Volume 8 , Number 12 , Summer 1985
Whoso Sheddeth Man's Blood, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed
If someone had gone to the lawn of the Galena Courthouse on May 21, 1937, they would have thought they were at a huge social gathering. Over four-hundred people were standing around and acting as if nothing was more enjoyable than being where they were at that instant. Only one tall structure in the midst of the crowd gave evidence to the fact that it was more than a festive occasion. Silhouetted against the rising dawn sun, a huge gallows awaited the arrival of a convicted killer. A man was going to die that day.
Roscoe Jackson, the eldest son of Andrew J. Jackson, a farmer, was born at Howard’s Ridge, a small hamlet south of Gainsville, Missouri, in Ozark County, on May 11, 1901. Roscoe worked on his father’s farm until he was seventeen. He then drifted out west, where his family lost track of him. In the oil fields of Oklahoma, he married Miss Dona Ellison, an orphan girl, also from Howard’s Ridge. She bore Roscoe four children. Eventually they became separated. (See Appendix)
In 1934, Jackson was hitchhiking down to Ozark County, supposedly to see his ‘folks.’ On a road from Springfield to Forsyth, he was picked up by Pearl Bozarth, the owner of a poultry medicine company in Evansville, Indiana, who spent part of his time on the road selling his products. Bozarth befriended the lone Jackson, and brought him into Forsyth where he paid for his meals and a night’s lodging. They started out toward Ava, Missouri, the next morning. Just west of Browns Branch in the northeast corner of Taney County, Jackson shot the man who had befriended him. He threw Bozarth’s body on a side road and drove away in his car leaving the body exposed to the hot August sun. Several days later, a farmer found Bozarth’s badly decomposed body, and a search for the killer began.
Because Bozarth was well known in Forsyth, residents recalled having seen him in the company of a hitchhiker, which gave officers a clue to the killer’s identity. About two weeks later, Jackson was picked up in northeast Oklahoma in possession of Bozarth’s car.1
Though the crime was committed in Taney County, the case was brought to Stone County on a "change of venue." On December 11, 1934, Roscoe (known as "Red") Jackson was convicted for the murder of Pearl Bozarth. Circuit Judge Robert L. Gideon sentenced him to death by hanging.2
After conviction, Jackson confessed to the murder of Bozarth, and to that of another man in Oklahoma a short time before his arrest.
After realizing his fate, Jackson became penitent and asked to be baptized before going to the state penitentiary in Jefferson City. The Rev. R. L. Whittenburg was summoned to conduct the baptismal service which was held on the James River.
On December 12, Jackson was taken to the state penitentiary. During his twenty nine month stay, he never wavered in his faith. He spent hours reading his Bible and praying. It was also said that he preached to his fellow inmates.3
The hanging was first scheduled for the morning of April 16, 1937, but just after deputy sheriff George Norris had begun work on the scaffold, the governor granted Jackson a reprieve until May 12, in this time he was to further study his case.4
The action of Governor Stark was received with great joy in Stone County, and further hope that the hanging would not take place there. The people felt it was an unfair statue that required a man to be hung
in the county in which he was tried. They felt that nothing was to be benefited from having it in Galena. It was to be the first legal hanging to take place in Stone County, and residents felt it would leave a permanent black mark against the area.5
A week before the reprieve expired, the governor stated he no longer would grant a reprieve. So on Friday, May 21, "Red" Jackson was going to forfeit his life on the gallows.
During the next week deputy sheriff George Norris was busy building the scaffold which stood about sixteen feet tall on the south side of the courthouse. (See Appendix)
Sheriff I. H. Coins (See Appendix) was busy making an enclosure where about four hundred people could watch the hanging. That was about the amount of passes he had given out.6 (See Appendix)
Some citizens of Galena made preparations to be gone the day of the hanging. Many felt they were the victims of circumstance that would force them to take the life of "Red" Jackson.
The day before the scheduled execution, Sheriff Coin and other officers from nearby counties went to Jefferson City for the prisoner. Jackson’s first remark after having walked outside the gate was that it was good to be out in the sunshine. On the way to Galena Jackson talked freely about his condition, his philosophy of life, and members of his family, but he refused to speak of the man he had murdered.
Awaiting his arrival at Galena was Jackson’s father, Andrew J. Jackson, a sixty-four year old, who claimed to be the great nephew of Andrew Jackson the former United States president. With the elder Jackson was the Reverend Sterl A. Watson of Pocohontas, Arkansas.
Sitting on a bench on a side street in Galena the kindly old man who was blind in one eye and crippled over from a back injury was the object of pity. He spoke with hesitance of his son. He also seemed to resent the fact his son had accepted the Catholic belief while in the penitentiary. He had expected his friend, Reverend Watson, to say a few words on his son’s behalf, but found out that his son had already made plans to be with the Father Michael Ahern of Springfield during his last hours.
Andrew Jackson and the Reverend Watson visited with "Red" in his cell for about two and a half hours. Jackson told his father not to worry about him, that he was prepared to meet his fate. He said, "What a man sows, that shall be reaped, and I’m prepared to reap my harvest in the morning."
During the early hours of Thursday night, surrounding area officers gathered in Galena. Cars filled with curious men and women drove into Galena to stare at the place where in a short time a man would die. There was quite a bit of commotion taking place in the town during the hours of the night. It was said many treated the night with a holiday atmosphere.
At five o’clock Friday morning, most of the crowd waited outside the enclosure to be admitted. A few minutes before six o’clock those with passes were admitted into the enclosure. Once the enclosure was filled, (See Appendix) Sheriff Coin, dressed in a neat brown suit, got on the scaffold and asked for the audience to be quiet. On the runway to the gallows appeared Jackson’s spiritual advisor, the Father Ahern of Springfield, followed by Jackson. Numerous notables followed to stand on the runway during the execution, some officers, the mayor Harry D. Durst of Springfield, and Howard Bozarth, the son of Pearl Bozarth. (See Appendix) Father Ahern began reading the rite of contrition as Jackson repeated it. When they were through Jackson turned and said a few words to the crowd: (See Appendix)
The rope was slung around his neck, but "Red" remained calm throughout the ordeal in an effort to show he was a man. He was permitted one last look at the great world of the morning, then the traditional black hood was placed over his head.8 (See Appendix)
At 6:04 a.m., the signal for the execution was given and Sheriff Coin, wearing a somber expression, pushed the lever, which sprang the trap door Jackson stood on. He fell about eight feet, and "Red" Jackson was dead within seconds. (See Appendix)
Before the execution, Jackson was quoted as having said, "I am going to die like a man. Goodbye folks. Be good to each other."’
1 Stone County News - Oracle, Number 15, Volume 53, May 26, 1937.
2 Stone County News - Oracle, May 19, 1937.
3 Stone County News - Oracle, May 26, 1937.
4 Crane Chronicle, May 20, 1937.
5 Stone County News Oracle, circa May, 1937.
6 Ibid, Stone County News - OracleMay 19, 1937.
7 Ibid, Stone County News - Oracle, May 26, 1937.
8 Ibid, June 1965.
9 lbid, Stone County News - Oracle, May 19, 1937.
10 Ibid, Tab.
Crane Chronicle, May 20, 1937.
Stone County News Oracle, May 19, 1937.
Stone County News Oracle, May 10, 1937.
Stone County News Oracle, May 26, 1937.
Stone County News Oracle, Circa May, 1937.
Tab, June, 1965.
Jeunings, Gladys. Hurley, Missouri. Interviewed, November, 1984.
Editor’s Note: Sherry’s essay was the first place winner in the 1985 Historical Essay Contest. She was a student in Mrs. Buell’s General Business Class at Hurley High School.