File submitted for USGenWeb/MOGenWeb Lincoln County page by Michael E. Parker, 5 August 1998.
[Shot Through the Eye by Joe Cropper, Over a Game of Poker]
"Charlie Fine Killed"
The Troy Free Press (Troy, Lincoln Co., MO) Fri., 4 September 1891.
Transcribed by Michael E. Parker, great-grandnewphew of Josiah Cropper.
Last Saturday afternoon Charlie Fine and Joe Cropper left Troy together, in company with several other residents of the Hawk Point neighborhood, and seemed to be on the best of terms with one another. Sunday morning Ben Ross brought the news to town that Fine had been shot and killed by Cropper, on the latter's farm, at about sunrise. Although Ross was rather uncommunicative, it was surmised that the tragedy was the result of a poker game, and quite a number of our citizens followed the coroner and sheriff to the scene of the murder. The road to Cropper's branches off just in sight of Hawk Point, and goes over a couple of miles of country that is probably as broken and wild- looking as any in the country. Turning into a faint road and skirting along the foot of a hill, the woods were left behind and Cropper's place was entered. After letting down a couple of fences and crossing Turkey creek, the house came into view. The neighbors were gathered around in little groups, discussing the tragedy, while a large group at a gap in the fence about 200 yards from the house surrounded the body of the dead man.
Cropper had made no effort to escape and had been placed under arrest by Constable Cape of Prairie township, who found him attending to his stock a short time after the shooting. His face showed evidences of a terrible beating. His left eye was black and swollen almost shut, there were abrasions on his head and cheeks, and almost his entire face was discolored and clotted with blood. As the coroner and sheriff came up he volunteered to show them the house, stating that he had left everything as it was and closed the door. It was a small log hut, with one window and a shed room. Inside was a bed, a couple of boxes, a little table on which rested a lamp and a blue poker chip. Chips were also scattered on the tumbled-up bed, and the room was in general confusion. The revolver, with three chambers empty, was found in a pile of old clothes in a corner.
Fine's body lay a few feet north of the fence and had been covered up pending the
arrival of the coroner. It was carried to the shade of some trees near by, a jury summoned
and the inquest began.
T. C. NICHOLS
Was the first witness examined by the coroner. After giving his age, residence and stating that he was acquainted with deceased and with Cropper and stating where he last saw deceased, he gave the following version of the transactions of the night preceding and the morning of the tragedy: We left Troy yesterday evening and came to Joe Cropper's about 8 o'clock; we stayed at Cropper's house until just about daylight this morning. ( I think Ben Ross left about 11 o'clock Saturday night.) Then we ( witness and Fine) went from Joe's house to where Charlie's (Fine's) team was and from there to Anthony Monroe's and from there to Johnny Monroe's, finding no one at home at either place. At the last place Charlie went to a tub near the well and washed some blood off his hands and came backand got into the wagon. I know where he got the blood---he got it from Joe Cropper. I know the circumstances under which he got the blood. I and Joe Cropper and Charlie Fine were playing poker; I told them to leave my hand out and I would build a fire in the next room, as I was cold; while I was starting the fire I heard a dispute between Cropper and Fine; Joe claimed that Charlie had stolen some checks from him and Charlie denied it; Joe told him he was a dirty liar; Charlie denied it again and Cropper called him a dirty liar again; Charlie still denied it and Joe called him a dirty, lying ______ ______. Then I heard a scuffle as though a fight; I went to the door between the two rooms and Joe Cropper was lying on his back and Charlie Fine was trying stamp him; I took Charlie by the shoulder with my hand and tried to push him in the shed room and picked Joe up with the other hand. I talked to Cropper and reasoned with him that if we all got into a row, we would be fined for playing poker. As Charlie passed out of the room he said he wanted to see me a minute; after I got Joe reconciled, I went out to see what Charlie wanted. I think he was sitting on the fence at the corner of the house. He said he was a loser in the game and had $3.35 in checks; that he would like for me to take them and see if Joe would cash them; I told him no, that Joe owed me $6.70 and if he wanted any collecting done he would have to do it himself. But I told him he had better put it off till he and Joe cooled off, and they would come nearer settling it. He said he was a loser, and he'd be damned if he wasn't going to have his money; he went to the back door, leaving me and his little boy near the fence. I heard Joe Cropper tell him to "not come in here;" the next thing sounded like a fight; when I got in, it was dark in the room; the first man I got hold of I threw out the door, and he was Charlie Fine. Joe went into the main room, saying to Charlie that if he came there to murder him, to murder him and be done with it. I went to Charlie and talked to him, telling him we had enough of that; to let's hitch up; we hitched Charlie's team to his spring wagon and put the bridle on my horse. The little boy (Dick Fine) rode my horse and Charlie Fine and I rode in the spring wagon; we then went to Anthony and John Monroe's, as I have stated. After leaving the latter place, we came to the gate southeast of Anthony's; I told Charlie I would have to go home and we both got out of the wagon. He opened the gate and led the team through; he wanted me to go home with him, but I told him I was going to Ben Ross's and get my breakfast. Charlie said he was like me--he didn't like to go home full, either. He told the little boy to get in and drive the team home, that he was going with me. I asked the little boy if he knew the way and he said "No." I told Charlie he had better get in the wagon and go home with the little fellow, that he couldn't let down the fences and put them up. He said: " Oh! d__n him, he'd learn him to be tough." He then directed the boy how to get home and as he started off Charlie halloed after him to "keep his d___d mouth shut about what he had seen," and the boy went off crying. Charlie and I then started back in Joe Cropper's field on the way to Ben Ross's to breakfast; as we were going along, Charlie was talking about collecting $3.35 from Joe and asked me if I would see about it. He gave the checks to me, after discussing the matter awhile and I put them in my pocket. When we got to the slip gap between Monroe's and Cropper's I was walking and Charlie riding; I handed Charlie my coat to hold while I threw rocks at some cows and calves that were at the gap to drive them away before I let down the gap; he told me to "lay Uncle Joe's fence up good." After we started on he ask me to go by and see what Joe was going to do about his money; told him I would if he would keep away; when we got to the next corner of the fence, about a quarter of a mile west of Cropper's house, Charlie went in a northeast direction above Joe's house about 150 yards and I went to the house. I went in and looked around, but found no one and turned and went out. I heard loud talking and thought it was east of me; supposed Cropper and Fine had gotten into another quarrel. I went probably twenty feet east of the house before I located them, due north of me, when I turned and could see something on the north side of the fence; a lot of dead brush and green trees were between me and them and I could not see them plainly. I was running toward where they were and somewhat excited. I had run probably two-thirds of the distance when I heard a pistol fired; it was fired twice and, I think, three times, but am not positive about the third shot. When I got near enough to see, I saw Joe Cropper with a pistol in his left hand. I said, " Joe, what in the name of God are you doing? " By that time I had gotten over the fence near where Cropper was: I reached out my hand and told him to " give me that thing, " meaning the pistol. He said " No; you nor no other d__d man don't get it." I laid my hand on Fine, called his name and saw that he was dead and then went over to Ben Ross's and told him that Joe Cropper had killed Charlie Fine. Ben asked me what I was going to do and I told him "I did not know what in the name of God to do;" that it would not do to let the hogs eat the man up. I told him to get some of the neighbors to come and stay with me while he went to notify the coroner and sheriff. I cannot swear positively who did the shooting, as I was running fast and could not have told who they were had I not known. They were about 150 yards from Cropper's house when the shooting occurred, and I was about 60 or 70 yards from them; they were scuffling on the north side of the fence when I first saw them. I don't know who was the aggressor the last time. All the threats I heard Fine make were cursing, saying he wouldn't take the --- --- --- --- off of any d---d man. I heard Cropper make no threats. Saw no weapons at any time during the fights. I do not know what became of the pistol Cropper had when I got to him. (Witness being shown a pistol found in Cropper's house, said it look very much like the one he saw Cropper have.) I did not see the beginning of any of the fights. I left Cropper with the pistol in his left hand when I went to Ben Ross's, and heard him say nothing except what I have stated.
DICK NORTON FINE
A son of deceased was examined and testified that he went from Troy with his father to Joe Cropper's on Saturday night, but went to sleep soon after Ben Ross, T. C. Nichols, Joe Cropper and his father began to play poker; he did not see or hear any of the fighting. He also testified to leaving Cropper's and going to the two Monroe places and then to going home, in substance as Mr. Nichols testified.
BEN D. ROSS
Being sworn, testified that he left Troy with Chat Nichols, Charlie Fine and Joe Cropper, about sundown Saturday evening; that, on the road, the four agreed upon a game of poker at Joe's house and went there, arriving between 8 and 9 o'clock. We went in and went to playing till, I suppose, about 11 o'clock, when I got up, cashed my chips and said: " I believe I'll quit awhile, boys." Chat or Mr. Cropper, I don't know which, said: " Ben, I wish you would cut us off some of that ham and put it in the skillet on the stove." I did so, then walked in, put on my coat and hat and said: " Boy's there's your meat on the stove." Mr. Nichols, I believe, was not playing at the time. He stepped to the door and said: " You're going home, are you?" and I told him I was. I got on my mare and went home. This (Sunday) morning while I was eating breakfast Mr. Nichols walked in and I asked him to have breakfast. He said: " No; Joe Cropper has killed Charlie Fine." (Witness then detailed the conversation had with Nichols and told about their going over to where the body lay, after which he went and notified the neighbors, notified Coroner Moore, and came on to Troy. He told the sheriff of the killing and swore out a warrant charging Joe Cropper with the crime.) The witness saw nor heard any quarreling or fighting before he left the room where the game was in progress; I live about three-eights of a mile from Cropper's and about a quarter from where the killing occurred; saw no weapons in possession of either Fine or Cropper that night. Did not know whether or not Cropper owned a pistol. Mr. Nichols' coat was lying beside Fine's body, and I believe that one of Fine's hands was lying on the coat, but am not sure. I picked it up and gave it to Mr. Nichols.
Dr. C. D. Avery, who held the post mortem, testified that the ball had entered the right eye, ranging obliquely backward and a little upward and fracturing the left parietal bone at its posterior superior angle; the ball was found just beneath the fracture, and the wound was of such a nature as to cause death instantly.
Cropper declined to make a statement at either the inquest or the preliminary examination, and said the only thing he had to say was that he regretted the circumstances which made the killing necessary.
The coroner's jury returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased came to his death from the effects of a gun-shot wound, and charged Josiah Cropper with being the perpetrator.
The sheriff placed Cropper under arrest and brought him to Troy, placing him in jail. Monday afternoon the preliminary examination was held before Jas. Linahan and the defendant required to give bond of $5,000 to await the action of the grand jury, which being done, he was released. Mr. Fine leaves a wife and several children, who have the sympathy of their neighbors. It was an unfortunate affair and is one more piece of terrible evidence of what cards and whiskey can do. Mr. Cropper has employed Creech & Murphy to take charge of his case.
Read the article about the trial of Josiah Cropper.
Contributor Notes: Josiah Cropper was born Feb. 29, 1844 and died Oct. 25, 1909. He served one year in the Union Army from Nov. 17, 1864 to Nov. 17,1865 with the 49th Regiment, Company A, under Capt. William Colbert and Col. D. Pat Dyer.
File submitted for USGenWeb/MOGenWeb Lincoln County page by Michael E. Parker, 5 August 1998.
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