Baldknobbers, post war vigilanties


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#4
Yes, these guys exsisted. Not being an Ozarkian, I don't know much about them. Top photo looks like a bunch of pseudo-re-enactors to me. Second photo looks genuine. Bald Knobber stories are still told through Ozark songs, places like Silver Dollar City, etc. etc. I have a book in my library which discusses them at some length. I will have to dig it out and do some re-reading.
 

4th-MSM

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#6
A while back I considered creating a thread about the Bald Knobbers and their connection to Civil War, but wasn't sure if there would be enough interest. I started to collect digital newspaper clippings about the activities of the Bald Knobbers (had around 150 and still counting, but they're all still on my old computer). Maybe I'll go back to refresh my memory and write a "report" on the subject. Someone I know is actually related to a couple of the Bald Knobbers as well.

The Taney County Bald Knobbers were actually the better of the two primary groups. They initially had very good intentions by trying to return law and order, which was lacking in the area since the Civil War. As their members increased however, many brought with them their personal grudges against others in the area. It eventually came to the point where some of the founding members even refused to associate with the group they helped to form.

The other primary group was the Christian County Bald Knobbers. This group became much more infamous as they acted on personal motives more than the Taney County group did, who they had been modeled after (and as a result of using the same name, they had also gained the reputation).

If you lived in the Ozarks during the 1880s, one thing you did not want to find on your front porch was a bundle of sticks. It was a sure sign that the Bald Knobbers had paid you a visit the night before, and had given you a warning. Each stick represented a day, and the total number of sticks represented the amount of days you had to either turn from the errors of your ways, or have your house burned down and/or be driven out of the county.


View attachment 34017 a close up on one of them, very creepy.
I believe that photo represents one of the Christian County Bald Knobbers. Their masks were much more intricate in their design than those of the Taney County Bald Knobbers.

I'm not sure where the photo was taken, but I believe this was one of the original Bald Knobber masks (this one was from the Christian County group).

bald knobber mask.jpg


If anyone is interested in reading more, I highly suggest the book "Bald Knobbers: Vigilantes on the Ozarks Frontier" by Elmo Ingenthron and Mary Hartman.

There is also a low-budget movie being produced about the Bald Knobbers. Many in this area including myself are looking forward to its release: http://baldknobberthemovie.com/
 
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#8
The Shepherd of the Hills, 1919, adapted from the 1907 book of the same name by Harold Bell Wright. Also made in 1941 with John Wayne. Wright wrote (pun intended) The Winning of Barbara Worth (1911) which was Gary Cooper's first movie in 1926.
 
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#9
If you lived in the Ozarks during the 1880s, one thing you did not want to find on your front porch was a bundle of sticks. It was a sure sign that the Bald Knobbers had paid you a visit the night before, and had given you a warning. Each stick represented a day, and the total number of sticks represented the amount of days you had to either turn from the errors of your ways, or have your house burned down and/or be driven out of the county
...brought to you courtesy of the Committee for Public Safety...
 

4th-MSM

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#10
Here's another good article on the Bald Knobbers:

http://thelibrary.org/lochist/periodicals/bittersweet/su79e.htm

Nathaniel Kinney - Leader of the Taney County Bald Knobbers and his Civil War pension file:

6i4p25.jpg
Kinney, Nathaniel N.jpg

Christian County Bald Knobbers:

Original Baldknobbers.jpg


A scene from the play "Shepherd of the Hills" near Branson, Mo.

6i4p26.jpg


Personal photos taken during the filming of the 1919 silent film "Shepherd of the Hills" mentioned in earlier posts:

shep1919rp1.jpg


shep1919rp08.jpg


More behind the scenes photos from the movie can be seen here:

http://gchudleigh.com/shepmv1919b.htm
 
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#11
VERY interesting! I am responding upon first read. I will look at the photos very carefully and read through the captions. I will probably respond in more detail later. As an advertising guy who has produced many a television commercial, I can relate to film making. From a preliminary viewing of these stills, I would hazard a guess that these were, indeed, shot in the Ozarks. They don't look like any part of California I have ever seen. Thank you for adding these to the thread!
Patrick
 

4th-MSM

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#12
...brought to you courtesy of the Committee for Public Safety...
Those that I mentioned were two of the more extreme punishments, it was much more common for the Bald Knobbers to deliver other forms of punishments (such as whipping) to those they thought it was necessary (both with and without warnings). However many people were indirectly forced to leave the counties to avoid being "disciplined" by the Bald Knobbers.

VERY interesting! I am responding upon first read. I will look at the photos very carefully and read through the captions. I will probably respond in more detail later. As an advertising guy who has produced many a television commercial, I can relate to film making. From a preliminary viewing of these stills, I would hazard a guess that these were, indeed, shot in the Ozarks. They don't look like any part of California I have ever seen. Thank you for adding these to the thread!
Patrick

You're welcome! Yes, the landscape definitely looks like the Ozarks. In fact, I even wonder if the bluff seen in the second movie photo is the cave known as "Bald Knobber Cave".

--------

After looking it up on IMBD, it confirmed that the film was mostly shot in the Ozarks, including the "Bald Knobbers Cave". Here's the entry on IMBD:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0010690/

Filming locations:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0010690/locations?ref_=tt_dt_dt
 
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#13
This next comment is just to inject a bit of humor--a comment on the film's art director or costume designer. At first glance, those guys seem to be wearing high school letter jackets....don't you think? Like I said, it's not a comment on the baldknobbers. Just a comment on very early motion picture costuming.
 

4th-MSM

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#14
This next comment is just to inject a bit of humor--a comment on the film's art director or costume designer. At first glance, those guys seem to be wearing high school letter jackets....don't you think? Like I said, it's not a comment on the baldknobbers. Just a comment on very early motion picture costuming.
Lol, they do. Maybe it was a combination of both filming and a high school reunion. :D
 
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#15
Here is another good article I found on the Bald Knobbers:

http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/h/a/m/Brent-Alan-Hammond/FILE/0001page.html

The marker at the Ozark, Mo public square, where three of the Christian County Bald Knobbers were hung:

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM4TWT_Site_of_Bald_Knobbers_Hanging_Ozark_MO

I've been looking back through some of the newspaper articles I have, and picked out a few of the more interesting ones. The vast majority of newspaper accounts focus on the Christian County Bald Knobbers since their actions were the most notorious. I know I have one that included sketches of the three Bald Knobbers that were later hung, but I can't seem to find the original article at the moment. Here is the transcribed version:

St. Louis Dispatch

dwalker.jpg
bwalker.jpg
john.jpg


Description: Sketches of the Men. Statements Made by the Bald Knob Murderers Concerning Their Crime.

Date: May 10 1889

Newspaper published in: St. Louis, Mo.

The men, Dave and William WALKER and John MATTHEWS were condemned to death for the murder of Charles GREEN and William EDENS, near Chadwick, in Christian County, Mo., on the night of March 10, 1887. The murderers were Bald Knobbers, and their grievance was that the EDENS family, with which GREEN was connected, had "talked agin us." The men were accompanied by Wiley MATTHEWS, who was also condemned to death, but escaped from jail and is now supposed to be in the Indiana Territory, Wm. STANLEY, who has been sent to the penitentiary for twenty one years, a Baptist preacher, C. O. SIMMONS, who has been sent to the penitentiary for twelve years, and others who turned state's evidence to save themselves.

"Bull Creek Dave" WALKER, according to his own story, was born in Christian County, Kentucky, in June 1843. His parents moved to Christian County, Missouri, when he was 4 years old and settled near Sparta. The section they settled on was at that time a part of Greene County. They had a hard life up to the war. Dave enlisted in Company M, Sixth Missouri Volunteers in 1862, but after a few month's service was discharged, as he was under age. He went back home, but had a stronger inclination for war than ever and enlisted in Company H of the Sixteenth Missouri. His age was not found out and he went through the war. After the war he returned to Bull Creek and entered forty acres of Government land. This was his homestead. He joined the Bald Knobbers three years ago, when the first company was formed in Christian County (the Bull Creek Co.), and was made the Chief. He claimed that beside the pouring out of liquor at the Chadwick saloon and the shipping of John EVANS for "cutting up in church" his company had not done any regulating. It was the whipping of EVANS which excited the hostility of the EDENS.

Wm. WALKER is the oldest son of the Bald Knob chief. He was born March 5, 1870. He lived on the farm with his father all his life and joined the Balk Knobbers at the same time. He was wounded in the right groin at the GREEN-EDENS killing and that night was taken to his uncle's house in Douglas County. He was captured later by Sheriff JOHNSON with the assistance of J. D. NEWTON, a brother of WALKER's sweetheart.

John MATTHEWS was born on Bull Creek, in Christian County, Mo., five miles from Chadwick, April 29, 1848. He was in the Union army during the war - enlisted in the Forty-sixth Missouri. He took part in several engagements incident to Gen. Price's raid. He had nine children, and most of them are small. He was a member of the Baptist Church, and had been a Bald Knobber but two months when the shooting occurred. His son Jimmie, 14 years old, was at the EDENS house the night of the killing, and was indicted with his father, but was released by the court after furnishing a bond of $1,000 on account of his youth. John MATTHEWS escaped from jail after his conviction with his nephew, Wiley MATTHEWS, but was captured and returned to jail.

A Confession:

John MATTHEWS made the following confession on March 17, 1889:

"Ozark Jail

To the Honorable Circuit Court of Christian County:

I want to make a statement of my case. I will tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I will tell what I have done and what I saw done. I was in the house. I did not go in the house to do anything, and did not think of any such thing when I went in. I went in to try and stop the shooting. I hollered out, 'stop that shooting! In the name of God what do you mean?' Some man threw down on me with a pistol. I said, 'Don't shoot me, I'm trying to stop this.' I saw he was going to shoot and I turned my head to keep him from shooting me in the face. He shot me across the back of the head and knocked me down. I got up. He threw down on me again. To save myself I struck him with my gun. I turned round and saw Will WALKER shoot a man. I said 'stop that. In the name of God what do you mean?' I then ran out the gate. I was very sick. I heard some one say, 'Don't shoot that woman.' I looked around and saw some one shoot back in at the door. I said, 'Don't let him shoot any more.' Dave WALKER took hold of him and said, 'That will do.' He came out of the gate holding Will up. I said, 'What is the matter?' Will said 'I'm shot, but while they were getting me I got three of them.' I got on my mare and went down to the road and came to some man. Heard Charley GRAVES say, 'If all the slickers were served that way I could rest easy.' Wiley MATTHEWS told me on Sunday after the killing that he shot one of the men to save me. Charley SIMMONS got his blood from the wound on my head. He had nothing to shoot with. Dave WALKER wanted me to take Bill away that night after the shooting. I told him I had done nothing to run away for and I was going home."

The Chief's Statement.

Dave WALKER made a statement of the killing as follows" "When the shooting began I was about 150 yards from EDENS' house. When the men started toward the
house I was in the rear of the company riding John MATTHEWS' horse. Joe INMAN or someone told me to stop the boys or they would get into trouble. I called out to the men ahead, 'Hold up!' They did not stop, and I galloped after them to prevent trouble. Immediately after this the firing began at the house and I shouted 'stop that shooting. What does that shooting mean?' I galloped toward the house to stop the shooting, when I got near the yard gate the men came out of the house and I heard that my boy was shot. I did not go into the house but would have done so if the firing had not stopped. I did not see Charles GREEN or William EDENS that night and did not know they were killed until after leaving the house. I said nothing about going back to the house to kill the women and children, and no such thing was talked of that night."

William WALKER and Wiley MATTHEWS never made statements.



Note: A couple of these articles could be considered slightly graphic in nature:

(click images to zoom)

The Atlanta Constitution, November 13th 1886 describing the saloon raid in Chadwick, Mo.

Atlanta Constitution Nov 13 1886.jpg

The Atlanta Constitution, March 14th 1887 describing the Christian Co. Bald Knobber raid on the Eden Cabin:

Atlanta Constitution march 14 1887.jpg

The Chicago Tribune, March 27th 1887, personal account describing the Bald Knobbers of Christian County:

Chicago Tribune March 27 1887.jpg

The Atlanta Constitution, March 30th, 1887. Overview of the Bald Knobber organization (primarily the Christian Co. group):

Atlanta Constitution March 30 1887 cutout.jpg

The Atlanta Constitution, April 21st, 1887. Trial of the Christian County Bald Knobbers in Ozark, Mo.

Atlanta Constitution april 21 1887.jpg

The Chicago Tribune, October 1st, 1887. Subject: Christian County Bald Knobbers trial and history:

Chicago Tribune October 1 1887.jpg

San Francisco Chronicle, December 30th, 1888. Describing the escape from the jail in Ozark, Mo, where several Bald Knobbers were held during the trials. The photo shows the jail in the 1920s, before it was torn down.

Ozark Bald Knobber Jail.jpg


San Francisco Chronicle Dec 30 1888.jpg

The Los Angeles Herald, May 11th, 1889. Describing the bungled hanging of the three Christian County Bald Knobbers, "Bull Creek" Dave Walker, William Walker, and John Matthews (seen above).

Los Angeles Herald, Volume 32, Number 31, 11 May 1889.jpg

Edit: The last article didn't seem to upload properly. Here is the transcribed text and original newspaper link.

BALD-KNOBBERS SWUNG

Three Famous Regulators Hung Together.

A VERY BUNGLED BUSINESS.

A Missouri Sheriff That Did Not Know His Duties—A Most Shocking Scene.

; Associated Press Dispatches to the Herald, i Ozark, Mo., May 10 —Three Bald Knobbers—Dave Walker, Chief of the Bald-Knobbers, his son, Wm. Walker, and John Matthews—were hanged here at 10 o'clock to-day, for the murder of Charles Green and Wm. Edens on March 11, 1887. The ropes broke, and the three men fell to the ground, struggling. It was a horrible butchery. The condemned were carried to the scaffold Again at 10:10 and again dropped, but it was again bungled, and the men hung by the neck, writhing and struggling, and were finally strangled to death. Dave Walker died in fifteen minutes, Matthews in thirteen minutes, and Bill Walker in fourteen minutes.

William Walker was baptized last evening by immersion, in a bath basin which had been carried into the jail. The scene was very affecting. John Matthews made a long prayer, which could be distinctly heard in the street fronting the jail. The two Walkers retired about 11 o'clock, went to sleep, and did not wake until after 4 this morning. They were up early and ate breakfast at the usual hour. The jail yard was full of jail guards, armed with Winchesters, shotguns and revolvers. Divine services were opened in the jail, and at 7:30 o'clock Matthews and William Walker were taking part. At 8:53 the Sheriff entered the jail and read the death warrant to the condemned men, and soon after they were dressed for execution. For the past two weeks powerful pleas have been made to the Governor for the commutation of the sentences of the three men, and Wednesday last, after reviewing the case at length, the Governor decided not to interfere, and the condemned men were notified that they must die. Just before leaving his cell, John 'Matthews proclaimed his innocence in a loud voice. The Sheriff helped Matthews up the steps. Young Walker followed with a firm step, the father following close behind, firm as ever. At at the trap, religious services were held, and the noose was adjusted at 0 :40. John Matthews said he had nothing to say; he was there, but took no part in the crime. Matthews called on all who were willing to help his little ones to hold up their hands. Nearly everyone in sight held up their hands. The Mack caps were adjusted at 9:51. At 9:53 the drop fell. John Matthews fell praying. The stretch of the rope let all fall to the ground. The rope broke and William Walker fell loose, and lay there struggling and groaning. He talked for three minutes, when he was taken up by the Sheriff and Deputies to the scaffold. Dave Walker was drawn up and died in about fifteen minutes. Matthews lived about thirteen minutes, and died with his feet on the ground. The scene was horrible in the extreme. Matthews and Dave Walker were cut down at 10:10. The trap was again adjusted and William Walker was lifted up, helpless and groaning, struggling and almost insensible, and the cap was again adjusted and the trap again sprung. This time the descent came to a sudden atop with the feet fully thirty inches from the ground, and he died without a struggle. The arrest, trial and conviction of the Bald-Knobbers' leader attracted widespread attention, and for the first time the history of the Bald-Knobber organization was made public. Taney county, Missouri, was the birthplace of this order of masked regulators. It is in the wildest section of the State, and the early days of lawlessness caused the formation of leagues for the protection of life and property. At a point eight miles east of Ozark, and near the Edens' dwelling,one John Evans was whipped by the Bald Knobbers for misbehaving in church. 'Old man Edens, who was a friend of Evans, interfered, and received several blows with a whip. Edens afterward fearlessly denounced the Bald-Knobbers, and on the night of March 11th a band of twenty-six of them proceeded to the .Edens residence to punish the inmates. They first went to the house of William Edens, but finding no one there, proceeded to the house of James Edens, William's father. There were in the house at the time the father, mother, son, daughter-in-law, daughter and son-in-law and two grandchildren. The Knobbers fired promiscuously into the house, killing young William Edens and Charles Green, his brother-in-law, and leaving old man Edens on the floor for dead. The peculiar feature of Bald-Knoberism, now dead, is that a majority of the most prominent members of that band of regulars, were devout church members.

Chief Walker was an exhorter and temperance advocate, and generally a devout man. The Bald-Knobbers' chief clung to the belief that the regulators were champions of right, asserting that the Edens-Green killing was an unfortunate, but unavoidable mistake.

http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=LAH18890511.2.28&srpos=&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN------#
 
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#16
In the still photos above what appears to be Letterman jackets are in fact suit coats turned inside out. The Baldknobbers were supposed to have turned their jackets and pants inside out during their activities in order to help hide their identity.
 
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#17
I'm looking for any information or pictures on my ancestor, James B. Rice, who was one of the original 13 baldknobbers. Does anyone have anything images or newspaper articles on him? If so, I'd love to have them to add to my family tree.
 
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#18
I'll respond and hopefully keep your request alive a little longer. I think you must surely be the first baldknobber descendant to chime in here. Welcome from the central part of Missouri.
 
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#19
I think it's interesting how material like this gets grafted onto the western literature genre, with the names and motives changed, and a romantic interest thrown in. It becomes the ubiquitous "range war" or "cattle vs sheep raisers" (both of which happened but not with the alarming frequency fiction would have us believe, set in the mythical and timeless "west."
 

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