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By Linda Emley
I was looking for a story when a friend sent me the following article out of the April 26, 1906 Richmond Missourian and saved me from a late night. Please enjoy this old newspaper article while I look for the rest of the story.
“The northeast corner of the public square in Richmond was the scene of an awful tragedy last Saturday night shortly after ten o’clock, in which Frank (Skip) Wilson and William Duvall were shot to death in an encounter with City Marshal W. H. Bryers, his deputy, Samuel Good, Constable Chas. F. Crow and his deputies, James Hill and James Owens. The affair, the like of which had never before occurred in this city or county, created the greatest excitement and all manner of stories were afloat immediately after the shooting, and the days following, as to the cause of the deplorable occurrence, and it is almost next to impossible to obtain an unbiased story of the affair.
“As near as one can get at the facts in the case, Wilson and Duvall and William McComas, of Hardin, were the proprietors of a Wild West show which opened for the season in Richmond last Saturday, the show grounds being on the Crispin property near the Black Diamond coal mine in the northeastern part of town. Saturday night about nine o’clock a state warrant for the arrest of William Duvall, one of the proprietors of the show, was sworn out before Justice Geo. W. Cook, charging Duvall with having disposed of mortgaged property, which offense he is alleged to have committed some two or three years ago. This warrant was placed in the hands of Deputy Constable James Hill who, in company with Officer James Owens, went to the show grounds to serve it upon Duvall. It seems that the officers reached the grounds some time before the conclusion of the evening’s performance and one report is that when Duvall was approached by Officer Hill and heard the warrant read, he said he would come to town immediately after the conclusion of the performance and surrender to the officers, while another report is to the effect that he asked permission to first get his coat, which was granted, and upon returning from the tent covered the officer with a revolver and demanded that he leave.
“The two officers then returned to town and reported to Officers Byers, Crow and Good what had happened and all armed themselves, some with shotguns, and started for the show grounds. They had just reached the northeast corner of the square and were proceeding north on Thornton street, when Duvall and Wilson, each on horseback, were heard coming toward them. When within a few feet of the officers, they allege, a command was given to the horsemen to halt, and instead of obeying the command Duvall and Wilson began firing at the officers, while other witnesses to the tragedy said that no such command was given and that the officers opened fire when Duvall and Wilson came close to them. Eyewitnesses to the tragedy say the sight was a ghastly one and that for a few minutes the shooting was fast and furious. After the smoke had cleared away “Skip” Wilson, the one armed horseman, and his steed were found lying in the gutter near the city scales and he was picked up and led across the street in front of the Conrow Restaurant, where he sank to the ground and died with in a few minutes. Duvall, laying close to his horse, continued south on Thornton Street to the Davis & Child lumberyard corner, and thence east on Lexington Street two and a half blocks, and fell from his horse, mortally wounded, in front of the residence of Dr. Harbert. He had not lain long before assistance reached him and physicians were summoned. He was shortly afterwards taken to the home of B.F. Keel, in the neighborhood, where he died Sunday morning about eight o’clock. The body of “Skip” Wilson was taken to the county clerk’s office where it was kept over night and Sunday morning was removed to the Stinnett undertaking rooms and later both bodies were taken to the home of Frank Duvall.
“There was intense excitement on the streets during the forenoon Sunday and it was feared that trouble might break out afresh, so harshly were the officers being condemned. Later in the morning “Bud” Vanbebber was sworn in as a special officer to secure a coroner’s jury, and the following were summoned: N.W. Chain, Charles Paulson, Newton Hughes, Geo. J. Gardner, Wm. H. Magill and L.P. Garrett. The jury, in company with the coroner, examined the bodies of the dead men and was excused until Monday morning at nine o’clock, the hour set for the inquest.
“We the jury, having been duly sworn and affirmed by J.T. McGinnees, coroner of Ray County, diligently to inquire and true presetment make, in what manner William Duvall and “Skip” Wilson, whose dead bodies were found at the northeast corner of the square, and on East Lexington Street, near the residence of Charles Sevier, on the 21st day of April 1906, came to their death, after having heard the evidence and upon full inquiry concerning the facts, and a careful examination of said bodies, do find the deceased came to their death at the hands of the following officers: Chas F. Crow, Wm. H. Byers, James Owens, Samuel Good and James Hill . – T.C. Smith, Foreman.
“Mayor Robertson was extremely diligent in his efforts to preserve the peace and on Monday issued a request that all saloons in the city remain closed during the day. The saloon men very willingly complied with the mayor’s request and this action, no doubt, helped to quiet the crowd and stay further trouble.
“Saturday night’s tragedy was in all respects a serious one and the duty of giving full details of such an occurrence to the public is no light task for a newspaper to perform. Of course it is not the mission or the duty of a news paper to undertake to say who are the responsible parties, that being a matter which the law should be left to decide, and in the foregoing account we have endeavored to give the facts, as brought out at the coroner’s inquest, in an unbiased manner.
“In conclusion, it is sufficient to say that the affair has brought to our city no small degree of unenviable notoriety and it is to be regretted that the differences between the men and the officers could not have been settled with out bloodshed and the loss of two lives.”