|Elevation||489 ft (149 m)|
|Time zone||Central (CST) (UTC−6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC−5)|
|GNIS feature ID||750680|
Leeper is an unincorporated community in southwestern Wayne County, Missouri, United States. It is located about seven miles (11 km) south of Piedmont at the intersection of Route 34 and Route 49. Its post office has closed and mail now comes from Piedmont.
Leeper is named after Union Captain W.T. Leeper. In 1871, W.T. Leeper "convinced" the Iron Mountain Railroad to run through his property, even though they had to cut through two mountains. In 1872 Clarkson Sawmill had moved to Leeper and set up shop. This immediately caused the rise of Leeper as a "boom-town". Leeper was not actually founded until 1874, by W.T.'s son Sid. By 1881, Leeper was a bona fide town with a post office, although then it was called Leeper Station. Leeper had one hotel and four stores. Leeper's hotel, Ozark Hotel, in the early part of the 20th century was considered one of Wayne County's most elaborate resorts.
Andy Clark, a black man, was lynched in Leeper January 21, 1903.
One of Leepers’ more famous residents is Jessie Beard Rickly. She was born in Leeper in 1895 and in her teens persuaded her parents to allow her to move to St. Louis to study art. Her artwork is still shown today and continues to go up in value.
Although he is not from Leeper, this next story probably involves one of the most famous people to ever come to Leeper. George Sisler, aka Gorgeous George, was a baseball player for the St. Louis Browns. George held the MLB record for most single hits in a season from 1920–2004. One year Sisler came to Leeper to visit his friend Herman Radke and do some quail hunting. It was common for Radke to load the hunters up in his Ford truck and drive down the railroad tracks. One evening, while waiting for the train to pass, Radke, Dr. Owens, Sisler and Paul Simmons all waited in the station. Dr. Owens found a deck of playing cards and the men began to gamble on a little poker. A short time into their game, three men barged in wearing masks. Two of the men were armed. The three masked men began to rob the poker players of money, jewelry, anything of value. Paul Simmons pleaded with the masked men to let him keep his wedding ring and they obliged. Sisler, on the other hand, turned his around and hid it. Leeper being a small town, Dr. Owens, noticed one of the coats on the masked men. After the masked men left, Dr. Owens alerted authorities and the three men were apprehended. But during the court trial, which Sisler had to travel back for twice, the Judge determined that due to the men's gambling, no matter how small, the robbers were innocent and set free.
William Thomas Leeper was born in Kentucky and moved to Wayne County in 1857. He purchased 225 acres (0.91 km2) in what is present day Mill Spring and Leeper. When the Civil War was on the verge of breaking out, W.T. (we will refer to him as from now on) was strongly opposed to Missouri joining the Confederates in battle. He founded Company D of the Twelfth Regiment of Missouri Militia. I will not go into the insane details of what Regiment blah, blah, and just stick to the interesting stuff. W.T. becomes captain, and let's just say went a little wild. W.T. took a band of his men and "hunted" for Southern sympathizers. His hunt included mass killings of unarmed men. He burned villages, cities, homes, anything that would light. One such story involved a group of 29 men referred to as the McGee or Mingo Swamp Massacre. W.T. and his men sneaked up to the house that these Southern sympathizers were staying at for the night.(Important to note the McGee Clan had just abandoned the Confederate Army to return home to protect their families from W.T) While the men inside sat unarmed, W.T. and his men opened fire. All 29 men died. Daniel McGee was one of the men killed. He was shot so many times his torso was almost severed in half. There is some speculation as to the truth of this next story, but let the historians argue, if anything it shows you his reputation. On May 8, 1865, Arkansas, Seven Confederate soldiers surrendered to the Union. They were then shot and killed and brought back to Wayne County. It is believed; W.T. personally knew these men and saw to it that no sympathizers were in his area of control. A monument to the seven soldiers can be found at Cowan Cemetery in Wayne County.
W.T. was famous for his take-no-prisoners orders. When his own farm was ransacked with his family home, he made it a personal goal to hunt down all involved. During the battle of Pilot Knob, Leeper with direct orders from the general, searched for guerrillas and scouts, he sent several letters back recounting each kill in detail. He was eventually found incompetent and released from the Army. But his reign did not end there. W.T stayed in contact with his former unit and even helped organize the burning of Doniphan, Missouri. It is interesting to note, only one person was not given amnesty for the crimes they committed during the War, and he served under W.T. After the war W.T. served as a member in the 25th Assembly of Missouri.
W.T. went crazy before he died. As one can imagine, he saw and took part in a lot of disturbing battles. It is rumored that he had to be tied down to stop him from battling the demons around him. He died May 19, 1912. He was 89 years old.
Although he is associated with some of the cruelest guerrilla hunt-downs in Missouri and Arkansas, he did many great things for Wayne County and Leeper. He is credited with "persuading/forcing" the railroad to go through Leeper. He served on the Committee for Education, and helped expand rural schools.
- "Leeper, Missouri". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
- Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri(1901) by Howard Louis Conrad pg. 411