Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Great program and a packed house ...



Dale Clark's outstanding presentation on the prehistoric peoples and artifacts of south central Iowa packed the house at Pin Oak Lodge last night --- and there was plenty of pie and coffee, too. So we couldn't have asked for more so far as an annual meeting of the Lucas County Historical Society is concerned.


Well, there was that slight confusion an hour before the meeting started about a misplaced key, but detective work by board members Ann Moon, Helen Thompson, Fred Steinbach and others resolved that --- and we were off and running.

We're very lucky to have the Pin Oak Marsh Lodge as a venue for a program of this sort, so thanks as always go to the Lucas County Conservation Board and the conservation staff.


I'm not going to try to report on Dale's presentation, but a couple of features made it especially informative. Dale authentically recreates, decorates and fires reproductions of the pottery pieces that prehistoric south-of-Iowans would have created and used here --- and that's really interesting to see.

Using prehistoric artifacts from his collection, he also recreates tools in the form they would have been used by our earliest neighbors. It's one thing to see a stone hide-scraper that's been collected in the area; another to see it attached to a handle as it would have been a thousand years ago when it was being used.


Dale also brought along something especially meaningful to Lucas Countyans --- a small selection of artifacts from the collection amassed here by Harry Cooper LaRue (1879-1950), perhaps Lucas County's most accomplished --- and professionally adept --- collectors. Dale is the current custodian of much of that collection.

Beyond an overview of the people who created these artifacts, Dale also provided some guidance for others who might have an interest in collecting. Did you know, for example, that it is illegal to collect artifacts from public ground? Artifacts spotted on federal-, state- and local-government-owned lands are to be left alone.

It's also important to document finds so far as location and other factors are concerned. Dale, for example, does collect on private property --- but each find is reported to the office of the State Archaeologist and linked to the site where it was located (he is certified as a site surveyor by the Office of the State Archaeologist).

This certainly was among the most informative programs we've had during my years with the historical society. If you missed it, I know that Dale plans to present this fall in Corydon during the annual fall festival at Prairie Trails Museum, so you might check the museum's web site for a date and plan on attending that.

Thanks again to Dale, to everyone who attended and to the hard-working historical society board members and staff who pull this event together every April.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Lilacs, blue and otherwise


 Lilacs are in full bloom right now and I've been admiring a bushful of blues down behind the cabin that for some reason neither Kay nor I remember. These bushes have had a few hard years, winter-killed, were cut back and two of the three are looking good again (the third bush, not so much).




We're used to seeing lilacs that are, well, lilac in color with a few whites thrown in for good measure. But these illegal immigrants from the Balkan Peninsula --- hybridized countless times in the centuries since western European plant explorers brought them home --- bloom in all sorts of shades, mostly in the range of deep purple to light pink.


So here to start a new work week are two views of the blues and one of the lighter more lilac variety blooming right next door.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

The passing of a cemetery preservation hero


I was saddened to see the news in Thursday's Herald-Patriot of the passing of Bernard Casebolt on April 12 at the age of 89. Although buried at Waverly, where he and his wife, Patricia, moved during 2001 to be nearer their daughter, Mr. Casebolt was otherwise a lifelong resident of the Melrose community in southwest Monroe and southeast Lucas counties.

Evans Cemetery, in far southwest Monroe County's Jackson Township, lovingly restored almost single-handedly by Mr. Casebolt between 1988 and 1998, certainly is among his permanent memorials. This was work undertaken before Iowans in general became aware of the problems faced statewide by abandoned graveyards and efforts to rescue, conserve and restore them became commonplace.


Evans Cemetery dates from the late 1840s or early 1850s, when what is sometimes known as the "four corners" --- Monroe, Lucas, Wayne and Appanoose counties come together nearby --- was a lively pioneer neighborhood. But the last burial there was in 1905 and eventually the cemetery was swallowed by woodland, isolated some distance from the nearest public road. As I boy, I remember it as a mysterious place, difficult to find, of tumbled tombstones buried in deep green.

Mr. Casebolt, who grew up nearby, remembered the cemetery from his boyhood, too, and decided to take on the task of restoring it --- and the treasures it contains.

The chief treasure is one of Iowa's earliest Civil War monuments, erected on July 19, 1866, by nearby residents to commemorate young men from the neighborhood who had died in the war --- their names are inscribed on the elaborately carved stone base --- and others who served. Their names were carved on the obelisk that towers above the base.


He also found discarded in the woods the unique turnstile pedestrian entrance to the cemetery and restored it, cleared brush, righted fallen stones and opened a broad clearing along a new lane to the nearest access road. The result was dedicated on Memorial Day 2000.

When Mr. Casebolt began his work, the obelisk had fallen from its base, but he secured it in the original position. Although the marble of the base is remarkably well preserved, the same could not be said for the carving on the obelisk --- more than a century of exposure to the elements had eroded the surface.


A 33-year veteran of Chariton's Johnson Machine Works --- many of them as a production supervisor --- equipped him with the skills needed to craft an innovative solution. He created a copper shell that matched the marble in size and shape, engraved on it the names originally chiseled into stone, then slipped the cap down over the deteriorating marble --- both preserving what remained and ensuring that the information contained in the original inscriptions still was accessible.

If you'd care to read more about Evans Cemetery, I've written about it a couple of times. The earlier post, "That Evans Cemetery Monument," is here; a later post, "Autumn Color and Evans Cemetery Revisited," his here. The photos here were taken during early October, 2013. You can read Mr. Casebolt's obituary here.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Zetamatheans are back!


The Zetamatheans have returned in all their glory to the wall of the historical society's Irene Garton Memorial Library after an absence of several months during renovations. It's a small but wonderful photograph of an interesting group, among my favorites of the hundreds (or more) archived there.

The Zetamatheans, organized during October 1892, became Chariton’s first federated women’s club when it was admitted to the Iowa Federation of Women’s Clubs on Feb. 23, 1895. According to its constitution, the object of the club “shall be mutual improvement of its members in history, literature, art, science and the important events of the day.”

Membership was limited to 15 “ladies,” and when a vacancy occurred new members could be added only by a unanimous vote. The club was to hold its annual meeting on the second Wednesday in May and an afternoon meeting every Wednesday from September to June inclusive. Surviving secretary’s minutes (also in the Lucas County Historical Society collection) show that after 1907 meetings averaged two a month.

No list of charter members survives, but a membership directory for the year 1898-99 does. A majority of these women, excluding perhaps Ida Hultz and Jennie Busselle, probably were charter members:

1. Mary S. Bartholomew (wife of Orion A. Bartholomew, a Chariton attorney and mayor);

2. Emma W. Larimer (wife of George W. Larimer. real estate speculator and banker);

3. Bella Wright Brown (wife of Joseph A. Brown, also involved in real estate);

4. Margaret Reed Lewis (wife of William E. Lewis, grocery dealer and Chariton postmaster);

5. Orilla Anna Waynick Dent (wife of Albert E. Dent, merchant);

6. Nina C. Larimer (wife of Harry H. Larimer, hardware merchant);

7. Almira “Mira” O. McFarland, (wife of James H. McFarland, a salesman and businessman);

8. Cora L. Beem (wife of Willard P. Beem, First National Bank teller and later officer);

9. Ella G. VanDyke (wife of Byron R. VanDyke, hotel keeper);

10. Mina J. Hanlin (wife of John M. Hanlin, deputy district clerk);

11. Ruth A. Boyles (wife of James R. Boyles, railroad brakeman);

12. Ida L. Hultz (wife of Webb Hultz, a traveling salesman);

13. Jennie B. Busselle (wife of Oscar Busselle, a business agent).

Two “honorary members,” usually named such when they moved from Chariton, most likely were charter members, too. They were Allie Stanton Lockwood, who later returned to full membership, and Ruth H. Stuart, wife of the Rev. Thomas McKendree Stuart, presiding elder of the Chariton District, Iowa Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, until the late 1890s, who had moved to Des Moines. An “In Memoriam” page in two surviving membership directories honors Minnie Stanton Guylee, who died Dec. 18, 1896, and who most likely was a charter member, too. Ruth A. Boyles, Allie Stanton Lockwood and Minnie Stanton Guylee were sisters.

The Zetamathians continued in Chariton until 1929 when resident membership had declined due to death, moves and failure to recruit new members to four: Mrs. McFarland, Mrs. VanDyke, Mrs. Beem and Emma Larimer. In that year, the club ceased to pay Iowa Federation dues and effectively went out of business.

In this photo, donated during 1973 by Marie VanDyke and taken on April 20, 1898, in the studio of an unidentified photographer in Chariton, the woman seated at extreme left is Ruth Huff Stuart. Other seated women are (from left) Jennie B. Busselle, Almira (Mira) O. McFarland, Bella Wright Brown, Margaret Reed Lewis, Mina J. Hanlin and Emma W. Larimer.

Standing (from left) are Orilla Anna Waynick Dent, Ruth A. Stanton Boyles, Ella G. Van Dyke, Ida L. Hultz, Mary S. Bartholomew, Nina M. Larimer and Cora Beem.

As sometimes happens, this photograph was reunited at the historical society during the 1980s with a Zetamathean secretary's book begun in 1907 and continued until the club was disbanded. The record book was donated by Harriett Copeland Holman, granddaughter of Zetamathean Emma W. Larimer.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Chopstick nights at the Panda Buffet


The theory of utilitarianism holds that the best action is the one that maximizes utility, a theory applied gratefully yesterday when, in a moment of absent-mindedness, I dumped the cap on the pouring end of the gas can into the lawn mower's gas tank.

After failing to find a tool that (a) would fit into the tank and (b) grasp and extract the floating cap, chopsticks came to mind. So I went into the kitchen, grabbed a pair and out the gas cap came. Wonderful.

Earlier, while relaxing in a chair at the beauty parlor while Margie trimmed away too many weeks' accumulation of hair, we got to talking about Chinese food. She likes Hy-Vee's; I don't especially (too sweet, too squishy and the sticky rice tends not to) and remain a Panda Buffet loyalist.

So I went out there for supper after the lawn mower triumph.

Despite the somewhat disconcerting name (panda is not on the menu), the Panda serves up top of the line small-town Iowa Chinese. That means that while there's nothing especially daring on the menu and nothing spicy enough to knock the socks off palates more attuned to Hardees, everything always tastes good, the consistency is right, the buffet selection is fresh, the sticky rice sticks and the hot and sour soup is flavorful.

Besides, the same family has operated the Panda for a number of years and we enjoy watching the kids grow up.

You'll have to drive into Des Moines to experience a fuller range of oriental food --- Thai, Lao, Japanese, Vietnamese and various shades of Chinese --- but this is about as good as it gets in the small-town Midwest.

I had sesame chicken (an alarming shade of red, but don't be put off by that), black-pepper chicken and jalapeno pork plus rice, an egg roll and green beans stir-fried in garlic.

While eating --- as Chinese vocalists crooned in the background --- I glanced up and noticed that a colorful calendar from Heng Feng Food Services, Inc., of Lexington, Missouri, was hanging on the wall above me.

That reminded me of old friend R. Webb Cole, also of Lexington originally,  and the sad recent news that one of his alma maters, Lexington's venerable Wentworth Military Academy, will close at the end of the spring semester after dissipating a substantial endowment and ending up in a deep financial hole. Iowans may remember Wentworth principally because one of Governor-for-life Terry Branstad's sons was dispatched there after becoming too unruly to be contained by the governor's mansion.

So I came home, commiserated somewhat belatedly with Webb --- who is taking this news hard --- and ate a serving of fruit salad, with chopsticks. I'm rather good at eating grapes --- in addition to retrieving gas can caps --- with chopsticks, a lasting legacy of my time in Saigon.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Join us Monday to learn more about our history


You --- each and every one --- are invited to join us Monday evening at the Pin Oak Marsh Lodge, just south of Chariton along Highway 14, for the annual membership meeting of the Lucas County Historical Society. Admission is free and "membership" is not required, although of course we'd be delighted if you forked over the $5 ($10 for a family) it takes and joined up if you haven't already.

We'll begin at 6:30 p.m. with a brief business meeting, followed by the program at 7 p.m. Pie and coffee will conclude the evening.

We're delighted that Wayne County-based archaeologist and local historian Dale Clark has agreed to be our presenter this year. Dale probably knows more about the prehistoric people of south central Iowa and the artifacts they left behind than anyone else you'll meet.

Dale has roamed the river and creek valleys, hills and prairies of the region as a collector of artifacts for 30 years, serves on the board of the Iowa Archaeological Society and is certified as an archaeological site surveyor by the office of the State Archaeologist. In fact, he recently was nominated for the archaeological society's prestigious Keys-Orr Award, which recognizes excellence in the areas of research, reporting and preservation.

His related "hobby" is the recreation of contemporary versions of some of those artifacts, most recently pottery. He'll bring along a selection of artifacts, ancient and modern, for you to take a look at.

+++

If you pay attention to regional history, you'll know that Lucas County's first EuroAmerican settlers occasionally encountered groups of native people here. These were the Pottawatomi, who hunted in this territory while headquartered in southwest Iowa. Before that, the Sauk and Meskwaki held title to Lucas and Wayne counties until 1845, when land west of the Red Rock Line was opened to EuroAmerican settlers. And even earlier, this was the land of the Ioway.

But the artifacts that turn up frequently, especially along White Breast Creek, the Chariton River and other streams were left behind by earlier people whose history is deduced largely from their artifacts because they had neither written language nor EuroAmerican scribes to write about them.

These are the people Dale will be talking about Monday evening --- and I'm looking forward to the program. Feel free to join us and listen, too.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cold case (Part 2): The case against Perry DeGreene


Yesterday's post, "Cold case: The brutal slaying of John Clowser, Part 1," recounted details of the murder of John Clowser, 52, of Chariton, beaten to death by a traveling companion at a tourist camp in southwest Iowa's Glenwood on the night of Aug. 7-8, 1928.

Clowser left Chariton during May, 1928, in a newly purchased Ford roadster, bound for Kansas where he planned to work in the wheat fields. With the harvest complete, he was driving back toward Chariton with an unidentified younger man as passenger when they stopped overnight at the tourist camp. The next day, Clowser's brutally beaten body was discovered in a ditch adjacent to the camp. There was no sign of his companion, the roadster was missing and it was apparent that John had been robbed.

John's brother, Charles Edwin "Ed" Clowser, and Chariton undertaker Sam Beardsley traveled to Glenwood late Wednesday to identify the body and bring it home to Chariton, arriving back in Lucas County very early Thursday morning. On Friday afternoon, funeral services were held at the Beardsley Funeral Home with the pastor of First Baptist Church officiating and John's remains were laid to rest at the far south end of a lot in the Chariton Cemetery that Ed Clowser and his wife, Grace, had purchased during 1909 when their son, Clair Kade, died at the age of 3.

Back in Glenwood, and at the Lucas County Courthouse in Chariton, too, the search for the prime suspect --- the missing passenger --- was just beginning. Henry J. Engebretsen (1880-1974) was Lucas County sheriff at the time and although the murder occurred well outside his jurisdiction, he was determined to do what he could to ensure justice for one of his slain constituents. Henry's detective work would, in fact, lead to the arrest of a suspect a month later.

And it was Lucas County Attorney James D. Threlkeld who got on the telephone to Iowa Gov. John Hammill early the next week, asking that the governor authorize a reward for the arrest and conviction of John Clowser's killer.

+++

William S. DeMoss was Mills County sheriff during 1928 and the man in charge of leading the investigation into John Clowser's death. He had a physical description of the traveling companion who was the only suspect in the murder and assurances from three witnesses that they would be able to identify the suspect if they saw him again. The witnesses were Millie Travers, who had served Clowser and his companion at the Cozy Corner Cafe on the evening before John was slain; Harry Norman, a former Chariton resident who had come forward to say that he had seen Clowser and the suspect enter the cafe; and service station attendant Will Meredith, who had sold the suspect gas and oil as he prepared to leave town early Wednesday in John's stolen Ford roadster --- with Lucas County plates.

There was little else to go on, however, and no way then to launch a prompt widespread search for a stolen vehicle. The Clowser vehicle never was located.

+++

On Monday, Aug. 20, Sheriff Engebretsen, accompanied by Iowa special agent E.C. McPherson, of Des Moines, traveled west from Chariton to Glenwood to assess the situation for themselves.

They learned little new, other than the fact that Sheriff DeMoss had determined that John Clowser and his companion had been sighted in Nebraska City earlier in the day of their fatal overnight stop in Glenwood.

DeMoss was attempting to backtrack along the route of John's journey from Rexford in west central Kansas, where he had been working, to southwest Iowa, hoping to identify his passenger. Engebretsen and McPherson agreed during their August visit to Glenwood to accompany DeMoss to Rexford for personal interviews if attempts to obtain information by correspondence failed.

As it turned out, Engebretsen and McPherson made the trip to Rexford by themselves during the opening days of September, attempting to retrace Clowser's likely route backwards from Glenwood through Nebraska City and then southwest into Kansas.

At Rexford, according to a report in The Chariton Herald-Patriot of Sept. 13, Engebretsen and McPherson interviewed all 237 residents. But it wasn't until near the end the interview process that a lead developed. A telephone operator told Engebretsen that she thought residents of a nearby ranch might have useful information and sent the two investigators there.

"There they learned from the owner of the ranch," the Herald-Patriot reported, "that a man answering the description of the man wanted had been working during the summer. It is also stated that he had admitted to serving time in the Louisiana state prison for a crime in that state.

"A wire has been sent the prison officials at Baton Rouge and it is expected that information, finger prints and a photograph will soon be in the hands of the sheriff at Glenwood. The man's name, or the name he was using, was also learned."

The man's name was Perry Lee DeGreene Jr. Witnesses recalled that, like John Clowser, he had left the area as the harvest ended. None one could say that they had departed together, however.

+++

It's not clear from newspaper reports exactly what sort of information Sheriff DeMoss received from Louisiana, but as soon as it was in hand he telegraphed a "wanted-for-questioning" notice across upper Midwest and the Plains.

Early in the week that commenced on Sunday, Sept. 16, 1928, Sheriff DeMoss received a telegram from Joe Sullivan, sheriff of Custer County, Montana, stating that he had taken Perry Lee DeGreene into custody and was holding him in Miles City.

That telegram set off a flurry of activity in Glenwood. Mills County Attorney Whitney Gillilland drove from Glenwood to Des Moines on Wednesday, Sept. 19, to obtain extradition papers from the office of Gov. Hammill, then drove home --- spending all of that night on the road.

At 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 20, Sheriff DeMoss, Special Agent McPherson, Gillilland and witness Millie Travers piled into the sheriff's department 1928 Dodge Victory Six for the marathon 800-mile drive to Miles City.

After a short overnight stop in Mitchell, S.D., Thursday, the party continued west and arrived in Miles City at 5 a.m. Saturday. Sheriff DeMoss had been behind the wheel for the entire drive.

Later Saturday morning, Millie Travers identified DeGreene --- then was put aboard a train that afternoon for the return trip to Glenwood. DeGreen did not resist extradition and DeMoss, McPherson and Gilliland --- and their prisoner --- left Miles City at noon Sunday in the Victory Six, arriving back in Glenwood early Wednesday evening.

+++

Not long after the return to Glenwood, however, the case against DeGreene began to fall apart. In the first place, there was no hard evidence.

The young man, age 18, but reportedly looking considerably older, stated that his home was DeQuincy, Louisiana, and admitted to having been employed in the Kansas wheatfields at the same time John Clowser was employed there and to leaving the area at about the same time, but denied that he ever had traveled with Clowser. Instead, he said, he had traveled directly through Nebraska and South Dakota into eastern Montana, where he was employed in the harvest when his arrest occurred.

Further, he provided alibis --- and by Thursday afternoon, those alibis had been confirmed to the satisfaction of DeMoss, McPherson and Gillilland.

Finally, the witnesses who had remained in Glenwood failed to identify DeGreene and Mrs. Travers backed away from the positive identification that she had made in Miles City.

On Friday, Sept. 29, DeGreene was released from custody.

+++

And that, so far as I've been able to determine, was the end of that. There are no further newspaper reports of investigations into the death of John Clowser.

Investigators apparently had invested all they had in the investigation that led to DeGreene's arrest and, barring unexpected leads, really had no where else to go.

Perry Lee DeGreene Jr. had returned home to Louisiana by 1930. He died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 31 on July 17, 1941, while incarcerated at the Webster Parish Penal Farm, Minden, Louisiana, according to Louisiana death records. Any secrets he may have had went to his unmarked grave in the Minden cemetery with him.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Cold case: The brutal slaying of John Clowser, Part 1


I doubt that anyone else remembers now who rests beneath this tiny stone in the Chariton Cemetery, a marker without inscription of any sort; the only clue, nearby monuments of others who bear the surname Clowser, too.

But the remains of John E. Clowser are here, the victim in 1928 of a brutal slaying --- still unresolved --- that occurred half the state west in a tourist park at Glenwood, Mill County's seat.

I call John an honorary cousin because I know some of his kinfolks, who made a visit to Iowa some years ago in search of their Lucas and Wayne county roots. His maternal uncle, John Newton Fox, is a neighbor of my family out at Salem Cemetery; his maternal grandparents, Levi and Sarah S. (Hartley) Fox, rest in the New York Cemetery.

John's parents, however, are buried at Confidence --- John was born near there on Oct. 19, 1877. They were James Monroe (1844-1888) and Missouri (Fox) Clowser (1851-1880).

+++

John was only 3 when his mother died and 11 when his father passed, so he grew up a little rootless, although older siblings always opened their homes to him. He seems to have been an honorable and hard-working man, scrupulously honest, congenial and well liked --- just never settled down, or married. He worked as a coal miner, farm hand, any job that came to hand.

During the late spring of 1928 he gave up a job he had held for two or three years at the Hotel Charitone, bought a Ford roadster and, with a companion, headed west for the wheat fields of Kansas, where hard labor paid well --- $5 or $6 a day. He was over 50 by now, but still hardy enough to pay his way with a strong back.

The harsh end came during August as John and another companion --- never identified --- were driving toward Chariton on U.S. 34 in the old Ford roadster after the work in Kansas had ended and stopped for the night at a tourist park in Glenwood.

+++

Here's the initial, detailed report --- an exemplary job of reporting --- as published under a banner headline, "Man Murdered Here In Tourist Camp," in The Glenwood Opinion-Tribune of August 9, 1928. One caution --- the initial suspect was Joe Welch, also of Chariton, who had accompanied John west during May. They had parted in Kansas City, however, and Welch had nothing to do with the killing.

The Glenwood Lake Park tourist camp was the scene of what appears to have been one of the most cold blooded and brutal murders in the history of southwestern Iowa on Tuesday night when J.E. Clowser, 52, of Chariton, Iowa, was murdered, presumably by a young man about 35 by the name of Welch of Chariton who was a traveling companion of Clowser.

W.L. Jamison, walking through the tourist park shortly after noon Wednesday, came upon patches of blood-soaked ground and in looking about found a blood-stained coat and in it was wrapped a blood-stained crowbar which he recognized as having been taken from his tool house. He immediately notified Sheriff DeMoss who came to the scene and they found other blood-stained garments including a light colored cap bearing the name of a Chariton, Iowa, clothing house, and also evidences of where a body had been dragged to the edge of the bank and rolled over toward the highway opposite the oil station. With one foot caught in the limb of a small tree on the bank and the body concealed from view of the passers by on the road, by weeds grown up on the bank, they found the body of the man, which his hands tied behind him with a pair of suspenders.

The head showed that he had been brutally murdered. At the back of the head was a large gash indicating a wound from a hatchet or ax and the face and forehead and skull had been battered almost to a pulp by the crowbar. Coroner Dr. Edgar Christy of Hastings was notified and the body was brought to the Raynor funeral home. Coroner Christy empaneled a jury consisting of John Wolfe, C.P. Hamilton and H.C. Stranathan. They found a letter addressed to C.E. Clowser of Chariton and also a $20 note signed by J.E. and C.E. Clowser and given to a Chariton, Iowa, bank, May 25, 1928, and paid August 2, 1928. Sewed in the sleeves of his undershirt which were turned back they found three $10 bills. The pockets of his clothing had been turned inside out and his garments had been apparently ransacked, so the conclusion was that the motive of the murder had been that of robbery. Telephone communication was established with C.E. Clowser of Chariton who said he believed the man must be his brother, J.E. Clowser, and that he would come to Glenwood to identify the body. He arrived with Sam Beardsley, undertaker of Chariton, shortly after midnight and they took the body back to Chariton, leaving Glenwood about 1:30 this Thursday morning.

Ate at Cozy Cafe

Upon hearing of the murder Wednesday evening, Mrs. E.M. Travers of the Cozy Cafe said she believed the man had eaten there Tuesday evening and when she saw the body was able to identify it. Both Mrs. Travers and Bernice Fogerty, waitress at the cafe, recall that Mr. Clowser, accompanied by a younger man wearing overalls and in light colored shirt, rather dirty and unkept in appearance and very quiet in disposition, ate supper here at the Cozy Cafe between 6:30 and 7 o'clock Tuesday evening. Both described Mr. Clowser as a genial man who visited with them, expressing his fondness for fried chicken which he ordered for supper and asked if the tourist camp at the park here was a cabin camp, stating that he noticed the cottages there, and when told that they were the Epworth League cottages he replied that he could sleep very comfortably in a blanket on the ground as he was used to it.

They also recall that he inquired how far it was to Omaha and that in going out he paid for both meals. Mrs. Travers sates that he took a black and rather worn bill fold from his pocket and that it contained a quantity of bills. She believes they were not all $1 bills as the two suppers totaled 90 cents and he looked through the currency for a $1 bill.

Mr. Clowser, they said, was much neater in appearance that his traveling companion but both showed signs of being badly sunburned and the young man, who was a little more than medium stature, thin of body and light complexion, was badly sunburned. The blood-stained cap found near the scene of the murder, size six and a quarter, was far too small to have belonged to Mr. Clowser, according to F.H. Raynor, undertaker in charge, who said that Mr. Clowser would have worn a size 7 or larger. Mrs. Travers, when questioned, recalled that Mr. Clowser was wearing a felt or straw hat and that the young man with him was wearing a light colored cap.

Left Chariton in May

C.E. Clowser, the brother, told the Opinion-Tribune editor in a telephone conversation this Thursday noon that the brother, who was an old bachelor, 52 years old, had for two and one-half years been employed in the Charitone Hotel in Chariton but that late in May he decided to go into Kansas and work in the harvest fields. He bought a Ford roadster which is registered there as 51-2972 and left on May 25. He recalls that his brother borrowed the $20 at the bank and that he signed the note with him on the day he left and that the note, though made for 90 days, was paid August 2. He says his brother wrote him from Sylvia, Kansas, sending him the money to pay the note, which he did and returned the note to him. He further says that a young man about 35 years old by the name of Welch left Chariton with him. The description of this young man tallies quite well with the description of the young man who was with him at the Cozy Cafe here Tuesday evening. The brother says in a letter he received that his brother said he was making five to six dollars a day in the harvest fields but said nothing about returning, nor whether Welch was still with him or not. In addition to C.E. Clowser, who is a farmer and coal miner residing five miles northeast of Chariton, the dead man had two other brothers, Henry, who is employed in a shoe factory in Omaha, and W.M. of Otis, Colorado. Funeral arrangements had not been made at noon today, Thursday.

There Are Many Suppositions

Will Meredith, night man at the Darting oil station, reports that a young man driving a Ford roadster wearing a light shirt and overalls, drove into the oil station between 11:30 and 12 o'clock Tuesday night and bought three gallon of gas and a quart of oil which he paid with a $1 bill but he does not recall whether he took the bills from a black leather bill fold or not. He says the young man did not seem in any great hurry and that he told him that he had come from Lincoln and when Meredith asked him how he came to drive into Glenwood from the east he replied that he had just been fooling around in the country. He said he was headed for the harvest fields of Minnesota. Mr. Meredith remembers that the car had an Iowa license plate with county number 51 but did not recall the car number.

Mrs. W.E. McCoy who resides just east of the subway on federal highway 34 reports that about 9 o'clock Tuesday night a car drove into their driveway throwing their lights on the porch in such a way that they could see her. A man got out and came into the edge of the year inquiring the location of the  Glenwood tourist camp which she explained. He returned to the car which she describes as a Ford roadster and she says she knows there was someone else in it for the young man said, "We have to go back to that oil station and turn in there." In the darkness she was unable to get good enough look at the man to be able to describe him.

Mr. and Mrs. W.L. Jamison, who operate the oil station opposite the entrance to the park and who reside just west of the station, were away from home that evening, leaving about 7 o'clock and not returning until after 11. they say that when they did return everything was quiet in the park.

How the persons who stole the crowbar found their way up to the house, as the way would not be easy for one who was not familiar with the lay of the ground, and why the person selected the crowbar from among hammers and other smaller tools, is a mystery.

The body when found was hatless and had no shoes on the feet. It is presumed he probably put his hat in the car and took off his shoes and also put them in the car and laid down on the heavy overcoat, lumber jacket and blue denim work jacket which was found, blood stained, near the scene of the murder. It is thought that the murderer probably struck Clowser in the back of the head with a hatchet or ax and then tied his hands behind him and robbed him of his money and watch. Then evidence on the ground indicates that Clowser might have gained consciousness and struggled somewhat, rolling a few feet from where he had been attacked and then the large patch of blood-soaked ground indicated that he was here beaten with the crowbar and from the amount blood it would seem that the body had been left there for some little time probably before it was dragged over to the edge of the bank and cast into the weeds. In all it is one of most brutal crimes on record.

To be continued

Monday, April 17, 2017

142-year-old brickwork collapses ...


This is the sort of post I don't enjoy writing, but it would be hard to overlook the fact that a portion of the alley-side wall of the southside Gasser Block collapsed over the weekend. 

I don't know when the collapse occurred, but noticed it late Sunday afternoon. Didn't see it Sunday morning, but that may have been because I was focused on getting myself and a rather large salad to church on time rather than on the scenery.


Such wounds can prove fatal to an old building of this sort, in limbo since its last business occupant, the Sportsman Bar, closed a few years ago. Such damage can be repaired, of course, but that takes cash.

This is the oldest building on the south side of the square, dating from 1875. Here's a paragraph from The Chariton Patriot of Dec. 29, 1875, describing it:


"The best building that has been erected during the year is Mr. G.F. Gasser's south side brick. This is 41 x 70 feet, and is two stories high and is classed among the best buildin1gs in the place. It is a substantial structure, with cellar under the whole and divided into rooms as follows: The lower story is divided into two store rooms, and the upper into four rooms, three of which will be used for offices and the other and rear room, which is about 30 x 40, is designed for a dancing hall, or for other purposes requiring more space than the common office rooms. It will, however, for the next year or probably longer, be occupied by Burch & Scoby's business college. The brick and stone work on this building was done by Mr. Geo. B. Routt and the carpenter work by Mr. M. Ritzer, both of whom are good mechanics, and have credit for doing a good job on this block. The roof is of tin, and was put on by Messrs. Goodrich & Ensley, the enterprising south-west corner tinners. On the whole, the building is a good one, and speaks well for the enterprise and thrift of Mr. Gasser. Its cost is about $7,000."

George Frederick Gasser (1849-1894) was by trade a grocer and baker who moved his business here from a frame building on the west side of the square. It's had many owners, and names, since.

There's really only one positive thing to do in response this morning. If you know someone who owns one of our historic buildings and consistently devotes to it the time, energy and financial resources needed to keep it in good repair --- say thank you!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter rising


Jesus rises, when he does it,


in the hearts and hands, minds and feet


of those who labor:


To love unconditionally, serve joyfully,


live fully, walk gently on the earth.


Buddhist, Hundu, Christian, Jew,


Muslim, Daoist, atheist, heretic,


seeker, believer, it matters not.


Myth and magic are the stuff of religion.


Resurrection, the everyday work


of redemption.

Photos taken Saturday in Kay's garden and elsewhere in Chariton.