The SRC would like to thank the Sharp County Historical Society and Historian Eva Royal for their assistance with photos and hand written accounts of the event. The goal is to provide recognition to Mr. Rufus King Arnold for also being a Sharp County law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty and hope to someday thave his name inscribed on the Sharp County  Law Enforcement Memorial.

Most think that Sharp County has lost only one law enforcement officer in the line of duty. While Jeff Richardson’s 1993 death while  assisting another officer at Cave City left an indelible mark on Sharp County history, another man also perished in a much more sinister way while serving the county nearly 80 years earlier, in 1914.

There are many accounts of the events that led to the death of Sharp County Deputy Rufus King  (RK) Arnold at Center. These include written and newspaper articles, both locally and regionally. The story goes back to what led bandits, who would later kill Arnold to Sharp County.

Robbery gone wrong

According to the Batesville Guard account, On Nov. 13, 1914, a group of would be bank robbers attempt to rob the Mountain Home Bank was thwarted and they escaped. The men were spotted by Sheriff “Boss” Wilson in Izard County soon after. Will Jackson, a constable, trailed them into Sharp County at the former Hargrove Hotel, which was located at Center. The men were believed to be staying there for the night. The owner, Robert Hartgrove, was a well known hotel proprietor in the area. The newspaper reported that Jackson and Rufus Arnold, arrived at the hotel shortly after the suspects. After a conversation ensued about their identity, the two men left on horseback in the direction of the nearby Locke Store and Hargrove joined them in the chase. The Batesville Guard initially reported that the men arrived as the bandits were in the act of robbing the store. While there are differing documentation of the event’s location, the Batesville Guard’s later articles after further interviews said both Hargrove and Arnold were unarmed,  due to having ran out of bullets. The men reportedly requested the bandits to put their hands up and submit to arrest.

When they refused the paper stated, “This was followed by a volley of bullets by the bandits, Mr. Arnold was shot to death and Mr. Hargrove was wounded. A bullet from Mr. Jackson’s pistol wounded one of the bandits and the other escaped. Mr. Jackson, uninjured at this time, got on his horse to pursue the men. Late in the night, Jackson was found lying in the woods in a pool of blood, dangerously wounded. At a later hour of the night, the bandit whom Jackson had shot died.”

 It is mentioned in other newspapers accounts that one of the men who escaped was shot and severely injured in the arm and hand.

Later reports in other newspapers indicated the deputy’s  wound was a superficial scalp wound and Jackson survived the ordeal.  

The news of the event traveled fast and word came to the county that the men were part of a dangerous gang of thieves known to have been operating in Oklahoma and Arkansas. 

The Daily Arkansas Gazette printed an article the following week.  It went on to tell that the bandit who died gave his name as Tom Bearden. Sharp County Sheriff J.H. Kirtley and former Sheriff W.W. Bristow then formed posses and began searching for the man. 

Another account of the incident in the Newark Journal, in Newark, Ark. also reported the incident happened when the men refused to surrender at the Hargroves Hotel, killing both Arnold and one of the bandits, who gave the name McPherson before his death. The man told Dr. W.O. Tibbles, who attempted to save his life, he was from Antlers, Okla.

In an interview a few  weeks later with the  Batesville Guard, Tibbles was interviewed explaining he arrived at the hotel an hour and thirty five minutes  after the shooting to attend to the bandit’s injuries. He explained that the afternoon of the shooting two robbers appeared in Ash Flat and spoke to a person who said they were well acquainted with the hilly mountainous area. They were both on horseback carrying Winchester rifles, the doctor reported. Around the same time a phone message came from Izard County warning about the bandits and requesting look out. 

The doctor said that the Izard County Sheriff and Deputy Jackson came to Ash Flat and joined with Rufe Wolf then went to Arnold’s home as he joined the posse. They then went to the Hargrove Hotel where they first looked through the windows. They saw the two parties they were seeking. The men were warming themselves in front of the fire as Hargroves wife operated a churn. 

The doctor relayed to the newspaper that the   bandits had left their rifles with the horses in the barn. Arnold  and Jackson entered the rooms requesting the men to surrender. He said, “Immediately one of them pulled a gun from a side receptacle of his vest and began shooting. Jackson fired, wounding the robber about the hand, mangling the member dreadfully. Jackson then received a bullet wound on the forehead and another on the arm. Arnold, who was armed, fired two shots, probably one of the shots taking effect in the body of the already wounded bandit.  Arnold was shot, dying immediately.” 

The doctor said 39 bullets were fired from the outside by Sheriff Wilson and Wolf. He explained after the smoke cleared the robber asked his associate if he was ready to leave.

   The slain bandit’s brother came to Sharp County to claim his body three days later.   The article explained the men unsuccessfully tried to rob the People’s Bank of Mountain Home earlier in the week before making their way to Izard County and being located by  Sheriff  Boss Wilson. The remaining two bandits were later identified.  Boss Wilson and Rufus Wolf, left the hotel on horseback after running out of ammunition in their pistols.

You can run but you can’t rob

Rewards of $150 and $100 for the men were offered by law enforcement from across the area. It wasn’t until nearly three months later, in February, 1915 that the case got its biggest break from a bank robbery in Missouri. Rewards escalated for the gang and people across the region sought them for the bounties. 

The Neosho Miner -Mechanic newspaper reported that the Duenweg State Bank in Duenweg, Mo. was robbed in broad daylight when three men put the cashier in a vault and made away with $1805 in cash and coin. The men, who had proven they were not the most intelligent robbers, missed a street care they planned to take to Joplin, Mo. and were forced to flee on foot. 

The men made it nearly a mile an half before they were met by police. After several minutes of gunfire, they three surrendered and were arrested. The newspaper stated, “They waived examination and were taken in a motor car to Carthage, where they were placed in jail.” The men gave their names as Thomas McCall, who was the one believed to have killed Arnold and injured Deputy Jackson at Center,  from St. Joseph, Mo.; William Barry, from Omaha, Neb, and Harry Jackson from Chicago. McCall had one arm and prosthetic and was about 40 years old and believed to be the leader of the gang.

All the money but about $400 from the robbery was recovered as they said they had thrown it in a cornfield near where they had been captured. McCall also was reported to have a heavy supply of gold and coins inside his coat pockets that scattered during the pursuit. 

During their confessions, the three also told investigators they met in Kansas City and planned the robbery because McCall was familiar with the bank. They were rooming in Joplin at the time of the robbery and all were out of work and said they needed money 

Guilty as charged

Just over a week later, all three men were arraigned in Circuit Court in Duneweg, Mo. and all pled guilty of the Duneweg robbery. The judge in the case deferred sentencing to a later date. Not missing a beat, Sharp County Sheriff J.B. Kirtley, of Hardy was in court and a ready to talk to McCall about the murder of his deputy. After seeing McCall, he explained that one of the three bullets that hit the bandit who died in the altercation was at a closer range than any of the armed lawman who were close to him and believe it was McCall who fired the third bullet. 

The sheriff also said that while in Arkansas, he used the name Wilson. Since Sheriff Kirtley had not physically seen the suspect, only heard descriptions he couldn’t be sure it was him. But, Baxter County Deputy M.L. Moody who worked on the attempted robbery and post office robbery years earlier, positively identified McCall as the man wanted in the Mountain Home incident and Sharp County murder. Besides the suspect’s mustache being absent when he was arrested he confirmed was also the same man who, seven years prior robbed a post office in Mountain Home and served time in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan. under the last name of Brady. He served time on at least two occasions according to five different news publications.  After being pardoned from Leavenworth on his last stint, McCall was believed to have moved to Springfield, Mo. 

McCall and Barry were sentenced to ten years for the Missouri robbery and Jackson to five. McCall had to serve his sentence before coming to Arkansas to stand trial for Arnold’s murder. 

Prison Break

The Baxter Bulletin reported that McCall, who was known as “Hookie Red” locally, was the man who robbed the post office in Mountain Home in 1908, and came back again in 1914 to rob the bank had escaped from the penitentiary in Jefferson City, Mo. in late August of 1916.

A Personal account of the 


While newspapers have the most ability to interview witnesses, speak to key players and even obtain documents related to events, hand written accounts often provide more detail as they are typically told by a person directly involved. One such case is a letter written by Ella Armstrong in March of 1975 to Wilson Powell. Armstrong was the daughter of former Sheriff W.W, Bristow, one of the men who sought the suspects after Arnold’s murder.

The letter is housed at the Sharp County Historical Society in the Wilson Powell Collection. The letter explains that she recalls Powell coming to visit her family with his parents, Dan and Cora Powell as an infant when she was 11-12 years old. They lived on the Strawberry River between Myron and the Hickory Flat School on a farm her father bought after he went out of office as sheriff  Powell recalled the night of the incident in her letter. 

While the accounts vary to some degree, and Mrs. Wilson’s was recalled many years after the incident, the basic information all proved that Arnold was killed in the line of duty to the citizens of Sharp County. While McCall was due back to be tried in Sharp County for Arnold’s death, no historical documentation has been found of after that one armed killer escaped in Jefferson City. Whether he was ever recaptured, re arrested on another crime or tried in Sharp County is a mystery. He seemed to disappear. 

Arnold was very well liked man in the county. He was born in Kentucky in 1846 and served in the Confederate Army under General Morgan in many bloody Civil War Battle in Kentucky. He moved to Sharp County in 1879 and served as a county land surveyor as well as an attorney until his death at the age of 67. 

Arnold’s family includes many long time residents, including his grandson, the late Sharp County Judge Frank Arnold. 

Rufus, RK, or Uncle Rufs as he was affectionately known is buried in the Sharp County Cemetery in Evening Shade. 

The Archie Spurlock family lived in the Center hotel building after it was no longer used as a hotel  until it was torn down.