Article from The Butler Weekly Times
Butler, Bates, MO
Wednesday, Jan. 26, 1887:
HUNTED DOWN AT LAST
Judge Scott Captured After a Seven Months’ Chase.
The Remarkable Pursuit and Evasion of a Judge of the St. Clair County Court Hunted Night and Day by a United States Marshal’s Posse---Contempt of Court the Charge on Which he is Held
Experiences of Captor and Captive.
Deputy United States Marshal John P. Willis arrived in this city last night with Judge Thomas Scott, the fugitive county Judge of St. Clair county, whom he had arrested at his home in St. Clair county the night before. The chase after Judge Scott is one of the most remarkable on record. The distinguished prisoner is charged with holding in contempt the United States authorities, the offense consisting of a refusal to obey a mandamus issued by the United States circuit court for the eastern district of Missouri. The circumstances briefly stated are these: In 1868 St. Clair county voted to the Tebo and Neosho railway company certain bonds. The road was never built, but the bonds were issued and some time afterward hypothecated in New York. The payment on the bonds was refused by the county and the innocent purchasers brought suit and obtained a judgment. Execution was ordered and a mandamus was issued from the United States Circuit court, ordering the county court of St. Clair county to levy a tax to pay the bonds. This mandamus Judge Scott refused to obey, and immediately afterward a warrant was issued for his arrest. He left his office and fled out of Osceola, the county seat of St. Clair county. The warrant was put in the hands of Deputy Marshal John P. Willis last June, and ever since then he has been pursuing the fugitive judge, and only captured him finally by chance.
The entire people of St. Clair county agreed with the stand taken by their judge, and the United States marshal experienced the utmost difficulty in finding him, let alone making his arrest. While no organized violence was ever offered to the authorities the whole people of the county were as nearly organized in aiding the judge as though they had been a secret band. St. Clair county is not very thickly populated, and the topography is rough and hilly. The chase for Judge Scott lasted over seven months, and during that time the United States marshals deputized, and the posse was divided and sent out through the county in every direction searching high and low for the judge. The whole county was scoured in the search and still he could not be found. When the information was given that he was at one place it would be found when the place was reached that it was like the proverbial milk sickness which was always “just across creek” or “a little further on”.
Marshal Willis became known to every man, woman and child in the county. He stuck to his duty like a (illegible) hound, and for days and nights, turning into weeks, hardly slept or did eat in his endless chase after the fugitive. In all this time Judge Scott claims that he never went outside the borders of the county but once, and that time he staid less than twenty-four hours. The marshal was determined to end the chase in capture, and kept to his work. After the weeks rolled into months and the months nearly into a year. The judge became careless and got in the habit of going to his home, which was a few miles in the country near Osceola. The marshal rode up to it Thursday night without expecting to find the fugitive and, just as he got into sight of the house, was surprised to see Scott step on to the porch. Making his way quickly to the house without being seen he got close enough to make the capture, and Scott, finding resistance impossible, gave in quietly and submitted to being brought here.
The train the marshal and his prisoner arrived on came in at 5:15 o’clock last night. The two alighted, and taking a carriage were driven to the United States marshal’s office in the custom house, where they were seen by a Times reporter. Judge Scott was glad the chase was over, and in response to an inquiry said: “I have been on the go almost constantly, and have felt like a fugitive all the time. Everybody in the county lent me assistance, and it would seem that I had an easy time of it, but the reverse is true. It would have been the same had I been an outlawed desperado. I knew no peace and, as the matter was bound to eventually end in my arrest, I am satisfied that the arrest has been made.”
Mr. Willis is of course highly elated at the capture. During the chase he passed through very many thrilling experiences. The people of St. Clair persecuted and annoyed him, and he had no assistance at all from them. In spite of all the difficulties he succeeded, and he receives great credit for the capture.
“I was abused and mistreated in every way possible, and my life threatened and attempted frequently,” he said to a reporter. “The two newspapers there and especially the St. Clair Advance, did their utmost to incite the people against me. I was denounced as everything mean and low and escaped assassination several times only by the merest chance. Mob law was even urged by the papers as the proper way to get rid of me. I could get no assistance whatever from the people, and it was mere luck for me to finally capture my man. For my prisoner I will say he is a perfect gentleman, and as long as he is in my charge he shall be treated as such.”
Judge Thomas Scott is a man 50 years old, of medium height and sparely built. He is dark and swarthy in appearance and at present wears a rough looking lot of whiskers. He was dressed when brought here in a dark suit of clothes and wore a comfortable looking furze overcoat of a dull brown color. He stopped last night at the Pacific hotel with the marshal, and to-day will be taken before the United States commissioner for examination.
Also from The Butler Weekly Times, Wednesday, Mar. 16, 1887:
Judge Scott, of the St. Clair county court,
appeared at Jefferson City Saturday for trial, and was fined $200 and sentenced
to two months in jail constructively.
Submitted by: Karen Foreman