Carruthers, Peter
Autograph Letter Signed, Winfield, Missouri, July 15, 1851, to his father

octavo, 3 ¼ pages, neatly inscribed in ink, in very good clean, and legible condition.

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           Carruthers writes, in this letter, of lynching horse thieves in “bloody” Missouri in 1851, Carruthers, himself, died a year later.

 

          “… The prospects of the wheat crop is encouraging … We have 20 acres of corn stands half way up the horses sides and looks fine… We shall have foder enough to winter 100 head of cattle … We have to buy more teams, shall have work for about 3 teams of horses after harvesting. Cattle are 30 percent cheaper than a year ago. Horses are about the same… There has been great times among the horse thieves through Clinton and Jackson Counties. They have hung several, one of them confessed and let out about 50 that was connected. Some livery stable keepers and some of the richest men in the country, some farmers, had lost as high as 4 and 5 horses, tis sayed there is one of the gang that stold 30 horses in 3 weeks, he don the thing on a large scale, think this the only way they could be stoped, the world is well rid of them and I expect there will be plenty or horses now …” [sic]

 

Horse theft was one of the most common felonies on the 19th century frontier, but it was not “officially” a capital crime in the American West. The thieves of the “gang” described in this letter were undoubtedly lynched by vigilantes in an area soon to become a staging ground for the pro- and anti-slave violence of “bloody” Kansas. Surprisingly, while a National Anti-Horse Thief Association was established in Missouri in 1854, published accounts of horse-thief lynching on the Missouri-Kansas border rarely appeared until the years after the Civil War.