The following news items from Coffey County Kansas newspapers were published around the turn of the twentieth century. They give a glimpse of not only some the events at that time, but of the attitudes about those “current events”.
Burlington Independent, July, 1896
The Coffey county poor farm comprises 180 acres of the richest bottom land to be found on the Neosho valley and is situated one mile north of Burlington. The asylum itself is a fifteen room brick structure with several frame additions. A fine hospital and wash house are also closely connected with the main building. A large barn with well filled cribs and fatted horses is also is also to be seen. Fifty head of fat hogs and four good milch cows (This is an old-fashioned term for milk cows.) comprise most of the stock on the farm. A large crop of wheat has just been harvested from the farm. Thirty-five acres were sown and twenty bushels of wheat to the acre were reaped. Thirty acres of corn has been planted and is now in a fine growing condition. Ten acres of oats is also a promising crop. Mr. B. F. Finney, the superintendent, is a very courteous gentleman and well fitted for the positions he holds. He is kind to the inmates, of which there are fourteen in number, seven male and seven female, gut at the same time commands their respect and good behavior. The reporter had a short talk with each of the inmates whom were able to talk and this is what he found out:
Peter McCan, who for so many years was a familiar figure on the streets of Burlington, was born in the western part of Ireland a great many years ago, so long ago in fact that he does not know how old he is. He came to this country in 1847 working his way across the ocean as a sailor. Landing at Montreal, Canada, Peter remained there only for a short time when he left for Cleveland, O., where he spent fifteen or sixteen years of his life, also residing for sometime at Burlington, Vermont. Linen weaving is the only trade he every learned and he was never married. A man of fair education and would be a good conversationalist but for his deafness. He came to Kansas in 1857 [This date appears to be wrong.]. French and Irish blood course through his veins. A Roman Catholic by faith and at his old age attends mass regularly every two weeks. He is also a Democrat and says the only paper he cares to read is the INDEPENDENT. He entered the asylum Nov. 16, 1893.
Jane Anderson, negress, entered the asylum Dec. 14, 1874. Jane was born in Pennsylvania county, East Virginia, and has been in Kansas forty years. Sallie Newquire, her mistress brought her here. She at one time brought $125 under the auctioneer’s gavel. Jane’s hair turned white in her teens. She was never married but has several children. She is crazy on religion.
Joseph Robinson was born in Madison county, Illinois. He is seventy-three years old, a carpenter by trade but has worked at farming most of his life. His back is weak and is the cause of his being where he is. He has two children residing in or near Burlington and wishes very much to return to his old home about which he talks continually. Jan. 30, 1896, is the date of Robinson’s admission to the asylum.
Alphred Keifer served as a teamster during the late war and is fifty-nine years old. He was a farmer by occupation before entering the asylum. He was born in Bedford county, Pennsylvania, never married and has sided in and about Burlington for the past twelve years.
Christian Hoffer has little memory as a result of continued sickness. He was born in Lanchester (sic) county, Pennsylvania. Bricklaying is his trade and he has resided in this vicinity for twenty-five years. He was married to Anna McEnter at Rock Island, Ill. Four children were the result of their marriage all of whom are living except one. He arrived at the asylum Oct. 8, 1893.
Sophia E. J. Thompson, negress, was born in the Indian territory and does not remember anything except her experiences at Ft. Scott, Kansas. She entered the asylum Dec. 14, 1874, and is crazy.
Margaret Essex, entered the asylum Dec. 14, 1874. She is forty-six years old and can not talk, being an idiot in the worst stages. She has three sisters and one brother living in this vicinity.
Anna Wilson was born in Indiana and has one sister and a half brother living. She is twenty-three years old and has relatives living near Burlington. She is an idiot. Aug. 19, 1896, is the day she entered the asylum.
Margaret Johnson is a native of Indiana and has been in Kansas twenty years, She is fifty years of age and was nevet married. Her upper lip is terribly deformed. Some of her relatives live near Burlington. She has been in the asylum since May 6, 1895.
Bertha Brown was born in Clayborn county, East Tennessee. She has been married three times and says there is no use lying about it. John Wm. Harvey, David Downing and George M. Brown are the respective names of her husbands, all of whom are dead. She was the mother of three girls all of whom are dead. Mrs. Brown is blind, a cataract having grown over her eyes, which she thinks with the proper scientific treatment could be removed. Much money has already been expended in her behalf. Dec. 14, 1874 is the date of her entrance to the asylum.
Milton Bolton, the son of Grandma Bolton, who is also an inmate, is forty-six years old. He was born a cripple and gets worse as he grows older. His left side is paralyzed and both legs are almost useless. He was never married and cannot talk much but seems to understand everything that is said to him. He does not doctor for his trouble as he thinks it useless.
Grandma Sarah Bolton is a pitiable sight to see, being shrunken in limbs and face to a terrible degree. She was born in New Jersey and is eighty-seven years old. Boltons came to Kansas in 1866 and located at Ottumwa. Mr. Bolton died two years after their arrival. He was a shoemaker. They had thirteen children, five of whom are living and all are in Kansas.
George Frankenfield, an inmate, was visiting in LeRoy and Daniel Whitney, also an inmate, was taking a short vacation in Lebo and so we missed them.
Burlington Republican, April 27, 1900
Harris Friday Night - The Prisoner Makes a Confession
and Implicates Mrs. Allen - Both Under Arrest
[Transcriber’s note: There is a picture of James Harris in this news report. He has a wide curving mustache, high cheekbones, square jaw, a full lower lip, dark eyes and is wearing a medium brimmed hat, a dark striped shirt with a vest and jacket.]
The most shocking and dastardly murder ever perpetrated in Coffey county took place last Friday night, April 20, when James Harris lay in wait and shot and killed John H. Allen, the Ottumwa merchant and ex-postmaster.
The deed was done about 8:25 in the evening. Mr. and Mrs. Allen had closed the store a few minutes after 8 and waked to their home a few blocks away, carrying a carriage lantern with a reflector which throws the light in one direction. Arriving at the house he lingered behind a moment to close the gate, while she placed the lantern at the door and entered the room. When she was in the act of lighting a lamp and he was at the door step about to enter the house, with the light of the lantern shining full upon him, the murderer fired upon him with a shotgun from a point not over twenty feet distant. The load entered the left breast, tearing a ghastly hole, mangling the heart and lodging in the flesh of the back at the right of the spinal column. The victim uttered an exclamation, staggered back a few feet and fell, death resulting a minute or two later. Mrs. Allen at once gave the alarm, and many of the Ottumwa people were on the scene in a few seconds. The authorities were at once notified and an inquest held.
The witnesses were Mrs. Allen, T. B. Scott, G. E. Saueressig, Dr. Hood and Sheriff green. No important details further than those given above were obtained. The sheriff found checks and money to the amount of $42.60 on the dead man’s person. Dr. Hood said the gun was loaded with No. 6 shot and probably a leaden missile that might have been an elongated cartridge bullet or slug of large caliber. No motive for the crime or clue to the murderer was discovered. The jury were J., H. Kelley, George Bowen, Charley Decrow, L. C. Scott, C. L. Shuman and W. H. Edwards, and the only verdict possible under such circumstances was rendered.
In the meantime the people were greatly excited and speculation was rife as to the identity of the murderer. For some reason, probably the fact that in a place like Ottumwa the neighbors all have a more or less intimate knowledge of each other’s personal affairs, the finger of suspicion pointed toward James Harris. There had been “talk” for some time and this particular night he was absent from his usual haunts about the little town, something that had seldom occurred before. Those in search of the team that had run away that night called a the house of his stepfather, George Chrisman, a mile and a half west of Ottumwa, to inquire and were told that Jim had been out that night, but had come rather early. When Jim was consulted he denied having been out at all. Putting all the circumstances together, the officers thought they justified his arrest, and Deputy Grennan went out and took him into custody soon after daylight the next morning. He was found in bed. In the room were his shoes covered with mud. Under the bed was an ordinary breech-loading shotgun with the muzzles full of moist earth and the left hammer still cocked. He said the gun had not been used since Monday, but the mud indicated that it had been out that night. He denied any knowledge of the murder, although he was before always about town and knew everything that was going on, and in this case the whole country was deeply aroused. In fact his actions were decidedly suspicious.
But in the light of day the next morning the case looked worse for him. The track of the murderer was found a short distance from where he had fired the shot, and traced to the house of Mr. Chrisman. What was more important, Harris’s shoes fitted the tracks. In various places where field had been crossed a careful examination was made, and those who made it were convinced that the shoes found in Harris’s room made the tracks.
For the purpose of verifying their tracking the sheriff wired to Lawrence for blood hounds. L. Lysinger, deputy sheriff of Douglass county, accompanied by Samuel James, a colored man, came down on the night train, bringing with them a pure bred dog trained for the business. They immediately proceeded to the scene of the tragedy, followed by two or three hundred sight-seers from Burlington and vicinity. The dog was given the scent from Harris’s shoes, hat and other articles of clothing, but for excellent reasons not necessary here to state did not do very satisfactory work. This information, however, did not reach Harris in the jail.
Later in the morning the prisoner was put through the sweat box by Grennan and made a confession. It implicated Mrs. Allen, and she was arrested a few hours later. She was greatly affected and stoutly asserted her innocence, although the confession was reduced to writing and read in her presence. She is held under guard at the sheriff’s house, as there is no provision for a woman prisoner at the jail.
In his confession Harris states that he and Mrs. Allen had been arranging for the murder for a month past, and that for doing the job she was to pay off the mortgage on his farm and give him half of the $1,500 life insurance that Mr. Allen carried. He said that arrangement was that she was to accompany Mr. Allen home every night and precede him into the house, leaving the lantern so placed that the light would fall full upon him and make him an easy and conspicuous mark. Final arrangements had been made between them Tuesday night, and Thursday evening when they came in as arranged, and could have killed Allen easily, but his heart failed him. The next evening he was there and accomplished his work, He said nothing about any illicit relations between himself and Mrs. Allen, nor anything about any arrangement by which they were to live together after Allen’s murder. So far as his statements go the affair was placed upon a strictly financial basis, and in that respect, in that it fails to give any adequate motive for the murder on her part at least, it is weak evidence to rely upon to secure her conviction. His motive for the deed may be entirely different from those he has stated, and he may have lied in order to implicate her. Men under such circumstances sometimes do that. He confirmed the impressions of Dr. Hood concerning the missile with which the gun was loaded, stating that it was a 44-caliber cartridge bullet besides the final shot.
Harris waived a preliminary examination Wednesday and was returned to jail. Mrs. Allen’s preliminary is set for 10 o’clock next Tuesday before Justice Brown. She has employed Madden Bros., of Emporia, and will make a strong legal fight for acquittal.
The affair is especially sensational not only because of the exceptional brutality of the murder, but also on account of the prominence of the parties and the fact that most of them are natives of Coffey county. Mr. Allen was an early settler here. He was 51 years of age the 22d day of last December. He had been living on a farm near that place since a early day, was postmaster there under the Harrison administration and a strong candidate for the same position in 1897, and had been in the mercantile business for the past thirteen years, buying out H. H. Klock in 1887. he was prosperous and died the possessor of considerable wealth as men are reckoned in this locality. Two good residence properties in Burlington were owned by him, and he had property in other towns.
He had been failing in health for some time, and his physician thought he had not more than six months to live. About four months ago he made a will, leaving all his property to his wife, and this circumstance is now the strongest one against her.
Mrs. Allen was 39 years of age the 12th of March last. Her maiden name was American E. Mayer. Her father was a shoemaker in that place in an early day. She was married to Mr. Allen in 1875 when only 14 years of age. Her subsequent life has been spent on the farm and in the store there, and she has three daughters, all of them married and one of whom has children.
Harris, the chief culprit in the affair, is the son of James Harris, one of the earliest residents of that, the oldest town in Coffey county. He married very late in life a Miss Despaine, who is now the wife of George Chrisman, commonly known as “Doc” Chrisman, who lives a mile and a half east of Ottumwa, where Harris was arrested. Harris was born in Ottumwa, and it is a curious coincidence that his birth took place in the house occupied by Mr. Allen and where he committed the awful murder. He is about 24 years of age, and his life in that community has not been such as to inspire confidence in his innocence were they any doubt of his guilt. He was known as a worthless, thriftless sort of fellow, and the work he has done has generally been in the capacity of hired man on the farms in that locality, although he is the owner of an equity in some land. His face is anything but prepossessing, as will be seen by a portrait published in another column. In fact a face indicating more of coarse, repulsive brutality would be hard to find, even among the criminal classes. His bearing since his arrest and confession has been such as indicates a low mentality and an utter lack of the finer sensibilities.
Burlington Republican, March 15, 1901
the Murder of Her Husband - James Harris, the Principal,
Convicted of Murder in the First Degree
The trials of Mrs. America Allen and James Harris for the murder of John Allen at Ottumwa April 20 last, the former as a accomplice and the latter as principal, have taken place and been in progress in district court this week. They have been by no mean exciting, and the whole affair has been a lack of popular interest and curiosity.
The ease with which the juries were secured was quite surprising, considering the nature of the crime and evident interest shown by the people at the time. Men who by reading the newspaper reports of the affair had formed opinions that evidence would be required to remove were comparatively few, and before the special venire of 80 names had been exhausted both the required juries had been obtained. Those impaneled to try Mrs. Allen were John R. Burns, F. C. Bates, O. L. Green, Wm. Jackson, L. N. Jeffery, H. A. Sidorfsky, W. O. Sitwell, E. W. Winn, M. M. Baker, S. L. Barkley, R. H. Beall and James Brooks.
The Harris jury, impaneled Monday afternoon, are G. B. Cobb, Thos. Charity, J. C. Cushman, J. M. Davis, W. L Dawson, S. A. Grubb, J. C. Hall, G. E. Hackley, G. O. Hoach, T. A. Kirkpatrick, G. E. McFadden and Robt. McGraw.
The case of the state against Mrs. Allen was called in due form Tuesday morning, and after the regulation statement to the jury and the other preliminaries the proceedings cam to a sudden stop and the case of the state collapsed by reason the principal witness, Harris. He had evidently been carefully coached and was playing a part. For some time he has refused to allow his hair to be cut or trimmed and his beard shaven, and in consequence presented a most unkempt and crazy appearance. In addition to this he had his head down and endeavored to appear oblivious to his surrounding. When brought in and placed in the witness chair he acted as if dazed and unconscious. He had to be helped to his feet to be sworn, and when asked questions by the presenting attorney he appeared not to hear them and made no reply whatever. The best application of the lawyer’s air pump produced no other result. The witness simply would not talk, and as his evidence was what the prosecution relied upon for conviction and there was no way to compel him to testify, the prosecution was in the air. Consequently the judge instructed the jury to render a verdict of not guilty and Mrs. Allen was discharged.
One interesting event in the trial was the action taken by the state’s attorneys in order to strengthen their case by obtaining the fatal bullet used in the killing. Harris stated in his confession that he had loaded his shells with a 32-caliber bullet in addition to the load of shot. At the time the autopsy was held the physicians searched for this bullet, but not finding it easily, abandoned the attempt. But before the trial the county attorney decided that it was necessary and asked for an order of the court to have the remains of the murdered man exhumed and the bullet recovered. The order was given, and on Monday afternoon Drs. Salisbury and Manson performed the gruesome task. After having lain in the grave for nearly eleven months the body of John Allen was exhumed and the search, for the leaden missile made throughout the muscles of the back, where it was supposed to have imbedded itself. The entire back was removed and a careful examination made, but the search was unsuccessful. Some No. 4 shot were found, but no bullet, and the case of the state was no helped by the proceeding.
The case against Harris was called immediately and has been in progress since. The principal witnesses for the state were Sheriff Green, Deputy Sheriff Grennan, John Holt, the keeper of the jail, and F. C. Webber, the detective who was arrested and jailed here last summer on the charge of carrying concealed weapons and on suspicion of being a burglar. There was substantial uniformity in all their testimony. It related to the confession Harris and the subsequent admissions made by him tending to corroborate the truth of the statements made in that confession. In the main the Harris story as it has been at least partially made public and understood by the people generally by common report was told and pretty well confirmed. To repeat these statements in detail now, or to comment upon their probable truth or falsity, would be of no use.
Messrs. Green, Grennan and Holt were what are known as “good witnesses.” That is to say, they told straight stories, appeared candid and honest and made a good impression upon the jury. The detective had a child’s primer manner of taking as if he had learned his piece by heart and was repeating it from memory. And he spoke slowly as if dictating to a typewriter. This, his evident embarrassment under cross-examination, and the popular distrust of detectives generally, detracted somewhat from the effectiveness of his testimony. This popular prejudice was appealed to in every possible way by the defendant’s attorney, who seemingly thought that if he could convict the witness of having told a lie to a criminal in order to detect him in a crime, a great hit had been scored for the defendant. As a matter of fact the detective’s business is a perfectly legitimate one. It is rendered necessary by crime. A detective who always told the truth in his dealing with criminals might be really and truly good in the estimation of a defendant’s lawyer, but he would never shine in his profession. On the whole the detective’s story as to Harris’s confessions and admissions remained unshaken by the cross-examination.
Throughout the entire trial the demeanor of the prisoner has been the same. He has sat with bowed head as is unconscious of the presence of any one or of the proceedings in the courtroom. He remains in this position until it is time to be taken to his cell, when he is almost lifted to his feet and walks out with his head down in the same way. The general impression is that he is “playing crazy” in conformity with the instructions of his attorneys, and evidence to that effect was furnished by both the detective and Mr. Holt.
Harris’s defense was insanity, said to be due both to a hereditary tendency and the practice of cigarette smoking and the solitary vice. There were quite a number of witnesses on that side, but the principal ones were relatives of his. Mrs. N. E. Farmer, a sister of Harris’s mother, furnished the most important evidence, It was to the effect that insanity was hereditary in the family and that Harris had been a smoker of cigarettes since three years of age and a victim of the unmentionable vice since about twelve years of age. Others testified as to his weakness of intellect and general lack of mental qualities. On the whole the defense was weak and apparently made little impression on the jury.
The result of the trial was never in doubt from the beginning. The evidence was all in by 4 o’clock yesterday and counsel had concluded the argument and the case was given to the jury about 10. The instructions of the judge left no alternative but a verdict of murder in the first degree or acquittal. The jury deliberated only about nine minutes, but one ballot being taken. Harris was sentenced to death and will be taken to the penitentiary for the rest of his days.
There could be no other result under the circumstances. It may be said that the verdicts in both cases were but the crystallization of popular opinion. The public had in general reached the conclusion that Mrs. Allen ought not to be convicted and that Harris should be, and the court has so decreed.
Burlington Republican, June 20, 1900
A boy who gave his name as Arthur Shaner and his age as 14 years appeared before the probate judge yesterday to ask advice about being sent to the reform school. He said his father was in Oklahoma, but he had not heard from him since September. He had been working for a number of different farmers in this county for some time but said he could not get along with any of them. Having no home or means of livelihood, he had thought of the reform school as a place where food and shelter at least would be furnished, and was seeking advice as to the means of reaching there. The county attorney was consulted, but he knew of no way to send a boy there unless complaint was made by some one in the regular way, and so Master Shaney is condemned to the pursuits of freedom until he commits some act that will cause the hand of the law to be laid upon him.
Burlington Republican, August 3, 1900
Last Friday morning Miss Mary Lane, daughter of Commissioner Lane, narrowly escaped death by drowning at the Jackson for between Burlington and LeRoy. The river had risen several feet and she started to cross there with a horse and buggy, supposing it was fordable. The whole rig was completely submerged at once and the horse swan for the western shore, landing fully a hundred yards below the ford. She managed to get out safely by clinging to the buggy top, and then tying the horse at the edge of the water, she secured help from the house of W. H. Gentry. She was on her way to contract for a school, and borrowing some raiment, she proceeded on her way and did the business that called her forth. A little thing like that don’t bother a genuine Kansas school ma’am.
Burlington Republican, November 30, 1900
Saturday, November 24 - An Inquest Held, but Little
is Known of the Strange Affair
Mrs. Crowl, wife of Charles H. Crowl, died last Saturday afternoon at their home in LeRoy from the effects of poison. Whether it was self administered or not, and therefore whether she was a suicide or the victim of a murder, is not known at this time. In fact the entire affair is a good deal of a mystery, and any one who will carefully read the whole of testimony before the coroner’s jury Sunday will know little more if any more about it than is learned from the head lines given above.
Coroner Salisbury was summoned to LeRoy early Sunday morning, and finding the circumstances so remarkable, at once sent for the county attorney and held an inquest. The jurors were J. F. Reed, W. H. Johnson, J. M Quiggle, Fred Watson, J. G. Schlatter and Geo, E. Cook.
The witnesses examined were Charles H. Crowl, the husband of the dead woman; Elizabeth Crowl, his mother; Dr. C. C. Kesner, who was called in the case and attended to woman until she died; Thomas Crowl, son of the husband; C. C. Kersey, the undertaker; Mary B. Hinds and Martha Winpigler, neighbors of the Crowls; Dr. D. B. Rowe, who conducted the autopsy, and H. J. Heinrichs, a jeweler and optician who is located in Rowe’s drug store.
The evidence developed nothing definite as to the cause of death more than was known before. The Crowls had been residents of LeRoy for many years before, but had been absent in Ohio for a year or two and returned to LeRoy about the last of October. The had been married about four years and each had a child by a former marriage, though but one, Thomas Crowl, son of the husband, appeared as a witness in this affair. They lived with his mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Crowl, or she with them, as the case may be.
The unfortunate woman had spent Friday night with Mrs. Hinds and returned home after breakfast at 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning. She and her husband then had some contention over the possession of a sum of money, some $200 or $225, that she had retained. He demanded it and she said she had secreted it inside the pillows of the bed. While ripping open these pillows in search or in pretended search of the money about 10 o’clock the woman was attacked with convulsions and Dr. Kesner was summoned.
Dr. Kesner testified that he attended her about 10:30, 12 and 2:30 o’clock, when she died. It was his opinion she died from strychnine poisoning, although when first called he thought she had taken oil of tansy. When asked by him only a few minutes before her death the woman denied having taken poison. However, other remarks that she made to him and which he set forth in his testimony indicate a suicidal intent on her part. For instance, he said: “She said they had bought some property across the way without consulting her in the matter. They also had bought second-hand furniture to fit the house up without consulting her, and she took it as a significant that she was not wanted here any longer.”
Prior to this in his testimony he said: “My opinion is that strychnine poison killed her. Mrs. Crowl told me to go in and have Mrs. C. H. Crowl tell me where that money was and relieve her mind of that load or she would die.” Again he said, “I have been expecting trouble.”
The husband, the elder Mrs. Crowl and the son all agreed substantially in their testimony. They said there had been no family difficulties of any consequence, but that there had been some contention over the money referred to. Mrs. Crowl said that deceased was quick tempered and as quick to recover her good nature. She had a small quantity of strychnine in the house, but the younger woman probably did not know where it was kept.
The testimony of the other witnesses was equally unimportant and nothing was developed to show when or where the woman obtained or took the fatal dose, or when or where it was administered by another if it was so administered. All agreed that she had been in the house and engaged with work nearly all the time after returning home about 8:30 that morning, until taken sick, and had not, to their knowledge, eaten or drank and examination of Mr. Heinrichs and Dr. Rowe failed to prove the purchase of any poison by her at the drug store.
The verdict of the jury was to the effect that death was the result of poison administered by parties unknown. The circumstances were so suspicious, however, that the viscera were removed by Dr. Rowe and taken by Under Sheriff Grennan to Kansas City for a chemical analysis. The result of that analysis was not known when this paper was published and there have been no further developments in the case.
Burlington Republican, April 30, 1903
A dire calamity has befallen the family of James O’Mara, seven miles south to town, seven of their nine children having died within a week’s time.
Friday, April 10, the nine-year old daughter, Julia, was taken down with diphtheria. She died Tuesday morning, April 14, and was buried Tuesday afternoon. One by one the remaining eight children were stricken. Saturday morning Annie, aged 13, died and was buried the same day. About 11 o’clock Saturday night James, Jr., aged 4, and early Sunday morning Nellie aged 17, succumbed to the dread diseases. These two were buried in the same coffin Sunday afternoon. Monday morning William, aged 21, and Nora, aged 6, were also taken, and were buried in the same casket in the afternoon. Monday night Maggie aged 6 months, passed over to the other shore and was buried Tuesday.
The two surviving children, Mary aged 18, and Lizzie, aged 11, are in a fair way to recover. For a time it was thought they would be taken too, but on Monday evening Dr. S. P. Reser, the attending physician, administered antitoxine to the three surviving children. While it was too late to save the baby, the remedy took effect on the other two children and they soon began to improve. It is believed by many that the antitoxine is all that saved their lives.
The grief-stricken mother, who cared for her loved ones for eight days without a moments’ rest or sleep, collapsed Monday morning, and for a time it was feared that, in her weak condition, she would contract the dread disease, but she soon rallied from her collapse and is doing as well as could be expected under the circumstances. The father was also in a worn out condition. He secured an hour’s sleep Monday night, the first he had had for eight days, and is now gaining strength.
Everything possible was done for the sufferers. Saturday morning Mrs. S. E Etledge went out to help care for the sick ones and in the evening a trained nurse arrived from Kansas City, But more help was need and on Monday an army nurse came down from Emporia. The neighbors did all they could to relieve the situation by carrying food, fuel, etc., to the premise. The stock was removed to the J. W. O’Connor ranch to be fed, as no one was allowed near the house, and only the physician, priest and undertake entered the house. This precaution being taken, it is believed that the contagion will not be spread. It was reported that one of Jack Sutton’s children was down with the disease, but the report was false.
The disease is supposed to have originated from the premises, the house being located on the bank of Eagle creek and the cattle pens are right next to the house.
Never before in the history of the town has such a calamity befallen any family in this community. The deepest sympathies of the entire community are being showered upon the heart-broken parents in the sad loss of their loved ones, but words fail in the face of such distress as this, May the loving had of the kind Heavenly Father soothe their sorrows and pour the healing balm of this richest blessing upon their wounded hearts.
Burlington Republican, December 10, 1903
This town was all excitement Wednesday afternoon when the word went around that little Hazel Perkins had been stolen away by a woman supposed to be her mother.
The history of the case is as follows: About two years ago Mrs. C. S. Perkins visited Mr. and Mrs. R. T. Snediker at the Stock Hotel in Kansas City. At the hotel was a little girl, the daughter of a Mrs. Strickler, a young widow. Mrs. Perkins became attached to the child and asked the mother if she could not have her. The woman gladly consented and the child was brought to their home here, where she has had had a good home and was contented and happy and had won the hearts of her protectors, who had learned to love her dearly, as she was a bright and lovable little girl.
Soon after the child was brought here it was learned that she had been placed in an orphanage ion Kansas City and later stolen away by the mother. A short time ago the mother married a man named Bemer, of Sterling, Nebraska, where they now reside. Since then the mother has been asking to see the child and wanted her to come and visit them. Mr. and Mrs. Perkins consented to let the child to on a visit provided the mother would send a round-trip ticket.
Tuesday a woman alighted from the 4 o’clock train and inquired for a private boarding house, claiming to be a canvasser for some medical preparation. She secured lodging at Luther Gunter’s. Wednesday forenoon she canvassed the town and at noon ordered a rig at Hagel’s livery barn to drive in toe the country twelve miles. She went to the schoolhouse and asked for Hazel, took her to the livery barn and started for the country. When within five mile of Emporia the driver began to inquire what she was going to do and she hold him. Mr. Perkins was apprised of the affair about an hour after they left town and telephoned to Emporia to have the sheriff hold the woman until he arrived. The sheriff stopped the woman, the county attorney claimed he could not hold her, so she was turned loose and took the Santa Fe for her destination.
Mr. and Mrs. Perkins are badly broken up over the affair and can not understand why the woman should use this method of getting her child, as they would have gladly given her up had the mother come to them and stated her errand.
The child was taken from the school without a wrap and all of her clothing is still as the Perkins home. Mr. and Mrs. Perkins have the sympathy of the entire community in their loss of the child, whom they had learned to love and cherish as their own.
The LeRoy Reporter, October 23, 1903
Peter Wimer Shoots and Kills a Child
Peter Wimer is in jail and little Lowell, the two year old son of Frank and Olive Slagel is lying dead.
Pete finished his long turbulent career in Spring Creek township by committing the murder of a little child - a fitting finale of a life of strife, contention, quarrel and meanness.
Peter owns an eighty acre farm in Spring Creek township. He is getting old and wanted to rent it to somebody, but his is so mean and quarrelsome that nobody here wanted anything to do with him. He told his sister, Mrs. Crothers, that he wanted to go to Virginia and be absent all summer. So Mrs. Crothers induced her son Frank Slagel to come here from Minnesota and work the farm. But instead of going away Wimer staid here and made his home with Slagel and his family consisting of his wife and two little boys, the youngest two years old and other about four years.
He soon became a good deal of a nuisance, but Slagle and his wife bore with him as well as they could. A couple of moths ago he created a row over something the little boy had done and attacked Mr. Slagle and then had him arrested and out him under a peace bond. He wanted possession of his place, and Mr. Slagel made all reasonable efforts to gather his crop and get away. His household goods were mostly packed, and he had ordered a car at Aliceville to ship his goods away. Wimer had been informed of this and had been to Aliceville to inquire if the car had been ordered and was informed that it had. But he was hunting for more trouble and could not wait.
Tuesday afternoon at about 2:30 o’clock he appeared on the place. He hitched his horse to the fence and walked towards the house. Slagel was pumping water for his stock and was carrying it in a large bucket from the well to the horse trough in the lot, probably about twenty five feet from the well. The well is close to the kitchen porch which is on the southeast corner of the house. The house consists of a large sitting room and bed room combined and a kitchen on the south of it. Wimer approached from the east. Slagel met him about half way between the well and the horse trough. “I want possession of the house,” said Wimer. Mr. Slagel explained that he was waiting for a car and would get out as soon as he could load his goods. “I want possession of the kitchen right now,’ said Wimer. “May be you will and may be you will not, “ said Slagel. Peter started for the kitchen door and Slagel followed him. Both reached the kitchen screen door at the same time. Slagel pushed Wimer aside and entered, closing the door from the inside.
There is another door leading from the kitchen into the sitting room which was open. Both are close to the same corner and consequently it takes but a couple of steps to go from one to the other.
Slagel entered the sitting room door just as Mrs. Slagel with the little boy in her arms passed him and entered the kitchen. Slagel has seen Wimer pulling a revolver from his front pants pocket and called to his wife to come out, that Wimer had a revolver. Mrs. Slagel was trying to shut the kitchen door and close the latch, but Wimer pushed it open, squeezed partly in, pointed the revolver at her and fired, He entered the kitchen and immediately stepped to the sitting room door, holding the revolver in front of him and looking for Slagel.
Slagel stood behind the door and as he saw the revolver he grabbed it. A struggle for life ensued. Slagel is a stout young man, but Wimer is a big raw-boned man of 72 who has worked hard all his life and has a powerful grip yet. Once Slagel got the revolver away from him, but Wimer caught it again, Slagel was forced back against some household goods, Mrs. Slagel, meanwhile, set her baby on a chair and tried to pull Wimer away from her husband. With a sudden jerk Slagel got possession of the revolver and handed it to Mrs., Slagel telling her to out it where Wimer could not reach it. She threw it on a bed on the other side of the room.
Looking at her screaming baby she noticed it turning pale and nearly falling off the chair, She took it up and found it all bloody. “You have shot my baby,” she said to Wimer who was still struggling with Slagel.
Mr. Slagel told his wife to lay the baby on the cot and get a rope, that they must tie the old man before they could do anything for the baby. Mrs. Slagel got the clothesline, and both had a hard struggle to tie the old man.
After they had securely tied Slagel told his wife to take Wimer’s horse and buggy and to Miller’s and get help. Wimer protested against using his horse and buggy, and when Mrs. Slagel touched the hose with the whip in starting, Wimer did considerable growling about abusing his horse.
Of course, it takes considerable time to tell all this. Part of it happened a great deal faster than it can be told. The scene must be left to the imagination of the reader. Two little boys, one wounded to his death, screaming at the top of their voices. An old demon with a revolver in his hand seeking to kill both parents, the men engaged in a life and death struggle and the mother trying to sooth her child that was bleeding from a bullet hole through its intestines.
Neighbors soon arrived. The little one died in about an hour from the time it was shot. Weeping parents and neighbors surrounded the cot of the dying child. Wimer bound hand and foot lying upon the floor. Nobody paid any attention to him. It must be recorded to the real credit of the father of the murdered child that he did not kill the old brute. But he did not. He did not ever hurt him, except so far as it was necessary to secure him. Drs. C. C Kesner and G. G. Kesner appeared later on, but the child was dead. G. W. Ringle helped to untie Wimer and brought him to town and turned him over to Constable Dedrick who after giving him his supper put him in the calaboose.
Later in the evening County Attorney Ganse, Sheriff Weisdorfer, Coroner Douglas, Clerk of the Court Wade, and Editor John Redmond came down from Burlington. Although there was no danger of mob violence, the officers thought it best to remove Wimer to jail as soon as possible, and Jeff Larison was deputized to take him up.
A coroner’s jury was then selected consisting of O. L Anthony, Wm. Hale, John Redmond, and C. T. High. J. A. Hollaway and Frank Fockele. They with the officers, proceeded to the residence of Jake Crothers where the body of the child had been removed. An inquest was held and all the above facts were elicited. Mr. and Mrs. Slagel and Dr. Rowe were the only witnesses examined at the inquest.
The jury found that “Lowell Slagel came to his death by a bullet fired from a revolver in the hand of Peter Wimer on October 20, 1903, in Coffey county, which revolver was then and there held and fired by said Peter Wimer with the felonious intent, then and there to kill said Lowell or Mrs. Olive Slagel.”
The bullet had entered the child’s abdomen two inches to the left and half an inch about the navel, had taken a backward and downward course, perforating the intestines, and was found in the muscles of the back to the left of the spine. It was removed and found to be a 38-calibre of perfect form. The pistol with which the shot was fired was in evidence. It was new, 38-calbibre, four chambers loaded and one empty shell. A box of cartridges of the same size nearly full, was found in Wimer’s buggy. The revolver was not bought in this town. About three weeks ago Wimer was in Rankin Bros. Store and priced a revolver, but did not buy.
The ending of Wimer’s career is about what people had expected for more than 35 years. He was of a very quarrelsome disposition. Nobody could get along with him. He was unfair and abusive to his neighbors and had numerous quarrels. Once or twice before he narrowly escaped killing persons. He had lawsuits without number. It used to be a notorious fact that Pete Wimer had business at Burlington during every session of the district court. People finally let him entirely alone. Nobody would have anything to do with him. A number of years ago he applied for and was granted a divorce from his wife who was an excellent woman. She died something less than two years ago. His two boys and two daughters are quiet, exemplary citizens, but could not get along with the old man. He was married twice after his divorce from his first wife. The last wife is living somewhere in Texas.
He expressed no regret at killing the child. He is a great crank on religion and prohibition.
The funeral of the little one has been set for this (Friday) afternoon at three o’clock. Undertaker Johnson prepared the body which will be buried in the LeRoy cemetery.
Burlington Republican, October 29, 1903
[Transcriber's note: A picture of Peter Wimer accompanies this report. He has a thin face with prominent cheekbones, a wide mustache and longish narrow grizzled beard. His eyes are piercing.]
This paper has abused whisky so much for crimes it has caused that it gladly mentions the fact if there is a crime for which whisky is not responsible. The devil and whisky should be given their due, regardless of all theories and moral religious notions. It is only fair to state the whisky had nothing to do with and is in no way responsible for the murder of little Lowell Slagel near LeRoy last week. Peter Wimer did that, and he alone must be held responsible for the awful deed.
What was the matter with Wimer, what prompted him to commit such a horrible crime, is not known. So far as can be learned, he had no particular motive and no reason existed for him to have any trouble with the Slagel family. They had had some, but Slagel had made arrangements to leave and would have been gone in a short time. The devil that possessed the old man was evidently his own malicious disposition, quarrelsome nature and ungovernable temper. He has the reputation of being the most contentious man who ever lived in that locality.
As stated last week, he is said to have been in more lawsuits than any other citizen, and had had several fights before. His neighbors say that he was always ugly and quarrelsome, and it was practically impossible for any one to have any dealing with him without getting into some sort of trouble. He was always looking for it and generally found it. His divorce record shows that he could not “get along with” his wives, and the experience and observation of his neighbors is that no one was ever known to have such an angelic disposition that he could have any relations with Peter Wimer and escape a row of some kind. He was in common parlance, “just mean.”
By whisky had nothing to do with it. Whisky did not cause his ugliness and devilish propensities. It can prove an alibi. The Kansas History, generally call the “Herd Book,” says that Wimer was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, and the Reporter if last week, whose editor was personally acquainted with him, says he was a crank on the subject of religion and prohibition. Politically he is a prohibitionist, and was always classed by Republicans as belonging to the opposition. But it would not be fair to hold any church or political part at all responsible for him. His is evidently the case of a man who had indulged a morose and devilish disposition until it became his master. He had hated people until hatred filled his life. He had lost the power or inclination to be fair and considerate of the right of his fellow man.
Yet in appearance he is an ordinary Kansas man who has spent his life on a farm and engaged in outdoor labor. He has quite a number of relatives in the county who are worthy and respected, but no one who is known to be his friend. In fact his relatives and neighbors have one by one fallen away from him until his is now alone in the world. That is a terrible condition for any human being to find himself in, and it would seem that life confinement in a felon’s cell could be no greater punishment. But it was Wimer himself, the devil of a temper in him, that did it all. Whisky is perfectly innocent in this particular case.
The LeRoy Reporter, January 15, 1904
The Wimer trial opened last Monday morning. The state was ably represented by County Attorney H. E. Ganse and E. N. Connel. Mr. Wimer’s attorneys were I. E. Lambert, of Emporia and Geo. McConnell, of Burlington, two to of the shrewdest criminal lawyers in this portion of the state. A motion to quash the endictment was overruled. The regular jury panel was soon exhausted and venires were issued for others. A jury was finally secured.
The county attorney made a brief and forceful presentation of the state’s case, recounting briefly the facts which he proposed to submit by evidence. Mr. Lambert made an ingenious plea for the defendant.
The testimony for the state was practically the same a presented at the inquest and published in the REPORTER at that time. The state’s witnesses, especially Mr. and Mrs. Frank Slagel, were submitted to a severe cross examination, but their evidence was not shaken. The revolver and cartridges were in evidence, as was also the bullet cut from the little one’s body and which fitted the revolver and was the only one which had been discharged. The dress worn by the baby was also shown with its bullet hole and powder burns. It was proven that Wimer acknowledged shooting the baby and declared did not “aim to” and was sorry he killed the baby.
Mr. Wimer, on behalf of himself, testified substantially the same as Mr. and Mrs. Slagel. He differed from their evidence mainly in stating that the revolver was discharged while he was scuffling with Mrs. Slagel in the kitchen. He swore that Mrs. Slagel, having the baby on her right arm, hit him with her left hand in the breast and tried to push him onto the stove. He denied knowing that he fired the shot. He also claimed that he wanted to get into the house to get his clothing and some medicine which was upstairs. It was proven, however, that after shooting the child and stopping the resistance of Mrs. Slagel he did not go upstairs after his clothing and medicine, but went onto the front room after Slagel and when being taken away he wanted to go to Strawthers to get his clothing.
There was much questioning and cross questioning, as usual, but the main facts in the case were well established.
About three o’clock Tuesday afternoon both sides rested their case, and Judge Madden charged the jury. After which Attorneys E. N. Connal and H. E. Ganse addressed the jury on behalf of the state, and G. W. McConnell and I. E. Lambert for the defendant. All made able pleas. The efforts of I. E. Lambert were principally directed to throwing doubt upon the testimony of the state’s witnesses and roasting the parents of the murdered child.
The case was given to the jury at nine o’clock in the evening.
At eleven o’clock the jury brought in a verdict of manslaughter in the third degree the punishment for which is not more than three years a hard labor in the penitentiary, and not less than six months in the county jail.
Burlington Republican, January 1904
In the case of the state against Peter Wimer in district court Monday the motion for a new trial was withdrawn by the defendant’s counsel and he was sentenced to the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than three years. When given an opportunity to state why sentence should not pronounced Wimer arose and made a rambling talk, but was overcome by his emotions and was obliged to sit down. He has aged perceptibly since his conviction and his appearance indicated that he will hardly survive his penitentiary sentence. He was vaccinated Tuesday and will be taken to Lansing by the sheriff as soon thereafter as results are known.
In pronouncing the sentence Judge Madden read the following from a manuscript, with was afterwards filed with the other papers in the case:
You have been convicted of manslaughter in the third degree. The jury has found that you took the life of Lowell Slagel without a design to effect death, but with a dangerous weapon. They entertained a reasonable doubt of your guilt of higher grades of homicide. They believed that your act proceeded from heat of passion, though mayhap provoked by yourself, instead of malice. There was evidence from which they might have found that your act proceeded from malice instead of passion. The buying of the revolver and your appearance on the premises on the fatal day, accompanied by a demand for possession of the house, and your forcing entrance with drawn revolver; though not intended as against the child, tend strongly to prove you guilty of murder. Your appearance on the witness stand shows that you have an unruly temper that has become cyclonic for want of adequate restraint, and that you are lacking in candor and good faith. Your servitude to passion is the deposit of numerous uncontrolled outbreaks of temper that has finally become a whirlwind, yea, a very tempest. Its strong current sweeps out all the other kindlier feelings and emotions of your nature, and the voice of judgement and reason is lost in the roar of its storm.
You know either from the recoil of the revolver or from the attendant circumstances that your bullet killed the child, but you were not candid and fair enough to admit it. It is a wonder that this did not cost you your life, but the jury had consideration for your broken old age, and attributed your conduct in this respect to imperfect impressibility and waning memory. It was their providence and privilege to take a lenient view of the case, and it is your good fortune that they did so. They can not be censured therefore and you show your good sense in submitting to their verdict. In case of a new trial, another jury might not take so favorable a view, but might make it go harder with you.
I have probably said enough, but I would fain go farther. It is not my purpose to haunt you with your crime or reproach you with your guilt. Nothing that I could say in that regard would do any good, but might do harm. It might add more gloom to the cloud that hangs over your remaining days, and threaten to dim and diminish the light of life’s setting sun. I would rather by what I say, lighten the cumulus and brighten the failing light. You claim to be a Christian. Your counsel stated that you loved the Bible, and beautifully said, “It is the rainbow of hope for fallen souls.” You have hitherto made use of religion as a stimulant and intoxicant of your physical senses. Use it henceforth as the bread of life of the soul. You have considered its restraints only applicable to others. Apply them to yourself. Cast out your demon of selfishness, your evil of self will, and you may yet attain the blessing promised in that Bible of yours - the peace of God that passeth all human understanding.
The LeRoy Reporter, May 6, 1904
Misfortune has fallen thick and fast upon the Nicholson family who bought and moved on the Strackbine farm in Spring Creek township a couple of years ago. During the winter of 1902 to 1903 the husband, while returning from Neosho Falls one cold night, fell out of his wagon and, after wandering around for several hours in fields and pastures, froze to death. His widow with four small children remained on the farm. The poor woman appears to have been somewhat feeble-minded, and some scoundrel took advantage of her lone condition. This unhappy affair which resulted in the birth of a child, caused the neighbors to shun her. Crushed by her troubles she attempted suicide by jumping into a well. She was rescued. Before this her house burned down, and it is believed that she set it on fire. The county officials were finally notified and a court of inquiry into her mental condition was held. Then her father came down from Iowa and took her back to her former home. Now it is learned that on April 23, she poured coal oil over her person and saturated her clothing thoroughly with that fluid and then set it on fire. After fearful suffering she died the following day, thus closing an awful chapter in the tragic life of the unhappy Nicholsons.
The LeRoy Reporter, July 28, 1905
While the switchmen were at work in lower yards Sunday morning groans were heard coming from a box car, and an investigation was made at once.
The car was found to be loaded with rock salt and a young woman plainly dressed was lying on the salt, evidently in great pain.
The city marshall was called and she was at once removed from the car and brought up town on the switch engine. She was taken to the city prison and examined by Drs. Pace and Koogler and later in the day was placed in the charge of the city health warden.
She had a high fever and talked in a rambling, incoherent way. She said that her home was in Bowling Green, Mo., and that she had been going to school in Eureka, Kansas, and was on her way home but had got on the wrong train and stopped off here. She said that a man had been passing some candy around to the ladies in the car and she had eaten some. After getting off here she was taken violently ill and had climbed into the car and laid down and knew no more until she was taken out of the car by the officer. She said that her name was Alma Netswanger and that her home was at Bowling Green, Mo.
Bowling Green is the county seat of Pike county, one of the eastern counties north of the Missouri river.
A telegram to the marshal of that town and the sheriff of Pike county was answered Monday, saying that her parents live at McCune, near Bowling Green and could not help her.
In the meantime she had been removed from the city prison to the council chamber on the second floor of the city hall and some of the kind ladies of the town had been interested in case, she had been provided with a clean cot, given a bath and some clean clothes and a nurse had been secured and she was receiving the best of attention.
She is about 17 years old, rather plain looking ad has the appearance of having been a hard-working girl.
A diversity of opinion exists concerning the cause of her sickness, some holding that she just took sick on the train as she would have done at home, and wandered off in her delirium and found her way to the car, crept in at the end door which chanced to be open and laid there, nobody knows how long. Others hold to the belief that she had been drugged and foully maltreated, pushed into the car and left to die as fate willed.
Her past is a mystery which is somewhat deepened by a card which found in pocket which said “Put her off at Sheffield and see that she is put on an Independence car.” This would seem so convey the idea that she might have started from Kansas City instead of Eureka.
She is a mystery. This we do know, she has been a very sick girl and the kindhearted women who have her in charge are doing a noble work in caring for her.
The LeRoy Reporter, January 24, 1908
The following figures are taken from the annual report of the county health officer, Dr. V. McMullen, filed with the county clerk and showing the general health of Coffey county during the year of 1907:
The sanitary condition of the schoolhouses, poor house, jail and courthouse and the cities, towns and villages in the county as good. The most prevalent diseases were measles, pneumonia and typhoid fever.
The health board requires reports of births, deaths, but there are some doctors in the county who fail to report such cases although the law provides a penalty.
The year of 1907 had more sickness than the average year.
The following table shows the number of death at the different ages.
Under 1 year………………37
The number of births is no doubt greatly in excess of the number reported as many are not reported.
Burlington Republican, February 9, 1900
Dr. J. F. Davis, of Hall’s Summit, Shot and
Instantly Killed by Fred Denhart Friday Night.
A tragedy resulting in the killing of Dr. J. F. Davis by Fred Denhart occurred at Hall’s Summit between 12 and 1 o’clock last Friday night or Saturday morning. News of the affair reached Coroner Salisbury early in the morning, and he at once proceeded to that place and held an inquest.
The witnesses were S. O Hill, Fred Denhart, C. E. Condit, L. H. Minehouse and Dr. V. McMullen. Hill was the only person beside Denhart who was a witness to and knew anything of the affair, and all the principal facts so far as known are stated in his testimony,. From that and other sources we learn that they are in substance about as follows:
Denhart is a bachelor about 55 years of age who lived alone in a small house in hall’s Summit. He is an old soldier, draws a disability pension and has no regular occupation. Dr. Davis, the unfortunate victim, was only about 23 year of age. He was a graduate of the Kansas City medical college; had been located and practicing his profession in Hall’s Summit for nearly two years, and generally slept at his office, close to Denhart’s house, though he boarded and also has a room at the home of A. A. McKinstry. Hill, familiarly known as “Son” Hill, is about 30 years of age, and is by occupation a small farmer and day laborer. Whisky-drinking has been much practiced by those so inclined and of somewhat loose morals and the jug trade has been very lively there for a long time. On this particular occasion Denhart had just received a jug of the stuff, and Dr. Davis, returning from a call late at night, met Hill and learned of that fact. Together they went to Denhart’s room to pay him a visit, but he was in bed and refused to admit them. They returned to the Doctor’s office., where they indulged in drink story and music, and “had a good time,” as Hill expressed it, for nearly an hour, when, armed with a guitar and warned and jovial spirits, they again advanced upon Denhart’s retreat. This time, by persisting and almost forcing the door., they gained admittance, and shortly found the jug and all three imbibed more or less freely of its contents. The result was a midnight revel such as often occurs under such circumstances, ant the testimony of Hill as to just what happened is of course misty and uncertain because he saw with misty and uncertain eyes and witnessed with dazed and stupefied senses. He said the conversation turned upon shooting, and Dr. Davis, drawing a revolver from his pocket and extracting the loads, pointed it at Denhart and commanded him to dance. In response Denhart seized a shotgun standing near by and commanded Davis to dance, and also became angry and ordered them out of the room. Seeing that he was angry, Hill started to leave, but just as he reached the door the gun was discharged and the Doctor fell dead. Investigation at the inquest proved that the weapon was loaded with No. 3 buck shot and the load had passed entirely through the body, entering a little below and to the left of the right nipple, ranging slightly downward and coming out a little to the left of the spine. Death was instantaneous.
Denhart’s defense as indicated in his testimony is a mixture of accident and self defense in about equal parts. He claimed that he did not cock the gun or intentionally point it at the Doctor, and also that he was in fear of the revolver not knowing that the loads had been drawn. The defense does not seem very reasonable, and on the other hand it does not appear that he held any grudge against the dead man of that here was nay other motive for the crime. All that, however, is a matter for the courts.
The jury, composed of r. C. Huddleson, H. L. Douglass, J. E. LaRue, C. V. Northcott, H. C Warner and Lemuel Ellis, rendered a verdict that Dr. Davis “came to his death on the 3d day of February, A. D. 1900, by a gunshot wound, the gun which inflicted said wound being held in the hands of Fred Denhart, and that said wound was inflicted with felonious intent.”
…ran and notified C. E. Condit, deputy sheriff, who at once went and arrested Denhart. The two men and Hill then came to town and notified the sheriff and corner and then returned home. After the inquest the sheriff took Denhart into custody, and he is now is jail awaiting his preliminary hearing before Justice Brown at 10 o’clock next Monday. A complaint charging him with murder has been made by the county attorney.
Dr. Davis’s parents live at Wellsville, Franklin county. His father and uncle came down and took charge the remains Saturday, and the funeral was held at Wellsville Sunday. The people of Hall’s Summit and vicinity speak in the highest terms of the unfortunate young man, saying that he was exceptionally bright and well educated and a physician of skill and ability. His tragic death is deeply mourned by all and has profoundly moved the entire community.
That is the simple fact concerning the shocking affair at Hall’s Summit last week. Had there been no whisky, there would have been no midnight carousal, no quarrel between friends, no drawn revolver, no shotgun, no shocking death. But whisky was there, and in consequence a bright and well-educated young man, with a future full of promise, lies dead, while his slayer is in the toils of the law and facing a felon’s cell.
Denhart will be arraigned on a regular charge of murder, couched in precise legal phraseology. The lawyer will object and wrangle over legal points and insist that the strict rules of evidence shall be observed. The court will look wise and try to be fair and make rulings that are just to both sides, and the jury will conscientiously endeavor to ascertain what if any criminal intent there was in Denhart’s mind at the fatal moment, in order to render a just verdict. That is of course necessary under a system of fallible human justice, but in a larger, higher sense it is all a farce. The thing that was in Denhart’s mind was whisky. His brain was on fire with the infernal stuff and he wasn’t himself, but a human fiend such as whisky makes of men. Look at the whole picture, Note the crazed and excited man who the next day or the next hour would have given the world if he possessed it, to undo the terrible deed. See the frightened witness, maudlin and nerveless, who, if sober and alert, could have prevented any accident. View the dead body of the young man with that ghastly wound in the breast. Note the life blood as it gushes forth and forms a crimson pool on the floor. Go with the senseless clay to the home in Wellsville and there witness the anguish of fond parents, bowed down with a weight of grief the heaviest that it is possible to lay upon men and women. Take in all the terrible details and then remember that over it all, the cause of the whole disaster - all the misery, heart-ache and woe - stands the Demon Rum. Whisky did it all.
And yet this is nothing much - only one more of thousands upon thousands of just such cases - only the slightest possible lengthening of the frightful list already so long that it makes the mind faint to contemplate it.
Whisky does business every week day and works over time and with double forces on Sunday. Its field is everywhere - in the towns and villages of prohibition Kansas as well as in the great cities. It never rests or takes a vacation. And that is the kind of work it does. If it were customary to write the truth in epitaphs, the number of tombstones that would bear this name would be startling. If all the crimes whisky has caused could be fixed upon poor, week individual men, a hundred gibbets would be raised in Kansas where capital punishment is legally prohibited.
Is it any wonder that good men and women hate whisky? Is it any wonder that they grow impatient at the slow progress made toward checking its ravages by legal processes, and become intolerant, dogmatic and unreasonable? Is it any wonder that there are “temperance fanatics,” “prohibition cranks” and “long-haired men and short-haired women?” Sneers about such things don’t meet the situation. The people are profoundly interested in this matte. They are in earnest, and the best minds are busy endeavoring to find some method that will check the frightful work of whisky.
Mean time, let men and women be honest and sincere. It is impossible to libel whisky; to tell the simple truth about it seems slander. Let them tell the truth. Let them tell their boys just what whisky has done for others and will do for them if used, and then let them set an example consistent with their precepts. Press home upon the conscience of every bright boy, in a simple, commonsense way, the terrible consequences of whisky drinking as he sees and knows the, and do it whenever occasion offers. In this way something can be done toward checking this frightful evil.