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Murder of John L. Boland, 1906


Posted By: IAGenWeb volunteer
Date: 5/17/2010 at 21:48:19


Boland and West Had Been Drinking Heavily All Day

Special to Telegraph-Herald
Elkader, Iowa, Nov. 6 Instead of finding his father, John Boland, a wealthy farmer, who resides near Elkader, hale and hearty, his son, after an absence of several days, found a bloody hammer and with neighbors traced the trail of a horse and found the body lying in a ditch, partly covered with clay. Ned West, a farm hand, was arrested for the murder and when confronted with the evidence, broke down and confessed.

Was Revolting Murder
Boland was a widower, his wife having passed away several years ago. He lived alone on his farm, five miles north of Elkader. He was popular in Clayton county, having many friends, who, when they learned of the murder, were thoroughly aroused.

Boland had three sons. One of them went to his home Monday afternoon to see him. Upon arriving at the old homestead he was surprised not to find his father there to greet him. He made an investigation and found the bloody hammer. His suspicions were aroused and he made known his belief to many neighbors. A search was slatted.

Marks of a horse's hoofs were seen near the house and they were traced through a corn field in a westerly direction. About a quarter of a mile from the house the party came across the body of Mr. Boland, lying in a ditch, his head crushed and the corpse partly covered with clay, which had evidently been pushed down from the bank.

Carried on a Horse
It was apparent after glancing over the circumstantial evidence that the body of the murdered man had been carried away on horseback. For this reason the trail of the horse was followed and the ghastly find was made. It was evident the murder was committed at the house, but the murderer wished to avoid all trace, if possible and hide his crime. The bloody hammer, however, was the clue which led to his arrest.

Whiskey the Cause
Judging from the facts so far disclosed in the case, Boland and West had been drinking heavily during the day and were both drunk. It is believed the two got into an argument and West, losing his temper, and enraged by the whiskey, struck his friend on the head with the hammer and committed murder.

West Confesses
When the news of the murder spread, officers were informed West was the last person who was seen at the house. With this information they placed West under arrest and when subjected to a severe examination he confessed the crime.

Officers questioned Mrs. West as in whether she had washed the clothes of her husband or not. She replied in the negative. Officers made a search of the house and found the husband's washed linen. When this was found Mrs. West admitted the truth of her husband's confession. She said he returned home Monday night and said he had killed a tramp. Under a threat of death he
ordered her to keep her mouth shut.

Sympathy with West
West was well liked about Clayton county. As the Elkader resident said, "He was a man who was peaceable and congenial when sober, but in an intoxicated condition he was gurney and abusive.

~news clipping Clayton County Register, Elkader
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Old Man is Murdered
Elkader - One of the bloodiest murders committed in this vicinity for years was discovered when the mutilated body of John L. Boland, a farmer, was found in a ditch on his farm seven miles from this place. That a terrible struggle was made by the old man for his life was evidenced by the condition of the body and his torn clothing. A bloody hammer was found in the yard several feet from the place where the body was discovered. Boland was fifty-five years old, and it was not known he had any enemies.

Admits he Killed a Man
Elkader - At the preliminary hearing of Ned West, the accused merderer of John Boland, whose body was found in a ditch several blocks from his home a few days ago, the attorneys for the state produced a written confession from the prisoner in which he admits killing "some one." According to the confession West's mind is a blank on all else but the fact that he committed murder. This responsibility for this terrible crime has practically ruined his reason and he was, while before the justice, the horrible example of the conscience stricken man.

~Marble Rock Journal, November 15, 1906
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Murder Suspect is Held
Ned West was arrested Wednesday at Elkader for the murder of John Boland, a farmer living seven miles from there, whose body was found in a ditch. Mr. Boland had attended church at Elkader Sunday morning and an investigation showed that he and West had spent the evening together at Mr. Boland's home. Mr. West was found absent from home Monday, assisting in threshing in the community, but his wife gave the officers sufficient enlightenment and West was taken into custody and confined in the county jail. Sheriff Dittmer found the remains buried in a corn field in a ditch with a shock of cornstalks strewn over the hurriedly made grave to hide it from view.

~Cedar Falls Gazette, Friday, November 16, 1906
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West Found Guilty - Given Life Sentence
Elkader, Iowa, April 12 - Edward West, a farm hand residing near Elkader, Clayton county, was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment in the penitentiary at Anamosa for the killing of John Boland, a farmer, last October. The murder was the result of a quarrel, West being drunk at the time of the crime. After committing the deed with an ax, West carried the body half a mile, threw it into a ditch and covered it with debris, where a son of the murdered man found it later in the day. After the murder West went home and washed his clothes and when questioned by his wife confessed to the crime, but threatened her with death if she told anyone. West was suspected however, and after his arrest confessed to the deed.

~Oelwein Daily Register, April 13, 1907
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The West Murder Trial
Over at Elkader they had a murder trial wherein one Ed. West was being tried for the murder of J.L. Boland, on the night of November 4, 1906, at the home of the latter, in Highland township, Clayton county, Judge Hobson is the presiding judge and County Attorney M.X. Geske and D.D. Murphy appeared for the state and Jas. E. Corlett, assisted by W.W. Davidson and V.T. Price for the defense.

The jury as selected was H.F. Bonker, Monona; George Borrett, Volga; Chas. Bleitz, Giard; H.W. Fritz, Garnavillo; Wiley Franks, Jefferson; John Heilman, Mendon. 2nd, R. Haberichter, Giard; Aug. Lenth, Monona; Freed Meese, Lodomillo; F.A. Schmitt, Giard; Wm. Waterman, Elk; and W.H. Whitmarsh, Cass.

Fred Boland, son of the murdered man was first placed upon the stand. Told of coming home on the morning of November 5th and finding Ed. West standing in door with blood on mustache. Saw things disarranged in the house and asking where his father was, West said he had gone away. West said he had been quarreling but not with father, but with a tramp that had come there; went all over house and barn and could not find Boland. Saw West throw water on the ground to wash off blood. Went to neighbors looking for father. Searched over premises and found blood spots on floor. Searched yard and found tracks and blood showing something had been dragged toward the east and then southwest toward cornfield; afterwards found bloody hammer near this trail; trail led into timber where blood marks on leaves showed body had been carried instead of dragged into cornfield. Searched through cornfield from 12:30 until after 4:00 o'clock before place where body was concealed was found. A number of neighbors assisted in search; was not there when body was taken out and did not see the body of father again.

Frank Meisner of Highland twp., aged 45, said in part: remembered night of Nov. 4th. Had attention attracted that night by barking of dog; went outside after some time; heard voices; stood on porch. Home is about 90 or 95 rods from Boland's; heard West's voice coming from that direction exclaiming "Jesus Christ, I'll finish you." repeated twice and then "I'll finish you." Heard another voice in the nature of a grumbling or groan as if the possessor were getting hurt. Could not distinguish words, spent some time looking through cornfield; Tom West called to us saying that he had found the grave; went there; I dug into the grave, dug in with my hands; found corpse; pulled it out; knew it to be John Boland by coat and hands; was four or five inches of dirt over body; got team and took corpse to the house. Was at West's house in February of the year before heard Ed. West threaten to kill some of the Bolands; accused them of trying to get his father's farm. At another time West came to my house in December, 1905, to borrow a rifle to shoot Fred Boland and Tom West. The same night he said he couldn't rest until he had some or all of the Boland's killed."

Dr. McGrath took the stand and swore to the nature of the wounds on head and face, said they had been made with blunt instrument, hammer could have inflicted same and that anyone of the several would have caused instant death.

Clem Boland, C.M. Boland, and Fred Orr, all, in a manner substantiated the testimony of the first two witnesses.

Roy Webb, clerk of courts, was put on stand to identify a certain statement made by defendent. Defense objected to further examination of witness on ground that statement was obtained through threats and intimidations by sheriff. After explaining matters and arguing the point of law the objection to introduction of statement was over ruled. Cross examination - West said at the time of making statement that "If you say the man found dead on Boland's place was John Boland, then it must have been Boland that I killed." Defendent seemed to be very little interested in what was going on at the time. Part of what is contained in statement seemed to be given and accepted by defendant as true because he had been told so.

Martin Dittmer, Sheriff of Clayton County, introduced clothes, jacket and shoes in evidence; got clothes from home of Ed. West; blood stains on them at the time; condition of clothes now the same.

After Mr. Murphy had read statement to jury and the court had taken a fifteen minute recess the state closed. It was agreed between cousel that defendant was at Hurley's from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. and that there wa a husking bee there and that he had beer there that afternoon. The defense introduced no further evidence and the attorneys immediately began their arguments.

The jury returned a verdict of murder in the first degree and gave West a sentence of life imprisonment in the penitentiary at hard labor.

~Elgin Echo, Thursday, April 18, 1907
~Note: typed exactly as written in the original article]
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The newspaper articles were transcribed by Joseph Boland and S. Ferrall. More Boland information & family photos are in the Boland Family Album on the Clayton co. IAGenWeb site.

Note: The newspaper stated that John had 3 sons ... He actually had 5 sons and a daughter at that time: John Joseph, James Lawerence, William Henry, Frederick Clarence, Clement Charles & Agnes.

Clayton co. IAGenWeb

Clayton Documents maintained by Sharyl Ferrall.
WebBBS 4.33 Genealogy Modification Package by WebJourneymen


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