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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:


At the time of the riot I lived on Marion Street, north side. I saw Niemeyer's house on fire from Flashmeyer's. I saw a man at the northeast corner of Seventh and Park avenue, lying dead. I then saw the house consumed. Then the fire companies came. I saw a large crowd round the house and two or three hundred people. At 1 or 2 o'clock an alarm of fire was given, and the Phoenix bell rang. I don't know who did it. I went to Decker's house; Decker and myself, Drilin and one other man whose name I don't know. A crowd of thirty ot forty came up to the corner. Buntline came there. The crowd were coming up Seventh Street toward Niemeyer's house. Did not see any of the defendants there that day.

Cross-examined—I saw Ned Buntline at Niemeter's on Seventh after the fire commenced. I was at Decker's corner but once that day. No stones were thrown before Buntline


I saw Stephens dead on the corner of Seventh and Park Avenue, his head on the curbstone and feet to the river. The houses first broke in were Flasch's and Becker's. I don't know anybody's name that was at the fire. I saw four men running up Seventh Street and a crowd of twenty men after them. There was a great excitement at the polls, because they intended none but Democrats to vote. A German told me I was not to live in the First Ward if I voted the Whig ticket. I was half an hour at Flasch's, when I heard the report of a gun. When I arrived at Niemeyer's, there was a great excitement and noise, talking and hallooing. A man came out of Niemeyer's house when the fire was raging with some bedding, and was knocked down. I saw no guns. There were two crowds, Americans and Germans. I can't say if both had rocks in their hands. The Germans stood in Park Avenue and Seventh. I saw no stones thrown over from Park Avenue, where the Germans were. I saw no one in Buntline's crowd throw a stone until they came to Flasch's. It was about half an hour after I heard the first sho I saw Stephens' body.


I saw some of the difficulty at Niemeyer's house. The first thing I heard was a pistol shot from Niemeyer's house, or one adjoining. Persons were there in front of Niemeyer's, fifty or 100. When the shot was fired they stopped. Two persons were shot. I saw no weapons in anyone's hands until after this shot, then I saw


and some persons broke in Niemeyer's house; don't know who; I know McBride and Dickey: I saw none of the defendants at the house that day. I saw Buntline on Fourth Street, and something was said about going to the First Ward; when I went down the second time the street was full. I told him I went there to vote, and the Germans drove me away. He said if I would go with him I should have a chance to vote. He said to some others that there was a man who had been driven from the polls. Dickey said he had been up to see Mr. Kennett about it. A crowd went down afterwards on account of disturbances in the First Ward. I was excited; the reports brought up were enough to excite anybody. I heard no threats, except that someone said it was a good time for the Dutch printing office.


testified that there was a crowd at Niemeyer's house, many of them boys. Saw McBride on horseback at the time of the shooting; he said to the crowd that two young men had been shoot. After the firing, they commenced in a few minutes to break the house. A shot from Niemeyer's house killed Stephens. The stones were thrown after the shooting. I saw O'Blenis when the house was burning; he said, "When it comes to fighting I'm in; but when to


I'm not there." He said it was a shame. I saw him before at the polls; he had whisky and tumblers. The Germans were fighting. If a policeman interrupted they whipped him. The Germans took the polls; no man went to vote. They wouldn't let him, because, they said, he was a Whig. He did not vote until the polls were retaken. McBride and another person came to vote; they pointed them out, and threw stones, and bricks, and mud at them and hit them; they did nothing to provoke it; a large crowd ran after them, throwing rocks at them; then they whipped Coote, and Sutter, and Mitchell. They stoned all the carriages that passed. This was kept up till Jecko spoke; then the crowd came down Seventh Street. The Germans, when they saw them, shot their pistols in the air, and then stones were thrown by both crowds. The Germans went perhaps halfway up the street to meet the Americans. I saw the Germans behind the lumber pile at the corner of Fourth and Marion. They


by throwing rocks and bricks at him, as he was riding along Seventh Street; he did nothing; he went off; he offered no resistance; he was alone on horseback; afterwards he was shot at, and he also shot at them; about 150 Germans were after him. Stephens was shot ten or fifteen minutes before the house was fired. When the house was broken the crowd was just coming there. I saw policemen trying to prevent persons from firing the house, and the crowd would knock them down. Jackson was knocked down. They broke into the coffee-house opposite the polls because the Germans whipped an old man who ran in there and was kicked out.


testified to seeing some of the defendants at the riot. He went with the crowd of Americans downtown; there were 400 or 500; some were mounted; some had sticks and some pistols. As the crowd moved down the Germans threw rocks at them; they pursued the Germans, and followed some of them into houses. After the house was fired, some twenty Germans came and fired at the crowd. The Germans started to get a cannon, but the Americans got it first and took it to Second and Park Avenue; don't know how the gun was loaded.

Mayor Kennett came down, and the Germans drove his carriage off. Every man that looked like an American had to leave. The Germans tore up the tickets. Witness and McBride went down with the tickets, and the Germans stoned them; they ran and were pursued by 300 or 400, and outran them. Afterwards they met the Americans and went down with them. In the first engagement the Americans retreated because they could get no rocks. The Americans proceeded to the polls and made public proclamation that everyone who wanted to vote could do so. All was quiet, and they started home, when a shot was fired from Niemeyer's house.


testified that the house was set on fire by upsetting the stove and knocking down the gaslights. Witness was a judge of election in the First Ward. A crowd came downtown, and said they came to open the polls for the Whigs to vote. We stopped taking votes about fifteen minutes, because they came in on us; they jumped over the tables and said "Now the Whigs shall vote." Pilkington and Abels were also judges.


testified that there were no Whig tickets at the polls at 1:30 o'clock; all had been carried off; he voted, and the crowd pursued him and threw stones at him; for the first time in his life he ran, and was struck on the cheek with a stone; ran into a house and crawled under the bed; was put out, and some women took him upstairs; then the Americans arrived and he was saved.


testified to being in the fight on the side of the Americans, and related the particulars.


testified that beweeen 1 and 2 o'clock there was fighting and great excitement. The Germans were keeping up the excitement; the Americans had no show; if an American opened his lips he got whipped, because the Americans were called Whigs. It was very hard to get to vote at all. The polls seemed to be in the hands of the Germans, and no Whig tickets were to be had. The polls were declared to be opened, and then all was quiet. Ned Buntline spoke, contending for the right of suffrage.


testified that the report came that the Germans were whipping the Americans, and had taken the polls. I galloped there and saw a fight between the Germans and Americans; the Germans were whipped off, and Capt. McDonough proclaimed the polls opened; all quiet then. As I was returning home I saw the Germans throwing stones at the citizens who were returning up Seventh Street. the Americans pursued them down to Carondelet Avenue; here a German shot twice at an American from behind a fence. Stephens was shot several minutes before Niemeter's house was burned.


testified that he was Mayor at the time; went down to First Ward at 12 o'clock. A man said, "I heard you abuse the Dutch in the ferryboat." He seemed angry. Some of them said, "Hang him; drown him in Kennett's Lake." He got into his carriage and drove home. After that he had heard that the Germans had taken the polls.

Capt. McDonough, Capt. Joseph Hercules, and several other policemen and citizens testified pretty much as the witnesses above quoted. The testimony is quite voluminous.

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I had a western story up on Shotgun Honey called, The Kid At The Crossing, (a homage to a Louis L'Amour story called Flint) which included a bit of a swipe at Ned Buntline. But he does seem to be the man that opened up the wild west to everybody.

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