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Distributed for Missouri Historical Society Press

Necessary Evil

Settling Missouri with a Rope and a Gun

From the Mormon Wars to the Border Wars to gangs of Bald Knobbers and Bushwhackers, Missouri’s reign of vigilante justice during the nineteenth century is unparalleled by any other state in the nation. Situated as the Gateway to the West, Missouri experienced an influx of new cultures, races, and political factions, while already home to a population of patriotic war veterans. The state marked the boundary of eastern civilization and was a stronghold of fierce independence, bordered by Bloody Kansas and Native American territories. With new lands opening for settlement, and a fledgling system of law enforcement, the people themselves were compelled to invent laws and punish transgressors. Lawmen opposed vigilantes but at times were forced to cooperate with them and adopt their methods. Missouri spawned countless stories of individual and mob violence that finally ended at the turn of the century with advancing technology and the people’s enduring insistence on decency and peace.

Necessary Evil is the first book to chronicle the implications of vigilantism in Missouri, ultimately showing that the state could never have been settled without a healthy dose of rebel justice. Packed with stories of popular gunslingers such as Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok, and Jesse James, this action-filled read will be of interest to crime enthusiasts and historians alike.

336 pages | 69 halftones, 5 line drawings, 4 maps | 6 x 9 | © 2014

History: American History

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Table of Contents


1. First Flames: The Mormon Wars

2. Divine Vengeance: The Mormon Wars

3. The Slicker Wars Begin

4. Slicker Vengeance

5. The Border Wars

6. The Border during the War

7. Equipped by War

8. The Archetype: James Butler Hickok

9. The Vigilante as Victim: Sam Hildebrand

10. No Surrender for Sam

11. Outside the Lines

12. Wyatt Earp and the Vigilantes

13. Doc Holladay and the Bounty-Hunting Preacher

14. The Bald Knobbers

15. The Bald Knobbers on Trial

16. Mob Mentality

17. The Regulators

18. Personal Justice

19. Decency Takes a Hand

20. Technology Takes a Hand

21. The Myth


Notable Sources


About the Author

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