John, my brother, was fourteen when the war closed and Bob under twelve. One day in January, 1866, John, Bob and my mother drove into Independence to mill, and to do other errands in town, one of which was to get one of my pistols fixed.
A young fellow named Gillcreas, who had served in the militia and was several years John’s senior, hit the boy with a piece of mackerel, and warm words ensued.
“Why don’t you shoot him?” shouted Bob from the wagon.
John told the fellow if Cole were there he would not dare do that, and Gillcreas said Cole should be in prison, and all Quantrell’s men with him. Gillcreas went away, but returned to the attack, this time armed with a heavy slungshot. In the meantime John had gotten the pistol which had been in the wagon. Gillcreas came up to resume the fight and John shot him dead. The slungshot was found with the thong twined about Gillcreas’ wrist.
The coroner’s jury acquitted John, and there were many people in Independence who felt that he had done just right.
When I went to Louisiana in 1868 John went with me, afterward accompanying me to Texas. Clerking in a store in Dallas, he became associated with some young fellows of reckless habits and drank somewhat.
One day, while they were all in a gay mood, John shot the pipe out of the mouth of a fellow named Russell. Russell jumped up and ran out of the room.
“Don’t kill him,” shouted the crowd in ridicule, and John fired several random shots to keep up the scare.
Russell swore out a warrant for John’s arrest, and next morning, Jan. 17, 1871, Capt. S. W. Nichols, the sheriff, and John McMahon came up to the house to arrest him. John made no resistance and invited the officers to breakfast, but they declined and went back down town. Thompson McDaniels called John’s attention to the fact that a guard had been stationed over his horses, and they walked down town together. Tom and John drank some whisky, and while they were waiting Nichols and his party had taken on some too.
“What did you put a guard over my horses for?” asked John, when he entered the room where Nichols was.
“I did not put any guard over your horses,” replied Nichols.
“You’re a——liar,” continued John, “I saw them there myself.”
At this another Russell, a brother of the one whose pipe had been shot out of his mouth, opened fire on John and wounded him in the arm. Thomp. McDaniels shot Capt. Nichols, and in the melee McMahon was shot, as far as I have ever been able to learn, by my brother.
John and McDaniels went out, took the officers’ horses and rode to Missouri.
It developed after the shooting that the same Russell who had opened fire on John had placed the guard over the horses, and that Capt. Nichols had not known of it.
I was away in Louisiana at the time, but on my return several attorneys offered to defend John if he would return for trial, but after a visit at the home of our uncle in California he returned to Missouri in the winter of 1873 and 1874, just in time to be suspected of the train robbery at Gad’s Hill, on the Iron Mountain road.
John and Jim were visiting at the home of our friend, Theodoric Snuffer, at Monegaw Springs, St. Clair county.
Man-hunters had sought us there on a previous occasion when we were all four there. We had come upon the party of 15 suddenly, and I covered them with a shot-gun, demanded their surrender, and explaining that we had not robbed anybody, and wanted to be treated as decent citizens, approached by officers of the law in the regular manner if we were accused, restored their arms to them, and they went back to Osceola.
March 11, 1874, J. W. Whicher, a Pinkerton detective from Chicago, who had been sent out to arrest Frank and Jesse James at Kearney, was found dead in the road near Independence, and W. J. Allen, otherwise known as Capt. Lull, a St. Louis plain-clothes cop who passed by the name of Wright, and an Osceola boy named Ed. Daniels, who was a deputy sheriff with an ambition to shine as a sleuth, rode out to find Jim and Bob at the Springs.
The boys, advised of their coming by a negro servant, sought to convince them, as we had the earlier posse, that they could not have had anything to do with the affair at Gad’s Hill. But Allen, remembering the recent fate of Whicher, drew his pistol and shot John in the neck. John returned the fire and killed Daniels and took after Allen. Side by side the horses galloped, John firing at the detective till he fell from the saddle mortally wounded. John turned to ride back to where Jim was, when he toppled from his saddle and was dead in a few minutes.
The St. Louis detective had fled at the first fire, and lived to tell graphic stories of how it all happened, although he was really too busy getting out to know anything about it