Anti Horse Thief Association.Shortly after the commencement of the Civil war, lawless men in the border statesthat is the states lying between the loyal and seceded statesbanded themselves together for the purpose of plundering honest citizens. Missouri especially was subject to the depredations of these gangs, and in time the conditions became so bad that the law-abiding people found it necessary to take some action for defense. The first organization of this character was proposed at a meeting held at Luray, Mo., in Sept., 1863. At a second meeting, held at Millport, Mo., about a month later, a constitution and by-laws were adopted, and as horses seemed to be the principal objects of theft, the society took the name of the "Anti Horse Thief Association." The effectiveness of such an organization quickly became apparent, the order spread to other states, and in time covered a large expanse of territory. After the war was over, when the conditions that called the association into existence no longer existed, its scope was widened to include all kinds of thefts and a national organization was incorporated under the laws of Kansas. This national order is composed of officers and delegates from the state associations and meets annually on the first Wednesday in October. Next in importance is the state division, which is made up of representatives of the local organizations, and meets annually to elect officers and delegates to the national order. The sub-orders or local associations are composed of individual members and usually meet monthly. Any reputable citizen over the age of 21 years is eligible for membership, widows of members receive all the protection to which their husbands were entitled while living, and other women may become "protective members" by payment of the regular fees and dues.
Wall and McCarty, in their history of the association, say: "The A. H. T. A. uses only strictly honorable, legal methods. It opposes lawlessness in any and all forms, yet does its work so systematically and efficiently that few criminals are able to escape when it takes the trail. . . . The centralization of 'Many in One' has many advantages not possessed by even an independent association, for while it might encompass a neighborhood, the A. T. H. A. covers many states. . . . The value of an article stolen is rarely taken into consideration. The order decrees that the laws of the land must be obeyed, though it costs many times the value of the property to capture the thief. An individual could not spend $50 to $100 to recover a $25 horse and capture the thief. The A. T. H. A. would, because of the effect it would have in the future . . . . Thieves have learned these facts and do less stealing from our members, hence the preventative protection."
This was written in 1906. At that time the national organization numbered over 30,000 members, arranged in divisions as follows: Ohio Division, which embraced the State of Ohio; Illinois Division, which included the states of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan and all territory east of the Mississippi and south of the Ohio river not otherwise districted; Missouri Division, including the states of Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas and Louisiana; Kansas Division, which consisted of the states of Kansas and Nebraska, and all territory to the north, west and south of those states not included in other districts; Oklahoma Division, including the State of Oklahoma; Indian Territory Division, which embraced the Indian Territory and Texas.
The Anti Horse Thief Association is in no sense a vigilance committee, and the organization has never found it necessary to adopt the mysterious methods of "Regulators," "White Caps" or kindred organizations. Its deeds are done in the broad open light of the day. When a theft or robbery is committed in any portion of the vast territory covered by the association and the direction taken by the offender is ascertained, local associations are notified to be on the lookout for the fugitive, and his capture is almost a certainty. Although the original name is retained, bankers, merchants and manufacturers are to be found among the members, courts recognize its value, criminals fear it, and press and pulpit have endorsed and praised its work in the apprehension of criminals.Pages 87-88 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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