Friday, November 12, 2010

"Men, Whiskey, and Women" 1868 Conspiracy Foiled

by John G. Pierce

Much information for the following story was taken from the Dec. 10, 1868 Chariton Democrat with Jonathan Faith as editor.  The Democrat offices were located upstairs in the old brick courthouse.  Subscription rates were two dollars a year, in advance.

A Plan to Murder, Burn and Rob Chariton

With several strange men congregating in Chariton in the fall of 1868, local citizens became suspicious.  The Civil War had been over but a mere three years, during and immediately after which raiders had burned and robbed several towns in nearby Missouri and Kansas.

With such history in mind, one can see how the suspicions of the citizens of Chariton were well founded.  The strangers, incidentally, were most noticeable around the Opposition House.

Four places were targeted for robbery:  The Courthouse safe, Frank Stewart's Store, the Bank (which would be either the Lyman, Cook & Co. bank or the F.W. Brooks and Co. bank) and finally the Opposition House itself.

The plan began to unravel, however, when a cook in the Opposition House overheard gang members discussing blowing open the Courthouse safe.

Sheriff Gaylord Lyman was notified, and while concealed in the kitchen, overheard conversations between two of the perpetrators about robbing the bank.

Later, when authorities were satisfied their suspicions were correct, four people were arrested (although several others were also believed to be involved).

During the trial that followed, two people turned State's Evidence: Mary Jane Boyd, wife of a convict and apparently a "lady" of the Opposition House and J.H. Carr, the bar tender at Musselman's Saloon.

Thomas Bliss, described as an old resident of Chariton, was tried and acquitted.  Only Edmund Holden was convicted.  He was 23 years old and apparently a drifter.

Testimony during the four-day trial revealed that Holden was going to shoot Musselman when he robbed his place, and that Holden was to get $1,000 to blow open the Courthouse safe.  Holden further stated that he was used to this kind of business.

In his closing statement, Holden stated "that bad whiskey, bad company and damned bad women had got me into this scrape."

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