Rural Missouri - July 2020 - 29

Pawprints
on our hearts
The story of Old Drum, man's best friend
Editor's note: This story, which is one of the most popular
with our readers, is reprinted from the April 2014 edition of
Rural Missouri.

by Jim McCarty | jmccarty@ruralmissouri.coop

O

n the lawn of the Johnson County Courthouse in
Warrensburg stands a bronze statue of a dog. It
depicts a black-and-tan hound named Old Drum,
a dog not unlike any other owned by countless
Missourians of the time.
How Drum came to be immortalized in bronze is the
stuff of legends in this western Missouri town. His death
in 1869 brought about one of the strangest court cases in
history and involved some of the biggest names in Missouri
politics.
The verdict would have been long forgotten if not for the
closing remarks of one of the principals in the case, George
Vest. From his speech came the concept of the dog as
man's best friend. It elevated a humble hound to celebrity
status that is still remembered today.
"It resonates with everybody," Kristi Eckfeld, Greater
Warrensburg tourism director, says of the Old Drum story. "It doesn't matter how old or young you are, everybody
has that special dog that was important to them. You can
go ask somebody in their 90s, and they can tell you about
their favorite dog."
She says Old Drum is known not just in Missouri but
also around the world. In fact, the monument to him was
one stop on a nationwide scavenger hunt.
In 2014, Kristi testified on behalf of H.B. 1456, which
was sponsored by state Rep. Denny Hoskins of Warrensburg. The bill passed. It designated Old Drum as Missouri's state historical dog. The bill also named Marshall's
Jim the Wonder Dog as Missouri's wonder dog. (Jim the
Wonder Dog was featured in our May 2020 issue.)
Hoskins credits Missouri students for suggesting Missouri needed a state dog. "If this bill would pass, it would
promote tourism," he said at the time. "Anything we can
do to draw people into these communities helps with the
economy."
The story of Old Drum began four years after the end of
the Civil War. Farmers in war-torn western Missouri were

just beginning to return their land to production.
For Leonidis Hornsby, that meant stopping wolves and
stray dogs from killing his sheep. Hornsby had lost 100
sheep that summer, and he vowed to kill the next stray dog
that appeared on his property southwest of Kingsville.
Hornsby, 31, was a small, wiry man with flaming red
hair. He was known to be set in his ways. Once he made a
vow, he stuck to it.
On the night of Oct. 28, 1869, his neighbor and brother-in-law, Charles Burden, returned home after taking
care of business in Kingsville. Burden, then 44 years old,
was born in Kentucky but had moved to western Missouri
before the Civil War. He owned some prime farmland along
Big Creek south of Kingsville.
Burden kept a pack of dogs for hunting. Of his many
dogs, one was exceptional. Old Drum was five years old
and thought by his master to be part bloodhound. He
could track a man and was a terror to wolves and other
varmints. But at a time when hunting put food on the
table, Burden considered Drum to be the best deer dog he
had ever owned. No amount of money would ever cause
him to part with Old Drum.
On this day, Burden listened with satisfaction to one of
his favorite sounds, the baying of his beloved hound leading the pack on the trail. Suddenly a distant shot rang out,
and the joyful bays turned to yelps of pain that faded into
silence.
Burden sounded his hunting horn. All of his dogs eventually answered the call - except for Drum.
Fearing the worst, and remembering Hornsby's promise, Burden confronted his neighbor. Hornsby denied seeing Drum, but admitted he had told his nephew, Samuel
"Dick" Ferguson, to load his gun with corn to scare off a
dog instead of killing him. According to Ferguson, the dog
yelped, jumped the fence and disappeared. He didn't think
it was Old Drum, having hunted with Burden's dog before.
Burden said, "I'll go and see. It may not be my dog. If it
ain't, it's all right. If it is, it's all wrong and I'll have satisfaction at the cost of my life."
Burden began frantically searching for Old Drum.
Eventually, he found him, dead, with his head lying in the
waters of Big Creek below Haymaker's Mill. It was apparent to Burden the dog had been shot and then moved to
JULY 2020 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP

29


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Rural Missouri - July 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2020

Contents
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - Contents
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - 4
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - 5
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - 6
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - 7
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - 8
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Rural Missouri - July 2020 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - July 2020 - Cover4
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