For a variety of reasons, I am proud to write for the “Meade County Messenger.” They have a well-staffed office with great writers, reporters and graphic artists, and may be unparalleled in Kentucky history. Eighteen-eighty-two was a year of importance not only for the United States, and the world, but also for Meade County. Let’s review just a bit.
Among other events, on March 2nd, 1882, an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria was made by Roderic McLean. He sought to shoot her with a pistol, and died years later in an English sanitarium for the insane.
March 29th, 1882, the Knights of Columbus was established in New Haven Ct., by Fr. Michael J. McGivney. It was a beneficial society of Catholic Men to assist Catholic charities. That same year on August 3rd, the U.S. Congress passed the United States Immigration Act. September 4th, Thomas Edison started the first U. S. electrical power plant, designed to make electrical power available to all people making labor easier and more efficient. Maybe this was just a coincidence, but the next day, August 5th, New York City saw its first Labor Day Parade.
After the attempt on the Queen and before the Labor Day parade, in St. Joseph, Missouri, a man who styled himself, Mr. Tom Howard, was hiding his true identity while planning a bank robbery. Tom Howard, his wife and two children moved into a house at 1318 Lafayette Street, on a hill with a good view. They moved there Christmas Eve, 1881. Sporadically two associates named Bob and Charley visited overnight with the Howards.
Tom Howard had been an outlaw for almost 18 years, and after his next bank robbery in Platte City, Nebraska, he planned to buy a farm in Kansas and retire. He was hunted and weary of former associates turning on him and becoming informants for the detective agencies and law. He even shot and killed former associate Jim Cummins, for informing. Tom didn’t know that his new gang members, Bob and Charley had already agreed to turn him in and collect a big reward. They had just returned from Kansas City meeting with the Governor when a gang member, named Dick Liddil, surrendered himself and confessed. Liddil had killed Tom Howard’s favorite cousin, Kentuckian Wood Hite. Wood and Liddil had a dispute over the “Blue Cut,” train robbery loot division, and either Dick or Bob, killed Wood in a gunfight at Martha Bolton’s place, a safe house for the outlaws. They were all afraid of Tom.
On April 3rd, 1882, news of Liddil’s confession and arrest in Kansas City made the St. Joseph newspaper and Tom asked Bob and Charley about it. They became afraid Tom, if he knew, would kill them over Hite’s death, or their plot with the law, which included Liddil testifying against Tom at a future trial for dropping charges against him. If Tom suspected Bob and Charley, they were dead, thus they denied seeing the news report and Tom believed them.
The three men went into the parlor, where Howard removed his pistols, afraid to alarm passersby. A picture of a horse Tom liked, hung dusty and crooked. He straightened the picture, wiping away the dust. Unarmed and facing the wall, Bob cowardly shot Howard in the back of the head. Bob and Charley Ford fled the house, and Jesse James, aka Tom Howard, died.
Bob and Charley callously portrayed James’ murder on stage, until May 6th, 1884, when Charley, ill with tuberculosis, depressed and addicted to drugs, killed himself. Bob was shot dead in Creede, Colorado, June 8th, 1892, by Ed Kelley. Ten years, 2 months and five days after the murder of Jesse James, Robert Ford, “that dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard,” as stated in song lyrics, was prepared to lay in his own grave. Edward Kelley, born in Harrisonville, Missouri, Oct. 1st, 1857 to Margaret Kelley, may have avenged Jesse’s death. The James and the Kelley’s were rumored to be Missouri family friends, but that’s not all that happened in 1882.
“The Meade County Messenger,” one of the oldest newspapers in Kentucky, began in 1882. By reading your very own “home-town, historic newspaper,” you help keep our history alive. Thanks.