Remnants Of The Past
The Wanderer Home
4 March 1880
Wm. O. Mead Returns to His Old Home.
What He Says of His Mysterious Dissapearance.
A Readable Narrative - True in Part, at Least.
Mead will Locate in Osceola.
From Sedalia Democrat, March 2d. - The failure of the Appleton City
Savings Bank and the mysterious disappearance of its cashier, Mr. Wm. O.
Mead, which occurred in 1878, will no doubt be remembered by many of the
readers of the Democrat. A brief review of the history of the aforesaid
failure and the circumstances which caused the same, may not be out of
order when the readers of this journal are made acquainted with the fact
that the Saturday night train returned to his former home Mr. Wm. O.
Mead, accompanied by his wife and his children, after a long and
The Appleton City Savings Bank, which was carried on under the
management of Mr. Mead, a liberal, good natured and, to all appearance,
honest gentleman, opened business in Appleton City, having been removed
from the county seat, Osceola. The bank was virtually owned by Capt.
T.B. Sutherland and Mr. Mead in joint partnership, the former acting in
the capacity of president, and the latter as cashier of the institution.
Both of these gentlemen were old residents of the county, both enjoyed a
clean and unblemished record, both ranked as leading citizens and
capitalists and both being intensely popular with the people and liberal
in their transactions, they incurred little if any difficulty in
building up an excellent trade for their new bank. Thus matters ran
smoothly and successfully for a long period, during which time the bank
carried on what was considered by the outside world a fair paying
But as time progressed occasional dark clouds passed over its usual
bright horizon, and when one fine day arrangements had been perfected by
which Capt. S.S. Burdett was to be admitted as a partner of the bank,
the cashier, Mr. Mead, in attempting to make a trial balance found
himself considerable "short," a fact, which he now claims he could
neither see into, explain nor account for. For days and nights he
cudgeled his brain in the feeble and faultless effort to discover the
mysterious shortage, until at last the day had arrived at which time he
was forced to turn over his books, papers, monies and accounts to Capt.
Burdett, who was to assist him in the bank. The day agreed upon was
Monday. On the Saturday night previous W.O. Mead left for parts unknown,
and not until a week ago was his whereabouts discovered, through his own
desire and by means of a correspondence.
Mr. Mead's Story.
Mr. Mead, while cashier of the bank was also heavily interested in
railroad bonds belonging to the famous Memphis road. The report had
gained credence all over the country that Mr. Mead held in his
possession ninety thousand dollars worth of Memphis railroad bonds,
which lawfully belonged to St. Clair county and out of which the county
had been defrauded, when in fact Mr. Mr. claims, and its truth can not
now be doubted, that he did not hold the aforesaid bonds, but had every
dollar of his private fortune invested in Memphis R.R. stock, his last
payment to the said road amounting to $15,000. This report
concerning his connection with the supposed bond swindle and the
shortage of his bank accounts would have constituted a sufficient desire
of revenge on the part of the people, and had he remained at his post,
although an innocent victim of misplaced confidence, his neck would
assuredly have been forced to pay the penalty of the crime of which he
was not guilty and never had been. Instilled with the terrible fear of
being assassinated by a furious and excited mob, Mr. Mead, fearing the
result of the bank's failure and how the same would be charged to his
speculations, etc., deemed it best to pursue the course he did, for
which he says he was not and can not be held responsible, owing to the
excited state of his mind.
After Mr. Mead's departure the bank went into
liquidation and ninety per cent of its indebtedness has been paid, which
is certainly a good showing for a broken bank. Mr. Mead, after
leaving Appleton City, penniless without either a home or friends,
started for Mexico. He entered the legal profession and prospered
finely. His wife sold her own property in St. Clair county and joined
him, all went happy and serene for awhile. Misfortunes, however, never
come singly, and when fortune once more dawned to the unfortunate
ex-cashier, his house, his home, and his all, purchased with what money
his wife had realized from sale of her own effects, was destroyed by the
devouring element - fire - and once more the gaunt wolf lay at the door.
No longer able to support himself and family, Mr.
Mead finally moved to Yankton, Dakota Territory. Here he struggled again
for a livlihood, but met with but poor success. Time and again he would
borrow a few dimes from his brother lawyers until his situation became
indeed too desperate to battle against fate and misfortune any longer.
In his utter extremity he determined to ask aid from his former friends,
men by whom he stood like a man in the hour of want, but being no longer
the proud and wealthy banker, the kind hearted friend of other days, he
met with poor encouragements and cold charity. Men whom he trusted
and often assisted in their business turned him a deaf ear. Friends who
a thousand times partook of his hospitalities whould no longer even
recognize their former host and well doer. Being a prominent Republican
he turned to his old political friends and associates for assistance,
but they too had long past forgotten
him - the man to whom they owned their all. Their political promotion,
their very homes, gained by the influence and support of Wm. O. Mead,
who ranked in the Republican party of St. Clair county, then, as Jim
Blaine does to-day in a National sense.
An old time proverb says, "Every cloud has its silver lining." Bill
Mead' dark cloud proved no exception. When relatives had forsaken him,
and former social and political associates found no longer any sympathy
or use whatever for their old comrade, one man was still his friend, and
this man, too, no other than his old Democratic enemy, Mr. John R.
Hopkins, former proprietor of the Osceola Sentinel-Democrat, and at
present a prominent merchant of Appleton City. When Mr. Hopkins learned
of Mr. Mead's where-abouts and his destitute condition, he set
immediately to work to aid him. In company with Mr. Mead's brother,
plans for assisting the unfortunate one were quietly perfected.
Mr. Hopkins hastened to Dakota Territory, and after calling on Mr. Mead,
learning his wants and noting his pitiful and deplorable condition,
rendered him such financial aid and extended him such advice as would
relieve him. Mr. Mead had been led to believe through a correspondance,
that it was dangerous for him to return to St. Clair county. When
assured therefore that there was in reality no danger at all but, on the
contrary, that if he returned to his old friends and acquaintances that
he would be welcomed and assisted should he re-enter business. Mr. Mead
readily accepted the assurance and arrived in Appleton City, as stated.
No one save his brother and a few particular friends knew of his
arrival, and the majority will probably first read the news in these
Mr. Mead arrived at Appleton City and departed immediately for his
brother's farm, six miles from Appleton City. Mr. Mead declares himself
innocent of any crooked transaction, but says he cannot explain the
shortage in his accounts.
A week previous to his departure he accompanied his wife to Osceola. He
wept bitterly on the way, and informed her concerning his accounts and
their bad condition.
This is the unwritten leaf of Mr. W.O. Mead's history. By his mysterious
abscondance, he left a blot upon his former unblemished character, which
time and circumstances can never efface although innocent he may be. But
where there is life there is hope. Mr. Mead is not the kind of a man who
can be kept down. Ere long he will again be "Richard himself again,"
when his friends will again flock to their old associate. It is natural
for people to do this. He is in fine health, excellent spirits, and will
enter the legal profession in St. Clair county at once. His home and
place of business will be at the county capital, Osceola.
The Democrat reporter has taken pains to interview several prominent
gentlemen concerning Mr. Mead's return. As a unit all expressed
themselves to the effect that although he was directly responsible for
the condition of the bank, and censurable for the course he pursued in
running off, he was in no sense a defaulter in the usual accepted sense
of the term. He carried no money away with him when he left, that did
not legally belong to him. Over $4,000 in cash lay in his vaults when he
took his departure. In a word, had he chosen to be dishonest and
practice rascality he could have gotten away with the greater portion of
the bank's assets. He was sole manager of the bank, acted as his own
bookkeeper, cashier, etc., had no one to watch him, but had it literally
his own way. The fact that he did not take a cent of the bank's money
with him, but on the contrary took scarcely enough money along to keep
him alive and going, when he might have filled his pockets with
thousands of dollars, fully established his innocence, so far as
defaulting is concerned, and makes his a remarkable case without a
parallel in bank failures and absconding cashiers. But his bank paid
nearly dollar for dollar of its indebtedness, and now he returns to
explain much that was dark and mysterious.
In consideration of these facts, Mr. Mead will find little if any
difficulty in getting another start, and his excellent capacity and
shrewdness as a business man, will bring him the "staff of life," and
probably the confidence of his old associates and former friends.