ES Independent Column – Amos Ratliff

There have been several different unrelated Ratliff families live in the Eureka Springs area since the founding of the town in 1879. One such family consisted of John and Christena Ratliff and their two sons, Amos and Charlie. They arrived in Carroll County in the late 1890s from Lawrence County, Ohio. The marriage dissolved soon after and John Ratliff returned to Ohio, leaving Christena to raise the two boys.

At the age of 20, son Amos married Beulah Jones of Eureka Springs, but the union was not a happy one. They separated about the time that Amos was jailed for robbery, reputedly to raise money for gifts for his wife.

When he was released from jail on September 20, 1920, he found Beulah in a buggy with prominent local farmer John Berry. Amos shot them both in the back. Mr. Berry, age 25, died, but Beulah survived. John Berry was buried in Beulah Union Cemetery south of Eureka Springs in an unmarked grave. Records show that a veteran’s tombstone was later acquired for Mr. Berry, a WWI veteran, by Congressman Claude Fuller.

While awaiting trial for murder, Amos Ratliff was released on bail and had the idea he could regain his now ex-wife’s affections if he had money to yet again buy her gifts.

Winifred Frazier lived south of Eureka Springs on 40 acres she’d purchased after moving to Arkansas from Kansas. It is believed that Amos Ratliff thought that Miss Frazier was going to withdraw a large amount of money from the bank on the day he robbed and murdered her. She had been to the bank that day, but had only withdrawn enough money to cover her small farm’s expenses. I’m told by a local old-timer who remembers hearing about the murder that so much blood had soaked into the wooden floor of Winifred Frazier’s house it had to be chipped away with an axe.

Amos Ratliff eluded the law for a time, but the fugitive was finally captured and stood trial for the murder of Frazier. He was sentenced to death and electrocuted October 14, 1921 in Little Rock.

 

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