File submitted for USGenWeb/MOGenWeb Lincoln County page by Michael E. Parker, 5 August 1998.

[Case Tried Last Week and a Verdict of "Not Guilty" Returned]

"State Against Cropper"
The Troy Free Press (Troy, Lincoln Co., MO) Fri., 15 December 1893.
Transcribed by Michael E. Parker, great-grandnewphew of Josiah Cropper.

[Read the article about the killing which preceded the trial.]

On Sunday morning, Aug. 30, 1891, a report was brought to Troy that Josiah Cropper had killed Charlie Fine at the former's place about two miles from Hawk Point, in this county. The difficulty which resulted in the homicide was caused by a poker game, and at both the coroner's inquest and the preliminary examination the few witnesses gave their testimony in a straightforward manner which convinced nearly everybody that they were endeavoring to tell the whole truth about the affair. No one had seen the killing, however, and as Cropper declined upon both occasions to make a statement; there was considerable conjecture as to the immediate circumstances attending it.

The testimony at inquest and preliminary ( and also in circuit court) was to the effect that Joe Cropper, Charlie Fine, Chat Nichols and Ben Ross, all of whom had been in Troy, got together on the road home Saturday night and agreed to go to Cropper's house and play poker. At 11 o'clock Ben Ross quit the game and went home. Chat Nichols (now dead---but whose testimony at the preliminary examination was admitted in the trial) testified that during the night Fine and Cropper engaged in a fight while he was making a fire in another room, and that a second fight occurred just before they left---he pulling Fine off in both instances. The first fight was caused by Cropper's accusing Fine of stealing his chips, and the second by his refusal to cash them. Nichols and Fine then went to two neighboring houses for breakfast, but found no one at home at either place. They then sent Fine's seven-year-old son home---he had been with them during the night---and concluded (so Nichols testified) to go to Ben Ross' for breakfast. They crossed the Cropper farm to do this, and Nichols, at the request of Fine, went to the house to ask Cropper again to cash the chips, Fine going on to the gap of the fence where his body was found. Nichols found no one in the house, but as he left it heard sounds of a quarrel about 150 yards north of it. He at first started east, thinking the sound was in that direction; but turned north. Some small plum trees obstructed his view and when he reached the gap he found Fine lying dead and Cropper standing over him with a revolver in his hand. He asked Cropper what he had done and demanded the pistol, and Cropper replied: "You nor no other ---- man gets this pistol." Nichols then notified Ben Ross and the other neighbors, and Ross came to town for the sheriff and coroner.

Fine's death was probably almost instantaneous. The ball had entered his right eye and was found at the base of the skull, and his face was powder-burned. Cropper was badly beaten about the head, face and body. He made no effort to leave, but went about attending to his stock until the arrival of Constable Cape of Prairie township, by whom he was arrested.

The case came to trial in the circuit court last week, the defendant being under indictment for murder in the second degree, and lasted through Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and a portion of Friday.

Cropper took the stand Thursday afternoon and his examination lasted four hours or longer. His testimony as to what occurred at the house agreed materially with that given by the other witnesses. He stated that Fine stole his poker chips and that two fights were the result, in the last of which he was struck with a stick of wood and knocked senseless. When he regained consciousness Nichols and Fine were gone. He barred the door and lay upon the bed until about sunrise, at which time he went out for some wood to build a fire.   He discovered his colt in a neighbor's pasture and after turning it into his own he picked up some wood to take to the house. At this juncture he saw Fine approaching, and in hope that the latter would pass him unnoticed he jumped over the fence. Fine, however, saw him and advanced upon him with the remark: " Now, -------- -------- you, I've got you and want you to cash those checks!" at the same time grabbing him by the coat and beating him over the head. Cropper had a revolver in his pocket and attempted to draw it, but it hung on his coat. He finally got it out, but it was discharged prematurely in the struggle. He wrenched himself loose from Fine, firing as he did so, and Fine fell. Cropper said he does not remember any remarks he made during this, the third fight, and that although he was trying to shoot Fine the shot was rather an accidental one.

The defendant's attorneys introduced several witnesses-- some of the best citizens of Troy and the Hawk Point vicinity--all of whom testified that Cropper's reputation as a peaceful, law-abiding citizen was good and that Fine's was bad. The prosecution attempted to partially offset this by proving that Cropper was a poker-player, but the evidence was ruled out by the court.

The arguments in behalf of this state were made by Frank M. Howell and E. B. Woolfolk, the former opening the case in a forcible speech of thirty minutes and the latter closing in an argument of an hour and a half, which has been very highly complimented by all who heard it.

The interests of Mr. Cropper were well cared for by Norton & Avery and Josiah Creech. Mr. Creech opened for the defense in a splendid speech of a half hour, Mr. Avery closing in a speech of about an hour and a half which fully sustained his reputation as a jury lawyer.

The case then went to the jury, which returned a verdict of not guilty after being out a short time.

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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