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The year was 1915 and the place was the new railroad town called Meta in Osage County, MO. Meta came into existence at the turn of the century when the St. Louis, Kansas City, and Colorado Railroad decided to run their tracks through that portion of Osage County. It was a typical boom railroad town that literally sprang up overnight and the clapboard buildings grew as quickly. The town has much history and part of that history was the killing of the Rowden brothers on the dusty streets of Meta in 1915.

Oliver Rowden, born 1896, and his older brother, Chesley Rowden, born 1894, were sons of John 'Tolike' Rowden and Rachel Short who married in Miller County in 1874. In the 1900 census of Miller County, John/Tolike was living in Richwoods Township near the families of Whitaker, Kellison, Lawson, Hickey, Crismon, and Hodge. He was a widower at that time with 5 sons and 1 daughter still living in his household. Chesley and Oliver were the youngest.

As the two boys grew older, they had built reputations of being rowdy, rough and tough and loved 'carousing' round. One day they were in Argyle, a small German settlement a few miles east of Meta and they had raised a ruckus there. Evidently Meta's Marshall received advance notice, by railroad telegraph that the two brothers had hopped a train which was heading toward Meta. When the train pulled into Meta, Marshall Louie Radmacher and Marshall Allen Singer were waiting.

According to the story told me a few years ago by Claude Rowden of St. Clair, MO (a nephew of Chesley and Oliver), his uncle Chesley got off the train first and was immediately attacked with a billy-club by the lawmen. Oliver emerged and immediately started running up the railroad tracks. It was said by an eyewitness that one of the lawmen yelled 'halt' and Oliver raised his hands into the air. A shot rang out and one of the lawmen had fired his gun. The bullet hit Oliver in the back, killing him instantly. Chesley could not escape their wrath and the eyewitness said they beat him so badly that he died at the scene also........This seems to have been a very terrible episode where a gun was fired first and questions asked second.

The case was brought to trial in the Osage County Circuit Court, but the lawmen were cleared of all charges. Claude Rowden, who related this story to me, said his father, Wilford Rowden, had an old mule that he sold for $100 and the money was used to hire an attorney to argue this case in court, but it was to no avail. Nothing was ever done to vindicate the death of the two Rowden brothers. They were buried at Wansing Cemetery (today known as Meta Southside Cemetery).

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