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July 17, 2013

1866 Warrensburg's First Major Fire Ming Hotel, 1873 Next Fire Ming Hotel, Guest Saved by an Umbrella, Murder of John Erskine

1st Major Warrensburg Fire -1866    3 Killed
Numerous business owners dropped a tear on a sad night back in 1866. As fire spread from building to building, a large portion of the business district burned down to heaps of rubble.  
Just seven years later, a coal oil lamp exploded which started the second massive fire in Warrensburg’s short history. The Ming Hotel, located beside the railroad on the East Side of Holden Street became a towering inferno. Three people burned to death in the flames and others barely escaped alive. Other buildings burned down beside the Hotel while Warrensburg business owners finally decided to create their buildings out of stone.
Ming Hotel Fire - 1873 ARSON 
It is believed at Warrensburg that the incendiaries who set fire to and destroyed the Ming Hotel in that city last month have been identified and captured. On Thursday last Capt. Filley, City Marshal of California, received a letter from L. Collins. Marshal of Warrensburg, giving a description of two men who had escaped from the Warrensburg jail about six weeks ago, and who were believed to be the parties who fired Ming's Hotel. Capt. Filley of course, was on tho lookout for developments, and was rewarded for his sagacity by the discovery of two men stopping at California exactly answering the description given in Collins' letter. The names of the suspected parties were David McGonnoghny and Frank Pago; they had escaped from jail in Warrensburg about the first of December, and came to California on Wednesday last in company with two women of questionable character. They had rented rooms and "done the town" two days before being "gobbled up" by the City Marshal. It is believed they are notorious thieves, and that evidence convicting them to burning Ming's Warrensburg Hotel will lie forth coming. 
The state journal. (Jefferson City, Mo.) 1872-1886, January 16, 1874 Link

W. O Ming, the first proprietor of Ming's Hotel, in Warrensburg, and afterwards mayor of the city died of dropsy at Marshall (MO), Saline County, November 7, 1874. 

SAVED BY An Umbrella- Ming Hotel Fire 1892 

There was not even a rope fire-escape in his room on the second floor which Felix Kraemer, a salesman for Steinway & Sons, of New York, occupied; and had it not been for Kraemer experience at hotel fires and an umbrella he probably would have been numbered among the victims. Had not I had a strong umbrella I should either have been burned or killed by jumping," said Mr. Kraemer. I have been burned out at hotels three tines now. At a fire at Warrensburg, Missouri using an open umbrella to ease his plight from an upper story window. I never forgot it, and since have always been provided with a strong umbrella for emergency. As so as I reached the window I opened my strong umbrella and carefully put a shawl strap over it to prevent it from turning inside out Then I made a leap. I did not go sailing gracefully out into the air and landed lightly on the ground beneath, but I landed without any broken limb and am alright now. The umbrella partially turned Inside out just before I reached the ground and I got something of a jar, but I should think myself lucky if I had escaped with a broken leg. 

BRUTAL MURDER - Warrensburg July 14, 1872 
An Old Man Beaten to Death with a Club. 

From the Kansas City (Mo) Times, July 14. Day before yesterday, the Times contained an item referring to the death of Mr. John Erskine, near Warrensburg, with the intimation that there was good ground for suspicion of 
So strong did this probability seem to the managers of this paper that it was determined to dispatch a special reporter to the scene to watch and report developments. The deceased was a resident and a large property owner and cattle dealer in Guadeloupe County, Texas. His business of late had frequently called him to this city and vicinity, and he was in the habit of staying here and in Warrensburg large portion of the time''. 
Lately he had been stopping at Ming's Hotel in Warrensburg, looking after his business interests in Johnson County .which were extensive. Among those with whom Mr. Erskine bad dealings was a Mr. Sharpe, which resulted in the latter giving Mr. Erskine a mortgage on his property to secure a large debt. 
This matter seemed to have a deep effect upon the mind of Mr. Sharpe, and he felt very uneasy about his obligations to Mr. Erskine. On Wednesday last, the latter rode out on horseback from Warrensburg to the place of Mr. Sharpe to see him, also to look after a herd of cattle he had ' feeding near Sharpe's place. 
He spent some little time at Sharpe's place and started home in the afternoon. Mr. Sharpe, his son, and a man named Young, a hired hand on Sharpe's farm, accompanied him. Toward night Sharpe rode into the little town of Centerview and told a story to the effect that Mr. Erskine had been thrown from his horse and killed by the horse running away and dragging him on the ground, his foot having caught in the stirrup. He said he had buried Mr. Erskine temporarily to keep his body from the hogs, and that he would procure a coffin and have him decently Interred.There were those among his listeners, however, who thought Sharpe's story 
and they insisted on a Coroner's inquest. Accordingly a number of men, went and dug up Mr. Erskine'a body, impaneled a Coroner's jury and summoned the younger Sharpe and the hired man Young, as witnesses. Young told a straight story, substantially corroborating the statement of the older Sharpe. - But when the younger Sharpe was put upon the stand and subjected to a close examination he became confused and his manner indicated that something was wrong. 
This served to confirm the suspicions that had been but little allayed by the testimony of Young. The boy was therefore taken away from the presence of his father, he finally yielded and made the following statement 
He said that his father, Sharpe, had procured a heavy club, which he carried in his hand as he rode along. When they had come to a lonely spot, Sharpe dashed up behind Mr. Erskine and dealt him a. heavy blow on the back of the head. Mr. Erskine, being unable to defend himself, put spurs to his horse and endeavored to get 
Sharpe followed him, and soon coming within, reach again, dealt him another blow. After three or four strokes from the club, Mr. Erskine tumbled from his horse, when Sharpe dismounted and finished him with another blow or two. He then took off one of Mr. Erskine boots and bruised his ankle and instep to make it appear as if his foot had been caught in the stirrup. He also tore his clothes to give them the appearance of having been dragged upon the ground. He also took from Mn Erskine's pockets all the notes and mortgages the latter held against him and upon his property, and then buried him as above stated. 
After Mr. Erskine had fallen his horse, and before Sharpe had dismounted to finish killing him, he asked that Major George, of this city, be sent' for to take care of his cattle. 
Upon the relation of this story by the boy the wildest excitement ensued and threats, of summary execution: was freely indulged in. But calmer counsels prevailed, and Sharpe was taken to Warrensburg and lodged In jail, after the confession of young Sharpe, the hired man signified his desire to become State's evidence, and was accepted. 
Is one of the largest farmers in Johnson County, is well connected, and is paid to be worth about fifty thousand dollars. 
The murdered man was well known in this city, in Virginia, where he formerly resided, and to all the cattle men of the Southwest. His terrible death will create a profound feeling of sympathy and sorrow for him, and a terrible measure of public wrath must be meted out to his brutal and cowardly murderer.

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