A story of murder ...
... and justice finally done
~compiled by Reid R. Johnson
MURDER OF A FORMER CITIZEN OF POSTVILLE!
Cold Blooded Butchery of Nathan Clough at Seward, Nebraska.
Murder For Money.
HIS BROTHER,WARREN CLOUGH ARRESTED FOR THE CRIME !
~Nebraska Reporter, May 4, 1876
Our usually quiet city was thrown into feverish excitement last Tuesday morning by the announcement that Nathan Clough well known as brother to Warren Clough, the landlord and proprietor of the Blue Valley House, had been quietly murdered during the night and robbed of his money. There was not the least noise or intimation of the horrible deed until Warren Clough proceeded to the stable, where his brother was accustomed to sleep, to call him for breakfast as it was getting unusually late for Nathan not to be around.
When Warren entered the stable he called, but as no answer came, he walked upstairs near the bed and called again repeatedly; still no answer coming Warren walked up and shook the body of Nathan to try and awaken him; this not having the desired effect. Warren noticed that the bed clothes had been thrown over the sleeper's head and so pulled them off; he noticed some blood on the bed clothes, but that did not startle him as his brother had in the past been subject to nose bleeding and thought nothing strange, though as soon as he discovered that his efforts proved fruitless to awaken the sleeper, his eyes chanced to rest on the mutilated head and some of the bed clothes heavily clotted with blood, he realized for the first time the sad fact that his brother had been foully dealt with.
This is substantially the statement as we received it from Warren himself. Calling aid, the news spread like an electric shock through the community, and excited crowds rushed to the place where the dark deed had been perpetrated.
We repaired to the bedside of the unfortunate victim of inhuman avarice, and beheld a most heart-rending sight. There were all the evidences that he had retired as usual the previous night, undressed, and even the truss that he wore was carefully laid on a chair and his hat covering the same, his clothes in their usual places; all indicated that he had retired in perfect health and safety gone to sleep; when the murderer stole up to his bedside and dealt him a heavy blow with the pole of an axe, crushing in his skull over the left temple while he must have been laying on his right side, and unconsciously sending his soul into eternity.
Then the murderer must have struck another blow with the pole axe over the right eye, reaching another large fracture of the skull, followed by a heavy cut with the sharp edge of the axe into the left cheek, laying open part of the chin, penetrating clear through the cheek and lower jaw-bone, which was the most ghastly wound, though not as fatal as the others.
When found he was laying on his left side, with his wounds downwards; the blood had saturated the blankets, robes, quilts, and pillows, and run down into the corner of a small box standing under the bed. There was a bloody track immediately under the front and head of the bed, and a piece of carpet on which it seems the murderer had wiped his hands. No weapon could be found that had been used for striking the fatal blows, but from the wounds it was unmistakable that an axe must have been the weapon with which the murderer was armed.
Only a few days ago his brother had given him a check for a thousand dollars for speculating, buying up notes and commercial paper, dealing in horses, &c., and he must have had in his possession at the time the deed was done $625.00. Another man used to sleep with him in the barn, but as he had departed during the day and would not return that night, it is evident that the perpetrator was a man well acquainted with all the circumstances and knew the money was in his victim's possession.
On Monday night Nathan was in the barn talking to some men who were acquainted with the landlord, and shortly thereafter retired. In the morning the front door, which is usually closed during the night, was found open, where the person or persons must have escaped, and then finding Nathan Clough murdered.
Dr. L. Walker, the coroner, not being at home, Sheriff Nethart impanelled a jury, consisting of Wm. Leese, ?.B. Sor-er, S. H. Marshall, Luke Ag--r, E. C. Carns, and S. S. (Reynolds ?), who proceeded to hold an inquest over the body of the deceased, and Dr.'s J.?. Woodward and H. C. Hastings, examined and pronounced them as having been made with an axe. The large gash was found to measure 4 inches in length, and one fracture on the left side of the head 3 inches in length. On removing the skin from the forehead it was found that the skull had been frightfully crushed, but no other marks of violence or any evidence of a struggle were seen.
The coroner's jury have been in session day and evening ever since they were impanelled, and still continue in session with closed doors at this writing. Nothing is known as regards the evidence obtained so far. As soon as prudent we will give their entire results and findings.
Search was made in the yard for the weapon. An axe was discovered near the wood-pile, though no clear indications of blood appeared thereon that would lead anyone to believe it to be the fatal weapon from casual observation; but upon closer examination, blood, and hair of the victims eyebrows were discovered on the handle and at different places on the iron. Upon examination with a magnifying glass it was revealed that it was the weapon used, as the color of the hair corresponded with the hair of the eyebrows of the murdered man. It seems that after the murderer had accomplished his bloody deed he went and washed the axe in some water near the well and chopped it into the ground near the wood-pile. This shows that the perpetrator was a man familiar with the premises, and of a cool, calculating determination and iron nerve. So far he has successfully screened himself and evaded detection. But as the old saying is " Murder will out" we have hope for his apprehension sometime, and that punishment may be meted out to him according to his desserts.
Nathan Clough was born at Canefield, Franklin county, Maine, and was 49 years of age at the time of his death. The funeral services were held at the Blue Valley house yesterday at ten o'clock, and the ceremonies conducted by Rev. T. L. McLean of the M.E. church, assisted by Rev. Mr. Newell, of the Baptist church. There was a large attendance, all the available rooms of the hotel were crowded with citizens and a large number remained outside, who could not gain admittance. The body was encased in a finely finished, silver-mounted coffin, and carried to its last resting place in the Seward Cemetery immediately after the funeral services were ended.
This is the first real murder that has ever occurred in Seward, and it caused unusual excitement and sorrow.
LATER- The Chicago papers give the information that Warren Clough, the brother of the murdered man, has been arrested and lodged in jail, charged with the crime, and that a strong guard has to be kept over the jail to prevent mob violence.
Omaha, Neb., Feb. 3 - A special in the Bee from Lincoln says the trial of Warren Clough, of Seward county, for the murder of his brother, which has been progressing at York for ten days, terminated yesterday. The jury brought in a verdict of murder in the first degree.
~Burlington Daily Hawk Eye, February 4, 1877
To Be Hung!
We see it stated that Warren Clough is sentenced to be hung on the 8th day of June.
~Postville Review, March 2, 1878
Omaha, June 4 - The sentence of Warren Clough, who was to have been hung on Friday next, at York, Nebraska, was commuted today by Gov. Garber to imprisonment at hard labor, for life.
~Burlington Hawk-Eye, June 5, 1878
Warren Clough, who will be remembered by many of the 27th Iowa boys as their wagon master, was sentenced to the Nebraska penitentiary fifteen years ago, for the alleged crime of murdering his brother. Lately, through the death-bed confession of the real murderer, it turns out that an innocent man was convicted, and Gov. Thayer has released him. There should be some way by which Mr. Clough could recover the heaviest kind of damage for such an awful injustice; but we doubt if he has any redress whatever.- Rockford Register
~Oelwein Register, February 5, 1891
~compiler's note: There were many items in various newspapers referring to Warren's release, the earliest of which was in January 1891.
Nearly twenty years ago Warren Clough left Independence for Nebraska. While keeping a hotel at Seward, Neb., his brother was found dead in his barn and Clough was charged with the murder. Although maintaining his innocence, Clough was convicted and sentenced to be hanged, but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Recently the real murderer died and on his death-bed made a confession, leaving no doubt as to Clough's innocence. After fourteen years imprisonment he has been pardoned. His wife had procured a divorce and married again.
~Monticello Express, April 2, 1891
Warren Clough, of Seward, Neb., is the guest of his nephew Ed, of this city. The old veteran receives a hearty welcome from his old Postville friends.
~Postville Graphic, March 24, 1892
Warren Clough, 27th Iowa veteran, whose life is an eventful one was in town yesterday. It will be remembered that Mr. Clough was pardoned from the penitentiary of Nebraska several years ago where he had been committed for life fourteen years before, a death sentence having also been passed upon him, for the alleged murder of his brother. The evidence was all of a circumstantial nature and many believed him innocent. Finally a convict on his death bed in a California prison confessed to having committed the murder, and the facts being brought to the attention of the Nebraska officials, Mr. Clough was given his freedom. It was deemed obligatory upon the state to make a suitable remuneration to Mr. Clough for depriving him of his freedom for fourteen years and a strong petition to that effect will be presented to the Nebraska legislature at its session in a few weeks. The sum of $20,000 is asked for, and there is hardly a doubt but that the petition will be granted. Mr. Clough resides at present with his nephew at Postville.- Waukon Democrat.
Anyone who hears Mr. Clough's recital of the terrible experiences through which he has passed, can not fail to be impressed with his story, and wish him a full measure of success in securing from the state of Nebraska some return for the great wrong he has suffered through the error of its courts.
~Postville Graphic, January 25, 1894
Warren Clough, of Minnesota, has been renewing old acquaintance here the past week, being called here by the death of his sister's husband, Joel Cole.
~Postville Review, March 29, 1907
~note: the sister is likely Savilla (Clough) Cole 1831 - 1915
Warren Clough died June 5, 1921 at Claremore,
He was the son of Zacheus & Abigail (Jones) Clough
Compiler's note: I got caught up in this murder after reading an article in a 1876 Postville newspaper and wanted to know the "rest of the story". In spurts, the family tragedy covers some thirty-one years and involves murder and justice finally done.... Reid R. Johnson, May 2013
More information about Warren Clough can be found on these websites:
-27th Iowa Volunteers website. Scroll down to his entry in the Co. E notes.
-Nebraska Historical Society website
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