Many who venture through Lyle Cemetery across from First Baptist Church in Gallatin, MO, are naturally unaware of much of the local history that lies there. A tombstone for Jonathan “Jona” Brosius offers an obscure example. His name is only a footnote to the more famous, or rather infamous — the uncle to William “Curley Bill” Brosius, purportedly the best friend of outlaw Johnny Ringo, who was immortalized when shot by Wyatt Earp near Tombstone, AZ, in 1882. The grave of Jonathan Brosius lies not far from the marker of Capt. John Sheets, the victim of the 1869 James Gang robbery in Gallatin.
Jona Brosius died young at age 29. When he was shot, he left a 25-year-old wife and 7-year-old daughter. But that’s not what makes his story compelling; rather, it’s the reason why he died which describes the fervor of his times. Jonathan Brosius was murdered over a half dollar dispute with teamster, P.B. Hunter.
Jona had sent several wagons after supplies that had come to Hamilton, MO, by train. He paid $4 per wagonload and offered the same to Mr. Hunter. Hunter wanted $4.50, stating he had moved 1800 pounds, or 400 pounds more than that carried by other teams.
The goods were delivered to the store called Sheets & Brosius on Dec. 20. The store partners were busy marking items for sale when Hunter made his demand for payment about 9 a.m. Both Capt. Sheets and Maj. Samuel Cox were in the store and became aware of the dispute.
Cox indicated that $4.50 would be the charge for 1800 pounds at the customary rate of 25 cents per 100 pounds of cargo. But Hunter was turned down. He left and told his sad story to others in town, saying he’d get his money and that he’d kill Jona rather than let Jona put his hands on him.
At 11 a.m. Hunter returned to the store with a shawl held by his left hand, covering his right hand. Hunter again demanded his $4.50. Jona got $4 which Hunter refused. Harsh words were exchanged until Jona ordered Hunter out of the store. Some witnesses later indicated that Jona apparently planned to fight Hunter on the street, but Jona made no motion to strike Hunter in the store.
Jona had been marking up grubbing hoes and had one in hand as Hunter backed toward the door. Just after Hunter backed into the doorway, he raised his right hand from under the shawl and, with arm at full length, shot Jona Brosius one time just above the heart from a distance of six feet.
Capt. Sheets was two feet behind Jona and a little to his left when the shot was fired. Three others in the store saw the shooting. They were J.M. Doling, J.M. Smith, and J.W. Green. Some said that Brosius had laid down the 10-pound hoe before he was shot.
Hunter paused in the doorway, then hurried toward the circuit clerk’s building located east of the courthouse. John Sheets trailed Hunter at a distance, watching Hunter trot with pistol in hand as he looked back from time to time at Sheets.
John Green was the first to help Brosius, asking if he was badly hurt. Jona said, “John, I’m killed.” When Jona was shot, he grabbed his chest with both hands and groaned. Green and James Doling put Jona on a bed in the back of the store, and Brosius died within 5 minutes.
Hunter went directly to the clerk’s office and Samuel Cox, saying “Major, I want protection.” Acting Sheriff James L. Powell took Hunter’s pistol, described as a 5-inch Manhattan (a cap and ball revolver, either .31 or .36 caliber). The 5-shot revolver had four shots left in it.
Justices of the Peace Owen McGee and John Taylor made statements recording the information above, also noting that Hunter was known in Gallatin for a year as a peaceable man. Acting Daviess County Prosecuting Attorney James H. Brosius (Jona’s brother) brought forward the charge of murder.
Hunter was held in the stone jail next to the courthouse until Feb. 2, 1865, when he was released on $20,000 bond. In the May term of 1865, a grand jury charged Hunter with second degree murder. An 1882 report stated that Hunter was not seen again in Gallatin.
— written and presented by David Stark, Gallatin, MO