Published in "The Madison County Musings", Spring 1996 issue:


By Joy Russell

For as long as I can remember, I have heard a story of a horsethief being buried alongside the County road, directly across from the old Ogden Schoolhouse. As I began to talk with the Ogden descendants about the "Old Stomping Barn", I also inquired as to what they knew about the horsethief, and heard several versions which I will present here.

* THE HORSETHIEF DID NOT LIVE AROUND HERE, BUT HAD BEEN CHASED BY A POSSE AND WAS CAUGHT AT THIS LOCATION. Everyone I spoke with seemed to agree that the stories they had heard said that the horsethief did not live here. One person seemed to remember hearing that he had been chased by the posse from down near Ft. Smith and others didn't know where he came from. No one was able to tell me any information about what his name was.

* SOME SAY HE WAS HUNG OR SHOT AT THE SPOT HE WAS BURIED AND OTHERS SAY HE WAS SHOT IN THE FIELD AT THE UPPER END OF THE OLD OGDEN HOMESTEAD. About half of the people I spoke with say that he was killed where he is buried and when he fell to the ground, the posse dug a hole and buried him where he fell. The other half say they recall hearing that he was killed at the upper end of "Uncle Ples' field", which would be approximately one mile East of where he is buried. These people can give no explanation as to why he was brought to the location where he is buried. The Ogden Cemetery is about 100 yards from where he is buried. I was told that he wasn't buried in the Cemetery because of his crime and that he wasn't entitled to be put in the Cemetery because of it. I have been told that he was hung by the neck from a tree directly above where he is buried and when he was dead, the rope was cut and he fell to the ground. A hole was then dug and he was rolled into it.

* I HAVE BEEN TOLD THAT HE WAS ALONE AND OTHERS HAVE TOLD ME THAT HIS WIFE WAS TRAVELING WITH HIM. Here again, I have heard two versions as to what happened. Several people have said that he was riding alone when he was caught, while others say that his wife was riding with him. They don't know if she was involved in the actual horsetheft or if she was merely "on the run" with him. The people who say the wife was with him also say that she was killed along with her husband. The wife watched as they put the rope around his neck and began to try and save her husband. Somehow in the process to save him, she was shot and killed. She was supposed to be buried along side her husband.

* THERE USED TO BE TWO TOMBSTONES WITH NAMES ON THEM AT THIS LOCATION. Today there is one tombstone with the following on it: "Louisa, wife of John Hays, 1830-1862". According to Vance Ogden, who now owns the farm where these graves are located, there were originally two matching tombstones, but many years ago the male's stone disappeared. It is not know if the missing tombstone was for John Hays or not. Several people tell me that these stones marked the graves of the horsethief and his wife. Others have told me that the horsethief had only a fieldstone with no name on it. This John and Louisa Hays are not found in the 1850 or 1860 census of Madison County. There is no explanation as to who put these stones on these graves. If they do mark the graves of the horsethief and his wife, did their family put the stones there to mark their graves? There are a few other fieldstones at this location, which are supposed to be markers for two or three children of a family who were just passing through. If anyone has additional information, please let know.

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