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Death of John Hulston

Greenfield Vedette October 28, 1897


He Shot Down John C. Hulston in cold Blood at the Village of Hulston Last Sunday Morning.

A Woman the Cause Of The Tragedy.

She Was Masters’ Wife and Was the Cause of a Damage Suit Between He and Hulston.

He was brought to this city and Placed in the County Jail

Sheriff Prepared for a Mob.

Hulston’s Story of the Crime

Defense will Make no Statement

But the Indications Are that a Plea of Insanity will be Entered. 

    A terrible tragedy occurred at Hulston, a small village eight miles north of Greenfield on Sunday morning last as a result of which all that is mortal of John C. Hulston lies sleeping in the city cemetery, while his slayer, Jacob M. Masters, occupies a felon’s cell in the county jail, from which he will betaken only to answer to the charge of premeditated and deliberate murder. About nine o’clock that morning Hulston was passing the village store of which Masters was the owner when from the cellar where he had evidently been awaiting just such an opportunity, Masters discharged both barrels of a shot gun full in his right side. Both barrels of the gun were heavily loaded with leaden slugs mixed with a few buckshot, and with Hulston barely 20 feet away the result was terrible. The charge struck the unfortunate man on the right side and arm, make sixty-three abrasions in the skin, and literally riddling the body. In this condition Hulston ran probably fifty feet before he fell to the ground. He was picked up, by friendly hands carried to his house near by, and Dr.’s Kirby and Daugherty summoned by phone. They arrived at the bedside probably an hour after the tragedy, and at once began the work of removing the shot and slugs from the body. This work continued until around 11 o’clock, when Hulston was seized with a hemorrhage and almost before even the physicians were aware of it he had passed into the great beyond.

    Hulston was conscious up to the very last, and conversed freely with those about him. He did not think however that his injuries would prove fatal in so short a time, and questioned the physicians closely on the subject, being informed by then that while he might live for some time his wounds were of such a nature that they might take him all in any minute. Prosecuting Attorney Talbutt was telephoned the circumstances, and with a stenographer started for the scene for the purpose of taking the dying statement of the injured man.

    Knowing that the prosecutor was on the way to Hulston, and believing that he would be fully able to converse with him when he arrived, Hulston made no definite statement of the circumstances heading up to the murder, although he conversed freely with the friends surrounding his bedside concerning the actual shooting. And some minutes before Mr. Talbutt arrived on the scene John Hulston’s best chance to make a signed state, was gone, with his life.



Had But a Second’s Warning Before The Shots were Fired.

    To the friends around his bedside and the physicians who were removing the leaden missiles from his body Hulston talked as in every day conversation. He was passing the store, he said, on his way home, and had gotten a few feet to the east of the store building when he happened to glance in a half involuntary manner in that direction. He saw Master’s standing in the cellar door, with his shotgun at his shoulder and leveled directly at him. That moment Hulston knew that his moments were numbered and reached for the pistol which he had carried since Masters had repeatedly threatened his life some months before. His hand never reached his pistol pocket before it could do so the deadly shotgun had done its work, and with half a hundred slugs and bullets in his body he staggered toward his home scarce two hundred yards away, falling a moment afterward, a senseless heap on the gravel roadbed. That much John Hulston told his friends, not as a sworn witness, not even as the last statement of a man, who believed himself to be dying, but as a friend talks to friend.


Masters Surrendered to Deputy Campbell Without Resistance.

    Jacob Masters did not attempt to escape after his terrible crime--perhaps it was wisdom on his part that he did not, for when a Vedette reporter arrived at the scene of the tragedy two hours after the its enactment, there were congregated there in groups of three to six a number of stern-faced men, and the talk of lynching was openly indulged in. While it is also true that Masters had a number of friends there, who knows but that an attempt on his part to evade arrest by flight would have inflamed the anger of this crowd until a strong rope, a convenient tree, and a strong long pull altogether would have left matter of Master's punishment a question of no doubt? As it was, however, the slayer quietly walked out of the cellar after firing fatal shots and entered the store room, where he reloaded his gun and Macabre-like waited for something to turn up. Masters himself says that he telephoned to Sheriff Hudson that he had killed John Hulston, and for that official to come and take him. The sheriff says that he received no such message, and that his information of the crime came from other sources. At any rate, as soon as Masters heard of the death of his victim he announced his willingness to accompany Deputy Mart Campbell to town, and after binding the officer to protect him on the trip he climbed into Campbell's buggy and started. A mile this side of Hulston they met Sheriff Hudson who accompanied them into the city and took charge of the prisoner, who spent several hours in conversation with his attorney, Col. J.M. Hoskinson. The prisoner was placed in the jail about 5:30 o'clock and has since occupied the west cell, sharing the same with Frank Robertson who is accused of horse stealing.


Masters Thought Hulston Was Too Intimate With His Wife and Had Sued Him for Damages.

    In the circuit court now is session there is pending a case where in Jacob V. Masters asks judgment for $10.000 against John C Hulston for the alienation of his wife's affections. This case was filed two months ago and since its filing there has been a bitter enmity between the two men. Masters repeatedly threatened to take Hulston's life and at one time was arrested and brought before Justice McDowell for so threatening. A jury failed even to bind him over to keep the peace and he was released. At that time he told the court and jury that he would kill Hulston if he did not cease meddling with his[ Master's [family. About the middle of August Mrs. Masters left the home of her husband and has not since lived with him, having spent most of the time since then with the family of father, Daniel Joslin, who lives at Golden City. On Thursday Hulston mailed a letter at Greenfield addressed to Mrs. Jennie Masters at Golden City and asked her to meet him at a restaurant in that place. His friends claim that he wished to see her solely to secure evidence to use in the coming damage suit, and that he took with him a stenographer for that purpose. Be that as it may the letter never reached its destination but was sent from Golden City to Masters at Hulston, and to this letter is laid the responsibility of Sunday's tragedy. Masters brooded over it Saturday night, loaded up his gun, and, as he doubtless, considers, avenged the honor of his family.


That, With Other Questions, Has Been the Subject of Much Discussion 

    Was the brutal killing of John C. Huston a justifiable homicide, or a deliberate cold-blooded murder? Will any man of good sense run the risk of insulting a married woman and bringing down upon his head the wrath of her husband unless he receives positive and decided encouragement? Should Jacob Masters pay the extreme penalty for his crime or should he go scott free? These are the questions which have been discussed pro and con on the streets since Sunday, and each side of each question has its supporters. The courts will probably answer the first and third, the second is a question which has been handed down from generation to generation and which each man can settle for himself, and having so settled it can then ask himself, is the kind of a woman who will give such encouragement worth the price of such a tragedy as the of Sunday last?


It was Largely Attended- His Last Act One of Charity

    The funeral of John C. Hulston took place from the residence of his mother, in this city, on Monday at 3 o’clock p.m. the remains were conducted to their last resting place by and escort of Masons and there interred with Masonic honors, the deceased being a member of the Greenfield lodge No 446.

    Personally there was no better fellow than John Hulston—Good natured, generous, and open-hearted, he was always the center of a circle of friends when he came to this place. His last act on earth was one of kindness to a fellow being, his last errand one of charity. When he passed the store of his slayer he was ons way to his home for the purpose of securing some breakfast for a blind whom he had just set across the river at the ford below the mill-dam. But for the presence of a fellow being who needed assistance he would not have gone to the ford, and consequently not have passed Masters store and it is doubtful that the cowardly instincts of that individual would have allowed him to shoot in the open. So, at least, John Hulston’s charitable instincts hastened his end.

    He was a young man 35 years of age, but of recognized business ability. His is perhaps the best water mill in the county and is also equipped with steam power. It is clear of debt and his estate will have few if any debts, to settle. He leaves a widow and two small children, both boys, to mourn their loss. May he rest in peace.


The Sheriff and a Dozen Deputies Were On Guard Monday Night.

    On Monday night Sheriff Hudson repaired to meet a mob which, report had it, was coming to inflict summary punishment on Masters. At the instruction of Judge Stratton a dozen extra deputies were sworn in and, armed with Winchesters, awaited the arrival of the mob. It did not appear, however, and it is very probably that the entire scare was the work of the imagination of some excitable person. The citizens of Dade county will allow the law to take its course.


It will be conducted by Col. Hoskinson, Hon. W. B. Skinner et al

    In the circuit court Masters will be defended by Co. J. M. Hoskinson who will conduct the case. He will be assisted by W.B. Skinner of Mt. Vernon., D.C. Joslin of South Greenfield and probably by other lawyers and a strong effort will be made to show a case of justifiable Homicide.

    The VEDETTE has repeatedly endeavored to secure through Col. Hoskins on a statement from Masters, but has been as persistently turned down in this effort. Masters has been instructed to talk to no one about this case and is following his instructions. “The defense has no statement to make” said Col. Hoskinson, “except that you may tell the public that Masters did not waylay Hulston as stated in the dispatches to the daily paper.


Master’s Attorney Gives and Inkling That The Line of Defense Has Been Changed.

    It is impossible to give a definite information as to when Masters will be tried for this crime. “If he is not indicted for murder in the first degree,” said Col. Hoskinson, we may go to trial this term,” indicating that in case a first degree indictment is returned the case will go over to the next term. “Did you notice Masters’ eyes this morning? By jing, he looked perfectly wild.” The defense, from this, may be switched from the justifiable homicide to the theory of the insanity defense.

No Eye Witnesses.

    There were no actual eye witnesses to the shooting, unless Masters' 15 year old daughter saw it. From the mill window Eugene Marks and Frank Nixon heard the shot and looked out to see Masters with till smoking gun and Hultson run forward and fall. The hastened to his assistance. At a point some 200 yards west of the store James Smith and Sam Wright were standing in the road talking. They also heard the shot and saw Hulston Fall.


Greenfield Vedette November 11,1897

MASTERS INDICTED Charged by the Grand Jury With Murder in the First Degree.

    Just before the grand jury adjourned last Friday, it returned an indictment for murder to the first degree against Jacob M. Masters, the slayer of John C. Hulston. Masters attorneys were much elated at the verdict in the Schlegel case at Kansas City, rendered some days ago, and have lost no opportunity to point to that case as a parallel to that of Masters, and to predict like endings in the courts. The cases are similar in that both Schlegel and Masters made a practical off to accept money in payment for their wife's shame, one by blackmail, the other by the civil action for damages. The Schlegel verdict, however, doesn't not seem universally satisfactory from the following which is taken from the Clinton Republican. "The verdict of the jury in the Schlegel murder trial of Kansas City is one of the worst verdicts ever rendered in Missouri or in the nation. It's effect will be weakening of popular respect for law and in strengthening the sentiment that at certain times a man is justified in taking the law into his own hands. Such a verdict destroy confidence in courts and caused the public to have more respect for lynch law. It establishes what might be termed instantaneous insanity which is a dangerous term, fought with grave

Greenfield Vedette May 26, 1898


   A Special Term of Circuit Court Will Convene next Monday. A Special term of circuit court will he held next week beginning on Monday for the purpose of trying the case of the State vs. Jacob Masters, charged with murder in the first degree. Over one hundred witnesses have been subpoenaed and the chances are that the trial will last until the early part of the second week.

Greenfield Vedette June 2, 1898 


    Is Being Tried at a special Term of Court this Week. Judge Stratton convened a special term of Circuit Court last Monday for the purpose of trying the Masters case.

Greenfield Vedette June 9, 1898


    The State Attorneys Asked For A Verdict of Not Guilty On Thursday Evening. The trial of the state of Missouri VS Jacob Masters, Charged with the murder of John C. Hulston, came to an abrupt and unexpected close last Thursday evening. Up to the that time Masters attorney's had been building the defense upon the theory of self defense and insanity, A large number of witnesses were introduced to support that theory, and a creditable case was made. On Thursday afternoon, Attorney Hoskinson asked leave to introduce in evidence a large number of letters he claimed had been written by Hulston to the wife of the defendant. The attorneys for the state Messrs. Mann, Tallbutt and Hastain, made a hard fight to keep these letters out but they were finally admitted. The state then asked the court to instruct the jury to bring in a verdict of not guilty, which was done, and a few minutes later Maters was a free man. The contents of the letters which played such an important part in the case will never be known to the public, for they were turned over to the state attorney and have doubtless been destroyed. It is said, however, that they were of such a nature as to show in complete justification for the killing, and the knowledge that their admission in evidence could but result in acquittal, induced the case to take unexpected step in asking for a verdict of not guilty. Engaged with Prosecutor Talbutt on the state's side of the case were Attorney Mann of this place and Hastain of Stockton. The defense was conducted by Colonel Hoskinson, who was assisted by an attorney from Mt. Vernon.


Pictures are from the book "Moments in Time" by John K. Hulston - Self-published in 2000 printed by Litho Printers, P.O. Box 488, Cassville, Mo. 65625

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