Thomas Dillin's Death: The Cause That Led To It|
We publish cheerfully, though it is rather long, the following letter from a valued friend in regard to the difficulty which led to the murder of Mr. Dillin, as we have no disposition to do Mr. Cooper injustice, and will only add that the Courier article in regard to it, and which our correspondent thinks represents the affair wrongly, was based upon the sworn testimony of the witnesses before the coroner, which shows that Thomas Dillin was not armed at all, and for some considerable time had said nothing at all to Cooper, which shows that though they had been quarreling, an hour or so before and that in the meantime Cooper had been seated in a fence corner with his head resting on both hands apparently thinking closely.
Nevada Missouri, August 5th, 1883.
For the Courier:
Dear sir: I noticed in the columns of your paper an article headed "A Foul Murder", namely the shooting of Thomas Dillin by Ozro Cooper. The latter being my brother in law and heretofore bearing a good reputation has prompted me to investigate this sad affair very closely. I have corresponded with disinterested parties of good standing in your county to ascertain the truth of the statement in your former issue. I am a friend of justice and if Ozro Cooper has foully murdered Thos. Dillin without just cause, I agree with you in your statement that he should be tried speedily and a just punishment meted out to him, but as you have given such a one sided view of this case, I think it right to keep nothing back, but to allow the citizens of Dubois County to hear both sides, and to judge for themselves as to whether Thomas Dillin was foully murdered, or Ozro Cooper defending himself and property. I will therefore give the particulars as given me by friends of both parties.
Last fall Sam Dillin Jr and John Dillin put in a tract of land on the Lemmon farm in wheat, both being equal partners. Sometime during the spring John Dillin sold his interest to Ozro Cooper for $100 cash. A short time afterwards he (John Dillin) took his departure from Ireland, then Thos. Dillin claimed he had purchased the crop and informed several parties that Cooper should not have the wheat. Thus matters stood until harvest time approached. When the wheat was ready to cut, Thos. Dillin forbade Cooper to harvest it; but Ozro Cooper not fearing his threats cut his portion of the wheat. Then Thos. Dillin tells Ozro Cooper that the wheat all belonged to him (Thos. Dillin) and defies him to take it. Cooper then brings suit and allows the matter to rest until a short time before threshing time, when he sees Dillin and informed him that he bought the wheat and paid for it and does not wish to have any trouble over it. Finally Thos. Dillin agrees if Ozro Cooper would withdraw the suit and give him his half they would thresh the wheat together, each paying half the expense. Ozro Cooper agreed to this and as you stated withdrew the suit stating he had agreed to give Thos. Dillin what he wanted. He then saw Thos. Dillin and inquired when he would be ready to thresh. Dillin replied next week and agreed to let Cooper know in time, which Cooper agreed to, and was making his arrangements accordingly. The next evening Cooper not having noticed Mr. Dillin or his son about the neighborhood, and having been informed by various persons that Dillin had said Cooper should not have any of the wheat, he concluded to go and see if everything was all right. He did so and found upon arrival, that Dillin and son had possession of the wheat and were about through threshing, and several teams were waiting to transfer the wheat to market at Washington; and at the very time Thos Dillin told Ozro Cooper he would be ready to thresh next week the machine was sitting in the disputed wheat field. Parties who were present say Thos. Dillin and Sam Dillin Jr abused and cursed Cooper. He retired to a fence corner and sat down taking the abuse good naturedly. Thos Dillin endeavored to make him pray, and remarked "he was going to hell shortly and was going to take someone else with him." So matters stood until they were ready to commence loading the wheat. Then Cooper stepped forward and forbid them loading the wheat and hauling it off until the wheat was divided or he received "satisfactory security" that he would get his share. Sam Dillin Jr did not heed the order and was putting a sack into one of the wagons when Cooper caught hold of the sack and forbid it. Sam Dillin then hit Ozro Cooper with a billy club some say. Others that he slapped him in the face. Cooper then drew his revolver and fired, wounding Sam Dillin Jr. Thomas Dillin then drew a revolver and Cooper seeing it, fired first with fatal results.
I think it but justice to all parties implicated that the facts be given as they really are. You state in your article that Cooper "went intending to have trouble, had his revolver with him and murdered Mr. Dillin in warm blood." When in reality Mr. Cooper did not expect to see Thos. Dillin or Samuel Jr, as they had made all arrangements to thresh the following week. I do not approve of firearms as the best method of settling a difficulty. Neither am I taking defense of Ozro Cooper because he is a relative. If he is found guilty when arrested and tried before a court of justice, I say punish him. But Mr. Editor, I do not like to see misrepresentations. Thomas Dillin may have belonged to various organizations and been a good man and a god fearing man, but why was he and his son armed if they were threshing their own wheat and did not anticipate trouble? What was their object in rushing the wheat to market so hurriedly?
J. E. Strain