Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Thief Detective and Mutual Aid Association of Princeville

Recently, the museum was given the opportunity to view and scan some old photos, booklets, newsletters and papers that have been in storage at the Lillie M. Evans . We will be sharing many of these items with you via the blog. The originals are available by request at the library. One of the first items I want to share with you is from a booklet published by the Princeville Telephone in 1902.

The Thief Detective and Mutual Aid Association (T.D. & M.A.A.) of Princeville was organized during the Civil War in August of 1863. Horses and mules were in great demand during the war which resulted in organized horse theft across the country, reaching the Princeville area in 1863. The purpose of the T.D. & M.A.A. was to recover stolen property and capture the thief. During the years the T.D. & M.A.A. was in existence, they recovered quite a bit of stolen property for its members including horses and clover seed.

The T.D. & M.A.A. was founded by William P. Smith, Solomon Bliss, Charles Beach, Vaughn Williams, and S.S. Slane. William P. Smith was the first captain and was succeeded by Solomon Bliss, H.F. Irwin, John Corbett, J.D. Hammer, and S.S. Slane. Other members named in the booklet include J.T. Slane, T. Moody, Frank Beall, Emmanuel Keller, John Miller, A.B. DeBord, Charles Taylor, M.V. Conklin, Dr. T.E. Alyea, Joseph Friedman and W.H. Wisenberg. Photos of many of these men are in this booklet. The photos are at the bottom of this post. They are a group of serious looking men!

The booklet includes a few stories about how they recovered horses and captured the thieves, including a trip to Cuba, Illinois, to pick up horses that were stolen from Edward Auten. There is another story about the capture of the thief of clover seed and the return of the stolen goods.

Come on out to the museum to see a copy of this booklet and view the other pieces of Princeville history that we have on display. Researching your family history? The museum has numerous resources available to help you research families from Princeville and the surrounding area.


  1. An ancestor of mine, Lawson F. Lair of Princeville, was said in his obituary to have been a charter member of the "Horse Thief Detective Association." Would this be the same organization?

    Love the blog!

  2. That is probably the same group. The official name is Thief Detective and Mutual Aid Association. It's prime purpose was to catch horse thieves. The group was secretive so not all members are known. Thu purpose of the secrecy was to keep the horse thieves from knowing the members which helped to expedite clue gathering. The booklet from which the information came only had names of some the officers and captains. Members had badges and some of the badges are still with the descendents of the members.

  3. I am researching Peter Heinz (1849-1915) for my husband's family tree. This organization is listed in his obituary. I was wondering it you might have a photograph of him.
    Tina Howard

    1. We’d be glad to look into our archives and find out! Please send your research request to PHMDIRECTOR@Frontier.com