Man Who Killed Sam Hildebrand Dies




FARMINGTON TIMES, Farmington, St. Francois County, Missouri, Friday, February 23, 1917


John H. Ragland, who became famous in 1872 by killing Sam Hildebrand, the famous outlaw, whose depredations in Southeast Missouri rival the James Boys in Northern Missouri, died a few days ago in Los Angeles, Calif., where he went from Benton, Ill., several years ago.

F. A. Wiggs, editor of the Lutesville Banner, who was a close friend of Ragland, has just learned of his death. Ragland became the hero of Southern Illinois and Southeast Missouri by slaying the bandit.

Ragland was a constable at Pinckneyville, Ill., when he shot Hilderbrand [sic]. The noted outlaw operated in the counties of Southeast Missouri and Southwest Illinois, and made regular pilgrimages from one State to the other. His permanent headquarters, however, were in a cave on Big River, near Bonne Terre, Mo.

According to reports of early settlers, Hilderbrand became an outlaw because a posse lynched his brother, who was accused of horse stealing. Sam Hilderbrand swore vengeance on the members of the posse and is said to have assassinated all but one of them.

Hilderbrand's band committed many outrages during the Civil War period. During the war period Hilderbrand's band joined the Boland Brothers, who were also desperate outlaws. Nath Boland, who planned the massacre of the members of the Cape Girardeau militia, at Round Pond, was Hilderbrand's closest advisers. The destruction of the militia at Round Pond, about half way between Cape Girardeau and Bloomfield, is historic. The military authorities at Cape Girardeau were notified by a courier from Bloomfield that the Rebels had surrounded that city and the Union forces were not strong enough to drive them back. The troops from this city were en route to Bloomfield to re-inforce the Union army and had camped for the night at Round Pond. While asleep, the Boland brothers entered camp and massacred all but a Negro cook, who escaped after a thrilling experience, and told the story of the tragedy.

Nath Boland was captured by a posse a few weeks later and hanged.

There are many stories related among the early residents of Cape Girardeau concerning the activities of Sam Hilderbrand. Amon Frissell, a brother of N. C. Frissell, the well-known civil engineer, joined in the campaign of citizens to exterminate Hilderbrand and his gang. He knew Hilderbrand and was personally liked by Hilderbrand. N. C. Frissell relates a story of his brother's experience with Hilderbrand. Amos Frissell led a posse in search for Hilderbrand. The citizens met the outlaw in an open field and opened fire upon him. He replied and put the posse to flight. Frissell, in his effort to escape, stumbled and rolled down a hill. Hilderbrand, who had known Frissell in youth, did not want to injure him, and instead of shooting Mr. Frissell he aimed his rifle so that the bullet would get close enough to frighten Frissell but not touch him. It is said that Frissell was so badly scared that he could hardly articulate after the encounter.

Dr. C. A. Peterson of Fredericktown organized a posse to capture Hilderbrand, and in a pitched battle which followed, resulted in several being wounded. Peterson and Hilderbrand fought a duel, and Peterson succeeded in wounding the bandit, but the outlaw escaped after seriously wounding several of his pursuers. Dr. Peterson, who later became the head of a St. Louis detective agency, died in that city two years ago.

John H. Ragland, who slew Hilderbrand, did not know that he had captured the famous bandit until after he had killed him. Ragland was known as the "fighting constable" because of his ability to attack and capture noted criminals. He was notified by farmers that three bandits were camped in the hills a few miles from Pinckneyville, Ill., and were committing many outrages. Ragland deputized two men to assist him, and drove out to the bandits' camp. Before they were discovered they dismounted and crept upon the three outlaws as they were cooking their evening meal over a camp fire. The outlaws were arrested and the officers started back to Pinckneyville with them. A short distance from the town, Hilderbrand attempted to escape. He attacked Ragland with a long knife, stabbing the constable in the right hip. The officer shot the bandit through the head. The body was taken to Pinckneyville were [sic] it was identified as that of Hilderbrand. The identification was made by a man who at one time had been acquainted with the bandit. The identification was acknowledged by the two men captured with Hilderbrand. Metropolitan newspapers and magazines devoted much space to the killing of the notorious outlaw, who rivaled Jesse and Frank James.

Ragland several years ago moved to California for his health. His recent death was the result principally of old age. -- Cape Girardeau Tribune.