The tragic story of George R "Bob" McSparren

Murdered Bob McSparren and Then Committed Suicide
Double Tragedy Enacted Late Yesterday Afternoon at a Saloon on Fourth and Sacramento Streets
    As announced in an extra edition of The Daily News last night, Thomas Prather employed as a bartender at the Missouri and Kansas Exchange Saloon at Fourth and Sacramento Streets, owned by John Engle, shot and killed Robert McSparren, a packinghouse man, in front of the saloon about 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon.
    Turning back into the saloon, Prather placed the pistol with which he had killed McSparren to his own temple and pulled the trigger, inflicting a wound from which he died an hour later.

- Deed Not Premeditated -
    The deed was entirely unpremeditated. There were a number of men in the saloon playing cards and looking on, and among these there is a difference of opinion as to the nature of the quarrel that led up to the murder and suicide.
    Among those in the saloon at the time of the shooting were the murdered man's brother and cousin, but the double tragedy was so quickly enacted that neither had time to interfere.

- No Knowledge -
    It seems that the men in the saloon had no knowledge of the quarrel until after a few words had passed between Prather and McSparren at the bar, when McSparren stood at the door and continued his remarks. They angered Prather and he rushed to the bar to get his pistol, a 32-calibre Harrington-Richards. Meanwhile McSparren had left and was walking rapidly away.
    Prather stood in the doorway and shot once at the retreating man. The bullet took effect in the left side and, passing through the body, came out under the arm pit at the right side. McSparren walked about forty feet and fell dead.

- Prather Shoots Himself -
    Then it was that Prather stepped back into the saloon and shot himself. A crowd soon surrounded the spot and the murderer and suicide was carried out into the open air. The ambulance soon arrived from police headquarters but the case was hopeless.

- A Morbid Crowd -
    The spot where McSparren fell was bounded by patches of sticky mud. In this filthy mass a morbid crowd stood, a crowd composed of hard-mouthed young men and dirty and ragged women and children of tender years, gazing with awe-struck eyes and pointing out with grewsome relish the bloodstains saturating the murdered man's clothing.
    This crowd stood, four deep, relating with pale faces and horrified eyes tale after tale of the dead man's prowess.

- Mother and Sister -
    The mother and sister of the murdered man were soon on the scene. They had evidently been apprised of the murder while engaged in their usual household duties. They came, supported on either side by other women, their hair unkempt and wrappers flying in the breeze, with their eyes and faces red with weeping.
    The crowd parted and let them into its center. When they saw the dead man their wails were redoubled and the motley crowd turned its eyes to this new object of interest. Their curiosity was only sated when the ambulance drove away with the murderer and his victim.

- Well Known to Police -
    Both men were well known to the police. McSparren worked at odd times in the packinghouse, but had not been regularly employed. He was prominent locally through participation in a number of prize fights. Six years ago he had several fights here and was considered the local champion in his class. He also fought Jack O'Keefe in Kansas City and got the decision in six rounds.
    Both men were about the same age, thirty-five years.

- McSparren Married -
    McSparren was married and lived at Third and Duncan Streets. He was arrested recently on a charge of participating in the holdup of Grant Law at the west end of the Grand Island bridge, but was released because the evidence against him was not conclusive.

- Separated from Wife -
    Prather was a butcher by trade until six months ago. Three months ago he took the place as bartender at the Missouri and Kansas Exchange. He was married, but was separated from his wife. He was a man of prodigious strength and easily aroused.
    Prather and McSparren had been friends prior to the quarrel that terminated so fatally. Both were of the same temperament in in many respects, and it was not surprising that any quarrel arising between them would be settled the way it was.

- Said to Have Been Crooked -
    It is said by some that Prather and McSparren had been engaged in a number of jobs of crookedness in the South End and that they fell out yesterday while discussing the affairs in which they had jointly figured.
    It is said that Prather became very angry at McSparren and that McSparren was heard to repeatedly dare the bartender to shoot, as he walked from the saloon.
    Owing to the fact that the men who were in the saloon at the time of the trouble were friends of one or both of the principals in the killing, it has been difficult to get at the real facts leading up to the murder and suicide.
    The coroner's jury this afternoon returned a verdict in effect that Prather murdered McSparren and killed himself, as told in the foregoing.

This article originally appeared in the St Joseph Daily News, a Missouri newspaper, in their edition of February 11th, 1903. The story occurs just 21 years after the infamous outlaw Jessie James was shot and killed by Robert Ford in St Joseph, Missouri.

George Robert "Bob" McSparren's death record gives his age as 26, not 35 as printed in the article. He is believed to be the son of George and Mary McSparren from Doniphan County, Kansas.

We wish to thank the St Joseph Public Library and Donna Tattershall of Kansas for their help in acquiring a copy of this story.

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