On September 15, 1959, Quaker, Missouri, was a sleepy farm town. Locks didn’t need keys, neighbors weren’t strangers, and keys were left in car ignitions. Summer was still clinging to the community located about an hour-and-a-half south of St. Louis.
Besides the farm, the Barr family ran a grocery store in the lower level of their family home. They lived above it. Ella Jo Barr was 16 years-old.
Two teenage boys were seen walking along the dusty road that ran in front of the house. They carried a rifle. Not surprising at this time and in the place, and wouldn’t be terribly surprising today. They may have been hunting or target practicing.
The boys were hot, thirsty, and stripped to the waist. They wanted a car. As they approached the Barr homestead, they made a plan. First they went into the store, distracted Lynn Barr by ordering a sandwich. Then one of them shot Lynn in the back.
Upstairs, Lynn’s wife, Valle, thought she heard something, but noises were common on farms in the daylight. That and sound traveled without the benefit of trees to swallow it.
After the boys finished in the store, they made their way upstairs. Valle, hearing them climb the stairs, went to the door, where she was shot in the shoulder. They went inside the house. Now out of ammunition, when they encountered Ella Jo and her friend, Bobbie Lou Sharp, they beat them with the gun stock.
This horrific true tale about that brutal afternoon is a true story. Google “Barr Murders in Washington County MO 1959” for more info on the assailants and what happened that day.
This is not the best written book; it has a lot of holes. I suspect that’s because it’s all Ella Jo could remember. She wrote this book sixteen years after the events. Still it’s harrowing, unputdownable, and will leave readers with nightmares---and a little paranoid about leaving anything unlocked.