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Callaway Memories

by Anakin Bush | September 16, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Photo courtesy the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society Sheriff George W. Law

150 years ago (1873)

{Summation of articles from The New York Times and various Missouri newspapers, including the Fulton

Telegraph}. The One Arm Unarmed Sheriff of Callaway. Colonel George Washington Law, born 1828 in

Franklin County, Virginia, traveled with his parents to Callaway, settling in the area of Reform. He

married Amanda Holland and together they had 11 children. Wounds from bullets he received while

fighting in the Civil War resulted in the amputation of his left arm. After recovery, he resumed fighting

until the end of the war in 1865. By 1871, he had lost his wife and 8 of his children. He was held in such

high regard in Callaway that he was elected sheriff in 1872, despite being a widower with only one arm

and having served with the Confederacy (Post Civil War Confederates usually weren't elected to a

government position). After being elected, he and his remaining 3 children resided in Fulton. As sheriff,

he served with honor and with outstanding character. In 1873, Peter Kessler, a former resident of

Callaway, and his son, Augustus aka "Gus,"were to be brought to trial for horse thievery. Concerned for

the safety of his prisoners and his men, Sheriff Law twice requested Governor Woodson to send backup.

Both times, he was denied. The prisoners arrived in Fulton on August 1. That night, a mob appeared but

was dispelled without incident. Concerned for everyone's safety, it is believed that the sheriff hid the

Kesslers overnight in the woods before transporting them to Jefferson City to await trial. On August 15,

they were transported by train back to Fulton for trial. As the train approached Cedar City, Gus was

escorted to the bathroom, where he, while still handcuffed to his father who stood between Gus and

the guards, managed to slip out of the handcuffs and crawl out the bathroom window of the moving

train. The train stopped and 2 guards, Richard E. Miles and John N. Bennett made chase. At Bigbee

Station, young Deputy Boulware called on W. W. Dundon to continue with him as he had then no one to

aid him. Upon arrival of the prisoner, a large crowd assembled at the Fulton Court House. For the safety

of their client, Messrs A. W. Harris and Samuel Blunt decided it was best for Kessler to plead guilty and

he was sentenced to 6 years in the penitentiary. Judge Burckhartt made an appeal to the crowd for law

and order and to disburse, but to no avail. Next, Sheriff Law, Kessler, Prosecuting Attorney Provines,

Constable Arthur and Mr. Dundon entered a stagecoach for travel to the Fulton train depot. Accounts

differ as to what happened next. The driver, T. W. Henderson, was deprived of the lines by a member of

the mob who, after taking control, attempted to shoot into the coach. Sheriff Law kicked his arm and the

shot was deflected. The mob fired into the coach, hitting everyone but the prisoner. Some sources say

that the Sheriff was unarmed, a practice 'back in the day' to demonstrate peaceful intent. The carriage

sped out of town, stopping near Jameson's cemetery. Kessler was dragged and hung via a horse halter

on the William Cole property. Law, who was shot twice, and Dundon were taken to Law's rented home

in Fulton where Law passed 7 days later and Dundon passed 17 days later. Law's oldest living daughter,

Ophelia, was so shocked by the events, she nearly died and required constant care. Upon his death,

Sheriff Law was returned to his farm where he was buried with his wife and children in the Law

Cemetery. After his death, numerous Missouri newspapers expressed outrage over his death and the

Governor's failure to provide manpower. Story of Sheriff's honorable life and his desire to protect all in

his care, even to the point of his death, reached the New York Times. {In recognition of Sheriff Law, the

Rotary Club of Fulton, since 1998, presents the G.W. Law - Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award to

an officer who exemplifies the Club's ideal of "Service Above Self." The 2023 recipient is Callaway

County Sheriff's Deputy, John Nielsen.}

75 years ago (1948)

20,000 People Converge on McCredie for the Friends of the Land Field Day. They came to see 200 soil

experts using more than 100 pieces of farm equipment remake the 197 acre farm of Mr. and Mrs. Jack

West. Toil, sweat and smiles along with 1200 gallons of gasoline and 200 gallons of diesel fuel

(contributed by Skelly Oil Company, Russell Bouyer and Gordon Acree) accomplished the big job, in

which a soil conservative program that would require 5-8 years under normal circumstances, was

carried out in a day. The farm had its face completely lifted through the use of bulldozers, tractors,

scoops, plows, spreaders, etc. Actions included gully filling, contour plowing, fertilizing, seeding, terrace

drainage, pushing out over a mile of Osage orange hedges and building new fences with the aid of

power posthole diggers. The home lawn was also made over with shrubs, flowers and vegetable gardens

and new walks. Friends of the Land officials estimated that the work added $10,000 to the value of the

farm. Thousands of persons moved from one project to another, eating thousands of sandwiches

served by several organizations. The plowing contest was won by Dwight Rogier, a 50 year old Madison

County, IL farmer. He won $100 and a free trip for him and his wife to the national convention of the

Friends of the Land, to be held this fall in Oklahoma City. Ralph Howison, Callaway County's plowing

champion, finished out of the money this year.

25 years ago (1998)

(From caption of Russell Whanger photo). Lewis Baumgartner, a.k.a. "World's Worst Farmer," talks

about his experiences in Millersburg and life on his farm, "Ragweed Ranch," at the Callaway County

Public Library. He is a nationally known columnist and humorist for his experiences and views on small

scale farming in modern times.

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