Saturday, May 28, 2022

The Neosho Murder.

Lewis Wright was an Indian trader who smuggled whiskey across the border between Missouri and Indian Territory. On December 19, 1871, he left Neosho, Missouri with a loaded wagon, that was owned and driven by Sam Smith of Granby, Missouri. The following day, Smith returned to Neosho alone with the empty wagon. 

Smith spent the next two days drinking in Neosho. He was trying to sell a gold watch and chain but a young lady recognized both the watch and the boots Smith was wearing as the property of her fiancĂ©, Lewis Wright. Smith told a rambling story about what had happened on their trip; she didn’t buy it and accused Smith of murdering Wright.

When Wright’s black velveteen hat, covered with blood, was found in a field in McDonald County, her suspicions of foul play were confirmed. Smith had left town and police in Neosho organized a posse to look for him. They went to the home of Rocky Smith, Sam’s father, and began a search of the property. They found a bloody blanket and wagon cloth soaking in a tub. The wagon had blood across the wheel and the front portion of the box had recently been sawed off. 

Rocky Smith professed ignorance of the crime, saying his son told him he had a nosebleed in the wagon, and he sawed off the end of the box because it was broken. The posse then employed a “strangling process” to get the old man to talk. He was hung by the neck, to the brink of death, five times before confessing to knowledge of the crime.

They went to the mouth of an old mine shaft where they believed the Smiths had thrown the body. By now a crowd of over a hundred men had gathered to watch as a man with his foot in a loop of rope fished the mine shaft with grappling hooks. The search was successful and Lewis Wright’s body was pulled out of the shaft. He had a great purple wound through the forehead into his matted hair.

The posse took Rocky Smith to jail and began the search for his son. The following day they found Sam Smith in Marshfield, Missouri. When he refused to surrender, one of the men shot and killed him. "Thus has been brought to a tragic end, a misspent life."

“Letter from Mr. Bliss,” Mineral Point Weekly Tribune, January 4, 1872.
“Murder of an Indian Trader,” Commercial Advertiser, December 27, 1871.
“The Neosho Murder,” Chicago Daily Tribune, December 25, 1871.
“Thrilling Search for the Body of a Murdered Man in McDonald Co, Mo.,” Illustrated Police News, January 4, 1872.


sassy1 says:
June 11, 2022 at 11:41 AM

I can imagine this as an episode from one of those old 60s western series.

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