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The outlaw made his deadly mark in Missouri and Colorado.

William Rabedew, a law officer from Fairplay, Colorado, arrived in Joplin, Missouri, on August 6, 1892, with a warrant for the arrest of George Hudson of neighboring Granby. Joplin Deputy Sheriff Carl Stout did not exactly look forward to serving the writ. It might be easier walking into a hornet’s nest and trying to capture the biggest, maddest hornet. Hudson was known to have killed five men in four separate incidents and was rumored to have killed several more. And lawmen attributed many lesser crimes to Hudson and his family. As a Joplin newspaper reporter suggested, Hudson sat on a “criminal throne” and “ruled with a rod of iron.” Few people had the temerity to oppose him.

The Hudsons came to the rip-roaring mining town of Granby from Mississippi around 1868, having left that state under a cloud of suspicion. George’s father, C.C. Hudson, had been a sheriff and was rumored to have embezzled funds, while George was said to have killed an ex-slave when he was about 14. But the family was at home in the wide-open southwestern Missouri town. Dad Hudson won appointment as Granby city marshal in 1874, and George and his brothers served as part-time deputies.

In the spring of 1875, a German shoemaker named H.H. Boyensen repaired a pair of boots for George, and when Hudson returned for them, Boyensen demanded payment before the boots left the Granby shop. A quarrel ensued. Hudson ended it by shooting Boyensen in the leg and was subsequently indicted for assault. On the evening of April 14, while Hudson was awaiting trial, he, two of his brothers and another man called at Boyensen’s home to intimidate the shoemaker into not testifying. Boyensen wouldn’t scare, so the men filled him with a load of buckshot.

A jury indicted Robert Hudson for murder, charging Nathan Tabor and brothers Jack and George Hudson as accessories. But a judge ultimately had to dismiss the charges after the Hudsons reportedly drove away all witnesses for the prosecution.

During the wee hours of October 30, 1875, a man named John Hulsey tried to break into George Hudson’s house. Hudson told him to leave, but Hulsey kept trying to gain entry, so the homeowner shot him dead. At least one report claimed Hulsey was a “deaf and dumb mute” who’d gone to the wrong house by mistake and was unable to understand Hudson. But the killing was ruled accidental, and no charges were filed.

On January 18, 1877, Hudson, a badman named Newt “Bud” Blount (often seen as Blunt) and several sidekicks rode into Webb City and started shooting up the town after the marshal jailed one of the gang’s friends for public drunkenness. Hudson fired a shot that wounded a bystander named Uriah Fishburn. Several other men on the street were also wounded, though nobody was killed. The incident became known as “the Webb City riot.”

Hudson remained under indictment for the Boyensen murder, so in early April bondsmen turned him over to the Newton County deputy sheriff at Granby. Before the deputy could transport him to the county jail at Neosho, however, Hudson escaped with help from one of the Blount boys (most likely Bud).

Soon after, Hudson gathered up his wife and two young kids and headed for Colorado with Blount. Hudson and Blount promptly resumed their criminal careers. In June 1879, they waylaid a man named Shultz at Granite Pass, robbed him of $1,700 and left him for dead. During the pair’s sojourn in Colorado, according to Blount’s later testimony, they also shot and killed a lawman at Leadville, among other lesser crimes.

Hudson briefly returned to the Ozarks in late 1879. On Friday night, November 7, he, brother Jack and Bob Layton were passing through Batesville, Ark., and got into a barroom brawl. During the melee, they hit one man over the head with a pistol and fired a shot at another. A posse trailed the trio to their camp, exchanged shots with them and captured George Hudson, but his partners got away. The next night, Layton returned to Batesville to try to break George out of jail. Recognized and ordered to halt, Layton instead went for his gun and was shot dead. (Layton and other Granby men had killed a man named William “Tiger Bill” St. Clair two years earlier at Galena, Kan., though it’s not known whether George Hudson was one of the gang.)

Bailed out at Batesville within days of the barroom brawl, Hudson moved back to Colorado, then returned to Missouri in the early 1880s. Still facing charges for his part in the Webb City riot, Hudson made bond and went free but soon got into another affray at Granby.

On the late afternoon of May 28, 1884, Hudson accosted John Goodykoontz, once the postmaster, in front of Sweet’s general store on Main Street. The outlaw demanded Goodykoontz stop spreading rumors that the Hudsons had broken into the post office and robbed the safe. The two men argued, and Hudson slapped Goodykoontz in the head. Tabor, indicted with Hudson as an accessory in the Boyensen murder, arrived with pistol out and took Goodykoontz’s side in the dispute. City Marshal C.C. Hudson then rushed to the scene from across the street and got between his son and Goodykoontz, but the quarrel escalated. George Hudson accused Tabor and Goodykoontz of robbing the post office themselves, and Tabor replied, “You are a damn liar!” Referring to the Hudsons, Goodykoontz added, “The whole goddamn outfit is a set of thieves.”

Marshal Hudson persuaded Tabor to put away his gun and then shoved Goodykoontz into the general store. Tabor again brandished his revolver, though, as he and George Hudson also went inside. The younger Hudson pulled his revolver, and the two men opened fire, wounding each other. Tabor staggered back outside, and Hudson shot him twice more, including a head shot after Tabor was down. Goodykoontz then ran from the building, and Hudson shot him dead. George’s father, the marshal, apparently did nothing.

At Hudson’s double-murder trial in November 1885, witnesses gave conflicting accounts. Some said Goodykoontz was unarmed, insinuating that Marshal Hudson had planted the gun found on him. Still others claimed Tabor had fired first and Goodykoontz had also fired shots. George Hudson was acquitted.

Less than a year later, Hudson graduated to murder for hire, gunning down Dr. L.G. Howard without provocation on September 13, 1886, as the dentist strolled down Main Street in Joplin. Hudson was finally arrested for the crime in June 1891, and the case was heard at Rolla, Mo., on a change of venue in February 1892. Evidence was presented at the trial that Peter E. Blow, a founding partner in the Granby Mining & Smelting Co., had paid Hudson $1,000 to kill Howard because the latter was romancing Blow’s wife, Fannie. In the end, Hudson was acquitted in what many observers considered a “bought verdict.”

A few months later, Hudson was back to his intimidating ways. In a Neosho saloon, he and brother Jack roughed up and ran off two men who had testified against George at Rolla. So, when Bud Blount—in jail awaiting execution for the murder of a railroad brakeman— started talking, those seeking to rid the county of Hudson decided to turn to Colorado authorities. Officers there tracked down Shultz, the man whom Hudson and Blount had waylaid back in 1879, and he confirmed Blount’s story. A judge issued a warrant for Hudson’s arrest, and Rabedew headed for Missouri to retrieve the fugitive.

Presented with the warrant, Stout, the Joplin deputy, gathered a posse of Rabedew and four others. The group set out for Granby late on August 6 and split into pairs to search for Hudson. It was near midnight when Stout and Rabedew caught up to him at the saloon he was running. Hudson was getting ready to close up. When Stout told him he was under arrest, Hudson growled, “Not by a damn sight!” and swung a beer bottle at the lawman. As Hudson went for his revolver, Stout ducked, and Rabedew fired a single shot into the barkeep’s brain.

THE KILLER KILLED! a headline from a Joplin newspaper proclaimed a week later, while a Neosho newspaper compared the Hudsons to the Youngers and the Jameses. Today, though, memory of the “autocrat” who once sat on the criminal throne in Granby has faded so much that Hudson is barely a footnote in the local lore of southwest Missouri.


Author Larry Wood of Joplin, Mo., wrote Ozarks Gunfights and Other Notorious Incidents (Pelican Pub., Gretna, La., 2010).

Originally published in the June 2010 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here