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Arrest of Ned Buntline

From the Missouri Democrat, Friday, December 27, 1872.


The Charges Over Twenty Years Old.

Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack View It as a Capital Joke.

Reminiscence of the Riot of 1852.

Edward Z. C. Judson, better known by his nom de plume of "Ned Buntline," came to the city a few days ago, and opened at Wakefield's Grand Opera House with an "immense combination," consisting of the genuine Buffalo Bill (Hon. W. F. Cody, member of the Nebraska Legislature), the genuine Texas Jack (J. B. Omohundro,) the most prolific and universally popular author of the day, Ned Buntline (Col. E. Z. C. Judson,) Mlle. Morlacchi, and a dozen other stars of lesser magnitude.

The troupe appeared in a new sensational drama, written in five hours by Ned Buntline, entitled "Scouts of the Prairie, and Red Deviltry As It Is," in which Ned played the part of Cale Durg, and the Hon. Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack took leading characters. The play was an immense success, so far as drawing full houses goes, and yielded a handsome sum to the managers.

Ned and his long-haired heroes put up at the Southern, and were lionized to their hearts' content. Everything went smoothly with them until yesterday, when a little episode occurred, which they had not announced in their bills. Ned had just recieved a dispatch, and went to the office to draw money to pay for the message, when a spruce, but muscular and resolute young man with a rosate tinge upon his cheek stepped up, and slapping the popular author on the back, said,


Ned turned around and looked at the officer, and knowing from the expression on his countenance that resistance would be useless, asked for an explanation. The officer, who was Deputy County Marshal Reinstaedtler, replied:

"I am an officer. Consider yourself my prisoner."

"What for?" asked Buntline in a sad, serious tone, glancing toward Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack who stood nearby, laughing, as though they regarded the arrest of their chief as a capital joke.

"If we were out on the plains," said Jack, "we might have something to say, but here in the city it is no use; we must take what comes."

The officer informed his captive that he was charged with


committed over twenty years ago in this city, during the progress of a municipal election.

"Will you allow me to go to my room, to pay for a telegram I have just received?"

"Certainly," replied the officer, "and I will go with you."

While this scene was being enacted, a young man of the "immense combination," thinking, probably, there was a rehearsal on hand, drew a large-sized revolver from his pocket, and walked up and down in front of the counter, swinging his weapons, as if waiting for the word to slay and scalp the officer and make his exit through the furnace. The cue was not given, however, and the desperado drank no blood.

The officer accompanied Buntline to his room, where the telegraph boy was waiting, and the dispatch was paid for.

"I'm sorry this thing did not come up earlier," said Judson. "All my


but I am innocent of the charge, but I will obey the law without a murmur. I had nothing to do with the riot. I was living in the city at the time, publishing a paper. Word came to me that a riot was going on at Soulard Market, and that a dear friend of mine had been beaten and nearly killed. I went down and took him home, and that is about all there is of it."

Buntline requested the officer to keep the matter quiet; he wanted no


made about it. He had heard that he was to be arrested, and would have surrendered himself if he had known where to find the officer.

At the time the hero of a thousand stories was arrested, Judge Primm, Circuit Attorney Normile, Sergeant Harrigan, and several citizens were present. When Judge P. saw the young member of the troupe swinging his pistol, he remarked that he did not think the fellow would shoot a pumpkin, and asked Reinstaedtler if he had a weapon.

"I've got a little popgun here," replied the officer, "but I don't need it to take down such a chap as that." Harrigan, who is a dead shot on the wing, was ready to take a hand in case any Indian tricks were attempted, but fortunately for the "combination," they were not bloodthirsty, but preferred slaying redskins on stage.

The arrest occurred at 2 o'clock. An hour later the officer entered Four Courts with Ned Buntline in charge, accompanied by Capt. George D. Martin, as a friend of the prisoner. In a few minutes Judge Primm was seen to enter his private office, back of the courtroom, and Col. Mormile being present, the redoubtable Judson was ushered into the presence of the judge. Half a dozen reporters were there, eagerly awaiting developments. The DEMOCRAT reporter, who had known Judson in former years, introduced him to the Judge, who seemed surprised at the diminutive stature of the formidable novelist.


he asked, "whose yellow-covered literature I have heard of? I expected to see a big, piratical-looking fellow, as tall as that door, with bowie knives and pistols bristling in his belt."

"You are not the first person who has been disappointed at my appearance," said Ned. "Once, when I was in Cincinnati, Amelia B. Welby, who, you know, was a little golden-haired thing, more like an angel than a woman, called to see me. She stood amazed when I presented myself, and said she had imagined I was a great whiskered monster with tarred breeches and a tarpaulin hat. At that time I had a smooth face, like a girl's, and was younger and better looking than at present. But about this arrest; I assure you I know nothing about the charge. I have been in the city several times since the occurrence. I was with Semner at


and was wounded there, and came to the city and laid for three months at the Planters' House. Here is the scar (opening his shirt bosom and displaying his manly breast to the gaze of Col. Normile.) An Indian arrow made that. I took the first company to Washington—the mounted rifles—at the breaking out of the rebellion. There were sixty of us, and only fifteen were left—all the rest were killed. I have never avoided the city, and supposed the charge had died out."

Judge Primm informed the prisoner that he had nothing before him officially. The Marshall had not made his return. He was not on the bench in 1852, when the riot occurred, and was not a Judge until 1863.

Marshal Reinstaedtler came in with the two capiases, and his return entered thereon. The Judge then informed the prisoner that although twenty years had passed since the indictment was found, the law still held him amenable. He asked him if he could give bail, and fixed the bond at $500.

Capt. Martin offered himself as bondsman, but, not being the owner of unincumbered real estate, was not accepted. He said he would take a carriage and bring a man who had plenty of real estate. The reporters suggested that he ought to fetch Hutchins.

Capt. Martin went out and did not return for over an hour. While waiting for him, the reporters dived into the musty records of the Criminal court, and fished up the indictments and testimony taken before Judge Colt, and various other matters connected with the case. It may not be uninteresting to detail the leading incidents of the riot of 1852, called


At the municipal election in 1852, party politics ran high. The Whig party was dying out, and the Native American or Know Nothing party was awakening into life. At that time the Germans were nearly all Democrats, and were bitterly opposed to the proscriptive principles of the Know-Nothings. Hon. Luther M. Kennett, who, two years later, defeated Col. Benton for Congress after a bloody riot in which many Irishmen and a few Americans were killed, was the Whig candidate for Mayor. The Germans made a desperate stand in the lower wards, and about noon on the day of the election disturbances arose at the polls at Soulard Market, then in the First Ward, and the judges of election deemed it prudent to


until order could be restored. Certain shoulder-strikers of the Whig party, led by O'Blenis and other desperate men, distributed liquor among their partisans, and the mob spirit was aroused throughout the city.

News was brought to the central wards that the Germans had taken possession of the polls in the First Ward and refused to allow Americans to vote. It was also stated that the Whig candidate for Mayor had been driven from the polls by the Germans, and that several well-known Whigs had been assaulted and beaten by the irrepressible Teutons.

These reports spread like wildfire over the city and aroused a feeling of intense indignation in the breasts of the Whigs. Even grave and peaceable citizens became excited and vowed that such proceedings would not be tolerated.

In a few minutes, 300 or 400 citizens, armed with clubs, pistols, knives, and brickbats gathered on Fourth Street, and moved in an irregular mass toward Soulard Market, vowing vengeance against the "damn Dutch."

At that time, E. Z. C. Judson was publishing in the city a weekly, sensational sort of paper called


Judson had openly avowed Native American (Know-Nothing) principles, and when he heard that a collision was about to occur between the Americans and Germans, he lost no time in joining the ranks of his friends. Mounting a spirited charger, he rode down Fourth Street and placing himself in front of the moving mass of excited Whigs, called upon the mob to


Judson's social position and intemperate habits were not such as to commend him to the more sober members of the party, and his assumption of the leadership of the mob was not received with favor. After galloping a few blocks, he was knocked from his horse, and borne wounded and bleeding from the field. It was said that his


placed Ned hors de combat. Be that as it may, he won no laurels, and was more of a martyr than a hero.

The mob rushed on, led by O'Blenis, McBride, and others, and cleaned the street in front of the polls. Capt. James McDonough, the present Chief of Police, commanded a squad of policemen, and aided in clearing the streets. He spoke to the mob, and soon succeeded in restoring quiet. He then declared the


and the Whigs filled in their votes with wonderful rapidity, while the Democrats who had not voted hastened to their homes and did not vote at all.

The Americans were not masters of the situation, and the Germans were driven back. Some of the latter, who had congregated at the course of Niemeyer, a block or two distant from the polls, became exasperated and showed fight to the last. A shot was fired into the mob, and a man named Stephens was


near Niemeyer's house. This exasperated the Americans, and a hundred or more of them rushed into the house, upset the stove, and set the place on fire. Niemeyer was upstairs attending to his sick wife. Several men, learning the fact, went up, and wrapping up the lady in a sheet bore her from the burning building. Her husband followed, and in going through the crowd was struck on the head and body with clubs and stones, and never recovered from his injuries. He died four months afterward. The burning of the house partially appeased the mob, and the more reasonable of the Whigs interfered and induced the crowd to cease hostilities. Even O'Blenis became disgusted at this act of vandalism, and refused to strike another blow. He said, in his blunt way, "when it comes to fighting, I am in, but when houses are to be burnt I am not there." O'Blenis afterwards took up a collection, and Mrs. Niemeyer was paid the full value of the house and fixtures that had been destroyed.

Kennett was elected Mayor of the city, and the Democrats were defeated. When the grand jury met


were found against many of the ringleaders of the mob. J. B. Colt, brother of the revolver man, was then Judge of the Criminal Court, James R. Lackland was Circuit Attorney, R. J. Howard was clerk, and John M Wimer was foreman of the grand jury. Fourteen persons were indicted, and most of these were tried, with the following result:

E. Z. C. Judson: bond forfeited

Robert McO'Blenis: fined $50

J. McBride: fined $25

James Harper: acquitted

James Collins: not found

Wm. Bloomer: fined $50

Philip Moses: not found

John Kennedy: acquitted

S. Bartholomew: bond forfieted

John Dillon: fined $10

Wm. W. Way: fined $10

David J. Dickey: acquitted

J. Maharge: fined $10

Wm. McCamant: acquitted

Same Powers: acquitted

In the case of McBride, the jury that tried him brought in a verdict against James McBride, and his name being Joseph, he escaped payment of the fine. O'Blenis appealed to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the judgment, and he paid up.

The first jury, after a trial of fifteen days, failed to agree. The second trial lasted six days, with the above result.

Judson was indicted for rioting and for attempting to kill John Justfeld and Francis Busse. He was admitted to bail in $500, L. F. Hastings going on his bond. The cases were continued for several terms, and when finally called for trial, Ned was not on hand, and his bonds were declared forfeited.

While the reporters were gathering these facts, Capt. Martin was driving hither and thither in a carriage, looking for someone to bail Judson out, so he could appear on the stage of the Grand Opera House. After searching for a couple of hours, he met several gentlemen upon whom he could rely, among them Mr. Carlos S. Greeley and Capt. Dan. G. Taylor. As one Greely had gone on


there was no reason why another Greeley should not bail Ned Buntline, and so the bond was given, and last night Ned played his part on the stage, to the great delight of the gods of the gallery.

It is difficult to conjecture what the prosecution may amount to. There are witnesses enough living, but they may not remember the facts of the riot well enough to make out a case. At any rate, as the others escaped with light fines, it would seem hard, after a lapse of twenty years, to impose a very severe punishment on poor Ned. He has become a temperance lecturer, and is not as strong a Know-Nothing as he was.


excited a great deal of interest at the time. The testimony was committed to paper, and is on file in the Criminal Court, attested by the signature of Judge Colt. From the testimony we extract the following particulars: