THE TRUE STORY OF "OLD DRUM."
(By Walter L. Chaney)
During the autumn of 1869, five miles southwest of Kingsville, lived Leonidas Hornsby, and a mile south of him lived his neighbor, Charles Burden. At this
time there was still wild game. Men kept hounds for the chase. Charles Burden kept a pack. Wolves had multiplied, there were still some deer in western
Missouri, the raccoon was plentiful, and foxes and other wild animals were still to be found. The hunters learned by the baying of the dogs and the direction
and manner of the chase what sort of game was being followed. Some of the dogs were better than others at telling the story to their hunter owners; some
dogs "never lied;" some dogs sometimes failed and other dogs could never be depended upon.
There was one dog in Charles Burden's pack that "never lied." He was supposed to be about five years old; in color he was black and tan, with black body,
tan legs and muzzle. This mighty hunter was named "Old Drum." His owner believed he had some bloodhound in him. He would trail a man and was good
for wolves, "varmints," and the like. Charles Burden regarded him as the best deer dog he had ever owned. He said that money would not buy "Drum."
Burden was a hunter and had crossed the plains many times. He was a strong character, six feet tall, with blue eyes and light hair, with a magnificent
physique, and an iron constitution. He was ready to fight for his own, either dog or man. Burden lived in a two-room log house with a shed on the north
side, down in the second bottom of Big creek.
Lon Hornsby had gathered sheep and cattle, hogs and horses, and was doing his best to farm. Hornsby was a small, wiry man with flaming red hair, and, as
they say, "he was set in his way." During the summer and fall of '69 Hornsby had lost more than one hundred sheep, killed by prowling dogs. In an
unadvised moment, he made a vow that he would kill the first dog that he found on his place. Hornsby did not believe that all dogs were bad, for he had
sometimes hunted with his neighbors' dogs, and had repeatedly hunted with "Old Drum." But he had made the vow, and in his way of seeing things he
would keep it.
On the morning of October 28, 1869, Charles Burden took his way north and east, passed Leonidas Hornsby's house to Kingsville, attended to his
business there and came home. Shortly after his return, "Old Drum" started on a trail, off up the creek, in a northeast direction. Burden and his
brother-in-law and Frank Hornsby sat around the house smoking until about eight o'clock, when they heard the report of a gun, from the direction of Lon
Hornsby's. No more shots were heard. But Burden was fearful that they had killed one of his dogs. He went out to listen but could hear nothing. He blew his
hunting horn for the dogs, and all came up but "Old Drum." Again and again called the old horn, but "Old Drum" did not answer, nor did he come. No more
would "Old Drum" answer Burden's hunting horn.
On this autumn day Lon Hornsby and Dick Ferguson had been hunting. After they returned home about eight o'clock someone said that a dog was in the
yard. Lon Hornsby told Dick to get the gun and shoot the dog. He went and got the gun. Dick stepped out doors; there was no moon; a dark dog was in the
shadow of a tree some thirty steps away. There was a report of the gun fire, and then the yelping and howling of a dog mortally wounded. He ran southwest
and jumped over the styleblock. The crying of the wounded dog grew weaker and fainter until it died away, and then the silence of a dark night brooded
over the land.
Next morning Charles Burden began the search for his dog. When he came to the home of Lon Hornsby, Hornsby said that Dick had shot a dog; that he
thought it was Davenport's dog. Dick showed Burden where the dog was when he shot him. Burden looked for traces of blood and found none. They then
came back and Burden said to Hornsby, "I'll go and see; it may be my dog. If it ain't it's all right; if it is, it's all wrong, and I'll have satisfaction at the cost of
On this morning of October 29, "Old Drum" was found just a few feet above the ford on Big creek, below Haymaker's Mill, dead, lying with his head in the
water, his feet toward the dam, lying on his left side, filled with shot of different sizes, but no shot had passed through his body. Apparently "Old Drum" had
been carried or dragged to this place; for there was mud on his underside; his hair was "ruffled up," and there were sorrel hairs, thought to be horse hairs,
under him. Lon Hornsby owned a sorrel mule. The whole neighborhood seemed to have been alive around Haymaker's Mill that night of October 28. There
were campers at the ford, two large families moving; then two families lived within about a thousand yards of the ford; these people had heard nothing.
Burden decided that the law should vindicate him and avenge "Old Drum." Shortly he went to Kingsville and employed an attorney to bring suit. Suit was
filed before Justice of the Peace Monroe, of Madison township, and the case was set for trial November 25. Thomas S. Jones was attorney for Burden and
Nation & Allen for Hornsby, and with a cloud of witnesses in attendance, the case went to trial. The jury failed to agree, were discharged by the justice, and
the case was set for trial on the justice's next "law day," December 23. Many threats were made and much bitterness was shown by the partisans at this first
trial, but all went off without anyone being wounded or crippled.
In January the case went to trial, and after a heated session, was given to the jury, who found in favor of Burden in the sum of twentyfive dollars. Hornsby
appealed to the Johnson County Court of Common Pleas, where it was set down for trial in March, 1870. The whole neighborhood, at least the men, moved
upon Warrensburg en-masse. New lawyers had been retained by both the appellant and appellee, Crittenden & Cockrell for Hornsby, and Elliott & Blodgett
for Burden. At this trial Hornsby received a verdict in his favor.
Burden still sought satisfaction and after his first trial he retained more legal talent, securing Phillips & Vest from Sedalia. A motion for a new trial was filed,
alleging error and setting up that the plaintiff. Burden, had discovered new evidence. The motion was sustained and a new trial granted.
So in October in the old court house in Old Town this case went to trial for the fourth time, with the counsel table crowded with attorneys on both sides,
and the Burden and Hornsby clans out in full force. Burden and his friends proved the facts already stated. Hornsby by himself and his witnesses showed
the shooting of a dog, but denied it was "Old Drum" that was shot. He and Dick Ferguson claimed they had gone down to "Old Drum's" body and taken
out lead bullets, and that the dog shot at Hornsby's was with a gun loaded with grains of corn. There was evidence that "Old Drum" was shot close to the
mill where he was found and other evidence that no shot had been fired near the mill.
After all the evidence was in, the argument was made by the attorneys. What all these lawyers said is not remembered. But one speech made to the jury
is preserved to all posterity, because of its universality of application to all dogs and their masters. It will forever be a monument to "Old Drum."
George G. Vest made the closing argument for his client and old Drum. Here is old Drum's monument and Senator Vest's plea;
"Gentlemen of the Jury: The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with
loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become
traitors to their faith. The money that a man has he may lose. It flies away from him perhaps when he needs it most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed
in a moment of ill considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us, may be the first to throw the
stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that
never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog. Gentlemen of the Jury, a man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in
poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fierce if only he may be near his
master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer: he will lick the wounds and sores that come from encounter with the roughness of the world.
He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert he remains. When riches take wing and reputation falls to
pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens. If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and
homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of its company to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last
scene of all comes, and death takes the master in his embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their
way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even in
In a few moments the jury returned a verdict for Burden.
The end was not yet. Hornsby's attorneys appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Missouri. This court, however, affirmed the judgment of the lower
court, affirmed that Dick Ferguson, by the direction and command of Lon Hornsby, killed old Drum, and gave Charles Burden satisfaction. The case
brought a lightening of the purses of the litigants; a feast of fees for the attorneys; an enduring tribute to the fidelity and faith of the dog, and more
particularly, undying fame for the memory of old Drum, "the dog that never lied."
Out of this list of nine attorneys in this case, more than half achieved some measure of fame.
"Dave" Nation, one of the first attorneys, did not attain any degree of fame, outside of his own village, yet fame was his in a vicarious sort, for he was the
husband of Carrie Nation, the woman with the hatchet. Allen was familiarly known as Captain Allen and was a maker of business, a breeder of lawsuits.
The firm of Nation & Allen kept things moving, where they went along in the town of Holden. Jones lived in Kingsville, practiced law there and bore the
name of "Buffalo Jones," from his drinking of what was known as "buffalo bitters."
Of the six attorneys whose names appear in the report of the case in the Supreme Court, all attained distinction. Elliott became judge of the court of
common pleas in Johnson county. T. T. Crittenden became Governor of Missouri. Francis M. Cockrell was thirty years a United States Senator from
Missouri, and afterwards a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission. John F. Phillips was made a commissioner of the Supreme Court of Missouri,
and then judge of the United States District Court for the western district of Missouri. George G. Vest was United States Senator from Missouri for many
years and died while a member of that body. Wells Blodgett was a state senator in Missouri, afterward became vice-president and general solicitor for the
Leonidas Hornsby and Charles M. Burden were brother-in-laws and their farms joined. At the time of this event Leonidas Hornsby was 31 years of age
and Charles Burden was 44. According to records they patched up their disagreement during their later years. Leonidas died in 1897 at the age of 59
and Charles died at his farm in 1911 at the age of 86. They are both buried very close together in the Hornsby Cemetery which is located less than a half
mile south from the Hornsby home where Old Drum was shot.
Charles M. Burden was born in Kentucky and came to Missouri before the War Between The States. He was a farmer and known for owning choice land
along Big Creek.
The person who actually fired the shot that killed Old Drum was Samuel "Dick" Ferguson, Hornsby's young nephew.
This monument of Old Drum is on the
present day Courthouse lawn at
Warrensburg, Johnson County, Missouri.
Erected on Sept. 23, 1958 by the
Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce.
The Old Johnson County courthouse
built in 1838 where George G. Vest
made his famous eulogy about a mans
George G. Vest was a young lawyer when
he made his famous speech. He would
later become a U.S. Senator and served
for 24 years.
(Photo taken of a drawing inside the Old Johnson
County Courthouse, N. Newton, August, 2011)
Big Creek, Close to where Old Drum was found.
Story developed by Norman L. Newton, August, 2011
Johnson County History, published in 1918 used extensively in this story..
(All photos were taken by N. Newton except for the one noted.)
On December 12, 1947 a monument was placed upon the bank of Big Creek, by Fred Ford of Blue Springs,
Missouri. This monument is near where Old Drum was found.
Says, "Killed Old Drum 1869"
Norman L. Newton standing behind monument along Big Creek in tribute to Old Drum.
(Photo taken by: Sam Rayber, of Holden, Missouri, August, 2011)
I wish to thank Sam Rayber a lifelong resident of Holden, Missouri who I met while
having lunch at, Jamie's Place, in Holden. He was very kind and courtesy to drive
me around to the locations that were used to develop this story.