Texas County, Missouri Genealogy Trails

These were my 2 uncles that were killed.
Kerma Breedlove <kermaja@centurytel.net


From the Mountain Grove Journal
June 17, 1926
Mountain Grove, Missouri


Two Astoria Youths Killed in Gun Battle---

William Fletcher, Who Did Shooting Is Exonerated by Coroner’s Jury---

Astoria, a small Wright County village 20 miles north of Mountain Grove, was at 5 o’clock Friday afternoon the scene of a gun battle which would have
done credit to the far west in its wildest and woolliest days.
As a result, Clements and Howard Neal are dead and their father, L.H. Neal, Postmaster and Merchant of the town is dangerously wounded.
The two men were killed by William Fletcher, about 35 years old, who was a rural mail carrier under Neal, working out of Astoria.
The two sons were killed instantly but the father was only seriously wounded. A report of his death reached here Sunday but was later found to be
untrue.

The battle occurred at 5 o’clock Friday afternoon and followed within a few minutes a fist fight in a nearby field between Fletcher and “Doc” Neal,
during which it is claimed that Fletcher was the victor.

According to Fletcher’s statement, the Neal man started the fist fight, merely stating he was “going to beat Fletcher up”.

Seeing that Fletcher was winning the fight, Howard Neal, brother of the other combatant, rushed upon Fletch with a drawn knife, whereupon Fletcher
ran to his home, which is located directly across the street from the Neal store, and secured a shotgun, according to reports received.
At this point the Neal brothers are said to have returned to their store, where they armed themselves after which the gun battle began. Fletcher shot
from his home, while the Neal men are said to have taken the aggressive.

“Doc” Neal was the first casualty, a charge from Fletcher’s gun striking him and causing instant death as he mounted the back porch of the Fletcher home,
intent upon entering the building. The elder Neal was the next victim, being critically wounded from a direct charge of the heavy shotgun in the hands of
Fletcher. The fight ended shortly after when Howard Neal was shot and instantly killed.

Throughout the entire battle, Fletcher was not wounded, although his house was riddled by shot and steel bullets fired from the shotgun and rifle of
the Neal men.

The weapon used by the elder Neal was a high-power Springfield rifle, said to have been bought but a few days previous to the battle.
One story is that Neal fell when he was shot, but continued to send bullets into the house; another version is that he walked around the west and south
side of the house while shooting.

The younger Neal also walked around the house, firing into the windows and walls from a magazine or pump shotgun. After things had quietened down, 38
empty shells were found scattered around the house.

One of the bullets sent into the house, struck a box of matches and fired a dresser and its contents. When smoke began to come from the house, young
Neal is said to have remarked: “We’ve killed the ----, let’s get him out and see what he looks like before he burns.”
With that he entered the house—unharmed, it is said—and began peering around the rooms for Fletcher.

The latter was lying on the floor and let him have the contents of his gun, the charge entering the center of his breast and ranging upward. The other
brother was shot in the left arm and breast. Their father was shot in the left leg and left arm and a few shot entered his breast.

Dr. Johnson of Manes, who gave him attention, said the shot used by Fletcher were No. 4 in size.

Fletcher after he had shot the second youth, believing that the house would burn, retreated through the back door and took refuge behind some chicken
houses, quite a distance in the rear.

The elder Neal continued his firing, many of the bullets going through the house and penetrating the sides of the chicken house. When the firing
ceased, some of the people dragged the burning dresser and its contents out of doors, thus preventing the house from burning. The elder Neal remarked
that he “shot at every---thing he heard or saw move.”

At the time of the shooting, Mrs. Fletcher, her three year old son, and her sister, were in the Fletcher home. Following the killing of “Doc” Neal, the
first to meet death in the battle, the two women ran from the house and in their haste left the child in the building, each supposing the other had
taken the child.

During the remainder of the battle, the child is said to have wandered around through the house, which was being riddled with bullets from the
high-powered arms in the hands of the Neal men, after which he walked out of the building, around the yard and finally hid by a fence, directly in the
path of fire. In spite of his constant danger, the child emerged from the battle unscathed.

The trouble is said to have started a month ago when Fletcher caused the arrest of Howard Neal on a charge of having disturbed Fletcher’s peace, at
which time Neal was fined $1 and costs. Ill-feeling is said to have existed between the families since that time, culminating in the fight Friday
afternoon.

Fletcher surrendered to N.J. Craig, Prosecuting Attorney of Wright County; about 12:15 o’clock Saturday morning and was taken to Hartville by Officer
Shelby and lodged in the county jail.

A coroner’s jury was summoned and met Saturday morning. Several persons witnessed the battle and during the inquest testified and corroborated
statements made by Fletcher. A number also witnessed the fist fight staged in a nearby field immediately before the shooting and which led up to the
gun fight.

After hearing the testimony, the jury brought in a verdict exonerating Fletcher of all blame in the shooting.



Jury’s verdict:
Following the coroner’s inquest, the Prosecuting Attorney filed charges of felonious assault against the elder Neal. A search warrant was issued by
Attorney Craig and the home of the Neals was searched and it is said that officers found a quantity of corn whisky. Following this find, an additional
charge of possessing whisky was filed against the wounded man, both charges to be acted upon if he recovers. The search of the building was the result
of statements to the effect that the three Neal men had been under the influence of liquor Friday afternoon.

Howard Neal was only 15 years old. His brother Clements or “Doc” was 21 years old, married and is survived by his wife and child. Other members of
the family are both parents, two brothers and 2 sisters of the dead boys.

Deputy Sheriff Chas. H. Erwin, mayor Duvall, Frank A. Collier and others from Mountain Grove attended the inquest on Saturday.

Neal was in Mountain Grove yesterday in custody of Deputy Sheriff Jim Shelby and arranged a bond in the sum of $2000 with G.M. Neal, J.F. Moseley, and
J.D. Moseley as sureties. He has employed C.H. Jackson as his lawyer and his preliminary examination of the charge of felonious assault with intent to
kill has been docketed in “Squire William Hillsabeck’s” court for June 26.

This is Saturday and as it is expected that the preliminary will occupy 2 days or longer, it is probable the date will be changed to Monday, the 28th.

BACK
MO Trails
Candi Horton © 2006