|Stultz - Simmons Shooting|
|"The report of my death was an exaggeration." - Mark Twain|
On Monday, 06 July 1885, on the streets of the riverside town of Weston, Missouri, John Stultz shot his nephew, James William Simmons. Unfortunately for genealogists and historians, most of the newspapers of the day printed the rumor of William's death as fact. Those of us who already knew that William lived to a ripe old age were left confused as to the facts of the incident. This page is attempt to set the record straight.
The fully reconstructed story appears below, followed by transcriptions of the original sources from which it is drawn.
James William Simmons, hereafter referred to as William, was born on 01 October 1860 in Weston, Platte County, Missouri, to Joel Simmons and Martha Stultz Simmons.
John Stultz was born on 26 August 1857 in Weston to James Stultz and Mary Ann Wells Stultz. He was a much younger brother of Martha, and therefore an uncle of William Simmons.
Given their similar ages, their kinship and the nearness of the family farms to one another, it is unsurprising that the two young men grew up as friends. Something came between them in about 1883, however, that led to a violent feud. One source claims that both men were pursuing the same woman, but given that John Stultz had married in 1880, that seems unlikely.
After their friendship soured sometime in 1883, the two men apparently managed to avoid one another until just after the Fourth of July festivities of 1885. The two began to brawl on the streets of Weston, and Stultz drew a knife and slashed Simmons across the neck, fortunately failing to do any serious injury. The men were separated, arrested, and charged with disturbing the peace.
They appeared before the local magistrate on Monday, 06 July, and were both fined. Sometime after leaving the court, that same day, the men again encountered one another on the street. This time Stultz drew a pistol and fired at Simmons, striking him in abdomen. One account claims that Stultz then attempted another shot at Simmon's head, but that the gun failed to discharge.
Stultz was immediately arrested and jailed while Simmons was taken away for medical attention. The initial prognosis was apparently poor, and Simmons was expected to die.
The rumor mill apparently ran rampant at this point, and several different versions of the event reached newspaper editors in the nearby towns of Saint Joseph on the Missouri side of the river, and Leavenworth and Atchison on the Kansas side (no newspapers from Platte County are known to have survived from 1885, so we don't know how it was reported locally). The Leavenworth Times and the Atchison Daily Globe both printed the story on Wednesday, 08 July, as if William had been murdered. The St. Joseph Gazette ran a garbled report on Wednesday, followed by a correction on Thursday. The St. Joseph Evening News apparently had time to wait for a clearer report before printing a more accurate version on Wednesday evening, while the St. Joseph Daily Herald waited and printed a reasonable version on Thursday. (Somehow W. M. Paxton, the diarist of The Annals of Platte County, also misreported that "John Stultz shoots and kills William Simmons at Weston".)
The Atchison paper and two of the St. Joseph papers identify the combatants as uncle and nephew.
That William survived the shooting is proven by the subsequent court proceedings against John Stultz and by the variety of records concerning William's subsequent life.
On Wednesday, 12 August 1885, John Stultz was indicted in Platte County Circuit Court not for the murder of James William Simmons, but for "felonious assault with intent to kill". It should be noted that the record uses William's full name, making it a virtual certainty that he is, in fact, John's nephew. John's bail was set at $1000, which was posted by his mother and a group of his friends. After some delay, Stultz came to trial on Friday, 20 November 1885, where he pled guilty to the charge and was fined $100.
Had William actually died from the shooting, John would never have gotten off so lightly.
To the best of my knowledge, no further violence ensued between the parties.
John Stultz had married Ada Mae Buckner in October of 1880, and they raised a family in Weston. John died there on 15 October 1938 and was buried in the family plot at Laurel Hill Cemetery.
William Simmons married Talitha Cumi Ninemeyer, virtually the "girl next door", on 19 December 1888, and moved across the river to Leavenworth. They apparently lived in Leavenworth for most of their lives, with Talitha dying there in 1917. William spent some time in St. Louis and in Kansas City around 1922 before returning to Leavenworth, where he died on 06 February 1936. He and Talitha are buried next to his parents in the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Weston.
The US Federal Census of Leavenworth, Kansas for 1900 lists William with his proper birthdate of October 1860 and the proper origins of both parents. William is mentioned as a survivor in both his father's obituary of 1903 and his mother's of 1922. Clearly, he did not die in 1885.
Vital Statistics: (summarized, from various sources)
James William Simmons (son of Joel Simmons and Martha Stultz) b. 01 Oct 1860, Weston, Platte, MO shot, 06 Jul 1885 by John Stultz m. 19 Dec 1888 to Talitha Cumi Ninemeyer living in Leavenworth, 11 Jun 1903 (father's obit) living in Kansas City, 27 Jan 1922 (mother's obit) d. 06 Feb 1936, Leavenworth, Leavenworth, KS buried, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Weston, MO Talitha Cumi Ninemeyer (daughter of Andrew and Eleanor) b. 26 Sep 1865 d. 31 Dec 1917, Leavenworth, Leavenworth, KS buried, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Weston, MO John W. Stultz (son of James Stultz and Mary Ann Wells) b. 26 Aug 1857 m. 20 Oct 1880, to Ada Mae Buckner d. 15 Oct 1938 buried, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Weston, MO Ada Mae Buckner (daughter of Benjamin Buckner and Crystal Rich) b. 16 Oct 1855, in Hanover, Germany d. 11 Dec 1934 buried, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Weston, MO
Annals of Platte County Missouri
"July 6 (1885) - ...John Stultz shoots and kills William Simmons at Weston."
Leavenworth (KS) Times
John Stultz shot Wm. Simmons through the bowels Monday, during a dispute, at Weston, Mo., and produced a fatal wound. The affair is the result of an old quarrel. Stultz is in jail.
Atchison (KS) Daily Globe
Weston, Mo., July 8 --- A long and bitter family quarrel wound up yesterday in the fatal shooting of William Simmons by John Stultz, both of whom are well known citizens of Platte County, Missouri. Stultz is Simmons's uncle. They quarreled a year and a half ago, but avoided each other until last Saturday night when they met in Weston and fought and Stultz cut Simmons in the neck, narrowly missing the jugular vein. Both were arrested and were fined yesterday. As Simmons left the court Stultz followed him, and after they reached the street Stultz suddenly drew a revolver and fired at Simmons, the ball striking him in the right side and passing through his bowels, making a fatal wound. The wounded man turned and faced his assailant, when the latter placed the muzzle of his pistol directly in front of Simmons' face and pulled, but the cartridge did not explode. Stultz was captured and is in jail.
St. Joseph (MO) Evening News
A Family Feud.
John Stultz shot William Simmons on Monday night at Weston and Simmons will probably die. About a year ago Stultz had a quarrel with Simmons, who is his nephew. The feud has continued ever since. On the Fourth of July they were in Weston and the quarrel was renewed. They finally came to blows and Stultz drew a knife and slashed Simmons wickedly across the head inflicting painful but not serious wounds. They were separated and both arrested. Simmons it is alleged threatened to shoot Stultz on sight. They were released and their hearing was set for Monday, when they appeared before the justice and each pleaded guilty of disturbing the peace and were fined. The fines were paid and the parties separated.
Not long after Stultz met his nephew upon the street. There are contradictory reports as to the meeting but it is alleged that Stultz walked up to Simmons and drawing a pistol fired. Simmons immediately fell and Stultz was put under arrest.
The wounded man was at once carried to his residence and medical assistance summoned. It was found that the bullet had struck in the abdomen, and pursued a downward course lodging in the groin. Simmons is in great agony and the doctors say that his recovery is impossible.
The parties are well to do farmers and the unfortunate affair is much deplored.
St. Joseph (MO) Daily Herald
Shooting Affray in Weston
Two garbled accounts have already been given of a shooting affray that took place in Weston Tuesday of this week. The facts of the case, as learned yesterday afternoon from a citizen of Weston, an eyewitness to the occurrence, are these: Will Simmons, a young man, and his friend and boon companion, John Stultz, for several months have been paying their attentions to the same young lady, and since that time a coolness has swung up between the two. July 4 this culminated in a street fight in Weston. Both young men were arrested, and Tuesday appeared before the magistrate of the town to answer to the charge of disturbing the peace. Both pleaded guilty and were fined. After paying they were turned at liberty. In the street in front of the justice's office, Stultz suddenly pulled a revolver out of his pocket and walking to Simmons side shot him, the ball entering the right side above the hip, and ranging downwards and to the front lodging in the left side front above the hip joint. Stultz was arrested and put in jail at Platte City. It is thought Simmons will die. One account published of the affair says the participants were the fathers of the young men, and another says the affray was between one of the fathers and one of the young men.
The matter was also reported in a more garbled form in a St. Joseph Gazette article titled "An Old Difficulty Settled" of Wednesday, 08 Jul 1885, and in a subsequent correction titled "Rather Inaccurate" on the next day.
The Court Record:
Platte County Missouri
And now in open court, come the grand jurors for the State, duly empanneled, sworn and charged to enquire within and for Platte County, of all felonies and misdemeanors triable in this County, and all answering to their names. Their foreman, in their presence, presents to the Court three several indictments found by them, each endorsed "A True Bill" and signed "J. W. Coburn, Prosecuting Attorney", "D. J. Thorp, Foreman of the Grand Jury", which said indictments are numbered and endorsed as follows: No. 682, State vs. William Hodge, Murder, 1st degree, No. 683, State vs. John Stultz, "Assault with intent to kill", No. 684, State vs. John Welsh and Henry Little, Grand Larceny, and which indictments are filed, and the Grand jurors retire.
State of Missouri vs. John Stultz
Now at this day comes the Prosecuting Attorney, and likewise in open Court comes the defendant in person, and the defendant being now here arraigned upon the indictment charging him with felonious assault with intent to kill one James William Simmons, and the same being read to him, and his plea thereto being demanded by the Court, he the said defendant for plea thereto says he is not guilty thereof in manner and form as charged; and the Court sets the case for trial on Tuesday next, and the Court fixes the bail of defendant at one thousand dollars.
State of Missouri vs. John Stultz
And now on this the 13th day of August A. D. 1885, in open Court comes the defendant John Stultz in person, and likewise comes Mary A. Stultz, Alexander R. Murdock, Charles Hull and John J. Throckmorton, and the said defendant John Stultz as principal and Mary A. Stultz, Alexander R. Murdock, Charles Hull and John J. Throckmorton as his securities, jointly and severally acknowledge themselves to owe and be indebted to the State of Missouri, in the sum of one thousand dollars, conditioned for the appearance of the said John Stultz, from day to day and from term to term of this Court, hereafter, and then and there (illegible) and abide the order and judgment of this Court, touching the matter of indictment for assault with intent to kill one James W. Simmons, and not thence depart without lawful permission, then this recognizance to be void, otherwise the same to be and remain in full force and effect.
State vs. John Stultz
Now by agreement this case is continued.
The State of Missouri vs. John Stultz
Now at this day in open Court comes the Prosecuting Attorney, and likewise comes the defendant, John Stultz, in person, with his attorney and counsel and the defendant withdraws his plea of not guilty, and for plea to the indictment charging him with felonious assault says he is guilty thereof, whereupon the Court finds the defendant guilty, and assesses his punishment at a fine of one hundred dollars. It is therefore considered by the Court, that the State recover of the defendant, John Stultz, the said fine of one hundred dollars, together with its costs and charges herein. And now it is ordered that the said defendant now here submit himself to the custody of the Sheriff, which is now here done.