The first Cleveland, developed just east of Lucas after the first Whitebreast coal mine was opened in 1878, faded away when the last of the first three Whitebreast mines closed in May of 1891. During 1899, a fourth Whitebreast mine was opened southwest of Lucas. The old Cleveland plat was vacated and the town name reclaimed for a new mining camp housing hundreds of miners, this one at the new mine site a few miles southwest of Lucas.
"New Cleveland" is the setting for a murder (or not) mystery that occupied the attention of Lucas Countyans during the fall and early winter of 1901 and, during December, attracted attention statewide and beyond.
The details of the case are spelled out in the story that follows, published under the headline "Shooting at Cleveland" and published in The Chariton Herald of August 29, 1901:
"Thomas V. Hall, proprietor of a saloon at Cleveland, a small town twelve miles west of here, was shot last Sunday night by Charles Sage, his partner, and died at four o'clock Tuesday morning from the effects of the wound. The circumstances surrounding the tragedy are as follows:
"Hall is a bachelor 35 years old, and sleeps in the saloon. Of late Sage has been sleeping with him on account of trouble with his wife at home. On Sunday night at 10:30 o'clock Sage entered the saloon, partially drunk, and Hall, who had also been drinking, greeted him with accusation of theft from the establishment. In the altercation that followed, both men became angry, and Hall drew a revolver and tried to shoot his partner. Sage also drew a revolver, and in his attempt to keep Hall from shooting him, struck the latter. His revolver was discharged in the striking, and the bullet entered Hall's left shoulder, breaking the clavicle, severing the sub-clavian artery, and ranging downward into the left lung. Help was immediately summoned, and the wounded man was cared for. It was thought that he was not seriously wounded, but interior hemorrhage set in, and he died as stated above.
"Before his death he repeatedly stated that the accident was all his fault, and requested that Sage be not prosecuted. A coroner's jury was impaneled by Coroner T.P. Stanton, and investigated the killing on Wednesday at eleven o'clock. They heard several witnesses, among them Sage himself, who stated that Hall attacked him with a revolver when he went into the saloon Sunday night, and in self defense he pulled a gun himself. He did not intentionally discharge the gun, but accidentally discharged it while trying to keep Hall from killing him.
The jury exonerated him from any felonious intent, and found that the deceased had come to his death accidentally. Ed. J. Giles, E.P. Harris, and J.P. Lane composed the jury.
The funeral of the dead man was held on Wednesday afternoon at two o'clock under the auspices of the K.P. Lodge, of which both he and Sage were members Interment took place at the Lucas cemetery (now called Fry Hill). Deceased had no relatives in this part of the country.
We know very little about Thomas V. Hall. He was single, seems to have had no family in or near Lucas County and his grave at Fry Hill Cemetery is unmarked. When the 1900 census was taken he was boarding with a family in New Cleveland, age 35, and apparently not sleeping in his saloon. His occupation was given as coal miner rather than saloon-keeper and he was native to Scotland.
Charles Sage, about 38 when the shooting occurred, was a native of Port Mulgrave, north Yorkshire, and had married his wife, Elizabeth Ann, there during 1883. The following year, they had emigrated from England to the United States and, by 1890, were living in New Cleveland with their three youngest children, all teen-agers. He, too, was a coal miner.
The seem to have been having marital difficulties. Elizabeth filed for divorce during September of 1901, a month after the shooting, and the decree was granted the following February.
Although the coroner's jury had ruled the killing accidental, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and a Lucas County grand jury disagreed. Some time during the fall, Charles was charged with murder, indicted and his trial scheduled for early December in Chariton.
Shortly before that trial, a sensational story about the case hit the front pages of many Iowa newspapers --- and a few beyond. Here's that story as it was published in The Waterloo Times-Herald of December 6, 1901:
Sequel to a Romance Seldom Equaled Outside the Covers of a Story Book
STRANGEST TRANSACTION KNOWN
Were Rivals for the Hand of Miss Reynolds --- Case Will Come Up for Hearing
"Chariton, Dec. 6 --- The preliminary gathering of evidence which is to be used in the approaching Sage murder case assigned for Monday, Dec. 9, has developed many elements of heart interest and a romance seldom equaled outside the covers of a story book. It is the narrative of one who, in his dying hour, forgave his old friend, rival and slayer and bequeathed to him his entire fortune.
"On June 25, 1901, Thomas Hall, a saloonkeeper and bachelor, was shot and killed at his place of business by his bartender, Charles Sage. The shooting arose over some charges made relative to the conduct of Hall's business by Sage when the former was away. A quarrel between the two men ensued. Sage seized a pistol and shot his employer in the left breast. Hall died, but before death came, he signed an ante-mortem statement exonerating Sage from all blame and making oath that he was responsible for his own death. He also made a will in which he bequeathed to his slayer every penny he owned in the world, including his business and a number of houses and lots here.
"Subsequent developments ascribed a motive to what was looked upon as one of the strangest transactions of modern times. Years ago, Tom Hall was in love with Gwendoline Reynolds of this city. Owing to some misunderstanding the match was broken up and she became the wife of Charles Sage. Hall never married. He never gave any stated reason for remaining a bachelor but intimate friends knew that away down in his heart he still had a spark of the love, which one woman, at least, possessed the magic power to fan into a blaze.
"The bachelor was always prosperous. He saved his money and, while the business in which he was engaged did not meet the approval of a great many, it was truthfully said of him that he implicitly obeyed every letter of the law.
"The two men were always fast friends and when circumstances seemed to be a little against Sage, a place was made for him in Hall's saloon. There he remained until the ugly rumors were set afloat connecting the employee's name with an alleged illegal transaction, resulting in his being branded a murdered by the Lucas county grand jury. Attorney W.H. McHenry of Des Moines has been retained by the defense."
The difficulty with this story --- and it's a good one --- is that none of the detail was published in Lucas County newspapers; in fact, the case was hardly covered at all beyond references to the impending trial in published court notes. So we don't know where the story came from.
Charles seems always to have been married to Elizabeth, not a Gwendoline, and they had been hitched for nearly 20 years and had produced six children before she booted him out during 1901 and he found refuge in his friend's saloon. Admittedly, we don't know how faithful he had been. And it's possible the two friends had gotten into it at some point over a rival love interest.
The case did come to trial during December in Chariton, although postponed a week; but none of the newspapers seem to have covered it (there were three independent weeklies in Chariton at the time).
The Herald report of the outcome consisted of a paragraph buried under other "Court House Notes" in its edition of Dec. 19, 1901:
"The state case against Charles Sage, for the murder of Thos. Hall at Lucas, was sent to the jury on Tuesday and after hanging until today, six members being for convicting Sage of manslaughter and six being for acquitting him, they came in this morning with a verdict of acquittal. As the killing was largely accidental and Hall exonerated Sage before he died, the verdict seems the proper thing to do."
By the time the verdict came in, Elizabeth apparently had moved herself and those children who remained in her care to Colfax, where the extended Sage family seems to have settled soon after their arrival from England.
Charles high-tailed it for Montana where, on Oct. 4, 1907, in Carbon County, he married 40-year-old Margaret (Cavender) Wilson, also native to England and also divorced. This marriage does not seem to have endured, however.
Charles eventually moved back to Iowa, working in the mines at Melcher; and about 1930 returned to Lucas County to make his home in Chariton with his daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Robert Phoenix (Robert also was a miner). He stayed on with his son-in-law after Mary's death in 1936 and died himself at the Phoenix home on October 21, 1938, age 77.
His former wife, Elizabeth, had died at Colfax a month earlier --- on Sept. 26, 1938. Charles's remains were taken from Chariton to Colfax where funeral services were held at the Methodist Church and he was buried beside Elizabeth in the McKeever Cemetery.