$600 REWARD! 2 MURDERERS AT LARGE! [caption title].

Potosi, Mo. November 23, 1870. Letterpress broadside, 17¼ x 12 inches (44 x 30cm). Old vertical and horizontal folds. Previously framed, and text portion tanned. Slight edge wear, modern pen annotations in lower margin (beneath prior matting). Very good overall. Item #WRCAM58640

An unrecorded, possibly unique reward broadside, printed in the immediate aftermath of the brutal crime which became known as the "Lapine Murders." The broadside advertises a substantial reward from Washington County, Missouri, Sheriff John T. Clarke for the apprehension of two men, Charles Jolly ("very dark complexion...about a half breed Indian") and John Armstrong ("shows Indian blood"). According to contemporary reports, Armstrong and Jolly, both men in their thirties, were working as miners just north of Potosi, Missouri. On November 19, 1870, they supposedly went in to town with Jolly's younger brother Leon to sell their minerals, where they purchased liquor and became aggressively drunk. The group went to the Lapine family home on the outskirts of town, where they left young Leon outside before entering the house. According to one slightly later account:

"The most extensive, most horrible and outrageous crime ever committed in Washington County was the murder and burning of the Lapine family. This family consisted of David Lapine and Louisa, his wife, and their infant son, about eighteen months of age, and Mary Christopher and her infant daughter, a baby, and they lived in a log cabin about one mile northeast of Potosi. The murderers were John Armstrong and Charles Jolly, Jr....On the evening of November 19, 1870, these men, being under the influence of liquor, took with them a lad named Leon Jolly, and went to the house occupied by the Lapine family, and there, according to the evidence of young Leon Jolly, Charles Jolly, Jr. shot David Lapine through a crack in the wall of the house, and then John Armstrong rushed into the house, with an ax in hand, and with it severed the head of David Lapine from his body, then turned and severed the heads of the two women from their bodies, and then struck each of the infants on the head with the edge of the ax. The terrible deed was done! A family of five persons was slain, and the heads of three were severed from their bodies! Was ever the demon of destruction more hellish? Not being satisfied with their work, the fiends then set fire to the house, thinking, perhaps, that it might be made to appear that the family burned to death. The house was consumed by the fire, as was mostly the bodies of the victims of the murderers. After committing the terrible crime the murderers, with the boy, went on to town where they got more whisky, and then returned to their homes" - History of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Crawford & Gasconade Counties Missouri.

Other descriptions of exactly what happened inside the home vary considerably, but all agree that the father, David Lapine, was shot with a firearm before his wife and children were killed with an axe and decapitated, and the house burned. The assumed perpetrators fled to Jefferson County, but Leon was found on November 23 and quickly confessed to what he had seen. The two men were located and arrested the following day, where lethal force was required to protect them from an angry mob intent on a lynching. After being transferred to St. Louis for their own protection, the pair received a perfunctory trial and were promptly hanged before an eager crowd before the end of January.

Since the men were identified as suspects on November 23rd and arrested on the 24th, the printing of this broadside can only date from the afternoon of the 23rd or morning of the 24th. It is worth noting that the two men pleaded "Not Guilty" at their trial, although according to contemporary reports the jury deliberated for fewer than ten minutes before reaching the opposite verdict, and the case has never been investigated further.

An intriguing and extremely rare artifact from a sensational crime in 19th-century rural Missouri. We locate no other copies of the present broadside. History of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Crawford & Gasconade Counties Missouri (Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1888), pp.502-3.

Price: $3,500.00