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Boone County History

Boone County's First Murder

By: C. L. Lucas
Published in the Madrid Register News - Nov. 11, 1900

The old Pleasant Grove school house which was built in 1858, in the south part of Worth Township, is now remembered only by a limited number of people. It has long since been removed from its original site and is now being used for a barn in the town of Luther.

In the beginning this historic school house was surrounded by a beautiful grove of oak trees, presenting an inviting appearance to the pedagogues of those early times. As it was the only public building in all of that part of the country, it soon became a place where all kinds of meetings were held, from religious services down to township caucus.

As a result of these various meetings, all kinds of people from time to time gathered there. If all things which were said and done in this house were recorded in a book it would be a good sized volume. But the climax of all the misdeeds ever committed within its walls took place on the evening of the 24th of December, 1877. For the benefit of the children and youths of the neighborhood, a Christmas tree entertainment had been arranged for that evening.

As the invitation to attend was general, a gathering of people which tilled the house were present when the hour of commencement arrived. During the exercises of the evening there were numerous interruptions from a number of very noisy individuals who had intruded their presence upon the good people gathered there, and who seemed to have no regard for manners, good conduct, or anything in the line of self respect.

Time and time again they came near breaking up the meeting, but those who had it in charge managed to get through with the program of the evening, when the people were dismissed and departed for their homes. Not so however with the noisy drunken mob consisting of half a dozen young men, the ring leader of whom was a bad character named Polk Bonnett.

After most all the people had gone home, Bonnett and his followers seemed bent on getting even with those who had more than once called them to order during the performances of the evening. After bantering around for a few minutes, Bonnett made an effort to push the Christmas tree down. To this act, a young man named Henry Loafman, who had taken an active part in the work of the entertainment, earnestly objected. This man Loafman had not on all occasions acted the part of a law abiding citizen, but on the evening in question had acted in a very exemplary manner.

In the controversy between Loafman and Bonnett they came to blows, and in the encounter Bonnett used a knife, stabbing Loafman some four or five times. While the encounter between Bonnett and Loafman was going on, the lights in the school house were blown out by some of Bonnett's followers, and for this reason some little time passed before it was learned that Loafman was hurt.

When the fact of his condition became known his friends were horrified. They placed him in a wagon and he was taken to the home of his parents a mile from the scene of the tragedy, where he was placed under the treatment of Dr. Gwynn, then a practicing physician in Madrid, but his wounds were so serious that he died in about two weeks.

While Loafman was being placed in the wagon, someone remarked that he was dead. Bonnett then boasted that he was the man that did the killing. Immediately after making this boast he took his departure and has never been seen in Boone County since.

Early next morning a warrant for his arrest was issued and placed in the hands of an officer, but Bonnett was nowhere to be found. It was at the time supposed that some parties in the neighborhood who were bitter enemies of Loafman, had kept Bonnett in hiding for a week or so and had then assisted him in getting away. Be this as it may, it is certain that he made good his escape and his whereabouts were never known to anyone near the scene of the crime.

A few years after this sad affair, the mother of the murdered man died, and the father went to the soldier's home at Marshalltown, and the rest of the family moved west. No one about here knew where they had located until about a month ago, when John Loafman, a brother of Henry Loafman, returned and placed tombstones at the graves of his mother and brother. After a brief visit with old acquaintances he returned to his home in the west.

Note: Henry Loafman and his mother, Rebecca are buried at Fairview Cemetery north of Madrid.

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