Tuesday, September 14, 2021

A pistol, a parasol & Bedford's teen-age killer

I came across the story headlined "Lily Kimball Acquitted" on the local news page of The Chariton Democrat of Sept. 10, 1885. While the setting was Bedford --- Taylor County's seat some distance to the southwest and not exactly local --- this obviously would have been big news in the south of Iowa during that long-ago late summer. So it had earned a place on the page of The Democrat that subscribers turned to first.

There were no earlier reports regarding the case in Chariton newspapers so I looked elsewhere and located accounts of the circumstances that led to Lily's trial in several late-July editions of Iowa newspapers. Many published the following story, a wire service report datelined July 21. This version, from The Quad-City Times of July 22, was headlined, "Shot Her Betrayer: The Attempt of a 16-year-old Iowa Girl to Kill a Prominent Merchant."


The shooting of T. M. Giles, in Bedford, yesterday, was as resolutely executed as it seems to have been cunningly and deliberately conceived. Giles is a sharp, energetic, money-making dealer in musical instruments, about 40 years old, a prominent society man, and a general favorite among the women.

Miss Lily Kimball, the cause of the tragedy, is a handsome brunette, about 16 years old, with large, brown, vivacious eyes, full red lips, and is petite and exquisitely formed. Concealing a revolver in her folded parasol, she nervously walked into Mr. Giles' office. Noticing her excitement, he asked her what was the matter and told her to be seated. Without replying she thrust her parasol up to him and fired, the ball entering his body a little below and to the left of the naval, glancing downward through the intestines. She then joined her father across the street, and they walked to the mayor's office, where she surrendered, saying, "I have shot my seducer." Both were immediately placed under arrest.

The wounded man was taken to the residence of John Fitzgerald, where his death was hourly expected.

Miss Kimball, only a few months ago, suffered her emotions to betray her into an elopement with a barber, upon which occasion she was overhauled and brought back by her parents after an absence of several days. This young barber was very devoted her at the very time she claims Mr. Giles undermined her virtue. She has been in Mr. Giles' employ for some weeks past as a clerk.

The wounded man is quite comfortable tonight, and the doctors now believe that the viscera were not punctured and entertain some hope of his recovery. Miss Kimball reported to her mother yesterday that Giles had caused her ruin two years ago, and that she could stand the intimacy no longer. The mother is almost heartbroken.


The newspaper assessment of Mr. Giles' condition was far too optimistic. Taylor County death records show that Thomas M. Giles, age 32, died two days after he was shot --- on July 22 --- and Taylor County records also contain his death-bed will (top), executed on the day he was shot. He named a Miss Elva Long as his only beneficiary and as executor.

The advertisement at left was published in The Taylor County Republican of April 10, 1884, happier days for Mr. Giles if not for Miss Kimball.

Giles was buried on July 23 in the Bedford Cemetery, but had lacked the foresight to include provision for a tombstone in his will. There's no indication that his grave ever was marked.

Here's the account of Miss Kimball's acquittal several weeks later, as published in The Chariton Democrat of Sept. 10:


Our readers will doubtless remember the horrible tragedy at Bedford a few week since which resulted in the death of T. M. Giles. The circumstances briefly were these: Miss Lily Kimball, alleging that Giles had betrayed her, went in company with her father to the store of Giles, the father remaining outside while Miss Lily entered the store carrying a revolver concealed in her parasol. It appears there was no time lost in discussing the matter, or attempting to right the alleged wrongs. Promptly the hidden weapon sent its death-dealing missile on its work of vengeance, and T. M. Giles fell mortally wounded.

The father and daughter were both arrested on charge of murder, and confined in jail, bail being denied them. The grand jury found a true bill against Lily, but ignored the charge against the father.

At the present term of the District Court the case against Miss Kimball was tried, the trial lasting two and a half days. The case was given to the jury last Thursday, and in about 15 minutes a verdict of "Not Guilty" was returned. The reports say that when the jury came in from their deliberations the building was filled with an impatient crowd waiting the result. At the announcement of not guilty the crowd gave vent to its feelings in a round of applause, and the fair prisoner was almost paralyzed by the news of the verdict and the ovation, all at the same time. It is understood that Miss Kimball and her father will leave the town and take up their home in Omaha.


Lily (or Lillie) Kimball, born May 20, 1869, in Buchanan County, was a daughter of George W. and Harriet Kimball, a shoemaker and a dressmaker.

The records of Harrison County, located northeast of Omaha, show that she actually had married the young barber --- John Wesley Jones --- whom she had eloped with prior to dispatching Mr. Giles so effectively. The wedding occurred on March 26, 1885, so her angry father had disrupted a honeymoon when he broke up the match and brought Lily home to Bedford. Lily had lied about her age. Sixteen-year-olds could not marry without parental consent.

Following her acquittal in Taylor County, Lily and John reunited and by 1900 were living in Oklahoma City with two children. John still was barbering.

After his death in Oklahoma during 1906, Lily remarried and eventually moved to California where she died in Placer County on Nov. 24, 1963, age 94.

No comments: