Lincoln County, Mo. - Lincoln County’s Historical Society held a free program for the citizens of Lincoln County on Oct. 21 over the Slicker Wars at the Courthouse on Main Street. The program was presented by Ezra Tillotson, a local historian who has spent years gathering accounts and information on the historical events of Lincoln County.
“There is a Chinese curse which says, ‘May you live in interesting times,’ well in Lincoln County, these were interesting times,” Tillotson explained as he began the presentation.
The Slicker Wars took place during the mid-1800s. The word, “Slicker” refers to vigilante groups and individuals who would tie criminals to trees and “slick” them with whips, typically made from hickory branches.
The vigilante groups were originally formed to locate and stop counterfeiters and horse thieves who had stolen over 1,500 horses in a single year. Law enforcement at the time was overwhelmed by the growing crime problem; this is where the Vigilance Committees stepped in to enact their brand of justice.
However, the Slickers were not trusted by all, and eventually, anti-Slicker companies were formed to oppose the vigilantes. This clash would make its way to Lincoln County.
In 1845 the sons of James Trumbull were accused of aiding counterfeiters and ordered to leave the country. Slickers came out to enforce the order and a violent conflict ensued that would later spark great animosity between the Slickers of Lincoln County and a company of anti-Slickers in St. Charles County.
The Slicker Wars would eventually end and become a small page in Mo.’s history, but the Lincoln County Historical Society is working to keep the events alive through its free programs.
“It’s kind of like with any significant event or series of events. It’s not over when it’s over. You can’t point to a time and say this is when it stopped,” Tillotson explained. “Things keep dribbling down. Big events in history, how long does it take before that dribbling down stops?”
The Lincoln County Historical Society, led by president Paul Bobeen, holds several events a year including jail museum tours and a cemetery walk.
“We have annual memberships and also lifetime memberships,” Bobeen said. “Everything we do is strictly concerned with donations, so our membership helps to cover the expenses of the jail and upkeep and everything that goes with that.”
To learn more about the Lincoln County Historical Society or to become a member, you can visit their Facebook page.