Among the thrilling episodes connected with the history of this county is the summary taking-off, by the Regulators, of Bennett Warren. Warren, with his family, lived on Section 36, in Liberty Township. He owned a farm there, and also kept a house of entertainment for travelers. During the days of horse-thieving and counterfeit money-issuing, it had become notorious that his house was a stopping place for those engaged in these unlawful practices/ It was also believed that he was aiding and abetting these criminals by secreting them and their stolen horsed, and assisting them in running them off. No sufficient evidence could be obtained, however, to convict him of active participation in these crimes. He had been indicted once for stealing the traps and peltry of a trapper who came here from the East, but was acquitted upon the trial. The impossibility, almost of securing a conviction in consequence of the difficulty in empaneling a jury which had not some friend to the criminal upon it, had incensed the people whose horses were being constantly stolen, beyond forbearance.

On the 24th of June, 1857, the vigilantes, to the number of about two hundred, left their rendezvous at Big Rock. having with them two prisoners whom they had taken to Cedar County, and crossed over onto Clinton County.

Upon reaching Warren's house and finding him at home, they took him with them to a small grove near by, where the tragedy was to take place. There was no riotous proceedings, nor semblance to a mob. Everything was done with a kind of rude decorum and gravity befitting the occasion. No one was masked, or in any manner concealed his identity. Upon their arrival at the place, the "Captain" or "Chairman", whatever his title was, and whose authority was recognized by all, called the meeting to order, a jury of twelve of the number was selected by nomination, and took their places. Witnesses were sworn, and testified. The jury then deliberated and returned into this court their verdict. "That Bennett Warren was guilty of harboring horse-thieves, knowing them to be such; of keeping and secreting stolen horses, knowing them to be such; and of habitually passing counterfeit money, knowing it to be such."

The jury passed no sentence, but upon the rendition of this verdict, the Captain called for an expression of all upon the following question: "Shall he be punished?" In taking this vote, those who wished to vote in the affirmative were to step to one side of a road which passed through the grove, and those voting in the negative, to the other side of the road. The vote was unanimous, or nearly so, for punishing the man. The next question put was, "Shall the punishment be whipping or hanging" and the vote was taken the same way as the previous one. At the first, the majority was largely in favor of the milder punishment; but now took place a running desultory argument, pro and con. Those who favored the extreme measure said "What satisfaction will there be in whipping an old, gray-headed man?" "What good will come of it?' "We are here to make an example that will protect our property and deter other from these crimes." As the arguments progressed, one by one, or in knots of twos and threes, the people passed over this road, so fateful a one to the doomed man, who was a witness top all these proceedings, until a clear majority stood for the death sentence. The Captain called for a rope, which was soon forth-coming. It was placed around Warren's neck, and he was informed that his time was short, and opportunity given him to say anything he desired. If his executioners expected any confession or appeal for mercy, they were disappointed, for the man was brave and died un-blanched. His only reply was, "I am an old man and you can't cheat me out of many years." Men in numbers enough to run him up, grasped the rope which had been thrown over the projecting limb of a convenient tree. Amid silence that was awe-inspiring, the signal was given, and Bennett Warren was ushered into eternity. He was taken down, carried to his house, where the men who had executed him prepared him for burial and quietly dispersed. But one arrest was made, and no proceedings taken against any these engaged in this transaction.

The wife of Mr. Warren , it is said, she being his second wife, was the widow of one of the Thayers who were hung at Buffalo for the murder of a peddler, and she was thus twice widowed by the draw of the rope. The headquarters for this organized body of Regulars was at Big Rock, a place near where the lines of Scott, Cedar and Clinton Counties corner, and the members were drawn from all these counties. Upon the other hand, these freebooters who mad free with the horses of the settlers and, and who flooded the country with counterfeit money, were scattered through all these counties, with an apparent organization. At the same time of the hanging of Warren, the party also captured in Cedar County two men named Charles Clute and Jacob A. Warner, who were under suspicion of being engaged in stealing horses. They were taken into custody and informed that a warrant was in the hands of the leader to bring them before Justice Gates, at Big Rock. The Justice was not there, and the party kept on until the residence of warren was reached. After his trial and execution had taken place, Warner was tried and acquitted on condition that he leaves the county within ninety days and bring no suits against his captors. Clute, was them arraigned and acquitted and given thirty days in which to leave the country. After these proceedings, the "court returned to Big Rock, where Clute and Warren were kept over night at Goddard's tavern." and the next morning, were permitted to depart unmolested. Clute decided to leave the country and find a new home elsewhere. Warner gave him a new set of bench tools. Clute being a carpenter by trade, and he left. The tools were found soon after in Van Tuyle's store in Davenport, but no explanation is given how they got there, but, from that day, the family of Clute have never had any tidings from him. His family incline to the belief that he never got out of the country alive; but others, and among them the best citizens of Cedar, do not believe that he was in any way hindered in his departure, but that he deserted his family voluntarily.

Mr. Warner, failed to obey the mandate of vigilantes, but removed to Tipton with his family, and, after a year or more, returned to the Denson place, where he has since resided a respected citizen.

During the same year, Alonzo Gleason and Edward Soper, the former of whom had no recognized habitation, and the latter residing three miles southeast of Tipton, with three accomplishes, had made several successful raids upon the horses of that neighborhood and had run them out of the country and sold them. Their movements became so bold and open as to bring them under suspicion, and in July, 1857, they were arrested by the civil authorities and conveyed to Tipton, where they were held in custody by Sheriff John Birely, who placed over them a guard of about twenty men. About midnight, the vigilantes, to the number of about forty men, overpowered (!) the guards, took the prisoners and marched to a grove near Louden and there tried the according to the forms of this court. They were given latitude, the right to challenge any juror, to cross-examine witnesses, etc.

The people around, numbering about two hundred, were cool and deliberate. The captives appreciated the situation and made a full confession of their guilt. The verdict, of course, was "Guilty." The question whether they should be at once hanged to death was submitted to the two hundred, and all but four voted in the affimative. A wagon was drawn under the projecting limb of an oak tree, the fated men place in it, the rope thrown over the limb and securely fastened. Gleason, with a profan imprecation, jumped from the wagon into eternity. When life was extinct, a grave was dug beneath the gallows, and uncoffined and unwashed, they buried where they died. Soper was, however, exhumed by his friends a few days after and buried in the old grave-yard in Tipton.

In the fall of the same year--1857--Hi Roberts, who really lived in Jones County, but who was much of the time operating in and about Cedar, Scott and Clinton Counties, and who specialty was counterfeit money, having heard some threats from the vigilantes, in a bravado spirit, sent them an invitation to come and take him. He was then stopping at James W. Hanlin's, four miles northwest of Tipton. They accepted his invitation. He was taken from Hanlin's across the county line into Jones County, to the barn of George Saum, and there tried and hanged. Warrants were issued for the arrest of several persons implicated in this transaction, and the officers of Jones County came over into Cedar to make the arrests. No resistance was offered, and under advice of Judge Tuthill, bonds were given for their appearance before a Jones County Justice of the Peace for a preliminary examination. Their bonds were signed by one hundred or more of the most stable citizens of Cedar County. At the appointed time they appeared in Jones County, accompanied by nearly two hundred citizens of Cedar and Jones, but no indictment was found against them for want of testimony. --no witnesses appearing. Whatever may be thought by people of this day of the irregular and sever measures then adopted, it is certain that the grievances of these men were deep, and the results of their summary punishments corrected an abuse that had defied the established forms for protection to property, and completely broke up a band of lawless men, who had subsisted by levying upon the property of their industrious fellow-citizens, and rid this section of their presence.

While upon one of their marches, the vigilantes overtook Col. K. Van Deventer, who was then a stranger here. He was well mounted, and was riding alone into the west end of this county, on business connected with the railroad. They accosted him, and made, many inquiries as to his identity, his point of departure, his destination, etc. To these inquires, he gave courteous answers, and they then informed him that it would be necessary, as he was a stranger, to report to the "Captain," and they desired him to accompany then--a request which he very readily complied with. They soon met that official, who, after a moment's conference, informed his followers that the gentleman was "all right," and that he was at liberty to depart, accompanying his remarks with profuse apologies for the detention. Mr. Van Deventer says, that he continued his journey with them for several miles, their routes being the same, and that they were very companionable and gentlemanly men.

The proceedings of the "Wapsie Rangers" were not fully concurred in by all of the people through the western portion of the county, and in 1857, soon after the hanging of Warren, the "Anti-Horse-thief and Protection Society" was organized at the Alger Schoolhouse. Its expressed object was to bring to justice all thieves and counterfeiters, and press their conviction before the courts of justice, and to confer with the vigilantes at Big Rock, and notice given of their aims and intents, and that their visits would not be tolerated, and that they proposed to maintain the objects for which they were organized.

No collision, however, occurred between the two factions; but, between the two, the country was cleared of the horse-thieves.

A story is told of Josiah Hill--familiarly known as Si Hill--one of the early settlers, and now living there at a hale old age. After the hanging of Warren, at the instance of his sons. Monroe and Alfred, a warrant was procured for the arrest of Hendrickson, which was placed in the hands of a Constable, who called Si to his assistance. The arrest was made, and Henderickson taken to De Witt; but, giving the Constable the slip, he returned among his friends, who turned out in force, to intimidate these connected with the arrest. Mr. Hill, was out at Syracuse, a place then in existence on the Wapsie, west of Calamus, accoutered, as was his habit, with his rifle, single-barrel rifle -pistol and hunting knife. As the band approached him, he accosted such as he knew in his jovial way, until they informed him of their errand, when he at once took fire, and defied the entire assemblage, informing them, that when-ever called upon by the proper officer to assist him, "he should go to do it." His quiet determination was sufficient to deter those men who knew of his fearlessness, from any further attempt to intimidate him.

SOURCE: Allen, L. P., History of Clinton County, Iowa, Containing A History of the County, it's Cities, Towns, Etc. and Biographical Sketches of Citizens, War Record of it's Volunteers in the late Rebellion, General and Local Statistics, Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men, History of the Northwest, History of Iowa, Map of Clinton County, Constitution of the United States, Miscellaneous Matters, &c, &c., Illustrated. Chicago IL; Western Historical Company, 1879




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