October 11, 1907


Has Been in Jail Almost Two Years
on Charge of Forging His Mother's
Name -- Has Never Seen His
Child -- Grand Jury Takes Case.

Sunday theaters and matters of public interest were laid aside yesterday and the day was spent in searching out justice for Nealy Harris, a Blue Springs youth, who , awaiting trial on the charge of forging his mother's name, has been in the county jail for twenty-two months. During his imprisonment his father has died and his only child, whom he has never seen, has been born.

Leading men of Blue Springs, where Nealy's family live, and of Independence, where he disposed of $5,000 worth of alleged forged notes, were summoned by the jury. Among them was J. L. Prewitt, mayor of Independence and president of the Grain Valley bank' Matthew Wood, president and Hartley E. Warren, cashier of the Bank of Independence; J. G. Paxton, attorney; William A. Symington, Emmet E. Montgomery, G. N. Hughes, all of Independence; N. Utterback of Oak Grove and John H. Alkire of Blue Springs, and these relatives of Nealy Harris: Mrs. Mary Eliza Harris, mother; Mrs. Minnie Etta Harris, wife; Mrs. Anna Bridges, aunt, S. S. Holloway, brother-in-law, and V. Adams, father-in-law.

Nealy Harris's story is familiar to Blue Springs people, and the neighborhood is about evenly divided as to his guilt. On the one hand it is claimed that he has been a wild and reckless youth and abused the confidence of his mother by forging her name to paper upon which he collected money at the Independence banks. On the other hand, it is claimed that the papers were signed by his mother through the instrumentality of another, and that person, after inducing the mother to sign them, influenced her to repute them and her son. The mother has steadily refused to testify against the boy.


When Harris's case came up for trial last spring in Judge Porter's division of the criminal court, the mother, who had been subpoenaed by the state, fell in a faint in the court room. An immediate parole was offered Nealy, if he would lead guilty and take six months' sentence, but the youth insisted upon his innocence and refused to plead. The trial was then continued.

Prior to Harris's confinement in the county jail on December 5, 1905, from which place he has never been since, he was for a few days in an asylum in St. Joseph. He was discharged from that place by the authorities, who said he was sane.

Yesterday afternoon Harris was brought down from his cell on the fourth floor of the jail to talk with his mother. As he came came down the corridor Mrs. Minnie E. Harris, his wife, was led out of the way.

She was weak and practically helpless at the time and did not know Nealy was coming. She had come an hour before from the jury room, in which two men had half led and half carried her, and to bring back two men again were needed. When she was placed in a chair by the press room, just across the hall, she fainted.


"It is persecution, not prosecution," Nealy said from behind the bar that evening, after the jury had adjourned and his relatives had gone home.

"I have been in here nearly two years and have never seen my child, who was born a few weeks after my arrest. My father died January 19, 1906. I didn't know of it until my wife wrote to me a week later.

"I am not afraid of a trial. I wrote a note to the grand jury, urging them to investigate my case. I had read that they are good and true men."

The deputy marshals and jailers almost without exception believe his story. He has for over a year been in charge of the jail hospital, a considerable responsibility.