Like others, the forebears of the Young Brothers came to the Ozarks region from the East. Their grandfather on the male side, J. M. Young, had migrated to Missouri from Tennessee after the Civil War. Though there is slight information to support the belief, it is thought he had been a rebel soldier during the war period. It is well founded that he voiced a terrible and unquenchable hatred for carpetbaggers in particular and all governmental agencies in general wherever he dwelt after first coming to the country west of the Mississippi.
He often regaled his sizable family with stories of his discoveries of the iniquity of those in office and power. After years of doing this and that in many counties of the State, he drove his family and belongings in a covered wagon to Christian County, south of the fast growing town of Springfield, and homesteaded on a tract where he prospered to the extent of owning eventually several hundred acres of fertile land.
On the whole the Young family were considered and respected as law-abiding members of the Christian county society. They mingled not among their neighbors as much as many, but this trait did not mark them down as peculiar or uncommon. The success he won on his Ozarks farm, together with the responsibility of parenthood, mellowed Grandfather Young long before he died, to the point of his participation in nearly everything that was afoot in a civic way for the betterment of living conditions in the hill country. He died a lovable old character in Ills community and was possessed of a sizable fortune for those days.
Among his children was James David Young, father of the desperadoes, who brutally slew six peace officers recently at the home of their mother, a few miles southwest of Springfield. James David, the father attended such schools as were available in those days for children in the country, and he showed some aptitude as a boy for studies more embracing than simple arithmetic and spelling. Early in his teens he showed consuming interest in the Bible. He grew into young manhood well fortified with a deep Christian faith and a smattering of much that was in history and geography books.
On the maternal side the Young Brothers could have traced their ancestry back to their grandfather, J. M. Hagwood of North Carolina. Farther back they most likely would have discovered their relationship to the North American Indian. It is well established that Narragansett or Pequot blood coursed through the veins of Grandfather Hagwood, but to what extent he was an Indian is an unsettled question.
Before he married, his pioneering instincts led him toward the west.. In easy stages he worked his way through Virginia and up through Kentucky to Ohio where he found employment in freighting service. Later he stopped to work for more than his "keeps" in Indiana. Another year found him in Illinois at gainful labor. The west to him lay beyond the Mississippi, but when he had penetrated to Macon County, Missouri, he seemed content to leave what remained toward the setting sun to the devises of other men. He settled down and took a new acquaintance as his wife.
Together they homesteaded some rich, black, Macon county land. From the very beginning their hard work produced much that was of profit. More land was added to their first and then more yet as many children came to gladden their cabin and to help with the grazing of sheep and cattle.
There came a day when Grandfather Hagwood missed the trees and the hills and the streams of his childhood days, and his fancy for them caused him often thereafter to promise his family that they would, some-day, return to the fishing and hunting grounds of North Carolina, or settle elsewhere in a similar country. Any place, he always promised, where there could be a little wild game hunting and some fishing when there wasn't anything doing at straight farming.
In due time, an opportunity to dispose of the Macon County home presented itself to the lovers of hills and trees, and they sold everything they could not load on two covered wagons. Having heard of the Ozarks country, they headed for it and then drove almost into the middle of it before they found the ideal spot in Christian County, their fancy had conjured up as being perfect for their future abode. They made their home but a scant few miles from another perfect setting, that of J. M. Young from Tennessee.
As true as it could be of anybody, it is true that the Hagwoods got on with their neighbors and fellow beings wonderfully. Old-time neighbors relate that it made little difference whether it was wood for the^ country school, work on the public road, or finance for the-country parson '.hat was needed, the J. M. Hagwood family could be counted upon to do their full share and more. The Hagwoods resembled .the Youngs in the particular that they never went in for politics to the extent of seeking public office. It is not remembered by old-time neighbors that the Hagwood family ever were suspicioned of any wrong doing.
When Grandfather Hagwood died, he left a family of considerable size. Among his children was Willie Florence Hagwood, who had become Mrs. James David Young.
This couple, James David Young and Willie Florence Hagwood, who are the parents of the notorious Young Brothers, had first met as tiny children at a church social soon after the Youngs, from Tennessee, and the Hagwoods, from North Missouri, had moved into the same locality down in Christian County. The boy was three years older than the girl and they met occasionally at neighborhood gatherings. In due time they both were sent to the same country school situated between their respective farm homes.
"Almost from the first, I mean even when we was little shavers," Mrs. Young relates now, "we was pretty thick with each other. Whenever we could we would ride together over the hills and near the pretty creeks in Christian County. Them was happy days, and I was so proud always to be with Jim, 'cause everybody else liked him too. He was a quiet sort, very quiet and always so respectful toward older folks. My parents never objected to having me go with him, and as we grew older and went' higher up in school, we was free to do almost as we pleased. My folks knew Jim was a little gentleman, and his folks knew I was always a little lady, and they never cared how much we was together."
Schooling in those days was not the protracted affair it is today, so Jim had to be out much of the time to help clear the land and do other things in his father's scheme to acquire a large ranch in the Ozarks. As was common then, he went to school fewer months each year but more years than do students now.
Jim went a few months each year until he was about twenty, and Willie Florence didn't quit her studies until she was eighteen.
Jim was a strong lad with noticeable Christian traits, and, therefore, much in demand by neighbors who had occasion to hire help. He worked for others when he could be spared from home, and by the time he grew into his twenty-second year was possessed of a small store of cash.
Willie Florence was nineteen and had been out of the country school a full year when they decided to face the future together. They were married and lived for a time with first one of the relatives and then another while Jim worked for wages. A few months at odd jobs improved their financial circumstances enough to permit them to buy 2 small tract, mostly on credit, but it was good land and they built a home on it, and moved in to provide a haven for the eleven children who were to come, first to gladden their fireside and then to break their hearts in agony over a criminal career that ended in America's most heinous peace officer massacre.
Their first baby was a girl, and they named her Loretta. She is now Mrs. Kendall, a respected mother of many children where they live in Kansas. Mary Ellen, was the second child and she married a Mashburn. They have several children and are respected residents of a town in Oklahoma. Jarrett came next to their Ozarks cabin, and through the years of travail and sorrow, he has been their pride and joy. As a youngster he did well in school and stuck to his books through High School and Business College. He is now married and has a responsible position in Arkansas. Oscar is the fourth of the Young offspring. He spent some time in High School and later some weeks in a business school. He married some years ago, and at the time of the massacre, was living on a farm near where the officers were shot down. Paul, who has been in consider able trouble of late years, came next. He did well in his studies and: finished High School with good grades and later attended a college in Oklahoma. His home has been in Texas for some years. Jennings was the sixth child. He was a High School graduate and was an attendant for some time at a business school in Oklahoma. For several years prior to the killing, he had made his home in several different cities in Texas. Gladys is number seven on the roster. After graduating from High School, she married and is the mother' of several children, now in Oklahoma. She is Mrs. Bruner, and well thought of in her community. Mr Florence Mackey of Texas, rather demure and somewhat polished , is the eighth member of the group, and the notorious Harry is ninth. After he became man size. Harry never tarried long in one place. Most of his recent years, except those in confinement, have been spent in criminal ways in many of the cities of Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Lorena, who is Mrs. Conley, of Texas, was born next, and last or eleventh of the Young children was Vinita. She has remained single and always close to her mother.
When Grandfather J. M. Young died, he left land enough to give each of his children a sizable tract. Grandfather Hagwood had not succeeded so well, but James David and Willie Florence together inherited enough from both to stand their family in good stead, it seemed, for al time to come. Yet, they coveted more and worked and saved through ensuing years to the end of having more against the time they would need finances to properly educate their family. In the Ozarks, Dame Nature has a way of putting Faith of God in the hearts of those who till its soil. Ordinarily, the Ozark farmer is grateful to his Lord for an abundance of rainfall, for green pastures and mild, open winters. But, to prove his faith, he must now and then be tested with a summer of dry pastures and a winter of cold blasts and snow, and to doubly prove his allegiance, he must needs undergo on rare occasions, two dry summers and that many bad winters. Dry summers and bad winters are unique indeed in the hill country, but after Harry was born the Young family faced that terrible trial of seeing their luxuriant pasture wither around grazing cattle on their feeding grounds as a blistering sun bore down to burn even the grass roots. And they were unprepared for the bad winter that followed. Another hot summer shook their faith in the Ozarks, and the second cold winter was evidence a-plenty that what they had heard and read about the wonderful opportunities in Oklahoma must .be true.
Oklahoma drew them in their chats at mealtime and in their dreams at night. They wished for a way to be rid of their Christian County holdings and to be possessed of anything anywhere in Oklahoma, and before the rays of a Springtime sun had much more than time enough to start sap creeping up the trees to warm the feet of cheerful wingfolk, they were confronted with a newcomer who found their farm much to his liking.
The Youngs sold, and glad they were to trek down the hills from Missouri into the lower reaches of Oklahoma. For eighteen years they stayed in, Oklahoma. o For eighteen years they forgot Missouri and the neighbors they left behind. For eighteen years they forgot the sympathy and kindness that is prevalent in every Ozarks community. During this near-score of years Lorena and Vinita were born and the older children were schooled in the grades and higher classes. It was in Oklahoma that o^be leaves were tinted to paint the family tree.
It is not recorded that any of the Youngs were haled before tribunals for transgression of the laws in Oklahoma, but it is well authenticated they did feel a deep resentment for any and all officials there like they held an unfathomable hatred for all half-breed and helter-skelter residents of the region where they located.
The first three children, Loretta, Mary and Jarrett, chose from among the better element for their associates. The next three, all boys, Oscar, Paul and Jennings were less particular about the character of playfellows, but Gladys and Florence were again like the first three and they went to church and Sunday school with serious and wholesome spirit. Harry was a sickly, puny little runt, as the Oklahomans remember him, and he was peculiar and fitful and chuck full of low humor and cunning. Lorena and Vinita were so small as to be almost unnoticed insofar as traits were recognized then and recalled now by old Oklahoma neighbors.
It probably has some bearing on the recent crimes of the Young Brothers that their mother felt a gulf between her family and the low element she imagined abounded everywhere in Oklahoma. Her burning hate for the resident common to their locality in all probability conjured up an aloofness in the family that was resented greatly by others who chanced to come afoul of her scorn. Their realization that others felt contempt for them, too, bred a deep and close alliance within the family in all probability. Anyway criminologists who have worked on the Young Brothers Massacre admit that all of the Young family they have had the privilege of questioning, present a compact, solid, impenetrable front against which humane methods have availed little in their quest for information relative to the crimes of their closest kin. Within the family it is apparent there are none who raise the voice of protest against the depredations of a brother.
No heredity study of the Youngs is known, but many avow such examination would show a trace of insanity. And if it didn't, others contend, contempt for one's fellow men always breeds contempt for law with Its requital for evil done, and still others have this theory and others have that about the home life of the Young Brothers; all trying to pierce the veil that exposes the fact but beclouds the reason for there being respectable offspring and terrible criminals in the same family.
It is pretty definitely known that Mr. and Mrs. Young had little or at least took little time to teach much but the Bible to their children. The father of the boys was an upright Christian citizen, honest in all of his dealings and one who labored hard. But, in spare moments it is well remembered the Youngs spent their time in idle drollery. Neither of the parents seemed interested in music, nor did they ever coach the children in books from school, nor did they ever place any value on speeches or express any pleasure for social amenities. Their conversation on government and society turned always to the corruption of public officials. Here was a family who had implicit trust in none bur the Youngs.
Ratty and runty little Harry was an abnormally bad boy almost from birth. In his childhood he had terrible fits of temper, at which times he would be cruel to cats, dogs, and other animals, and he often smashed dishes and broke such furniture as he had muscle to tear apart. His mother believed him insane and she would hear to no punishment for his misdeeds. As he grew older he took delight in destroying the property of others. When other small boys were content to 'coon' a few melons from a neighbor's patch, Harry got no thrill without pulling the vine.
He loved to hunt and shoot, and whenever he could he would go with Oscar and Jennings. The Youngs became proficient with guns of all kinds in early boyhood. Paul and Jennings used to boast of their ability and gloat over what would happen to anyone who gave them battle. This proficiency with firearms gave Harry also an unholy confidence in himself, and it wasn't long till he was toting a 'rod.' His father remonstrated mildly, but Mrs. Young upheld the boy on the pretext that Paul and Jenning and other boys did the same.
Always weary from toil on his acres, Father Young had little energy to cogitate upon the future of his sons, but any contemplation he did avail himself foretold a bad end for them unless somehow it would be possible to foster a different companionship for all. In the odd moments Senior Young snatched away from attention to corn and cotton farming, he thought of his old-time neighbors back in Missouri. For the sake of his family he wished to be back there again where their kin might have a wholesome influence on the children. This wish became an obsession with him and the family, excepting Paul, Jennings and Harry, agreed they would gladly live again among early acquaintances.
When it was discovered that Paul and Jennings had come to know the taste of potent brew, the Young parents hastened to find a buyer for their Oklahoma property. At some sacrifice they sold and headed for the Ozarks. They cast about for awhile and then bought more than a hundred acres a few miles south and west of Springfield. Here they settled down with high hope In the heart of father Young, the Lord would intercede to lead his sons in the path of righteousness.
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