"Events of Interest"
The criminal history of Tama county may be said to have started with the murder of a young man named Samuel Keen (frequently miscalled Reed) on the upper part of Whiskey bottom, in 1854 or 1855. The murderer was unknown. A company of five men, in company with Keen, one spring day started for a turkey hunt on the Iowa bottoms. When in the woods they divided, three of the men going in different directions. Keen was in company with William Schamerhorn and another man. After being out some time the three men sat down on a log to rest. While conversing, the report of a gun was heard and Keen fell over on his face. Upon examination, it was found he had been shot in the back of the head. Suspicion was fastened upon Schamerhorn as having some knowledge of the shooting, or of being connected with the crime in some way, as some feeling of jealousy had existed between Keen and him concerning a woman in the settlement, which had become public talk. Schamerhorn was arrested upon suspicion, but nothing could be proven. Keen was a single man and had no relations here. Soon after his examination, Schamerhorn left the county and pushed further west, leaving the matter, as to the guilty party, a mystery.
In the winter of 1854-5 the dead body of a man was found on Wolf creek. The body could not be identified as it had been partly devoured by the wolves. It was supposed he had been murdered.
Sometime in June, 1856, a man came to Toledo calling himself “Jim Harris,” representing that he came from the northern part of the county and had some business to attend to. At Monticello he made a few purchases from the Brush Brothers and passed a suspicious looking $5 bill, upon them. He next came to Toledo, and in a dicker with Tom Murray, left a like bill with him. The Brush Brothers made up their minds, soon after he left, that the bill was counterfeit, and at once started for Toledo to have the fellow arrested. Tom Murray came to the same conclusion, and it came to be noised about the village, that the fellow was a counterfeiter. C.J.L. Foster, a lawyer, hearing the report, and seeing the fellow crossing the public square, started out, called him, and detained the fellow by conversation until an officer arrived and made his arrest. Upon search, $600 of counterfeit money was found in his pockets. The whole Harris tribe, consisting of this fellow and his relations, were a rough set.
In September, 1855, Dr. P.L. Baldy had a valuable horse stolen from him. It had been tied out to pasture and quietly disappeared, remaining unheard of for nearly a year. In the summer of 1856, Pete Conklin, a brother-in-law of Harris, drove into old Guinntown, having with him several horses. At this place, the brother of Dr. Baldy’s wife was keeping hotel, and the family at once recognized one of the horses as the doctor’s stolen one. Conklin imagined they suspected him and feared he would be arrested, so he got rid of a lot of counterfeit money which he had in his pockets by dropping it through a hole in the plastering, and it fell to the cellar, where it was picked up afterward by the landlord. Finally Conklin was told that he had Dr. Baldy’s stolen horse, but he strenuously denied it. They persisted, and it was agreed, that, in case the animal recognized an old path which Dr. Baldy’s horse had been accustomed to traveling, it should be conclusive that it was the doctor’s horse. When the animal came within several rods of the path, he started on a trot and turned directly up it. At this point Conklin tried to escape by making a break for the woods: but he was captured, and taken to Iowa City to jail and the horse returned to Dr. P.L. Baldy. When his trial took place at Toledo, another incident occurred. While the crowd was at the court house, at about ten o’clock at night, some of the horse – thief gang attempted to get up a sensation in another part of town, hoping thereby to cause a stampede from the court house, and thus give the prisoner a chance to escape, knowing that if he could get a single rod’s start, he was so fleet of foot, no one in the village could keep in sight of him. At the hour named, Mrs. H.G. Baldy heard some one at her kitchen window, and upon examination it was found to have been raised. After waiting for some time and hearing various noises indicating that burglars were about, Mrs. Baldy finally made up her mind to see what was the matter. She took down the gun, and quietly stepped out of the back door into the pitch-like darkness and drizzling rain. She then went around the house, and a man sprang up from almost directly under her feet and ran away. She then turned to go into the house, and the back door was opened by the girl who exclaimed, “There’s a man right behind you!” On wheeling, Mrs. Baldy stood face to face with the ruffian, who held a revolver in his hand. She at once brought the gun to bear, and in the same moment he moved off in the darkness. Dr. H.T. Baldy was sent for, as there was an invalid at the house on whom the shock had had a bad effect, and he came at once from the court house. When he learned what had happened, a company of men were raised, and the surroundings carefully searched; but the intruders had gone. The following day Mrs. Baldy went to the court house and singled out from the crowd the man who had stood in the door-way the night before, with the revolver, and he was accordingly arrested.
In 1857, the settlers of Tama County were startled by the brutal murder of William Stopp. The particulars of the affair are related as follows: A short time previous to 1857, a German, named Olleslaugher, a man named Butler, who had more than ordinary education and attainments and a professional lawyer, came to this county and settled on a farm in Grant township. If reports are correct, they were of overbearing and quarrelsome dispositions. William Stopp, a young man of but fourteen years of age, from Cincinnati, Ohio, accompanied them to this county. The three occupied a small cabin on section 23. Both of the men drank and caroused, and at times cruelly abused the boy. One severe, cold night, nearly in the dead of winter, they stripped the boy and gave him a shameful beating, then thrust him under the floor of their cabin, into a small cellar, where he died before morning from the effects of the cruelty received from the infuriated men, and from exposure to the severe cold. It was but a short time before the news spread over the entire neighborhood, and a crowd of excited people at once proceeded to the scene of the murder. In due time both Olleslaugher and Butler were arrested and placed under bonds. On the 23d of May, 1857, the grand jury found a true bill of indictment against them, and the same day they were brought before the court. A change of venue was asked and granted to Johnson county. The case was tried at Iowa City, but they finally escaped their just punishment through some lack of evidence or informality of the law. Shortly after, they left the country, leaving the whole matter a mystery, at that time, as to the true facts in the case, and their object in dealing so foully with the boy. But some time subsequent to their trial it was ascertained by the attorneys for these men, that the boy, Stopp, who at the time of the murder was about fourteen years of age, was to fall heir to a valuable property in Ohio when he became of age, and that Butler had succeeded in securing the legal guardianship over him, and without much doubt, removed with the boy to Iowa, to do what was finally accomplished, using Olleslaugher for the purpose, as the gravest charges, the last severe beating and exposure, were done directly by him, but with the approval of Butler.
In 1859, the wife of John Conneley, a resident of Buckingham township, was missing, and to all questions as to her whereabouts, Mr. Connelly would give no definite answer. The neighbors thought she had been murdered, and a thorough search was made, but no trace of the missing woman could be found. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Connelly, but he was not to be found. A jury was empanelled and the forms of trial were gone through without the presence of the defendant; but as there was no evidence against him, the matter dropped. Connelly was soon married again. From some unknown cause, the family quarreled, and a son of Connelly’s informed on him, by saying that he had killed his wife by striking her on the head with an ax; that he first buried her for a few days, under the straw, and coarse manure of the stable, and a few days later removed her body, and with his son’s aid, buried her on the southeast quarter of section 30, on the farm of Leander Clark, in Geneseo township. The old man was consequently arrested on a warrant issued by Nathan Fisher, Justice of the Peace, of Toledo, and by whom, after hearing the evidence of the case, he was held to appear before the next District Court for indictment and trial. But when the time for trial came, the son, who was the only witness, was no to be found, and the necessary testimony was not at hand. However, Connelly was not discharged from custody, and H. C. Foster, Constable, took him home with him on the evening after the trial, intending to start with him the following morning for the jail at Marion, Linn county. About dark, while Connelly and Foster were seated near the open door in the front room of the latter’s house, the Constable fell into a doze. Upon waking he found that his prisoner had flown, and snatching up his hat, dazed and bewildered, he blindly started out in rapid search of the escaping man. After spending sometime in fruitless quest, he returned and aroused the town; but in the darkness all traces of the prisoner were lost and he succeeded in making good his escape. While Connelly had been in jail, his second wife sold the property and moved from the county.
The year 1860 was a memorable one in the history of Tama county, made so by the hanging of the Bunker boys. It was the first and last hanging affair in the county. The Bunker boys, says a local writer, Charles and William, were members of a large gang of cut-throats. These men were the representative characters of the gang. The operations of the gang extended from one end of the country to the other – from Texas up through the Indian Territory, Arkansas, Missouri and Iowa to Wisconsin; from the Ohio river, at Pittsburg, through the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa, to the Missouri river, as far as civilization extended. Their depredations were directed against society everywhere, and they preyed upon the substance of honest toilers, merchants and business men, with reckless and daring impunity, sparing no one who was not in some way allied with their plunder-stained combination. In 1860, a gentleman by the name of Small, a resident of Polk county, had three valuable colts stolen from the prairie just east of the city of Des Moines. When Mr. Small missed his colts, he procured the assistance of Constable Seaman, of the same county, and started on the trail, which they followed to the residence of the Bunkers in Hardin county, where they very soon found the colts. Advancing to the house the pursuers were met by the mother of the Bunkers, who barred their way, ax in hand. At length, and without violence, an entrance was effected and one of the boys arrested. Securing him, they kept guard until daylight, when another Bunker came in sight, and after a long chase, he too, was captured. The colts were haltered and the party started for Des Moines. While in Tama county they were joined by Stephen Klingaman, and, as the story goes, it was proposed to hang one of their prisoner until he should reveal the names of his partners in crime. They had succeeded so far as to suspend one of them in mid-air – without, however, intending to continue the process until he was dead – when the other Bunker sprang away and started for freedom at a lively gait. Klingaman and Seaman started in pursuit, leaving Small to take care of the aerial Bunker. Small became so much interested in watching the pursuit and flight, that he forgot to lower the body and by the time Kingaman and Seaman returned with the recaptured brother, the first was as dead as a smelt. As a matter of precaution and to prevent his telling tales, the other Bunker was submitted to the same strangling process and with the same result. Thus both bodies were left suspended on a Tama county tree in what is known as National grove, in Perry township. They were found hanging soon after the perpetrators had gone. Klingaman, it is said, was drowned the next spring, near Helena, in the Mississippi river, having fled to that point, and Seaman and Small were arrested shortly after, but escaped. The former was never seen, or heard of, afterward. Small, after passing several years in the Rocky Mountains, returned to his farm and family in Polk county. In 1877, Small was arrested at Des Moines by Deputy Sheriff, William E. Appelgate, and again escaped from custody, but afterward gave bond for his appearance at the February term of Court, in 1878. At this time he was tried and found guilty of murder in the first degree. A new trial was asked and granted by Judge Shane. At the February term of the District Court, in 1879, the case was dismissed, Small paying all costs of prosecution.
During the afternoon of the 8th of October, 1866, A. H. Felter murdered his wife, Charlotte, by striking her a blow with the butt end of a Springfield rifle, crushing and fracturing the skull diagonally from one eye to the opposite ear. Mrs. Felter was in the act of leaving the premises, having gotten just outside the door when the blow was given. Their little daughter, Ida, an only child, eight years old, ran to the nearest neighbor, Robert Provon, and informed them of what had happened. After striking and killing his wife, Felter set fire to the house; then with razor in hand he attempted to sever the jugular vein in his neck, and would doubtless have succeeded had it not been for the heavy beard covering his throat and face, which so dulled the instrument that the vein was left bare, but not cut. He then ran to the stable and stacks and laid down, evidently expecting he would soon die. In that condition he was soon found and taken to Buckingham village, where his wounds were dressed by Dr. Daniel. He was then arrested and held for examination on the charge of murder by W. H. Stivers, then County Attorney. After remaining a short time in Buckingham, he was taken to Toledo and there had a preliminary examination in the court of ‘Squire Fisher, who bound him over to answer to the District Court for his crime. In consequence of having no jail in Tama county, he was taken to Iowa City and lodged there until the time set for his trial. His first trial was held in Vinton and he was sentenced to hard labor in the penitentiary for life, where he remained for one year and was then brought back to Marion and re-tried by order of the Supreme Court. He was again found guilty of murder in the second degree, and sentenced, by Judge Rothrock, to imprisonment during the remainder of his natural life. Felter was a man of industrious habits, but had an uncontrollable temper, which, when irritated, knew no bounds. It was thought by some at the time that he contemplated killing his child as he followed her a short distance from the house. However, he deeded his real property in trust for her maintenance.
On the 14th of July, 1873, the Toledo post office was robbed of all the letters in the mailing and alphabetical boxes. No trace of the letters was obtained until late in the fall, when they were found in the brush near the residence of James Ross, who, together with Frank Graham, examined and pronounced them torn and so faded by the heavy rains as to render them illegible. Among the letters taken was one from Frankfort, Germany, addressed to Carl Rest, which contained a New York draft for the sum of $71.19 gold. It was not definitely known at the time the letters were taken, that such a letter was in the office, but it was considered probable, as the letter had left Frankfort and had never reached the person to whom it was addressed. In April, 1878, the postmistress, Mrs. Dillman, went to examine the pile of old letters as they were left in the brush, and among them she found the draft referred to, in a state of almost perfect preservation, and it was accordingly turned over to the owner.
On Monday, July 27, 1875, another murder took place and passed into the history of Tama county. In the eastern part of the county, in the Bohemian settlement, two neighbors lived; Thomas Roubicek owning forty acres of land, and John Prusa, eighty acres. There seems to have been a quarrel between these two families for some time, and each had warned the other from their premises. There being no public highway near these farms, a by-road was used which crossed both pieces of land. On the day mentioned, Mr. Prusa went to a neighbors, about a mile west, for an animal, and while coming back and crossing the farm of Roubicek, the terrible deed was committed. When Roubicek saw Prusa coming he and his wife both rushed down the road, he carrying an axe and she a knife. Prusa was struck by the axe in the forehead, both claiming in their testimony to have struck the first blow and seemingly proud of it. In trying to ward off the blow, he received a cut on the right arm, and it is supposed that the woman then stabbed him in the abdomen, there being two gashes there. He grabbed the knife and was cut to the bone by the woman drawing it from him. Another blow from the axe laid the victim low, when the brutal murderers struck him twice after he was down, mashing his head almost to a jelly. They then went off and left him while his life blood flowed in a stream down the wagon track. This was the shape in which he was found and the coroner was immediately summoned. After the inquest both parties were arrested, charged with murder in the first degree. The trial resulted in a verdict of guilty for the man and acquittal for the woman. Roubicek was sentenced to sixteen years in the penitentiary as hard work together with the cost of the suit.
A singularly shocking crime came to light at a Coroner’s inquest, held at Traer, on the 21st of January, 1877. The deceased was a new born babe, born to Miss Catherine Carstensen. Mr. J.C. Averill was sworn and testified that this Catharine Carstensen was hired by himself, to do house work; that on the night of January 20, he and his wife went to bed at about 9 o’clock, and the girl retired a little later. About 11 o’clock, they were awakened by Miss Carstensen, who came down stairs and said she was very sick. Mr. Averill told his wife to get up and make her some ginger tea. The tea was made, but the girl would drink but little of it, saying, that nothing but laudanum would ease her pain. Mr. Averill finally got up and started out for the drug store to get some laudanum for the girl, who by this time was suffering terribly. In the meantime, Mrs. Averill went to bed to wait until her husband should come back. The girl sat in the dining room for a few moments, then went into the kitchen and made such a racket with her groans and moving things about, that Mrs. Averill was afraid to venture out. She called the girl by name several times, but received no response. Finally the husband returned with the medicine, and went to go into the kitchen, when the girl sharply told him to go back. Mr. Averill left the medicine on the table and went to bed. He had been in bed but a few moments, when the door of the kitchen, leading out of doors, opened and shut, and the noises ceased. Mr. Averill told his wife that the girl had gone out of doors and would catch her death, out in the bitter cold night and that she had better go after her. Mrs. Averill got up and went to the door, when Miss Carstensen came in looking white as death, and shaking as with a severe chill. There was blood on her cheek, and Mrs. Averill asked, “Why, Catharine, what’s the matter now?” “Oh,” was the reply, “you don’t know what I have passed through; I haven’t been unwell for two months; but it’s all right now;” and going to the basin, washed her hands and face and started for bed. Mrs. Averill following to see her safely in. When she got into bed Mrs. Averill noticed that her clothes were in a terrible condition, being literally saturated with blood. Mr. Averill, during this time, was courting sleep, with but little success. The occurrences of the night had so thoroughly wrought him up, that it seemed impossible to sleep. Suddenly he heard the cry of a child’s voice, and raising up in bed, listened carefully, but heard nothing more. His wife soon came down stairs and told him the condition of the girl, and he at once decided that a child had been born. He and his wife then went up stairs and told the girl what they believed had happened; but she said it was not so. They came down stairs, and taking a lantern, R. Averill went out and around the house, but could find nothing. He then went to the coal shed, and looking behind a large box saw a large tin pail, in which was a newly born babe. The child was dead, and he carried bucket and all, into the house. He immediately went for Doctor Morison, who gave some medicine to the girl, and took the body of the infant. Dr. Morison testified that the child weighed six and a half pounds, was a sound healthy child and in his opinion, was alive when born. The jury found that deceased came to its death by involuntary exposure to the severe weather, the exposure being intentional on the part of the mother.
In July, 1877, another murder was committed in Tama county. On the ninth day of the month named, C.S. Whitely, a Constable and highly respected citizen of Carroll township, attempted to arrest Martin Meshek upon a warrant for assault and battery. Meshek resisted, and in the struggle that ensued Whitely was shot and killed. Meshek was arrested and in September, 1877, the Grand Jury found an indictment against him for murder in the first degree. He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to the penitentiary for a term of ten years. After the sentence was pronounced, the attorneys for the defendant asked for a new trial, which was overruled, and the case was carried to the Supreme Court of the State, where a new trial was granted at the June term, in 1879. The case was then remanded to the Court of Tama county, where a change of venue was taken to Benton county. There he was tried for murder in the second degree and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary and his case was again carried to the Supreme Court, where, in 1883, it was pending.
In 1877, D.M. O’Connor was arrested for a crime and was placed in jail at Toledo to await trial. There were four others in the jail at that time. In the latter part of June, of the year named, the prisoners succeeded in obtaining possession of the key for a few moments while the Sheriff was in the room. A bar of soap, a small piece of hard wood and a case knife enabled them to make a hardwood duplicate of the key. The case knife was then made into a saw, which severed the bars, the wooden key opened the iron door, the weight of five men forced the wooden door and the prisoners were free. Four of them were captured within a short time, but Murphy gained a hiding place in the brush, where he laid low the next day. The second night he secured passage in a stock car, and was punched out before morning; but finally succeeded in beating his way to Chicago; boarded a vessel and landed safely in Canada, where he remained about two years. He then went to Pennsylvania, thence to Vicksburg, where he remained about one year. Then he made Minneapolis and St. Paul his home for a time, and finally went to Milwaukee. In February, he was married to a lady of that city, who in a short time became convinced that he was a hard case. She gave him away and he was arrested by the police. In April, 1881, Sheriff J.C. Fitzgerald went for him and brought him back to his old resting place in the Tama county jail.
On the morning of the 29th of August, 1878, Michael Straka, a Bohemian, was murdered in the woods near the village of Chelsea. The perpetrator of this foul and dastardly act has never been brought to justice. Mr. Straka came to Chelsea from Quarry Station, Marshall county, on the day before his murder, for the purpose of purchasing a team of horses. He entered a saloon and got recklessly drunk, showing money to the amount of several hundred dollars, which he was then carrying on his person. That evening he went out to a friend’s house, near the village, and remained there all night. The next morning he started after his horses and when in the woods was shot by some unknown person. He succeeded in crawling to a house near by, and lived long enough to partially describe the murderer; but his description was not sufficient to criminate any one. He had about $250 on his person, which was stolen by the man who killed him.
On the 14th day of September, 1878, the residents of Carroll township were horrified by the murder of Perry Wheaton. The circumstances were as follows: Perry Wheaton was mowing grass on his father’s farm near the house of one Mr. Taylor. The latter’s cattle came upon the hayfield, doing considerable damage by tossing and trampling the hay shocks. Mr. Wheaton set his dog on the cattle and drove them away. At this, William Taylor, a young man about eighteen years old, went to his father’s house, and was seen coming back with a shot-gun in his hands. He approached the hayfield where young Wheaton was at work, and angrily asked why he had dogged those cattle. Perry replied, that he did not dog the cattle but that his father did. “Well,” said Taylor, “I’m going to shoot the – dog anyway.” Wheaton told him he had better not, and advanced a few steps. Taylor retreated several paces and Perry again advanced, when young Taylor raised his gun and fired. Perry turned toward the mower, took a few steps, then fell over on the grass and in fifteen minutes was a corpse. Taylor then started on a run toward his home, and was there met by his father who started with him for Toledo. In the meantime the county Sheriff had been notified of the crime, and he at once started out to arrest the murderer. A few miles out of town he met Taylor, came into town with him and lodged him in jail. The grand jury found an indictment against Taylor for murder in the first degree. The case was brought before the District Court of Tama county, and a change of venue was taken to Benton county court, where he was tried and convicted of murder in the second degree, being sentenced to ten years in the State penitentiary, at hard labor. He is now serving out his sentence.
On the same day of the murder of Perry Wheaton, another tragedy was being enacted in Buckingham township. W..H. Houd and J.L. Smith, with others, were helping Mr. Dale with his threshing. After dinner, Mr. Houd was telling William Greene of a difficulty about a pitchfork which he had had with Smith in the morning, when Smith came up calling Houd a liar. The latter paid no attention and went on with his conversation. Smith then called him a -- -- liar and made for Houd. Houd picked up a piece of a wagon tongue and threw it at Smith, striking him on the breast. The latter snatched up the club and again came toward Houd, who secured another stick and stood ready for battle. The faced each other with raised clubs, Houd getting in the first blow, knocking Smith down. It was a terrible blow, and Smith sustained a bad fracture of the skull, which caused his death. He died on the 14th day of August, two days after receiving the injury. The murderer was indicted by the grand jury of Tama county, for murder in the first degree. He was tried and convicted for manslaughter, at the February term of the District Court, being sentenced to two years in the penitentiary at hard labor.
In May, 1882, the store of L. Sime was broken into and about $500 worth of goods were stolen. The perpetrators of this deed were William Henry, Ralph Mocroff and Mike and John Hironimus. They went down into the cellar, beneath the store room, and sawing off several boards in the floor, came up into the store. They bundled a lot of goods together, furnishing goods and jewelry, took them to W. E. Appelgate’s livery stable, divided the property and each took care of his own share. Fifty dollars reward was offered by Mr. Sime, for the detection of the thieves and recovery of the stolen property. William Henry, one of the participants in the theft, was at this time clerking in the Stickney Hotel, and on the night of the robbery, did not return to the house until about four o’clock in the morning, and as the doors were securely locked he raised a window and clambered in. The awakened Mr. Stickney, and on hearing of the burglary the next day, his suspicions were aroused, and he determined to retain his clerk to watch him, and if he was one of the guilty party, to fasten the guilt where it belonged. A few days after the robbery, Mr. Stickney noticed that Henry was wearing a brand new shirt; so when it was put among the clothes, gathered together for the weekly washing, he examined it and took a copy of the trade mark of the manufactory, and the cost mark of the firm. He then went to Mr. Sime’s, priced a number of his shirts, and without informing Mr. Sime, found that the marks were precisely the same as those he found on the shirt which young Henry had put into the washing. This fact strengthened his suspicions, making him almost certain that Henry was one of the thieves. About this time, or a few days later, Mr. Stickney came into the office suddenly and caught Henry in the act of removing the hinges from off a door of a small closet, where there was a quantity of cigars. Henry, the next day told the boys of this, and wondered why Mr. Stickney did not discharge him at once, but Mr. Stickney was not yet through with him; he had an object in retaining him in his employ. Some where about two weeks after the robbery, one rainy morning, Henry was missing from the house. Just before noon he returned, attended to his chores and came in to dinner. Mr. Stickney waited for some time in the office for him, but he did not return. The proprietor then went into the dining room and asked where Henry had gone. He was told that he had gone into the barn. Mr. Stickney suspected then that the stolen goods had been brought to the barn, and, going in, he caught a glimpse of Henry in the act of wringing water out of some garment. Instead of halting, Mr. Stickney went rapidly by, seeing that he had to take a man to Tama City and that he wanted his team gotten out at once. Henry hitched up the team, drove around to the front of the hotel and then Mr. Stickney told him he might drive the man to Tama City, as he (Stickney) had another engagement up street. As soon as Henry was out of sight Mr. Stickney went for Mr. Sime and, returning with him to the barn, they found a large package of the stolen property, which apparently had been kept in some very damp place and was quite wet. They at once telephoned to the marshal at Tama City to arrest and detain Mr. Henry until he should be sent for. The proper papers were then made out and the Sheriff started to make his arrest, returning after a short absence with the guilty man, who then knew why Mr. Stickney had not discharged him. The culprit was taken to the law office of Eversible & Willett, where he was searched and a quantity of the stolen jewelry found on his person. When he saw that he was completely caught, he divulged the manner of his associates in the theft and before night they were all arrested. A preliminary examination was held before John McClaskey, Justice of the Peace, who bound them over to the District Court, Link West was also brought before Mr. McClaskey, but as there was not sufficient evidence in his case he was discharged. When their trial came off, the boys plead guilty and were all sentenced to one year in the county jail, with the exception of Ralph Mocroff, who, on account of being but a boy, was given only nine months. Nearly all of the stolen property was recovered and Mr. Stickney was paid $50 as a reward for his services as private detective.
On Monday night, October 23, 1882, Gladbrook was the scene of a fearful riot. About fifteen railroad laborers, at work on the Diagonal, became drunk and disorderly, creating a great disturbance on the streets. The Marshal warned them to desist and drove them off into another part of the town. About 10 o’clock in the evening they returned and after breaking some windows in his house, returned to the east part of town. The Marshal gathered a small posse of men, in which were Mr. C. R. Appelgate, of Toledo, temporarily there on business; Mr. M. L. Hess, Mr. Blodgett and one or two more. They found four or five of the disturbers in the east part of town near some cars, and when they proceeded to arrest them, suddenly the remainder of the gang appeared from their ambuscade and made a charge on the Marshal and his posse. The Marshal was struck several times and severely hurt, being knocked insensible early in the engagement. His wounds were mostly on his head, but one severe blow from a stone or bullet struck his watch in his vest pocket. If it was a pistol shot, the watch saved his life. Mr. Appelgate and Mr. Hess were both prostrated and were then pounded and disfigured in a horrible manner. Mr. Hess was terribly cut and bruised about the head and face, and while Mr. Appelgate appeared less bruised, he was in reality very severely hurt, the blows he received being heavier. Mr. Appelgate fainted on his return to his boarding place, where he was taken and remained until Tuesday evening, when he was placed on a cot and taken to his home in Toledo, on the cars. His injuries were so severe as to cause the blood to flow from his ears and nose. Dr. Thompson and Mr. Appelgate’s father went up to see him by train long before daylight Tuesday morning, having learned of the affair from Mr. C. Emerling, who came to Toledo to give the information. Deputy Sheriff Ross also went to Gladbrook at the same time. Mr. Blodgett was also considerably cut about the head and face. It did not take long, however, for other citizens of Gladbrook to learn of the state of affairs, and arming themselves with revolvers, shot guns, axes and pitchforks, they soon surrounded several of the roughs in the basement of an elevator and then arrested them. A few others were captured at their camp before daylight, and Deputy Sheriff Ross, after his arrival with a posse went out and succeeded in securing three more, making eleven in all. Attorney J.W. Willett, went up to Gladbrook and filed information before Mayor Soleman; then a change of venue was taken before ‘Squire Blakely and the parties held for further examination, when the witnesses should have sufficiently recovered to appear and to testify against them. The Deputy Sheriff, with aids, brought the entire eleven to Toledo on the train on Tuesday evening and safely placed them in jail. One of the rioters was shot through the wrist. Late in November, Mason Hess died from his wounds. Coroner Kendrick held a post mortem examination, and after a careful investigation the jury found that he died of abscess of the brain caused by a blow from some blunt instrument, on the base of the skull, inflicted by some person or persons unknown to the jury. In February, 1883, the rioters were indicted by the grand jury, for assault with intent to kill. The trial on the first charge was held during the last week of the February term of District Court, 1883, at Toledo. William Cooley was sentenced to one year in the penitentiary at hard labor; Matt Gleason was found guilty of an assault with intent to commit great bodily injury, and was sentenced to a year in the county jail; and John Gleason and Charles Johnson were found guilty of an assault and were given sixty days in the county jail; James McCarty was released on bail, and fled from the country; the remainder were discharged on preliminary examination. In September, 1883, they are to be tried on the charge of murder. One of the worst of the rioters, and abouth the hardest character in the gang, was shot through the shoulder, but escaped during the night after the fracas.
Another bold robbery occurred in the fall of 1882. The safe of Gore & Benesh, merchants of Vining, was blown open and burglaried of money to the amount of $2000. The robbers left no clue by which they might be traced. The post office at Dysart was broken into early in the spring of 1883, and several hundred dollars worth of stamps stolen. There was no clue to the robbers.
On the 11th of March 1883, Wallace Pattison broke into the store of Porterfield Bros., merchants of Dysart, and stole goods to the amount of about $60. He was arrested and part of the goods found on his person. He was brought to Toledo and lodged in the county jail. He will be tried September 17, 1883, at the next term of the District Court. He has made confession of the crime.
GOLD IN TAMA COUNTY.
In 1858 a fúrore of gold excitement swept over Iowa, in consequence of some having been found in small quantities in various parts of the State. Tama county had a slight attack of it, but it soon passed off. A very little gold was found in the northern part of the county, but hardly enough to pay for the search of it. The Toledo Tribune, which was published at that time by E. B. Bolens, ridiculed the idea, saying: “The gold fever which has been raging with such contagious rapidity in many portions of the State for some time past, has at length taken hold of Tama county and produced its results. Several of our citizens having caught the disease, showed the furious symptoms thereof, and the result is – gold has been found. We have seen several specimens of both the dust and lump kind. The largest lump found was about the size of a partridge egg; the dust we saw was in a vial. Quite an excitement is now raging. We will receive Tama county gold in payment for subscriptions for the Toledo Tribune, at the usual rates, and to the person paying in the gold in the largest lumps, the paper for two years upon payment of one year’s subscription.”
One Sabbath afternoon in December, 1856, Mr. and Mrs. Crampton were visiting at a neighbor’s, in the northern part of the county, when a storm came up and in a short time became a terrible blizzard. Mr. and Mrs. Crampton started for home, a distance of half a mile, became lost and perished in the storm. The next day parties went out in search of them. The body of Mrs. Crampton was found near by and that of her husband was discovered twelve miles distant.
On the second day of September, 1868, Tama county was startled by the announcement that a little son of John and Nancy Hiley (or Healy) of Spring Creek, had either been kidnapped or lost. The story was circulated to the effect that he had been kidnapped, and on the ninth of September, the Board of Supervisors offered a reward of $500 for the arrest of the kidnapper and return of the child. This reward was published for a number of weeks in the county papers. The citizens of Spring Creek township and vicinity turned out in masse to join the search, and the child was tracked by keen scented hounds to the banks of a small stream, where the trail was lost and the search finally abandoned as fruitless. The child was given up by the parents, and all hopes of ever hearing of the little one gone. Early in the following spring, however, the remains were found near the creek by Mrs. Mary Blakely.
Another sad case of drowning came to light on the 5th of April, 1869. The body of a girl between eighteen and twenty-five years of age was found in Deer creek, about a half mile from Toledo. On investigation, the body was identified as one Catherine Carstensen who had been missing from home for about five months. Different views were held as to how she came to her death; but it was finally decided that while in a fit of insanity she had committed suicide by throwing herself into the creek. There were no marks on the body indicating violence of foul play. The night she left home she showed unmistakable signs of insanity; but as she was sometimes taken with these spells, as they were called, her folks thought but little of it. Some time after her disappearance from the house a letter was found, written by the missing girl, and containing these words: “The cats are squalling-the dogs are howling-the rain is pouring, and now’s my time for eternity. Farewell.” It is evident from this that she contemplated destroying herself.
William Guilford, of Toledo, was drowned in the Iowa river, on May 7, 1873. He, in company with William Free, had gone to the mill dam, about eight miles southeast of Toledo, for the purpose of fishing. While there, he got into a boat, that was above the breast of the dam, and, in endeavoring to cross, the boat got into the dawn, and becoming unmanageable, went over the dam. Below, was a boiling cauldron, from which it was difficult to make an escape. As the host passed over the dam it struck a snag, staving a hole in the side, and William, having more confidence in his ability to swim than in the boat, abandoned it, and endeavored to swim to a bunch of willows. The backward current rendered it difficult to make headway, and after some effort, he gave up the attempt, and after bidding those on the shore “good bye,” sank back into the whirlpool which swallowed him up immediately. The body was found on the evening of the following day, about thirty feet from where he was last seen. The unfortunate young man was reading law with Appelgate & Kinne, and had a bright prospect for the future. He was eighteen years and eight months of age, and was held in high esteem by all who knew him.
On Thursday evening, June 5, 1873, two sons of Mr. Houston, in Toledo, aged about fourteen and sixteen years, respectively, went down to the confluence of Deer creek, and a small tributary, both of which were high, and went in swimming. They got beyond their depth, and a younger brother who had accompanied them, soon gave the alarm that his brothers were drowned. The bodies were soon recovered, and immediate action was taken to resuscitate them, but all efforts failed. A large number of persons gathered on the creek bank, but nothing could save the lives of the unfortunates. They were both buried in the same grave.
A most shocking affair occurred at Toledo on Sunday, July 27, 1873, the particulars of which are described by the Toledo
Chronicle, as follows:
“Mr. and Mrs. Reusch went to attend service at the Catholic Church and left two children at home, the older being about eleven years old. During the parents, absence, he built a fire in the kitchen stove. After starting the fire, he took a half-gallon can nearly full of kerosene and removing one of the stove lids commenced pouring in the kerosene upon the wood. An explosion occurred, bursting the can and throwing a large portion of its contents upon the unfortunate boy. His clothes caught fire and immediately he started out of the house with his clothes, which were saturated with kerosene, all ablaze. Dr. Thompson, who lived just across the street, heard the explosion and the screams of the boy and rushed to his assistance. Before he reached the boy, he had fallen down and given up to the flames that enwrapped him. In tearing the clothes from him, the doctor burned his right hand severely. Others soon were on the ground and the boy was carried into the house and everything done that was possible. The heat had been so intense that the flesh was burned almost to a crisp, and the sight was simply heartrending. He suffered terribly until about two o’clock, when death relieved his suffering. The funeral took place on Monday afternoon.”
On the 29th of July, 1873, while Anthony Corrigan, of Buckingham, was cutting grain his horses became frightened and ran, throwing him upon the sickle. He fell upon his hip, cutting out a large piece of flesh. The sickle entered the right side and cut forward, exposing the lungs, ribs and bowels, literally cutting him in twain. He was conscious after the accident and dictated a will. At the time the doctor left, he was still alive, but soon died. Mr. Corrigan was about forty years old, was a hard worker, an industrious man and was highly respected by all of his neighbors.
In August, 1873, a Bohemian woman living about eleven miles northeast of Toledo, was burned to death. She had spilled kerosene on the floor and set fire to the oil to burn it, when an explosion occurred conveying the flames to the bed clothes and other combustible material in the room. She lived in great agony for about twelve hours after the fire.
A sad accident occurred early in November, 1874, in which John Saddler, a son of Mark Saddler, who resided about three miles northwest of Toledo, lost his life. The following is a brief history of the accident: It seems that John had taken the old army musket and left the house for a hunt. After going about eighty rods he saw a rabbit and prepared to shoot. Somehow, in stepping upon an old dead log that he might get a better view of the game, he missed his footing and slipped, striking the lock of the gun on the opposite side of the log, which inclined the muzzle towards him, and discharged the load of shot into his body. It made an ugly wound, not unlike that which a Minnie ball would have made under like circumstances, except that the incision was much larger, and the cut not so clean. The charge entered the body about the center of the abdomen and ranged upwards and a little to the left, lodging about the back of the stomach a little below the left lung, lacerating severely the intestines, stomach and pancreas in its passage. After receiving the wounds, the boy walked to the house, put up his gun on the rack, pulled out a bed and laid down, after which he got up again, went out of the house and called his brother from near by, his parents being absent at the time. He then entered the house and went to bed again. When his brother came in he told him of the accident, and requested him to go for a surgeon. The parents were also summoned and arrived about the time the physicians did. A brief examination disclosed the fact that the case was hopeless. At 10 o’clock that evening death ensued.
THE FIRST SETTLEMENT IN TAMA COUNTY.
The following affidavit explains itself:
“COON RAPIDS, JUNE 4, 1883.
This is to certify that we, William Riley Vandorin and wife, Rachel, settled in the territory which now comprises Tama
county, Iowa, on the 21st day of May, 1849.
[Signed.], WILLIAM R x VANDORIN, mark
Subscribed and sworn to before me this 4th day of June, 1883.
Notary Public in and for Carroll county, Iowa.”
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