Who Poisoned The Jack?


Sheriff Lee Baker Makes An Arrest Tuesday.

On the night of Monday, May 28th an attempt was made to poison the big jack recently purchased from the Ravenwood Stock Farm, in Cooper county by a number of Waynesville citizens. The animal was being kept by W.L. Vaught, one of the owners, in his barn. All of the outside doors were locked, but one partition door was not locked. The party attempting to administer the poison had climbed up into the barn loft then down into the stall where the animal was being kept and placed the poison in the trough with brans and shorts that he had not eaten of.

Mule Barn
The mule barn at Ravenswood Farm in Cooper County as seen in 1974. The farm has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975. Image via NRHP Nomination Form.

Each morning Mr. Vaught would take out the feed that was not eaten and throw it to his chickens. He fed early that morning and have part of the feed that was left to his chickens as usual and raked the balance to one end of the trough. In a very short time his dog died, it having eaten some of the feed, he also noticed that several of his chickens were sick. He immediately took the jack out of the barn and summoned a number of his fellow townsmen, including Sheriff Lee Baker and Pros. Atty. R.A. Bell, who at once began an investigation and found that the feed which was left in the trough contained a large quantity of crystallized strychnine, and that Leslie Phillips had purchased 60 grains of this kind of poison at the Dr. L. Tice Drug Store on the Saturday previous.

Grandpa with Dick and Dan
Cletes Orville Cato with Dick & Dan, Missouri mules, in 1928. Photo taken in Bollinger County, Missouri. C.O. Cato is the grandfather of Population 91’s founder, Laura Huffman.

Upon this and additional evidence Phillips was immediately arrested and brought to Waynesville before Justice of the Peace J.W. Wheeler, who set his preliminary hearing for Monday, June 11. He gave bond for his appearance and was released.

The animal being a very valuable one and the act considered as one of the lowest degree, quite a bit of enthusiasm and excitement is being manifested by the good citizens of Waynesville and surrounding territory, and every effort will be made to prosecute and convict the guilty party.

The animal as well as the owners were fortunate that he did not partake of the poison to an extent sufficient to materially affect him.

Pulaski County Democrat
May 31, 1917

Ravenswood Stock Farm was one of the leading breeders in jackstock. The farm was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

William Lafayette Vaught was the Pulaski County Probate Judge at the time of this incident. He passed away July 29, 1936 and was laid to rest at Mitchell Cemetery in Waynesville.

Leslie Phillips was found not guilty after being tried by a jury during the 1917 September Term of Circuit Court. It is unknown at this time as to what became of him.

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