Thursday, April 22, 2021

Attempted murder in Pleasant Township's hills

This is another of those Lucas County stories that would have vanished without a trace had it not been reprinted in another newspaper because of its sensational nature. It was originally published in The Chariton Patriot of May 1, 1872, but the earliest files of that newspaper were destroyed in a fire. The following version was reprinted in Indianola's Warren County Leader of May 9.

The setting would have been the Stoneking neighborhood of northeast Lucas County's Pleasant Township in the immediate vicinity of what now is known as Stoneking Cemetery. It appeared under the headline, "Attempted Murder and Suicide in Lucas County."


Last Friday considerable excitement was occasioned in this community by the report of a horrible murder committed in Pleasant township, this county. On inquiry, however, it was ascertained the report originated in the shooting, by one Silas Floyd, of Mr. Thomas Marshal and his (Floyd's) wife, and the subsequent attempt at suicide by the would-be murderer.

The circumstances of the affair, as far as we have been able to ascertain, are about as follows: Floyd and his wife married some two years ago (Dec. 27, 1870, according to Lucas County records), their married life not being a very pleasant one. About the first of last January, Mrs. Floyd left her husband and went to work for the support of herself and child --- the latter about 17 months old. She had been employed up to last Thursday in the family of Mr. Marshal.

A week ago last Sunday, Floyd went to the house of Mr. Marshal and had an interview with his wife, without however effecting a reconciliation. A few days subsequent to the interview with his wife, Floyd went to a neighbor's house and (borrowed?) his revolver. Last Thursday he went to the house of Mr. (James) Stoneking, his wife's father, and desired him to send to Mr. Marshal's and request his wife to come over as he wished to see her and have a settlement. Floyd's request was complied with; but Mrs. Marshal being unwell, Mrs. Floyd did not come to see her husband till after dinner, when Mr. Marshal brought her over in his wagon.

On their way to Mr. Stoneking's house, Mr. Marshal and Mrs. Floyd met the latter's husband and requested him to get into the wagon and ride back with them. This he declined to do, but followed immediately in the rear of the wagon. Arrived at Mr. Stoneking's house, Floyd addressed Marshall, saying: "You have brought my wife over." "Yes," replied Marshal. "Well, I want you to leave her here." Marshal replied that he would (not), upon which Floyd drew a revolver and fired at Marshal, the ball taking effect in the fleshy part of the thigh. Marshal jumped from the wagon and ran for safety, Floyd first shooting his wife, the shot taking effect in her breast, and then pursuing Marshal.

Failing to overtake the latter, Floyd returned and meeting Mrs. Sallie Stoneking, his wife's aunt, he pursued her revolver in hand and threatened to kill her. After having run her several times around the house Floyd encountered his wife's mother when he stopped and spoke to her, saying "Goodbye, Mother," at the same time leveling the pistol at his own breast and firing, inflicting a slight wound.

Floyd fell to the ground and lay there apparently dead when one of Mr. Stoneking's children approached and picked up the revolver --- which Floyd had dropped --- and hid it. In a few moments Floyd arose and walked into the house and lay down, but soon returned to look for his pistol, which he did not find.

About this time Mr. Marshal returned to the scene with a rifle, determined to shoot Floyd, but he did not carry out his design. The people in the neighborhood instituted a watch over Floyd and apprised sheriff Holmes of the occurrence. The sheriff immediately repaired to the scene and arrested Floyd, who he brought to town on Friday. Floyd waived an examination and was committed to jail to await the result of his wife's injures.

Dr. Kneeland, who was called to attend Mrs. Floyd, reports her as doing well, and that her injuries are not probably fatal. Floyd is represented as being about bereft of reason through jealousy, which was the cause of his attempted double murder.


Mrs. Floyd (nee Sarah Stoneking) apparently survived the shooting, but I did not spend the time and energy needed to determine what became of her. Her date of death is consistently given as 1891 in family data available online, but family genealogists provide neither a place nor an account of the circumstances.

Silas Floyd, jailed in Chariton, remained there until March of 1873 when The Patriot in its March 19 edition reported, "On Monday evening about 7 o'clock Silas Floyd, the wife murderer, and the young man Jno. Reader, who was imprisoned on Saturday last for stealing clothes from R. Palmer, broke out of the jail at this place and are trying to make their escape. How they will succeed remains to be seen."

The description "wife murderer" apparently was an exaggeration, reflecting careless reporting, but Floyd's escape was a success.

Two years later, The Patriot of April 14, 1875, reported under the headline "District Court Notes" as follows: "The case of the State of Iowa vs. Silas Floyd, who was indicted a couple of years ago for killing his wife in Pleasant township and who escaped from our county jail, was stricken from the docket, the defendant not having been found."

And that was the last trace I was able to find of Silas Floyd.

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