Monday, March 21, 2011

Sweet Youth, Hot Lead, and Bitter Revenge - Part 4

In uncovering old stories and writing a history blog, I sometimes come across people & stories that I can hardly let go of. When I look at a map, drive through a certain area, or scurry through a local grave yard, I still keep looking for more clues. I know there’s got to be more information somewhere. There’s still has to be one more living link. This is the situation concerning a blog I wrote in 2009 called, Sweet Youth, Hot Lead, and Bitter Revenge - Part 1, 2 &3.

I have been trying lately to find the graves of the people of this story. One problem I have been running into is graves that are marked with old creek stones.
No Name.
No Date.
No Easy Clues.
I have an idea on some markers, but not the confirmation I need...yet.
I have held on to this 4th part of the story for the past few months in the hope of finding some breakthrough. Nevertheless, I am posting it to add another part of the story followed in national newspapers about the love, feud, and murder in Gainesville, Missouri. Though this part of the story has a sad ending, I am sure there will be more pieces of the puzzle to follow in our Ozarks’ History.

Some Think He Was Foully Murdered.
Others That He Died by Accident.
Hod Miles
Gainesville. Mo., Nov. 2. -- The career of Hod Miles, of whose adventures in the Ozark Mountain region THE SUN has told the story in part, is ended. The reader who remembers anything about the man will be sorry to learn that he is dead. Hod Miles was a Massachusetts boy who came here nearly ten years ago and finding the land cheap and fertile and the climate to his taste bought a quarter section of land, and settled down to make a home. He was somewhat surprised to find that a shooting iron was among the necessities of life here, but he took kindly to Ozark ways, and was soon counted one of the finest young men of the country. He became a crack shot with pistol and rifle- -a crack shot in this country, where a greater proportion of accurate marksmen be found among the citizens than in any other region of the country, unless it be in southern Texas. As they say here, Hod sized up the range and lowed to cover it, but in his own way. Here every native uses either a repeating rifle or a navy revolver. Hod Miles always carried a target pistol of the smallest caliber. That would have made him an object of ridicule but for one fact He never missed his target. Squirrels in the tallest oaks, ducks on White River, and turkeys on the far side of a corn patch dropped when his pistol cracked, and they were always shot through the head. He had even dropped a quail in midair as it flew away from him.

Of course he was popular. Moreover, he could play the fiddle and dance and lead in a frolic, and in spite of Yankee thrift, was generous toward his neighbors. There was but one way in which such a man could get into trouble here, and Hod eventually found that way.

The Ozark Mountains are full of the handsomest kind of girls-bright-eyed, strong-limbed girls, who despise a coward, hate a mean man, and worship the one who is brave, dashing, and generous.  THE SUN has told how Hod by paying attention to one of the handsomest of these lassies, excited the jealousy of a friend of his named Dan Gibson. Dan undertook the job of running Hod out of the country, but the two did not meet until one night after the girl refused to go to a dance with Dan and did go with Hod. Hod had learned that the girl was worth fighting for and by chance found himself facing Dan on the ballroom floor with no one else in range. Because  Hod's target pistol weighed much less than Davis's navy revolver it was aimed a fraction of a second quicker, and Dan fell dead with tinny pellet of lead in his brain before his revolver was much, more than clear of its holster.

Dan left three brothers, who took up the feud and one after another died in attempting to avenge Dan's taking off. Two were commonplace killings, commonplace for this country. Each met Hod in Gainesville, each started to drawl his revolver at sight of the enemy, and each was too slow. The third lost his life in somewhat unusual fashion.

Hod had married the girl, and lived for three years on his farm unmolested. His wife, in spite of the care of a big boy baby, had grown handsomer as she grew older, and the proudest man in the country was Hod Miles. But one day he drove to Gainesville without his pistols; he had lived in peace so long that he forgot about them. While trading in Davidson’s store in walked the last of the Gibson boys looking for blood. For an insulting remark Hod knocked him senseless, and he was carried from the store. He soon regained his wits, however, and going to the further side of Hod's team, drew his revolver, cocked , and rested it on his left arm just above the backs of the horses. The team stood at the right of the store door as one walked out. If Hod was to shoot right handed he would have to expose all his body before he could get his pistol clear of the door.

Hod Miles was in a desperate strait. Gibson had taken such an advantage as made though event of to fight (for Hod would fight, of course) almost certain. Nevertheless this Massachusetts Yankee went on looking over the goods he wanted to buy with never a tremor that anyone could see. Then, when all was done, he located Gibson by a quick glance from the door, borrowed a revolver from the storekeeper, took it in his left hand, stepped once more to the door, and dropping the muzzle just beyond the door frame shot Gibson through the brain. It was done so quickly that Gibson probably did not see or know that Miles ever came near the door.

Then an uncle of the Gibson boys was run out of an Arkansas county for selling moonshine whiskey, the county having become one of the drys, and for some reason he and his son came here and took up the feud. While in Gainesville one day the young man, who was drunk, fired at Hod, but missed him. The whiskey had unnerved him somewhat, but Hod's reputation as a cool man killer probably had something to do with it. Of course Hod shot him dead in return. He could have killed the father as well, but instead of doing so arrested and disarmed him. When the old man had sobered up in jail Hod went to him for a talk on the subject of the feud, the result. of the talk being that Hod paid the old man's fare to Denver, Col., and sent him away.

Until the spring of 1892 Hod Miles and his family lived utmost an ideal farmer's life. Their home was comfortable, they were the most prosperous people in the section, and they were admired and respected by everybody. The killings did not worry them. They were, in fact, thoroughly well content with their lot. But on an unfortunate day while Mrs. Miles was riding along the road from a neighbor's house a deer jumped from the brush and ran across the road. The horse was frightened, and whirled around so expertly and quickly that Mrs. Miles was thrown to the ground. She was so badly hurt that she died next day.

The death of Mrs. Miles simply ruined her husband. The child, now a tiny boy in kinckererknockers, was given to the wife's mother, and the farm and its outfit of tools and stock were sold. Inside of a month Hod was staggering about Gainesville whooping drunk, and no more dangerous man than he ever got drunk in the Ozarks. That he did not murder any one was due solely to the fact that everybody let him have his own way. No argument of his friends availed to reform him.

Finally Bartlett Gibson, who had gone to Colorado at Hod's expense, returned. He was a hard man, and a drunkard, and it was reasonable to suppose that if the two met when in liquor they would light. Hod laughed when his friends said he was in danger of Bartlett Gibson's wrath, and said that Gibson would not dare to face him, drunk or sober. In this he seems to have been right, for the two did not meet, so far as anyone knows. All that any one does know is that him in the afternoon of Saturday a week ago Hod Miles staggered out of town afoot on the road toward the home of his father-in-law. Three days later his body was found in a ravine a short distance from the road. His forehead lay on a bloody stone and his skull had had fractured – probably by his falling on the stone. Still the wound on the forehead was a long one, just the wound a stiff club would have made, while the rock had a rugged knot that should have made an incised wound, unless the man's head gave it a glancing blow.

Meantime Bartlett Gibson, who was in town on the last day that Hod Miles was here, has not been seen or heard of since nightfall of that day.
Work Cited:
“End of an Ozark Man-Killer.” The Sun 60.7 (6 Nov., 1892) 8. Access Newspaper Archive. Donald W. Reynolds Library, Mountain Home, AR. 3 Nov. 2010.

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