From the Greene County Sheriff’s Office
It is ultimately our responsibility to maintain the memory of those who gave their last full measure of devotion, losing their lives in service of the public. Their names are etched in stone and memorialized at the Greene County Courthouse, and in decals on a number of marked Greene County patrol vehicles.
Today marks the 90th anniversary of the bloodiest day in modern law enforcement history, excluding the terrorist attacks of September 11. On January 2, 1932, six law enforcement officers were murdered in a gunfight with Harry and Jennings Young, outside their house near Brookline, Missouri.
Police had arrested Young family members with a stolen vehicle and believed the wanted brothers, Harry and Jennings Young were visiting their mother in the area. Harry Young was wanted for the 1929 murder of Republic Marshal Mark Noe and the brothers were wanted for operating a stolen auto ring. Before the day was over, the brothers would be responsible for the murder of six more law enforcement officers.
Sheriff Marcell Hendrix gathered three of his deputies for the arrest team, Ollie Crosswhite, Wiley Mashburn, and Ben Bilyeau. They were in turn joined by Springfield Chief of Detectives Tony Oliver and Officers Owen Brown, Virgil Johnson, and Frank Pike, Sidney Meadows and Charley Houser and a citizen by the name of R.G. Wegman.
The arrest team arrived at the Young farm at approximately 4:00 pm. Detective Johnson fired a tear gas canister into an upstairs window with no noticeable effect. The officers took positions around the residence and Sheriff Hendrix, accompanied by Deputy Mashburn and Detective Johnson, approached a back door to the residence.
Sheriff Hendrix and Deputy Mashburn forced the door open. Deputy Mashburn was met with a shotgun blast to the face causing him to fall backwards into a stack of firewood. Sheriff Hendrix advanced through the doorway only to be met with second shotgun blast to the chest. Detective Johnson then ran to the front of the residence and took cover amongst the cars seeking shelter from a gunfire emanating from the house.
Chief Oliver called out to Detective Johnson to drive back to Springfield for reinforcements. Detective Johnson jumped into a car and was joined by Bilyeau and Wegman. The rear glass of their vehicle was shot out as they drove away from the farm.
Deputy Crosswhite was pinned down by gunfire and took refuge behind a sod cellar. Officer Houser, who had sought cover behind a tree was shot between the eyes with a high powered rifle when he looked from behind cover.
Deputy Meadows was also hiding behind a tree and was out of ammunition when he was struck in the forehead by rifle fire.
Chief Oliver attempted to run to the vehicles and fell, receiving a fatal gunshot wound in the back. Detective Brown fled north from the house and joined Detective Pike behind a tree. They fled eastbound from the house to safety sustaining minor gunshot wounds.
Deputy Crosswhite was still maintaining his position of cover behind the sod cellar when one of the suspects approached him from behind and shot him in the back of the head with a shotgun. When officers returned to the farm with reinforcements they discovered the six deceased officers at the scene and that the suspects had escaped.
Harry and Jennings Young were subsequently located in Texas by Houston Police. On January 5, 1932, acting on a tip from a bed and breakfast owner, police stormed the house. A shootout broke out in hail of gunfire. The Youngs were trapped in a bathroom where the two brothers committed suicide.
Sheriff Hendrix had known the Young family, both living in the same area and attending the same church as the elder Youngs. Sheriff Hendrix’ wife, Maude S. Hendrix (1858-1952), was appointed to complete his unfinished term as sheriff. His son, Glenn Hendrix (1911-1967), served as a Springfield, Missouri officer then as Greene County Sheriff from 1949 to 1964.
Interred: Eastlawn Cemetery.
Deputy Mashburn was survived by his wife, Maude. Interred: Eastlawn Cemetery.
Deputy Crosswhite had served in law enforcement for 10 years He served as constable in Polk county for five years, as Ash Grove city marshal for two years and as Greene County Deputy Sheriff for three years. He was survived by his wife, Ethel, four sons, two daughters and his mother. Interred: Brighton Cemetery, Brighton, Missouri.
Detective Chief Oliver was survived by his wife, Maud. Chief Oliver had been with the agency for 26 years and had served as Chief of Detective for two years. He was survived by his wife, three daughters and two sons, one of who would later serve as deputy sheriff of Greene County. Interred: Hazelwood Cemetery.
Detective Meadows had been with the agency for four years and was survived by his wife, Lillie, and three step-children. Interred: Eastlawn Cemetery, Springfield, Missouri.
Officer Houser was survived by his wife, Augusta, and brother, Fred.
Interred: Forest Park, Cemetery, Joplin, MO.