Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Jealousy and murder on the streets of Garden Grove

News managed to travel fast --- if not instantly as is the case these days --- across the south of Iowa back in 1902, despite the fact newspapers were somewhat leisurely media. So in the days after Friday, June 6, Lucas Countyans had learned by word of mouth that a respected Garden Grove physician, Dr. William D. Duff, had been gunned down by a jealous husband, William H. Clark, that morning in a business on that small Decatur County city's main street.

Dr. Duff was in his early 50s; Mr. Clark, 49. Both were married to women named Alice. Alice Clark, a farm wife some three years older than her husband, was the alleged focus of Dr. Duff's lust.

The Chariton Herald of June 12 reported the shooting as follows, picking up and republishing under the headline "Garden Grove Tragedy" a report from The Corydon Democrat. The report is generally accurate, but I've corrected a couple of minor details --- relying on excruciatingly detailed reports published that same day in The Leon Reporter (Leon is the Decatur County seat).


Garden Grove, just over the line in Decatur county, was thrown into a fever of excitement last Friday forenoon over the deliberate shooting of Dr. (William D.) Duff, formerly of that town, but for the past three months a resident of Blockton, by W. (William) H. Clark, a farmer residing in Clay townshp, Wayne county, about four miles south of Humeston.

At the present writing the facts leading up to the tragedy are hard to obtain, but enough is known to state that jealousy, and that well founded, is at the bottom of the affair, the charge being freely made that Dr. Duff and Mrs. Clark had been unduly intimate for a long time. This fact had come to Clark's knowledge last winter and trouble had ensued between the men. Duff left Garden Grove and went to Blockton in March. It is reported that at the time Clark warned him if he ever came back to Garden Grove he would kill him. Be that as it may, on Thursday evening Duff arrived at the Grove.

Friday morning Clark and his wife drove into Garden Grove to do their trading. Clark saw Dr. Duff on the street, and after his wife had alighted and gone into the store, he hitched his team, borrowed a double-barreled shotgun, went to Burney's hardware store, bought ammunition and loaded the gun, and walking into Stiles drugstore, where Duff had gone, drew a bead on him and shot him in the left shoulder. He immediately discharged the second barrel, hitting him in the left breast and killing him instantly.

He then returned the gun, gave himself up and was placed in jail, where he was kept until next day, when he was taken to Leon.

Clark and family came from Illinois to Wayne county about four years ago and settled on what is known as the Mallette farm, in Clay township. Mr. Clark is highly thought of by his neighbors, who all give him a good name. The family consists of the husband, wife and five children --- three sons and two daughters. Corydon Democrat.


Charged with first-degree murder, William Clark remained in custody until his case came to trial in Leon during early November. The trial proved to be an extraordinarily popular event --- hundreds standing in line, hoping for seats in the courtroom of the Decatur County Courthouse.

Testimony and arguments lasted for five days before the case was placed in the jury's hands on Friday, Nov. 14. Although there was no doubt about the details of the shooting, it became evident early on that there was considerable sympathy for the accused killer. His wife, called to the stand, readily provided details about the affair.

The jury was offered the opportunity to find Mr. Clark guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, or manslaughter, but shortly after noon on Saturday, Nov. 15, returned a verdict of "not guilty" and Mr. Clark was set free.


William and Alice Clark remained together after he was freed and continued to live in southwest Wayne County until the rental agreement on their farm expired. They then moved to Webster County in southwest Missouri, where she died during 1924 and he died during 1933. They share a fine tombstone in Webster County's Seymour Masonic Cemetery.

Alice Duff and her son, Charles, continued to make their home in Blockton, where she died during 1950 at the age of 91. Dr. and Mrs. Duff are buried in Blockton's Rose Hill Cemetery.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Did you mean "Duff" in your last sentence?