Highway Patrol Observes 90th Birthday in Howell County - Part 2
Wed, 05/05/2021 - 1:42pm admin
Trooper Nathan Massie retained the distinction of being the first and only Missouri State Highway Patrolman in Howell County for a little less than a year. In October 1932, Trooper Ed C. Brown, a graduate of the second Patrol class, was assigned to help Nathan Massie in Willow Springs. Though both were stationed in Howell County, their duties included the area extending to the Arkansas line to the south and the Dent/Phelps County line to the north. They covered the territory to the Webster County line to the west and Carter County line in the east. Today a trooper's responsibility is a fraction of that area.
In late November 1933, Troopers Massie and Brown received orders to apprehend a known check forger who was on the run in the area and believed headed in the direction of Willow Springs in a stolen DeSoto. The officers set a roadblock south of town with Howell County Deputy Sheriff Wade Baldridge and, when the vehicle refused to stop, gave pursuit. The driver of the car, B.H. Green, alias "Bud Love," turned onto the Burnham Road a few miles south of Willow Springs, and the officers began exchanging gunfire with the driver. The troopers shot down both rear tires of the car, but the chase continued to the Burnham railroad overpass. Unknown to the officers, two young women from Thayer were crouched low in the back seat of the fleeing car. The girls were unharmed but terrified. The car skidded to a stop at the overpass, and the driver, still alive, was fatally wounded and died in a few minutes.
Trooper Brown transferred out of Willow Springs and resigned from the Patrol in 1940. One of Massie's fellow original members was stationed at Van Buren in 1931. Trooper Benjamin Franklin Graham, a native of Clubb, Wayne County, Missouri, was reassigned to Willow Springs. Massie and Graham soon became friends and formed a partnership that would transcend their Patrol careers and remain for the rest of their lives. They quickly gained a reputation as crime fighters and acclaim statewide. The two men worked out of a small office in the newly built MoDot building in Willow Springs.
In May 1934, their exploits were extolled in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, under the headline, "Two Troopers Have Name for 'Getting Man.'" The article read, "Patrolling a district which included some of the most rugged and isolated territory in Missouri, State Highway Patrolman Sergeant Nathan H. Massie (Massie had been promoted) and his teammate, Ben F. Graham, of Willow Springs who last Friday ran down and killed Walter Hartley of Mountain Grove, Ozark's bank robber, are setting a record for 'getting their man,' which would do credit to the Northwest Mounted."
"The slaying of Walter Hartley, who escaped from the Ozark County jail a little more than a week ago, climaxed three fights between Hartley and the two troopers during a four-hour chase in the hills along the Howell County, Mo., and Marion County, Arkansas line."
"Although Sergeant Massie, a quiet and unassuming Ozarkian, who is a former U.S. Marine, declines to discuss the Hartley killing as anything more than an unpleasant but unavoidable duty, the slaying was for him a distinct personal triumph as Walter Hartley when he escaped from the Ozark County jail on May 12, at which time he kidnapped the Sheriff and another prisoner, had sworn to kill Massie."
"Massie twice before had trailed Hartley down and brought him under the clutches of the law causing his conviction last year of a bank robbery charge at Chadwick, Mo., for which he received a 22-year sentence, and again taking him to Ozark County to face witnesses who identified him as one of the trio that held up and robbed the Bank of Hammond, at Hammond, an inland town of Ozark County, in May of last year."
"Hartley's attorney had appealed the sentence he had received at Chadwick, and he was under $20,000 bond, pending the decision of the Supreme Court on that case, while he was in jail on the Hammond bank robbery charge. The Patrol Sergeant had been warned that Hartley had said he would never be captured alive again and that he expected to kill Massie before he himself was killed. However, Massie did not fully realize the extent of the outlaw's spirit of revenge until he met him in the hills last Friday."
"Three times during the four-hour chases Friday, Hartley matched his wits and his trigger finger against those of Massie and Graham, and although he was wounded in each fight, it was not till the third that he fell mortally wounded. As he lay dying, Hartley made one more attempt to 'get Massie.' Begging to be raised up that he might breathe more easily, the outlaw almost lured Massie into his trap before Massie and Graham discovered that he held clinched in his right hand a large jackknife, which was open and the long blade of which was cleverly concealed under his wrist. Had Massie bent over to lift him up, Hartley would have plunged the knife into his throat."
"Only three weeks ago Massie and Graham killed Edgar Allen, automobile thief of Quincy, Illinois, captured Florence Stover of Kewanee, Illinois, and Allen's brother, Walter, ex-convict of Missouri, both of whom are wanted in Illinois and Iowa but are being held on a Federal charge in Springfield, Missouri."
"This manhunt which was staged in Wright and Texas counties, was started by Trooper Graham when he answered a call to a Willow Springs filling station, where it was reported that Clyde Barrow, the killer, and Bonnie Parker, with another man, were eating lunch. Edgar Allen and Florence Stover having been mistaken for Barrow and the Parker woman."
"Massie was on his way home from a neighboring town; Trooper Graham answered the call alone, after leaving word for Massie to follow him. Graham stayed on the trail alone for 35 miles or more, engaging in two fights before Massie caught up with him and before troopers summoned from neighboring district began blocking all roads leading into Texas and Wright counties, as they moved from all directions toward the territory in which the Willow Springs patrolmen were keeping on the trail. By morning the fugitives were bottled up in a small area of wooded hill lands. They abandoned their woman companion and their car and tried to escape on foot but were captured late the next afternoon. They also chose to shoot it out, but lost, Edgar Allen being slain almost instantly, while his younger brother was severely wounded."
"One year ago this month, Massie, with Trooper Ed Brown, led a 48-hour manhunt among the hills along the Missouri-Arkansas border, which resulted in the capture of Walter Hartley's running-mates, Orval Hosey, alias 'Blackie' Williams of Springfield, and Jack Dillon, a widely known Cushing, Oklahoma outlaw, who had been terrorizing the Southern Missouri Ozarks. Hosey and Dillon, with a third man, said later to be Hartley, had just held up and robbed the Bank of Hammond. Massie and Trooper Brown were on the trail in little more than one hour, crowding the robbers so closely they were forced to abandon their automobile, which they had stolen in Ozark, Mo., and taken to the hills afoot. Four 48 hours Massie and Brown continued on their trail, which led through hills and hollows, across creeks and bayous. Peace officers, bloodhounds, and posses of armed citizens also joined in the chase, which concluded when Hosey and Dillon were finally captured in a ravine across the Arkansas line."
"Hartley was not captured at that time but was later apprehended by Massie and taken to Hammond where he was identified as one of the three in the bank holdup. He later escaped from jail in West Plains, where he was placed for safekeeping and was at liberty until only a few weeks ago, when he was captured at Miami, Oklahoma, in a trap set by officers there for Clyde Barrow. He denied being a member of Barrow's band and said he ran into the Barrow trap merely by chance."
Hammond was a thriving community during the 1930s with a bank, drugstore, post office, and blacksmith shop. A water-driven turbine gristmill ran continuously to supply the community with cornmeal and flour. Hammond is located about three miles southeast of Thornfield in Ozark County. The implication of the local bank being robbed in the days before the FDIC was the community lost the money taken from the bank's depositors. The Ozarks in the early 1930s harbored some of the worst criminals in the region, attracted by the remoteness and knowledge that law enforcement was hindered in pursuing them by jurisdiction laws limiting local law enforcement. The early years of the Missouri Highway Patrol were spent attempting to restore the rule of law using these trained officers who could pursue criminals throughout the state.
It was not a one-sided battle. Officers were, on occasion, victims themselves. In our next issue, we will pursue that story.