52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Crime and Punishment

The only speeding ticket I ever received was from Officer Z. He was legendary for issuing speeding tickets. His speed trap is in a community next to mine. Everyone in the surrounding areas knew of his speed trap, and yet, he issued many tickets to meet his quota each month. I was on my way home from a four-hour drive from a business meeting when my route took me through his trap. I was not paying attention and going 41 in a 35 mile an hour zone. The ticket cost me $35.00 and was a blow to my ego.

My great-great-grandfather, William Jefferson Williams (Jeff Williams), was indicted by the state of Missouri for running his horse on a public highway in 1852. His case was taken before the grand jury of the County of Osage, Missouri, where they found that on October 26, 1852, Jeff Williams “wrongfully and unlawfully did run his horse upon a public road and highway in common use in this state in the county aforesaid, so as to interrupt traveling therein, and to put to fright the horses or other animals, by them rode or driven, contrary to form of the statute in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the state.” ¹

Wow, indicted by the State of Missouri for a similar offense for which I received a ticket. I’ve been to Linn, Missouri, the seat of Osage County. Highway 50 runs through the center of the business district. It’s not very big, and I can’t imagine that it was as large in 1852. Of course, the road would have been unpaved. His offense occurred on a Tuesday, not a day when most farmers would have been in town to take care of shopping and business.

So how did Jeff Williams get caught? Three citizens came forward as witnesses to his offense. Jeff Williams was found guilty and ordered to pay of fine of $5.00. That is $172.00 in 2021 dollars. He was remanded into the hands of the sheriff until he paid the fine. ² Not only was his pocketbook lighter, but his reputation tarnished. But then, maybe not. I have found through my research that Jeff Williams was quite a character and well-known to the citizens of Osage County.

Jeff Williams and I are guilty of the same offense, speeding but by different conveyances. I think I got off very light.