Moonshine and Murder

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I have entered a bit of information on my fiancé’s family to my genealogy data. In that information is the Shipley family. They are from Missouri and have spread out and procreated all over the place. One of the interesting stories is about Orville Shipley.


Orville was one of the six children of Alfonso and Martha Bird Shipley. The family was born and raised in Ozark County Missouri. About the time of Orville’s marriage to Nancy Hurd, he moved into another town in Ozark County. From all accounts he came home and visited family often. On one of those visits he went to see a whiskey still that belonged to the Croppers and that is where the trouble started.


The Constitution Tribune (Chillicothe, Missouri) August 29, 1929


Bloodhounds After Slayers


A South Missouri Man Is Shot from Ambush


West Plains, Mo., Aug 29 – (UP) – Sheriff’s officers and Mountain Grove police officers followed bloodhounds today in an effort to find an ex-convict and one or two companions who fired shotguns from ambush yesterday instantly killing Orville Shipley, 21-year-old farmer. His wife, baby son and brother-in-law were wounded.


Mrs Shipley and her son suffered flesh wounds and Edward Hurd, brother of Mrs. Shipley was wounded seriously in the hand. None of the party was able to say whether the assailants numbered two or three.


Edgar Hurd, a fifth occupant of the car, who escaped injury, declared a former convict with whom Shipley had quarreled Tuesday was one of the men who rushed from behind a roadside bush and fired at the Shipley Car.


The man the police were looking for was James (Jim) Cropper.


Jefferson City Post Tribune, August 30, 1929


Convict Sought in Ozark County Killing Caught


Jim Cropper Walks Into Sheriff’s Office Denying He is guilty


Identified by an Eye Witness


Had Been Sought by Posses and Bloodhounds for Several Days


Springfield, MO., Aug 30., – (AP) – Jim Cropper, ex-convict of Ozark county, sought in the ambush slaying of Arvil Shipley, 21, Fairfax, Mo., farmer last Wednesday, surrendered to Sheriff l. S. Stephens at Gainesville today.


Cropper was placed in jail and bound over without bond to the November term of court. Although Cropper denied any part in the shooting, he was identified by Edgar Hurd, brother-in-law of the slain man, as the person he saw fleeing after two shots were fired at the Shipley car on the highway near Sycamore.


Cropper has been the object of a hunt by posses and bloodhounds but he declared this morning he hdid not learn he was sought until yesterday afternoon.


A coroner’s jury returned a verdict indicating Shipley met death “from shotgun wounds from a gun in the hands of Jim Cropper.” Cropper is said to have accused Shiopley of having “tipped off’ officers as to the whereabouts of a still they found on his farm some time ago.


In the ambuscade, Mrs. Shipley, her 14-months-old baby and Edgar Hurd, her brother, were injured by shotgun slugs. Edward Hurd, another brother, was the only uninjured occupant of the Shipley car. The Shipleys were starting to Fairfax after a visit in Sycamore where they formerly lived.


It would take 2 years for a verdict to be handed down in court.


Jefferson City Post Tribune, March 3, 1931


Bootlegger who Slew Informer goes up for Life


Supreme Court Affirms Sentence Imposed Upon Jim Cropper of Ozark Co.


Ambushed Man He had Suspected


Accused O. Shipley of Stealing Still and Then Telling Officers.


Jim Cropper, an Ozark county moonshiner, must serve the rest of his natural life in Missouri penitentiary for killing a young man who he accused of informing officers of the location of an illicit whiskey still.


Division two of the Missouri Supreme Court today handed down an opinion, written by Judge Berryman Henwood, affirming a life sentence on Cropper for killing Orval Shipley August 28 1929, near Sycamore in Ozark County.


Shipley died from shotgun wounds inflicted by Cropper. His wife and two-year-old baby riding in the car when Cropper fired on it from ambush were wounded slightly by the bullets.


The Murdered man had been raised in Ozark county, but two years previous to the slaying had moved to Fairfax in Atchinson county. He had been visiting in Ozark county and was starting home when the shooting occurred.


A week before the killing, Henry Cropper, son of the man who did the shooting, invited Shipley and some other young men to his father’s still. They went there, the evidence showed, and got some whiskey. Later one of the men informed the sheriff of the county who raided and destroyed the still.


While Shipley was at the still with Cropper’s son, the elder man accused Shipley of stealing a still from him while he (Cropper) was serving a previous term in Missouri prison for manufacture of whiskey.


Evidence brought out in the trial was sufficient, the court ruled to convict Cropper of having borrowed a shotgun and ambushing Shipley. Cropper was alleged to have accused Shipley of informing the sheriff and saying “anyone who tells about a still should be killed.”


All judges of the division concurred in Judge Henwood’s ruling that Cropper had been fairly and impartially tried.


Cropper would spend almost 20 years in jail until a deathbed confession by another person would set him free.


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