The Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad Strike

By Orville Thrasher Gooden | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
THE WELCHER AND PRITCHETT TRIALS

SOMETIME during the latter part of the night of January 12, 1923, a bridge near Letonia, in White County, burned. Shortly afterwards Verne Dodge, an illiterate, weak-minded boy twenty years of age, confessed that he went with George Welcher, C. H. (Straight Air) Smith and another person whose name he did not know and sat in the car while they burned the bridge. While in jail Dodge seems to have told another prisoner that he made the confession because a mob had him with a rope around his neck and threatened to hang him if he did not confess that Welcher and Smith burned the bridge. He also stated that a man offered him two hundred dollars to tell the story about burning the bridge. In the trial at Searcy Dodge insisted that his confession was true and that he did not know why he told the prisoners what he did. He also testified that he went with the same persons and burned another bridge near West Point the following week, and that he had received money from Welcher for cutting air hose. Dodge said he took no part in burning the bridge and did not know why he was taken along. The state introduced witnesses who testified to seeing Dodge, Welcher and Smith together the night the bridge was burned. A five-gallon oil can was found near the bridge and identified as being similar to the one which had disappeared from the house where Welcher stayed. Officers testified to finding a package of emery dust and a pair of acid-eaten over-alls in Welcher's trunk, together with letters apparently written between Welcher and Pete Venable. Welcher was secretary

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