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I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Murder in Missouri

In researching our family genealogy a cousin of mine found this interesting and shocking story.

Whitfield and Boen Denham Brothers - by Marie Moody Foster and Erma Melton Smith

Whitfield and Boen Denham, Jr., sons of Boen, Sr., and Elizabeth Jane (Moody) Denham, were born in Madison County, Kentucky, on the Old State Road, formerly Boone's Trace. Whitfield, called "Whit" was born on January 7, 1850. Boen, Jr. was born in the fall of 1852. They became known as the "Denham Brothers." 

Whitfield Denham left Madison, County in the fall of 1871 with other kinsmen who were migrating to Missouri. He settled in Ellenorah and went into the merchandising business. He remained there until 1875. He moved to Maryville, Missouri, where he owned and operated a hotel.

Whit's brother Boen Denham, Jr., left Kentucky, following his brother to Missouri in 1872. The Denham brothers were never too far away from each other, as they were very fond of one another.

Boen Denham, Jr., became involved in trouble when he had to shoot some dogs that belonged to his neighbor. He would ride his nice "driving horses" to and from the pioneer town of Denver, Worth Country, Missouri, which was about two and a half miles away. He had to pass his neighbor's farm. The neighbor's dogs would run out onto the path and nip at the horses noses, which without a doubt caused the horses to "act up." Boen had to draw his weapon to protect himself and his horses and shot the dogs.

Afterwards, the neighbor swore out a warrant for Boen Denham's arrest. Immediately Whit came to his brother's rescue. It must be remembered that in 1876, the Denham brothers were "newcomers" in the Denver, Missouri area. The neighbors were "old timers" in the pioneer town, and all "old timers" thought a dog's life was more valuable than fine horses.

Records show that a constable of the area could not arrest the Denham brothers, or claimed he could not. But while the brothers were in town (Denver, MO) on August 25, 1876, and in the "Youngman's Drug Store," a posse of five men came in to arrest the Denham brothers. Then and there, both the Denhams were shot down in cold blood!

It was written up in the Annals of Worth County, Missouri, years later, defending the act of the so called posse, but the conclusions of many, many, "old timers" of Denver, MO, differed; they too, claimed the shooting of the Denham brothers was in cold blood.

There's more about where they were buried, etc. but it doesn't say what happened to the posse, although their names are known. The Denham brothers were only 26 and 24 years old when they were murdered. So sad. This is the first piece of truly violent family history that I've found out about.

Do you have any skeletons hanging from your ancestral tree?


  1. What a sad story. I do have some information handwritten by my grandfather. My ancestors arrived on a boat from Ireland. This may be why for many years I've been intrigued by the story of the famine ship that crashed in a gale on the rocks at the mouth of our harbor in 1849. About 100 people died, and it always strikes me how many futures were altered as a result of that disaster. Thankfully, my ancestors took a different ship.

  2. That's so sad. Two young men killed about dogs.

  3. No. I have the most boring family history (that I know of) EVER.

    This story is definitely intriguing.

  4. So sad. I don't have any skeletons that I know of, but my DIL has some sad ones...maybe it's better to be boring.

  5. That is sad. Skeletons...nah we let it all hang out. I love family history.

    Found you through A to Z looking forward to reading more.

  6. That's really a sad story. I can't help hoping that Karma came back to the posse.

    My family tree is more a collection of random shrubs, so I have no idea what we're hiding!

  7. Poor brothers! It must have been scary in those days with everyone carrying guns. There's always someone who acts rashly. I bet that startled you when you found it. Genealogy can be so fascinating.
    As for my shaky tree, there was a bootlegger grandfather who got chased by gangsters in a subway (he escaped), an ancestor's sister who was found dead in a river under suspicious circumstances and another who left famine Ireland after an altercation with a landlord. Who wants boring?

  8. Fascinating! I think we've all got interesting skeletons hiding in our closets. Some of us just don't have to dig so deep :)

  9. wow, how eerie...lucky we can't control our past!

  10. What a crazy story! We found out a bunch of crazy stories after my great-grandmother died. She'd lied about our family history and we only found out the truth when my aunt started digging later. She claimed we were descended from royalty and blah blah blah, when really her mother was a kitchen maid who was impregnated by the lord of the manor and gave birth in the poor house. Yes, yes, lots of skeletons! I find history so fascinating! Thanks for sharing your story.

  11. Yikes! Gruesome, yes, but fascinating (well, for me, anyway) -- I'd love to have more insight into my family history.

  12. Amazing Bish! Very intriguing. I know we do have family skeletons and now I vow to fish them out. After all, we are Irish. Ha! (((hugs)))

  13. Such a sad, sad story.


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