History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Anti Horse Thief Association

Bookmark and Share



Anti horse thief associationShortly after the commencement of the Civil War, lawless men in the border states -- that is the states lying between the loyal and seceded states -- banded 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 was proposed at a meeting held at Luray, Missouri in September, 1863. At a second meeting, held at Millport, Missouri 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 was composed of officers and delegates from the state associations and met annually. Next in importance was the state division, which was made up of representatives of local organizations. The sub-orders or local associations are composed of individual members and usually met monthly. Any reputable citizen over the age of 21 was eligible for membership, widows of members received all the protection to which their husbands were entitled while living, and other women could become "protective members" by payment of the regular fees and dues.


Wall and McCarty, in their history of the association, said: "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.H.T.A. covers many states. . . . The value of an article stolen is rarely taken into consideration.


Trial of a Horse Thief, 1877The 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.H.T 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 was in no sense a vigilance committee, and the organization never found it necessary to adopt the mysterious methods of "Regulators," "White Caps" or kindred organizations. Its deeds were done in the broad open light of the day. When a theft or robbery was  committed in any portion of the vast territory covered by the association and the direction taken by the offender was ascertained, local associations were notified to be on the lookout for the fugitive, and his capture was almost a certainty. Although the original name was retained, bankers, merchants and manufacturers were to be found among the members, courts recognized its value, criminals feared it, and press and pulpit endorsed and praised its work in the apprehension of criminals.






Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated March, 2017.



About the Article: The majority of this historic text was published in Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Volume I; edited by Frank W. Blackmar,  A.M. Ph. D.; Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL 1912. However, the text that appears on these page is not verbatim, as additions, updates, and editing have occurred.


From Legends' General Store 

Lynchings, Hangings & Vigilante Groups - AutographedLynchings, Hangings & Vigilante Groups - By Kathy Weiser, Owner/Editor of Legends of America and Legends of Kansas, who is FROM KANSAS - Autographed - Execution by hanging was the most popular legal and extralegal form of putting criminals to death in the United States from its beginning. Brought over to the states from our English ancestors, hanging soon became the method of choice for most countries, as it produced a highly visible deterrent by a simple method. It also made a good public spectacle, considered important during those times, as viewers looked above them to the gallows or tree to watch the punishment. Legal hangings, practiced by the early American colonists, were readily accepted by the public as a proper form of punishment for serious crimes like theft, rape, and murder. It was also readily practiced for activities that are not considered crimes at all today, such as witchcraft, sodomy and concealing a birth. Signed by the author. 8.5 x 5.5 paperback -- 78 pages.


Made in the USA.  $7.95!  See HERE!   Buy Product


Also available for Kindle through Amazon for only $3.99 (Separate Shopping Cart) - Click HERE for Kindle

  About Us      Contact Us       Article/Photo Use      Guestbook      Legends Of America      Links      Photo Blog      Site Map     Writing Credits  

Copyright 2009-Present, www.Legends of Kansas.com is a web property of Legends Of America