow Special Rangers to help identify and interview numerous witnesses and collect vital evidence across the two states. As the investigation continued the Rangers identified the various properties and cattle listed in the loans, but found that none were legitimately owned by Hinkle.

It is suspected that Hinkle deceived the bank by showing them fraudulent documentation and cattle that belonged to other individuals.

Bradshaw presented the evidence to a Denton County grand jury on June 14, 2018, and an indictment was handed down the following week for first-degree felony charges of theft of more than $200,000. If convicted Hinkle could face up to life in prison along with possible fines and restitution.

-- end of article.

Two days ago, on September 8, 2018, FOX News reported:

$3M cattle fraud puts 2 Arizona families on financial brink

About $3 million worth of cattle was stolen from an Arizona family by a man they once considered a friend, prosecutors said in court documents. The fraud has pushed both families to the brink of financial ruin, the Arizona Daily Star reported .

Longtime cattleman and rodeo cowboy Clay Parsons discovered last August that $1.3 million was missing from the accounts of the Marana Stockyards and Livestock Market, which his family has run since the early 1990s. It is one of the busiest stockyards in all of Arizona.

The stockyard's line of credit also was drawn down by nearly $2 million, according to court records.

A trail of fraudulent documents led to Seth Nichols, the stockyard's 29-year-old office manager, who pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud in February and faces up to five years in prison. Nichols is the son of Donald Hugh Nichols, a cattle broker who had been friends with Parsons for decades, court records show. Donald was indicted last month as a co-conspirator in $1.6 million of fraudulent cattle sales at the stockyard's auctions.

A federal prosecutor said the stockyard is operating "week to week" as it recovers from the fraud and Parsons has already spent $100,000 on audits and rebuilding the stockyard's accounting system.

Donald Hugh Nichols, who goes by Hugh, and his wife, Jane Nichols, filed for bankruptcy in federal court on August 10, 2018.

The scheme began after Parsons hired Seth Nichols in June 2013 to run the stockyard's day-to-day business. At auctions, cows are brought to the stockyards each week to be sold to the highest bidder. Some recent auctions have seen more than 2,000 head of cattle sold, according to the stockyard's market reports.

The stockyard uses a line of credit to allow sellers to be paid quickly while the buyers' payments are processed, according to court records.

Seth Nichols admitted to manipulating the line of credit to buy cattle at the auctions on behalf of the Nichols Cattle Co., which then sold the cattle elsewhere without reimbursing the stockyard. He also admitted to sending the stockyard's money directly to the cattle company.

Seth Nichols agreed to pay restitution to the Parsons, which was capped at $3 million in his plea agreement. But those funds won't be available until after he is sentenced September 24, 2018. Donald Hugh Nichols' arraignment is scheduled for September 14, 2018.

--end of news article.

Once upon a time, the Old West had rustlers on horseback. Rustlers in the 20th century were known to back up a cattle truck up to a loading chute and steal a number of head of cattle. Today, the same things are going on. We still have cattle rustling taking place. None of this is new to the cattle industry. Fact is, as long as there have been cattle -- there have been people stealing them.

As I said before, the difference between rustling and cattle fraud is that size and scope of the crime. While these are a few examples of what's taken place across the country fairly recently, they show that the bigger thieves are the con artists, the fakes, those criminals who swindle ranchers, investors, banks and others. These criminals have been able to steal more money than any rustler on horseback would have ever imagined.

Some folks have written me to ask why I have so much disdain for con artists and crooks of this sort? Well, though not related to cattle, I've been the victim of some slick talking con artists who made a venture sound better than it was. I believed it was a great investment for the future, but I was scammed out of thousands of dollars. Little did I know that it was a swindle. And the no-goods who took me, well they vanished without a trace of where they headed when I tried to recoup my money. As an investor, it was a tough lesson that cost me a great deal of my life's savings. A lesson that I hope you never have to learn the hard way.   

That's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa









Thursday, September 6, 2018

Preacher Henry Weston Smith


Henry Weston Smith was born on January 10th, 1827, in the town of Ellington, Connecticut. He was mysteriously murdered on August 20th, 1876, between Deadwood and Crook City, South Dakota. He was 49 years old when he was killed. He's buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Who was he? Well, I can't find a lot of what he did for work before he married Ruth Yeomans at the age of 20 in 1847. Sadly, his wife and infant son died a year later.

I can't find what he did for a living, but he did became a Methodist preacher when he was 23 years old while still in Connecticut. 

While still in Connecticut, he married his second wife Lydia Ann Joselyn on February 23rd, 1858. They had four children together. About three years later, he moved his family to Massachusetts. Then, a year after the Civil War broke out, in 1862, he joined the Massachusetts 52nd Infantry. He spend the rest of the Civil War, a soldier. Some say that's where he learned whatever he knew about medicine. A skill that he used later.

After his enlistment was over with, he became a doctor. He returned home to Massachusetts for almost 10 year before leaving his wife and children and heading to the gold fields of South Dakota. He is known to have walked beside a wagon train from Cheyenne, Wyoming into the Black Hills to become the first preacher on any denomination to enter the Black Hills.

On May 7th, 1876, Smith is known to have held the first church services ever had in Custer City, South Dakota. His small congregation was made up of 29 men and 5 women. He was there only a week when he again walked beside a wagon train. This time he headed for Deadwood. 

While prospecting for gold, he is said to have helped take care of those with illnesses all while ministering the Bible to miners. When not prospecting to make ends meet, and trying to send money home to support his wife and children, he could be found on the streets of Deadwood preaching in front of one of the stores and the saloons.

There are tales of him going into saloon and gambling halls, but in reality it was in front of the saloons that he was known to preach against the evils of alcohol, sinful women, and gambling. It's said the prostitutes used to jeer at him from upstairs windows, and saloon and casino owners would have their bouncers run him off to preach somewhere else. And yes, he would move on and do just that.
    
After preaching a sermon on August 20, 1876, he placed a note on his cabin door and left. The note read, "Gone to Crook City to preach, and if God is willing, will be back at three o'clock." 

"Preacher Smith" had many friends in that area. His friends were concerned about Smith walking alone and unarmed to Crook City. They tried to warn him, even trying to persuade him to arm himself for his own safety. The area was known to be ripe with bandits hostile to folks traveling alone. And of course, Indians were not happy with all of those flooding into the Black Hill. 

He is remembered for telling them, "The Bible is my protection. It has never failed me yet." 

His murdered body was discovered alongside the road to Crook City. While some sources say he was robbed, others say he wasn't robbed. And of course, there are those who immediately blamed his murder on Indians. Even his 1914 monument attributes his death to Indians when no one knew for certain that it was Indians. Besides, the Indians were always an easy target when looking for someone to blame for crimes being committed in the Black Hills.

As we all know, Indians were used as scapegoats for a lot of things that took place back in the day. And while there may have been those who believed that the Indians did kill him, there were more folks there who simply found that story to hard to swallow for a number of reasons. One being the way he was killed.

Smith was shot at very close range with a single bullet to the heart. It was as if whoever killed him simply walked up to him and shot him. It was too clean, and not the way Indian warriors killed back in the day. They were known to mutilate their victims as a warning. Smith's body was not mutilated at all.

There was talk at the time that his killer was some thief who didn't care if he were a preacher of not. Since there were a lot of scum in Deadwood who preyed on others, it wouldn't be that hard for folks to believe that someone killed him for whatever they could find on him -- no matter how little.  

A great deal of talk started to go around saying that Deadwood's saloon owners didn't like his preaching right outside their establishments and had him killed to get rid of him. Some say those saloon owners, and those running the gambling in town, may have hired someone to kill him so that Smith would stop hurting their business. It wouldn't have been to outlandish to think that a saloon owner, the owner of a gambling hall, or even some madam of a whorehouse, would have wanted to kill an effective preacher like Smith. A preacher who they saw as cutting into their income. 

Sheriff Seth Bullock described Preacher Smith’s death in an August 21st, 1876, letter to Reverend J. S. Chadwick:

"It becomes my painful duty to inform you that Rev. H. Weston Smith was killed by the Indians yesterday (Sunday) a short distance from this place. He had an appointment to preach here in the afternoon, and was on his way from Crook City when a band of Indians overtook him and shot him. His body was not mutilated in any way, and was found in the road a short time after the hellish deed had been done. His death was instantaneous as he was shot through the heart. His funeral occurred today from his home in this town. Everything was done by kind hands, that was possible under the circumstances, and a Christian burial given him. I was not personally acquainted with Mr. Smith, but knew him by reputation, as an earnest worker in his Master’s Vineyard. He has preached here on several occasions, and was the only minister in the Hills. He died in the harness and his memory will be always with those who knew him. A letter from you which I found in his home causes me to convey this sad intelligence to you."

Henry Weston Smith's body was returned to Deadwood to be buried there. A member of Smith’s congregation, C. E. Hawley, conducted the service in the absence of other clergy. While Smith was initially buried in Deadwood's old graveyard, like Wild Bill Hickok, he was later relocated to the Mount Mariah Cemetery.

In 1914, a group of citizens raised money for a monument to be erected in his honor. The monument was dedicated and placed on the very site where he was found murdered. Yes, right there along side that road on the way to Crook City from Deadwood.

In either 1994 or '95, a South Dakota state highway improvement project needed to have Smith's monument moved. When it was moved, the workers found a copper time capsule that had been buried under it in 1914. When opened, researchers found period artifacts along with a newspaper. After examining the items, they were taken to a museum for safekeeping. Researchers then made another time capsule with a few contemporary items from the 1990's and reburied it under the new monument. That monument is located three miles south of Deadwood on Highway 85.

The new monument was set into place to honor Smith on August 20th, 1995, which was exactly 119 years from the day he was found dead. During the dedication Smith's new monument, someone found and read the actual sermon that Smith had planned to preach in Crook City on the day that he was murdered. Some folks there said it was a sermon that was simply postponed until later.

Henry Weston Smith was a Civil War Union soldier and a miner in the Black Hill of South Dakota. But most of all, Smith was a preacher pretty much all his adult life. And though his death was attributed to Indians, who really killed him and why is truly a mystery that remains unsolved. We may never know who really killed him. What we do know is that even though he was in the Black Hills only a short while during it's toughest days, he did make his presence known. All for the good.

Tom Correa

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Benjamin Ratcliff -- Colorado Killer


Every once in a while, I'll get a note from a reader telling me how the mass shootings that we see on the news these days would have never taken place back in the Old West. Fact is, while one might think school shootings are strictly something unique to our times, though rhyme or reason can't truly be explained in any such situation, sadly they're not.

One such shooting that can't really be explained has to do with a man by the name of Benjamin Ratcliff. What took place in Park County, Colorado, on May 6th, 1895, has been called "the most brutal and unprovoked murder ever known in Park County."

As you can see by his 1895 Colorado State Penitentiary mug shot, he looked harmless enough. But don't let his grandfatherly looks deceive you, he was in reality a very dangerous man.

Benjamin Ratcliff was born on October 21st, 1841, to an Ohio family where he was the sixth of 10 children. By 1844, his parents Elias and Elizabeth Ratcliff moved their family to central Missouri. By 1851, his father died leaving he and his other siblings to work to support their family.

In 1861, just before he turned 20 years of age, he enlisted in the Missouri Home Guard at the outbreak of Civil War. He  As a private in the Infantry, he was part of the 43rd Regiment Enrolled Missouri Militia. Benjamin Ratcliff was actually part of Company "A" when his unit fought in the Battle of Shiloh in April of 1862.

The Battle of Shiloh was a Union victory. It was truly horrific when looking at what that victory cost in lives. Union General Ulysses S. Grant and General Don Carlos Buell took a combined force of approximately 62,000 Union troops into that battle. Of that, their victory cost them more than 13,000 casualties. On the other side, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston and General P. G. T. Beauregard brought 45,000 Confederates troops to the fight. Of those, more than 10,000 casualties were suffered.

What some folks might not grasp is that the entire Battle of Shiloh took place on April 6th and 7th, 1862. For the Union Army, 1,754 of their troops were killed, 8,408 were wounded, and 2,885 troops were either captured or went missing. For the Confederate Army, besides the 1,728 who were killed, they suffered 8,012 troops who were wounded, and had 959 troops who were either captured or went missing in action. That's in just 2 days of fighting, almost 24,000 men were were killed, wounded, captured or missing on both sides.

Three weeks later, Ratcliff was riding a supply horse during another engagement when it was shot out from under him. When the horse fell, the horse rolled on top of him. As a result of that happening to him, he had hip and leg injuries that were said to have plagued him for the rest of his life. Of course, one would think having a hip and leg screwed up from having a horse roll on you would mean being discharged from the Army, but that wasn't the case at all. In fact, by July of 1862, he left the 43rd Regiment Enrolled Missouri Militia and actually enlisted in the Union Army. The "Regular Army."

In 1864, Benjamin Ratcliff fought at the Second Battle of Lexington in Missouri and was taken prisoner after the Confederates defeated the Union Army there. Not wanting to die in a Confederate prisoner of war camp, he somehow escaped just two days later. While making his way back to Union lines, he hid in ruts, bogs, in muddy marshes and along a stream. He was wet and hungry and soon a fever overtook him while trying to avoid Confederate troops as he made it back to Union lines. When he did, it's said no one knew how he did it considering he was seen as partially crippled from his horse fall and since he was sick with a fever.

Ratcliff recovered and an Army Quartermaster assigned him to a "light-duty" job of federal hay inspector because he was ill. Some at the time thought that he may have contracted tuberculosis, what was called "consumption" at the time.

Some folks might not realize that tuberculosis killed about 14,000 soldiers during the Civil War. Another 30,000 soldiers wearing blue and gray died from gangrene. Typhoid is believed to have killed at least 35,000 Union troops and at least 30,000 Confederates. Pneumonia is said to have killed over 30,000 Union and Confederate troops combined. And while malaria was the most prevalent disease going around during the Civil War with millions infected, it's said only 30,000 soldiers actually died from malaria.

Of course when it comes to diseases, the biggest killer of troops on both sides during the Civil War was dysentery. Dysentery, or diarrhea, killed over 57,000 Union soldiers. Confederates records show that roughly 50,000 of their troops died from dysentery.

In 1865, it's said a Union surgeon had treated Ratcliff for his hip and leg problems. Army doctors actually sent him to the Rush Medical College in Chicago for surgeries to correct his hip and leg since neither are said to not have mended correctly. He was there for a year and half and endured multiple surgeries. Many of his surgeries were believed to be experimental at best.

Because he was suspected of having tuberculosis, and was seen as getting worse after his last surgery, doctors urged him to relocate to Colorado where the elevation and clean air were believed to have healing properties for those suffering from TB. Believe it or not, the Army is said to had found him employment with the newly created Internal Revenue Service office in Denver. Ratcliff took the job and as urged. He relocated to Colorado and actually worked for the IRS as an Assessor while in rehabilitation. He did that from 1869 to late 1871.
On June 10th, 1871, while on a trip home in Missouri, he married Elizabeth McNair. They talked about starting a ranch, and later that year, he and his new bride left for Colorado. Their getting there was not unusual for the times. They had to take a train to Denver, where they transferred to a stagecoach headed for Colorado Springs. From there they were on their own as they took buckboard to the Tarryall Creek area of Park County. That's where they established a homestead which they would work together in an attempt to establish a cattle ranch.

Ten years later in 1881, to add to his on-going health problems, he was stomped by a horse and suffered a dislocated shoulder during a cattle roundup. A few years later, by way of an 1885 Colorado State Census, we get a glimpse into what assets the Ratcliff's accrued over their first years of their homestead. They are seen as owning 4 horses, 44 beef cattle, 32 dairy cows, 68 calves, and stated that his homestead had produced almost 600 pounds of butter which was sold.

Over the years, they had three children together. But tragically in October of 1882, Elizabeth Ratcliff died during childbirth with her fourth child. The child also died.

So after 11 years of marriage, Benjamin Ratcliff was a widower responsible for bringing up their son, Howell, and their two daughters, Lizzie and Lavina. Just two years later by 1884, because raising three children on his own became to tough, he sent his daughters back to Missouri to live with his relatives. He and his 10 year old son Howell worked the ranch as well as they could. Ten years later, by 1894, both of his daughters had returned home to their homestead in Park County, Colorado.

In 1895, Benjamin Ratcliff wrote to the Superintendent of the Michigan Creek School Board. Because his daughter Lizzie had suffered a crippling injury while growing up in Missouri, the result of no medical attention after she supposedly endured a fall as a child, she was left with one of her legs being anywhere from 4 to 6 inches shorter than the other. Her father was asked for help since Lizzie wasn't able to walk the 7 miles to school in Bordenville.

The town of Bordenville is about 11 and half miles from the town of Jefferson and about 27 miles from Fairplay. It was named Bordenville in 1865 when Timothy and Olney Borden established a 2,000 acre ranch, general store, and post office there. All toll, Bordenville is said to have had a population of about 50 people if folks counted blacksmith shop, a stage stop, the school house, and a mining surveyor. It was considered a thoroughfare for folks headed somewhere else. Bordenville is now just a ghost town with a few log stuctures and the old graveyard. Of course one of the old log structures there is a small building used by as a school house and held the meeting of the school board in that area.


There is a lot of speculation as to what Radcliff wanted from the school board. But frankly, it sounds as though no one really knows what was in his letter. Some say Ratcliff's letter requested some sort of accommodations for his crippled daughter. It's speculated that he suggested a traveling teacher could assist him in educating his children by going to his homestead instead of making her walk the 7 miles from his place to the school house.

Some folks say he simply wanted textbooks and educational materials so that he could home school his daughter. Back in the day, one of the reasons for folks having a lot of children is that children were needed to do chores to help make a homestead a success. Because of that, many families home schooled their children. So no, that was't an outlandish request for the times. Bottom line, it seems Ratcliff wanted help of some sort to help educate his children.

The school board turned down all of his requests without helping him in his dilemma. He resubmitted his requests and is said to have asked for their suggestions in regards to a remedy. He was again turned down and was not given any help. Sadly, Ratcliff's frustration would come to a head in a bad way.

Things went down hill when Ratcliff got a letter from a neighbor by the name of  Susan Crockett on August 22nd, 1894. The letter claimed that Lincoln Fremont McCurdy, the 32-year-old school board president, was spreading lies about Ratcliff's 18-year-old daughter.

The horrible lie was that Ratcliff had an incestuous relationship with 18-year old daughter Lizzie, and that she was pregnant by him. He flew into a rage and wouldn't accept that anyone was going to get away with slandering his good name. To spread such a lie that he was the father of a child carried by one of his daughters was totally unacceptable and it angered him in ways that most in that area had no idea was possible.

While that was an out and out lie, and that neither of his daughters were pregnant, that didn't matter at the time. Benjamin Ratcliff knew that all he had was his good name and now that was under attack by a young man, the president of the school board. Yes, a young man by the name of McCurdy who Radcliff saw as a worthless lying individual.

Armed with two Colt 1851 .36-caliber Navy Revolvers and his 1873 Winchester rifle in his scabbard, Benjamin Ratcliff arrived at the school board meeting which was being held on May 6th, 1895. It was the same day local elections were being held.

He immediately took things up with McCurdy regarding the lies that he'd been spreading pertaining to some sort of sick relationship with his 18-year-old crippled daughter Lizzie. He demanded an immediate apology and a public retraction of the sick rumors spread by the school board president. 

Later, during his hearing, he said that he fired the first shot over their heads as a warning. No on knows what set him off after that. Some say one of the those he had confronted laughed or chuckled at his demands. It's said that Ratcliff may have thought they were adding insult to injury by laughing at him. He said later that he lost his life to the Civil War, his good name was all he had left.

Either way, something unknown to all triggered his outrage during their confrontation. He shot 32-year-old school board president Lincoln McCurdy in the chest twice. He shot 56-year-old board secretary Samuel Taylor in the face. He then shot 35-year-old board treasurer George Douglas Wyatt in the back as he tried to run away. McCurdy and Taylor were killed instantly. Wyatt died four hours later.

Benjamin Ratcliff walked over and mounted his horse. He didn't run into the hills and make some sort of stand. He didn't take on posses and killed lawmen in the process. Instead, he slowly rode his horse all the way to the town of Como where he knew he could find Deputy Sheriff James A. Link. Once there, he turned himself in, told the deputy what he had just done, and was arrested.

At his trial, his attorneys asked for a change of venue since tensions there in Fairplay were running high and many wanted to skip the trial and simply get a rope. Because of that, he was tried for the 1st degree murders of Lincoln McCurdy, Samuel Taylor, and George Wyatt, in Buena Vista in Chaffee County.

All in all, a dozen witnesses for the defense was called to testify on behalf of Benjamin Ratcliff. Among those testifying for him was his son who related the frustration and turmoil that his father was going through. Most all of the witnesses testified how all he wanted was a little help regarding schooling for his handicapped daughter. Most agreed that he was ignored, refused help, and then to add insult to injury had lies spread about him impregnating one of his own daughter. All agreed that it was too much and he snapped, that he went insane.

Then there was the question about shooting Samuel Taylor, who Ratcliff knew personally, and board treasurer George Douglas Wyatt? Witnesses tried to say that Taylor was pulled a pistol on Ratcliff when he saw him shoot Lincoln McCurdy. In fact, a couple of witnesses said that McCurdy himself drew a pistol on Ratcliff seconds before being shot.

But frankly, none of what was said mattered as a jury quickly found Benjamin Ratcliff guilty of premeditated murder. They sentenced him to hang. And he was scheduled to hang in August of 1895, but his attorney Vinton Garrett Holliday sought a re-trial on the grounds that the judge gave the jury the wrong instructions before deliberating. A few months later in January of 1896, that became a mute point as a second trial also found him guilty and ordered him to hang.

Ratcliff's attorney Holliday appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, but they upheld the sentence. Holliday also petitioned Governor Albert McIntire on the grounds that his client was insane at the time of the act. That was also rejected.

On February 7th, 1896, Benjamin Ratcliff was hanged to death at the Colorado State Penitentiary at Canon City. It's reported that he was hanged by a weight-and-pulley system that jerked him upwards to instantly break his neck. It was used so that the convicted would not strangle slowly while hanging on a rope as was the case in most hangings.

As for where Benjamin Ratcliff is buried? It was believed that Benjamin Ratcliff was buried at the Bordenville Cemetery near his wife and infant child. It's said that his body sort of just laid in his prison coffin for a few days there in Canon City before it was claimed. It's believed that his son claimed his father's body. and then returned to their homestead.

While it's really unknown who erected a two-foot granite obelisk on the former Ratcliff property, folks don't think that's where Benjamin Ratcliff is buried. Fact is while he is believed to be buried somewhere on that property, no one really knows where the actual location of Ratcliff's grave is located.

While the whole story is sad in that no one knows what prompted McCurdy to start such hateful rumors, or as a matter of fact no one knows what final triggered Ratcliff to make him kill 3 men. As for the Ratcliff children, because none were 21 years of age yet, his son being short of 21 by a few months, all were evicted when the homestead was auctioned off.

The old former Ratcliff homestead is now part of the Pike National Forest. What remains of the old Ratcliff place is just what's barely left of a two-room structure they called home. It's said to have pretty much returned to nature.

Researching this story, I found where some say Bejamin Ratcliff was an unpredictably eccentric who turned out to be a "cold-blooded" killer. They say he was just a murderer who died at the age of 54 after taking the lives of three innocent men.

I'm not trying to defend such a horrible act on the part of Benjamin Ratcliff, but what if McCurdy really did spread those horrific lies about Ratcliff impregnating his crippled daughter? Would that still make McCurdy an innocent man in this story?

What if McCurdy was in fact attacking Ratcliff's good name in a community of less than 60 people? Was that enough to be considered provocation in 1895? So was Ratcliff really "unprovoked" as some have said?

Also there's the question, did the school board really threaten Ratcliff with taking his daughters away from him. The taking of his children away from him would have been based on those false incest insinuations. Another local story that I've become aware of says most of the local school board were former Confederates or Confederate sympathizers. As with other states both before and after the Civil War, Colorado was settled by people from both sides of the war. Could that have been part of the problems that were taking place? 

Frankly, looking at all of this, there may have been much more to this story than we know. Maybe his rage was built up over time and the lies being spread about he and his daughter was just the last straw? Yes, just the straw that broke the camel's back?

And forget about some testifying that McCurdy did in fact try to pull a pistol just before Ratcliff shot him, and ask yourself if Ratcliff sounds like an emotionless killer? That's what a "cold-blooded" killer is. To me, knowing of his rage, it sounds to me that Ratcliff was anything but "cold-blooded" that day. For me, I don't know if calling him a "cold-blooded" killer is very accurate in this case.

He was "blowing fire" and "spitting mad!" That's how witnesses described Ratcliff when he showed up to confront McCurdy that day. Keep in mind, it was election day for local offices and there were people there who witnessed what took place. Does that sound like he was emotionless and cold? It sounds like his blood was boiling when he did what he did. No, not "cold blooded" at all.

And before someone writes me to say that I probably think that he shouldn't have been hanged, please understand that that's not true. He got what was coming to him for taking the law into his own hands. Besides, even if McCurdy and Taylor did pull guns on him and it was self-defense in those cases, Ratcliff did shoot board treasurer George Douglas Wyatt in the back as he tried to run away.

No matter how anyone wants to cut it, shooting a person in the back is never seen as self-defense. One will hang for that. 

Tom Correa




Wednesday, August 29, 2018

John Larn -- Texas Lawman, Vigilante, & Outlaw


John M. Larn was born in Mobile, Alabama, on March 1st, 1849. As a teenager, he drifted into Colorado, then later New Mexico, and finally Texas.

There's a story about how he found work as a ranch hand in Colorado but ended up murdering his employer during an argument over a horse. Supposedly, after the killing, he fled to New Mexico where he supposedly killed a lawman who he thought was on his trail.

The problem of course is that while stories like that make great backstory to give a tale more substance, I hate that I can't prove it's true or not. Also, the killing of a lawman in the Old West was big news. And also ask yourself this, if he did kill a lawmen and someone know enough about it to write that he did, why wasn't he ever pursued over that killing? And frankly, I can't substantiate it.  

What we do know is that when he arrived in Fort Griffin, Texas, he was listed on the 1870 census as residing in the household of Susan Newcomb. Of course there is the story that he arrrived in Fort Griffin and was employed by a local rancher. Some say he was hired on as a Trail Boss. But frankly, that seems odd that Larin would have been offered the job of Trail Boss. That job usually went to someone who had a lot of experience on trail drives, and who were very well known for their honesty. Larin had no experience at all from what I can see. So him coming on as a hand, or a flank rider maybe that was the case if he had proven that he was good with cattle and was a good rider. Coming on riding drag was certainly a possibility. But to arrive and be immediately be put on as a Trail Boss when no one knows you, I don't believe it. 

His character and honesty was not known to the folks there. He is said to have drifted into Texas, but no one knew from where? And since Fort Griffin attracted all sorts of seedy types, no one knew if he were on the run or not.

There's a story about John Larn supposedly leaving Fort Griffin for California. The tale goes that he murdered two Mexicans on the way there. He is to have killed them and dumped their bodies in the Pecos River, and that's what made him decided to stay in Texas. Of course, like the tale about his murdering his employer in Colorado, or killing a lawman, it sounds too unbelievable to be true. Besides, who knows if that's true or not since again there isn't a mention of it anywhere. And if there isn't a record or mention of it, where did that story come from in the first place? 

We know that at some point between 1870 and 1872, John Larn did go to work for rancher Joseph Beck Matthews. The Matthews were originally from Alabama, and were of the earliest settler families in Shackelford County, Texas. It's said that they were one of the first white settlers living on the Clear Fork River area. As for J.B., he devoted his life to his family and the cattle business.

Mary Jane Matthews was the third of six children born to J.B. and his wife Caroline Spears Matthews. Mary was born on June 6th, 1857. She married John Larn on November 28th, 1872. The Larin's began their married life in a rock home on the site of where Camp Cooper once stood. 

In 1874, John Larn joined the local militia known as the Tin Hat Brigade. They were also known as the Fort Griffin Vigilance Committee, the local vigilance group in Shackelford County. Just a little of a year later, the Larn family moved into a six room house on the South side of the Clear Fork River. They later established a ranch there and called it the Camp Cooper Ranch. 

As for Fort Griffin, by then it was a town theming with low life gamblers, con-artists, thieves, rustlers, outlaws on the run, the shady and the seedy, a lot of desperate characters.

Many sources say John Larn was a personable man who never cursed, gambled, drank, or smoked. Because of his good reputation within the vigilance committee, he agreed to run for the position of Shackelford County Sheriff when he was asked. He won that election becoming the second sheriff of Shackelford County in February of 1876. He was actually sworn into the position that April when the old sheriff's time was up.

When John Larn was elected sheriff in 1876, he appointed then county clerk William R. Cruger as his deputy. Cruger was almost 10 years older than Larn. When Cruger moved to Shackelford County, Texas, in 1873, he was in on organizing Shackelford County. He was the first county clerk and Albany was named by Cruger after his birthplace and former home of Albany, Georgia.

Right after being sworn in as the new sheriff, he was pressured by his friends in the vigilantes to do something to stem the tide of lawlessness especially the cattle rustling. So, armed with a warrant for his arrest for cattle rustling, Sheriff Larn and Deputy Cruge trailed outlaw Bill Hays and his gang all the way to Dodge City, Kansas.

Sheriff Larn brought Bill Hays and one of his men to stand trial. The vigilantes in Shackelford County were happy with what they saw in their new county sheriff. The vigilantes and Larn teamed up and cleaned out the rustler element from Shackelford County. Of course, a rope was the tool of vigilantes and that didn't seem to matter to Sheriff Larn.

Some sources say he had help from his father-in-law J.B. Matthews when he  established his own cattle business just after becoming sheriff. Larn didn't seem to have a problem keeping his cattle operation going while sheriff, but soon his cattle business started people talking. The talk started going around that their new sheriff and fellow vigilante may have been more than he appeared.

Some folks there speculated Larn was using his badge and his ties to the vigilantes to help him rid the county of outlaws who were in reality his competition. While he was supposedly effective in ridding the county of outlaws, many started wondering if maybe he was an outlaw. It wouldn't be the first time a lawman in the Old West hid behind and badge to do whatever he wanted. And frankly, he wouldn't be the last to kill and steal and cheat. 

Suspicion among decent hard working cowboys and ranchers started when some in the area smelled something fishy going on with Larn's Army contract. He was contracted to sell two to three steers a day to the Army during the winter of 1876 to feed the soldiers and the Tonkawa Indians at the garrison. While there was nothing strange about that, other ranchers started noticing something strange going on with Larn's herd. Though Larn had a contract to provide cattle to the Army, it appeared to many that Larn was doing so with other people cattle and not parting with any of his own cattle. The county sheriff was suspected of rustling cattle.

By the fall of 1876, Sheriff Larn had also deputized longtime friend John Selman. If the name John Selman sounds familiar to you, it should. This is the same back-shooting John Selman who on August 19th, 1895, walked into the Acme Saloon in El Paso, Texas, shortly after midnight to commit a premeditated homicide.

Selman walked up to the door of the Acme, drew his pistol, then walked up behind John Wesley Hardin who was playing dice at the bar and shot Hardin in the back of the head. While it killed Hardin instantly, John Selman fired three more rounds Hardin as he lay on the floor. Selman claimed self-defense. And believe it or not, he got off even though it was a clear cut case of murder in the first degree.

This was the man who Sheriff John Larn had deputized. Selman was also the man who Larn partnered with in his cattle rustling operation. A rustling operation that was unraveling because suspicions were being raised by other ranchers. The other ranchers took notice that while Larn was selling a lot of cattle, and their own herds were slowly shrinking due to sales, Larn's herd remained the same or was in fact growing in number. Folks wanted to know how that was the case?

When he was exposed as being the only rancher unaffected by rustlers, when he was exposed for having rustled cattle from neighboring ranchers to replace the cattle that he was selling to the Army, Sheriff John Larn was forced to resign as sheriff on March 7th, 1877.

Some say Sheriff John Larn refused to resign his position as county sheriff at first. Some say what pushed him into resigning was when his Deputy Willian Cruger shot and killed a couple of cowboys. Cruger's confrontation with those cowboys started when he was trying to restore order in a Fort Griffin saloon. The story goes that things got out of hand and soon a gunfight resulted in a number of cowboys being killed. All while Deputy Cruger and the county attorney who was also present were wounded in the exchange.

Some thought the dead cowboys were actually Larn's cohorts in his rustling operation. After all, there had to be more men involved in that since everyone knows it take more than just one or two men on horseback to rustle a large number of cattle. So it was very obvious to most at the time that more men were involved with Larn.    

After John Larn resigned, Deputy William Cruger was appointed his successor on April 20, 1877.

About now, one would think that Larn would heed the writing on the wall and lay low for a while. But no, that wasn't the case. Though he resigned as sheriff and was replaced by Deputy Cruger just a month later, he continued to rustle cattle.

Fact is, after resigning, many think he bribed someone in the county because he was soon appointed a County Hide Inspector. And believe it or not, Larn made John Selman a Deputy Hide Inspector. In those positions, the two were actually responsible for inspecting butchers, slaughter houses, and inspecting all of the cattle herds entering and leaving that county. So they would have complete access to cattle.

Also, even though he was exposed as being suspected of rustling which was enough to get other hanged in other places, Larn was still under contract to supply beef to Fort Griffin. Of course, during that time, cattle still went missing from neighboring ranches. So all in all, his being out of office as sheriff didn't change a thing.

We should note that while this was going on, the men who were in cahoots with him started to reveal themselves as his gang openly terrorized anyone who he suspected of wanting to testify against him. His band increased their harassment of ranchers who thought about standing up to John Larn. They were shot at, bushwhacked, had their herds driven off, and they even had their horses shot and killed for no reason other then to intimidate and terrify.

In February of 1878, a few brave citizens petitioned for a warrant to search the Clear Fork River which ran behind Larn's ranch house. Looking for hides that didn’t belong to him, Texas Rangers arrived and are said to have fished out over 200 hides with different brands from the Clear Fork. Since the brands were other than Larn’s own, he was arrested. But because he pleaded that the evidence against him had been planted there, he was later released. 

Right after his release, Larn's men increased their attacks and intimidation. This time targeting those citizens behind that search warrant.  

His brazen attacks came to an abrupt halt in June of 1878, when a local rancher who was known to have uncovered Larn's cattle rustling operation was shot and wounded by Larn himself. If he had killed him, things would have been different for John Larn. But instead, the man lived and soon identified the former sheriff as his would be assassin. 

With that, Shackelford County issued an arrest warrant for John M. Larn. It was the job of Sheriff Cruger to do so and he did in fact arrest Larn on June 22nd, 1878, at the Larn ranch while his former boss was milking a cow. Cruger took him in without incident. At the county jail in Albany, he was placed in a cell without a whole lot of fanfare.   

The next day, while still dark out in the early morning hours of June 23th, 1878, twelve hooded men rushed the Shackelford County jail and tried to take Larn out to be hanged. The men held the jailer at gunpoint while they attempted to pull Larn's out of his cell. Very quickly they realized that they couldn't. 

The hooded men didn't know that after placing former sheriff Larn in his jail cell on the previous day, Sheriff Cruger had a local blacksmith come in and shackle the former sheriff to the floor of his cell. Cruger did so because he figured his prisoner being shackled would prevent his cohorts from breaking him out of jail.

I've sort of wondered if Sheriff Cruger thought about what happened next. That is, what would happen if it weren't Larn's friends to come and get him?  

That morning when those men broke into the jail and found they couldn't remove former sheriff John Larn from his cell because of his being shackle, some say in frustration they just opened fire and shot John Larn full of holes right there while he was still in his cell. One report later said that Larn pleaded with them before being killed, telling them that he was one of them and they should let him go.   

John Larn's body was returned to his Camp Cooper Ranch where he was buried beside his infant son, Joseph B. Larn. The outlaw sheriff was survived by his wife and 5 year old son, William A. Larn. His wife Mary would go on to remarry. It said her next husband was a preacher.  

As for those wearing hoods who shot him in his cell. Well, some say it was the Tin Hat Brigade, the Fort Griffin Vigilance Committee, that stormed the jail intending to hang him. Some say when they found they couldn’t lynch him, that they shot him in his cell to make sure that he wouldn't get off. Some say they shot him dead so that he wouldn't implicate any of them in any of the crimes that they had committed. Some say they killed him because they felt duped and used by him. For whatever reason, former sheriff, fellow vigilante, cattle rustler, outlaw John Larn had more than 9 bullet holes in him when they found him dead.

It's said that their killing of John Larn, who was in fact a fellow vigilante, someone who they knew and trusted, was the last vigilante act of the Fort Griffin Vigilance Committee. Many believe it was their last act because they felt they couldn't trust those within their own ranks. Others say Sheriff Cruger did such a good job that the vigilantes saw themselves as no longer needed.

As for Sheriff Cruger, some say he was offered a lot of money to look the other way and let Larn go. Some say he didn't bend to temptation and was truly a man of honor and integrity. He was seen as a man who may have had a chance to join Larn and make a lot of money, but didn't. Instead he chose to do his duty and was reelected. He served until he resigned on July 20th, 1880.

A year later, William R. Cruger was hired on as Town Marshal in Princeton, Kentucky. He served the town greatly by most accounts. Then on May 29th, 1882, while Marshal Cruger was escorting a man charged with being drunk and disorderly, he was shot dead. He and the drunk were attempting to walk up a set of stairs from the street that led to Marshal Cruger's office. That's when the prisoner produced a gun, spun around, and shot Marshal Cruger the head. He died instantly. He was murdered by a prisoner that he didn't search. 

William Cruger was buried in the place of his birth, Albany, Georgia. He was survived by his mother and a sibling, wife Mary R. Boynton and their one child. It was a sad end of a very good man.

Tom Correa

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Death of Floyd Allen -- Part Two


In Part One, I talked about Allen Family patriarch Floyd Allen. I talked about who he was and how he went on trial charged with helping prisoners escape while being transported and for assault and battery of one of the deputies who was transporting those prisoners.

We talked about how he and his family were both wealthy and politically connected, as well as the fact of how before attending court to hear his verdict that he was running around free. No, not in custody.
On March 14th, 1912, at 8:30 a.m., the jury returned to the Carroll County courtroom in Hillsville, Virginia. The jury had been sequestered in a hotel room for their safety. It's said the jury looked nervous when they entered the court.

The day was said to a cold wet foggy March day. But despite the lousy weather, more than a hundred people crowded into the courtroom to hear the verdict. This was a huge event for the county as the patriarch of the wealthiest family in those parts was on trial. Many there wanted to see if Floyd Allen would get a slap on the wrist or actually jail time for beating up a County deputy and assisting prisoners to escape.

In the court was 20 or more members of the Allen family. There as spectators was Floyd's sons Victor and Claude. The two stood on benches in the back of the courtroom with their uncle Sidna Allen. Jasper Allen’s son Friel was there. He sat in the back of the room. Some say he joined his cousins Victor and Claude as well as Sidna and Wesley Edwards who also stood on benches. And yes indeed, all of the Allens were armed.

The room was quiet, some say eerily still, when jury foreman Augustus C. Fowler stood to announce the jury's verdict. He looked at the judge and gave the verdict of guilty as charged with a recommended sentence of a year in the penitentiary and a $1,000 fine.

One of Floyd's attorneys is said to have made a motion to set aside the verdict, but it and a request for bail were immediately denied. While the legal formalities were going on, upon hearing the verdict, Floyd Allen stood us and pointed at Judge Massie, then said, "If you sentence me on that verdict, I will kill you." 

Judge Massie then instructed Sheriff Webb and Deputy Elihue Clark Gillespie to take charge of the prisoner. As both officers began to move toward Floyd, Judge Massie proceeded to sentence Floyd to one year in prison. 

Floyd Allen's defense attorney David Winton Bolen later stated, "Floyd hesitated a moment, and then he arose. He looked to me like a man who was about to say something, and had hardly made up his mind what he was going to say, but as he got straight, he moved off to my left, I would say five or six feet, and he seemed to gain his speech, and he said something like this, 'I just tell you, I ain't a'going!'"

Most agree that Floyd's son Claud fired the first shot at Judge Massie. Then followed all sorts of shooting in the courtroom. Yes, the courtroom erupted in gunfire as most of the Allens were armed with pistols and even a shotgun or two brought in under their coats.

Floyd Allen draw a revolver and shot the Judge. While some say he shot the prosecuting attorney Foster first, and then the judge. Others say he shot the judge first, then Foster, before shooting at jury foreman Fowler. But frankly, no one really knows for sure. All folks really know is that almost immediately Judge Thornton Massie and Virginia Commonwealth's Attorney William Foster were both shot dead. Jury foreman Augustus C. Fowler and Carroll County Sheriff Lewis F. Webb were also shot dead.

Deputy county clerk Dexter Goad drew his pistol and fired and hit Floyd Allen which caused him to fall to the floor. Right after Goad fired, a bullet slammed into Goad's face. Miraculously, it didn't kill him.

Nineteen-year-old witness Nancy Elizabeth Ayers who had been subpoenaed and testified against Floyd Allen was not so lucky. She was shot in the back while trying to run away in the chaos. As she was trying to get away from the insanity in the courtroom, she was actually hit while running out of the courtroom. Sadly, she died at home the next day.

In that minute and a half or more, in those long 90 plus seconds, a number of people were either dead or wounded. In fact, besides those killed on the spot, there were seven others who were shot and wounded.

After that the Allens, Floyd was wounded in the hip, thigh, and knee, and his brother Sidna took a round in the shoulder. Their wounds didn't stop them from  shooting their way out of the courthouse. Yes, shooting anyone they could as they made their way out of the building.

Floyd and sons Victor and Claude made their way to the Elliott Hotel, and spend the night there because Floyd was in too bad a shape to make his out of town. So instead, he and his sons spent the night in the hotel.

When folks there were hauling Judge Massie's corpse out of the building, they found the letters that Foster received and another similar to it in the judge's coat pocket  Frankly, the whole thing could have been prevented is Massie hadn't denied prosecutor Foster's request that spectators be checked for guns on the way into court.

It was an extremely foolish move on the part of Judge Thornton Lemmon Massie. It was a foolish move that needlessly jeopardized the lives of all there. Lives that would have been otherwise saved if security measures had been taken.

At this point, it should be noted that the gunbattle in the Carroll County Courthouse made big news across the nation. While some newspapers tried to depict the Allen family as a bunch of ignorant hillbillies, most did not the truth. The shootout that took place after the conviction of Floyd Allen, wealthy landowner and patriarch of the politically powerful Allen family, made national headlines. In fact, it's said that it only fell off the front page a month later with the sinking of the Titanic on April 15th, 1912.

So now, with the Carroll County Virginia courthouse in the county seat of Hillsville shot up all to Hell, a number of people dead and many others wounded, one would think the law would immediately jump into action. Well, at least in most places that's what would take place. Of course, most places aren't the state of Virginia. Or to be more precise, the Commonwealth of Virginia.

As shocking as it is, Virginia law in 1912 stated that all county deputies lost all law enforcement authority when a county sheriff died in office. No kidding, that's the way it was at the time.

Since Sheriff Webb was shot dead in the courtroom, his murder left Carroll County without any legal law enforcement. It's true. While citizens were organizing posses to pursue the killers, there was no organized county law enforcement there at the time.

Knowing the insanity of the situation that was taking place, Carroll County's assistant county clerk S. Floyd Landreth didn't hesitate a second and instantly sent off an urgent telegram to Virginia Governor William Hodges Mann.

Landreth's telegram read:

"Send troops to the County of Carroll at once. Mob violence, the court. Commonwealth's Attorney, Sheriff, some jurors and others shot on the conviction of Floyd Allen for a felony. Sheriff and Commonwealth's Attorney dead, court serious. Look after this now!"

Besides the lack of law enforcement, there was a reason for his insistence for help. No one had ever seen such a Hellish scene. Attorney W.A. Daugherty of Pikeville was one of the people there who witnessed the melee. He later stated that several men standing on benches at the back of the courtroom started firing "like Custer's cavalrymen at the Little Big Horn".

All in all, it's believed that more than 20 Allen family members shot up the courtroom that day. And as stated earlier, it all took place over the span of a minute and a half. Yes, just over 90 seconds. Three times as long as the shootout near the OK Corral and many other shootouts in the West.

Those murdered including Judge Thornton Lemmon Massie, Virginia Commonwealth Attorney William McDonald Foster, Carroll County Sheriff Lewis Franklin Webb, Jury Foreman Augustus Cezar Fowler, and 19-year-old witness Nancy Elizabeth Ayres. The wounded included County Clerk of the Court Dexter Goad, Carroll County Deputy Elihue Clark Gillespie, juror Christopher Columbus Cain, and court spectators Andrew T. Howlett and Stuart Worrell. Brothers Floyd Allen and Sidna Allen were also wounded during the long gunfight.

Virginia law required the county sheriff be in charge of the criminal investigation and pursue those suspected of committing the killings. With Sheriff Webb dead, and no provision for succession in the law, after his death his deputies lost all their legal powers until the next election.

So faced with that dilemma, to his credit, Virginia Governor William Hodges Mann sent a telegram to the Baldwin–Felts Detective Agency with instructions to apprehend the fugitives. He instructed the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, known as being on the same level as the Pinkertons at the time, with the mission of finding and apprehending those responsible for the shootings.

Right after that Governor Mann posted a number of rewards for the arrest of a number of Allen family members. A $1000 reward was set for Sidna Allen, as was a $1000 reward for Sidna Edwards. An $800 reward was set for Claude Allen, and a $500 reward was set for Friel Allen. A $500 reward was also posted for Wesley Edwards. All rewards payable, dead or alive.

Baldwin-Felts detectives were there within days. Immediately they took up the hunt for Floyd Allen and those in his family known to have participated in the courthouse shooting. Several posses made up of Baldwin-Felts detectives as well as armed citizens and local lawmen searched the countryside.

Friel Allen almost immediately gave himself up to detectives. His father Jasper Allen talked him into giving himself up because he was worried that his son would be killed either trying to flee or while being arrested. Floyd's son Claude Allen and nephew Sidna Edwards were arrested right after Friel turned himself in. Sidna Allen and nephew Wesley Edwards fled Virginia and went to Iowa.

It took several months, but the Baldwin-Felts detectives found Sidna Allen and Wesley Edwards in Des Moines after being tipped off as to their whereabouts. Both were returned to Carroll County, Virginia, to stand trial.

As for the search for Floyd? Believe it or not, even the U.S. Revenue Service  got into the act by sending Enforcement Agent Faddis to look the bootlegging by the Allen clan. This let a posse made up of Agent Faddis and four deputized citizens to raid Floyd's property. During that raid, the Feds seized a couple of illegal stills and more than 50 gallons of moonshine. After the raid on Floyd's place, they turned their attention on the home of Sidna Edwards. Two illegal stills were confiscated when found there.

Floyd was found and arrested at the Elliott Hotel by a posse made up of Baldwin-Felts detectives, citizens, and county deputies. Believe it or not, for all of his blustering and big talk, it's said Floyd tried to slash his own throat with a pocketknife during his arrest. He was stopped and hauled off to jail.

On Trial for the Courthouse Shooting 

Floyd Allen was the first to be brought to trial on a charge of murdering Judge Massie, Sheriff Webb, and Commonwealth's Attorney Foster. Judge W.R. Staples presided over all of the trials in connection to the courthouse shooting. All of the trials were prosecuted by Virginia's Assistant Attorney General Samuel W. Williams.

During the trials, the prosecutor brought forth a number of witnesses. From those who had information of Allen's plot to kill Judge Massie, prosecutor Foster, amd Sheriff Webb, to a traveling salesman from Roanoke who testified that he sold Sidna Allen a lot of ammunition before the courtroom shootout, and others.

Another prosecution witnesses was Floyd Allen's other attorney, Walter S. Tipton who testified that he saw Floyd's son Claude raise a pistol and using both hands fire it at the judge. Tipton also testified that he saw Floyd raise a pistol and that he held it in both hands as he fired it.

Deputy Sheriff George W. Edwards became the Carroll County Sheriff soon after lSheriff Webb's murder. He testified against Floyd also said that he had spoken with Floyd and heard him make threats against prosecutor Foster. Another witness corroborated the testimony of Sheriff Edwards.

A number of witness testified that Claude Allen fired the first shots. Walter Petty testified that he witnessed a pistol duel take place between Sidna Allen and Deputy County Clerk Dexter Goad. Goad acknowledged that and that he shot Floyd in the pelvis. Goad said that he thought Floyd undoing his sweater buttons was when he thought that Floyd was going for a gun. Though struck by four rounds including one to the face, Goad did in fact recover from those wounds.

S. E. Gardner, who was the Hillsville undertaker who prepared Sheriff Webb for burial, testified that Sheriff Webb was struck five times. County Treasurer J. B. Marshall testified that he had been standing near Sheriff Webb when the shooting brook out, but that he didn't see a gun in the Sheriff's hand when he lay dead.

On May 18th, 1912, a jury found Floyd Allen guilty of first-degree murder of Virginia Commonwealth Attorney William McDonald Foster. It's said Floyd Allen wept aloud when he heard the verdict. Then in July of that same year, Claude Allen was found guilty of first-degree murder for the premeditated killing of Foster and guilty of second-degree murder for the killing of Judge Massie.

Floyd and Claude Allen were sentenced to death by in the electric chair.

Floyd Allen's refusal to serve a year in prison led to the murder of five people and the wounding of seven others. To stay out of the electric chair, Floyd used his political contacts to persuade Lieutenant Governor James Taylor Ellyson to commute the Allens' sentences while Governor Mann was out of the state.

Governor Mann had received a number of death threats by the same people who wrote threats to Massie and Foster before the shooting. When Governor Mann found out what his Lieutenant Governor was about to do in so far as commuting the Allens sentences, the Governor is said to have cut short his time in Pennsylvania to get back to stop that from happening.

According to sources, the Lieutenant Governor's actions is said to have instigated a power struggle between the two men. Governor Mann refused the Allens request to commute their death sentences to life in imprison. And while he is said to have asked to be hanged instead of being put to death in the electric chair, Floyd Allen was electrocuted on March 28, 1913. Just a few minutes later, his son Claude followed him as he too was put to death in the electric chair.

Their bodies were taken to Biyle’s Funeral Parlor where thousands of gawkers gathered. It's said Richmond newspapers reported how schoolchildren, mothers carrying babies, and all sorts of young men and women took a look at the bodies of Floyd and Claude Allen. Floyd's son Victor was not permitted to take custody of their bodies late that night just before they were shipped by rail to Mount Airy for burial.

As for Sidna Allen, he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter of prosecuting attorney Foster and to second-degree murder of Judge Massie. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the two. He also pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of Sheriff Webb. For that, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Wesley Edwards was given 9 years for each murder count in connection to the deaths of Judge Massie, prosecuting attorney Foster, and Sheriff Webb. So all toll, he got 27 years in prison.

Sidna Edwards pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of Sheriff Webb and received 15 years. Friel Allen confessed to shooting prosecutor Foster and received 18 years in prison. When Victor Allen and Barnett Allen finally went to trial, they were both acquitted.

When Democrat Governor Elbert Lee Trinkle took office in 1922, he immediately pardoned Friel Allen and Sidna Edwards. When Democrat Governor Harry Flood Byrd took office in 1926, he immediately pardoned Sidna Allen and Wesley Edwards.

As for the Allen wealth?

After their convictions, the Carroll County prosecutor placed liens on all property owned by Floyd and Sidna Allen. The moneys from the liens went to the heirs of the victims. Besides the liens, there were wrongful death lawsuits by the victims' families. Soon, the Allen properties were confiscated and sold at auction.

As for Jasper Allen, he lost his position as Constable after the courthouse shooting, Then, on March 17, 1916, he was killed when he was shot to death near Mt. Airy, North Carolina. He stopped at a roadhouse for the night but got into an argument with a moonshiner over what took place at the Carroll County courthouse. At one point, the moonshiner pulled a gun and shot Jasper Allen twice. Yes, killing him instantly.

From what I gather, the tragedy many call the Hillsville Courthouse Massacre has taken on a life of its own in that there are those who still believe that the Allens were being railroaded. Yes, just as there are many who believe that they were killers who got what they deserved in the end.

For me, I believe in Luke 6:8 which says "whatever measure you give out is the same measure that will be giving to you." Floyd Allen found that out the hard way. 

That's just the way I see it. 

Tom Correa