Reproduced with permission of
John Marion Belt by William J. Belt
copyright 1980 by Johm M. Belt
Who Killed Logan Belt
THE AARON LAMBERT STORY
Francis Dyhrkopp, of Shawneetown, Illinois, began reading the book, The Life of Logan Belt, and to her astonishment, found that Logan married Mary Fraily, of whom she is a relative. One day she called me and we got acquainted over the phone. Since that time, we have enjoyed a good friendship and worked together on a number of articles. Frances and her mother have visited with me and my wife, and we have also visited with her family on Gold Hill outside of Shawneetown, Illinois, one of the better scenic sites in the country. Her mother, the former Myrtle Lambert, daughter of the well-known Guy Lambert who ran the ferry of Shawneetown for so long, was able to furnish me with pictures and information that she was a witness to. No doubt, if I had never published the book on Logan Belt, this story would have never been known. I think it will clarify any doubt as to who shot Logan Belt. It also reveals the accomplice.
Here is the story as told to me by Francis Dyhrkopp.
"My name is Francis L. Hope Sanders Dyhrkopp; the L. stands for Lambert. I was born January 21, 1928, the only child of Myrtle Lambert Sanders, the only child of Guy R. Lambert. Mother was born January 10, 1907 in Hardin County, and my grandfather was born in Pope County on May 1, 1885. He was the son of Aaron Riley Lambert, Jr. and Emma Kelly Lambert. Emma died sometime in 1887 at the birth of her second son, Raymond Victor Lambert. The above facts I do know. The sole source of what I am about to write below is only by word of mouth or family traditions of stories passed down through the generations.
Aaron Riley Lambert, Jr. left Hardin County, Illinois, when his son, Guy Rector Lambert, was two years old and his other son, Raymond Victor Lambert, was just an infant. These two boys were left in the care of their paternal grandmother, Susan J. Lambert. Susan Lambert was a widow, her husband, Aaron Riley Lambert, Sr., having been murdered at Memphis, Tennessee, on June 4, 1864, while returning to his camp (probably at Germantown, Tennessee) from Memphis where he had been sent in the line of duty. This event caused Aaron Riley Lambert, Jr. to be raised without having known his father at an early enough age to have any memory of him. Aaron, Jr. had been born April 20, 1861. His father had been born just 100 years prior to my own birth on December 25, 1828; his wife Susan was born in 1830.
Aaron Lambert, Jr. abandoned his two young sons to his mother's care at the time Logan Belt was shot. Word was sent back to Hardin County that he had been killed or had died. By what means this information was conveyed, I do not know. My great-great-grandmother, Susan, cared for the two boys as best she could with a meager widow's pension from her husband's Civil War service ($8.00 per month). Aaron, her husband, had supposedly brought back considerable gold money from his stint of 7 1/2 years in the gold field of California, but had buried it, not telling anyone its whereabouts. He rode off from home at a hard gallop to bury this money. He was gone over an hour, but not much. He was afraid the night riders would torture his wife and steal it if she knew about it -- and he expected to come back from the Civil War. It was therefore an irony of fate that she was left poverty-stricken at his death. She had two children at home under sixteen years of age at this time, Aaron, Jr. and a Levina C. Aaron, Jr. was 3 and Levina C. was 13, the ten years
Picture of Aarom Lambert
caption: Aaron R. Lambert left his home and children when
he was about 26 years of age. He acknowledged being an accomplice
to the assassination of Logan Belt, although he declared Bill
Quillen was the one who fired the shot. He stayed away 45 years.
There's no indication that he ever attempted to fire a shot.
difference resulting from the long time her husband was gone to the gold fields, to such little benefit of his family. Mother and I have his diaries covering four years in California and his subsequent enlistment in the Union Army; these do not contain financial records, among other personal trivia. So it was that Guy Rector Lambert was raised until the age of 12 by his widowed grandmother, Susan J. Lambert. She died May 28, 1897. There was a family anxious to adopt his brother Raymond Victor Lambert, but he overheard his own future discussed in terms of sending him to an "orphan's home" by some members of his family unknown to me. It was this unpleasant prospect which caused him to stow away on a "river boat" and leave the area. He lied about his age, being a tall 12 year old. He worked on various boats along the Ohio River, cooked on a ranch, broke horses, did painting and papering and at times went hungry. A harsh early life taught him thrift and compassion. He owned his own boat before he was 21 and had a contract to carry the government mail with passengers and other cargo. (He used to laugh and say that the contract was not worth the paper it was written on, since he was not yet of age.)
During the years between the age of 12 and approximately 31 or until the year 1916, Guy never heard anything about his father. By now he was operating the Shawneetown Ferry Company. He had been all over the country on the river work he did. He believed that soon they would build "hard roads" and that everybody would travel in automobiles. The merchants of Shawneetown really thought they were selling him a lemon in the then poor business of the Shawneetown Ferry Company, and he used to laugh about that all the way to the bank. At the time he heard from his father through a Mr. Pell, who worked at the bank at Cave-in-Rock, he vowed to find his father. (Editor's note: This was Waiter Pell, a brother-in-law of Harry Pelhank, who ran the bank. There was also at this time a Web Pell that ran the post office, who had two sons named Waiter and Eck. It is my understanding that Waiter Pell later went to Eldorado, Ill. and finally to Evansville, Indiana.) Mr. Pell had found Aaron Lambert operating a hotel he owned in Dallas, Texas. The father, Aaron, begged Mr. Pell not to tell anybody he was still alive, but Mr. Pell would not promise not to tell Aaron's boys, Guy and Ray. Aaron sold his hotel and ran off to Oklahoma to hide, apparently feeling some lingering fear that his whereabouts being known could still result in his death at the hands of remaining Belts. Guy first took a train to Dallas, Texas. He did not find his father on this trip, but must have gotten a clue as to his whereabouts. He returned home, bought an old seven-passenger Hudson touring car, took it to pieces and reassembled it to make certain it was in good condition, gathered up his brother Ray, Ray's wife Edna (Ferry), their two children, Victor and Ray Van, his own wife Jennie (Baugher) and daughter Myrtle, and set out across country to find Aaron Lambert.
This trip must have been an exciting affair for the entire family. They took a tent, cooking utensils, an ice box, etc. It must be remembered that there was vast areas of our country where there were no hotels and no roads you could travel after a rain. They often camped near some farmer's house, buying eggs, milk, and what have you directly from the producer. The ladies wore linen dusters to protect their clothes, and the
PICTURE OF HUDSON CAR
caption: This is the seven-passenger Hudson touring car in which Ray and Guy Lambert, together with their families, made the trip to Oklahoma to find their father, Aaron Lambert. The car had jump seats in the back, which made it a seven passenger car.
top on the car folded back on pretty days. There was no glass in the Hudson, but rather isinglass. Mother remembers that there were sheets of it in the rear, three of them to be exact, and that Ray Van, the youngest child, stood between the two women to look out these. The two older children sat on jump seats that pulled down from the back of the seat in front. The two men sat in the front seat and used the "Blue Book" to guide them through the unknown and remote country of Oklahoma and surrounding states. One remembered joke of the trip was their search for a place called "Caution" that they found on the map. Needless to say, there was nobody in the vicinity who knew where the town named "Caution" could be found. It is believed the "Blue book" was published by the federal government, but this is not a certainty. At any rte, it took them to the place where various people had heard of Aaron Lambert and finally to one who thought he knew where he might be. There was an Indian couple living in a dugout in Aaron Lambert's yard near the two-story white house he had only rented. There was room enough in this house for the seven members of his newly found family to be comfortably housed, together with Aaron and a fellow fugitive named Slim. Of course, the law was not looking for Aaron. He still thought the Belts might be, though.
Guy approached the man thought to be his father; he looked just like him. First he asked the man if his name was Aaron Lambert. The man must have felt the presence of the women and children in the car made it unlikely that this young man asking his identity was a potential assassin. It is probable that he saw himself more mirrored in his son's face than his son saw himself in the father's face. After all, we know what we looked like when younger; it is something else to imagine what we shall look like when older. At any rate, the man said, "Yes, I am Aaron Lambert." Guy looked at him still almost with disbelief and said, "Well, I just wanted to see what the Son of a Bitch looked like who would run off and leave his children to starve." Aaron by then had tears streaming down his face. Ray was standing there, too. The father Aaron said, "I had to do it. I wouldn't have done you boys any good dead, and that's what I would have been if I'd stayed in Hardin County." The boys tried to convince Aaron that there was nobody left back in Hardin County who would want to kill him. Aaron insisted that it had been Bill Quillin who had actually shot Logan Belt. He was still afraid, however, and he did not return to Hardin County until sometime in the early 1930's, shortly before he died. He was buried in the area by his son, Guy, next to the wife of his youth, Emma Kelly Lambert, Guy's mother he could not remember. I remember seeing him on his death bed. He was then being cared for by one Fred Lambert, half brother of my grandfather, Guy. Fred was a son by a marriage in Texas. Aaron had five children by a second wife, of which Fred was one. The second wife died, and he married a third. There were two children by this last marriage, and that wife cared for the other five until they were grown. Guy met all his half brothers and sisters in time and they all visited him in Shawneetown at one time or another. Aaron Lambert died at Grand Tower, Illinois, in Jackson County. He was brought back to Hardin County to Cave-in-Rock for his funeral and buried with his wife, Emma, his mother, Susan, and his own father who was killed in the Civil War. My own grandfather, Guy, maintained that Bill Quillin killed Logan Belt, but that his dad always thought everybody thought he did it. I only know for certain that my great-grandad Aaron Lambert took off from Hardin County at the time and that he most certainly feared to return, so thoroughly reknown were the Belts for their ability to revenge any real or fancied injury. My mother all my life had maintained that her grandfather Aaron had been innocent. I believe she did not want me to think I had an ancestor who murdered someone. Everybody in the family insisted for years that it had been Bill Quillin."
Picture of Aaron Lambert
caption: This is Aaron Lambert when he was older. The picture above was probably taken about the time he was winding up his stay in Dallas, Texas before moving to Oklahoma.