One of the strangest murders I’ve ever researched happened in 1900 in a small northwestern Missouri town called Savannah.
In December 1900, 44-year-old Frank Richardson was on the brink of a triumphant redemption. He had been a weak and sinful man, but he was ready to repent and put his wicked ways behind him.
Frank met his wife Addie in Texas. He was managing his brother cattle ranch and he liked Addie right away. She was the daughter of a wealthy rancher who was as handy with a six shooter as she was refined. Her older sister was married to a wealthy politician in Houston and Addie has spent many years in her sister’s home, mingling with Houston’s elite. Yet she was taken with the big, fun-loving cowboy too. They married when she was 17 and he was 30 and settled down on a remote ranch.
For nine years, they lived happily in Texas. In the late 1890s, the couple began to feel that life on their remote Texas ranch was stale. Frank’s older brother John Richardson, a well-liked and brilliantly successful businessman in St. Joseph, Missouri, urged them to relocate to Missouri. Frank couldn’t be a cowboy forever, he reasoned. Why not come to Missouri and he would set his younger brother up in business?
Frank agreed and, with brother John’s blessing, chose to pursue work as a merchant. John even connected his little brother with Thomas Fife, an experienced businessman who was willing to enter into a partnership. Savannah was a town of less than 2000 people, but Fife-Richardson Mercantile did plenty of business and the Richardsons settled into life in northwestern Missouri quite easily.
The Richardsons were free from financial difficulties. Between the store, Brother John’s money, and Addie’s family fortune, they had everything they wanted. They didn’t live ostentatiously though. They purchased a house a few blocks from Frank’s new store and hired a pair of local sisters, Bessie and Minnie Phillis, to cook and clean for the family.
As for the family, Addie was beautiful and charming. Their boys–John, Frank Jr., and Howell– were well-behaved. And Frank was genial and always ready to have a drink with anyone who wanted to chat. He was always ready to have a drink even if no one wanted to chat. It was Frank’s fondness for a drink, or six or seven drinks, that revealed the first cracks in the Richardson family’s image.
Savannah’s initial unanimous admiration of the family quickly frayed as Frank’s drinking led to embarrassing altercations with his wife and other people in town. He was a violently jealous man, and he was convinced every man who said hello to his wife was plotting to steal her away. Frank routinely and publicly accused his wife of infidelity with different men with seemingly no basis for these accusations. His drinking intensified these mortifying scenes.
Frank’s downfall did not end there. See Frank Richardson’s bitter harvest.
You can read much more about Frank Richarson’s downfall in my 2022 book, Has it Come to This? The Mysterious Unsolved Murder of Frank Richardson.
Already read the book? Visit the Has it Come to This discussion page to swap theories! The page contains spoilers so please read the book first!
Stay tuned for more about the Richardsons and some exciting related news coming soon!
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