by Glenn Shirley printed in “True West”, pp 14-21 of the
September 1992 issue.
William Alexander Jester was the first settler in the Grant
Township of Sedgwick County, Kansas; he located there with
other old Civil War soldiers and his family as early as
January 1868. In
the fall of 1870, he left his family and went to Indiana on
his annual hunting excursion and while returning, met a 16
year old boy headed West named Gilbert Gates.
It is said that he gained the confidence of the boy
by assuming the role of guide and protector then brutally
murdered him in Monroe County. Source: Wm G. Cutler’s History
of the State of Kansas).
As the years roll by, public opinion will modify and the
desire to execute vengeance on a cold-blooded murderer will
degenerate into passive indifference.
Not so with the wrath of John Warne
"Bet-you-a-million" Gates, American promoter and
daring speculator, of Chicago, who championed the pursuit
and trial of the man he believed killed his brother in the
West in 1871. Gates'
favorite Biblical text was "an eye for an eye,"
and he thirsted for the blood of his brother's slayer
"even as the hunted doe panteth for the waters.”
summer of 1870, John was sixteen years old, his brother
Gilbert eighteen -sons of Ansel A. and Mary Gates, of West
Chicago, DuPage County. Gilbert
was five feet seven inches tall, with dark brown hair, hazel
eyes, and weighed 145 pounds.
He was in poor health and decided on a trip to the
buffalo ranges of western Kansas as a cure for his ailments
and for recreation. Hides
represented money and Gilbert was a good hunter; the trip
bade well. His
parents outfitted him with a fine team his father had raised
and a covered wagon well supplied for the journey.
He took along, in particular, a small leather trunk
of clothing that included a suit of underwear his mother had
made for him; a muzzle-loading gun and powder horn; a pocket
watch that had belonged to his uncle George Gates (killed in
the Civil War), which the family was keeping as a relic; and
a shepherd dog named "Abe Lincoln."
left West Chicago on August 26, accompanied by a friend,
Charles Hazelhurst, who was returning to his home at
Augusta, Kansas. They
were six weeks on the road, going by way of Quincy,
Illinois; Paris and Sedalia, Missouri; and entering Kansas
at Fort Scott. There
they met one Alexander Jester, who was freighting for the
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad.
The Santa Fe was building toward Newton, soon to
become the new end-of-the-track town for longhorn herds from
Texas, and had reached Doyle Creek (later named Florence).
Jester needed an extra team and wagon, and put
Gilbert to work. Hazelhurst
continued to Augusta. Jester
was forty-eight years old, six feet tall, with a
"peculiar-shaped" Roman nose "easily
remembered", a scraggly beard and mustache, dull gray
eyes, and large bony hands that made him appear
"stronger than he actually was."
He mentioned having homesteaded near Valley Center on
the Arkansas north of Wichita, Sedgwick County.
worked for Jester until November, then rejoined Hazelhurst
at Augusta to hunt buffalo during the winter.
Ansel and Mary Gates sent word to Hazelhurst,
expressing anxiety about their son's continued absence.
Gilbert wrote that he would return shortly.
Early in January 1871, he left Augusta in his wagon
with three choice buffalo hides he had cured, his dog Abe
Lincoln, and leading a buffalo calf that he was taking home
to domesticate. A
few days later, Gilbert was seen leaving Fort Scott with
Alexander Jester, each driving a team and wagon, Jester
saying something about visiting his boyhood home at
Hagerstown, Indiana, where he had lived until after the
Civil War. The
last week in January, Ansel Gates received a letter from
mentioned no traveling companion but bore the postmark of
Renick, Missouri, a village twenty miles southwest of Paris,
seat of Monroe County.
Another month passed with no further word from
addition to that uneasiness, Mrs. Gates was awakened by a
dream in which it seemed that while at a funeral she had
stepped up to view the corpse and had seen Gilbert lying in
the coffin. The premonition so affected her that Ansel Gates
set out at once to search for their son.
March 1, Gates struck the trail Gilbert and a man of
Jester's description had taken from Renick to Middle Grove,
in southwestern Monroe County, where they had stopped
January 24 "having with them a shepherd dog and a
buffalo calf which they were exhibiting, charging ten cents
admittance.....Almost the entire population of Middle Grove
bought tickets." The
two had left next morning, traveling east on the road to
Paris, after which Jester was observed on a little-used
byway with the covered wagons, alone.
Middle Grove man named Atkinson and his eighteen-year-old
nephew told Gates, “There was a deep snow on the ground.
We were driving up a narrow lane to get on the Paris
road....saw this man get out of the front wagon, go to the
back wagon, and get under the canvas.
In a short while he got out, tied the team behind the
front wagon, then got into the front wagon and drove east
into the timber at Hulen Ford, on Allen Creek.
After the wagons disappeared, we noticed bloodstains
on the snow, but just supposed it was caused by one of the
horses getting hurt someway.”
Earlier that morning, Mrs. Amanda Clarke, of Middle
Grove, had seen the wagons turn off the Paris road. “A
gust of wind blew aside the curtain on the back wagon,”
Mrs. Clarke said, “and I saw a body stretched out, head
toward the rear and feet resting on some object immediately
behind the seat.” Later,
the woman “came across a large splotch of blood in the
farmer, William Maxey, stated that he had met the wagons
that afternoon on Hulen land and “positively saw a body in
the rear wagon, covered with a buffalo hide, save the
Hulen Ford, he noticed a hole had been cut in the ice.
The wagons had stopped at that point and “a heavy
object dragged to the creek bank and dumped in.
There was blood on the snow crust about the hole.”
At Paris, E.T. Wetmore told the distressed father
that a man of Jester's description had spent the night of
January 25 at his livery stable.
“He had two outfits, the buffalo calf and dog seen
at Middle Grove....slept in the wagon that belonged to your
boy....left before daylight.”
Gates continued eastward.
He lost the trail after the wagons crossed the
Mississippi at Hannibal, but found it again at Springfield,
stable operator Herman Hofferkamp remembered, “The man
stayed at my barn for about a week.....sold the buffalo calf
for cash....had some clothing that didn't fit him and a
leather trunk. He
left me a very intelligent dog, which I kept.”
Gates recovered Abe Lincoln.
father next struck pay dirt at Decatur, Illinois, where
Jester had sold three buffalo hides to a merchant named
had taken the hides to the Dunham Tannery.
They were still soaking in the vat.
Blood was detected on the hairy side of one of them.
A chemical analysis “showed it to be human
obtained the hides, convinced they were the ones in his
son's possession when he left Augusta.
The father hurried to Hagerstown, Indiana, hoping to
intercept Jester with Gilbert's team and wagon.
Jester had been there, admitted Mrs. Cornelia Street,
a widowed step-sister, saying nothing of his trip east
except that he had “traded for a new outfit.”
He had sold his own team and dilapidated wagon and
left Hagerstown with this new outfit the last of March to
return to his homestead in Kansas.
Gates hurried to Sedgwick County and called on
Sheriff Walter Walker.
Walker was well acquainted wiht Jester, as was
Constable L.D. Fisher of the Valley Center district.
They made careful inquiry.
Jester was not home and his wife denied knowing his
Gates went to the farm and “looked it over in the
ostensible view of buying it.”
When he offered a good price, the woman told him
where her husband could be located.
Walker and Fisher arrested Jester on May 2, fishing
in the Little Arkansas.
identified the team he had raised.
In the wagon was part of Gilbert's clothing,
including the underwear his mother had made, and his gun.
The trunk was missing.
Jester was carrying the watch which the family had
kept as a relic. Jester
told Gates, “Your boy and me traveled together until we
went into camp past Middle Grove.
He took a sudden notion during the night to go to
Texas. I paid
him $350 for his outfit, watch, gun and young buffalo to
make the trip. It's
a mystery to me why he didn't take his dog.”
Jester declined to comment on the discoveries made by
Ansel Gates at Middle Grove, in Illinois and Indiana.
Walker notified the Missouri authorities.
A warrant was issued in Monroe County.
Deputy Ownby went to Jefferson City, obtained a
requisition from Governor B. Gratz Brown on the Kansas
governor, then took a train to the Santa Fe terminus at
Florence, thence by stage to Wichita.
Jester was given a hearing before Judge Allen E.
Dodge, the requisition was honored, and Ownby departed with
his prisoner for Florence.
to Ownby, “We reached Kansas City by special train that
evening. Here I
found a telegram from my father, telling me that a mob
intended meeting the Wabash train at Renick and hang the
took the Haninbal & St. Joseph line to Shelbina, hired a
buggy there, and drove across country to Paris.
Jester waived preliminary hearing.
The grand jury indicted him for murder, but for some
reason he was not tried at the next term of court.
He got a change of venue to Audrain County, and was
removed to jail at Mexico, Missouri, the designated place of
wife disappeared from Kansas.
In mid-November 1871, he tunneled out of the Mexico
jail, and we could find no trace of him.”
John Gates had joined his father in Missouri following
Jester's arrest and “saw the suspect several times in the
Paris and Mexico jails.”
Jester's escape filled him with wrath.
The family offered a $1,500 reward for his recapture,
and in their burial plot at West Chicago they placed a stone
shaft bearing the following epitaph: "Gilbert W., son
of A.A. and Mary Gates, was murdered in Missouri by
Alexander Jester, January 25, 1871, aged 19 years and 25
accusation gained credibility in 1877, when some boys who
were swimming in Allen Creek pulled out the arm of a young
man, thought to be Gilbert's.
It revived the interest of Missouri authorities, but
Jester remained unapprehended.
Vengeance on the murderer of his brother continued as
one of John Gates' burning ambitions.
John began his business career in St. Louis selling
iron and steel products for the Cleveland Rolling Mill
barbed wire industry was in its infancy.
Patents were controlled by the Washburn & Moen
Company of Massachusetts, with all other manufacturers as
enormous profits and believing the patents would not hold in
law, Gates did a little manufacturing on his own in an
obscure St. Louis factory.
Washburn & Moen naturally went after the
so-called "moonshiners," but Gates continued to
worry his persecutors until a federal circuit judge declared
the Washburn & Moen patents invalid.
Using his St. Louis factory and another in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as a nucleus, Gates organized a
strong company which he operated so successfully that, in
1889, he began absorption of some twenty barbed wire plants
in the United States. By
1893, he was president of Consolidated Steel and Wire and
the Illinois Steel Company.
He moved to Chicago, where he could keep in touch
with men of large capital and ideas, and in 1898, at age
forty-three, controlled the barbed wire industry of the
boasted that he “worked twenty-two hours and slept two,”
and had never been beaten in anything he undertook.
Throughout those years, he expressed his willingness
to suspend his efforts in all lines, at any time, and expend
any portion of his wealth necessary to apprehend and convict
murder case took a surprising turn on June 21, 1899, when
Sheriff Charles W. Simmons, of Sedgwick County, Kansas,
received the following letter: “I wish to make a statement
to you in regard to Alexander Jester, who was arrested near
Valley Center in 1871 for killing a young man for his team,
watch and clothing. He
was sent to Missouri and broke jail.
He is my brother, but I want him punished for that
crime. I know
of my own personal knowledge that he is guilty as
charged.......He is living here at Shawnee, Oklahoma
Territory, and is known as W.A. Hill.....”
Respectfully, Cornelia Street
notified Sheriff M.N. Melson at Mexico, Missouri, and the
authorities of Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma Territory.
On Friday night, June 23, Deputy Sheriff Howard Smith
of Shawnee took the so-named Hill into custody.
Mrs. Street told Deputy Smith that she and her
brother had moved to Shawnee a few months previously and
purchased a three-roomed house on two lots.
Each occupied a separate part of the structure.
They quarreled constantly, and each tried to get the
other to leave. “I
wrote the letter to Sheriff Simmons because I feared my
brother,” Mrs. Street said, “and because I was prompted
by the Lord.....For the last seven years I have scarcely
slept.....I prayed to forget the crime, and it would seem to
me as if I could hear the Lord saying, ‘You are as much a
sinner as your brother.’”
was clothed in the “cheapest maud” and had but twenty
cents when arrested. He
stated that his interest in the Shawnee property was his
“earthly possessions,” claimed to be eighty years old,
and “appeared debilitated.”
Mrs. Street said that she was sixty-eight years old;
that he was seventy-six and faking.
old man maintained, “My name is William Alexander Hill.
I was baptized under that name in 1858.
I was born in North Carolina in 1819.
My father died before I was born.
My mother remarried, and we moved to Henry County,
I grew to manhood and enlisted at Richmond when the Civil
War broke out. Since
the war I have been traveling the West, preaching the
gospel. I know
nothing of Gilbert Gates or his family.
This wicked woman made the accusation to prevent my
marriage to a woman she don't like....She thinks I'm craze.
I think she is filled with the devil.”
Street countered, “He was thirteen when his father died.
His mother married my father, Isaac Jester, and he
was known as Jester after we moved to Indiana.... When
eighteen, he married Delilah Bryant and his mother started
him in housekeeping so far as her means allowed.
Once he kicked his wife in the side, nearly killing
her. He knocked
me down during a visit to his mother's house years ago, and
when I tried to escape, he stabbed me in the arm with a big
dirk knife. He
always carried a big dirk knife.
He is a vicious man.
After escaping jail in Missouri, he went to Texas and
claimed to be a preacher.
His wife died in 1883.
In 1889 he moved to Norman (Oklahoma Territory), and
since then has been married and divorced twice.
He was to be married again next Sunday to a woman who
has a bunch of children, and I knew I would be turned out of
my home.” Mrs.
Street added, “I was told by his first wife before she
died that Gilbert Gates’ trunk was burned and thrown into
the Arkansas River.”
Thus began a great legal controversy.
was jailed at Tecumseh, and his attorney, W. R. Asher,
applied for a writ of habeas corpus before Probate Judge
J.D.F. Jennings, to show he was being unlawfully detained as
Jennings was the father of Al and Frank Jennings, notorious
train robbers recently sentenced to federal prison upon
failure to prove an alibi.
Pottawatomie County Sheriff W. B. Trousdale opined
that, in Judge Jennings, Hill had a “sympathizer.”
County Attorney L.G. Pitman vigorously protested the
writ, claiming that Hill was “lying to gain time in hopes
of breaking jail again.”
While the public agreed that Hill, if he was Jester,
should be punished for his crime, Mrs. Streets’
“unnatural act of a sister in delivering her brother to
the hangman brings down upon her only scorn and aversion.”
Attorney Asher propounded, “Her motive is to share
in the $1500 reward.... the letter she wrote is false and
her brother never killed anyone.”
Judge Jennings granted the application and set a
hearing for Monday, July 3, allowing Hill time to produce
witnesses to prove he was in Texas when Gilbert Gates
summoned Sheriff Simmons from Wichita with Cornelia Street's
letter, and telegraphed John Gates in Chicago.
Gates reached Tecumseh the night of June 27.
Next morning, he entered the county jail, accompanied
by Pitman and Sheriff Trousdale.
Jailer Elias Riddle had fifteen prisoners sitting in
the corridors. So
indelibly stamped in Gates’ memory were the features of
the man charged with murdering his brother that he
approached Hill without hesitation and asked, “Do you
remember me?” The
old man gave him a pitiable gaze and answered, “No.”
Gates demanded, “Don't you remember me visiting you
many times in the Paris and Mexico jails?
Don't you think it is time you admit taking the life
of my brother, cutting a hold in the ice and shoving his
body into Allen Creek?”
The old man grew very nervous and requested, “Don't
talk about the death of your brother.”
Gates told Pitman and Trousdale, “This man is
Alexander Jester as certain as God reigns in Heaven.”
Missouri, Sheriff Melson obtained a requisition from
Governor Lon V. Stephens at Jefferson City, and entrained
for Oklahoma Territory to return Hill to Audrain County for
Cassius M. Barnes honored the requisition at Guthrie, June
hurried to Oklahoma City, where he boarded a special train
for Tecumseh, “for fear Hill would be released and again
a number of persons had appeared to prove the prisoner was
Texas men alleged he was living at Denton in 1871 and was
known as William Alexander Hill.
One of several citizens who knew him during the time
he lived at Norman remembered, “When the Sac and Fox
country was opened in 1891, he went there and secured a
claim, which he sold for $800. He
returned to Norman with a new wagon, team and harness.
Afterwards he furnished proof of his war service and
secured a disability pension.
He at once bought a buggy - seemed to have a passion
for new rigs and women.
He separated from his wife and remarried.
His last wife divorced him last winter, and he and
his sister moved to Shawnee.
He never preached any that I knew of, but he attended
church and was called ‘Old Man’ Hill.”
The third wife testified in the prosecution's favor,
“I secured my divorce in the district court of Cleveland
County on account of non-support and cruelty.
Though I knew him as Hill, he said his age as 76 when
we were married. He's
putting it on rather thick....his signs of physical failing
are only adopted to arouse sympathy.”
Asher submitted a new list of witnesses, and Judge Jennings
postponed the hearing until July 8.
John Gates had returned to Chicago on an emergency
telegraphed Governor Barnes, June 30, “Is it possible that
the ends of justice can be defeated in Pottawatomie County?
My identification of Jester was complete.
He can also be identified by many residents of Monroe
County.... I fear that after 28 years, justice will be
defeated unless you can suggest some way in which Jester can
be removed to Missouri promptly.”
Governor Barnes replied, “I think you can rely upon
the court giving just consideration to the case... Suggest
you secure good counsel in behalf of sheriff holding by
Attorney Pitman did not like the course the proceedings were
taking and called on B.F. Burwell, associate justice of the
Supreme Court for the Third Judicial District at Oklahoma
Burwell assured him that Judge Jennings had no jurisdiction
and that he would speedily act upon an application for a
writ of mandamus, which he advised Pitman to pursue.
admitted afterward, “I immediately returned to Tecumseh.
The Missouri sheriff had been kind and friendly
toward me, and after some consultation, an abduction was
decided upon. Sheriff
Trousdale was favorable to this plan when assured that
Justice Burwell had given his opinion that the action of
Judge Jennings was arbitrary and illegal.
He suggested that we go to Shawnee and wait until
midnight so attention would not be attracted to us being
together in Tecumseh and our plan suspicioned....”
At 3:00 a.m., Sunday, July 2, a special train arrived
in Oklahoma City from Shawnee, with Hill in custody of
Trousdale, Deputy Smith, and Pitman.
Sheriff Melson was in charge of the party.
The officer refused a Daily Oklahoman reporter an
interview with the prisoner –“would say absolutely
nothing except that the requisition papers were in proper
form and signed by the governor.”
At 4:00 a.m., connection was made with a northbound
Santa Fe train, allegedly ordered by John Gates.
Deputy Smith accompanied Sheriff Melson with his
prisoner to Mexico, Missouri.
Oklahoman called the removal "kidnapping" but
noted, “The efficacy of modern official methods are
properly vindicated....the reckless daring in which the
prisoner was borne away in triumph is entitled to a mention
on the temple of fame.”
Governor Barnes considered it “an outrage” and
felt that the courts should “inquire into the conduct of
the Tecumseh officers.”
Attorney Asher filed information before Judge
Jennings charging Pitman, Trousdale, and Jailer Riddle with
“contempt of court.”
issued a writ restraining Judge Jennings from proceeding
with the contempt cases.
Pitman files a motion to dismiss the habeas corpus,
alleging want of jurisdiction, and the matter was quashed.
At Mexico, Missouri, ex-Deputy Sheriff P.S. Ownby,
ex-Sheriff W.H. White ofAudrain County, and others around at
the time of Jester's 1871 arrest and indictment, said Hill
was Alexander Jester, and the old man no longer denied it.
However, after retaining as counsel Mexico attorney
P.H. Cullen and T.P. Bashaw, of St. Louis, who had defended
him in 1871, he told the Mexico Intelligencer, “If hell
was to open and I knew I would fall into it, I would still
say I never killed Gilbert Gates.”
all important papers in the 1871 hearing had been lost.
The order for change of venue and the indictment did
not state the manner in which Gates came to his death.
A rumor spread that the prisoner would soon be
County Attorney T.T. Rodes declared it “pure rubbish”
and announced that he would present new evidence showing how
Gates was killed to obtain a new indictment on which Jester
could be tried at Paris.
During July and August, both prosecution and defense
“prepared for a desperate struggle.”
John Gates reportedly send Rodes a check for $1500
with which to secure evidence and witnesses and employed
ex-Governor Charles P. Johnson, of St. Louis, to assist in
the prosecution. William
S. Forrest of Chicago, attorney for Gates’ enterprises,
“lent a helping hand.”
Pinkerton detectives were sent to Sedgwick County,
Kansas, “to interview witness and examine records of
Jester's trial there.”
Rodes spent several days at Middle Grove, “where he
interviewed all the old witnesses in the Jester case, and
found five new ones who made very important disclosures.”
Attorney Johnson obtained the application made by
Jester under the Civil War disability act, in which he gave
his name as Alexander Jester, a member of Company G,
Thirty-Sixth Indiana Volunteers—“conclusive evidence
that the Reverend William A. Hill and Alexander Jester are
the same man.” Cullen
and Bashaw basked in the belief that the state had “no
stronger case than in 1871” and pointed to “the
inability of the state to produce the dead body of Gilbert
September 20, Jester was brought before Circuit Judge E.M.
Hughes at Mexico. The prosecution moved that the old murder
charge be dismissed. The
motion was granted, and Jester was a free man.
A moment later, Sheriff J.W. Clark of Monroe County
intercepted Jester in the corridor and read him a new
warrant charging him with the same crime for which he had
been under indictment.
Jester said, “Well, I reckon I'm your prisoner
sheriff rushed him to jail at Paris “for fear he would be
rescued by an Oklahoma delegation.”
Next day, Jester was arraigned before Justice of the
Peace James T. Moss. He
refused to answer any question put to him by Rodes or
Justice Moss, and was remanded to jail to await preliminary
witnesses from five states were examined during the
preliminary at Paris in mid-October.
The aged Ansel Gates minutely described the outfit
his son had left home with, his failure to hear from him,
and his long search through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and
to Valley Center, Kansas, where Jester was arrested.
Charles Hazelhurst identified Gilbert's clothing,
gun, watch, and said the dog's name was Abe.
Several witnesses testified that after Jester left
Middle Grove he was in possession of young Gates' team,
wagon, dog, and buffalo calf.
William Maxey and Amanda Clarke told how they had
seen Jester alone the morning of January 25, 1871 with two
body of a young man in the wagon he was leading behind the
Throughout the hearing defense attorneys questioned
witnesses as to whether John Gates, the Chicago
“capitalist” had advanced money to secure their
prosecution admitted that Gates was paying the expenses of
the witnesses to the Missouri state line and expending money
necessary to secure the conviction of his brother's slayer.
Jester was ordered held for action of the grand jury,
grand jury indicted Jester on October 20.
When formally arraigned before Circuit Judge David H.
Ebey, he pleaded not guilty and made affidavit alleging
prejudice against him in Monroe County, asking for a change
of venue. The
prosecution bitterly contested the application.
The defense argued that the case had been dismissed
at Mexico and brought back to Paris because the prosecution
believed Jester could be more easily convicted in Monroe
Ebey order the case transferred to Ralls County.
The trial began at New London, July 9, 1900.
Newspapermen swarming into the little city from
throughout the Midwest billed it as “one of the most
famous murder trials in the history of Missouri,” and
courtroom is packed to capacity.... The jury is composed
principally of farmers, three-fourths of them born since the
alleged crime was committed.
Prosecuting attorney Rodes is assisted by Johnson of
of Chicago, and several other celebrated criminal lawyers.
J.G. Hoffman, assistant superintendent of the
Pinkerton Detective Agency and several other detectives who
worked on the case are here in the interest of the state....
Jester's sister will be one of the principal witnesses
against him.... Two
things will prove a strong assistance to the defense.
There is a strong prejudice against trusts in
Missouri and John W. Gates is the brother of the man Jester
is accused of having killed.
Then age is an unspeakable factor - Jester is now a
tottering wreck and supposedly over 80 years old....
Mr. Forrest said last night: “We hope to overcome
these two factors by such convincing evidence that the jury
can do nothing but convict him.”
began July 11 and continued two weeks.
Twice the number of witnesses took the stand than at
the preliminary in October 1899.
Ansel Gates repeated in detail the search for his son
and the subsequent arrest of Jester with Gilbert's outfit
and personal effects. Tears
streamed down his face as he examined some of the articles
which had been preserved during the many years.
Hazelhurst was so unshakable that the defense
admitted Jester had some of Gates' possessions, but “they
were included in the outfit he had purchased from the young
man when they separated near Middle Grove.”
The defense also attempted to impeach witnesses Maxey
and Clarke, who had seen Jester alone with the wagons the
morning of January 25.
A janitor for the Middle Grove church testified he
had met Gates and Jester, both alive, as he was going to
church in the afternoon.
final arguments to the jury July 27, the defense propounded
that the state's evidence was “purely
circumstantial....the dead body of the young man never has
been found... the state has failed to show that he is dead,
that he died in Monroe County, Missouri.”
It pointed further to the presence at the trial and
the active work of the Pinkerton detectives, and “made it
plain” that the case had been “worked up by men in the
hire of John W. Gates, the millionaire steel man”, that
the prosecution “does not deny that John W. Gates has paid
the expense of witnesses from a distance, and that the
hotels are keeping them at his expense.”
Judge Eby instructed, “The members of the jury are
the sole judges of the evidence, and unless they believe and
find that Gilbert Gates is dead and that he came to his
death through the criminal agency of some person and that
person is the defendant, and that defendant murdered Gilbert
Gates, in the manner and by means charged in some count of
the indictment, the jury should acquit the defendant.”
New London Record of August 1 reported, “Three ballots
were taken... The first stood nine for acquittal, three for
murder in the first degree.
The next stood ten for acquittal, two for conviction.
The third and last, unanimous for acquittal, was
given by the tired jurymen: “We, the jury, find the
defendant, Alexander Jester, not guilty.”
The old prisoner, worn from watching, sat as if
dazed... The courtroom throng sat in breathless silence and
seemed hardly to grasp the meaning of the words just
finally realizing the import of the words, arose, his fact
beaming, and moved toward the jurymen to thank them... When
enable to disengage himself from his attorneys and friends
who surrounded him, he made his way to the hotel.
He left here at once for Oklahoma, where he was taken
prisoner two years ago.”
again took residence in Norman and discarded the name Hill. On
August 6, he announced, “I have not yet returned to
preaching, although I am preparing a sermon on the sixth
few weeks later, he left for points in Missouri, Illinois,
and Indiana, lecturing on his adventures and tribulations,
under the auspices of the attorneys who had defended him.
Early in August 1904, he wrote P.H. Cullen at Mexico,
“I am now in my eighty-sixth year and unable to get to the
St. Louis World’s fair.”
A dispatch to the Oklahoma State Capital on August 21
stated, “Bent and shriveled with his years of eventful
life, Alexander Jester, the most noted alleged criminal who
ever set foot in Shawnee, returned here yesterday after an
absence of six years.”
Jester died shortly afterwards.
The Carbondale (Illinois) Free Press and Guthrie
Oklahoma State Capital reported that on his death bed he
admitted killing Gilbert Gates by cutting his throat and
sinking the body in Allen Creek.
State Capital, August 23, 1904
MAKES A CONFESSION
TO HAVE ADMITTED ON HIS BEATH BED THAT HE KILLED GATES.
ARRESTED AT SHAWNEE ---AND HAD SENSATIONAL TRIAL FOR THE
MURDER FIVE YEARS AGO.
Gates, the Murdered Man, Was a Brother of John W. Gates and
Was Killed in 1871 -- Story First Told by Jester's Sister at
Ill. Aug 22 -
“The great mystery which for thirty years and more has
surrounded the murder of John W. Gates' brother, Gilbert
Gates, has been cleared and Alexander Jester, a preacher,
the accused, has confessed to the murder, according to
information received in this city today.”