Logo of the National Anti-Horse Thief Association.
Ninety years ago, the Cape County Anti-Horse Thief Association (CCAHTA) ceased its existence. While the Cape Girardeau County Historical Society’s Research Annex has information on the organization, most of the material relates to the state and national organizations. Very little exists about the local organization and its attempt to assist authorities in curbing the theft of horses. The following information comes from some original documents and news articles.
The CCAHTA began when a group of men led by F.A. Kage, met at the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse in Jackson on Aug. 2, 1890. At that first meeting they elected Kage as president, a position he held until Oct. 8, 1931. Other officers were, William Paar, first vice president; George W. Goodson, second vice president; Henry R. English, secretary; John L. Sawyer, treasurer; Judson M. Randol, W.C. Cracraft and Charles T. Lewis, executive committee. By the time the group disbanded, only Judson M. Randol was still alive. One hundred copies of the association’s constitution were printed, and at the second meeting on Aug. 30, membership dues were set at $1, only to be collected when the treasury balance dropped below $200. In case a horse belonging to a member of the association was stolen, a $50 reward was established for the “capture and conviction of the culprit.” Meeting dates were established each quarter on the last Saturday of the month beginning with the month of February. The membership quickly grew from the original 20 members to almost 400. The organization reported having so much money in 1894, it decided to loan the money out.
According to the constitution, “The object of the association, shall be to aid in the capture and conviction of horse thieves, and return the stolen property to the rightful owner.” The organization was formed to help civil authorities who lacked quick communication to capture the horse thieves. The association was welcomed by law enforcement to aid in the capture and conviction of horse thieves, and members were commissioned and authorized to carry weapons. The newly formed organization was part of the state and national organization.
The effectiveness of the organization can be questioned. According to an article in The Daily Republican, Sept. 4, 1917, some citizens suggested the organization merge with the Anti-Automobile Thief Association due to recent car thefts, but neither investigative organization wanted to merge. In the Southeast Missourian, March 16, 1933, some farmers wanted to bring back the Cape County Anti-Horse Thief Association, citing regret that the organization had been dissolved. People in the article claimed horse stealing was on the rise and that the tractor was not as popular as it once was. The article states that these farmers felt the horse and mule population would more than double in 10 years. They were wrong.
Better roads and communication caught up with the organization. As early as 1921 discussion surfaced about disbanding the organization. In 1931, Kage, who had opposed disbanding, suffered a stroke, ending his leadership of the organization. After his death in early 1933, the organization voted to disband as reported by the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Feb. 4, 1933. It was decided by the organization that the money in the treasury, less than $600, would be distributed to its members, which would take considerable accounting deliberation. After 43 years of existence, the minutes reported only one horse had been recovered.