George Graham Vest (December 6, 1830 – August 9, 1904) was a U.S. politician, born in Frankfort, Kentucky, he was known for his skills in oration and debate. George Vest was a lawyer in Sedalia, Missouri, a Congressman and then a US Senator. He is best known for his "a man's best friend" closing arguments from the trial in which damages were sought for the killing of a dog named Old Drum on October 18, 1869. Vest was asked to represent Charles Burden the owner of Old Drum in the case that would make him famous, Burden v. Hornsby.

In the trial Vest was the lawyer for Burden whose hunting dog, a foxhound named Drum (or Old Drum), had been killed by a sheep farmer, Leonidas Hornsby. The farmer (Burden's brother-in-law) had previously announced his intentions to kill any dog found on his property. During the trial Vest stated that he would "win the case or apologize to every dog in Missouri." Vest's "Eulogy on the Dog" is one of the most enduring passages of purple prose in American courtroom history (this partial transcript has survived):

  • "Gentlemen of the jury: The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man's reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads.
    The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.
    If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death."

Vest's closing argument to the jury made no reference to any of the testimony offered during the trial, and instead offered a dog eulogy. The dog's owner was suing for damages in the amount of $50 which was the maximum allowed by law. Vest won the case and the jury awarded $50 to the dog's owner, and Vest also won its appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court. A statue of the dog stands in front of the Warrensburg, Missouri courthouse and a bust of the dog resides in the Missouri Supreme Court building in Jefferson City, Missouri.

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The True Story of "Old Drum" the Dog

By Walter L. Chaney

During the autumn of 1869, five miles southwest of Kingsville, lived Leonidas Hornsby, and a mile south of him lived his neighbor, Charles Burden. At this time there was still wild game. Men kept hounds for the chase. Charles Burden kept a pack. Wolves had multiplied, there were still some deer in western Missouri, the raccoon was plentiful, and foxes and other wild animals were still to be found. The hunters learned by the baying of the dogs and the direction and manner of the chase what sort of game was being followed. Some of the dogs were better than others at telling the story to their hunter owners; some dogs "never lied;" some dogs sometimes failed and other dogs could never be depended upon.

There was one dog in Charles Burden's pack that "never lied." He was supposed to be about five years old; in color he was black and tan, with black body, tan legs and muzzle. This mighty hunter was named "Old Drum." His owner believed he had some bloodhound in him. He would trail a man and was good for wolves, "varmints," and the like. Charles Burden regarded him as the best deer dog he had ever owned. He said that money would not buy "Drum."

Burden was a hunter and had crossed the plains many times. He was a strong character, six feet tall, with blue eyes and light hair, with a magnificent physique, and an iron constitution. He was ready to fight for his own, either dog or man. Burden lived in a two-room log house with a shed on the north side, down in the second bottom of Big creek.

Lon Hornsby had gathered sheep and cattle, hogs and horses, and was doing his best to farm. Hornsby was a small, wiry man with flaming red hair, and, as they say, "he was set in his way." During the summer and fall of '69 Hornsby had lost more than one hundred sheep, killed by prowling dogs. In an unadvised moment, he made a vow that he would kill the first dog that he found on his place. Hornsby did not believe that all dogs were bad, for he had sometimes hunted with his neighbors' dogs, and had repeatedly hunted with "Old Drum." But he had made the vow, and in his way of seeing things he would keep it.

On the morning of October 28, 1869, Charles Burden took his way north and east, passed Leonidas Hornsby's house to Kingsville, attended to his business there and came home. Shortly after his return, "Old Drum" started on a trail, off up the creek, in a northeast direction. Burden and his brother-in-law and Frank Hornsby sat around the house smoking until about eight o'clock, when they heard the report of a gun, from the direction of Lon Hornsby's. No more shots were heard. But Burden was fearful that they had killed one of his dogs. He went out to listen but could hear nothing. He blew his hunting horn for the dogs, and all came up but "Old Drum." Again and again called the old horn, but "Old Drum" did not answer, nor did he come. No more would "Old Drum" answer Burden's hunting horn.

On this autumn day Lon Hornsby and Dick Ferguson had been hunting. After they returned home about eight o'clock someone said that a dog was in the yard. Lon Hornsby told Dick to get the gun and shoot the dog. He went and got the gun. Dick stepped out doors; there was no moon; a dark dog was in the shadow of a tree some thirty steps away. There was a report of the gun fire, and then the yelping and howling of a dog mortally wounded. He ran southwest and jumped over the styleblock. The crying of the wounded dog grew weaker and fainter until it died away, and then the silence of a dark night brooded over the land.

Next morning Charles Burden began the search for his dog. When he came to the home of Lon Hornsby, Hornsby said that Dick had shot a dog; that he thought it was Davenport's dog. Dick showed Burden where the dog was when he shot him. Burden looked for traces of blood and found none. They then came back and Burden said to Hornsby, "I'll go and see; it may be my dog. If it ain't it's all right; if it is, it's all wrong, and I'll have satisfaction at the cost of my life."

On this morning of October 29, "Old Drum" was found just a few feet above the ford on Big creek, below Haymaker's Mill, dead, lying with his head in the water, his feet toward the dam, lying on his left side, filled with shot of different sizes, but no shot had passed through his body. Apparently "Old Drum" had been carried or dragged to this place; for there was mud on his underside; his hair was "ruffled up," and there were sorrel hairs, thought to be horse hairs, under him. Lon Hornsby owned a sorrel mule. The whole neighborhood seemed to have been alive around Haymaker's Mill that night of October 28. There were campers at the ford, two large families moving; then two families lived within about a thousand yards of the ford; these people had heard nothing.

Burden decided that the law should vindicate him and avenge "Old Drum." Shortly he went to Kingsville and employed an attorney to bring suit. Suit was filed before Justice of the Peace Monroe, of Madison township, and the case was set for trial November 25. Thomas S. Jones was attorney for Burden and Nation & Allen for Hornsby, and with a cloud of witnesses in attendance, the case went to trial. The jury failed to agree, were discharged by the justice, and the case was set for trial on the justice's next "law day," December 23. Many threats were made and much bitterness was shown by the partisans at this first trial, but all went off without anyone being wounded or crippled.

In January the case went to trial, and after a heated session, was given to the jury, who found in favor of Burden in the sum of twentyfive dollars. Hornsby appealed to the Johnson County Court of Common Pleas, where it was set down for trial in March, 1870. The whole neighborhood, at least the men, moved upon Warrensburg en-masse. New lawyers had been retained by both the appellant and appellee, Crittenden & Cockrell for Hornsby, and Elliott & Blodgett for Burden. At this trial Hornsby received a verdict in his favor.

Burden still sought satisfaction and after his first trial he retained more legal talent, securing Phillips & Vest from Sedalia. A motion for a new trial was filed, alleging error and setting up that the plaintiff. Burden, had discovered new evidence. The motion was sustained and a new trial granted. So in October in the old court house in Old Town this case went to trial for the fourth time, with the counsel table crowded with attorneys on both sides, and the Burden and Hornsby clans out in full force. Burden and his friends proved the facts already stated. Hornsby by himself and his witnesses showed the shooting of a dog, but denied it was "Old Drum" that was shot. He and Dick Ferguson claimed they had gone down to "Old Drum's" body and taken out lead bullets, and that the dog shot at Hornsby's was with a gun loaded with grains of corn. There was evidence that "Old Drum" was shot close to the mill where he was found and other evidence that no shot had been fired near the mill.

After all the evidence was in, the argument was made by the attorneys. What all these lawyers said is not remembered. But one speech made to the jury is preserved to all posterity, because of its universality of application to all dogs and their masters. It will forever be a monument to "Old Drum." George G. Vest made the closing argument for his client and old Drum. Here is old Drum's monument and Senator Vest's plea (see text above).

In a few moments the jury returned a verdict for Burden. The end was not yet. Hornsby's attorneys appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Missouri. This court, however, affirmed the judgment of the lower court, affirmed that Dick Ferguson, by the direction and command of Lon Hornsby, killed old Drum, and gave Charles Burden satisfaction. The case brought a lightening of the purses of the litigants; a feast of fees for the attorneys; an enduring tribute to the fidelity and faith of the dog, and more particularly, undying fame for the memory of old Drum, "the dog that never lied." Out of this list of nine attorneys in this case, more than half achieved some measure of fame.

"Dave" Nation, one of the first attorneys, did not attain any degree of fame, outside of his own village, yet fame was his in a vicarious sort, for he was the husband of Carrie Nation, the woman with the hatchet. Allen was familiarly known as Captain Allen and was a maker of business, a breeder of lawsuits. The firm of Nation & Allen kept things moving, where they went along in the town of Holden. Jones lived in Kingsville, practiced law there and bore the name of "Buffalo Jones," from his drinking of what was known as "buffalo bitters."

Of the six attorneys whose names appear in the report of the case in the Supreme Court, all attained distinction. Elliott became judge of the court of common pleas in Johnson county. T. T. Crittenden became Governor of Missouri. Francis M. Cockrell was thirty years a United States Senator from Missouri, and afterwards a member of the Interstate Commerce Commission. John F. Phillips was made a commissioner of the Supreme Court of Missouri, and then judge of the United States District Court for the western district of Missouri. George G. Vest was United States Senator from Missouri for many years and died while a member of that body. Wells Blodgett was a state senator in Missouri, afterward became vice-president and general solicitor for the Wabash railroad.

Leonidas Hornsby and Charles M. Burden were brother-in-laws and their farms joined.  At the time of this event Leonidas Hornsby was 31 years of age and Charles Burden was 44.  According to records they patched up their disagreement during their later years.  Leonidas died in 1897 at the age of 59 and Charles died at his farm in 1911 at the age of 86.  They are both buried very close together in the Hornsby Cemetery which is located less than a half mile south from the Hornsby home where Old Drum was shot.

Charles M. Burden was born in Kentucky and came to Missouri before the War Between The States. He was a farmer and known for owning choice land along Big Creek.  

The person who actually fired the shot that killed Old Drum was Samuel "Dick" Ferguson, Hornsby's young nephew.



Leonidas Hornsby gravestone Born: 6/8/1838 and Died: 10/1897



Charles Burden gravestone Born: 2/28/1825 and Died: 2/21/1911


On December 12, 1947 a monument was placed upon the bank of Big Creek, by Fred Ford of Blue Springs,  Missouri. This monument is near where Old Drum was found and it says: "Killed Old Drum 1869"



Big Creek, close to where Old Drum was found.



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