Sought to Avenge Murder

Thirty Years After Slaying of Young Brother Gates Pressed Prosecution 

St. Louis, MO.,

Aug 3 1911

Among the recent dramatic incidents of John W. Gates life was his attempt to avenge the murder of his brother, Gilbert W. Gates nearly 30 years ago, after he had been slain in a wagon, traveling across the blue grass prairies of northeast Missouri.

Young Gates, who was but 18 years old had been engaged in freighting in Sedgwick county, Kans. Tiring of the work, he started back to his Illinois home. He was accompanied by Alexander Jester, a veteran of the civil war, who traveled in a prairie schooner. Jester took along a buffalo calf which he exhibited along the route from the buffalo country to northeast Missouri.

Near Middle Grove, Mo., Gates was murdered while he slept in his wagon. Jester drove into Paris, Mo., that night and left there the next morning for Indiana.

Gates parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. A. Gates, of Turner Junction, Ill., becoming uneasy, Gates senior started in search of their son. At Paris the father learned his son was last seen with Jester at Middle Grove. Jester was traced by means of the buffalo calf to Richmond, Indiana. There it was found Jester had started for the Kansas plains again. He was followed to Valley Center, Kans., where he was arrested for murdering Gates. Jester escaped from jail by knocking down one of the guards.

For 29 years Jester was lost. In 1899 he was arrested at Shawnee, Kans., through information furnished by his half-sister, Mrs. Cornelia Street. She said Jester had ill-treated her and she desired that he be tried for murdering Gates.

When John W. Gates heard of the arrest he said he would spend his entire fortune if necessary, to have Jester hanged. He employed W. S. Forrest of Chicago and former Lieut. Gov. Charles P. Johnson, of St. Luis, as his chief counsel to prosecute the case, and hired twenty detectives to gather evidence. The detectives found 100 witnesses scattered throughout the United States, who were brought to New London, Mo., at Gates’ expense to testify as to what they knew of the murder nearly 30 years before.

When Jester reached New London in 1900 he did not in the least resemble the man who sat in a cell in the Paris jail 29 years before. Then he looked the part of a border ruffian, but when he stepped of the train at New London he looked like an old-style minister, and played the part so well he enlisted much sympathy. Jester wore a black Prince Albert coat and patriarchal long, white beard.

Volumes of testimony were introduced at the trail, which lasted several weeks, and although John W. Gates spent many thousands of dollars, Jester was acquitted. Jester died four years ago in Oklahoma.