Tama County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Star – Clipper Supplement
Traer, Iowa, April ?, 1886
History of North Tama
By Daniel Connell

Chapter XXVII


During the year 1856 two men, one a German named Oleslarger, the other an American named Butler, then recently from Cincinnati, Ohio, settled in Five Mile Grove in Grant township. They were men who attracted attention on sight. Oleslager was the money man and purchased the land of James Wood, of Iowa City, and apparently was at work to open a farm, gathering together such implements and machinery as was then in use, and wire for fencing at that time an unusual article here, in fact the first brought into the settlement. He was an active, nervous man of considerable force. He made frequent trips to Iowa City, purchasing what he thought he needed, occasionally a calf of some supposed desirable qualities.

Mr. Butler was a lawyer in Cincinnati, Ohio and stood high at that bar. He was a man of education and refinement. He had with him a good library, musical instruments and some works of art. He was a musician and possessed of a cultivated voice. He was a man rarely seen outside of the highest social and educated society. Seldom in such an outside place-their nearest neighbor being three miles distant and scarcely a soul west of them, his object in coming here was a conumdrum.

These men brought with them a lad about fifteen years old, taken, it was said from the alms house in Cincinnati under articles of identure. The boy, as noticed by an occasional caller at the house, was subject to abuse and blows, and was not possessed of much intelligence. Little attention was given him. Those who might be called neighbors remarked that the boy was not properly treated in many ways, and showed evidence of bodily injury.

One day during the latter part of December one of the men notified General Wood and George Klingaman that the boy was dead, and asked them to come to the house. They repaired to the place with others and found the body packed in a box they had, and were about to bury on the premises. These neighbors examined the body and found on it many bruises and cuts, also evidence of frost at extremities, and took possession of it and brought it to Buckingham, when it was deemed proper not to bury, and to notify the coroner. An inquest was held, and the men arrested upon a coroner's warrant on the charge of murder.

Preliminary examination was had before Leander Clark, justice, at the village of Buckingham. N.C. Weiting, Esq. appeared for the State and Tim Brown for the defense, and consumed nearly a week. In a quiet, secluded place as this was at the time the affair created intense feeling. Particularly were the women incensed, and during the examination nearly all the men in the settlement were in daily attendance. The legal sparring between counsel was fun for spectators.

They had brought with them the material to keep cold outside and stimulate oratory, and had placed it under a counter in the room used for the proceedings.

One of the legal luminaries was squat behind the counter and had four fingers in a tumbler and was about to gargle his throat. Just at that moment his opponent, while addressing the court, said something which he with four fingers disputed.

He forgot the glass in his hand, advanced to the table, and with uplifted arms objected strenuously to the point made. The merriment of the crowd recalled him to the exhibition he was making. He retired, and on adjournment it was his treat.

The defendants were held to answer at the February term, 1857. A true bill was found. A change of venue was had to Iowa City.

T. Walter Jackson, assisted by Edmunds, of Iowa City, acted for the State; Col. Preston, Wm. Smith, W.E. Miller and I.L. Allen for defense. It was a brilliant array. Ultimately the prisoners regained their liberty.

Col. Preston informed me the last time I conversed with him there was a romance of deep interest connected with the boy which he would relate to me when he had fathomed it to its depths.

During the latter part of December, 1859, or the first days of the following month a man named Lemuel Small, residing at Polk City, near Des Moines, lost some horses. He suspected two men named Bunker, whose home was in Hardin county.

With a constable they pursued and captured the men and horses near Independence, Iowa, and started with them for Des Moines. They came through the north side of Tama county, and one night stopped at West Union. Next morning they resumed their journey, and after going a mile halted at the residence of Stephen Klingaman.

After remaining there for a time the journey was resumed. Mr. Klingaman accompaning them. They at once left the main road and went west to National Grove, thence south and west into it, passing some persons who knew Klingaman.

Some time after parties saw Klingaman, Small and the constable emerge from the grove. The former went home, and the others crossed the creek and went west. Two days after F.B. Kile, while tracking game, was suddenly confronted by a dead man hanging to a limb. He started to give an alarm, when a few rods farther on he was again more seriously startled by another man hanging like the first.

The coroner of the county, T. Walter Jackson, had delivered a lecture the night previous before the Buckingham lyceum and was still in town. In company with the writer, proceded (sic) to the place which was on the most southern point of the grove, some two miles from town. The ground showed evidence of a fearful struggle-that they had fought for their lives. Hanging to small limbs not more than eight feet above the ground their feet would reach the ground from the weight of the bodies, but to insure death ropes were tied around the ankles and drawn back, thus keeping them from the ground. An inquest was had which resulted in charging the murder on the persons named. Mr. Klingaman, who was present, was arrested under a coroner's warrant and taken before Daniel Connell, justice.

At the preliminary examination Wm. H. Stivers appeared for the State and T. Walter Jackson for the defendant. The case consumed two days, and resulted in holding the accused for trial. Being considered a bailable offense the bail was fixed at $5,000.

Refusing to accept the proffered security he was remanded to Linn county jail, where the sheriff of that county accepted the security. Tama lost the prisoner and the money, the security proving worthless.

In the spring Mr. Klingaman having went South, while coming up the river in a steamboat which was sunk near Memphis, Tennessee, was reported as among the drowned. It was very well understood he had escaped from the boat, allowing he had been on it, and wandered about the country.

After the war it was an open secret that he was in Missouri, at least until after the final arrest of Mr. Small. True bills having been found against the parties, warrants for their arrest were given to Sheriff Murray, who went to Polk county in search of Small. He did not find him the first time. He once entered a room a moment after the culprit had left. The next time he went to Polk county he was successful. On the return trip with the prisoner serious obstructions were placed in the way of the sheriff at Des Moines, but all were eluded. Fifteen miles from Des Moines he was overtaken by a posse with a writ of habeas corpus, issued by a judge then holding court there.

On returning to Des Moines Sheriff Murray being worn out by excessive fatique, his counsel, I.L. Allen, of Toledo, who was with him, applied to the judge to take the prisoner in charge, who remanded him to the custody of the sheriff of Polk county, who in turn placed him in the charge of a deputy and that was the last Tama county officers saw of Mr. Small for many years.

In the spring of 1876 the prosecuting attorney of this district learned that Mr. Small was at home. A warrant was placed in the hands of Sheriff Austin. He delegated to his deputy, Applegate, who proceeded to Polk county, where, with the aid of local officers, he found the object of eighteen years’ solicitude. He reached Des Moines with his prisoner as did sheriff Murray many years before him.

Unlike Murray he did not get Small out of the city. In the early part of the winter 1877-8 a gentleman appeared in Traer, saying he was a lawyer, was counsel for Mr. Small, and came to learn particulars of the crime. He learned of them and repaired to Toledo.

The result of the visit was the voluntary surrender of Mr. Small in January, 1878, he saying he could not live as he had-constantly tracked by officers. He was tried and convicted of murder in the first degree, Feb. 20, 1878, and the verdict set aside and a new trial granted.

On February 19, 1879, the cause was dismissed on motion of the district attorney for public good and by consent, defendant to pay the costs, which he did, amounting to about $700.

Mr. Small died about two years since. The constable, in whose keeping the Bunkers were, and whom the law really considered responsible for the homocide, died many years ago.

Many thought he was not aware of the intentions of Small and Klingaman. That the design was simply to frighten the Bunkers into a confession of former crimes and hiding place of stolen stock was generally accepted. They had run one of them up several times.

Not confessing the last time he was up too long and was dead. The younger, Charles, had been tied to a tree. He broke loose and ran and was captured. To prevent him from telling he was hanged. This was Klingaman's explanation. The discharge from custody of Mr. Small was the finale of an important chapter in the early history of our settlement and of Tama county.

Continued Next Week

Chapter XXVII - Continued
December 17, 1886

John Connolly was one of the earliest to enter land in the settlement. He lived near Clark's mill, and also had some thirty acres of timber in National Grove. He was reputed in good circumstance, which was probably a mistake. He was a quarrelsome man, and many feared him. He had a wife, a married son and wife lived with him, and several other children. There was bad feeling in the family. He also had a brother Mike, with whom he did not agree. It was currently believed he had killed one or more of his children prior to coming here. One night in the autumn of 1859 John Mulcahy, a friend of the family, was there, when a quarrel arose between Connolly and his wife, and she accused him of having murdered an infant child. He threatened her. She left the house. Soon after he went out, Mrs. C. was not again seen alive. Some time later her absence was marked by the neighbors and examination had without finding her dead or alive. The members of the family lived in fear of their lives, particularly the son's wife. After the departure of Mr. C. this woman said the mother was killed the night that Mulcahy was there; was buried in the stable; that a portion of her dress was not covered and a cow stood on the grave; that she daily milked that cow sitting on her mother's grave. After a time the body was taken up and carried on the prairie and left. Some years after Mr. Dysart was showing land to a gentleman. While looking for a corner near the center of Clark township he discovered a few bones unlike any animal. He gathered up a piece or two and sent them to Iowa City, where they were pronounced the bones of a woman.

Eventually Connolly was arrested. One Sunday evening, being in charge of the sheriff at Toledo, in a tavern, (there being no jail) his counsel, Albert Stoddard, called and obtained permission to consult with him, and passed to the rear of the house. He did not return, and Tama county saw him no more.

Abram H. Felter was working at the saw mill in Buckingham. He was engaged in starting it in the fall and winter of 1856-7, having lived in Toledo a year previous. He was a good mechanic and could do almost anything, but was a man who could not control a bad temper, and by many was considered dangerous. He married, erected a dwelling and seemed to be doing well. He enlisted in 1862 with L. Clark and was discharged. On his return he purchased an eighty-acre farm north of the Gordon farm on the north side of Twelve Mile creek. They had one child, a daughter. One day in October, 1866, they quarreled. Mrs. F., with the child, left the house for a neighbor's. He followed with a gun, and overtaking her killed her. He carried the body to near the house. He fired the building which nearly consumed the body. He obtained a change of venue to Vinton and was convicted. He was sent to Fort Madison for life. Afterwards he obtained a new trial and change of venue to Marion. He was ably defended by Cot. Preston and Judge Smyth. He was again convicted and died in prison in 1882-3. His counsel labored two years in his behalf without one dollar of reward.

In the fall of 1878 John L. Smith, a farmer in Buckingham, was at a neighbor's threshing. High words passed between him and a man named Wm. H. Hovd. The latter, with a piece of heavy wood, fractured the skull of Mr. Smith, from which he died in a few hours. Hovd served a term of two years in the Anamosa penitentiary.

About the same time two men were killed in Carroll township.

A man was killed in Geneseo township perhaps twenty years ago, the particulars of which have passed from the memory of all the then residents of the town whom we have been able to meet.

Chapter XXVIII

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