Lawless Men Before the turn of the nineteenth century, many lawless men moved down along the lower Ohio river where there were few laws and victims came floating down the river in steamboats The area grew to have many robbers, murderers, boat wreckers, pirates, and outlaws A favorite hangout was Cave-in-Rock, a large cavern in Illinois where they could watch for boats to rob A man named Wilson set up “Wilson's Liquor Vault and House for Entertainment” here Customers were robbed and murdered
The Mystic Clan A man named John A. Murrell saw that settlement of the west would end piracy He travelled up and down the river pretending to be a preacher, gathering scoundrels for his group, the Mystic Clan It had several thousand members who stole and sold slaves Murrell planned to start a slave rebellion, capture prominent steamboats, and start an empire One of his recruits was a spy, and he was arrested and sent to prison When he was released he became a peaceful blacksmith
Gambling Gambling used to be in good taste, but professional gambling wasn't respectable Most were card sharps who cheated In Vicksburg, professional gamblers became rude and acted like they owned the town In 1835, a wealthy gambler went to a gambling house and was never seen again Townspeople thought he had been murdered for his money, and the gamblers continued to be rude to them They decided that all people who couldn't prove that they make an honest living must leave town in 24 hours or receive 39 lashes Most were scared away, but some killed a minister and were hanged
Most Interesting Discovery One pirate named Colonel Fluger, called Old Plug, worked with his wife “Pluggy” and a couple helpers to hail boats down and sink them He picked calking out from the planks and timed it so it would sink near his place He'd save the cargo, but not the boatmen Once he accidentally made the boat sink to quickly and drowned
Conclusion The river was home to many scoundrels, robbers, murderers, and pirates In some cases, like Vicksburg, townspeople became fed up with them and took matters into their own hands Other times their crimes caught up with them But most were able to get away with their crimes until the area was better settled with more law enforcement
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