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“Bound To See Trouble”
“ ...anyone born in Missouri is bound to see trouble.”

There might not have been a worse time to be born, or into a family whose father had already created enough trouble for himself. And the baby’s instincts, seemingly already flowing through his veins, seem to have destined him for enough trials in the “fifteen ordinary lives” he felt he lived.

Tom Horn was born in northeast Missouri east of Scotland County’s seat, Memphis, on November 21, 1860 – “a troublesome time,” he said, “to be sure; and anyone born in Missouri is bound to see trouble – so says Bill Nye.”

Notwithstanding his parents’ troubles, when they left Ohio for Missouri in 1852, accompanied by Tom’s uncle, Martin C. Horn, and grandfather, Hartman, Mary purchased their first parcel of land. It was approximately 240 acres of rural farmland east of Memphis, in Harrison Township northeast of a small hamlet, Etna.

Mary Miller Horn, Tom Horn’s mother (author’s photo).

They invested a two hundred-dollar down payment and signed a mortgage for six hundred dollars. It is believed they purchased it in her name to shield it from their creditors in Ohio.

Tom Horn’s Birthplace, as it looked ca. 1903 and today (Author’s photos).

Northeast Missouri was neutral during the Civil War. As the war ebbed and flowed, locals tended to favor “the side of the uniform that was knocking at the front door,” one authority said. At one point during the war, a Confederate captain and enlisted man had stayed at the Horn home. After leaving, they were ambushed and the enlisted man was killed.
In 1869 Hartman was taken ill, and moved into the family home with Thomas, Mary and their family. They cared for him until his death in 1874. Thomas was named administrator of his estate, which was valued at $275.75.

Left, Etna Cemetery, where Tom Horn’s grandfather and other family are buried.
Right, the barn still standing at Tom Horn’s birthplace (author’s photos)

In 1874 they started selling some of their land to sons Charles and Martin. By 1876 their holdings had grown to 1,250 acres in the Etna area and were estimated to be worth over twenty thousand dollars. On January 16, 1884 they purchased four lots in the southeast part of Memphis for $1,700.

Young Tom was the child of a large family. At least one of Thomas’ and Mary’s children died at a young age; one son, whose name is not known, died on October 20, 1854 and is buried in the Dennis Church cemetery in Knox County, Ohio.

The 1860 census was taken during the summer, before Tom’s birth. The family household, including hired help living with them, consisted of the parents and:

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