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Young Brothers Massacre

Paul W. Barrett & Mary H. Barrett

Publication Year: 1988

On January 2, 1932, near Springfield, Missouri, ten poorly armed law enforcement officers set out to arrest two local farm boys for auto theft.  A few minutes later, six of the officers lay dead and three were wounded, setting a record that stands to this day for the greatest number of police officers killed in one incident in the history of the United States.  This is the story of how it happened and of the unlikely people whose lives were forever changed.

The two killers, Jennings and Harry Young, were from a peaceful, tiny community named Brookline in central Greene County, Missouri.  The "massacre" itself took place at the quiet orderly farm home of the J. D. Young family.  Paul and Mary Barrett trace the personalities of those involved in the incident, describe the events of the fateful day, and examine the aftermath of the killings, detailing what was called "the greatest man hunt in the history of Texas," which culminated in the brothers' deaths in Houston.



Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

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pp. v-vi

On a bleak winter afternoon in the depths of the Great Depression, near the tranquil "Queen City of the Ozarks," Springfield, Missouri, one of the most bizarre events in the history of crime occurred. Ten poorly armed law enforcement officers and one police station buff, on the day after...


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pp. vii-x

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1. Heartbreak Farming in Oklahoma

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pp. 1-7

For more than seventy years a formal photograph of the J. D. Young family has been preserved in the family archives. Frozen in the stiff poses typical of the days before fast photography, the father, mother, aunt, a married daughter's child, and all eleven children are lined up in order of age....

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2. Criminal Careers, Country Style

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pp. 8-15

Their paths would cross repeatedly, and "Van" (William Luther Vandeventer) was a character worthy of notice in his own right. He stood out in any group for both his physical and his mental traits. He was tall and trim, almost totally bald. His face had a slightly Oriental cast. His sparkling ...

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3. Youngs Accused of Boxcar Burglary

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pp. 16-23

On April 14, 1924, R. E. 'fiuman, special agent, filed a complaint before the clerk of the federal court, the unyielding Tony Arnold, in his additional capacity as a United States commissioner. The complainant's solemn affidavit stated that Oscar Young, Harry Young, Jennings Young, and...

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4. Paul on a Career Path of His Own

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pp. 24-26

One may wonder why Paul was not involved in the burglary of the boxcars. The explanation is simple. He had gone off on a lark of his own and was faced with monumental problems. He had, for the moment, moved his operations to Bell County, Texas. There, on January 14, 1924, the sheriff was ...

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5. A Busy Year for Harry

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pp. 27-31

While Paul and Jennings were establishing their criminal careers, their younger brother Harry was not idle. Harry, whose full name was Lyman Harry ("Dutch") Young, began early to compile a record as lawbreaker that would end in his death, with Jennings, following their murder of six law...

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6. Harry Slays Mark S. Noe

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pp. 32-36

Republic, a bedroom community adjacent to Springfield, Missouri, now has a population of 2,488. In 1929, however, only slightly more than eight hundred people lived in the town. It had been an idyllic, peaceful farm community completely lacking in crime and violence. On the warm, star-filled night...

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7. Jennings in Jail Again

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pp. 37-40

There was no nationwide manhunt for Harry after Mark Noes slaying, although efforts to find him were made locally. The usual "criminal wanted" bulletins were posted. Alerts for citizens to be on the lookout were sent to towns and cities in Oklahoma and Texas. In Greene County, Missouri, Sheriff ...

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8. Springfield's Finest—Victims of the Massacre

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pp. 41-53

Greene County, Missouri, and Springfield, the county seat, enjoyed passionately unbridled political warfare from 1928 until 1932. Not only were Republicans pitted against Democrats, but the major parties themselves were also split on trumped-up petty local issues as well as on problems of ...

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9. Clouds of Disaster Gather

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pp. 54-62

It is possible that even if J. D. had lived, the Young brothers would have come to the same tragic and bloody end. Without him, however, that end seems, in retrospect, inevitable. James David "Daddy" Young, the patriarch of the family, was its stabilizing force. It was he who kept discipline. It was he ...

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10. The Massacre

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pp. 63-81

The day of the Young brothers massacre, Saturday, January 2, 1932, was gloomy, cold, and gray. The low temperature of 34 rose to a high of only 40.1 Lorena and Vinita had decided to go back to Clyde Medley to sell him the stolen car. Before that, they deposited Mom, Albert, and Lorenas daughter,...

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11. Word Goes Out: "Find the Killers"

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pp. 82-96

In the entire sad saga of the Young family, perhaps the greatest tragedy was Willies. Innocent, a good, religious woman, a devoted mother, a hardworking farm wife with both the skills and limitations of that role, she found herself caught up in a train of events that left her homeless and grieving. All ...

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12. The Second Shootout

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pp. 97-103

The Young family drama sped to its tragic climax with the relentlessness of a Greek drama. Only days after the bloody shootout with law officers at the Young farm, Harry and J ennings found themselves in another fatal confrontation. ...

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13. The Survivors' Tales

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pp. 104-109

Reliable, comprehensive records of the Young brothers massacre do not exist. For details, the historian of this event must rely in large part on reports from survivors.
The Springfield Police Department once assembled a file concerning the massacre. It was stored in the "library" (the...

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14. Aftermath of Disaster

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pp. 110-136

Many lives were profoundly changed by the massacre and the events that followed. Even people whose destinies were not directly involved found themselves swept along in the rapid stream of events. ...

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pp. 137-139

In pursuing desperate fugitives, hundreds of courageous law enforcement officers risk their lives daily, yet they are seldom heralded as heroes. In the saga of the young brothers massacre there were few heroes, only martyrs and disconcerted police officers. Fortunately, except for an occasional...


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pp. 140-149

E-ISBN-13: 9780826272997
E-ISBN-10: 0826272991
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826206503
Print-ISBN-10: 0826206506

Page Count: 160
Illustrations: illus
Publication Year: 1988