Tuesday, November 12, 2019

How We Used to Work...

The recent Smithsonian traveling exhibit—The Way We Worked— that visited Drake Community Library this summer got me thinking about how work has changed over time in Grinnell. It is easy to think how computers have affected today's work, but what about further back in time? Had Grinnellians of an earlier age experienced similarly dramatic change in their work world? As I thought about it, I wondered if I might use the occupations identified in the Grinnell censuses to see how work in 1940—the most recent census available—could be distinguished from work in 1870 Grinnell. Today's post examines some of those changes.
Early Settlers of Grinnell (ca. 1870): front row, L-R: Ed Wright, Caerlis Fisher, R.M. Kellogg, Levi Grinnell; 
Back row: Henderson Herrick, W. M. Sargent, Ezra Grinnell.
Drake Community Library Archives, Miscellaneous photographs, Collection #17-6, People (Digital Grinnell)
The 1870 US Census found a total of 1482 people in Grinnell, a town that was not yet twenty years old. Many (most?) of the town's first residents were hardy individualists who had abandoned the social bonds of the east coast to hack out a living on their own. Founded on the rich soil of the prairie, Grinnell had from the beginning an agricultural bent, and the census gives some shape to this orientation. The 1870 census found in town 31 farmers and 17 retired farmers, along with another 16 men who described themselves as farm laborers. In the townships that stretched out from the town still more isolated farmsteads headquartered efforts to tame the prairie.

Although the lure of successful farming brought many settlers to town, J. B. Grinnell had another reason for choosing this particular spot to found Grinnell: he had word that railroads would pass through this territory, bringing with them new jobs as well as excellent connections for Grinnell's residents and nascent businesses. Of course, the railroads did come—the first train reached town in 1863—and they brought with them numerous jobs. The 1870 Grinnell census counted 35 railroad employees as well as a railroad ticket agent and four men involved in railroad construction. Over subsequent decades the railroads also brought new settlers to town, encouraging the growth of Grinnell.
Photograph of the First Train to Arrive in Grinnell, June 1863
Drake Community Library Local History Archive, McNally Photographs, Collection #1, Series #1-3 (Digital Grinnell)
If farming and railroads provided much of the original ballast for the new town, Iowa College, which officially moved to Grinnell in 1858, added substantial heft. The 1870 census counted 95 men and 46 women as attending the college. The town's public schools, which in 1870 were still in their infancy, accounted for another 60 male and 83 female students. Of the remaining men in town, 52 listed their occupation as "day laborer," which meant that on any given day they might—or might not—have work and a day's wages.
Horse-drawn Buggies at Service at Original Congregational Church (Before 1877)
Drake Community Library Archives, McNally Photographs,  Collection #1, Series #1-3 (Digital Grinnell)
In an age that preceded the automobile, trades connected to horses and horse-drawn vehicles were very visible—and necessary. In 1870 Grinnell there were 13 blacksmiths (and one retired blacksmith), five harness makers (and one apprentice harness maker), one saddler, and eight wagon makers. Five teamsters, two draymen and two livery stables also contributed to an economy that depended upon horses. Among the trades which in a pre-industrial economy governed production, carpentry was dominant: 32 men told the census-takers that they were carpenters. No one in 1870 Grinnell plied the trade of plumbing, because there was not yet either a central water system or sewer system.
Undated photograph of McNally's Meat Market, 915 Main St., Grinnell
Drake Community Library Local History Archive (Digital Grinnell)
Seven shoemakers worked in 1870 Grinnell, along with six butchers, four painters, and four tailors. Two glove-makers, two plasterers, two photographers, and two jewelers (and an apprentice jeweler) added to the local mix. Of course, there were lawyers—five—and physicians—five—along with four clergymen; there was just one dentist, but four hotel keepers. One college president, one superintendent of schools, 23 schoolteachers (mostly female), and three college professors helped round out Grinnell's 1870 professions.
Interior of Bailey-Rinefort Hardware Store, 914-916 Main Street, Grinnell (ca. 1902)
Drake Community Library Local History Archive (Digital Grinnell)
Grinnell in 1870 could also boast a variety of businesses. Eleven men counted as dry goods merchants—this when most clothes were still hand-made—and nine grocers had shops in town. Eight men ran lumber yards (thereby enabling carpenters to do their work), six owned hardware stores, five operated drug stores, and three men were produce dealers. But there was just one banker, two (male) bookkeepers, one postmaster, and one realtor. Similarly, there was just one printer, a single machine dealer, one gardener, one coal merchant, and a single cabinet maker, among others.
1881 Photograph of Alta Ingersoll Matteson (1829-1899) who "kept house" for her husband & family at 5th and West
Grinnell Historical Museum (Digital Grinnell)
1870 Grinnell offered women many fewer work opportunities, a reflection of a society that was strongly gendered. Far and away the most frequent calling attributed to women in 1870 Grinnell was "keeping house," to which the census assigned 226 women. Fifteen more told census-takers that they were "Assistant housekeepers," and another 40 worked as domestics. Other female occupations also hewed to the gender stereotype: seven women were milliners, two were seamstresses, and two were dressmakers. Fifteen other women were school teachers, and three more were music teachers. Several women operated boarding houses or rented rooms, but there was just one waitress, one washerwoman, one "kitchen girl," one cook, one (female) bookkeeper, and a couple of clerks. In other words, most women in 1870s Grinnell stayed close to the hearth, and relatively few worked within the town's cash economy.
By 1940 Grinnell's population had reached 5219, more than three times the size of the 1870 town. More important than the change in size, however, were changes in technology and therefore changes in what constituted work. Traces of occupations known to the 1870 census remained in 1940. For example, 1940 Grinnell still had blacksmiths (four), a single harness maker, and just one shoemaker. But liveries were no more, and wagon-makers, too, were gone. In their place the 1940 census included all sorts of jobs that had no mention whatsoever in 1870, and demonstrated a reorientation of work—away from artisanal trades and increasingly toward specialized factory work and the sale of manufactured goods. This change, in turn, encouraged a growing professionalization and stratification of labor.
Undated Photograph of Grinnell Canning Factory, founded in 1912
Drake Community Library, Local History Archive, McNally photographs. Collection #1, Series #1-3 (Digital Grinnell)
Some of Grinnell's earliest factories (like Spaulding and Grinnell Washing Machine) had already disappeared by 1940, but other factories in town—like the Canning Factory, the Morrison-Shults Manufacturing Co., and Lannom Shoe Factory—exerted a powerful influence upon the twentieth-century work force. For example, at least 28 men in 1940 worked as machine operators or machinists, and the census counted almost 200 men employed as "laborers" and another 18 as "employees" (all without the support of a union).

By 1940 manufacturing itself had changed, the assembly line having displaced the artisan-like workshops that had prevailed earlier. Within a single factory one could discover a broad range of specialized tasks, none of which had existed in 1870. In the Morrison-Shults factory, for example, the manufacture of gloves now required numerous specialized jobs. The 1940 census found within the glove factory "cutters," "finishers," "polishers" and "glove liners." There were also stitchers, trimmers, lining sewers, fitters, and those who did hems and fancy stitches. Likewise, the shoe factory, organized on the bones of the old Spaulding works, had jobs with names like cutters, stitchers, eyelet operators, insolers [sic], sanders, rounders, hemmers, sewers, finishers and shoe trimmers. Overseeing all this specialized work were managers and supervisors, differentiated in title and pay from factory labor.
An undated photograph from the Glove Factory shows male supervisors overseeing women sewers
(Photographer unknown) Grinnell Historical Museum
No one in 1870 claimed the title of manager, but 1940 Grinnell had 38 of them, assisted by 20 foremen. Similarly, supervisors had been unknown to 1870 Grinnell, but in 1940 there were nine of them, as well as a handful of inspectors. Although there were a fair number of shop owners in 1870 Grinnell, there were no "proprietors" named in that year's census. The 1940 census, however, assigned that title to 62 men (along with 14 "owners"). The overwhelming majority of these proprietors operated stores that sold the increasing variety of manufactured products. For example, Ben Tarleton operated Ben's Tire Shop at 719 4th Avenue, and Frank Mitchell sold Buicks and Pontiacs at Mitchell Motor Company, across the street at 716 4th. Star Clothing at 918 Main and Preston's Clothing at 801 4th Avenue were just two of five stores and three department stores that sold ready-to-wear clothing.
Ben's Tire Shop, 719 4th Avenue (ca. 1950)
Digital Grinnell/Poweshiek History Preservation Project
A similar consequence of changed patterns of manufacturing was the growth of jobs in sales. The 1870 census identified nine men as "traveling salesmen," but in 1940 more than 100 Grinnell men counted as salesmen. Men like Virgil Jones (1912-1995) might drive all over the West in search of buyers for the output of the Lannom Shoe Factory. The numerous salesmen reflected both the arrival of mass production and the reorganization of the work force, assigning more jobs to people who sold the increased factory output.
1930s (?) Photograph of Delivery Truck for Grinnell Dairy, 934 Main Street
Drake Community Library, Local History Archive, Main Street Slides, p.8, slide 13 (Digital Grinnell)
Although horses dominated travel in the nineteenth century before trains supplanted them, the twentieth century gave birth to the automobile and its cousin, the motorized truck. This technological transition had its impact upon the work force in Grinnell:  in 1940 71 men listed their occupation as truck driver, and another 48 had jobs as mechanics. Of course in 1870 there were no gas stations, but in 1940 Grinnell a handful of "filling stations" (the 1940 city directory counted 16!) employed fifteen (or more) men as attendants. Horses, which had been at the center of transportation in 1870, had become instead a means of recreation and entertainment.
White Star Filling Station, Northeast corner of 5th & Main Streets (Opened in 1917; by 1940 known as Hunter's Garage)
Poweshiek Historic Preservation Project (Digital Grinnell)
The proliferation of electricity and telephone networks meant that in 1940 there were ten men who worked as "linemen," and another man who supervised them. Three men had jobs reading the meters that measured electricity and water use, jobs unimagined in 1870. The census also found a half-dozen men who worked as electricians and an electrical engineer was also at work in 1940 Grinnell. The census found three women who worked as telephone operators and several men ran the telegraph.
Catherine Haines at Switchboard (ca. 1950)
(Photographer Unknown; PHPP, Digital Grinnell)
Against this background of increased mechanization and industrialization, agriculture remained important in 1940 Grinnell. The census that year counted 50 farmers (both active and retired) who lived in town. But there were also "meat cutters," a livestock buyer, and a meat packer, who worked for a packing company, indications of how agriculture was increasingly penetrated by factory methods. Carpenters also had a strong presence: the 1940 census counted forty men as carpenters (compared to 32 carpenters in 1870). The frame houses that today still define most of the town's housing stock remind us that carpenters continued to play a vital role in twentieth-century Grinnell. And by 1940 many—although far from all—houses demanded the services of the sixteen plumbers known to the census. The backyard biffie was on its way to extinction as city sewer systems found their way beneath the city streets.

Work in 1940 Grinnell remained highly gendered, although the census reveals that the gender boundaries were breaking down. The category of "keeping house" disappeared from the census, but census-takers did find 45 female housekeepers and another 25 women who did "housework." Eleven women worked as maids; 26 as waitresses (the 1940 city directory identified 15 "restaurants and lunch rooms," another indication of a changed work world), and 33 as "seamstresses," work which brought women's labor increasingly into the cash economy. Industry also helped break down old gender stereotypes: in 1940 at least twenty-seven women reported that they worked as machinists or machine operators, occupations unknown to nineteenth-century Grinnell women.
1940 Photograph of Ina Sprague (1891-1979), longtime teacher and principal of Davis School
Grinnell Historical Museum; Roger Preston, Photographer (Digital Grinnell)
Teaching continued to attract many women: the 1940 census counted 67 women teachers (including five at the college). For a long time Iowa school districts required that women teachers not only remain unmarried (I. N. Edwards, "Marriage as a Legal Cause for Dismissal of Women Teachers," The Elementary School Journal, v. 25 [May 1924]:692-95), but some even demanded that they "not keep company with men." It was no coincidence, therefore, that female teachers like Nettie Bayley (1878-1961), who taught for fifty years in Grinnell, went their whole lives without marrying.
Undated Photograph of Nettie Bayley (1878-1961), Longtime Teacher and Principal of Parker School
Professionalization within the economy also meant employment for people who created and curated business records, coincidentally bringing more women into the public work force. Skilled work as bookkeeper, for instance, in 1940 pulled eighteen women into the same work environment as men. Sales had a similar effect, occupying 22 Grinnell women in 1940. Another twenty-eight women worked as clerks, fifteen were secretaries and fifteen more worked as stenographers, all of them keeping track of orders, invoices, and correspondence that mushroomed with the local economy. Women in 1940 Grinnell were also found within the professions. Wilma Rayburn, for example, was one of the half-dozen lawyers in town, and Martha Derr practiced dentistry (although the 1940 city directory does not include her among the seven dentists it lists).

The 1940 census also offers a contrast with 1870 in another way: the Depression and election of Franklin Roosevelt meant that the federal government got into the business of creating jobs. In 1940 27 men worked as laborers for the Works Progress Administration (WPA; later Work Projects Administration). One man told census-takers that he did road work for WPA, but it seems likely that many of the 21 ditch-diggers the census found were also working for WPA. Here, too, however, work-place stratification was visible. One man reported his job as a WPA administrator, for instance, and another man was a WPA foreman.

Women, too, gained wage employment from the WPA, although many of these jobs perpetuated old stereotypes. There was, for instance, a WPA female cook and two WPA housekeepers. Six women were WPA seamstresses, and three were WPA-funded teachers.
Grinnell boys at work in NYA workshop
(Pictorial Highlights on the Iowa NYA, Theodor P. Eslick, State Administrator [n.p: Federal Security Agency, n. d.), p. 28.
Federal dollars also sustained Grinnell jobs in the National Youth Administration (NYA). According to newspaper reporting, NYA supported as many as 40 local men between the ages of 18 and 25. "The Grinnell project offers workshop training in wood working and refinishing, mechanics, welding, painting and other types of vocational training," the newspaper announced (Grinnell Herald Register, September 19, 1940). As elsewhere, some men landed supervisory jobs, but most of the youth worked further down the ladder. The 1940 Grinnell census found one man working as an NYA administrator, another as an NYA county foreman, and a third as an NYA recreation supervisor. Among Grinnell women the census identified an NYA-supported typist and an NYA-funded teacher. NYA also supported sewing projects, involving at least two women identified as NYA seamstresses and two more who identified their NYA job as "sewer." Late in 1940 the Grinnell sewing room (829 1/2 Broad Street), which had been headquartered above the Broadway department store on Broad Street, was closed down in favor of a new NYA project intended to "give girls between the ages of 18 and 25 practical experience in cooking, sewing and other phases of homemaking" (Grinnell Herald-Register, September 19, 1940).
Census reports cannot fully describe the changes in work over time; inevitably some occupations bleed across these chronological boundaries. But a comparison of 1870 Grinnell jobs with those reported to the 1940 US Census does show an enormous transition over those seventy years. Most work in early Grinnell depended upon the individual: farmers and artisans in the main could control their work space and output, and, like the many day-laborers available to the market, found themselves vulnerable to changes in the larger economy. Work in 1870 Grinnell was also strongly gendered, with most women confined to the domestic sphere, working outside the cash economy. Although the railroad reached Grinnell soon after its founding, most men and women of 1870 Grinnell depended upon horses for most of their travel, which is why small barns or carriage houses (along with outhouses) stood behind so many Grinnell homes.

By 1940 Grinnell was much more closely tied to the world beyond the city limits. One world war had already affected town, and another was imminent. The trains came and went with ever greater frequency, and airplanes had become common sights in the sky. Grinnellians rode trains and planes, but also drove their cars and trucks all across the country. Increasingly automobiles occupied those backyard carriage houses, and outhouses disappeared as indoor plumbing became common. Production processes gave men and women new specialized jobs, and called others into jobs selling factory output. The larger factory labor force gave rise to differentiation within the workplace as managers, supervisors, and directors scaled the ladder. Although the bonds of the domestic sphere remained strong in 1940 Grinnell, the new economy, thirsty for factory hands, drew many women away from the hearth and into the public work force, a trend that World War II would hasten and expand.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Death Comes to Tiny Acres...

A former colleague of mine would sometimes explain the literary meaning of "pastoral" by referring to the local newspaper. There, he said, the complex, villainous world of the modern city was absent; in its place the quiet rhythms of nature proceeded without interference. If big-city tabloids shouted "Murder" and "Crime," the local newspaper whispered the casual stories of living and loving.
Grinnell Herald-Register, July 3, 1967
At least occasionally, however, even small-town, rural newspapers must deal with unexpected, unwanted violence, and that's what happened in June 1967 in Grinnell. Against a background of the pastoral—news of weather, weddings, baseball and groceries—the newspaper headline shrieked of murder and suicide. But let's start at the beginning.

Undated photograph of Tiny Acres, Grinnell, Iowa
Sometime in the mid-1950s a local entrepreneur had the idea of building a roller skating rink in Grinnell. Apparently begun under a tent in Central Park, a more durable rink soon took form on the north side of Highway 6 just west of town (on land now occupied by Iowa Valley Community College). By 1956 groups of college students were enjoying skating parties at the rink, which gradually came to include a cafe and a small manufacturing facility.
Scarlet & Black, October 5, 1956
Behind this new venture was Farrell Murphy (1908-1970) who was born near Ewart, had attended Grinnell schools and in 1937 had married Edith Smith (1902-1971), a Newton woman. Over the years the couple had operated several skating rinks in central Iowa, but Tiny Acres was the last. The rink advertised a trained chimpanzee who would routinely skate along with the visitors, occasionally stopping to help pick up someone who fell. The chimp was known to smoke cigars and cigarettes, as well as ride bikes, motorcycles and go-carts. When skaters took a break to enjoy a cold bottle of pop, they could laugh at the chimp's antics, savoring, perhaps, the pleasures of pastoral life.
Along with the restaurant and small factory that made up Tiny Acres, Murphy decided to add some modest apartments. As it happened, at the same time Grinnell College had begun to dispense with the army barracks first acquired in 1946-47 as housing for married students who enrolled after the war. Already in 1950 the first four of the college barracks had been moved from the south side of 8th Avenue to make way for the new science building. Another four units—each containing four three-room apartments—remained standing on the north side of Eighth Avenue, east of Darby Gymnasium (where the Joe Rosenfield Center now stands).
Aerial view of campus, 1957 Cyclone. Barracks visible just to east of Darby Gym
In 1954 the college advertised the sale of several barracks. Murphy decided to purchase these buildings, and move them the mile or two that separated campus from Tiny Acres. Apparently the barracks first came into use as a motel, advertised that way in the 1957 college yearbook.
Advertisement in 1957Cyclone
But Tiny Acres never appeared as a motel in the telephone directory yellow pages. Instead, the barracks functioned as apartments: four three-room apartments in each barrack. Although the photograph is smudged, obscuring the the roller rink, the adjacent apartment buildings (former military barracks) are clearly visible in an aerial photograph.
Undated aerial photograph of Tiny Acres; Apartment buildings on right, east of the roller skating rink
Apparently renters who settled here were not prosperous, as many did not have their own telephones. According to the 1962 General Telephone Directory, for example, only three of the fourteen units then occupied had telephones; in 1970 just five of the twelve occupied units had their own telephones.
Which may explain how in 1967 a young couple, newly arrived in town, took up residence at Tiny Acres. Bobby Gene Mullins (1946-1967), just twenty years old,  had most recently been working for A. F. Schepmann Construction Company in Okabena, Minnesota. Born and raised in Georgia, Bobby Gene had evidently pursued an itinerant life, collecting jobs where he found them.
Bobby Gene Mullins, 1961 High School Yearbook, Atlanta, Georgia
How long he had worked in Minnesota I could not learn, but he had evidently gone there in part to take his girlfriend, Carrie Ann Black (1953-1967), away from Georgia. In Grinnell Bobby Gene was stringing wire for Southern Bell Telephone, although whether through his former employer or through some other contractor no one said.

When Bobby Gene and Ann (as she preferred to call herself) reached Grinnell in mid-June, Ann was only fourteen years old, and already the mother of a one-year-old boy, James Stanley Black. Newspapers reported that Ann had married when she was only eleven (or, according to other papers, twelve), and in 1967 was said to have been "separated" from her husband. I could find no record of Ann Black's marriage, so perhaps it was never formalized in law, given the girl's age. Her husband was another Georgian by the name of James Calvin Black.
James Calvin Black (1944-1994), 1960 yearbook of Roosevelt High School, Atlanta, Georgia
How they met and what led to their separation I could not discover. But Calvin (as he liked to be called) left his name in the records, having collided with the police on several occasions. In the spring of 1961, for instance, he was convicted of three counts of larceny of an automobile, and served a year in the state penitentiary. In 1970 he was sentenced to three years imprisonment for aggravated assault, so Calvin was not exactly a model of good behavior.

His "wife," Carrie Ann Bryan, was born in 1953 in Bladen County, North Carolina. The Grinnell funeral record lists Fort Bragg as her place of birth, indicating that her father had probably served in the army. What later brought her to Atlanta and an acquaintance with Calvin Black and Bobby Gene Mullins I do not know. Her youthful marriage and pregnancy and the rapid dissolution of her marriage hint at a troubled life, but little else about the young mother is public.
Stanley James Black, Bobby  Gene Mullins, and C. Ann Black;
Polaroid snapshot reprinted in Grinnell Herald-Register, July 3, 1967
These, then, were the young people who arrived in Grinnell in June 1967, playing the parts of husband and wife in a Tiny Acres apartment. The newspaper reported that there was some conflict, leading young Ann to take her baby and seek refuge in a neighbor's apartment. It was late afternoon and Ann and her neighbor, Neola Carroll (1916-1979), were watching television, the baby on the floor before them. The apartment door opened, and Bobby Gene entered, a "coverlet" draped over his arm. Ann was lying on a sofa which Bobby Gene approached, stepping over the baby, by now asleep on the floor. Bobby Gene bent down to Ann and said, "Honey, I got a present for you." He threw off the coverlet, exposing a .22 caliber pistol, and quickly shot Ann twice in the head. He then put the gun in his mouth and fired a third shot.

Neola Carroll rushed out of the apartment, screaming for her husband, yelling that "he shot her." Eddie Andersen (1911-2004), who managed Tiny Acres for Farrell Murphy, ran to the apartment with Mr. Carroll. Upon entering they found the little boy, awakened by the shots and shouting, standing by the sofa, "pulling at Ann's dress."
Photograph of Mrs. Everett Carroll and James Stanley Black, Grinnell Herald-Register, July 3, 1967
The murder-suicide at Tiny Acres was not the only crime of its kind in 1967 Iowa. Early in the year, police in Webster City had found the bodies of Mrs. Matilda Petzel and her husband, Harold, who had shot his wife to death before taking his own life (Waterloo Courier, January 3, 1967). In April folk in Lamoni learned that a Graceland College (now Graceland University) student from Iran, Hassan Rajabali, had taken a .22 caliber pistol to his former girlfriend, Sally Gladfelder, and then killed himself (Des Moines Register, April 29, 1967). And a little more than a month after the Grinnell killings, the Cedar Rapids Gazette carried a story of a retired grocer in Appanoose County who had murdered his wife before killing himself (August 7, 1967).

So Iowans were not without knowledge of events like these; they understood that the pastoral calm in which they spent much of their lives could be suddenly penetrated by a grisly killing of the sort well-known to big city folk. Still, the shock of the Tiny Acres killing caught people's attention. 

And yet the victims were all outsiders—strangers, really—who had parachuted into the calm of small-town life, bringing with them the alarming detritus of the big city. Their bodies disappeared quickly from Grinnell, soon taking their rest in cemeteries far from Iowa. By the time the Grinnell newspaper published the story, Carrie Ann Bryan Black was already buried in Briar Branch Church Cemetery, Bladen County, North Carolina. 

Bobby Gene Mullins found his final resting place even sooner, being interred July 1st at Oak Hill Cemetery, Cartersville, Georgia.
Even little James Stanley was soon gone, his grandmother carrying him to her North Carolina home where the public record soon lost track of him.

Back in Grinnell the dreadful events of June 27 soon passed from consciousness. The newspaper published no follow-up, the celebrations of the July 4th holiday wiping out the grim image of the orphaned one-year-old and his dead mother. The pastoral rhythms of nature and the countryside once more dominated the pages of the newspaper, leaving behind this rude incursion into the pastoral calm of central Iowa.

PS. Special thanks to Cheryl Neubert and Monique Shore for getting me the high-quality scan of the Grinnell Herald-Register article to replace the illegible microfilm copy, and to Steve Budd who first brought Tiny Acres to my attention.

Friday, October 11, 2019

"Grinnell Boy Killed by Cop"

Grinnell Register, June 22, 1920, p. 1
The headline from the front page of the June 22, 1920 issue of the Grinnell Register calls to mind today's news about police encounters with African Americans. But the 1920 happening had nothing to do with African Americans, nor did it involve a policeman, despite the headline. The newspaper reported that early Saturday morning J. T. Watt, a detective employed by the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad, had accosted a nineteen-year-old white man by the name of Harry Sanders in the Marshalltown railroad yards. According to the detective, Sanders
started toward the viaduct by the Union station and was told by Detective Watt to stop. He did not heed the command and he was told a second time. He [Sanders—DK] at that time pulled a gun from his pocket...and opened fire. Watt shot Sanders...in the back. The boy was rushed to a hospital but died before reaching the hospital (Grinnell Register, June 22, 1920).
Investigation later proved that Sanders had never fired a shot, despite the fact that Watt had managed to put two bullets into Sanders's back. Nevertheless, the local coroner's jury quickly cleared Watt of wrongdoing. At first the dead man's family offered no objection to the results of the inquest, merely asking that his body be released quickly for burial in Grinnell's Hazelwood Cemetery. Before the summer was out, however, Sanders's mother came to see the situation differently, blaming Watt and the railroad for "wrongful death."

Gravestone of Harry R. Craig, Hazelwood Cemetery (2019 photo)
A second aspect of the story is less visible in reportage of the time. If today you walk Hazelwood Cemetery in search of the gravesite of Harry Sanders, you will be disappointed; the military headstone that stands over the dead man's grave identifies him not as Harry Sanders, but as Harry R. Craig. And in that exchange of names is buried another story that complicates—but also helps explain—the tragic events of 1920. Today's post will examine both parts of the story.
Details of the shooting emerged at the coroner's inquest, held in Marshalltown Sunday morning, hard on the heels of the shooting. Taking evidence from seven witnesses, the three-man jury issued its finding: 
Sanders came to his death by being shot by J. T. Watt, special agent for the M. & St. L. R. R., and that said shooting was in self defense and fully justified and this jury exonerates him (Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, June 21, 1920).
The difficulty for the coroner came from the fact that, despite Watt's original claim, Sanders had not fired a single shot, but had been shot twice in the back. How could Sanders have threatened Watt's life while facing away from—or running away—from the detective?
Marshalltown Union Depot (ca. 1910)
The key testimony came from J. F. Casey, who worked for the railroad in the Marshalltown yards, but was nevertheless described as an "impartial witness." According to the newspaper report, Casey alleged "...that Sanders had threatened the life of the officer...." Casey testified that he had seen Sanders "fingering a revolver as he moved down the platform of the union station, that he saw Sanders turn his body and raise his hand. ...Watt fired when he was twelve or fourteen feet back of Sanders" (ibid.). Although Casey did not say that he saw Sanders fire or even raise a gun toward Watt, after the shooting, Casey said, he did see "Watt pick up something [!] which lay by the man's side, presumably a revolver" (ibid.).

Watt's own testimony confirmed most of his original account. What was surprising was the Marshall County Attorney's request that Watt act out the encounter before the coroner's jury, with Watt playing the part of Sanders, a proposal that allowed Watt to represent what he claimed were his victim's actions. A key deviation from his original testimony was Watt's concession that Sanders had not in fact fired a gun at him. However, he alleged that Sanders had "partly turned and pointed an automatic at Watt, the officer shooting and firing as Sanders slipped the safety catch on his gun." Furthermore, 
when the officer reached Sanders after he had been shot, Sanders held the .380 automatic in his right hand, which lay across Sanders's stomach, and a .32 caliber Savage automatic lay on the ground by Sanders' left hand (ibid.).
Another witness "displayed the guns taken from Sanders...All were loaded, the Smith & Wesson used by Watt having two empty cartridges" (ibid.). The witness did not point out what was obvious implicitly: although Watt's gun proved that two shots had been fired, Sanders's guns could not confirm that even a single shot had been fired. 
Grinnell Register, August 30, 1920
Initial reporting gave no evidence that the dead man's family contested the explanation of the shooting. In fact, Sanders's stepfather, James Craig, seemed to admit that Sanders, who lived with Craig since 1904, "had always been a good boy," but had lately turned wild. Craig noted that at seventeen young Sanders had enlisted in the coastal artillery, and had served briefly in France in late 1918, "On his return home," Craig continued, "he was a changed boy, having developed a wild spirit of adventure..." (Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, June 21, 1920).

But if the Craigs originally accepted the officials' story of Sanders's death, they later changed their minds. Marshalltown newspapers reported that over the summer a private detective hired by the dead man's family had been in town to seek evidence with which to charge Watt and the railroad (Marshalltown Evening Times-Republic, August 26, 1920).

It was no surprise, then, when in late August Mrs. Craig petitioned to have Sanders's body exhumed from Hazelwood Cemetery and brought to Newton for "further examination." The petition alleged numerous errors by Marshall County officials, but the chief allegation was that "J. T. Watt...shot Sanders in the back without provocation" (Grinnell Herald, August 31, 1920).
Undated photograph of Jasper County Courthouse, erected 1909-1911
Accordingly, Sanders's body was exhumed Friday, August 27 from Hazelwood, taken to Newton for a second autopsy, and by Saturday, August 28, was returned to the Grinnell cemetery. A Jasper County inquest convened in Newton that Saturday afternoon. Among the witnesses heard was Frank Woods, who had been awaiting a train at the Marshalltown station the night that Sanders was shot. Woods testified that he had seen Watt run by the ticket office, and almost immediately thereafter he had heard a shot. He ran out to see Watt "standing at Sander's [sic] head, holding a revolver in his hand... He saw no weapon in Sander's hand or about his person..." (Grinnell Register, August 30, 1920). The next witness was John Casey, who had earlier testified at the Marshalltown inquest. As he had said then, Casey reported having seen Sanders being pursued by Watt. "He saw Sanders trying to turn, raising his arm at the same time. Officer Watt then shot two times. The witness could not see whether Sanders had anything in his arm when he raised it... He could not say...whether Sanders made any attempt to shoot" (ibid.). Other testimony offered no new information; Watt and Marshall County coroner, E. M. Singleton, failed to appear at the Newton inquest, despite having been subpoenaed.

The Jasper County coroner's jury then issued the following verdict:
Harry Sanders was shot to death June 19, 1920 while running away from John T. Watts [sic], a special agent for the M. and St. L. Railway company at Marshalltown, Marshall County, Iowa (Grinnell Herald, August 31, 1920).
The Newton finding confirmed the fact of the shooting, but omitted the exoneration of Watt that was included in the original Marshalltown verdict. Less helpful to the Craigs' case was the fact that the Newton inquest failed to identify a crime or to fix blame, a result that allowed one newspaper to describe the verdict as being "without teeth." For a time it seemed as though the Sanders case would wither. In early September the only newspaper articles to mention the inquest dealt with whether or not Marshall County would reimburse Jasper County for the $131 expended for the Newton inquest (it did not).
Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, August 30, 1920
But then, as commentators had expected, in mid-September Sanders's mother filed suit, charging the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway Company with wrongful death and seeking $25,000 in damages. However badly authorities had treated Sanders and his family, the sum Mrs. Craig sought—something more than $300,000 in today's dollars—was eyebrow-raising, and contrasted sharply with her immediate reaction to her son's death.
Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, September 13, 1920
The case did not come to trial in the Jasper County courthouse until February 1921. When finally convened, the hearing was brief, with the plaintiff—Gertrude Craig—contending that Sanders "...was not a 'bad man,' and that it was not necessary for Watt to shoot him." To make this case the plaintiff depended upon the testimony of R. A. Hill, who was also employed by the railroad but had not testified at either of the inquests. Hill claimed to have witnessed the entire event, and said he saw Watt searching Sanders when the victim started to run, after which Watt shot him twice in the back. This fresh testimony seemed to establish the plaintiff's case powerfully.

The defense, however, depended upon the testimony of Sanders's partner, Harold Fay (1905-1975), aka Walter LaBelle, who had been apprehended by Watt at the Marshalltown train station the same night that had Sanders died. Fay confessed to a series of robberies carried out with Sanders in the weeks before the shooting. Brought from Anamosa State Penitentiary, Fay testified to the details of their June 1920 crime spree in Poweshiek and Marshall counties, admitting that the pair had acquired four guns. Sanders had two of them, Fay told the court, but whether Sanders, when apprehended, had the guns on his person Fay did not know; he "presumed" so (Cedar Rapids Gazette, February 16, 1921).

Bystanders might have thought that testimony was sufficient to oblige the judge to take some time to evaluate the evidence, but Sixth District Judge D. W. Hamilton promptly issued a directed verdict against the plaintiffs. The judge was clearly unimpressed with the plaintiff's case. Perhaps because he suspected that Mrs. Craig was using the courts only to chase money, he took the opportunity to chastise the dead man's mother for having initiated the suit in the first place, and for having disturbed Sanders from his grave (Sioux City Journal, February 19, 1921).
Was Gertrude Craig motivated by the chance to win a jackpot from her son's death? Quite possibly.

Records from the 1920 shooting make no mention of the dead man's biological father; only the death certificate specifies that Harry's father was "Chas Sanders," but who was he?
Death Certificate for Harry Sanders, June 20. 1920
Newspaper notices from the Marshalltown shooting reported two different locations for the funeral of young Harry Sanders. The Grinnell Herald located the funeral at the residence of Charles M. Pugh, who lived at 1411 Third Avenue, Grinnell. The Marshalltown newspaper, however, reported that "Funeral services were held at 2 o'clock Sunday afternoon from the home of [Harry's—DK] grandfather Charles Sanders" (Evening Times-Republican, June 21, 1920). The only Charles Sanders found in the 1920 Grinnell directory was Charles Jacob Sanders, who lived at 1419 Third Avenue, the next house east of Charles Pugh's home where the Herald had mistakenly assigned the funeral.

Charles Jacob Sanders (1850-1922) and Susan (Campbell) Sanders (d. 1903) were the parents of Charles H. Sanders (1877-1919). Although they lived in town in 1920, the Sanders family had earlier farmed in Pleasant Township, and census inventories report that young Charles H. Sanders helped on the family farm. In 1897 he enlisted to serve in the Spanish-American War, and returned safely to central Iowa in 1899. The 1900 US census found him back on his father's farm, a single, 22-year-old farm laborer. It is certain, therefore, that Charles H. Sanders was in the vicinity of Grinnell in 1900, the same year that Gertrude Hulbert conceived a child with "Chas Sanders." Holding Harry's 1920 funeral at the home of "his grandfather," Gertrude Craig made sure to associate Charles H. Sanders with her dead son.

But why did she put the burden on Harry's grandfather instead of his father? For one thing, Charles H. Sanders himself was dead, having died in a December 1919 accident in Kansas City. Two weeks before his death Charles H. Sanders had written to his parents, assuring them that he was "well and trying to live a better life," a hint that he had experienced some difficulties. Records prove that, although he had married and generated a child, the marriage was not successful; his death certificate confirms that he was divorced. Charles had pursued several occupations, apparently none with much success. Probate records show that when he died, the total value of Charles H. Sanders's property was $100, barely enough to get him buried. The company for which he worked at the time of the accident settled with the estate over a claim of negligence, paying $700, about half of which went to pay lawyers and others involved in settling the estate.

But if Charles was a pauper in 1919, he seems to have been ever poorer in 1901, the year that Harry Sanders was born.

Gertrude Craig, who in 1920 claimed her son's body and later filed suit for her son's wrongful death, had been born Gertrude May Hulbert (b. 1883), the third (and last) child of Samuel J. (1850-?) and Phoebe (Pugh) (1857-1908) Hulbert. The couple had married in Mahaska County in 1872, but had divorced sometime prior to 1887 when Phoebe Hulbert remarried, this time taking as her husband Martin McKibben (1869-1933). The 1900 US Census found 17-year-old Gertrude Hulbert living with the McKibbens in Grinnell at 734 Elm Street. Evidently Gertie, as she was often known, had joined her stepfather's household after the Hulberts divorced. No longer in school, Gertrude in 1900 was said to be working as a "laundry girl" in town. This was the time when she encountered Charles H. Sanders; exactly how or where they met we do not know.

But before the next census visited Grinnell in 1905, 21-year-old Gertrude had married James Craig, six years her senior and an 1890 immigrant from England. The marriage record from March 23, 1904 reports that it was the first marriage for both bride and groom. 
Return of Marriages in the County of Poweshiek, for the Year Ending December 31, 1904
The 1910 US Census found Mr. and Mrs. Craig living in Hickory Grove Township, just west of Newburg. Telling officials that they had been married for seven years, the Craigs reported three children: Blanche, 3 years old; Wilma, 9 months old; and Harry, who was 9 years old. As court records prove, 18-year-old Gertrude Hulbert had given birth to Harry in April 1901, three years before she married James Craig.
As early as 1843 the Iowa legislature included in its Revised Statutes "An Act to Provide for the Support of Illegitimate Children." The original statute envisioned jailing men who, having been declared responsible for a child's support, failed to provide that support. This last measure was later removed from the law, but otherwise the statute remained within the Iowa code.
1924 Code of Iowa, eds. U. G. Whitney and O. K. Patton [Des Moines?], 1924, p. 1507
(Title XXXIII, Chapter 544, "Bastardy Proceedings")
In turn-of-the-century Iowa, men sometimes learned about this statute the hard way—facing in court the women with whom they had had sex. Nevertheless, in an era that did not know DNA, proving parentage was not easy. A 1900 case heard in Des Moines, for instance, reproved plaintiffs for bringing into court a three-month-old baby who was said to bear the defendant's resemblance.
Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, December 22, 1900
But when a woman's claim proved persuasive, courts could impose a heavy penalty, as happened in a 1901 case from Mt. Pleasant in which the jury awarded a woman $4500 at the conclusion of a bastardy proceeding she had initiated (Ottumwa Tri-Weekly Courier, March 7, 1901). Similarly, in May 1902 a LeMars man was ruled the father of a baby born two months earlier to his unmarried, young neighbor (Sioux City Journal, May 23, 1902).

Gertrude Hulbert followed this same course, filing charges against "Charles Sanders" in Iowa District Court in September 1900 when she was two or three months pregnant. Following the law's prescription, the Poweshiek County attorney immediately "commenced proceedings for bastardy" against Sanders.
Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, September 22, 1900
Court records indicate that trial was postponed at least four times before finally being heard in November 1901 when Gertie's baby was already six months old. What evidence the state produced and how the defendant replied the record does not say. However, the court clearly fixed responsibility upon Sanders, requiring him to pay Hulbert a total of $1800 ($100 each January 1st through the child's eighteenth birthday), plus interest for any delays in payment.
Iowa District Court Journal, Poweshiek County, 1899-1903, Book L, p. 431
The court journal clearly fixed responsibility upon "Charles Sanders," without identifying the defendant as "Charles H. Sanders." But a brief notice that appeared in the Des Moines Leader just three weeks after the bastardy hearing provides a clue: a Grinnell man by the name of Charles H. Sanders declared bankruptcy.
Des Moines Leader, December 20, 1901
Nothing in the obituaries of Charles H. Sanders or Charles Jacob Sanders admits the birth of the illegitimate boy in 1901. But bankrupt Charles H. Sanders, the man who died penniless and who admitted that his life had been filled with ruts, is nevertheless the best candidate for the paternity established by the courts in 1901.

And if his 1901 bankruptcy deprived Gertrude Hulbert Craig of the financial support decreed by the court, we may better understand her desire to file wrongful death charges against the railroad, even if she harbored no special affection for her son. Money awarded for a successful wrongful death suit might have helped compensate for the failure of Charles H. Sanders to support his illegitimate son. 
For Harry Sanders, the story ended with his death in 1920. Except for the exhumation carried out in August 1920, Harry has slept peacefully in his Hazelwood grave ever since. For many years his grave went unmarked, but in 1932 Gertrude Craig petitioned for a free military headstone upon which was remembered not Harry Sanders, but Harry Craig, the name under which he had enlisted in the coastal artillery in 1918. For the other stars in this play life went on, ripples from the events of 1920 spreading ever more widely.

Already in December 1920 J. T. Watt learned that his wife of nine years, the former Ellen Surtess, had filed for divorce (Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, December 18, 1920). In the meantime, Watt had changed employers, leaving the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad to become a detective for the Northwestern Railroad. Early summer 1921 his new employers transferred Watt from Marshalltown to Cedar Rapids where he had jurisdiction over most of the railroad's Iowa lines (Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 24, 1921). Watt remained in Cedar Rapids until at least 1925 when the Iowa census found him living at 307 E. Boone with a new spouse, the former Irene Piper (1894-1939), two years his junior and also previously married. But in the following five years things changed dramatically for the Watts: the 1930 US Census found them in Tucson, Arizona where Watt was selling hats and Irene was working as a nurse. Renting a home at 1214 N. Second Avenue, the Watts hosted six female boarders. Watt may have moved to Arizona for reasons of health, because we know that at some point after 1935 he entered the Veterans Hospital in Whipple, Arizona where US census officials found him in 1940. He died at the V.A. facility March 2, 1944, a victim of "chronic, advanced, active tuberculosis." Having served briefly in the US Army in the last months of World War I (ironically, just as Harry Sanders had), Watt was buried in Prescott National Cemetery, Prescott, Arizona.

Gertrude May Hulbert Craig also ended her life far from the scene of Harry's 1920 death. If in 1920 she was living in Kellogg, Jasper County, the 1925 Iowa census found her and her family in Marshalltown; in 1930 they were still residing in Marshall County, but had settled in Liscomb, a small town north of Marshalltown where James Craig was selling automobiles. No later than 1935 they were back in Marshalltown, living on East Linn Street. But soon Gertrude and her husband moved to California, following their daughter, Blanche Hopper (1906-1994), who with her second husband had settled in San Pedro. James died there in 1955, killed by an automobile, and Gertrude followed two years later, breathing her last in Long Beach Community Hospital May 8, 1957. Both were buried in Green Hills Memorial Park, Los Angeles.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

A Very Cold Case...of Murder!

Of all the artifacts in the collections of the Grinnell Historical Museum, a small grey box may be the strangest. A legend inscribed on the box top by a hand from another age reads: "Personal effects of unknown man shot at Grinnell June 30, 1914. Turned [in?] by coroner S. C. Buck Sept 16—1914." Inside the box may be found a small collection of possessions: a single-blade razor; an empty shaving stick container; a broken comb; a brass ring; two cuff links; a damaged pen knife; a pair of dice; an empty wallet; a button hook; and a woman's (?) watch case with nothing inside. Someone added a small, typed note to indicate that former Poweshiek County supervisor, Raymond Harris (1903-81, supervisor 1968-1976), had donated the box to the museum. Nothing indicates exactly when the museum received the box, but even if the box arrived in the last year of Harris's elected duty, the museum has held the box for at least 43 years, and perhaps for as many as 50 years.
"Personal Effects of Unknown Man Shot at Grinnell June 30, 1914"
Grinnell Historical Museum
When Museum Vice-President Ann Igoe alerted me to this unusual item in the museum's inventory, I hardly knew what to think—what murder? what unknown man? Nothing in the box and nothing in the museum library told the tale of the 1914 murder. So I set out to learn what happened. This post reports my findings on one of the very coldest murder cases in Iowa history.
The events of June 30, 1914 quickly and unexpectedly splashed onto the pages of Grinnell's two newspapers. Although the shooting had occurred about 2:30 PM on Tuesday, the 30th, the Grinnell Herald, which published on Tuesdays and Fridays, managed to print a brief report on the murder in its June 30th edition. Short on specifics, this first newspaper account announced the main themes of the story: "Weak Minded" Frank Raleigh, who worked at the Monroe Hotel, had somehow concluded that a man sitting on a bench in the Grinnell depot's waiting room was involved in the "white slave trade," what today's newspapers call human trafficking. Raleigh drew 
a revolver and shot and almost instantly killed a stranger...[who] ran out on the platform in front of the depot, where he dropped. He was taken into the office of the old Chapin House and died in a few minutes (Grinnell Herald June 30, 1914).
Grinnell's Rock Island Train Depot (ca. 1900)
Digital Grinnell
The newspaper continued, pointing out that, before anyone could restrain him, Raleigh had fled "in a northeasterly direction." But then the newspaper turned attention to the victim, whose identity could not be established. "He was," the newspaper remarked, "a young man, of light complexion and wore a blue shirt, a dark suit and brown shoes. The pockets contained little of value" (ibid.). The remaining prose focused upon Raleigh, who was said to have been employed at odd jobs around the Monroe Hotel "a long time." Known "to break out suddenly in wild bursts of shouting," Raleigh had nevertheless been judged harmless. Now the "weak-minded" man had committed murder and run away.
Photograph of the Monroe Hotel (ca. 1905)
Digital Grinnell
The next news on the shooting appeared in the Grinnell Register. Because it published on Mondays and Thursdays, Thursday July 2nd was the first chance the Register had to tell the tale, and it had used the intervening two days to collect more details, assigning more than two full columns on the front page. Readers learned that the weapon employed was a 38 automatic, and that Raleigh had allegedly told the stranger to "get out of town." The Register also provided more specifics on Raleigh's flight, noting that a college student, Joe Carter, had first attempted to stop Raleigh, "but the display of the gun and remembrance of its work caused [Carter] to desist."
Joseph Carter 1914 Cyclone
The story then followed the shooter, said to have made a brief stop at the Monroe Hotel for his possessions before fleeing up the alley between Park and State streets. Later, heading north along the tracks of the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad, Raleigh was seen by Grinnell College Professor Henry Matlack, by workmen at the country club, and others. This information led police to search the territory north of town. "Autos loaded with men scoured the roads to the north long after dusk in the hope of getting a trace of Raleigh" (Grinnell Register July 2, 1914). But Raleigh successfully eluded capture. Townsfolk wondered whether he had perhaps doubled back into Grinnell, and had tried to hole up there to avoid arrest. This suspicion led police to search (in vain) a home in south Grinnell. Police also looked for the fugitive in Gilman and Marshalltown, and inquiries were sent to Oskaloosa, in case Raleigh had tried to cross-up his pursuers. While locals were anxious to have the man arrested, the Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican reported that Raleigh had been captured in Newburg. However, this report was soon rescinded; despite looking far and wide, police found no trace of the man.
Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican July 1, 1914
After that the Grinnell newspapers could only report that Raleigh remained at large, as the Register noted on the 6th and the Herald did on the 7th.  Then the Grinnell papers fell silent on the case, although occasionally papers from other towns reported an arrest or alleged sighting of Raleigh. These all proved mistaken; gradually Raleigh's name disappeared from the news. Only the college newspaper, Scarlet and Black, briefly revived the story in its September 16 issue, succinctly summarizing events of the preceding June, and noting that the shooter, "Crazy Frank," had still not been apprehended. Indeed, Frank Raleigh was never brought to justice, and Grinnell townsfolk apparently never again laid eyes on the man. The murder, committed in broad daylight and witnessed by a number of people, therefore went unsolved; everyone knew who had killed the stranger, but no one knew where Frank Raleigh had gone.
After the victim fell on the train platform and was carried into Chapin House, a doctor was summoned, but Dr. E. F. Talbot (1873-1943) arrived too late to do any good, and the dead man was then taken a few blocks to J. W. Harpster's Furniture and Undertaking on Main Street. 
Early 1900s Photograph of J. W. Harpster's Furniture and Undertaking business, 905 Main Street
Digital Grinnell
There the coroner, Dr. S. C. Buck (1866-1946), examined the body, but found little evidence with which to determine the man's identity. He reported that the victim was about twenty-five years old, of medium height with black hair and no distinguishing marks. His hands, "soft and uncalloused [sic]," were not, he thought, those of a laborer. In its Friday follow-up the Grinnell Herald added a few details, noting that the deceased weighed about 160 pounds, stood about 5 feet 10 inches tall, had light brown hair [!] and grey eyes. He wore a "suit of blue serge with a coarse blue shirt, worn brown shoes and blue socks and a brown hat" (Grinnell Herald July 3, 1914). The hat had been purchased in Spencer, Iowa, so Buck sent an inquiry to Spencer, but the merchant there proved unable to recall the man. The initials "W. R." in the headband caused some early excitement, because a certain William Rodgers from Terre Haute, Indiana had been in Grinnell in search of his wife. Rodgers, alive and well, soon surfaced, however, leaving investigators no wiser than before. The dead man's shoes had been bought in Des Moines, but this information, too, proved of no help to the coroner.
Scarlet and Black December 9, 1914
But what about the man's possessions, now part of the Museum's inventory? Do these items contribute anything to learning the identity of the victim?
Photograph of top of the Williams Shaving Stick
Grinnell Historical Museum
Nothing in the newspaper stories indicates where the stranger slept during the several days he was in Grinnell, and the man's pockets indicate that he was living rough. Not only was his wallet empty, but he was also carrying his shaving tools around with him, rather than leaving them in a suitcase (which he did not have) or in his hotel room (which he also did not have). The Williams shaving stick (small) he owned was popular and long advertised as the "traveler's favorite." If ordered by mail from the Connecticut manufacturer, the shaving stick cost twenty-five cents, but merchants often discounted the price to attract customers, so the dead man might have paid no more than a dime for it.
Photograph of Single-blade Razor
Grinnell Historical Museum
The stranger also carried in his pockets a single-blade razor encased in a narrow, rectangular box whose cover announced the manufacturer as the J. R Torrey Company of Worcester, Massachusetts. Advertised as a "real man's razor," Torrey razors were quite popular until safety razors took over the market in the mid-twentieth century. Indeed, for many years Arbuckles' coffee offered Torrey razors as a premium to those who regularly bought their coffee, an indication, perhaps, of how popular Torrey razors were.
Advertisement from Wilmington Morning Star July 17, 1914
However, the razor within the stranger's box was not a Torrey product; etched into the steel of the razor blade is the name of an English manufacturer, Joseph Rodgers, "cutlers to their majesties." Apparently the Grinnell murder victim had replaced the Torrey razor that had originally occupied the box with its English cousin. Neither razor, however, was unusual enough to help identify the dead man.

What about the rest? The broken comb bears no identifying marks, except for the fact that it is broken, indirectly confirming that the stranger was living on the edge. The pen knife, now rusted closed, was also damaged, missing pieces of the decorative cover. The cuff links likewise added little to the search for the dead man's identity. If today wearing shirts that demand cuff links is unusual, that was not true in 1914 when men's  shirts frequently required at least modest cuff links. Nothing in the stranger's cuff links sets them apart from those most commonly used.

The dead man also wore a brass ring, but it carries no inscription. Without knowing on which finger the stranger wore the ring, we can only guess at its meaning. It might be that he thought, as some still do, that wearing brass can "amplify energy," "create balance in the body," and assist various metabolic reactions in the body. Worn on the index finger, a brass ring is said to "bring out the qualities of leadership, executive ability, ambition, and self-confidence"—or so some believe. Perhaps the ring, if worn on the left hand, indicated that the victim was married, but the coroner did not reveal from which finger he had taken the ring. Nor did word from an anxious spouse reach the Grinnell authorities.
Photograph of Button Hook
Grinnell Historical Museum
The murder victim also carried a button hook, commonly used at the time to "thread" shoe buttons, and often given out free for advertising purposes. The button hook in the stranger's pocket advertised "Burke's Shoes 7123-25 So. Chicago Ave." Perhaps this device implies that the murder victim had once lived in Chicago, as he apparently admitted to Elva Sparks, one of the Grinnell girls to whom he spoke. But by 1914 the Chicago building which Burke's shoes had once occupied was available for rent, Burke's business having moved or failed sometime previously.
Advertisement from Chicago Tribune April 5, 1914
One might expect a man to carry a watch, but why carry around an empty watch case, and what was apparently a woman's watch case at that? Had the man won it in a game of chance? Or had he been obliged to cede the works on a bet, and kept the ornate case because it had some sentimental or real value? 

The most intriguing item in the dead man's possession was a pair of dice. Who travels with dice in their pockets? Do the dice indicate that the man was a gambler, eager to embark on games of chance whenever he could? If so, had he recently lost big-time, since he had no money? Or was he addicted to gambling, in the process having lost all his money? No evidence survives to answer those questions. The meager possessions of the dead man tell us only that he was without money, was apparently sleeping rough, and had some affection for games of chance.
An inquest was convened Tuesday evening—only hours after the shooting—in the Superior court room in Grinnell; testimony (here following the report of the Grinnell Register, July 2) revealed a more complicated story than the original accounts had indicated. Joe Carter, the college graduate who had briefly attempted to capture Raleigh, testified that at the depot Raleigh had told Carter that "that man...is a white slaver and he is trying to get away." Evidently Carter dismissed this assertion, perhaps because he had known Raleigh "for some time" and did not find his behavior unusual or alarming. At any rate, Carter entered the ticket office, leaving Raleigh to his concerns, and emerged only to see the victim, already shot, stumbling out of the depot with Raleigh behind him. A second witness, Gladys Davenport, a teenager, said that she had been in the depot waiting room when Raleigh approached the stranger, told him to take his hat and "get out of the seat" [sic]. When the visitor reached for the hat, she said, Raleigh shot him. A third witness was E. T. McKennan from Dubuque, but this name is apparently an error; there was no E. T. McKennan living in Dubuque at the time, but there was an Edward T. McKenna on Booth Street in Dubuque. McKenna testified that on Sunday, two days before the shooting, the man had asked him "if he could feed a hungry man." McKenna had treated the man to a meal at the Gem restaurant, just south of the depot (735 Park Street). McKenna further testified that he had seen the stranger again Sunday evening with someone else. It was clear, therefore, that the man had spent several days (and nights) in Grinnell, and that he was short of money.

The most revealing testimony came from Elva (sometimes Alva) Sparks, another Grinnell teenager. She testified that on Monday evening, the night before the shooting, the man had approached her, taking a seat beside her on a Central Park bench. She claimed that the man asked her if she didn't want to leave Grinnell, but that she had told him "no." Tuesday afternoon the stranger approached her again, repeating his question. When Sparks declined his offer a second time, the man, she said, "pulled her back on the seat and told her that she had to leave Grinnell." She said that she had then agreed to go, merely as a way of getting away from him. She then ran into Frank Raleigh—where they met she did not say—who questioned her about the stranger and what he had said to Sparks. When he learned the details, Raleigh said that that "was all that he wanted to know," and told the girl to report her story to the city attorney, Harold Beyer. The shooting, she testified, occurred as she was returning from the attorney's office on 4th Avenue.

The Rock Island agent, A. E. Yates, testified next, telling the inquest that Raleigh had approached him at the ticket window that afternoon at around 2:20, asking him to telephone Beyer to say that a white slaver was in the depot. Apparently Yates, too, was familiar with the strange behaviors of Raleigh, and dismissed Raleigh's request, making no effort to telephone Beyer. When Raleigh returned to the window a few minutes later, again demanding that Yates summon Beyer, the ticket agent reluctantly complied. Shortly thereafter Raleigh approached the ticket window a third time, demanding that Beyer be summoned. Apparently Yates turned away, but reported that he soon heard the shot and saw the stranger and Raleigh leaving the depot.

On hearing this testimony, the coroner's jury determined that "this unknown man came to his death by a gunshot wound fired from a gun in the hand of Frank Raleigh; and we do further find that he came to his death feloniously and that a crime has been committed." But the person who committed the crime was never apprehended, and therefore never faced trial.
What, then, can we make of this story and the pitiful remainder of this unknown murder victim? On a surface level, the shooting constituted explosive news, bringing unexpected violence to the usually more pastoral rhythm of life in Grinnell. The original reporting preferred to center the story around the mental condition of the shooter, Frank Raleigh, and the record of his Grinnell sojourn offered corroboration to this interpretation.

As the Grinnell newspapers repeatedly observed, Frank Raleigh was disturbed. The Herald offered the most detailed account, alleging that Raleigh had even consulted
eminent surgeons [who] had told him that the trouble was in the nerves at the base of the brain and that an operation might remedy it but that the operation was so delicate that there were about 99 chances in 100 that he would not survive. So he never ran the chance (Grinnell Herald July 3, 1914).
"In his rational moments," the newspaper allowed, Raleigh was a "hard and willing worker and he spent many leisure hours reading at Stewart Library." In summary, the Herald, like most of Grinnell, no doubt, thought him an "odd character," but harmless. The reactions of Joe Carter and A. E. Yates confirm this view; these men ignored Raleigh's demands for help, and did so without worrying about the consequences.

Other aspects of the story, however, make it less obvious that Raleigh was mentally unbalanced. For one thing, the fact that he escaped indicates that the man was capable of rationally analyzing his situation and pursuing a plan to avoid capture. Moreover, in retrospect Raleigh's concern about white slavery sounds more credible than it might have to Yates and Carter in the train depot. Particularly revealing in this respect was the testimony of Elva Sparks, the young woman whom the stranger tried to recruit, not once, but twice. At the time of her encounter with the stranger, Sparks was apparently 16 years old, although she later arranged for a delayed birth record that declared her to have been born April 15, 1896. During the 1915 Iowa census she told Frank Thackeray that she was 17 years old, which would mean that she was 16 when the events of 1914 unfolded. 
1915 Iowa Census card for Elva Sparks
If Sparks really was 16 at the time of the murder, we might have expected her to be enrolled in high school, but, as she reported during the 1915 Iowa census, she had left school after the 6th grade. According to the Grinnell Herald, Sparks worked at the Monroe Hotel where, the paper speculated, Raleigh had become acquainted with her. Having quit school and begun work (presumably at low wages since she had developed no specialized skills in high school), Sparks might have been exactly the sort of person whom a "white slaver" would try to solicit. The fact that the stranger tried twice to entice her into fleeing offers some confirmation of the theory. Moreover, the girl's own testimony raises questions about how truthful she was. In reporting on her encounters with the stranger, she emphasized that she had twice declined the man's offer to run away, but added that she had ultimately agreed to his plan so as to escape from the man. But this last claim makes no sense; did the man hear her say "yes," and then made no plans for when and how they would leave Grinnell or where they would rendezvous? Did he hear her say "yes," and then wait alone for a train to take him away from Grinnell?
Photograph of B.P.O.E. building on 4th and Main; the Antlers Hotel is visible on the right
Digital Grinnell
Accounts of the murder barely mention Gladys Davenport, another teenager and a witness to the shooting. Davenport was apparently 15 years old, and, like Sparks, might be expected to have been a high schooler. She told the 1915 census official that she had completed twelve years of schooling in Grinnell, but I found no trace of her in Grinnell high school yearbooks from the years around 1914, so it seems unlikely that she graduated. As of 1917, she and a couple of friends were working at the Antlers, another Grinnell hotel, when they announced their application to become military nurses.
Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican April 13, 1917
Apparently this plan never worked out, as an October 1917 story reports Davenport's "surprise" Montezuma marriage to John Stahl, a Grinnell woodworker. Might Davenport have been another of the stranger's recruits? Her testimony at the inquest did not explain why she was waiting for a train, sitting close enough to the victim to hear the exchange between him and Raleigh, but might she have contemplated leaving town with the stranger?
Daily Gate-City (Keokuk) January 4, 1914
Certainly we cannot be surprised that Frank Raleigh had white slavery on his mind; Iowans in 1914 heard a lot about the subject. Indeed, my search through the scanned records of newspaper.com for "white slave" in 1914 Iowa newspapers yielded an impressive 841 hits. The 1910 Mann Act introduced Americans to the "white slave trade," making it a felony to transport across state lines "any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or any other immoral purpose." The legislation had a powerful effect on public conversation, if not necessarily upon the work of police and the judiciary. Numerous plays—like Rachel Marshall's "The Traffic"— were written with "white slavery" as context, and in 1914 Iowa many cities had these plays on their theater programs.
Quad Cities Times January 11, 1914
Arrests of accused white slavers were also common. For example, a Colfax grocer, G. H. York, was charged in January 1914 with having transported a Kansas City woman to Des Moines "for immoral purposes" (Ottumwa Tri-Weekly Courier January 13, 1914). In April, a Quad Cities waiter pleaded guilty to having lured a fourteen-year-old girl from her home in Rock Island to Kansas City "for immoral purposes" (The Daily Times April 23, 1914). And in October, a Sioux City pool hall operator faced the same charge for having transported a "young girl not yet out of her teens" from Sioux City to Sioux Falls, South Dakota "for immoral purposes in violation of the Mann white slavery law" (Sioux City Journal October 7, 1914).

In short, discussion of white slavery was frequent in 1914 Iowa, so it is not surprising that Raleigh had absorbed the main themes. In fact, as the Register proved, Grinnell townsfolk knew that Raleigh was preoccupied with white slavery.
He has been the butt of jokes and ridicule by those who took advantage of his unfortunate condition. Urged on by those who take delight in seeing him suffer, he has become obsessed with the idea that White Slavers were at work in Grinnell and that he was the one to thwart their plans...it evidently became a mania with him (Grinnell Register July 2, 1914).
So it was that a man whose mental health was known to be in question became preoccupied with one of the most prominent issues of 1914 criminal public law. How Frank Raleigh came to own a .38 automatic the record does not say, but we know that he brought that gun and his manic concerns about white slavery into the Grinnell train depot. There he fixed his attention upon a visitor to town, a man with no money, no identity documents, and a motley array of possessions. Persuaded that the man was a white slaver (and he may have been right), Raleigh shot and killed the stranger, and immediately fled, never again to be seen in Grinnell. The hapless victim was never identified, and so he was promptly buried in Hazelwood Cemetery's potter's field, leaving the meager contents of his pockets as witness to their unknown owner and the sad fate he met in Grinnell, June 30, 1914.