Henry Gittinger, editor of The Chariton Leader during the opening years of the 20th century, loved a good story --- so much so that he could be inventive if the grist of week was extraordinarily bland.
But there's no reason to doubt the veracity of what follows. Figuring out the family ties involved in this little front-page story from The Leader of Feb. 21, 1907, has the extra advantage in the 21st century of serving as an early-morning brain-teaser.
The headline reads, "A Family Reunion: The Meeting Was Not One of Rippling Merriment, However."
When President Roosevelt reads the following passage in human life it is to be hoped he will not instruct his Attorney General to look up the law and try to exclude The Leader from circulation through the mails, startling as the narrative may be.
A few days since a couple of men, accompanied by two women, drove into town looking somewhat like pilgrims. They hitched their steed to the chain on the west side of the square, where it remained most of the day; they scattered about town.
Later they rendezvoused in an empty house in the northwest part of the city, but an enemy seems to have spread the news of their presence, as a telegram came to the officials here to hold them. The sheriff of Jasper county seemed interested and also a man at Nevada, Iowa, named Andy Short, saying that they were elopers; that one of the women was his wife and the younger one, a daughter. The men were placed in jail.
The case of characters in this drama are Andy Short, the aggrieved husband and father; Mrs. Andy Short --- or Maud, the wife untrue; Rosa Short, the misguided daughter; Joe Church, the clandestine son-in-law of Short; and J.H. Smith, paramour of Mrs. Short and the wrecker of a home.
But to get a thorough understanding further explanation is necessary. Maude, the eloping wife, was the second wife of Short and is stepmother to Rosa. Mrs. Short --- or Maud --- and Joe Church were brother and sister and cousins to Rosa, the daughter. Short was an uncle of Smith, therefore he eloped with his aunt by marriage.
There may have been some other combinations, but the human mind is not broad enough to retain them, so this is deemed sufficient to establish the fact that it was a family reunion.
Mr. Short arrived from Nevada, on Saturday, reproached his wife, buying her a ticket to her parental home at Newton, saying they would be as strangers hereafter. His daughter was given the privilege of returning home with him, which she did. The sheriff of Jasper county arrived, Monday, taking Church to Newton, where he must answer to the charge of horse stealing, which occurred last October. Smith has disappeared, being released from custody, Short not caring to prosecute his nephew --- this being the long and short of it.
The outfit left Nevada last October and have been wandering about ever since, sleeping in straw stacks, school houses or wherever they could find shelter and when captured were on their way to Newton.
Rosa was not of marriageable age but she and Church had formed the vows clandestinely in Kansas City, a few weeks since.
They were all well enough appearing people but seem to have been enjoying a little "high life" ala Thaw and White.
Joe Church and Maude Short are niece and nephew of Mrs. Rachel Marshall, of this city, and she is the one who "blowed." About a year ago Church came here and boarded with his aunt, afterwards jumping his bill. When he arrived in town, the other day, she got after her beloved nephew and told him that something had to be done. They mortgaged their horse, wagon and harness to J.D. Threlkeld and paid her, but the "cat was out of the bag," which precipitated the family gathering.