St. Clair County Remnants Of The Past


St. Clair County
Remnants Of The Past

The Wanderer Home

Osceola Sun
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 unexplained absence.

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 business.

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 columns.

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.