Man's Best Friend:
The Old Drum Story

Lesson Overview

This lesson, developed by the Missouri State Archives for ninth through twelfth grade students, will instill student appreciation for original documents by introducing them to primary sources that teach about the judicial system and describe one of the most unusual cases to go through Missouri courts.  This lesson may also be adapted for eighth grade students.

Students are provided images of George Graham Vest, the Old Johnson County Courthouse, the Monument to Old Drum on Big Creek, The Old Drum Memorial, and Eulogy of the Dog.  Students will also view a set of documents relating to court procedures during each of the trials.  An accompanying synopsis of the Burden v. Hornsby case and narratives about figures involved in the trial will help students in their analysis of the relevant documents.

Instructional Procedures:

  • The Story of Burden v. Hornsby
    • The Death of Old Drum
    • The Burden v. Hornsby Trial
  • Glossary of Terms
  • The Old Johnson County Courthouse
  • Missouri’s Big Four
  • Eulogy of the Dog
  • Old Drum Remembered
    • Monument to Old Drum on Big Creek
    • The Old Drum Memorial
  • Original Documents (may be viewed on-line or via PDF files)
  • Original Document Worksheet 
  • Guided Discussion Questions
  • Suggested Readings and Websites
  • Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Social Studies Frameworks and Social Studies Strands

Learning Goals:

  • To engage students in an age-appropriate discussion of the judicial system by examining a nineteenth century court case as it progresses through the courts of Missouri.
  • To help students understand why some records are deemed to be of “permanent, historical value” to the state.

Learning Objectives:

After this unit, students will be able to:

  • Define basic legal terms related to a court case.
  • Trace the progression of the Burden v. Hornsby case through the judicial system.
  • List important figures involved with the trials and their contributions to Missouri and U. S. History
  • Develop a timeline of significant events in the court case.

Lesson Plan:

The Story of Burden v. Hornsby:

  1. Read the background of the case, The Death of Old Drum, aloud to the class.  Discuss the concept of circumstantial evidence and how this led Burden to believe Hornsby should be held responsible for Old Drum’s death.  Refer to the “Guided Discussion Questions.”
  2. Divide students into small groups and distribute copies of the Glossary of Terms. Either have the students read these quietly to themselves, or take turns reading aloud in groups. (You might also send this home the night before as homework).
  3.  Optional Vocabulary Activity: Ask students to mark glossary terms as they find the words in the text. (The first time a vocabulary word appears it will be italicized.  Terms may appear multiple times.)  Within their groups, students may divide up the vocabulary and write each word in a sentence.  Once they have finished, go around the room and ask each group to share sentences.  Lead a discussion of the relevancy of these words to the topic.
  4. Distribute copies of the Burden v. Hornsby Trial and the accompanying original documents (Summons, Leonidas Hornsby PDF file, Amended Statement PDF file, Transcript of Proceedings PDF file, Subpoena for the Court of Common Pleas PDF file, and the Burden v. Hornsby Opinion PDF file) or have groups view them on a computer.  The documents may be easier to see and navigate on the computer if one is available for students.
  5. Ask groups, as they read the case narrative and look through the original documents, to list significant events by date and type of court. (Justice of the Peace, Court of Common Pleas, etc.) 
  6. Have groups coordinate information and place events on a classroom timeline.
  7. Assist students in putting things into historical perspective by using the inflation calculator at the website,www.westegg.com/inflation and the Transcript of Proceedings PDF file to calculate the dollar amount of the first judgment for Burden and court costs in today’s economy.  Bring students together to share calculations and discuss cost analysis.
  8. Let students take turns reading out loud the Missouri’s Big Four narrative and  the history of The Old Johnson County Courthouse.  Lead students in a discussion of the famous faces in the courtroom and the historical significance of the Old Johnson County Courthouse.  Utilize the “Guided Discussion Questions” to assist with the discussion.
  9. Optional Historic Preservation Activity:
     Have the students identify an older public building in their own community and research its original purpose and its uses over time. Ask them to answer the following questions:
    1. What purpose did this building serve? Is that function still important to the community? Did any important events take place here? If so, why were they important?
    2. Is the building in use or vacant?
    3. If in use, is the building still used for its original purpose or has it been adapted for another?
    4. If the building is vacant, has another building assumed its original purpose?
    5. Should the building be restored? What kinds of adaptive use would be feasible? If possible, have a local preservation expert visit the class to discuss these questions with the students and to explain how decisions are made as to whether or not to preserve such buildings.
  10. Read Eulogy of the Dog PDF file aloud to students.  Have students underline examples of the emotional appeal Vest used in his speech.  Why did he not mention any of the specifics of the trial? Did the emotionalism of the speech influence the outcome of the trial?  What makes a speech memorable?  (Have students brainstorm other well-known speeches)
  11. Have students read the Old Drum Remembered information and view both memorials either online or from a printed copy.  Why does The Old Drum Memorial seem to have a timeless, universal appeal?
  12. Divide students into two teams and re-examine the facts of the case and debate the final outcome of the Burden v. Hornsby case. Was the final verdict fair? Why or why not?
  13. In groups, ask students to complete their “Learning from Primary Sources: Original Document Worksheets,” one for each original document. Teachers may opt to have groups study only one document.  Members from each group should present the original document and the summary explanation.  As this is a standard worksheet that can be adapted for usage with all original documents, some questions may be more relevant to the sources than others.
  14. Bring all groups together in a discussion of what the documents can tell us about the judicial system in Missouri and what can be learned from these historical documents. Why are the documents important? Use the questions from the document worksheets to discuss the specific subject matter of each document.
  15. As a final activity, have students write a response to the statement, “Man’s best friend is his dog.”