Poweshiek County, Iowa Crimes
The Fox and Long Gang—Adventures of Jonas Carsner—The Cumquick Case—The Murder of Claiborne Showers—Other Crimes
He who records the deeds of his fellow-men must reproduce the bad along with the good, and while it is his privilege to submit as models the record of the wise and the upright, it is likewise his duty to not wholly ignore the record made by the foolish, the dishonest and the depraved, who, by deeds both daring and cowardly, have appropriated to their own use the property of others, and, in the prosecution of their greedy aims, have not scrupled to imbue their hands in the blood of fellow-man. Then, too, will there necessarily be some reference to those who have been driven by anger and malice to the commission of heinous crimes, and the still more pathetic reader will be willed upon to contemplate the deed of at least one unfortunate individual, who, bereft of reason, committed the almost incredible crime of matricide. The tourist, if his journeys be at all extended, beholds not only grand mountains, magnificent forests and luxuriant vegetation—at times he must plunge into miasmatic swamps, and cross dreary deserts, and mingled with the glad sound of joy will come wafted to his car the wail of woe. Thus it is with one who journeys back through the records of the past; he will find there the records of those who were proof against all temptation, and who regarded a "good name rather to be chosen than great riches,"and again, like the tourist, will he find such shocking instances of avarice and cruelty that he dreads to reproduce the story.
It is not our intention to impress the reader with the thought that Poweshiek county has been peculiarly unfortunate in this particular, for such has not been the case. Its fate has (Men the common fate of all, and the number of its inhabitants who by their crimes have made their names immortal, and to a certain extent brought the good name of the entire people into reproach, is probably not as great as in many other counties of the State. It will be observed that at least two of the most shocking murders which have occurred in the county were committed by persons who did not properly belong in the county, and were simply sojourning within its limits at the time tho deed of violence was committed.
Source: History of Poweshiek County, Iowa, 1880
THE FOX AND LONG GANG.
The fact has already been stated that at the time the first settlement was made in Poweshiek county there was an old cabin discovered in a grove a few miles north of the present site of Montezuma. A number of strangers were accustomed in those early days to occasionally visit the cabin, and, from the character of certain things which were afterward found in the ruins of the cabin, the early settlers were led to believe that it was originally the resort of a number of desperadoes known as the Fox and Long gang of counterfeiters and horse thieves. This supposition was confirmed by Mr. Snook, a blacksmith who early lived on Bear Creek, and who was frequently called upon by members of the gang to shoe their horses and repair certain tools for them.
On account of the supposition that the aforesaid cabin was the resort of counterfeiters and thieves the grove was named Bogus Grove by the settlers, and it went by that name for many years. From the fact that this gang undoubtedly had its headquarters in the county a local interest attaches to the history of these noted desperadoes. The members of the gang were the persons who murdered Colonel Davenport; they were afterward hunted down by a man named Bonney. We give the following brief account of the band:For a number of years after the first settlement of Iowa the country on both sides of the Mississippi River was infested by a lawless gang of free-booters. Their main headquarters were at Nauvoo, in Illinois, and they had occasional places of rendezvous in Cedar, Linn and Poweshiek counties.
The fugitives from justice in the older States had fled to the western wilds for protection, and organized themselves into regular bands for counterfeiting, horse stealing, murder and robbery. They at length advanced so far in their grand schemes for crime and escape, that in some places justices of the peace and other officers of the county were elected to office by their intrigues, and many men of good standing became associated with them.
At this stage of affairs a grand mass meeting was held and it was resolved by the people to rid the community of these desperadoes. One of the ring-leaders and his three sons were taken, tried by a self-constituted jury, condemned and shot the same day. Another member of the gang was shot and the rest fled from the country.
The murder of Col. Davenport in daylight and in full view of the citizens of Rock Island and Davenport sent a thrill of terror to every heart and made all honest and well-disposed citizens fear for their lives and property. So foul a crime, attended by such appalling circumstances, aroused the energies of every one to assist in discovering the murderers. Public meetings wore called and companies of horsemen sent in every direction but no trace of the guilty men could Ins found. A reward of fifteen hundred dollars was offered by George L. Davenport and the Governor of Illinois offered a reward of one thousand dollars. It was subsequently ascertained that the robbers had for days been secreted in the bluffs previous to the attack on Davenport and selected the 4th of July, when all the family except the Colonel was away.
Mr. Davenport lived long enough to relate the circumstances attending the robbery. He had been fearful of robbers and noticed some suspicious looking persons around the town, and he had taken the precaution to fasten the doors and have arms in readiness. He had but a few moments prior to the attack been to the well for water and on his return fastened the door behind him. He was seated in an arm-chair in his sitting-room when he heard a noise in the hack part of his house, and opening a door that led there was confronted by three men, one of whom exclaimed, "Seize him, Chunkey!"At the same instant he received a flesh wound from a pistol in the hand of one of the robbers. He endeavored to reach his pistols, which lay on the mantle, but was laid hold of and bound and blindfolded. The robbers, after many ineffectual attempts to get into the safe, led Col. Davenport up stairs and compiled him to unlock the safe. This he did and the robbers, after obtaining about six hundred dollars, fled. Davenport soon afterward died from the effect of the wound and other injuries inflicted upon him.
All attempts to capture the robbers were for some time ineffectual; at length Edward Bonner, of Lee county, Iowa, undertook to ferret out the place of their concealment. He entered upon the enterprise about the middle of August, 1845. a month and a half after the killing of Davenport. He finally got trace of the robbers by representing himself as one of the gang.
On the 8th of September he arrested Fox at Centerville, in Appanoose county, and committed him to jail there. On the 19th of the same month he arrested Long and Birch at Sandusky, in Ohio. Several other arrests followed. Birch and Fox escaped from jail after having been tried and convicted. John Long, with one or two others, was hanged at Rock Island. Before suffering upon the gallows Long made a confession revealing the facts in the case of Davenport s murder and many other crimes which up to that time had been unheard of.
These prompt and energetic measures to bring the ruffians to justice gave to the western banditti such a shock that the country was for many years free from their depredations.
Source: History of Poweshiek County, Iowa, 1880
THE ADVENTURES OF JONAS CARSNER.
Among the disreputable characters who at an early time infested the settlements of central Iowa, and whose name appears among the first upon the criminal records of Poweshiek county, was Jonas Carsner. Although he was frequently arrested, he could not be convicted, and although the people were morally certain of his guilt, he could always bring into court a cloud of witnesses who would swear that he had been elsewhere at the certain time when a crime had been committed.
In 1845, when the whole region of country west of this was Indian territory, and Des Moines was 6till a military post, Jonas Carsner plied his trade in various parts of the country. The Indians in and around the Fort at times had some money and very good horses, and Jonas operated with very good success among these savages. The Indians complained to Capt. Allen, who dispatched a squadron of dragoons in quest of the offender. The dragoons, who seldom went anywhere without accomplishing their purpose, returned, bearing with them the offender, lie was tried by military court, and, the evidence not being conclusive, Captain Allen let him off with a flagellation, which was administered by the Indians.
A few days after Jonas was released, a teamster who was conveying supplies from Keokuk to the garrison at Fort Des Moines, encamped some distance east of the Fort, and during the night one of his horses was stolen. Not being able to proceed without the horse, he visited a band of Indians near by and from them borrowed a horse to ride while searching for his missing animal. After following the trail for quite a distance, he came to a dense thicket, and just as he was about to enter the thicket Jonas Carsner came riding up to him, mounted on the stolen horse. The teamster, whose name was Fish, was for an instant completely dumbfounded and did not know what to do, but he was soon released from any doubts, as Jonas rode right up to him and coming along-side, drew a huge knife with which he cut the girth of the saddle upon which Fish was mounted, and giving the latter a quick wrench, threw him to the ground, and grasping the reins of the now disencumbered steed, galloped away, taking both horses with him.
Poor Fish was now like a fish out of water, and was compelled to return to the Indians and relate the result of his sad adventure. Carsner was again arrested and placed under five hundred dollar bonds to await his trial. A friend appeared with the money which was placed on the justice's table; while the justice was preparing some papers, Jonas walked out of the building and his friend grasping the money leaped from a window; both disappeared, leaving the magistrate without prisoner, money, or bondsman.
Jonas Carsner has the honor of occupying with his name the first two pages of the Poweshiek county court record. What finally became of him no one knows, but certain it is he was not convicted in any legally constituted court of this county.
Source: History of Poweshiek County, Iowa, 1880
THE CUMQUCK CASE.
During the summer of 1856, Andrew J. Casteel and his brother, who resided near Lafayette, Indiana, determined to emigrate to Iowa. Andrew, who had but recently been married, started in advance intending to stop for a short time with some of his wife's relatives near Bloomington, Illinois. The brother started about one week after, and from some reason not finding Andrew at the appointed place of meeting, crossed the Mississippi River at Muscatine, and proceeded to Boone county where he located. Andrew crossed the river at Burlington, and his brother in Boone county heard nothing further of him until he was summoned to Poweshiek county, to identity the dead and half decomposed remains of him and his wife, which were found hidden away in some corn fodder, a few miles west of Montezuma. It was evident that Casteel and his wife had been murdered, and the bodies were hidden away in order to give the perpetrators of the deed an opportunity to escape. Nothing farther could be learned of the matter, and although special effort was made to solve the ghastly mystery no facts were developed. Thus matters stood till the early part of 1857, when a man by the name of Morgan, residing in Des Moines, accidentally received an intimation which led him to believe that the crime had been committed by a man residing in Polk county.
A man by the name of Wm. B. Thomas, but commonly called Cumquick, residing in Polk county, not far from Des Moines, came home one evening very much intoxicated and shamefully maltreated his wife. Morgan happened along the road at the time, and overheard the woman remonstrating with her husband, and among other things understood her tell Cumquick if he didn't do better she would tell about the Poweshiek county affair. Morgan, upon hearing this, suspected that Cumquick was the perpetrator of the murder. It will be well to state here that the murder of Casteel and his wife created intense and wide spread excitement, and there were persons in all parts of the State constantly on the lookout, tor some evidence which would solve the mystery. This tact will account for Morgan, upon over-hearing the quarrel between Cumquick and his wife, immediately concluding that there was the guilty man and determining upon his arrest.
Upon arriving at Des Moines, Morgan went before the proper officer and made affidavit to the effect that he believed Cumquick was the perpetrator of the murder. The latter was immediately arrested and taken to Poweshiek county, where he had a preliminary examination. At this examination Cumquick had a host of witnesses, all of a bad character, who testified that the prisoner had been in Polk county at the time the murder was supposed to have been committed. There were other witnesses, however, who testified most positively to the effect that they had seen Cumquick on the road between Oskaloosa and Montezuma, in company with two other men and a woman, about the time the murder was committed. A certain land-lord, who kept a country tavern on the road leading from Oskaloosa to Pella, testified that Casteel and his wife had halted at his house, and that Cumquick and another man were in their company when they left. Persons testified that on the same day the Castells left the aforesaid tavern they saw Cumquick and his companion driving a four-horse team toward Montezuma, which team corresponded with the one the landlord said was in Casteel's possession in the morning. About 6ix miles west of Montezuma the team was seen to turn south, and, after proceeding to Miller's saw-mill, to return to the main road, and go along it to a point about four miles west of Montezuma, where they stopped to water the team. Here they acted very strangely. Among other things it was noted that while Cumquick was at the well drawing water the owner of the cabin approached the wagon and bantered the man in the wagon for a horse trade. When he came near the wagon the driver whipped up his horses and drove off at a rapid rate, followed by Cumquick, who dropped the bucket and left without watering the horses. It also appeared in evidence that when they came to Joseph Hall's place they turned south on a by-way and encamped for the night, and it was about a half mile from this camping place, on the farm of Thomas Reason, that the dead bodies were found a short time afterward. Cumquick was a peculiar looking man, and could be readily identified by any one who had ever seen him, and at the preliminary examination there were persons who testified to having seen him pass through Montezuma early the next morning, after encamping west of town; also persons who saw him driving along the road between Montezuma and Iowa City, and at the latter place two of Casteel horses were found in possession of the stage company. A saddle and some harness, found in Cumquick's possession at his home in Polk county, were also identified by James Casteel at being the property of his murdered brother. The evidence seemed to be sufficient to warrant the holding of Cumquick, and the magistrate ordered him to be held to await the action of the grand jury. He was in the meantime committed to the Scott county jail.
The District Court for Poweshiek county did not convene till May, and in the meantime every citizen of this and adjoining counties constituted himself a special detective to procure evidence against the prisoner. Thus it was that by the time court convened much additional evidence was accumulated, and the people, especially of Mahaska and Poweshiek counties were in a fever of excitement By this time it was generally conceded by all that Casteel and his wife had been murdered by Cumquick and his companion, in Mahaska county, shortly after leaving the country tavern before alluded to; that after killing them they placed them in the wagon, and, having covered them over, proceeded northwest a distance, and then turned abruptly east to avoid suspicion; that they turned south past Millers saw-mill, which had been idle for years, with the intention of burying the bodies in the sawdust, but, seeing some persons near the mill, turned back, and proceeded to the place where they camped, and during the night placed the bodies in the fodder shocks where they were found.
On the 7th of May, 1857, Cumquick, having been indicted by the grand jury, was arraigned for trial. lie plead not guilty, and upon plea of his attorneys was allowed a continuance till the next term of court. He was remanded back to the Scott county jail, where he remained till July, when court again convened at Montezuma. The people in Montezuma, and the whole surrounding country had in the meantime become thoroughly convinced of Cumquick's guilt, and were greatly enraged at the delays occasioned by technicalities and legal quibbles. Thus it was that when Cumquick was brought back from the Scott county jail in July, there was a large and excited crowd in Montezuma. The excitement was intensified by one Dr. Moser, a brother of Mrs. Casteel. He resided in Indiana, and had been subpoenaed as a witness when the case first came up in May. When the case was continued it was necessary for him to return home. He had to come back in July, and in sundry speeches which he made to the crowd remarked that if Cumquick should be tried and acquitted he would regard the verdict as final and satisfactory, but that he would submit to no further continuances and delays. Such was the feeling of tho people, who had fully determined upon lynching if the trial was not immediately proceeded with. The session of court begun on the morning of July 14, 1S57, Hon. Wm. M. Stone presiding. The case of the State v. Wm. R. Thomas was the first one called, and Cumquick'* attorneys filed an affidavit to the effect that the people of Poweshiek county were so much prejudiced against the prisoner that he could not have an impartial trial, and they therefore moved for a change of venue. The court had assembled in the old court-house, workmen being at that time engaged in the erection of the present court- house. The weather was intensely warm, and the crowd was so large that it was decided to adjourn to the school-house to hear the argument of counsel on the motion for a change of venue. It was about eleven o'clock when the arguments were concluded, and Judge Stone decided to grant the motion. The news soon spread through town that a change of venue had been granted to Mahaska county, and that the case would not be tried for some months. A mob immediately proceeded to the school-house, and by violence took the prisoner from the officers, and proceeded with him through town and west along Main street to a tree located on the north side of the street, on what is now part of the Cheshire estate in West Montezuma. A rope was placed around the neck of the prisoner, and he was suspended for a time; he was then let down and asked to confess; refusing to make any confession he was again drawn up and hanged by the neck until life was extinct. He was cut down later in the day and buried. Thus ended the case of Iowa against Wm. B. Thomas, alias Cumquick, who undoubtedly was one of the murderers of the Casteels, and thus in this summary manner was avenged one of the most frightful murders ever committed in the State.
A grand jury subsequently investigated the lynching, but no persons were indicted. Although this summary manner of punishing crime is to be deplored, it is probably well enough that no one was indicted, as it would have been impossible to convict anyone. At this late day the people of Montezuma have no hesitancy in giving the names of certain ones most prominent in the lynching, and a certain individual boasts that he carried the rope from the store where it was purchased to the place of execution. Cumquick had now paid the penalty of his crime, but justice was but half satisfied. All the evidence against Cumquick was to the effect that he had an accomplice, and no effort was spared to find out who this accomplice was. Rewards were offered and every effort made to trace out the identity and location of the partner in crime. The great obstacle in the way of success consisted in the fact that the man who was with Cumquick in the wagon did not suffer himself to be seen; he never left the wagon and when he met anyone always gazed in another direction, consequently it would have been impossible to have identified the man even had he been discovered. Through the stimulus of rewards many persons were arrested and brought to Montezuma but the evidence against none was sufficient to warrant an indictment. At the previous home of Cumquick in Polk county there was a special effort made to ferret out the guilty man. There was a man living at Des Moines at the time by the name of William H. Meachem who had previously been very active and successful in his efforts to suppress horse thieves; it was through his efforts in this direction that Jonas Carsner had frequently been arraigned for trial. This man Meacham determined to find Cumquick's accomplice. Accompanied by several persons he made a descent upon some suspected parties, and by dint of curses and threats, and brandishing of deadly weapons succeeded in capturing a man by the name of Van Schoick, whom he fastened with a chain and forcibly took to Poweshiek county. In Poweshiek county Van Schoick was pronounced not to be the man whom circumstances had identified as the murderer. Mr. Meacham had, therefore, kidnapped an innocent man and after he had been detained in illegal custody for nearly a week he was released and told to go home.
But other evidence, or at least what was supposed to be evidence, having been obtained, again this bevy of men, who were officers ad libitum, burst upon the unsuspecting Van Schoick, and captured him with his father-in-law, Mr. Ridgway, and, barely allowing them time to get their coats, they were put into a sleigh and threatened with death if they attempted to resist, and borne away to Montezuma. But from the intense cold, and tho difficulty of reaching Montezuma on account of the state of the roads, after reaching Jasper county, Mr. Meacham brought his prisoners to Des Moines, where he surrendered them to tho Sheriff and filed information against them for murder. A trial followed, but the proof against them was of the most trifling nature, and they were speedily acquitted. Fear of again falling into the hands of the merciless Meacham induced Ridgway and Van Schoick to commence an action against their late illegal custodian for kidnapping, but it appearing to the court that Mr. Meacham was a monomaniac on the subject of taking horse thieves, and various other felonious characters, he was on this and similar facts acquitted.
THE MURDERS OF CLAIRBORNE SHOWERS
This tragedy created a most profound sensation throughout the entire State, and owing to the long and exciting trial of the supposed murderer, was more generally commented upon than any other criminal prosecution which has yet occurred in the State. We deem this case of sufficient local interest, to devote some considerable space to a statement of facts of the murder as elicited during the trial and, also, some extracts from the arguments of counsel. The counsel employed in trying the case was the most able which could be obtained from the States of Illinois and Iowa, and it would be well if a full synopsis could be herewith given; such, however, would take up more space than can well be devoted to the matter.
About the 6th or 7th of May, 1863, the town of Brooklyn, in Poweshiek county, was thrown into great excitement resulting from the finding of the dead body of a young man, a short distance east of that place. The head was severed from the body, and was subsequently found a few rods away covered with leaves and bark. This head was recognized by John and Sampson Manatt, as being that of one of two boys who had stayed at their house a few nights previous, and who were as they said then on their way to the gold mines. The boys left Manatt's together on Saturday morning, May 2d, with a dun colored team and covered wagon, in the direction of Brooklyn. It was remembered by the citizens of Brooklyn that, on the morning of the 2d of May, a team answering to the description of the one that had stayed at Manatt's came to town accompanied by one young man, who left his team in Brooklyn and hired a livery horse for the purpose, as he said, of going to a grove where he had encamped the night previous and get a hatchet which he had forgotten. He was gone about two hours, came back, took his team and drove out of town toward the west.
Public opinion immediately fastened upon this young man as being the murderer of his companion. He was described as being a tall, well built and well dressed young man, about twenty-two years old, good looking, a keen eye, and of sharp shrewd appearance. Diligent search was made by the officers of the law, but as some time had elapsed no trace of the supposed murderer could be found further than a few miles west of Brooklyn. The head of the murdered boy was taken in charge by Dr. Conway and preserved.
Three years and more had passed by when one morning in the latter part of May, 1866, a stranger took passage on the stage coach from Newton to Monroe, and took a seat on the outside beside the driver, Gaines Fisher. In their conversation on the way, the subject of crime came up and Mr. Fisher related the circumstances of the murder at Brooklyn. The stranger became interested, inquired the description of the boys, their team, etc., and instead of continuing his journey south, returned to Newton, and thence to Brooklyn, where he procured all the information possible in regard to the tragedy. The result of this was that Kirk G. Vincent was arrested a few days subsequently at Cambridge, Illinois, on the charge of committing this murder in Poweshiek county. An examination was had before Judge Hinman, which resulted in defendant being held to answer a requisition from the Governor of Iowa. In July he was brought to Brooklyn on the requisition of Gov. Stone. A preliminary examination was had before Justice Walter. The prisoner was bound over to appear before the grand jury, who found an indictment against him at the December term 1866.
The case came up for trial on the 15th of April, 1867, and the following jury was impaneled to try the case:
John D. Randall, a farmer living in Illinois, near Cambridge, testified that he had loaned his wagon to Vincent and Showers when they started on their journey.
Several other witnesses from Cambridge were sworn, who testified with regard to the departure from that place of Vincent and Showers.
George Haine, of Monticello, Iowa, was then sworn, who testified to having seen Vincent in that city in April, 1803, of a boy answering to the description of Showers, who was with him, of the team which they drove, and other facts going to show that Vincent had been in Monticello with Showers during an entire week in the latter part of April, 1863. A. J. Yarvel, of Monticello, also testified to his having seen the two boys together in Monticello during the spring of 1863. C. H. Pierce, of Monticello, also testified to having seen the boys together at that place in the spring of 1863. The same fact was testified to by James Middaugh, who saw the boys in Marengo in April, 1868. Mrs. Arabella Tinker, of Bear Creek township, Poweshiek county, testified that during the first week in May, 1863, she was out looking for the cows when she found the body of the murdered boy.
The next witness introduced by the prosecution, and probably one of the most important ones, was Sampson Manatt, of Bear Creek township, Poweshiek county. We give his testimony in full: "About May, 1863, resided about four miles east of Brooklyn; still reside there; had resided there about fourteen years then. About the first of May, 1863. there were a couple of young men stopped at my mother's to stay over night, and camped in the barn-yard. They cooked their own victuals and slept there over night I have seen the head of one of those boys since; I have seen the other. The first time I saw one of them after they left there was in Cambridge, Henry county, Illinois. Saw the body of the one that was killed, and the head that was found. I do recognize this defendant as one of them; I am positive. They had what I would call a dun team, medium sized and well matched. Cannot describe the wagon very well; do not think it was new; it was a very good two horse wagon, with a white canvas cover. They got there sometime before sundown, perhaps an hour before. Do not recollect the color of the manes and tails of the horses. Was with them in the evening till ten o'clock or after, and some time the next morning. Spent the evening with thorn; had conversation with them. They stated they were from Wisconsin; they gave no name that I heard. We had a kind of a jovial time in the evening; a little cutting up, dancing, fiddling, etc. The oldest of the two fiddled some, a few tunes; this defendant was the larger one of the two, and did the fiddling. The smaller one danced some; he was quite an active jig dancer; he danced considerable; could not say that he tried to mimic any one. Think they left between the hours of seven and eight next morning; was not at the house when they left. Don't know which one claimed to own the team. They said they were going to the gold mines; cannot say whether to Pike's Peak, or where. Think they came there Friday; am not positive. Think they left on Saturday morning. I first saw that body a half mile west of where we lived. Could not tell what day of the week it was. It was some-time during the next week after the boys left, perhaps six or eight days after. The body was lying just at the edge of some small hazel brush, not concealed, and I think lying on the back. The head was found a rod or a rod and a half from the body, covered up with leaves, bark and dirt. I recognized the head at first sight as being the smaller of the two boys that were at our house, that is, as soon as I saw the face. Recognized the pants, which was all the clothing I recognized. He had on a pair of pants, pair of socks, and three shirts, no coat, vest or hat I took the younger one to be from seventeen to nineteen years of age. Could not give the color of his eyes and hair, only that he had dark hair. He had no whiskers, but a very light mustache, if any. The larger one had no mustache, or if he had any it was light; could not say in fact. He had on light colored pants and vest, a dark cloth cap and dark coat. Did not notice where the wagon was made. I next saw defendant in Cambridge; did not recognize him at first, but the second day was satisfied in my own mind after I saw him about more, from his general appearance, that he was the man. At first he did not seem tall enough. The first time I saw him he was sitting in the court-room. When I saw him at my mother'6 place he was moving about most of the time. I found the dead body in Poweshiek county, Iowa. (The head of the murdered boy having been produced.) I am satisfied it is the same head I found in the woods covered up; recognized it then and do now as being the younger of the two boys that were at our house; don't know whether that scar on the forehead was there at the time or made since; could not say whether the scar was new when I found it The nose was flattened a little; it seemed to have rested against the log. Did not notice the teeth of the younger one."
Jane Carroll, of Warren township, James Shiner, a blacksmith of Brooklyn, James E. Johnson, a merchant of Brooklyn, Michael Cunning, a carpenter of Brooklyn, William Forbes, a livery stable keeper of Brooklyn, John Davidson, of Bear Creek township, Mrs. Mary Manatt and W. X. Sigafoos of Bear Creek township, each testified to having seen one or both of the boys in and near Brooklyn early in May, 1863. Amos Gould, clerk of the courts of Henry county, Illinois, N. B. Gould, a farmer living in Cambridge, Illinois, John B. Cady, formerly of Genesco, Illinois, John Manatt, of Warren township, Poweshiek county, William R. Urison, of Henry county, Illinois, Nathan Worley, of McDonough county, Illinois, Dr. J. B. Cox, of Belle Plaine, Iowa, A. McDonald, formerly sheriff of Poweshiek county, Alexander H. Showers, of Peoria, Illinois, Richard Muscall, of Cambridge, Illinois, Joseph Tilson, of Cambridge, Illinois, J. D. Baker, of Cambridge, Illinois, and Samuel H. McDay, of Cambridge, Illinois, all testified in behalf of the prosecution, after which the prosecution rested their case. Some fifteen or twenty witnesses were introduced by the defense. They were mainly from Illinois, and their testimony was intended to prove the good character of the defendant, and to show that he did not leave that State in company with Showers. The most remarkable circumstance of the trial was the testimony of Charles W. Kyle, of Henry county, Illinois, who testified to having seen Claiborne Showers in the army in October, 1864, a year and a half after the murder was committed. The following is a part of his testimony: "The last time I saw Claiborne was in the army, at Altoona Pass, Georgia, on the 7th of October, 1861. We were sent to reinforce the Twenty-third Army Corps, at Altoona Pass. They had a fight there Friday evening, October 5, 1864. We got there and I saw him on Sunday morning, the next day after the battle. I was sitting on a log there with some more of the boys, and he came and inquired if there was a man there by the name of Charley Kyle. I said there was; could not at first call him by name; he was dressed in soldier clothes; knew his countenance. Said I, 'You are ahead of me!' Said he, 'Don't you know Claiborne Showers? I then knew him and shook hands with him. He took my tobacco and filled his pipe, and sat down on tho log and talked with me for about twenty minutes—talked about the folks at Cambridge. Said he,'God! I hustled my boots out of Cambridge!' I went with him up the side of the mountain where the battle had been fought. Suppose we had been there fifteen minutes together, and I left him there on the battle-field. A soldier of the 112th Illinois was about to be buried with military honors, and I left him to go down and see him buried. He remarked about the dead bodies as we were going over the field. Have no doubt but that was Claiborne Showers. It was the same boy I saw at Mr. Showers' when he was keeping hotel, and at those parties. I came home from the army in August, 1865. I had not then any knowledge of the charges against the defendant; was not acquainted with him; believe I had seen him before hauling stone for the new jail; never had seen him but three times before I came here this time."
Nine days were consumed in taking the evidence of the witnesses, and the argument of counsel began on the tenth day. The first address to the jury was by Major H. W. Wells, on behalf of the prosecution. J. S. Buckles then addressed the jury on behalf of the defense, who was followed on the same side by II. M. Martin. The jury was then addressed by Judge Howe on behalf of the defense. His argument was a most able and exhaustive one, and occupied about four hours.
The closing argument on behalf of the prosecution was made by the Hon. M. E. Cutts, and the effort was one of the ablest ever made by this able attorney. His address was quite lengthy and it is to be regretted that we have not room for the entire speech. We give the following extracts as a sample of the whole:
"May it please the court, and gentlemen of the jury:—If I understand myself, I know that I have no disposition or desire in the least, to under-value the importance of this case. It probably seldom occurs, in the history of the jurisprudence of this, or of any State, that a case of such importance, surrounded by such a variety of circumstances, extending as it does over territory of hundreds of miles in extent, covering years in duration, is brought for examination before a jury of the country.
"It is true your verdict may affect the life of the defendant—it may affect, simply his liberty. It does not follow that because a man is indicted for murder that he must, therefore, be hung or acquitted—by no means. It may be, gentlemen of the jury, that there is no more involved here than in an ordinary case of larceny. Now if the defendant were indicted for simply stealing a span of horses it would not be necessary for attorneys to got up here and spend hours in telling you what an extraordinary case it was. It is important to determine from the evidence what degree of crime has been committed. The penalty for the first degree of murder is death. The second degree is less important, and manslaughter is still less, for it simply involves the liberty and not the life of the defendant.
"I am sorry that it has been thought necessary to state here that tho State is actuated by feelings of ill will, and a desire to injure the defendant. I could have desired that counsel should have argued this case upon its merits, and let this question of malice alone.
"If I know myself, I know that towards the prisoner at the bar I have not the slightest feelings of malice, I have no feelings of revenge. I care no more about this case than you do. I have no more interest in it. 1 am a citizen of this State, and as a member of society I have an interest in seeing that our penal laws are executed. If a murder is committed, I as an humble member of the community have an interest in having the murderer punished. It is necessary that the laws be executed—our own liberties depend upon it. Not only, then, are the life and liberty of this defendant concerned, but our own lives and property are involved in this case. It is not, then, a matter of fact, as the eminent counsel have asserted here during the past day and a half, that it is simply the life of the defendant that is concerned here. If that were so, it would be of far less consideration than now. If you say that the man who commits arson cannot be punished, and the man who commits murder cannot be punished, how much are your own lives and liberties worth? This question then involves the protection of your own wives and little ones, and your own property as well. 1 have an interest then in seeing that the laws are executed. I hope you have, and if you have not, then you have no business in the jury box. But I know you have an interest—that we all have an interest, and I say I am sorry that they have Been fit to assert that we are actuated by a feeling of revenge. It seems to me that it would have been enough to have spoken on the merits of the case—to have argued from the facts alone.
"Counsel have suggested that we wish a verdict here simply for a victory. O my God! what a suggestion! I pity the heart that could even make such a suggestion. Shocking! what a horrible idea that anyone should ask for a verdict of the terrible crime of murder, only that they might record a victory! Such a man is only fit associate for fiends and devils. I will attribute such a desire to no one; counsel for the defense may attribute such feelings to me, or to my associate counsel, but I don't believe there is a man in Poweshiek county, or in the State of Iowa, who desires to have a man convicted simply that he may see him hung! No: gentlemen. I think it is not the desire of any one on the part of the prosecution to have a conviction unless the case demands it. We do not desire that you should go beyond the evidence in the case; but we desire that you shall make up your verdict by such rules as the court shall lay down to you. It is the law, then, that shall govern this case, and no feeling of malice or prejudice shall decide it one way or the other. The court will steadily hold the reins of law, and no decision can be made contrary to law. I don't believe your judgment can be carried beyond what the facts warrant.
"Counsel have seen fit to flatter you. They have told you how good looking you are and what honest countenances you possess, and that you are the best men in the county! Why they have even flattered his honor here.
Now he does not require it; he has been elected Judge of this 6th judicial district, and that is enough for him. Now there are other men in Poweshiek county as good as you are, but I know that you have judgment and intelligence enough to decide this case without my attempting to flatter you.
"I first became connected with this case at the examination last summer at Brooklyn. My sympathies were with the defendant. I thought he looked too well, too manly to be hung. But I thought we would commence the prosecution, and as the case progressed I became as thoroughly convinced of his guilt as that the sun shines. And I am glad that I am—not that I am glad that he did the deed—God forbid! but inasmuch as I am prosecuting the case my acts shall go with my feelings. At that time he was assisted by the same eminent counsel as to-day. Judge Howe then opened the case and made about the same statement as he did here the other day. He said the State had no case—that it had not testimony enough to create hardly a doubt against the defendant. Nevertheless, said the Judge, we have brought over a few witnesses to 6how that we are entirely innocent.
It was a fine speech—it was well done. Judge Howe never does anything otherwise; his periods are all well rounded and he has an easy flow of words. Why, bless me! said I, we might as well gather up our duds and go home.
But we thought we would stay and commence the trial. Now mark yon, they introduced the same witnesses that they have here. They had Kyle, Mrs. Davis and Capt. Peyton. And mark you further, when the evidence was all in they submitted the case without argument! Judge Howe told the justice they would make no argument in the case. So I knew when the Judge made his opening speech here, that you could not take quite one hundred cents on the dollar. It was a fine way of stating the case and he could not help stating it in that way. He told you that he would explain every circumstance, that he would tell you where that team came from—he would take away every doubt. 'Aye,' said he, 'the State will not be able to raise even a doubt against the fair character of the defendant.' But yesterday he entreated yon on bended knees to give him the benefit of a doubt! I say then that I knew you could take off a little from what he said—that it was not worth quite one hundred cents on the dollar, because I knew he would not prove what he said he could.
"The defense have scraped together considerable testimony, and by grouping together certain portions of the testimony for the prosecution and leaving the rest out, and taking all the defense, and then testifying themselves while making their argument, they have made what appears to be a fair argument for the defense. They take certain portions of the testimony and group it with certain other portions and say that don't fit I admit it, but it is all to be taken together. Judge Howe in his four hours speech yesterday never mentioned Worley's testimony at all. Now I submit whether this is a fair way to argue a case. I desire to give the defendant the benefit of the testimony, and if I leave out any portion of the testimony on the part of the defendant I hope you will call me to an account for it I hope to give it a careful attention, but to say that I believe it all I cannot, neither am I going to say that everybody lied. They start out here by saying that they were not going to call hard names, and then on account of the peculiar names of our witnesses they say they are murderers and ought to be hung! My God! can anybody help his name? But the defendant is all right—he ' Is as mild mannered a man, As ever cut a throat or scuttled a ship.'
Now about that question of the wagon: Worley says defendant told him it was a Camden wagon. But he understood that the wagon with which he camped out in Iowa, was not the same wagon. The boys from Monticello testified that it was a Dubuque wagon and covered. Now, all there is about it, the defendant traded wagons. Here defendant says he was never in Iowa with a wagon. But there was no object for the defendant to lie about it to Worley, and he told him then that he got the horses in Iowa; that he started to go west, and when he got as far west as Council Bluffs he found some trouble and turned back. Defendant to-day tells you that he was never in Iowa but once, and then he came out to Marengo one day and back the next! Gentlemen, it is not so, it cannot be so. If it is true, then, that old man Worley stands here covered all over with perjury—with the brand of Cain upon him! Gentlemen, do you believe old man Worley is a man of that character? You cannot believe it—I hope never to argue another case if I am so deceived as that. The man that would believe it would believe that Christ betrayed Judas rather than his Lord .and Master!
"He started to make a trip out into Iowa, and he told Worley that his cousin gave him a frying-pan to cook his eggs in. Look here! gentlemen, what in the world would he want of a frying-pan to cook his eggs in, if, as Mrs. Davis says, he was there all through the month of May? She says he was there all through the month of May, and was not out here at all; but the defendant said he was on a trip through Iowa and camped out. lie started for the gold mines but could not get beyond Council Bluffs without a pass. Now how would Worley make that up? He could not make it up only from what the defendant told him. He knew where he had been, and he spoke the first promptings of his heart as he did it. Then if he did, Mrs. Davis is the greatest liar that ever went unhung- ' He frequently spoke of his trip into Iowa, and used the word W$J i He always spoke about it as though there was some one with him1; ho used the plural we. That is what he told Worley. To-day he says he did not camp out; that he did not have that frying-pan; that he did not make a trip into Iowa; that be did not have that team! But, gentlemen, if you believe this, you will find that old man Worley is covered all over with the slime of perjury. But if you believe him, then it is the same team and the defendant is guilty.
'Again, how long did the defendant say he had been from home? He said that he had not been home to see his mother for four weeks. Now this kind old man Worley says—and it is the first impulse of his heart—Why don't you go home and take care of your mother?' He said when he went away he borrowed $18 of his mother, and he wanted to make some money and pay her. Now if he went away on the 20th, the 26th of May makes five weeks from the day he left. Over four weeks he told Worley he had been from home. Can yon doubt it? If you do it is a fictitious doubt, put in for the purpose of an excuse. But recollect your doubt must be a reasonable doubly not a captious one. Again, this shows that he left home without money, while they claim that he left home with money enough to buy horses with. We Bay the facts show that he had no money and could not have bought that team.
"Cady says there was a horse-race there the 18th, a few days before defendant left, got up by defendant and Munson Pierce, and the wrong horse you and the defendant told his uncle Cady that he would not care a damn about it, but he had lost every dollar he had and $25 borrowed money besides. Right here they talk about his good character; but here it seems he got up jockey horse-races to make money out of somebody. And now let me refer you to the testimony of James Showers. He says he saw the defendant have money, but it was before the horse-race, and defendant told Cady after the horse-race that he had lost every dollar he had. Would Kirk Vincent borrow $18 of his poor old mother to go away with when he had $250 in his pocket, and that, too, when his poor old mother earns his livelihood by honest toil? Borrow $18 of her when you had $250 in your pocket! You didn't do it. Kirk Vincent! He did borrow the money but he had no more."
The arguments of the counsel occupied three days, making the entire time consumed in the trial twelve days.
The charge to the jury was then read by Judge Sampson. It was quite lengthy, consisting of forty-three paragraphs, to each and every paragraph of which the counsel for the defendant excepted. The jury retired to their room for consultation on Saturday evening April 27th, and after an absence of about six hours returned the following verdict:
"We, the jury, find the defendant, Kirk G. Vincent, guilty of manslaughter. "Aaron Page, Foreman."
On Monday, April 20th, the prisoner was brought into court to receive his sentence, which was pronounced to be eight years in the penitentiary and a fine of one hundred dollars.
Vincent served the term of imprisonment, somewhat shortened by good behavior, and is now living in Illinois.
KILLING OF THE MARSHALS.
In the draft of 1864 certain men drafted in Sugar Creek township failed to report themselves in obedience to orders, and under the law became deserters. On Saturday, October 1st, the Provost Marshal of the 4th district of Iowa, with headquarters at Grinnell, sent out two officers with orders to arrest the deserters. These officers were, Capt. J no. L. Bashore, of Appanoose county, Deputy Provost Marshal, and Josiah M. Woodruff, of Knoxville, with headquarters at Oskaloosa. These men entered Sugar Creek township before noon, and meeting with a certain Mike Gleason, made some inquiries as to the men of whom they were in search, thinking Gleason was a loyalist. After leaving Gleason they proceeded to the house of Mr. Craver, where they stopped for dinner. After refreshments they had not proceeded far when they met three men, John and Joe Fleener and the man Gleason. The manner of the men convinced the officers that they meant mischief, and Bashore sprang out of the buggy, and with revolver in hand commenced remonstrating with the men, telling them they were not the persons of whom they were in search, and that they had no business with them. Woodruff remained in the buggy. Almost immediately the Fleeners and Gleason commenced firing. Woodruff was shot through the head and killed instantly. Bashore was shot in the back, the ball entering near the kidneys, from the effects of which ho died in a few hours, but not till he had given an account of the shooting. Gleason was shot, probably by Bashore, in the thigh, and was so severely wounded he was not able to leave the spot, but had strength enough to break his gun over the head of the prostrate Marshal. The Fleeners made good their escape, leaving Gleason to his fate.
Several people living in the vicinity, hearing the shooting, came to the spot immediately and removed the dead and wounded to the house of Mr. Craver near by.
If the testimony of Gleason is to be believed, he went, after meeting the Marshals in the forenoon, to a meeting of the so-called "Bangers,"in that vicinity, at which it was-decided that the Marshals should "be attended to,"and certain parties were appointed to take care of them. It is also stated that several wagons loaded with men passed the spot after the Marshals were shot, and were lying in the road, without offering assistance. Where they had been is purely a matter of conjecture.
James Matthews, of Grinnell, Provost Marshal, immediately on hearing of the shooting, ordered two companies of militia, one from Grinnell, and one from Montezuma, to the scene of the difficulty, to assist in making arrests; and on Sunday evening Gleason, with seven other men, were sent to Oskaloosa under guard. They were subsequently sent to Davenport, but as there was no evidence against any but Gleason, all but him were released.
On Monday following the bodies of the dead Marshals were taken to Oskaloosa, and the sight of them created such excitement that Gleason had to be strongly guarded to prevent lynching. The following day the corpses were removed to Centerville and Knoxville, the separate homes of these victims of mad and unprovoked assault.
An effort was made to find the Fleeners, but without success. They immediately left tho country, and have never been publicly seen since. It is said they now live in Kansas under assumed names, and that at least one of them has more recently visited Sugar Creek in disguise.
Gleason lay in jail at Oskaloosa for a number of months waiting for his wound to heal. He was indicted by the Grand Jury of Poweshiek county, but was never tried here as the Federal Court assumed jurisdiction of the case, and Gleason was tried before that tribunal at Des Moines. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to be hung. The sentence, however, was not carried into execution from the fact that his wife made a journey to Washington City, and, through her intercession, the sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life. After serving a part of his sentence Gleason died.
Thus ended this unfortunate and most deplorable affair as far as Gleason was concerned, but not so in reference to other parties concerned. Sometime ago a motion was made by some of the heirs of John Fleener that, as an absence of seven years raised the legal presumption of his death, an administrator be appointed to dispose of his property; he having left behind him a quantity of land in this county. J. G. Hambleton was accordingly appointed, and there was published the usual administrator's notice, calling upon all who had claims against the estate to present them in the usual time. In the meantime S. W. Woodruff, the father of Josiah Woodruff, one of the marshals, had the court appoint John Hall, of Montezuma, administrator of the estate of Josiah Woodruff, deceased, and Mr. Hall, as administrator aforesaid, recently filed the following claim: "The estate of John Fleener, deceased, to the estate of Josiah Woodruff, deceased, debtor: To damages for the wrongful, unlawful and malicious killing of Josiah Woodruff by John Fleener, in 1863, in the sum of ten thousand dollars."Unless the claim is paid, which is very doubtful, or compromised, the matter will come up before the courts, and the people of the county will have an opportunity to hear the whole affair again thoroughly canvassed.
THE SKUNK RIVER WAR
On Saturday, August 1, 1863, a Democratic mass meeting was held near English River, in Keokuk county. The speaking occurred in a grove about a half mile from the town of South English. The chief speaker was George Cyphert Tally. Several hundred persons were present at the meeting most of whom had come in wagons, in the bottoms of which it is said there were arms secreted. Wild and idle threats were made that the party would come up in the afternoon and clean out tho town, which was quite a Republican stronghold. To be prepared for emergencies, the people of South English were armed so far as there were arms for their use. In the afternoon tho Tally party came up to the town in a procession, in the front wagon of which were several men, including Tally, who stood up in the rear part of the wagon. Some persons warned Tall}* that he had best not go through the town, but he claimed the right to go where he pleased and went As the first wagon came into the crowd there were cries from the street of "Coward,""Copperhead,""Afraid to shoot,"etc. At that instant a citizen accidentally discharged his pistol, and immediately the firing became general from both sides. Tally was shot through the head and fell dead in the wagon. One or two others were slightly wounded and presently the firing ceased. The remains of Tally were taken to his home in Jackson township, Keokuk county, south of Skunk River, and there was an imposing funeral the following Sunday, and messengers were sent in every direction informing Tally's friends of his death and calling upon them to avenge it. During the following night and the next day wagon loads of men came from Wapello, Mahaska and Poweshiek counties to the place appointed for rendezvous on Skunk River. Owing to the fact that they encamped in a grove near Skunk River, the forces there gathered were commonly called the Skunk River warriors, and the affair is generally known as the Skunk River War. Quite a number went from Poweshiek county and it is on account of the representation which the county had there that gives the affair a local significance. The Skunk River army has been variously estimated at numbers ranging from five hundred to four thousand, and presented a formidable front. Threats were made of marching immediately upon Sigoumey and South English, and the people of those places were greatly frightened. Loud calls were made for troops, and Gov. Kirkwood was soon on the ground, followed by a detachment of troops and two cannon. The forces on Skunk River soon disbanded and the disturbance ended without further bloodshed.
THE COON HOMICIDE.
There was a spelling school at a school-house in Lincoln township, on the evening of January 21, 1870, at which time and place Thomas McCabe made an assault on Dennis Coon, inflicting injuries from the effects of which Coon afterward died. McCabe was indicted and his case was taken to Keokuk county on a change of venue, where he was found guilty and sentenced to a term of imprisonment in the State Penitentiary. McCabe served the term of his sentence, and some time after being released, died. McCabe and Coon had a difficulty of long standing, but there had been no act of real violence committed until the two met at the time mentioned.
The circumstances of the altercation are briefly narrated in the following affidavit, made by David Byers, Jr. "I was at the spelling school and the first I saw of the fracas was Dennis Coon coming into the school-house from the outside, and went behind the door, still open. I then heard the defendant, outside the school-house, say to Coon, 'Come out you papal son of a b__h'; am positive defendant meant Coon. I stepped across the house to where Coon stood and attempted to pacify him; am positive he was under the influence of liquor at the time. I said to him, 'Come, go out with me.' We then went out of the school-house together. Two or three steps from the door McCabe struck Coon knocking him down; am positive that McCabe was the person who struck him. Coon raised to his feet; McCabe saw him raising to his feet and again made for him the second time. They then both rolled to the ground. A few seconds after I heard a faint report of a fire-arm; am positive that Coon was under and the defendant above him at the report of the fire-arm. This took place about thirty feet from the school-house door; I pressed forward with others and heard defendant say, as he raised from off Coon, "There, take that, G_d d__n you."He then replaced his revolver in his side pocket and walked slowly away to the north; am positive that McCabe was not under the influence of liquor.
"David Byers, Jr."
THE KILLING OF NANCY CANNON.
Mrs. Nancy Cannon, residing in Lincoln township, was killed by her son Owen, on the nineteenth of April, 1379. Owen Cannon was evidently insane at the time, as was clearly shown by the evidence at the inquest. He was arrested, and upon the decision of the commission appointed to pass on his sanity, he was so adjudged and sent to the asylum at Mount Pleasant.
With regard to the circumstances attending the commission of this most frightful deed, we herewith give the evidence of Hugh Cannon, brother of Owen and son of Nancy Cannon.
"The deceased, Mrs. Cannon, is my mother. My brother Owen has shown signs of insanity for over one year. There has been no family trouble to cause a disturbance of his mind. Owing to a spell of sickness about three years ago he has since that time shown signs of insanity. Had not known of his drinking any liquor since coining to this State. My brother Owen was at home all the day before the death of my mother."
James Cannon in his testimony at the inquest said: "Never had any family trouble with my brother Owen; he was not in the habit of drinking. The first indication of insanity was one year ago last March, at which time he attacked a house in the neighborhood with sticks and stones; was prevented from doing any harm by persons interfering. On the nineteenth day of April, being the day Nancy Cannon was murdered, my brother Owen was, to all appearance, in a pleasant state of mind. After supper he was unusually talkative on subjects which indicated a disturbance of his mind. He had previously manifested similar feelings, but little was thought of it. Soon after the family had retired. Owen raised the alarm of fire; waked me up and we both went down stairs, after which he violently threw a pail of water at me; being no light in the room he did not hit me; afterward commenced cursing and ordered me out of the house; I took hold of him and tried to quiet him but could not; I then got him out of doors and started for my brothers house about fifty rods away; he followed me about ten roils, throwing at me and using harsh words. On my return I found my mother dead by the wood-pile near the house, her face and arms badly mangled; supposed to be caused by the hand of my brother Owen; and he was found in a raving state of mind at one of the neighbors about daylight."
J. A. Dougherty, Paddy Galagher and John Galagher testified very much to the same effect, and the coroner's jury rendered a verdict to the effect that the deceased came to her death by violence at the hands of her son Owen Cannon, while in a state of insanity.
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