When trouble comes knocking, the stink it raises easily follows this perpetrator in the Ozarks. This is the fiasco that transpired for William "Bill" Naves from Ozark County, Missouri. His doom traveled across the Missouri & Arkansas state-line including the counties of: Ozark, Howell, Baxter, and Marion respectively. To many residents at the time, it seemed as a debacle of justice due to the influence of money. Nevertheless, the pendulum of justice finally swung.
This will be a multiple post in order to get a better glimpse of the story. I will display newspaper articles that chronicled the events from accusation, trials, imprisonment, self justification, and pleas. I ask you, dear reader, to hold your judgment until the final installment...there are 5 in all. I have held on to this story for over two years, and I have vacillated finding Bill Naves from guilty, to falsely accused, to innocent, to my finial verdict. What’s my final verdict? I will withhold until that until the last post.
As a warning in reading these posts, some will be long and a bit arduous. Some of the spelling and grammar is not current with today’s standards. Some sentences are extremely…extremely long. I have endeavered to type everything word for word, even though I had the urge to change a comma, verb tense, spelling, and catipalization. Nevertheless, it all tells an interesting story of life in the Ozarks a little over 100 years ago.
We will first start with the news article from the 2nd of July, 1904, that first caught my attention. Then, we will go back a little further in time to 1902 in other posts to see what really transpired in bringing about this story in 1904. Later on, we will look at follow-up stories up till 1907.
Enjoy a Slice of Your History.
Rather than face an Arkansas jury and stand trial for shooting a neighbor farmer Bill Naves, one of the most desperate men the Ozark region ever produced, decided to serve a sentence of four years in the Missouri penitentiary. Naves was convicted at the January term of the Howell county circuit court of felonious assault. He was sentenced to four years in the penitentiary and pending a hearing by the supreme court has been out on bond. A few days ago, when the Arkansas authorities secured a requisition from Governor Dockery for Naves, the mountaineer chose the smaller of the two evils.
Scarcely twenty-eight years old, Naves has led a reckless life. His home is near Pontiac, in Ozark county, where for a number of years he has resided with his invalid mother and two sisters. When only twenty-one years old Naves was convicted of cattle stealing, an offense more serious in the Ozark region than any other crime. For this breach of mountain law he served a term in the penitentiary and then returned home.
Naves has a number of well to do relatives in Ozark county. One of these had several hundred head of cattle running on the range, and frequently a steer would be found with a horn missing or a tail cut off. These acts of vandalism continued until the owner of the cattle remarked that "he was going to turn Bill Naves loose on the guilty parties." On the evening of July 3, 1901, a man on a gray horse rode from the timber country on North Fork. Within an hour two men fell at the doors of their homes and a boy lay dead on the ground. Bill Naves was accused of the crime.
The first person shot on the wild night raid was Ike Lantz, whose home is in Marion county, Ark. He was called to his gate just at dusk and found Bill Naves on a gray horse. As Lantz came to the gate Naves slowly turned the horse until the muzzle of a shotgun resting across the pommel of his saddle was opposite Lantz's body. There was a sudden report, and Lantz fell to the ground badly wounded. Naves then put spurs to his horse and rode away.
Lantz sent his son, Frank Lantz, twelve years old, to the home of his uncle, Samuel Hillhouse, a mile distant, just over the state line in Baxter county, Ark., to tell of the shooting. The boy found Hillhouse and his wife in the barnyard milking. Just as he began telling his story he saw a gray horse standing behind a cedar tree nearby. Thinking it was Naves, all ran for the farmhouse. The boy was in the rear. Suddenly a shot rang out, and Frank Lantz fell dead at the door of the cabin.
It was scarcely dark when Jerry Jenkins, living in Ozark county, about two miles from the scene of the shooting of the Lantz boy, was called to his door. As Jenkins stepped outside someone shot him in the breast with a load of bird shot. Jenkins says it was Naves who did it, for he recognized his voice when he called and saw him shoot.
When the news of these tragedies became known, Naves was a much wanted man. He fled into Arkansas and hid among the caves and hills of North Fork. Finally he gave himself up to the authorities of Baxter county. For a year he was in the Baxter county jail at Mountain Home awaiting trial for killing the Lantz boy. His trial was a memorable one, and he was acquitted, "because no tangible evidence.”
Then came Marion county authorities, who wanted Naves for shooting Ike Lantz, father of the murdered boy. Naves was taken to Yellville, but his wealthy relatives secured his release on bond. Upon his return to Ozark county Naves was arrested by the authorities there for the shooting of Jerry Jenkins. Again his relatives came to the rescue with their wealth and influence.
Public sentiment in Ozark County was against Naves. His attorneys took the case to Howell county on a change of venue. When it came up for trial in January more than 100 witnesses were in attendance. All had made the journey of sixty miles in covered wagons, many bringing utensils and victuals, prepared to camp a week or longer. The trial was the greatest known in history in southern Missouri. Naves was found guilty of felonious assault and sentenced four years in the penitentiary. An appeal was granted to the supreme court, and pending the appeal Naves was released on bond. He returned to his Ozark county home. When the Arkansas case against Naves was called at Yellville, he did not appear for the trial. His bond was declared forfeited. Then the Arkansas authorities secured from the governor Dockery a requisition and started after Naves. The fear of facing a jury in Marion county mountaineers caused Naves to conclude that four years in the Missouri penitentiary was preferable to a term on the Arkansas convict farm or in a coal mine.
END OF ARTICLE
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There’s Trouble Across the Line - Part 2...Coming Soon
“His Record Desperate.” Logansport Pharos 29. (12 July, 1904) 7. Access Newspaper Archive. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 1 Nov. 2009. http://access.newspaperarchive.com/.