Eight Fort Scott Prisoners, Including Murderer Finch, Escape

Fort Scott, Kan., Feb. 1 - Eight desperate prisoners, including Chas. Robinson, the notorious bank and post office robber of Missouri and Geo. W. Finch of Paola, the murderer of Frank Swafford, who was under sentence to be hung, broke jail here today by assaulting Deputy Sheriff Jas. Bales with clubs as he entered the cages and robbing him of his keys and pistol. They were in the combination county and federal prison. John Wilson, counterfeiter and Jas. Cadiff, post office robber, also escaped. Wilson was caught at Fulton tonight. Robinson had been hunted for years and was caught here only a few weeks ago. (Kansas Semi-Weekly Capital, February 4, 1898)


The state authorities here were to-day notified by the Texas officers that the grave in which Thomas O'Toole, the Fort Scott man who was reported to have died in Texas last month, was supposed to have been burled had been opened and that it had been found to contain nothing but stones wrapped In a blanket. O'Toole carried $3,100 life insurance in the Modern Woodmen, the Royal Neighbors and the Woodmen of the World.

A warrant charging attempted fraud has. been sworn out for O' Toole'a arrest. He was a patent medicine manufacturer.

His whereabouts are unknown. His wife and two children left here last night and have not been heard from. Several weeks

ago Mrs. O'Toole returned from Texas, announced that her husband had died from smallpox while they were sojourning; near the Mexican border and attempted to collect the insurance. Insurance officials then began an Investigation of the case. (Fort Scott, Kansas, May 13, submitted by Barbara Ziegenmeyer)


The highest temperature Tuesday was 100 degrees, and there was very little breeze. Four heat prostrations were reported, none fatal. A number of horses died on the street. The prospect is for continued hot weather. The highest official temperatures in the United States Tuesday were reported from Kansas. Hays City, 104, Fort Scott and McPherson 103 degrees. (Newark Advocate, July 3, 1901, Kansas City, submitted by Linda D)

AN AUTHOR SUED FOR DIVORCE (Minnie & Albert Paine)

FORT SCOTT, Kan., March 30 - Mrs. Minnie F. Paine began suit here to-day to secure a divorce from her husband, Albert Bigelow Paine, a well-known author and poet, who is now a resident of New York city, where he is engaged as manager of a news and literary bureau. She charges gross neglect, extreme cruelty and adultery, though no correspondent is named. The complainant recites particularly that since her husband's removal to New York he has re-fused to allow her to come to him. She also asks for a division of Mr. Paine's extensive properly in Fort Scott, Illinois and New York. The Paine's were married in 1885. (The Indiana State Journal, (Indianapolis, IN) Wednesday, April 1, 1896; pg. 5, submitted by Candi Horton)


The Kansas Supreme Court Divides the Estate of a Fort Scott Suicide

TOPEKA, DEC. 10---William Judd, a wealthy farmer of Bourbon county, committed suicide in June, 1888, and his heirs have been fighting over his property ever since. The supreme court disposed of the quarrel today by affirming a decision of the lower court dividing it equally between two claimants.

Judd's first wife was Mary Toler. By her he had one daughter, Jennie Judd, who died in 1891. Mrs. Judd secured a divorce and was paid $1,200 alimony. She took her daughter with her when she left Judd. After a few years she married Frank Shorten.

Judd lived on the farm with William Runkel, a laborer. Runkel brought his sister Sadie to live with them and do the cooking and housework. She remained until Judd's death. It developed afterward that Judd had agreed to marry her on the same day as he committed suicide. Soon after the old man's death she gave birth to a son whome she called John Judd and set up the claim of a common law marriage. Jennie Judd died leaving no heirs except her mother. Sadie Runkel married George Mott and signed a disclaimer of all interest in the property except for her son.

The fight was then between the divorced wife and the alleged child of Judd and a merry fight it was. It went through the Bourbon count district court and came to the supreme court in sections. It went back on reversals and finally the whole issue was made up and tried before a jury which decided that there had been a common law marriage between Judd and Sadie Runkel which gave the boy, John Judd, all the rights of a son. The property was divided equally between Mrs. Shorten and John Judd. It will amount to more than $20,000. The supreme court said the evidence of marriage was not enough to satisfy the judges, but affirmed the verdict.
(Kansas City Star ~ December 11, 1898 ~ Submitted by Lori DeWinkler)
((NOTE: William Judd is buried in the Marion Cemetery))


FORT SCOTT, KANSAS, Jan. 12, 1880

A special dispatch says:---Last night, at Weir City, Charles L. Wallace, a lawyer, was waylaid, shot and mortally wounded while passing along the street. Wallace refuses to give any account of the shooting or any information regarding its cause. It is stated, however, that there is a lady in the case, and the shooting last night was the result of the conflict for her hand.
(New York Herald ~ January 13, 1880)


Fort Scott, Kas., Nov. 14---Monroe Swofford, a dental student of Kansas City, Kas., whose home is at Paola, came here yesterday and identified the clothing of the young man found murdered here three weeks ago as that of his brother, Frank. The body was exhumed and was also identified. The murder is a complete mystery.
(Kansas City Star ~ November 14, 1894)


Eldorado Springs, Mo., Aug. 14---J. A. Romans of Redfield, Kas., committed suicide here last night. Despondent from sickness, he left his room, went upon the street and cut his throat with a pocket knife. He was commissioner of Bourbon county. He was 60 years old.
(Kansas City Star ~ August 14, 1900)


'Ordinary Boolegger' Rises to Leader in Crime; Pal of 'Killer' Burke

KANSAS CITY, Sept. 4---Harvey Bailey is rated by authorities as one of the nation's most dangerous criminals.

He was regarded as so desperate that federal authorities did not take him from the jail recently when he was arraigned on kidnapping charges.

A United States commissioner went to the jail for the hearing and officers armed with machine guns were posted about.

Bailey, early his career of crime called "just an ordinary bootlegger," is under a murder indictment here as one of the machine gunners who killed four officers, one a department of justice agent, and Frank Nash, federal convict, in an ambush at the Union Station plaza June 17. Nash, Oklahoma train robber, died in the effort of his gangster friends to free him.


Bailey and Wilbur Underhill, another killer, led the break from the Kansas State Penitentiary last Memorial Day in wihch eleven prisoners escaped by kidnapping Kirk Prather, then warden, and two guards.

Bailey, a middle aged man of massive stature, was sent to the Kansas prison August 17, 1932, to serve ten to 50 years for the $32,000 robbery of a Fort Scott (Kan.) bank. After his escape he was captured on a golf course in Kansas City with two Chicago mail train robbers and returned to prison.

Witnesses at the Fort Scott trial identified him as the leader in the $2,000,000 holdup Sept. 17, 1930, of the LIncoln (Neb.) Bank & Trust Co., known as the "world's largest bank robbery."

A few weeks before his arrest on a Texas farm, Bailey and five of his gang sent a letter to an Oklahoma City newspaper confessing the robbery of a Black Rock (Ark.) bank, for which others were under arrest.

They authenticated the letter with finger prints, which proved to be genuine. Bailey was reared on a farm in Sullivan County, Missouri, and served in the World War.


It was on the Bailey farm that Fred (Killer) Burke, then called "America's most desperate criminal," was captured. Burke now is serving a life sentence in Michigan for slaying a policeman. Bailey confessed he provided the hideout for Burke.

Calm and affable during his confinement in the Dallas jail, Bailey asserted he would "beat" the kidnapping and murder charges against him.

Holidays are red letter days in the criminal career of Bailey.

It was on last Decoration Day--May 30--that he led the Kansas State Prison break. Today--Labor Day--he escaped from jail, but was recaptured.

On St. Valentine's Day, 1929, eight gangsters were lined up against a garage wall in Chicago and mowed down with machine guns. Bailey has been suspected in connection with the massacre, as was Burke.

OMAHA, Sept. 4---Former railroad associates of Harvey Bailey shook their heads in wonderment today as they heard of his latest jail breaking escapade.

"How did Harvey get that way?" they asked.

Railroad men here knew him for nearly fifteen years as an honest and hard working fireman and engineer on a Council Bluff-Fort Dodge run in Iowa, to them it was incredible that steady old "Bill" Bailey should have become a notorious criminal, an expert with a machine gun. Detective Inspector A. C. Andersen of Omaha knew Bailey well.


"He always looked like a sort of hick to me," said Andersen. "He ran a garage over at Silver City, Ia., and he used to hang around here. He was sort of big and stooped, and he looked like he'd spent all his life walking between the furrows. He certainly didn't look tough and it never occurred to anybody he'd ever turn out to be a killer."

Police Chief Condit of Lincoln, Neb., who checked up on Bailey as the leader in the big bank robbery there, said that after Bailey left Omaha he hung around Minneapolis, St. Paul and Chicago, gradually getting into faster company and eventually becoming a leader. Condit considers him the most dangerous desperado in the country.
(Plain Dealer ~ September 5, 1933


Miss Eulelle Woolsey is pianist for the Brown's orchestra, which furnished the music at the opening of Gunn Park in Fort Scott Sunday afternoon, and for five hours she played on the piano which is part of the park equipment, and which was stored during the winter in the pavilion, says the Fort Scott Tribune. She was much annoyed at the action of the keys of the instrument, which sometimes stuck and at other times rebounded all too soon. An inspection was ordered to see what was out of whack and Mr. Woolsey began operations. He had removed a few of the keys from the keyboard when he was horrified to behold the head of a snake rise forth from the opening, with hard, glittering little eyes and scarlet forked tongue moving in rapid motion. It slowly uncoiled its length of three feet from behind the keyboard. Mr. Woolsey grasped a piano key, which, though not a mighty weapon, was wielded with precision on the snake's head. With a final death squirm the reptile expired. Mr. Woolsey decided to make a closer inspection of the contents of the piano and he found that many other denizens of the wild had access to the instrument and chosen it for a winter's home. There were the warm, cozy nests of mice and a store of nuts for squirrels.
(Kansas City Star ~ June 24, 1914)



The Father Swept Away With His Team and Rescused from a Tree by Boatmen---Three Streams Merged in One

Fort Scott, Kan., July 30---An unprecedented rainfall in the southeast corner of Kansas, this morning, has flooded the streams and caused destruction to life and property. In seven hours 4.22 inches of water fell in the city, and this evening the entire lower portion of the town is inundated. Two deaths are reported.

The Missouri Pacific Railroad shops are surrounded and the train service has been partially abandoned. Many families have been driven from home by the river, which is still rising, and another storm is threatening. The Marmation river, Mill Creek and Buck run have become one stream, spreading over sections of land which have not for years been submerged.

Walter Austin and Willie Gould, two young boys, were drowned this evening on one of the principal streets, and O. A. Austin, father of one of the boys, was carried 200 yards in the treacherous current, and finally rescued from the top of a tree by boatmen.

Mr. Austin, accompanied by the boys, attempted to cross Mill creek bridge, which was surrounded by water, in a wagon. They proceeded 150 feet through the water, when the wagon and horses were swept away. Mr. Austin made a desperate effort to rescue the boys, but in vain. The bodies of the boys had not bee recovered at midnight.

The Missouri Pacific passenger train left for Topeka on time, but was compelled to return, and all traffic on that branch has been abandoned. The damage to property will exceed that of the flood of July 5, which was more destructive than any for many years. The crops on bottom farms will suffer materially.
(Worcester Daily Spy ~ July 31, 1895)


Every Car of Fast Train Except Sleeper Left Rails--Nine Persons Killed and Thirty Two Injured


Engineer, Fireman and Conductor Were Killed and Nearly Every Passenger Injured--Brakeman Who Was Responsible for Accident Disappeared

Kansas City, Mo., Dec. 21---In a wreck today at Godfrey, Kas., of the "Meteor," a St. Louis and San Francisco fast train from the South, nine persons were killed and thirty-two were injured, four fatally. Of the injured, five probably will die, while fourteen were severly hurt.

The dead men, who are all residents of Kansas or Oklahoma, include the engineer, firemen and conductor. The injured are residents of the west.

The freight brakeman, whose failing to flag the passenger train caused the wreck, has not been found.

The Meteor was wrecked at Godfrey, 15 miles south of Fort Scott, Kas. The train ran into a switch and all cars except the sleeper, were derailed and turned over. Nine persons were killed and thirty-two injured. The dead and injured were taken to Fort Scott.

The wrecked train was one of the finest and fastest in the service. It was made up of two baggage and one mail car, a smoker, two chair cars and a sleeper. When the train reached Godfrey it was running at full speed to make up time. The crew of a freight train that had preceded the Meteor, left the switch open and the passenger train jumped the track and rolled down a slight embankment. The smoker turned over, and so fast was the train running that the engine and the forward baggage car landed nearly sixty feet off the road bed before it stopped. The sleeper remained upright and none of the passengers in this car were injured. The baggage cars were completely wrecked and the smoker was badly wrecked. Five of those killed were in the forward end of the smoker and four of them were killed instantly. A news agent, who was badly mangled, died on the relief train that carrier the dead and injured to Fort Scott.

Engineer B. A. Dewes of Fort Scott, Conductor Hoyt of Topeka and Fireman Bishard of Fort Scott, were instantly killed and Express Messenger John Bell of Kansas City was seriously injured. Others of the crew and almost every passenger on the train, except those in the sleeper, who escaped with a severe shake up, were injured, some of them seriously.

It was some time before those of the crew who had escaped injury were able with the help of the passengers, who were unhurt, to aid the injured. A wrecking crew carrying physicians, did not leave Fort Scott for the scene until several hours after the wreck occurred.

The dead are all eastern men. One man, whose body has not been identified, was thrown 60 feet into a neighboring corn field.

Two men, one from Oklahoma, and the other from Arkansas, were fatally injured. Sixtten persons, including Henry M. McDonnell of Lodo, Ohio, were seriously hurt and 16 others were slightly injured. Most of the injured were badly burned as well as being maimed.

The responsibility for the wreck is laid at the door of a brakeman of the freight crew who failed to flag the passenger train. He has disappeared.

Express Messenger Bell died later, making the total number of dead nine.
(Worcester Daily Spy ~ December 22, 1903)


A Brutal Murder by an Insane Kansas Cityan at Fort Scott

Fort Scott, Kas., Sept. 11---Acting under the impulse of a diseased mind, Ora G. Scott, aged 22 years, buried a hatchet five times in the brain of his grandmother, Mrs. M. J. Wickersham, 70 years old, this morning. The young man had just been brought back from California by his mother. He was insane, but it was thought he was not dangerous. Scott did not try to escape after the deed and is now in the county jail. Until about a year ago he was employed by the Hocker-Arnold Commission company of Kansas City.
(Kansas City Star ~ September 11, 1900)


It is always in order to spring a "story" on a justice of the peace. E. C. Gates, an attorney of Fort Scott, claims to know a justice who heard one lawyer's plea out on the ground that it would have a tendency to mix the court up! (Kansas Semi Weekly Capital, October 12, 1900, page 4)


St. Scott, Kas., Sept. 16 - William Bloomfield, local peace officer, was shot and killed in a running gun fight with a gang of bootleggers three miles northeast of the city early tonight. Bloomfield was found sitting beside a road wounded by two farmer boys, who started to a hospital with him. He gave his name as John Cochran and his home as Rich Hill, Mo. A small caliber pistol with three empty shells was found beside him.

Six gallons of liquor was found in a brush pile near where Cochran was discovered. (Morning Star, September 17, 1922, page 1)


While Mrs. Cook, wife of Joseph Cook, president of the Bank of Bronson, and her daughter were driving in the cemetery last evening, the horse shied and the fierce wind blew the buggy over. Mrs. Cook was caught under the vehicle and the horse ran away and dragged her almost 300 yards, breaking her collar bone and two ribs. (Kansas Semi Weekly Capital, April 23, 1897)

Genealogy Trails' Kansas

  back to Index Page
Copyright © 2011 to Kansas Genealogy Trails' Bourbon County host & all Contributors
  All rights reserved