Monday, January 30, 2017

Walter Bulman & murder most foul, Part 1

This distinctive looking gentleman is Walter Washington Bulman, who practiced law in Chariton for more than 50 years and came to his final rest here, in the Chariton Cemetery, at the age of 98 during 1971.

Later in the week, I'm going to write about a murder trial that transfixed Iowa briefly during 1915. Although it was held elsewhere and the defendants were not Lucas Countyans, Bulman's investigation led to the charges and he was chief prosecutor in the case. So I thought I'd introduce this major player in a fascinating story this morning.

The portrait came to the Lucas County Historical Society from the Meyer Law Firm a couple of years ago. In his later years, the semi-retired Bulman worked primarily as an associate of other Chariton attorneys, assisting them in the preparation of briefs and other lawyerly tasks. 

Among those firms, from 1945 until 1957, was Hoegh & Meyer --- Leo Hoegh, elected Iowa governor during that year, and Virgil Meyer, who continued to practice independently, then with his sons, for many years thereafter. In addition to being colleagues, Bulman and the Meyer family were close friends.

Walter was born March 16, 1873, to Thomas and Phoebe (Stocks) Bulman near the tiny village of Dorchester, north of Waukon in northeast Iowa's Allamakee County. He began his working life as a printer, but ultimately decided the law was his future and graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law during 1898.

Upon graduation, Bulman returned to Waukon to open his first practice and during 1902 married Ceceilia Maud Mitchell, daughter of a prominent Allamakee County banker.

Casting about for greener pastures, Walter decided upon Chariton and during March of 1907 purchased the law library and office furniture of W.B. Barger and established himself here. Later in the year, Cecelia joined him. Some years later, during 1919, Cecelia's parents, William J. and Elizabeth Mitchell, moved to Chariton, too, and a joint household was established in the then-fashionable Spring Lake Subdivision along South 8th Street.

The Bulmans became active in their new hometown. When Company H, Chariton's first National Guard unit, was formed Walter was named captain. He was a 50-year-plus member of Chariton Lodge No. 63 A.F.&A.M. and the couple were communicants of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.

Walter never quite retired, but after the Cecelia's death during 1953 he did cut back a little. The couple had no children so when old age finally caught up with him, he moved into Des Moines to make his home with the William Hewitt family, where he died at age 98 on May 28, 1971. Funeral services were held the following Tuesday at Beardsley-Fielding Funeral Home and burial followed beside his wife and father- and mother-in-law in the Chariton Cemetery.


On the side, Walter was a poet. Not a great poet, but certainly an enthusiastic one whose works, mostly with historical themes, were published in various anthologies.

According to The Herald-Patriot of Oct. 23, 1941, "Mr. Bulman's poems have received much favorable comment, one of them having been read over 11 radio stations, and the other having been published in magazines. One publisher asked him to submit several poems for consideration. He sent in five, but instead of making a choice the publisher used all of them."

Had you attended the noon Rotary meeting on Friday, Oct. 17, 1941, at the Charitone, you'd have been able to hear Walter --- the program that day --- recite several of his poems, including "Huskers at Night." Here's just a taste, the first three of nine stanzas:

The gulp and ring of scoop from crib is borne;
the noisy huskers, bloused, are homeward bound;
The moon dim lights across the ripened corn;
And wagons rattle on the frozen ground.

He, musing, hears again where fancies husk
In oaken kitchen's warming mellow glow;
The men unhitching in the faded dusk;
And jingling lugs trace where the horses go.

The lanterns light the darkened basement stalls;
The mangers filled; the scent of lofted hay;
The harness hangs around the timbered walls
Where horses eat and toss their feed in play.

1 comment:

Donald Hixenbaugh said...

Memory of my childhood. Virgil Meyer and Mr. Bulman setting in lawn chairs under an apple tree in Bulmans yard in the evening. They would spend hours talking.