O. D. Austin was born in Ohio and served in the Union Army. He was at Ford’s Theater the night President Lincoln was shot.
In October 1867 Austin came to Butler and established the Bates County Record newspaper. In 1876, America celebrated her Centennial with a grand exhibition in Philadelphia. Missouri Governor Hardin appointed O. D. Austin to represent the state at the exhibition. Although we don’t know if they traveled together or separately, this is also the same exhibition that Dr. Elliott Pyle attended and viewed the premiere of William Steinway’s newest piano, which is the same model piano as the Museum’s Steinway. These two Butler businessmen, Austin and Pyle, would have both participated in the festivities commemorating America’s founding.
A peculiar point of interest is that while O. D. Austin was at Ford’s Theater the night Lincoln was shot, his cousin, Everton Conger, also a Federal officer led the troops that tracked down the President’s assassin. Conger set fire to the barn that John Wilkes Booth and his accomplice were hiding in. Booth was mortally wounded by another soldier. Conger was given a $15,000 reward for leading the operation. Everton Conger visited his cousin in Butler on at least one occasion.
O. D. Austin devoted his life to the reconstruction and reconciliation of Bates County following the War. In 1871 O. D. and Florence May Stobie were united in marriage. Two children were born to this union; Edwin Austin and Nell Austin Henry. At the time of O. D.’s death in 1915, newspapers across the state carried the news stating he was ‘the oldest newspaper man in the state.’ He had been a member of the Masonic Lodge for forty-seven years and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.
Photo attached: O.D. Austin circa 1870s
The Museum Minute is Courtesy of Mid America Live