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Pioneer Settlers of Monroe Co - Wm Burnside (1850 - 1926)


Posted By: DJ Scieszinski
Date: 11/6/2016 at 13:35:15


When a Horse Thief Was Lynched by Albia Farmers
Pioneer Vigilantes Gave Culprit Short Shift

That a trio of men accused of horse stealing had been captured by the authorities and the ringleader taken from the sheriff and hanged on a tree a short distance southeast of Albia, after a formal trial conducted by a vigilance committee, was the news brought to the Union and Republican office last Saturday, by a man whose father was a member of the committee and was present at the hanging.

The news was authentic and true in every particular, but it occurred in 1868, and was but one of the stirring incidents related in the newspaper office Saturday by W. H. Burnside, a resident of this vicinity since 1851, who came here with his mother, older brother and a number of other relatives before he was quite 1 year old. They made the trip from Illinois by wagons, drawn by horses, and were six weeks making the trip. Mr. Burnside’s father followed, after he had cared for the sale of the crops on their Illinois farm.

The family settled on what was afterwards better known as the John Collins place, one and one-fourth miles south of Albia. After three years they took a quarter section of government land five miles northeast of Albia. Later they sold this place and located on a farm east of town. This place was sold a number of times, and now is occupied by Mr., Burnside's brother-in-law, J. B. Judson.

The life and experiences of a man who has lived nearly three-quarters of a century would make a great volume of interesting stories, and this is true of this aged pioneer. Albia then was a village of about 200 people, on the very edge of civilization, Frame buildings and mud roads were the chief characteristics of the settlement. Space will permit only a small part of the interesting experiences related by Mr. Burnside. The incident of the hanging of the horse thief is typical. Horse stealing had become a well-organized business, and failing of securing convictions in court the farmers took matters into their own hands. They organized a vigilance committee, regularly offered with a strict set of rules and laws for their own government. Three men were captured, charged with stealing horses. The Sheriff had one of these men and the vigilance committee had the other two. The two in the hands of the committee were brought to “trial". One of them finally confessed, implicating as the ringleader the man in the Sheriff's charge. For this state's evidence the man was freed, after a careful investigation had satisfied the committee that he was the lesser culprit. The Sheriff had the other man, who was known as "Thompson", in the hotel that then stood on the corner now occupied by the Golden Eagle clothing store. A number of the committee made their way to the hotel, where apparently by accident they separated the sheriff from his prisoner, and after that the sheriff saw him no more. Thompson was taken to where the committee was in formal session. He was given a trial before a "jury" of twelve representative farmers, who pronounced him guilty and sentenced him to be hanged. The sentence was carried out then and there, a tree being utilized for the gallows. This tree was an object of gruesome interest for many years, but has long since been cut down. The third member of the gang was convicted in an official court at Keosauqua, and given a jail sentence of five years. The particular crime for which these men were apprehended followed a period during which at least one theft was reported each week. These men made a general raid. They stole a team of horses from one farm, went to the next, where they picked out a set of harness, and then stole a wagon from a third farmer.

In those days, the country was overrun with hazelbrush, which grew to a height of 6 feet or more. It was plowed under in great six-foot furrows, with yoke teams of six oxen. Politics was a livelier game than now, with more intense partisanship.

Mr. and Mrs. Burnside now live in the Gutch addition, highly respected citizens of the community they have "grown up with” and helped to develop. They are the only surviving members of their families, with the exception of Mrs. Burnside's mother. Mr. Burnside that if the newspaper men would interview her he could secure some stories of the real pioneer days of the community, as she came here when she was 4 years old.
The Albia Union And Republican, Thursday, July 27, 1922
Pioneers Poke Fun at Story of 6 Ft Furrow

Another angle has been added to the story of pioneer days that the Union and Republican published Monday, as the result of an interview with one of the oldest settlers of this part of the state. To the story of lynching of the horse thief, the pioneer who gave out the interview states that they had no newspaper in Albia then - but that if they had had one and if the editor had published in its columns that any man in his right mind had told him in seriousness that they were plowing under hazelbrush in six foot furrows - there would have been another lynching, and that without the formality of a trial.

Maybe Mr. Burnside didn't say six-foot furrows - but they were wide furrows, anyway. The newspaper man yet fails to see how they could turn under six-foot hazelbrush with a furrow of less width. Each reader, however, pioneer or otherwise, has the privilege of making those furrows just as wide or as narrow as he wishes to.

Besides, it made little enough difference to the horse thief who was hanged, how wide the furrows were.

NOTE: William H. Burnside: Born: July 1850, Illinois; Died: May 1926, Albia, IA; Burial: Oakview Cemetery, Albia, IA


Monroe Biographies maintained by Susan Claman.
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