As recent headlines describe an increase in the state’s gas tax, 166 years ago, residents of Bentonville, Ohio were worried about their horses being stolen.
As Americans worried about their horses being taken, the people of Bentonville decided to take action against the thieves. The residents organized the Bentonville Anti-Horse Thief Society in 1853.
The first of its kind, the Bentonville Anti-Horse Thief Society started a movement that spread throughout America. Major David McKee, a property owner in Clark County, Missouri, got together with his like-minded friends shortly after Bentonville established their organization and set up a similar organization, the Anti-Horse Theft Association, originally known as the “Black Lantern Society”.
In the 19th century, the main source of transportation and income for farmers, ranchers and tradespeople were with the assistants horses. With the nation’s average yearly income in 1860 estimated at less than $500, the average cost of a horse was generally between $150 and $200.
The organization is believed to be the oldest, continuing operating group dedicated to preventing the stealing of horses. Initially, its members would ride after suspected horse thieves. The group, if they captured the thieves, would hang the criminals without a trial. The Bentonville Anti-Horse Thief Society provided the men who caught the thieves a ten-dollar reward, which they split among themselves.
The Bentonville Anti-Horse Thief Society will hold their annual dinner on April 27th at 7 P.M. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 937-549-3360.
Membership is open to anyone and only requires a $1 donation sent to Bentonville Anti-Horse Thief Association, c/o Verna Naylor. 7785 State Route 41, Bentonville, OH 45101