Thursday, March 08, 2018

Hard life and harsh death on "the Levee"

In 1893, for reasons lost to time, Chariton newspaper reporters began referring to the rough and tumble business district along Commercial Avenue opposite the C.B.&Q. depot in northwest Chariton as "the Levee."

By this time, it contained a couple of substantial brick buildings and a rag-tag collection of frame structures that housed bars, boarding houses, restaurants, small grocery stores and other businesses.

There's neither flowing stream nor other logical reason in sight here to justify the "levee" designation, but sometimes tough neighborhoods paralleled the levees in real river towns like Burlington, Keokuk, Fort Madison, Muscatine and Davenport --- and someone may have made that connection in landlocked Lucas County and it stuck.

Built up originally to serve railroad workers, train crews and passengers, this became the place where bad boys and the occasional good-time girl went to drink --- alcohol always was available here no matter what was on the statute books --- and otherwise carry on.

Many suggested, over the years, that this was a neighborhood with a soul in need of saving --- so it's appropriate that the last public building on the Levee today has been converted into a church --- the Full Faith Christian Center.


The following is one of many sad stories --- reported in great detail in the Chariton newspapers over the years --- that played out on the Levee. It was published in The Herald-Patriot of Sept. 11, 1913, under the headline "Attempted Murder and Suicide: George D. Maloney fires five bullets into Wife's Body and then Turns Gun on Himself."

"After firing six shots at his wife last Friday afternoon, five of which struck her, George D. Maloney turned a revolver on himself and sent a bullet through his forehead, ending his life. The tragedy is the culmination of continuous domestic troubles and an unhappy married life.

"About ten years ago, Geo. D. Maloney and Miss Laura Bell were married in this city. A short time afterward they moved to Albany, Mo., where he was employed as foreman of the round house, but lost his position last winter.

"While possessing many good qualities, Maloney was a hard drinker and at times was very quarrelsome and abusive. Mrs. Maloney and children came to Chariton last March when her uncle, Matt. Rosson, died, and Mr. Maloney came here soon afterward. Family troubles were frequent and about two months ago Mrs. Maloney left her husband.

"A few weeks afterward he leased the restaurant in the Crips brick building opposite the depot and prevailed upon her to rejoin him. Another disagreement resulted in her leaving him on Friday, August 29th. Mr. Maloney took the two children, Grace, aged seven, and Harry, aged three, and went to Des Moines. He returned to this city with them on Monday evening, returning to Des Moines the next day where they remained until Thursday evening when they again came back to Chariton.

"In the meantime Mrs. Maloney had filed suit for divorce and the action was pending in this term of court. Upon his arrival here Maloney made threats and told different ones he was going to 'make a cleaning' around there the next day if there wasn't a turn in affairs, and on Friday afternoon he said he was going to shoot three or four as soon as he could get his temper up.

"On Friday afternoon about 2 o'clock he purchased a .32 calibre revolver at Dunshee's hardware store, and immediately went to the "levee" where their place of business was, and which adjoined the restaurant owned and operated by her aunt, Mrs. Rosson. Mrs. Maloney, who was afraid of her husband, was visiting her aunt, and Maloney went to the Rosson place two or three times and cursed and quarreled with his wife.

"Finally he drew the revolver and commenced shooting at her. She screamed and ran out the back door, Maloney following her and shooting as he went. He shot six times, one shot going wild and five taking effect in her body. One shot went clear through the left arm near the shoulder, three penetrated the body near the waist on the left side, and one struck her right shoulder blade and glanced into her right arm.

"She ran across three or four lots to the Mullen place, and attempted to climb into the ice wagon which was standing there in order that she might hide from her husband.

"Maloney, in the meantime, stopped to re-load his revolver, and went into the Matheney place next door to Mrs. Rosson's, and brandishing his gun at Mrs. Matheney, demanded his wife, declaring that she was hiding there. Mrs. Matheney ran out the back door, and Mr. Matheney, hearing the commotion, entered the room, and faced the gun in the hands of Maloney, who declared he would shoot him, too.

"Mr. Matheney said, 'I guess not,' and started to grab the gun, which slipped through his fingers, as they were wet, he being in the act of washing his hands when the trouble commenced.

"Maloney then stepped back a few paces, placed the gun to his own forehead, shut his eyes, gritted his teeth and pulled the trigger. He sank to the floor in an unconscious condition, but lived until about 4:30 o'clock on Saturday morning.

"Mrs. Maloney was placed on the train within an hour after the shooting and taken to the hospital in Ottumwa, being accompanied to that place by Dr. Dave Storie and Mrs. Nora Parks. An examination there revealed the fact that the wounds were not necessarily fatal, and that she would in all probability recover. She has since been resting easy and it is thought that she can be brought to her home here today or tomorrow. Her mother, Mrs. Alice Bell, of Lacona, and her sister, Miss Jennie Bell, of this city, went down to Ottumwa Saturday to see her and reported her condition very favorable. The bullets, two or three of which are yet in her body, will not be removed.

"Mr. Maloney was about forty years of age. His mother resides in Ellendale, S. Dak., and a message from her stated that she could not come here. Two brothers, whose whereabouts are at present unknown, are also living. The remains of Mr. Maloney were taken to Lacona yesterday morning where a brief service was held at the grave in the cemetery near that place.

"The affair is a most unfortunate one, and all are hoping for the recovery of Mrs. Maloney. The grief of the two little ones, when they learned that their mother had been shot and their papa was dying, was pitiful to see.

In Mayor Seward's Court

"The levee district has been productive of lawlessness and excitement the past week, suicide and attempted murder Friday being followed Sunday with an arrest for assault and battery with intent to do great bodily injury. And great bodily injury was inflicted on one of the parties, too, the victim's nose being broken and bruised.

"Tex Matthews assaulted Ed. Barler for using obscene language in the presence of Mrs. Matthews, knocking him down and out with a single blow. Barler claimed he had loaned $5 to Matthews and a request to pay the loan met with refusal. Barler's remarks were not complimentary to Mrs. Matthews and her husband hunted him up and smashed his nose until it was caved in.

"Whether this was done with the bare fist or whether a rock or other hard substance was used did not develop because Matthews plead guilty before Mayor Seward to assault and battery and paid a fine of $50 and costs, the 'great bodily injury' charge against him being dropped.

"Barler was assessed $25 and costs for using bad language, the fine being suspended during good behavior and the costs being paid by a brother.

"There should be some way of abating these nuisances for the district referred to furnishes most of the fights in Chariton. George Downard was also hauled before the mayor Sunday and fined $5 and costs for intoxication."

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