Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sweet Youth, Hot Lead, and Bitter Revenge - Part 3

As the Miles-Gibson Saga wanes from the daily press, harsh realities can be gleaned in reading history’s text and between its’ lines. The Cycles of Justice catch the guilty, and the meat of punishment is doled out.  In the past, its’ prisoners awaited their outcome in conditions that would seem deplorable and inhumane. This was the temporary fate of Uncle Bartlett Gibson.  With the spectacular stories published concerning the quick drawing Hod Miles & the Gibsons, hell-bent on destruction, the audience was left with a horrid description of the Gainesville Jail in 1890.  In the previous article, the only word that wasn’t used was a dungeon.  Well…that has changed.
Another follow-up story was printed in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in the Aberdeen Daily Press, March 22, 1890. It was in this edition the term “dungeon” was used.  In addition to the details of the jail, a picture was published.
A Queer Word

As society changes, so too our vocabulary evolves over time. “Queer” is one of those words that seems to have fallen from grace.  For the past two decades, it can be taken as an offensive term.  Nevertheless, the former use of the term was used as for a strange or odd viewpoint, for something unusually different, or of a questionable nature or character.  The reason for this explanation can be plainly understood when looking at the article’s title, “Queer Missouri Jail.”  I’ll admit it…I did a double take and made sure the article was about Gainesville, Missouri, and not in someplace in California. So, here it is.

Queer Missouri Jail

How Prisoners Fare When Incarcerated at

At Gainesville, the capital of Ozark County, Mo., there is a jail of unique construction. It is a two story log building eight by ten feet, and twenty feet high. There is neither door nor window to the upper story, and the upper story is reached by a ladder from the ground to a small platform at the heavy door which is always doubled locked and barred. There are six grated windows to the upper story, and when the jailer is inside and the ladder drawn up the place is almost impregnable as a fortress. The top floor is used for detaining ordinary criminals, but desperate criminals are placed in the dungeon beneath the entrance being through a trap door and down a ladder. The place has no light save that furnished by a small kerosene lamp. Food is supplied the inmates in a bucket lowered by a rope into the hole. Eight men are now confined in the dungeon, and, despite its dismalness, the jailer thinks they are lucky to be there.

Closing Thoughts
With all the mortification and foulness this jail contained, its’ stench and humiliation was a constant reminder for every wayfarer to keep on the straight and narrow. This too can be a sweet melody of our Ozarks’ History.

May we never…
       fall into the abyss of apathy in guarding our past & future as a nation…


fall into the dungeon of despair that God cannot deliver us.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your liberty.
“A Queer Missouri Jail. How Prisoners Fare When Incarcerated at Gainesville.” Aberdeen Daily Press 4.193 (22 Mar. 1890): 1. New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundation. United States Library of Congress, Washington D.C. 15 Nov. 2009 < http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov >

"QUEER." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.Merriam-Webster Online. 24 November 2009.

1 comment:

Mountain Woman of Red Pine Mountain said...

I found out about your blog through the article in the Ozark County Times. Ozark County is our newly adopted winter home and I enjoyed reading the article and now your blog. Very interesting.