The Young Brothers Massacre (sometimes
referred to as the Brookline Shootout) was a gun battle that occurred
outside of Brookline, Missouri that is now part of Republic, Missouri
on the afternoon of January 2, 1932. It resulted in the deaths of six
law enforcement officers, making it the worst single killing of U.S.
police officers in the 20th century.
The event is little known of outside of the Ozarks
region of Missouri where it occurred, and even books dealing with the
“Public Enemy Era” of the 1930s rarely mention it. This may be due to
the geographical and cultural isolation of the Ozarks at that time.
The Young brothers, Paul, Harry, and Jennings, were
well known to the law enforcement officers of southwest Missouri in
the 1920s as small-time thieves. Each served terms in the Missouri
State Penitentiary at "Old Jeff" for burglary and theft, and Jennings
and Paul also served terms at Leavenworth.
By the late 1920s, the three had become household
names with local law officers and had even earned the nickname of the
'Young Triumvirate'" [Stephen]. The local authorities considered the
brothers non-violent until June 2, 1929, when Harry Young and an
accomplice murdered Mark Noe, City Marshal of Republic, Missouri,
after Noe stopped Young for drunk driving.
Harry Young then disappeared with his two brothers,
allegedly living under a false name in Texas for two and a half years.
The brothers established a grand-scale autotheft ring, later described
by the FBI as one of the largest of its kind. However, the Youngs
still valued family ties, and by the end of 1931, Harry and "Jinx"
decided to visit their family farm in Missouri.
On January 2, 1932, Sheriff Marcell Hendrix of
Greene County, Missouri, received reliable information indicating that
the two Young brothers were at their family’s farm near Brookline, a
small village not far from Springfield. Hendrix quickly assembled a
posse of lawmen and set out for the farm. The ten police officers and
one civilian who went to arrest the Young brothers were by today’s
standards woefully unprepared for the job; they carried no weapons
other than handguns, and most had no spare ammunition on them.
Upon arriving at the farmhouse, the police officers
assembled in the front yard and yelled for the brothers to come out.
They received no response, but officer Ollie Crosswhite said he had
heard a person walking around inside.
Sheriff Hendrix ordered tear gas to be fired into
the house, with no immediate result. At that point, Hendrix and his
deputy sheriff, Wiley Mashburn, decided to kick down the back door of
the house and enter the home. When they did so, two persons, one armed
with a 12-gauge shotgun and the other with a .25-20 rifle, opened fire
from inside the house. (It is not completely clear who was in the
house at the time of the gun battle, but all evidence points to the
presence of Harry and Jennings Young.) Both Hendrix and Mashburn fell,
The officers outside began shooting into the
windows of the house, while those inside continued to pour deadly fire
on the exposed policemen. Another three officers, Tony Oliver, Sid
Meadows, and Charles Houser were quickly gunned down. The surviving
policemen, out of ammunition and pinned down, were forced to abandon
their dead and dying comrades and flee for their lives. Unknown to the
fleeing lawmen, Officer Crosswhite was still alive and uninjured,
crouching behind a storm cellar at the rear of the house.
Once the suspects inside the house became aware of
Crosswhite’s presence, one of them pinned him down with rifle fire
while the other crept up behind him and killed him with a shotgun
blast to the back of the head. While a relief party was being hastily
formed in Springfield, the killers took both money and weapons from
the fallen policemen and fled.
A national manhunt immediately commenced, and the
Young brothers were quickly tracked to a rented room in Houston,
Texas. Houston police officers entered the home on January 5 and
discovered the brothers had retreated to a bathroom. They called on
the men inside to surrender, and were met with gunfire. After the
officers returned fire, there was a period of silence, and then
several shots were heard. A voice called out “We’re dead-come on in”.
The officers found Jennings Young dead and Harry
Young mortally wounded from multiple gunshot wounds. The guns taken
from the murdered lawmen in Brookline were found on the bodies. The
coroner’s office in Houston concluded that the brothers had shot each
other in a suicide pact to avoid capture. Some persons later
questioned this version of events, suspecting that the officers
involved had in fact fired the fatal shots.
The Young Brothers Massacre was one of the events
that persuaded law enforcement in the U.S. to take a more professional
and cautious approach to armed standoff situations, particularly those
involving persons suspected of previous violence towards police
officers. A monument bearing the names of the six slain officers
stands today in front of the police headquarters building in
The Young Brothers Massacre ((Written & Illustrated
Especially for Law Enforcement Officers), by John R. Woodside, self
The Young Brothers Massacre, by Paul W. Barrett and Mary H. Barrett,
University of Missouri Press (1988) ISBN 0-8262-0650-6
We're Dead, Come On In, by Bruce Davis, Pelican Publishing (2005) ISBN
Young Brothers Massacre of January 2, 1932
Around this time of year eight decades ago, “one of
the most bizarre events in the history of crime occurred,” as quoted
in Young Brothers Massacre, a 1988 book by Paul W. and Mary H.
Barrett—one of over 15,000 artifacts in the Museum’s ever-growing
collection. Though tragic, this enigmatic event would affect future
policing in America, particularly how officers would prepare for and
handle potential armed standoff situations involving fugitives and
On January 2, 1932, a drab winter day in the midst
of the Great Depression, ten ill-prepared law enforcement officers
reported to the Young family farm near Brookline, a village in central
Greene County, Missouri, to arrest two local brothers for auto theft.
Area law enforcers, like most members of the small
community, were familiar with the Young family. In 1918, law
enforcement became especially familiar with three of J.D. and Willie
Florence Young’s sons—Paul, Harry and Jennings. The law enforcement
officers then consisted of only a town marshal, a “night watch,” the
sheriff, and his one deputy, with whom the Young brothers achieved a
reputation as well-known thieves, each spending time in state and
federal penitentiaries for burglary and theft throughout the 1920s.
Despite their run-ins with the law, local law
enforcement had come to consider the brothers as “small-time
criminals” until June 2, 1929, when Harry Young allegedly murdered
Republic (MO) City Marshal and Night Watchman or “night watch” Mark
Noe after he stopped Young and another ex-convict for drunk driving.
Then Harry became a wanted fugitive and fled, evidently living in
Texas under the alias Claude Walker, working for a dairy for a couple
years, entwined in a sweeping auto theft business in which Paul and
Jennings were also implicated. Law enforcement, however, did not
organize any national search for Harry.
After remaining inconspicuous for some time, Harry,
along with Jennings, paid a visit to the family farm, driving up from
Texas in two stolen Ford coupes. The day after New Year’s Day, 1932,
Greene County Sheriff Marcell Hendrix was tipped off that two of the
Young brothers were back after a local man reported that two Young
sisters had attempted to sell him what he believed to be a stolen car.
After questioning the sisters, law enforcement gathered that they
would find the Young brothers at the family farm.
Without any concrete planning or agreement on
strategy, Sheriff Hendrix, nine fellow officers from various
departments in Greene County and one civilian trekked to the Young
farm to surprise and apprehend them. Evidently, none of the lawmen
took the expedition very seriously, and while they knew about Harry’s
violent record, none even considered a shootout feasible. In many ways
the officers were woefully unprepared by today’s standards, carrying
only two tear gas shells and pistols without much spare ammunition.
Some law enforcement agencies in other parts of the country had made
progress toward becoming more professional, but in such a rural
county, what training the men had they’d come by through experience.
At the farm, the officers shouted for the Young
brothers to surrender, to no avail. Finally Sheriff Hendrix led two
others to the back of the house and kicked down the door. In minutes,
six of the ten officers had been killed—Sheriff Hendrix; Greene County
Deputies Ollie Crosswhite and Wiley Mashburn; and Chief of Detectives
Tony Oliver, Patrolman Sidney Meadows and Officer Charley Houser,
“paddy-wagon driver,” all of the Springfield (MO) Police Department.
Lacking more ammunition, four other officers retreated safely,
escaping the fate of their fallen colleagues. The survivors were
Detectives Frank Pike, Owen Brown, Ben Bilyeu, and Virgil Johnson. The
brothers escaped to Houston, Texas, where they were killed in another
shootout with local law enforcement on January 5.
Although the Brookline law enforcement shootout
involving the Young brothers made national news in 1932, most reports
and statements from officials failed to address an obvious (from a
modern lens) and important lesson: the need for scientific,
intelligent training for law enforcement officers, including
instruction in the capture and arrest of criminals. The need for
“high-powered rifles for the protection of the city police force” was
recommended by Springfield, Missouri, Mayor Thomas Gideon, the only
mention of instituting new practices in light of the shootings.
The highest number of law officers killed in one
incident at the time, the shooting at the Young farm became known as
the Young Brothers Massacre. More than 50 years would pass before any
other event would challenge its record. Today, it is exceeded by few
other incidents, most notably the terrorist attacks of September 11,
2001, the deadliest day in law enforcement history when 72 officers
died. The 1932 massacre holds the record for the deadliest single law
enforcement gunfight in the 20th century.
The names of the six officers killed are inscribed
on panel 16, line 17 of the National Law Enforcement Officers
Memorial's East wall.
When the National Law Enforcement Museum opens in
Washington, DC’s Judiciary Square, it will tell the rich history of
American law enforcement—including the process of how law enforcement
became increasingly professional throughout the 20th century as
training improved—through high-tech, interactive exhibits,
collections, research and education.
The Young Brothers Missouri Massacre
By Damon C. Sasser
James David Young, was a Christian and honest man,
but had to hang his head in shame when three of his eleven children
turned to a life a crime and he was powerless to stop their slide down
that slippery slope. Three of his sons, Paul, Jennings and Harry,
became gun-toting wise guys who believed they were above the law and
disdainful of honest, law abiding citizens. Indeed, they felt entitled
to appropriate any property they wanted from those citizens they so
despised. His wife, Willie Florence Young, was supportive of all her
children, even the ones who went astray. The family lived on a 100
acre farm just southwest of Springfield, Missouri, located in the
Ozarks region of that state.
The three brothers, who called themselves the Young
Triumvirate, were suspected of committing both petty and major crimes,
but despite the efforts of law enforcement, nothing could be pinned on
them. A reckoning came in 1919 when Paul and Jennings broke into a
small-town store south of Springfield, and were quickly caught with
stolen merchandise. In light of the overwhelming evidence, they
confessed to the theft and were sent to the state penitentiary in
The pair was indifferent to the shame and
humiliation their father felt in the presence of his friends and kin.
The rest of the Young children shared their father’s grief, but Mrs.
Young held Paul and Jennings blameless in the crime. She pleaded
frame-up, double-cross and misplaced justice. She became the defender
of her sons’ transgressions, especially Harry who was her favorite.
Their father was inconsolable over the actions of
his sons. All he wanted was peace and quiet, but the burden of what
his sons had become was too much for him to carry. He became sicker
and sicker — his heart broken, he died while Jennings and Paul were in
A one point in the brothers’ lengthy crime spree,
Mrs. Young was nearly arrested after police officers found stolen
merchandise in her home. She claimed she knew nothing of the items
(tires and rugs) stored in the farm house and Jennings stepped up and
took the fall so his mother wouldn’t be charged with possession of
stolen merchandise. While he cooled his heels in prison, brothers Paul
and Harry kept up the family traditions of robbery and burglary. Harry
was sent to the penitentiary in 1927, but soon all three were free
On June 2, 1929, Harry was driving recklessly
through Republic, Missouri, when he was apprehended by City Marshal
Mark Noe for drunk driving. Marshal Noe’s body was found in a roadside
ditch several miles out of town the next day. Harry was hunted in big
cities and small towns throughout the United States, Canada and
Mexico. Now and then officials would hear of him and often they read
of crimes they thought were his, but he was like a ghost, eluding
capture for over a year.
Around Thanksgiving 1931 it was learned that Harry,
Paul and Jennings were stealing cars and peace officers were on the
lookout for the trio of criminals. Federal warrants were out in many
jurisdictions for them on violations of the Dyer Act, and there were
numerous state warrants too, for offenses including the charge of
murder against Harry. Greene County Sheriff Marcell Hendrix spread the
false story in the Youngs’ neighborhood he was tired of looking for
Harry and that in all probability he had fled to Mexico anyway. It was
generally agreed among the sheriff’s forces and the Springfield police
they would bide their time flushing the Youngs out of the farm house.
They also did not want to tip off Mrs. Young in advance of the raid,
fearing she would alert her sons who returned home now and then for
Federal and State officers in Oklahoma and Texas
had traced stolen cars to Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa and
Illinois, and they had evidence the Youngs were responsible for the
thefts. And then there were an equal number of stolen cars taken from
Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Illinois into Oklahoma and Texas for
disposal there. At the time, their elaborate auto theft ring was one
of the largest the FBI had ever seen. Clearly the Young brothers
needed to be dealt with, and sooner or later officials knew some of
them would stop off at the home place for a visit with their mother. A
few days after Thanksgiving it was learned that Jennings was actually
at home. He soon left, probably on his way to Illinois with a stolen
car and returned shortly on his way back to Texas with a stolen
Illinois car, and then on another trip through the Ozarks he actually
came into Springfield.
On Saturday, January 2, 1932, evidence indicated
that Jennings and probably Paul and Harry were at the family farm.
Sheriff Hendrix collected ammunition, deputies and detectives to make
the raid. A total of eleven men headed for the farm seven miles
southwest of Springfield that fateful day. Since the farm was outside
the city limits of Springfield, Chief of Police Ed Waddle handed the
matter off the the County Sheriff to deal with. Sheriff Hendrix had
been a friend and neighbor of the Youngs for many years and believed
they would not harm him. When they arrived, the men milled about the
farmhouse for a few minutes, banging on doors and yelling. They
thought they heard noises coming from inside and came up with a plan
to safely force the occupants out of the house. Getting no response
from the occupants, it was agreed that the officers would fan out
around the front of the house, fire a gas canister into one of the
upstairs windows, and after the gas had time to saturate the second
floor, the Sheriff and a few others would force their way in the back
door and flush the brothers out the front door. Detective Johnson
fired a gas canister through one of the upstairs windows while the
group of officers waited a few minutes before taking up their assigned
heriff Hendrix and Deputy Sheriff Wiley Mashburn,
followed by Detective Virgil Johnson, left the southeast corner of the
house and walked to the kitchen door. In order to cover them and
observe their movements, Chief of Detectives Tony Oliver took cover
behind a tree on the outside of a small lawn fence. Patrolman Charles
Houser stood unprotected by the lawn gate. Detective Sid Meadows stood
behind a tree outside the lawn fence on the north side where he might
observe any exit from the northwest corner of the house. Detective Ben
Bilyeu stood in the open close to Oliver. Detective Frank Pike and
civilian R. G. Wegman were ordered to the rear of the officer’s cars
to keep careful watch of the barn and shed. Detective Owen Brown and
Deputy Sheriff Ollie Crosswhite took up positions at the northeast
corner of the house so Crosswhite could look in the window.
The Sheriff and Mashburn knocked on the kitchen
door. They both called out several times for the Young brothers to
come out with their hands up. A reply from the house did not come and
the lawmen decided to force their way in.
Hendrix and Mashburn were on either side of Johnson
who, with gas gun in hand, reached for the door knob, as Mashburn on
the left and Hendrix on the right, shoved hard with their left
shoulders. The door creaked and broke along the door knob panel,
springing part way open. Mashburn raised his revolver and took one
step inside. A shotgun fired with an awful roar, sending a well-aimed
charge of bird shot into Mashburn’s face, peeling off the flesh and
blowing his eyes out of their sockets.
The Sheriff yelled and stepped into the opening
left by Mashburn, as the mortally wounded Deputy faltered back.
Another shot rang out, hitting Sheriff Hendrix full-force in the upper
part of the shoulder just below the right collarbone, tearing a ragged
hole through the first and second ribs and sending hot lead deep into
the Sheriff’s chest cavity as he slumped to his knees.
Deputy Sheriff Mashburn, surprisingly still
standing, staggered backward with short steps, swayed and fell on his
backside before falling completely backward, his head striking the
concrete walkway. Wracked with pain, his body convulsed as his hands
fumbled over his ruined face.
Sheriff Hendrix must have seen his killer as he
slumped in the doorway while Mashburn lay kicking on the ground behind
him. Without saying a word, he raised his gun and straightened up to
shoot it out with his murderer before he died, but his torn muscles
would not function and his gun slipped from his fingers. But he did
not retreat and stumbled forward though the kitchen door, falling to
the linoleum floor where he bled-out at the feet of his murderer. The
Sheriff had come as an old-time neighbor to peacefully arrest the
errant sons of an honest and upright friend only to die at the hands
of one of those sons.
Detective Johnson, who had fallen back, ran for the
front of the house as Chief Oliver yelled to the others that the
Sheriff and Mashburn had been shot. The Detective whirled at the gate
and knelt down with the gas gun to fire another shell into the house.
Calmly aiming, he pulled the trigger, but the gun didn’t fire. He
pulled again and again, but still it wouldn’t work. He lowered the gun
and saw it wasn’t closed, so he closed it. But before he could re-aim,
it fired unexpectedly, sending the gas shell wide of its mark to hit
the side of the house just above the front porch roof where it smoked
for a second and then started to burn. Johnson turned to Oliver and
yelled that he was out of gas rounds.
Oliver shouted at Johnson to take cover and then
yelled to the rest of the officers to do the same. He also shouted at
them make sure their guns were loaded and extra ammo at the ready.
During the lull in the shooting, Deputy Sheriff Crosswhite yelled for
Chief Oliver to send someone after long guns — rifles and shotguns —
more gas shells and bullets. The Chief shouted to Johnson to take one
of the cars and hurry back with all of the guns and shells he could
find at the station and to bring more men back. He also advised the
rest of the men to be on the lookout in case the brothers made a break
for it and to save their ammunition.
Detective Johnson made his way around some trees to
the car and was backing it up to turn around when Detective Ben Bilyeu
and civilian R. G. Wegman scrambled into the back seat. The gunmen
inside the house had come to the front room, in all probability
wearing bullet-proof vests, and when they saw the men leaving they
opened fire with rifle and shotgun on the car. Two bullets whizzed
through the windshield close to Johnson’s head and exited through an
open window. Three or four successive charges of bird shot from the
house shattered the glass to bits and rained lead upon the body and
feet of Johnson, but he made the turn nevertheless and sped away down
the lane for Springfield and more help. When the desperadoes opened
fire on the car, Chief Oliver yelled for his men to fire into every
In the second lull of firing Oliver, ordered
Patrolman Houser to take cover behind a larger tree. He looked around,
spotted a bigger tree and then before making a run for it, he peered
around in front toward the house to see if it was safe. A well-aimed
bullet spat out of the south window and plowed into his head just to
the left of the center of Houser’s forehead and midway between the
eyes and hairline. The bullet tore a jagged path through the left
hemisphere of his brain and through the right to make its exit through
the middle of the posterior part of the right parietal bone. Dying, he
shouted “My God,” as he fell over supine on his back with legs and
The killers returned to the kitchen to make their
escape. One of them peered out the back window and was spotted by
Crosswhite, who opened fire and fired every bullet in his gun. The
shooter with the rifle went to the dining room window, stood on a
chair as he fired bullet after bullet at Crosswhite to keep him pinned
down while the killer with the shotgun snuck out the kitchen door,
coming up behind the Deputy and shooting him point-blank in the back
of the head, sending him sprawling to the ground.
The bird shot a blew a hole more than three-fourths
of an inch in diameter about two inches above the top of Crosswhite’s
right ear, the impact shattering his skull into several irregular
fractures. The back of his skull was loosened entirely and the shot
entered the cranial cavity completely destroying his brain — he died
Chief Oliver ordered Detective Sid Meadows to move
further back, seeing from his vantage point that Meadows was somewhat
exposed. Meadows replied that he was out of ammo, putting his hands in
his pockets, hoping to find a bullet or two in them. Suddenly, shots
were fired from the south window of the house directly at Meadows –
bird shot riddled the tree he was behind. Again Chief Oliver ordered
Meadows to fall back while he covered him, firing round after round
from his pistol at the house. Meadows started to make his move and
peeked around the tree trunk at the house. This time a rifle fired
from the north window of the house, the bullet perfectly aimed struck
Meadows just above his right eye. Meadows died instantly and collapsed
without making a sound.
Detective Pike leaned out from his tree and fired a
stream of bullets into the north window. He was answered with a volley
of bird shot from another window, which went wild; but a few pellets
struck Pike in the left arm. He yelled in surprise and pain. Fearing
they would all die where they stood, Oliver shouted for Pike and Brown
to make a run for the barn.
The shooters now concentrated their firepower on
Oliver, peppering the tree he was behind with bird shot. The Chief
took a step back to avoid getting flying splinters in his eyes when he
was hit with a blast of bird shot that tore through his heavy overcoat
and clothing. In pain, he forgot his perilous position and stepped to
the right exposing his shoulder. The rifle fired and a bullet tore
though flesh, muscle and bone. Suffering from loss of blood, Oliver
turned to seek cover behind the Sheriff’s car. At first he was erect
and steady, but after taking a step or two he faltered and struggled
to stay upright. He was stumbling toward the cover of the car when a
shot rang out. The whizzing, sizzling bullet took him in the back,
entering just below the left shoulder blade and tore a jagged wound
clear through his chest cavity, plowing into the lower lobe of his
left lung and on through the pulmonary connections near the heart and
ripped still deeper into his body. He pitched forward landing next to
the patrol car and died a slow and painful death as his chest cavity
filled with blood.
With Chief Oliver dying on the ground in front of
them, the remaining two officers, Detectives Owen Brown and Frank Pike
heard one of the shooters yell from the house: “Lay down your guns and
come up. We’ve killed the others.”
Both men refused to obey the shooter’s demands and,
hopelessly outgunned and facing certain death if they remained outside
the farm house, decided to leave the premises and return when the
With all of the officers apparently dead or fleeing
for their lives, the killers, suspected to be Jennings and Harry,
hurried into the yard. Unseen by anyone, they yanked the spark-plug
wires from the Sheriff’s car, grabbed Chief Oliver’s gun while he lay
struggling in the throes of death and Houser’s gun as well; they then
hurried back to the house. At the kitchen door they snatched up
Mashburn’s gun and Crosswhite’s pearl-handled revolver and retreated
into the house. Inside they stole the Sheriff’s gun and from his
wallet containing several hundred dollars. They hurriedly packed some
underclothes and shirts, and the five stolen revolvers, a rifle and
shotgun, along with a lot of shells and cartridges in two light
In a scant few minutes they were off; investigators
say they must have fled through cornfields and orchards on foot in a
northwest direction to freedom and future crimes. Some people found it
hard to believe that two men could have killed six lawmen, but
considering both were expert marksmen, had the advantage of the high
ground (the second story of the farm house) and considering the peace
officers, only armed with pistols, were ill-prepared for a shootout
and had sparse cover outside the house, it is feasible that the two
hardened criminals could have acted alone in the killings.
When Johnson returned with additional officers,
weapons and ammunition, he walked into a scene out of Dante’s Inferno,
with the dead and dying strewn around the farm house like rag dolls.
Despite the severity of his wounds, Deputy Mashburn was still alive,
but died later that evening. Detectives Brown and Pike were soon
located and Pike’s wounds were treated.
A full-scale investigation was launched into the
shoot-out, as was a nationwide manhunt for the perpetrators. Another
of the Young brothers, Oscar, told lawmen that Harry and Jennings were
the only two family members at the house that fateful day. Also, it
was later confirmed that “Pretty Boy” Floyd was in Texas at the time
of the massacre. With no solid leads, lawmen waited for the brothers
The first break in the case that lead to the
capture of Harry and Jennings came to Greene County Prosecuting
Attorney Dan M. Nee from Streetman, Texas. The Young brothers were
driving at a high rate of speed on U.S. Highway 75 and wrecked their
Ford coupe in a ditch near the town of Streetman, located 80 miles
southeast of Dallas. Battered and bruised, the pair climbed out of the
wreck, waving off motorists who slowed down to offer aid. Shortly, a
farmer named H. D. Carroll and his daughter came riding up on horses
and asked the men if they needed help. The brothers convinced them
they were not seriously hurt and asked if there was a phone nearby so
they could call a wrecker. Carroll replied he did have a phone at his
house, which was adjacent to the scene of the accident. He further
stated that there were no wreckers in the area and that it would take
a while for one to arrive.
The occupants of the car didn’t want to wait on a
wrecker because they said they had better see a doctor soon, since
they might be hurt. But they didn’t want to leave the car in the
ditch. A further discussion led to an offer from Carroll that he would
pull the car out of the ditch and store it in a shed. The men said
they would catch a ride to town, see a doctor and return as soon as
possible with mechanics.
As promised, Carroll hooked a team of horses on the
auto and towed it to his yard. When he looked it inside the car he was
surprised to find two guns — a shotgun and rifle — inside. He thought
the pair might be hunters. Carroll also found a checkbook for a
Parsons, Kansas bank and other things that seemed appropriate.
He did become concerned when discovered that both
license plates were missing from the car. His daughter then informed
him she had seen one of the men remove something from the car and toss
it into a nearby field. Carroll returned to the scene of the accident
where he found what had been tossed — two Missouri license plates
The farmer brought the plates back to the car and
waited for the Youngs to return. When they did not return with
mechanics to repair the auto, he went to the phone and called the
Navarro County Sheriff’s Office at Corsicana. He related to officials
there the circumstances surrounding his present possession of a
Missouri car. They agreed to look into the matter at once and several
officers were dispatched to the Carroll farm where they examined the
car and took an inventory of it contents, including the guns.
Mrs. A. E. Gaddy, the telephone operator, overheard
Carroll’s conversation with Corsicana officials but said nothing about
it to her family. Later that evening her son, A. E. Gaddy, Jr., was
listening to a radio program being broadcast from station KMOX out of
St. Louis about the Springfield killings, which presented descriptions
of Jennings and Harry Young. He mentioned the matter to his mother and
she told him what she overheard from Carroll. To satisfy his own
curiosity, the young man called Carroll about the details of the wreck
and to get descriptions of the two men. After talking with the farmer,
he felt for certain the occupants of the wrecked car were Jennings and
Harry. He immediately wired Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan M.
Nee in Springfield and notified him of the situation.
At that moment, twenty-four hours after the fatal
shooting, Prosecutor Nee, his assistant HornBostel, Federal Agents
Burger and DeMoss, Messrs. Wilson, Nolan and Arndt of the Frisco
Railway detective staff and several other Midwestern investigators,
were questioning Mrs. Willie Florence Young and her two daughters,
Lorena and Vinita, who claimed they were visiting relatives the
previous day when the massacre occurred.
Nee quickly called the younger Gaddy on the phone
to get more details and was convinced from the conversation the lead
was worth running down. He phoned the Corsicana officials next and
from them he obtained the serial numbers on the guns. Nee knew that
the brothers had connections in Houston and other Texas cities where
they operated their auto theft ring. Even though it was late when he
received the last bit information, he spread the word via wire and
phone to law enforcement throughout southern Texas to be on the
lookout for Harry and Jennings.
Early the next morning, Nee and his men learned
that the two occupants of the wrecked car had stopped E. C. Hogan, a
Fort Worth drug salesman, near the scene of the accident for a ride
into the town of Fairfield. On their way there, a bearing on
salesman’s car burned out near Caney Creek Bridge. The hitchhikers
thanked Hogan for the ride and flagged down the next traveler, Isaac
Levy of Corsicana, who was also on the way to Fairfield. He picked
them without suspicion, but grew worried when they insisted he drive
them all the way to Houston for any sum of money he wanted. As they
neared Fairfield, the injured men changed their minds about visiting a
doctor to tend to their wounds on the pretense they were anxious to
reach Houston that (Sunday) night. Levy let the suspicious pair out at
a filling station in Fairfield. They proceeded on foot down the road,
but were soon picked up by another, unidentified motorist.
The Prosecuting Attorney also discovered that
farmer Carroll, the drug salesman Hogan and Mr. Levy from Corsicana,
all three who spent time with the two men, did not see them carrying
weapons on their persons or in possession of any traveling bags.
At Nee’s behest, investigators found out by tracing
the license plates found in Texas to several different Missouri owners
that the plates were on a Ford coupe reported stolen on the streets of
Springfield the night of the crime. Greene County officials felt
certain now they were on the right trail of Jennings and Harry Young
and redoubled their efforts to have all Texas law enforcement
officials use every resource possible to apprehend them.
On Monday morning the Springfield Leader newspaper
learned the serial numbers on the shotgun and rifle found by H. D.
Carroll in the wrecked car and a reporter wired the manufacturer for
the name of the wholesale dealer to whom they had been first
consigned. Quickly through dealers and others, they traced the guns to
the ownership and recent possession of Oscar Young. He admitted when
questioned by lawmen that he had loaned the guns to Harry and Jennings
a day or two prior to the killings so that they could go hunting.
Armed with this information, investigators knew for certain that Harry
and Jennings were the occupants of the Streetman auto.
Late Sunday night, the two outlaws made their way
into Houston where they kept a low profile, going undetected even
though the local police were pulling out all the stops to find them.
Lawmen raided the known hangouts of the Youngs and questioned their
friends, but none revealed where the killers were. Despite the dragnet
thrown over the city, Jennings and Harry managed to stay one step
ahead of the law and elude capture. Additionally, somehow the bags and
stolen guns they packed at the home of their mother after the massacre
found their way to Houston where the brothers retrieved them sometime
Monday. Evidently someone, perhaps brother Paul, had helped them get
these items from Missouri to Texas without being detected.
On Monday afternoon one of Houston’s best police
officers had a fleeting glimpse of Harry, but in the blink of an eye
he faded away into a crowd. This particular lawman’s past record for
remembering faces made it an absolute fact to his superiors that Harry
and Jennings Young were in Houston. The alarm was sounded and every
road out of town, every boat to foreign ports, every train that left
the station was watched to make their escape from the city impossible.
Early Tuesday morning, January 5th, J. F.
Tomlinson, a carpenter by trade, who lived at 4710 Walker Avenue,
telephoned personally Houston Chief of Police Percy F. Heard and told
him that in the morning paper he had seen pictures of Harry and
Jennings Young, who greatly resembled the two men he had rented a room
to the previous afternoon. Further, he fearfully admitted the men were
at his home still sleeping right then.
Chief Heard immediately contacted Lieutenant Claude
Beverly of the Magnolia Park substation and together they arranged for
the elite of Houston’s Police Department to assemble at a pre-arranged
location on McKinney Avenue near the Tomlinson cottage where a quick
meeting was held and specific duties were assigned to each of the
detectives and patrolmen who were there to capture, dead or alive, the
notorious Young brothers.
Shortly after 9:00 a.m., the carpenter’s small
bungalow, immaculately landscaped with evergreens and shrubs, was
completely surrounded by lawmen armed with every conceivable type of
weapon, including revolvers, shotguns, sub-machine guns, rifles,
gas-guns, gas grenades, and smoke bombs. This time, the law
enforcement officers were well prepared for the Young brothers.
Lt. Beverly went up the steps, grabbed the
doorknob, causing the door to swing open and walked in — he was
closely followed by Officers Peyton and Bradshaw. Tear gas canisters
were hurled through a rear window into the bedroom where the outlaws
were believed to be, and then into the front room of the small house.
Allowing time for them to saturate the rooms, Lt. Beverly walked down
the hall and found a visitor, who was handcuffed and taken outside.
Beverly and Peyton continued to the rear bedroom door, opened it and
quietly walked in. The Youngs were not in the bed and when they
searched the room, they saw no one beneath the bed or hiding behind
the open door. The officers then stepped toward the door to the
bathroom, turned the knob and opened the door a little – instantly
three shots blasted out, barely missing the two lawmen. They jumped
back into the kitchen across the hall and positioned themselves so
they had a view of the rear bedroom and another door to the bathroom.
Things were deathly quiet for a second. Then as Chief of Police Heard
came through the front door, the bathroom door opened slightly and one
of the Youngs peeked out.
Lt. Beverly fired point-blank with his sawed-off
shotgun. The door slammed shut and then from within the bathroom
several shots rang out. Someone behind the door yelled, “We’re dead —
come and get us.” Suspecting a trap, Chief Heard and Lt. Beverly kept
their men back until another canister of gas had had time to be
effective. Then they unlatched the bathroom door and pushed. It struck
something that gave way slightly. They continued opening the door
wider until they could see a man sprawled out on the floor. They
quickly rushed into the bathroom to find Jennings Young lying dead in
a pool of blood and by his side lay Harry Young, bleeding profusely
but still alive.
In the Tomlinson bathroom, trapped like rats, the
outlaw brothers cheated the lawmen, the judge, jury and executioner by
killing each other in a mutual death pact. When cornered, Harry and
Jennings Young took the easy way out and fulfilled a promise made to
their mother, who not wanting to see them hanged, told them to kill
each other rather than be captured.
A cache of pistols, taken from the dead officers
near Springfield, several of which were used by the Youngs to take
their lives, lay beside the head of a bloodied Jennings Young. Harry,
just barely alive, was placed in an ambulance and rushed to St.
Joseph’s Infirmary where he died shortly after arriving. He did not
regain consciousness on the way to the hospital so Lt. Margiotta and
Detective Stinson, who accompanied him, obtained no deathbed
Dead in Houston, Texas, but damned to the depths of
Hell, Jennings and Harry Young were laid out covered with blood on
cold hard slabs in a mortuary 700 miles from Springfield, where at
that very hour widows and fatherless children were mourning the loss
of their husbands and fathers at the hands of the now deceased
There was no rejoicing in the Ozarks over the bad
end of Harry and Jennings Young, but a great sigh of relief did wash
over many of the city and county officials in Springfield who had been
awake every hour since the horrendous tragedy had catapulted them into
feverish, nerve-racking activity. There had been no rest until the
final act was over. The intensive manhunt had come to an inglorious
end for the two outlaw brothers who were unwilling to take
accountability for their crimes and instead gunned down six good