Rural Missouri - July 2020 - 31
and was elected to the U.S. Senate where he would serve
with distinction for 24 years.
One other lawyer involved with the case earned some
level of notoriety. David Nation was married to hatchet-wielding Carrie Nation, one of the founders of the
anti-alcohol Temperance Movement.
These heavy hitters would match wits on Sept. 21,
1870, when the case went to trial for the fourth time. The
courtroom of the old Federal-style courthouse was packed.
Locals had chosen sides. Threats had been made, and at
least one prospective witness had disappeared rather than
The defense made the case that Drum was shot at Haymaker's Mill by someone else. Hornsby admitted telling his
nephew to shoot at a dog, but he denied that the dog was
According to a report in the Kansas City Star, "More
oratory was turned loose than was ever heard in the most
celebrated murder case ever tried in a Missouri court."
As the case dragged on for two days, it appeared Burden would lose. But on Sept. 23, George Vest delivered the
closing remarks on behalf of Burden and Old Drum. He
stayed away from the evidence.
Instead, he would speak of dogs in the Bible, in the
classics, in poetry. He spoke for an hour, then moved
close to the jury and quietly delivered an extemporaneous
speech that has gone down in history. (See George Vest's
eulogy to the dog below.)
When he finished, Vest sat down and even his opposing
counsel knew the case was lost. There wasn't a dry eye in
the courtroom. Crittenden reportedly whispered to Cockrell
that "the dead dog had won" and the two had better leave
the courthouse before they were hanged.
It took the jury only two minutes to return a verdict in
Burden's favor, awarding him $50 along with $10 for Vest's
eloquent speech. One law journal referred to the case as
"The most celebrated dog case in Johnson County, the
state, or for that matter, anywhere in the world."
The case didn't end here, however. It was appealed to
the Missouri Supreme Court, which affirmed the lower
court's opinion. On Sept. 18, 1872, Burden had his satisfaction after three years of legal wrangling.
No stenographer was present during Vest's closing
remarks. For years, the speech existed only in folklore and
was known as the lost speech. The remarks reprinted here
came from Crittenden's notes.
It would take Burden and Hornsby years to recover from
the expense of the long legal battle. Yet the two did not
remain enemies. They were able to patch up their relationship and are buried close together in the Hornsby Cemetery south of Kingsville.
Drum would not be forgotten. In 1947, Fred Ford of
Blue Springs built a monument to the celebrated hound on
Big Creek, not far from where Old Drum was found dead.
He received donations of money and rocks from dog lovers
all over the world. These stones formed the monument's
The Old Drum Memorial in Warrensburg, which
includes the words to Vest's eulogy, was erected on Sept.
23, 1958. The old courthouse where the case was tried still
stands at 304 N. Main Street in Warrensburg and is furnished as it was during the trial.
The old courthouse forms the backdrop for Warrensburg's Old Drum Day Festivals typically held in April.
Those attending can hear the trial re-enacted in the original courtroom. There's a 5K run, a dog show, live music, a
Civil War film and much more.
Old Drum may be gone, but his memory lives on.
You can learn more about Old Drum on the Missouri State
Archives website at www.sos.mo.gov/archives/education/
George Vest's eulogy to the dog
photo courtesy of Missouri State Archives
entlemen of the jury, the best friend
a man has in this world may turn
against him and become his enemy.
His son or daughter whom he has
reared with loving care may prove ungrateful.
Those who are nearest and dearest to us - those
whom we trust with our happiness and good
name - may become traitors in their faith. The
money that a man has he may lose. It flies away
from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man's
reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of illconsidered action. The people who are prone to
fall on their knees to do us honor when success
is with us may be the first to throw the stone
of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our
heads. The one absolute, unselfish friend that man
can have in this selfish world - the one that never
proves ungrateful or treacherous - is his dog.
Gentlemen of the jury, a man's dog stands
by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and
sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where
the wintry winds blow, and the snow drives
fiercely, if only he can be near his master's side. He
will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will
lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter
with the roughness of the world. He guards the
sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince.
When all other friends desert, he remains. When
riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he
is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey
through the heavens.
If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in
the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog
asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying
him to guard against danger, to fight against his
enemies. And when the last scene of all comes,
and death takes the master in its embrace, and his
body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter
if all other friends pursue their way, there by his
graveside will the noble dog be found, his head
between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert
watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.
JULY 2020 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP
Rural Missouri - July 2020
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