Saturday, May 8, 2021

How Did Iowans Receive News of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre?

Although many details remain unclear, the basic events of May 31-June 1, 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma are well known. When a teenage black shoeshine, Dick Rowland, was arrested, accused of having assaulted a white woman—a standard trope in post-Civil War lynchings—a group of white men assembled at the jail with the announced intention of lynching the accused. In response, several black men obtained guns and rushed to the jail to save Rowland. Once a shot was fired—who fired it remains unclear—all hell broke loose, igniting long-standing hostilities between whites and blacks in oil-rich Tulsa where African Americans had established a "Black Wall Street" in the Greenwood section of town. Soon police and white volunteers took up arms, and headed toward Greenwood where Blacks tried to blockade the doors and defend themselves. As many as six airplanes flew over Greenwood, dropping explosives and shooting people on the streets. Arson accompanied this battle, burning Greenwood to the ground. Even today in Tulsa, the exact number of fatalities from the riot remains uncertain. The most conscientious calculation estimates a total of around 300 deaths, the great majority of which were Black.

Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa after the 1921 riot
(Library of Congress, LC-A6197-RC-10374 [P&P])

The arrival of the national guard and the imposition of martial law finally put a stop to the fighting, but it was mostly Blacks who suffered arrest (for their protection, authorities said), large numbers being detained in the convention hall and in a nearby stadium. Meanwhile, with their homes and businesses burnt down and insurers reluctant to recompense owners for what they called a riot, many Blacks who survived the disaster left Tulsa where still today the struggle over the land that had been Black Wall Street remains heated.

As we approach the centennial of what is now called the Tulsa Race Massacre, I wondered how the events in Tulsa had been received here in Grinnell and across the rest of Iowa. Today's post examines Iowa press coverage to see how news from burnt-out Tulsa reached the heartland.

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Iowa's major African American newspaper, The Bystander, did not publish on June 2, 1921—the day following the Tulsa explosion. Why it did not publish I do not know; June 2nd was a Thursday, and The Bystander published every Thursday, so perhaps skipping publication one day after the disaster in Tulsa was a silent recognition of the victims. If so, the paper did not say. 

But the next week's issue (June 9, 1921) of The Bystander did comment upon events in Tulsa, lamenting the fact that "Members of a superior race...permitted themselves to degenerate into murderers and vandals." "It is true," the newspaper continued, 

that the pride of race as well as its prejudices is a consuming fire in the veins of every nationality. On this ground one would like...to condone or excuse the hysteria of Tuesday evening and night, when the streets of the city were suddenly transformed into a raging torrent of hat[e]-impelled men.... But nothing that the mind is capable of conceiving permits a word of defense or excuse for the murderous vandalism which set in at daylight.... Hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of property—the homes of women and children, black in color, to be sure, but guilty of no other offense—went up in smoke. Semi-organized bands of white men systematically applied the torch while others shot on sight men of color (The Bystander, June 9, 1921)

Headline from June 9, 1921 Bystander

Bystander editors did not omit mention of the allegation of inter-racial contact said to have been the match that ignited the conflagration. But the deeper cause of the violence, the newspaper maintained, was the jealousy of whites, envious of the financial success of Tulsa's Black population (ibid., p. 1). Pursuing details of the aftermath, The Bystander maintained that Tulsa's whites continued to indulge their bias, preventing Black riot victims from being reimbursed by insurance and also impeding reconstruction "on the ground where once stood the proud achievements of great business success and racial progress" (ibid., September 8, 1921).

The great majority of The Bystander's readers were Black. How did the rest of Iowa learn about Tulsa?

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Headline from Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 1, 1921

The Cedar Rapids Gazette (June 1, 1921) adopted a less argumentative stance, borrowing bulletins from the Associated Press to publish an amalgam of stories. Reporting the declaration of martial law, the newspaper also told readers that "The entire Negro section of Tulsa was in flames as a result of the twenty hours of race rioting." The paper admitted that many more Blacks than whites had died, but could not help noting that the burning Greenwood district also threatened "to wipe out a white residence section" of Tulsa. In a much smaller font, the Gazette described the "long lines of Negroes"—"their sunken eyes told of a sleepless night and their ashen faces bespoke gripping fear"—headed toward Tulsa's convention hall without explaining why or who was forcing them to confinement. More details of the fires emphasized the risks from Blacks' gunfire that firemen took when attempting to douse the fires in Greenwood. The fine print acknowledged, however, that "sixty or seventy motor cars filled with armed white men...formed a circle completely around the Negro section." The Gazette also reported "half a dozen airplanes" over the city without explaining what they were doing and against whom they were flying.

Unknown photographer, "Captured Negroes On Way to Convention Hall"
(Special Collections, McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa; published in Tulsa Race Riot 1921 [Tulsa, 2001], p. 85)

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The Des Moines Register began coverage by headlining what it called a "War of Races," emphasizing the "Negro assault of a white girl." But the beginning of actual conflict the newspaper attributed to a white man who tried "to take a gun away from a black" who had come to the jail to protect Howland. On the other hand, the Register's report claimed that both white and Black residents of Tulsa suffered from the battle.

The lapping flame does not recognize the color line. It does not discriminate between the white man's  modern house and the black man's rude shack (Des Moines Register, June 2, 1921). 

An editorial in the Des Moines Tribune (June 2, 1921) bemoaned the awakened race consciousness that followed the violence. Predicting a future dominated by racial hatred, the Tribune allowed that no longer will an "alleged assault"—or even an actual assault—be necessary to provoke conflict, "for there is enough villainy in all the races to afford provocation." Referencing similar outbreaks elsewhere, the Des Moines newspaper encouraged readers to view the Tulsa events with less emphasis upon race.

Only two days later, however, the same newspaper published what it called "The First Pictures of Tulsa Race Riots," the caption pointing out that "3,000 Negroes were herded into Convention hall by armed citizens, and a close guard of the hall kept while the rioting was in progress to prevent Negroes from escaping to come to the aid of their comrades" (Des Moines Tribune, June 4, 1921). Clearly race remained the primary lens through which the Des Moines newspaper viewed events in Tulsa. 

Des Moines Tribune, June 4, 1921

It is impossible to know how the paper's readers absorbed this news, but at least one local insurance agency deduced that Des Moines itself was liable to a destiny similar to Tulsa's. Some months after the flames had died down in Tulsa a Des Moines insurance agency reminded newspaper readers about the Oklahoma violence, warning that "the hell that hit Tulsa may some day hit you!" The ad anticipated future racial violence by recommending that readers take out a "riot and civil commotion policy" (Des Moines Tribune, November 23, 1921).

Full-page advertisement from the Des Moines Tribune, November 23, 1921

Today's Waterloo, although predominantly white, includes a substantial African American population (about fifteen percent). But at the time of the Tulsa violence, Waterloo was whiter than it is today. Unsurprisingly, the local newspaper saw the world for the most part from a white perspective. News of the Tulsa riot, therefore, emerged in bold headlines that emphasized racial conflict, exaggerating the numbers of Blacks who were said to have taken part in the "race war."

Headline of Waterloo Evening Courier, June 1, 1921

The rather limited follow-up coverage included a report on indictments that accused African Americans of having incited "race riots" (Waterloo Courier, June 17, 1921).  Nothing reported here defended the Black men and women who suffered through the shootings and arson.

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The Iowa City Press-Citizen, which provided perhaps the most extensive coverage of Tulsa among Iowa newspapers, used a bold headline to warn readers: "Race Riots Terrorize Tulsa, OKLA" (June 1, 1921). A sub-heading placed blame directly on Tulsa's Blacks, 200 of whom the newspaper accused of trying to free Dick Howland from jail: "The first negro was killed by a policeman when [the negro] resisted arrest." 

Subheading to front-page article, Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 1, 1921

The news did not try to explain why, immediately thereafter, "Whites swarmed to the black belt early this morning, vowing to burn the homes of the blacks" (ibid.), but did describe how hundreds of Blacks had been "marched down the main street with white civilians carrying Winchester [rifles] and revolvers."
Men, women and children carried bundles of clothing on their heads and backs...Here were women clinging to a Bible, there a girl with disheveled hair carrying a white dog under her arm, and behind trotted a little darky [sic] girl with a big wax doll. In another place an aged negro woman was leading an old man wrapped about with quilts and blankets, apparently very sick (ibid.).
Unknown photographer, "Running the Negro Out of Tulsa" 
(Oklahoma Historical Society, published in The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 [Tulsa, 2001), p. 18)

The following day's write-up called the event a "race clash" and "race riot," attributing the violence to "the race hatred" in Tulsa. According to the newspaper, "practically the entire negro population [of Tulsa] was under guard." The news said nothing about identifying whites who participated in the battle, but pointed out that negroes sponsored by their employers were issued a "police protection tag" before being released from white guards; "it is hoped that in this manner the negroes who participated in the rioting can be identified" (Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 2, 1921). Even so, "Officials realizing that some hasty measures must be taken for the relief of the [10,000] homeless negroes set at work to devise a scheme for providing shelter." The Red Cross was said to be fully organized, distributing food and clothing; contributions from outside Oklahoma had begun to arrive 
(ibid., June 2, 1921).


Unknown photographer, "Charred Corpse Killed in Tulsa Riot"
(Special Collections, McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa; published in Tulsa Race Riot 1921, p. 18)

By June 3, the Iowa City newspaper had demoted Tulsa to one-third of a column on the front page, reporting that "Pillage, preying on burned and blood-stained Tulsa gave authorities a new problem to cope with today." The brief account also reported revised estimates of death; the total number of white and Black dead were thought to be "thirty killed and about 300 injured" (ibid., June 3, 1921). In Iowa City as in many other American newspapers, the flood in Pueblo, Colorado soon captured journalists' attention, pushing coverage of Tulsa off the page. The Press-Citizen on the 6th did include front-page photographs of Tulsa's "riot ruins," but the headline and lead story focused on Pueblo. By the end of the month, Tulsa was no longer part of the news; only on the 25th did the Press-Citizen report that the Tulsa Chief of Police had been indicted for "failure to enforce the anti-gun carrying law and [for] dereliction of duty on the night of the riot" (ibid., June 25, 1921).

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The Sioux City Journal borrowed editorial comment from the Chicago Tribune, presumably reflecting access to a wire service as well as a shared opinion. "The trouble at Tulsa," the newspaper observed, "was not the black man nor the white man. The trouble at Tulsa, the trouble in Chicago, and Springfield, and wherever else race riots have broken forth, is nothing more than corrupt politics." Rejecting the explanation that racial hate explained the deadly outbreak in Tulsa, the Tribune observed that, despite racial animus, "Day by day white man and colored man live in the same community in peace." Any "colored man," the newspaper continued, who prospers from thrift and intelligence earns respect, despite the discrimination under which the Black man labors. Consequently, it is not racial antagonism that accounts for the Tulsa explosion, the paper allowed, but rather "criminal men and women" who "prey upon decent white and decent colored people." Because politicians frequently collude with criminal elements, "Corrupt politics is directly responsible for race riots," the newspaper concluded (Sioux City Journal, June 7, 1921). As if to confirm this explanation, a July story in the same newspaper reported that the Tulsa Chief of Police had in fact been convicted of failure to stem the violence and murders (Sioux City Journal, July 23, 1921).

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Elsewhere in Iowa the events in Tulsa drew less attention. The Pella Chronicle, for example, published a short note in its June 9th edition, reporting that Tulsa, Oklahoma had been "disgraced by a race riot." Blaming the outbreak on the "lawless act of one individual" whom the paper did not identify, the newspaper condemned "other irresponsible individuals" who took the "administration of justice into their own hands," resulting in the "loss of one hundred lives" and lost property worth about $1.5 million. In the same edition an editorial comment complained that "the feeling between the white and black races in this country appears to be growing worse," no longer confined to southern states. "Antipathy between the races," the newspaper continued, "is not confined to any section" of the country. "We cannot continue as a nation and hold the respect of the world unless we find a solution to our race problems," the paper concluded (Pella Chronicle, June 9, 1921).

The headline in the June 10th edition of the Tama Northern announced that "30 Are Killed In Tulsa Race Riot," and reported that the first victim was a Black man shot dead by a policeman. The account did not specifically lay blame on Tulsa's whites, but did emphasize that most victims were Black, and that the arriving national guard "found practically the entire negro districts, seven blocks wide and twelve blocks long, ...in ashes" (Tama Northern, June 10, 1921). Little explanation accompanied this description of desolation.

Many Iowa newspapers, however, made no mention whatsoever of the Tulsa troubles. Here in Grinnell, for instance, the violence in Tulsa passed almost without notice. True, the Grinnell Register of June 2 used the riot as the headline for its front page, claiming as many as 175 dead in the carnage. Oddly, however, there was no accompanying story to explain what had happened or why, nor was there any subsequent follow-up. Grinnell readers of the Register had to learn the details elsewhere.

Grinnell Register, June 2, 1921

Around the corner at the Grinnell Herald, the racial explosion in Tulsa attracted no reportage at all. National news did not often feature in the Herald, although the paper had kept readers up to date on World War I. The tragedy in Tulsa evidently did not rise to that level of interest. A brief piece in the June 17th paper did summarize the recently-published article on the Underground Railroad published in Palimpsest, the journal of the State Historical Society. In its review, the Herald could not resist mentioning the "liberty room" of Josiah B. Grinnell's home, a hint, perhaps, at the progressive racial views of Grinnell. Those journeying along the Iowa road to liberty, the newspaper concluded, "received a hearty welcome at every station and every assistance possible" (Grinnell Herald, June 17, 1921), whatever terrible things might have happened elsewhere. 

The following week's Herald printed a brief piece about "a negro named Lewis," who had been arrested in Des Moines, accused of murder in Valley Junction. According to the paper, Des Moines police had beaten the man severely in an effort to secure a confession; when Lewis refused to confess, police declined to release him even though they admitted that they no evidence with which to prosecute Lewis. "If he had been white he would have been out of jail long ago," the Herald opined. But because the accused was Black, "the police hope to cover up their own notable incompetence by forcing a confession of guilt, even tho' he may be innocent" (Grinnell Herald, June 21, 1921). Of the much worse events in Tulsa, however, the Herald had not a word to say.

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Should we be surprised by the incomplete, sometimes superficial, or even missing coverage of the Tulsa riot in Iowa newspapers? I am not sure. For one thing, far from all Iowa newspapers from this era have been digitized, and I had to limit my search to digital issues available on-line. It seems likely, therefore, that some newspapers I could not consult did report on the Tulsa violence.

Moreover, most small-town newspapers, like Grinnell's Herald  and Register, did not have the resources to dispatch their own correspondents to Tulsa, nor could they all subscribe to the national news services from which larger newspapers in Des Moines or Cedar Rapids drew coverage. Small-town newspapers survived on local reporting, and consequently, we cannot expect them to have provided thorough coverage of events in distant Tulsa.

At the same time, a total absence of coverage does warrant inquiry. As the Pella Chronicle and Tama Northern prove, even editors of small-town newspapers will have known about the violence and arson in Tulsa, if only from having read a big-city newspaper themselves. It follows, therefore, that at least some small-town newspapers could have published—should have published—something about Tulsa. Why didn't they?

No doubt numerous factors—some personal, some financial—were at work. But we should not overlook the fact that at exactly this same time the Ku Klux Klan experienced a vigorous revival throughout mid-America. In Tulsa itself a huge new klavern arose in downtown Tulsa soon after the 1921 riot, a statement of the widespread financial and political support that the Klan had in 1920s Tulsa. It follows that inevitably the Klan played a part—even if only through participation of its members—in the vicious war against Greenwood's Blacks.

Article from Imperial Night-Hawk, Vol. 1, no. 9 (May 30, 1923)
(University of Oklahoma Libraries, Western History Collection, Carter Blue Clark Collection, Box 2b)

In Iowa, too, the Ku Klux Klan prospered in these years. Only two months after the flames were extinguished in Tulsa the Des Moines Register devoted special attention in its Sunday magazine to the Klan's revival in Iowa. As public reporting proved, by 1925 the KKK had become a very visible and potent force across much of Iowa.

Des Moines Register, August 21, 1921

Evidence for the Klan's resurgence in Grinnell first appears only in 1922, but soon thereafter the Klan was openly recruiting in Grinnell, visiting Klansmen flaunting their robes in Grinnell's business district. Clearly the Klan revival found an interested and sympathetic audience throughout Iowa, including in small towns like Grinnell. Did local newspaper editors, sensing this attitude among their readers, adjust coverage accordingly?

As several commentators at the time pointed out, Tulsa was not the only American city where racial hatred fed violence aimed at African Americans. In 1917 East St. Louis had gone through a similar orgy of violence and hatred, and in late September 1919 Omaha, Nebraska had exploded when a thousand whites set fire to the county courthouse, lynched a black man, and then burned his body, the gloating white crowd gathering round the grisly fire to pose for a photograph.

Unknown Photographer, "Charred Corpse of Will Brown, After Being Killed, Mutilated and Burned" (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Some Iowa newspapers paid attention to both these earlier riots. For instance, the Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican (whose 1921 issues are not available on the Library of Congress digital newspaper site) gave headline attention and sustained coverage to both the East St. Louis and Omaha carnage. Perhaps it did the same for Tulsa.

Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, July 3, 1917

Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, September 29, 1919

But even if we admit wider coverage of the Tulsa outrage than presently digitized newspapers represent, the occasional silence and often biased perspective of Iowa's known press coverage requires study. 

The approaching centennial anniversary will give today's Iowans numerous opportunities to improve their understanding of Tulsa's disaster. The Public Broadcast System, for instance, will on May 31 (check local listings) show the newly-completed documentary on the Tulsa massacre, The Fire and the Forgotten. The PBS series "American Experience" has already examined Tulsa's "Black Wall Street" and its history subsequent to the 1921 incineration; this study is now available on-line. The final report of the 2001 commission established to examine the riot and evaluate its consequences is also available on-line. Many other websites document and study the riots: the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission; the History Channel's investigation of the Tulsa riot; and the website of the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum. New discoveries, like the previously unknown eyewitness account, appear periodically, broadening our understanding of this dreadful moment in American history.

Iowans today, therefore, have an excellent opportunity to learn about Tulsa and what the 1921 killings and arson meant. Our Iowa predecessors seem not to have been so fortunate.

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PS. Many thanks to Cheryl Neubert who, when I was far from Grinnell and finishing this story, reviewed for me the June 1921 microfilmed issues of the Grinnell Herald and the Grinnell Register that I had earlier perused. 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Grinnell's Would-Be Millionaire

When I was a boy and our Philco black-and-white TV was still new, I used to enjoy a 1950s program called "The Millionaire." Perhaps some of you remember it? Each episode featured the executive secretary of the fictional, fabulously wealthy John Beresford Tipton, a man who never appeared on screen, but who had the expensive hobby of giving away anonymously each week a million dollars. The show enjoyed an enthusiastic following for six seasons, in part because the idea of becoming a surprise millionaire was attractive to a lot of people.  It figures, right?


Headline from Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 1, 1901

I mention the TV show because in the first years of the twentieth century a Grinnell resident thought that perhaps she had stumbled onto some similarly good fortune. Fannie Partlow—a widowed and divorced washer woman—figured that she might inherit from millionaire William Marsh Rice (1816-1900), who had been murdered in New York City in September 1900. Fannie, whose maiden name was Rice, thought that she and her sister, Mrs. Maria (Rice) Schuler (1827-1911) of Des Moines, recognized in newspaper images of the dead millionaire their long-lost brother, William Rice. The Rice sisters intended to stake a claim on the Rice estate, which at the time was valued at about $8 million—almost $250 million when converted into twenty-first-century dollars.

Today's post examines Fannie Partlow's rags-to-riches plan, and how it played out in early twentieth-century Grinnell. 

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Newspaper Likeness of William Marsh Rice
(Audubon County Journal, October 11, 1900)

The biography of millionaire William Marsh Rice describes him as a self-made business phenom. When still a young man, Rice settled in Houston where he began his successful scaling of the American business ladder, investing in real estate, lumber, railroads, and cotton, among other things. Although the tycoon spent considerable time in New York, he regarded Houston as his home, explaining why in the 1890s he composed a will that bequeathed most of his considerable estate to creating in Houston the "William M. Rice Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art." Rice personally selected the trustees and had the institute—now better known as Rice University—formally chartered. By the terms of Rice's will, the institute could not open until after its donor's death, so the official opening did not occur until the September 1912 anniversary of William Rice's murder. The endowment that Rice bestowed upon the institution was so generous that until the 1960s Rice University did not charge tuition. Less happily, Rice's endowment, designated  only "for the white inhabitants of the City of Houston and the State of Texas," prohibited enrollment of African Americans, the first of whom gained admission to Rice only in 1965.

Rice's murder in New York on September 23, 1900 was big news all across the country, and many Iowa newspapers published the details, finally blaming the homicide on the rich man's valet, Charles Jones (1875-1954), and an avaricious lawyer, Albert Patrick (1866-1940)Unraveling the details of the crime took months, but ultimately the investigation revealed that Rice's valet, at Patrick's urging, had subjected Rice to some weeks of mercury poisoning. When the poisoning failed to achieve the prompt demise of the eccentric millionaire, Jones killed the eighty-four-year-old with chloroform. Meanwhile, attorney Patrick had authored a fraudulent will that gave the bulk of the estate to Patrick who had promised to share his gain with Jones. When an official autopsy of the victim revealed mercury poisoning, Jones confessed to his part in the scheme, but threw all the blame on Patrick. In exchange for his testimony, Jones was freed; Patrick, on the other hand, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment (later still, Patrick was pardoned). 

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Fannie Rice Partlow (undated photograph, perhaps from 1890s?)

OK; that's William Marsh Rice. Who was Fannie Partlow, and how did she become involved in this distant scandal?

Fannie Rice (1840-1924) was one of eleven (or more) children born to Peter Rice (1794-1878), a man with a foggy past and at least three wives. Like most of her siblings, Fannie was born in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, but by the time US census officials found the family in 1850 Peter Rice and children were living in Garnavillo Township, Clayton County, Iowa. The census describes Fanny (documents often mix the spelling of her name) as being seven years old, although in fact she had to have been about ten. The record reports that older sister Maria was 22 years of age, and brother William, the center of their subsequent claim to fortune, was 19.

Extract from 1850 US Census for Peter Rice Family

Ten years later the census confirmed that most of Fannie's older siblings had left the family hearth, now relocated to sparsely-populated Sperry Township in Clayton County, Iowa. At age 21, Fannie was second oldest of the children still resident in her father's home. By this date brother William had already fled, supposedly angry after a dustup with his father. In 1862 Fannie married William Partlow (1807-1876), who, because of an unspecified disability, had recently been discharged from the Fourth Iowa Cavalry (William Forse Scott, Roster of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry Veteran Volunteers 1861-1865 [NY: J. J. Little and Co., 1902], p. 70). Like Fannie's father, her husband was a farmer, and, although Partlow was thirty-three years older than Fannie, the couple had five children, two of whom died in infancy. William himself died in 1876, leaving his wife a widow with three young children (Mary [b. 1863], Maria [b. 1865], and Samuel [b.1870]).  According to her obituary, Fannie arrived in Grinnell in 1883, possibly following her oldest daughter who had married in Des Moines in 1881.

William Partlow (1807-1876) in Civil War Uniform
(https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/family-tree/person/tree/174526905/person/192273123575/facts?ssrc=&queryId=8db9e65100136ef5570d7e3d01d19926&ml_rpos=1)

Not long after reaching Grinnell, Fannie remarried, taking Charles Cleal (b. 1840?) as her second husband in an 1885 ceremony registered in Marshalltown. For the next several decades Fannie used her new husband's surname, Cleal—except, surprisingly, for the 1901 stories about her prospects for inheriting from Rice; in these stories she invariably appeared as Fannie Partlow, using the name of her first husband for reasons that were never explained.

Record of July 4, 1885 Marriage of Fannie Rice to Charles Cleal
(Iowa Marriage Records 1880-1951)

How long Fannie's second marriage lasted I don't know, but the bond certainly had broken by 1900 when Charles Cleal, who was then living alone on 3rd Avenue in Grinnell, told census-takers that he was divorced; Fannie said the same to Iowa census officials in 1905, but I did not find the divorce record to confirm the date of their separation. After the divorce, Charles continued to live on 3rd Avenue in Grinnell, apart from "Mrs. Fannie A. Cleal," who occupied the "third house north of 6th Avenue, west side of Penrose." The 1908 directory recalls only "Mrs. Fanny A. Cleal," who then resided in the Ames Block downtown (824-828 Main Street); Charles Cleal disappeared from Grinnell records, his fate unknown.

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The news of William Rice's murder in far-away New York in 1900 apparently bypassed Fannie Cleal completely. Grinnell newspapers had not paid much attention to the scandal, and, in any event, as Fannie's sister later told newsmen, none of the Rice daughters could read. Nevertheless, it was Fannie's sister, Maria Rice Schuler, who first raised the possibility of their becoming millionaires. According to the story repeated in several newspapers, it was Schuler's Des Moines neighbor who, more than six months after Rice's death, introduced the sisters to their prospects for great wealth. The neighbor, who allegedly did not know Schuler's maiden name, saw a newspaper picture of William Marsh Rice and "was struck by the likeness of the picture of the murdered man" to Mrs. Schuler. The neighbor took the newspaper to Schuler, "who is unable to read," the newspaper added importantly, and asked Schuler if she knew the person pictured in the paper. "Why, that is a picture of my brother William," Mrs. Schuler is reported to have said, adding that William had left home fifty years earlier. Mrs. Schuler soon visited sister Fannie in Grinnell, "and after comparing notes they became convinced beyond doubt that the murdered man was their brother" (Davenport Daily Republican, June 4, 1901). 

Maria Rice Schuler and Fannie Rice Partlow
(Des Moines Register Leader, December 1, 1912)

Perhaps because the story had a Cinderella coloring, newspapers found it difficult to ignore, and tales of the prospective millionaire washer-women multiplied. The Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican was typical:

From the wash tub to the affluence of millions is a wide remove in the conditions of life, but this is likely to be accomplished by Mrs. Maria Shuler [sic] of Des Moines and Mrs. Fannie Partlow [sic] of Grinnell. The women have paused long enough in pursuing the arduous duties of the wash tub to remember that they had a brother named William M. Rice, and they claim that this brother was the late William M. Rice, the New York millionaire, who was recently murdered...and that they are the heirs to his estate of $8,000,000 (May 31, 1901).

Iowa newspapers seemed persuaded that the women's claim was legitimate, and they uniformly expressed confidence that the women would inherit a windfall. Even the Grinnell Herald gave an optimistic assessment of their chances:

Grinnell Herald, May 24, 1901

To advance their claim Fannie Partlow and her sister retained the services of Grinnell attorney J. H. Patton, whose obituary remembered his inclination to take on cases of the underprivileged. The Grinnell lawyer promptly set to work, dispatching a letter to Charles F. Jones, the former valet of William Rice, at that time imprisoned in New York for his part in murdering Rice. Patton observed that he represented "several illiterate but deserving persons," and sought information on how to proceed (New York Tribune, May 25, 1901).

Undated Photo of J. H. Patton
(L. F. Parker, A History of Poweshiek County Iowa, v. 2 [Chicago: S. J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1911], p. 924)

Writing to Jones seems an odd path for the attorney to have pursued. Not only was Jones acknowledged to have been complicit in the murder; he was also then in prison, and therefore in no position to help advance the interests of the Iowa petitioners. I suppose that Patton had in mind that, since Jones had long been the valet of the dead millionaire, he was best able to know whether, as the sisters maintained, wealthy William Rice had a snake-bite scar on his leg and a scar on his finger, as their long-lost brother had. These specific identifying features helped persuade newsmen that the Rice women had an authentic claim to the estate.

What reply Patton received to his inquiry is unknown; no record of a reply survives. However, if Patton did hear from Jones or from anyone else connected to the inheritance, the news must have been discouraging, as Patton seems to have let the case expire. Newspapers found no reason to reengage with the women's claim to great fortune, and the Rice women, now deprived of a public forum, were obliged to resume their humble occupations without the financial windfall they had sought.

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Certainly those responsible for deciding the fate of William Rice's fortune had reason to be suspicious of the numerous petitioners who claimed to be kin to the dead tycoon. In January 1901, for example, months before Fannie Partlow had heard of William Rice's death, the New York Times announced discovery of "Three Persons, Living in Poverty in Missouri" who were said to be legitimate heirs of Rice's estate. "The three are ignorant country folks, and were not aware of their uncle's death nor the sensational circumstances connected with his demise," the newspaper said. Whether they could travel to New York seemed doubtful, the newspaper remarked, "as for many years they have been the poorest people in the county, being barely able to eke out an existence, and they have not the means to carry them out of the State" (New York Times, January 14, 1901).

Headline from story in New York Times, January 14, 1901

A few months later a Muncie, Indiana tailor also submitted a claim for the Rice estate. Carl J. Carrolson alleged that he was grandson and heir of William Marsh Rice. According to the Indiana man's story, his mother had gone to New York some years earlier "to establish her claim as a daughter-in-law, [but] met death in a mysterious manner." The newspaper thought Carrolson's "proof of identity so strong that his case has been taken by a prominent legal firm who will supply the money for prosecuting the claim" (Rock Island Argus, April 10, 1901).

That autumn a collection of Massachusetts folk who claimed to be relatives of the dead millionaire attempted to have the original Rice will quashed; if their effort proved successful, Rice would have been declared to have died intestate, and they could claim a share of the estate. The two sisters and two nephews, all from Springfield, Massachusetts, made light of the claims of Fannie Partlow and Maria Shuler of whom they had obviously heard (The World, November 26, 1901).

###

Back in Iowa, Fannie and her sister seem to have given up their pursuit of millions. Apparently, however, the washerwomen had not abandoned hope entirely, because, when Maria Schuler died "in poverty" in 1911, the Marshalltown newspaper expressed the view that "millions [were still] within reach." 

Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, June 19, 1911

Consequently, when Albert Patrick was pardoned and released from prison in 1912, vowing to go to court to obtain a share of the Rice estate, the Iowa claimants attempted to revive their case. Fannie Partlow was still alive in Grinnell, but now a third sister, Elizabeth Chenoweth (1847-1933), and a Menomonie, Wisconsin brother, Joseph Rice (1852-1924), both unmentioned in the original petition, renewed the case, adding to the petitioners a raft of nephews and nieces along with Grinnell's Fannie Partlow. Why this third sister and brother had not been part of the original claim is unclear; perhaps the two women hoped to acquire their fortunes without sharing the money with anyone. The expanding roster of potential millionaires in 1912, however, indicates that the prospect of easy millions was very tempting, and encouraged the women's two siblings and a host of descendants from the next generation to pursue the gold.

Des Moines Register and Leader, December 1, 1912

The new claimants selected Des Moines attorneys, F. L. Meredith (1871-1947) and C. O. Holley, to represent them, an indication that the initiative this time lay with the Des Moines clan, rather than with Fannie in Grinnell or with their brother in Wisconsin. In a newspaper interview, Meredith explained his situation: 

I have corresponded with all of the heirs, and while I am not ready to say that [the Des Moines petitioners] are the real heirs, I am inclined to believe that they are, because of the honesty and sincerity of the sisters... Much of the life of Rice coincides with the printed reports of his years of work in Texas published since his death, and of which the relatives have had no knowledge (Des Moines Register and Leader, December 1, 1912).

The measured enthusiasm in Meredith's statement deserves attention. I could find no report of exactly how Meredith proceeded or what he learned from pursuing the claim. Instead, news of the Iowa hopefuls again disappears from the record, perhaps only a passive, although final, recognition that no millions were coming to the washerwomen in Iowa.

###

In the years after the dreams of great wealth had evaporated, Fannie's name occasionally made it into the newspapers. Unlike reporting on her pursuit of the Rice estate, in these years news accounts continued to identify Fannie by the surname of her second husband, without improving his or her reputation. For example, in late summer 1915 "Fannie Cleal" appeared in local court on charges of petit larceny. The complaint alleged that Fannie had walked out of the C. A. Blair store on Broad Street in Grinnell, taking with her a rain coat she had not purchased. The court fined her $100 and costs (Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, August 28, 1915). The following year she and her daughter, Mary Martin (later Nutting; later still, Alltis), filed suit against E. B. Brande (1866-1928) and his son, Dawson Brande (1890-1940). According to the petitioners, Fannie and  her daughter were

driving along Third Avenue in Grinnell when their buggy was struck by a car driven by Dawson Brande and in which E. B. Brande, the owner of the car, was riding. It is alleged that the car was being driven at an excessive speed and that notwithstanding it was after sundown the car did not display lights in front. The ladies claim that they were thrown from the buggy by the force of the collision and each in her separate petition claims to have been injured and each sets out an itemized list of her money damages. Mary Martin asks $800 for pain and suffering and Fannie Cleal asks $900 for the same item (Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, February 17, 1916).

In March the court found in Fannie's favor, awarding her $600 instead of the larger sum she had sought (Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, March 18, 1916). Brande, however, appealed, and the case was reheard that fall, at which time the court reversed the earlier decision, finding now for the defendant—that is, it denied Fannie the money she had sought, noting that the women had been driving their buggy on the wrong side of the road (Marshalltown Evening Times-Republican, September 30, 1916). As with her attempt to acquire a share in the estate of William Marsh Rice, Fannie came away with nothing.

###

Death Certificate of Fannie Ann (Rice) Partlow Cleal, August 24, 1924

Fannie Rice Partlow Cleal died August 23, 1924 at her daughter's Grinnell home. The death certificate, certifying that the 84-year-old had died of uremia, confirms that much else about the woman remained unknown—intentionally or not. To the question asking the name of the father of the deceased, the document bears only the surname "Rice," with no given name. The certificate reports the birthplace of the father as "not known"; the spaces asking the maiden name of the mother of the deceased and her birthplace bear the same reply. Identifying the dead woman as "Fannie Ann Partlow," the death certificate continues the fiction of her married life, omitting entirely any reference to Fannie's second marriage. Worse, when Fannie's daughter May (or Mary, Mrs. Charles Alltis), informant for the death certificate, specified her mother's husband, she provided the name "Samuel Partlow," which was actually the name of Fannie's deceased son (and May's brother), not Fannie's first husband, William Partlow. 

Undated Photograph of Samuel Partlow (1870-1919), youngest child of Fannie Partlow; he
operated a number of restaurants in Grinnell, Marshalltown, Des Moines, Hampton, and Ottumwa
(https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/45854225/samuel-sylvester-partlow)

Although Fannie's published obituary omitted much, it did not fail to note that Fannie's "life has known much toil and not a little suffering" (Grinnell Herald, August 26, 1924). Nothing was said about the failed claim to the William Rice fortune and Fannie Partlow's dream of millions.

###

In truth, the claims of Fannie and her sister, despite all the public support, seemed dubious from the start. For example, how could Maria and Fannie have recognized in a newspaper picture of an elderly man their twenty-year-old brother whom they had not seen in half a century and from whom in those fifty years they had received not a single word? Moreover, the William Rice who died in New York was said to be 84, whereas, if we accept the story that the Iowa women told, their brother could have been no more than 70 years of age in 1900. Age reliability in this era was not too great, of course, but a fourteen-year difference surely occupied the outside range of possibility. Adding these considerations to the suspicions that attached to the numerous claims of the impoverished to the enormous Rice estate, we cannot be surprised that the Iowa washerwomen did not succeed in becoming millionaires.

Undated Photograph of the Set of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"
(https://www.newscaststudio.com/2020/04/21/who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire-kimmel/)

At the same time, the lure of great fortune is perfectly understandable, and remains potent today. Decades after "The Millionaire" went off the air, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," yet another show tempting contestants with great wealth, premiered on American television, going on to become "one of the highest rated game shows in the history of U.S. television." The nighttime version of the show attracted some 30 million viewers three times a week, one indication of the enduring appeal of an "easy" million. But, like the various jackpot lotteries now in operation, actually winning a million dollars was rare, despite the enormous appeal of the potential prize. Over the twenty-plus years when "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" was broadcast, for instance, only a dozen winners succeeded to the top payoff, a minuscule fraction of the thousands who auditioned to appear on the show.

Without access to Fannie's private thoughts—in a diary or letters, for example—we cannot know how optimistically she approached pursuit of the Rice bequest. Her 1916 civil suit against E. B. Brande, like her 1915 arrest for petit larceny, implies a cynical attempt to work the system. Perhaps from the very beginning she was aware that her claim was bogus. But what would we say if someone like "The Millionaire's" executive secretary, Michael Anthony, knocked on our door and announced that an anonymous donor wished to give us one million dollars?

###

PS. In the pandemic when so many institutions are closed, I owe special thanks to Marilyn Kennett, head of Drake Community Library (DCL), for allocating me some time in the library to check microfilm, and to Liz Cabelli, archivist at DCL, for checking files in search of J. H. Patton's role in pursuing the Rice legacy. I also thank Traci Patterson, archivist at Rice University's Woodson Research Center, who kindly undertook to search several folders of Early Rice Institute Records (UA 101) for evidence of Fannie Partlow and others connected to the Iowa petitioners. Regrettably, she found none, but I am grateful for her help all the same.



Sunday, February 28, 2021

That Time When a Convict Fell Out of the Sky...

Every once in a while I stumble across a story that really surprises me. Take, for instance, the story from May 1964 when, in the early morning hours of a stormy night, a Cessna 182 crashed on a farm northeast of Grinnell. Of course, airplanes sometimes crash in the daytime as well as at night, in good weather as well as foul. What made this crash special was that the person piloting the plane was a convict who had escaped from the prison farm at Fort Madison. Having walked away from the farm, Steven Barner found his way into the Fort Madison Airport sometime after midnight. There he discovered an airplane that was fully fueled and ready to fly, complete with keys in the ignition. However, one important ingredient, crucial to success of the convict's escape plan, was missing: a genuine pilot. The fugitive, who had been in the US Air Force briefly, apparently had never flown an airplane; nevertheless, it was he who rolled the Cessna down the runway in the darkness, which explains at least in part how the journey ended up in a Grinnell hay field. Today's story follows the adventures of the convict who fell out of the sky.

Headline from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 26, 1964
###
Steven Barner was the second son born to George S. Barner (1890-1952) and Gladys Leinbaugh Barner (1896-1985). Steven's father had been born into a farming family in Martelle, Iowa, and had operated the family farm for several years when tragedy struck. Steven's grandparents were taking a springtime walk on the Linn Grove farm; Mrs. Barner (1866-1925) (who had the unusual given name of Wealthy) wanted to collect some flowers, and her husband took along his shotgun, intending to shoot pigeons. Returning to the farmhouse from their stroll,
Mr. Barner [1862-1926], as was his custom, started to unload his gun, stopping in the act while Mrs. Barner walked on. When the gun accidentally exploded the discharge hit Mrs. Barner, causing instant death (Mount Vernon and Lisbon Hawkeye Herald, May 7, 1925).
News accounts reported that the dead woman's husband was prostrate with grief, which might help account for his death the following year.  Presumably the couple's son, George S. Barner, was also deeply affected. All the same, the farm awaited George's attention, and the deaths of his parents so close together may have spurred him to find a wife, which he did in 1927, marrying Gladys Leinbaugh. Neither partner was young—George was 37 and Gladys was 31—but no children were born to this union until 1932, when Creighton Lee joined the family. Another eight years passed before the second son, Steven, was born in October 1940 (or, as in some sources, 1941 or 1942). The public record reveals little about the family as the boys grew; presumably their lives followed the usual traces without attracting much attention. 

Then the boys' father died suddenly in 1952. Creighton Barner (1932-2016), the older son, was already 20, and he soon charted his own life course (which was not without difficulty). Several months after his father's death, Creighton enlisted in the US Air Force, intending to take aviation training. For reasons unknown, Barner was soon out of the Air Force and back in Iowa. Perhaps his mother needed him home to work the farm, and for a time Creighton did take over operation of the family farm. In 1954 he married Lola Horstmann (1932-2017), and together they kept the farm going.  His marriage, however, went south, and he and Lola divorced in the early 1980s. After Creighton remarried (at the Anamosa Sale Barn, no less) in 1983, Lola filed suit against him, demanding $76,000 dollars, apparently a consequence of their divorce (Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 27, 1986).
 
Photographs of the 1983 Wedding of Creighton Barner and Mary Ulrich
(Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 2, 1983)

Steven, the central actor in our story, was only twelve years old when his dad died, and eight years younger than Creighton, so his father's early death may have been more affecting to the boy. The public record reveals nothing about Steven's earliest years, but soon his name began to appear in newspapers. In March 1959 the Cedar Rapids Gazette published word that Steven was following his brother's plan of enlisting in the US Air Force, and had already been sent to Texas for training (March 21, 1959). However, as with his older brother, something quickly went wrong, and Steven was soon back in Iowa. Later accounts claim that Steven had been given a medical discharge, but I could find no confirmation of this explanation. At any rate, exactly one year after enlisting in the Air Force, Barner appeared before a Cedar Rapids judge, and pleaded guilty to driving a car without the owner's consent. The news report said that Barner had escaped with a bench parole, but records of the Anamosa Reformatory indicate that Steven received a one-year sentence, and served nine months, being released December 31, 1960 (Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 16, 1960). 

Anamosa Reformatory (later Penitentiary)
(https://digital.grinnell.edu/islandora/object/grinnell:13487)

This collision with the law might not have been Barner's first offense, as Anamosa Reformatory records indicate that Steven left school after tenth grade. In any case, in early 1962 Steven again stood before a judge.  This time the charge was more serious: "uttering a forged instrument," which is to say that he tried to cash a forged check at a Cedar Rapids store. Apparently a juvenile friend had actually forged the check; but Steven, who claimed to be twenty years old when he pleaded guilty, received a ten-year sentence at Fort Madison (Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 26, 1962). According to the prison records, he gained parole in late September 1963, but was not as careful as his parole officer might have wished.

1959 Cedar Rapids Yellow Pages, p. 131

In early February Barner and a young collaborator stole "between 15 and 19 cases of empty beer bottles from Kalell's Grocery and Market" in  Cedar Rapids. Albert Abdo Kalell (1896-1962) who had founded the market that he and his family operated, had immigrated to the US from Syria early in the twentieth century, and was part of the growing Muslim population of Cedar Rapids. It is not clear how Barner and his accomplice settled on Kalell's store, but, because the theft constituted a parole violation, the authorities promptly sent Barner back to Fort Madison (Cedar Rapids Gazette, February 4, 1964). In the days after his return, Steven seems to have conducted himself well enough to be trusted to work on the less carefully guarded Fort Madison prison farm. Apparently it was there that Barner nourished dreams of his ill-fated, flying escape only months after being returned to prison.
###
Many aspects of the 1964 escape seem irrational. What, for example, drove Barner to think that his best route to freedom was to try to fly away from incarceration? What made him think that, even if he successfully made it to the Fort Madison Airport, he would find a plane fully fueled, unsecured, and ready to take off? And what made him think that he could do the flying? No obvious answers to these questions emerge from news stories.

The Fort Madison warden at the time, John Bennett, told the Cedar Rapids Gazette that Barner "might have read up on flying at the prison library" and might even have flown a plane "a time or two" (May 26, 1964). Moreover, as the warden confirmed, the prison farm was only about one-half mile from the airport, so perhaps Barner simply chose the closest, most immediate option, despite the other, potentially fatal, complications implicit in this plan. 
A Cessna 182, similar to the plane that Barner flew
(Photo by Adrian Pingstone (Arpingstone) - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10836531)

Somehow—whether from his prison library reading or from some unknown previous experience—Barner knew enough to start the plane and somewhere around 1AM get it airborne, despite what the newspapers called "rainy, turbulent weather" (yet another reason to give one pause about this plan of escape). Once aloft, Barner later told investigators, he first headed toward Burlington, flying very low, "just skimming the treetops." But then the novice pilot got his craft headed toward Cedar Rapids where, he later said, he had intended to land. Witnesses there said that they saw and heard the Cessna circling for two hours or so. A Cedar Rapids policeman thought the sounds indicated just "another leisurely cruise," although who would be taking a "leisurely" cruise through the Cedar Rapids skies through a rainstorm in the middle of the night seems difficult to imagine (Daily Iowan, May 27, 1964). 

Why Barner did not attempt to land at Cedar Rapids remains unknown; perhaps the storm gave him pause. If he really did not know how to land—officials later found in the airplane a manual opened to landing instructions—Barner might have worried that landing in a storm was a bridge too far (Daily Iowan, May 27, 1964). Indeed, he told the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald that the manual "didn't do any good when he moved in for a landing" (May 29, 1964). 

But then why did he leave the Cedar Rapids area and head west? Barner might have thought that he could fly out of the storm, and find someplace where his chances of landing safely were better. So far as I could learn, Barner never explained this decision. All that we know for sure is that, soon after leaving the Cedar Rapids skies, his Cessna was flying west, just north of Grinnell. As investigators later learned, there was still fuel in the airplane's tanks as the plane had traveled altogether only about 125 miles (Burlington HawkEye, May 26, 1964). But for reasons unknown, in the early morning hours Barner decided to land in the open fields of a farm in Chester Township, northeast of Grinnell. 
Map of Area Northeast of Grinnell where Barner Landed

The Grinnell Herald Register reported that Barner had "brought the plane in for a near-perfect 3-wheel landing, bounced once and then again on the crest of a small hill, and crashed nose first into the ground about 500 feet from the spot where he first touched down" (May 29, 1964). Perhaps Barner himself relayed these details; it is difficult to know who else could have witnessed the landing, as the newspaper itself reported that "no one witnessed the crash." If the landing began as "near perfect," it did not end that way. "The impact of the crash shattered the plane's windshield and knocked off both doors and the front wheel" (ibid.).

Photograph of the Crashed Cessna 182 on Richard Beck's Farm
(Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, May 26, 1964)

Richard Beck (1933-2010), who owned the field where Barner landed, told reporters later that he had never heard the airplane, but that, after having finished morning milking and having turned the cows out to pasture around 7 AM, he saw "the tail of a plane sticking up in a hay field." The nose of the plane was smashed and there was blood in the cockpit (Daily Iowan, May 27, 1964). Beck telephoned his neighbors, the Hendricksons; Nancy Hendrickson told him that the 7 AM news had reported that a Fort Madison convict had escaped via airplane. Beck then collected several neighbors (Wayne Hendrickson [1931-2006], Harvey Harris [1908-1992], and Henry Harris)—all armed—to help him search the area.  Nancy Hendrickson, who had driven over to the Becks' place after her husband left to help Beck, watched from inside the Beck farm house. She saw that Beck and the other men, after having inspected the crashed airplane and having discovered that it was empty, began to look elsewhere.
Spreading out they began looking in the grove, corn crib, and other buildings...Wayne [Hendrickson] and Dick [Beck] were going from one portable hog house to another, sticking their heads in the window in search of the prisoner. Suddenly we saw Wayne jump back, as though he had been struck, tripping over his own feet as he hurried back across the hog lot to the pasture fence, shouting at the top of his lungs, "He's in here—he's hurt—he's hiding in the corner—I found him" (Nancy Hendrickson, "The Crash").
Hog Shed on Beck Farm Where Barner Was Discovered
(Grinnell Herald-Register, May 29, 1964)

It was about 8 o'clock when searchers found Barner in one of Beck's hog houses to which the fugitive had crawled after the crash—about 1000 feet from the stricken airplane. Except for a pen knife, Barner was unarmed, and his injuries prevented him from offering much resistance. By this time two Iowa State troopers—Judd Kahler (1929-1983) and John Flannery—and one Grinnell policeman (Max Allen [1934-2000]) were on the scene, and took charge of the fugitive, delivering him first to Grinnell Community Hospital.
Steven Barner in Grinnell Community Hospital Bed
(Grinnell Herald-Register, May 29, 1964)

As Grinnell's Dr. John Parish (1904-1997) later learned, Barner had suffered several injuries during the rough landing. Newspapers gave somewhat different reports of the fugitive's condition; apparently Barner had a serious gash and lacerations on his head, losing enough blood to require a transfusion; he also had a broken leg, and other fractures that led to surgery in Grinnell Community Hospital (Grinnell Herald-Register, May 29, 1964; Daily Iowan, May 27, 1964). By the 28th Barner was back at Fort Madison, his airborne adventure behind him.

Extract from the Record for Steven Barner, Fort Madison Penitentiary
(Iowa US Consecutive Register of Convicts, Fort Madison Penitentiary)

###
Prison records indicate that Barner was released on parole again in July 1967, but he was back in prison soon after Christmas that year. What offense earned him a return visit to the penitentiary I did not discover. Apparently he spent the next two years at Fort Madison without causing any trouble. Finally, in August 1969 Steven Barner was released from prison, and, so far as I could learn, he did not work his way back into any Iowa penitentiary. 

After that, Steven Barner's name pops up occasionally in records from the western states. For instance, he seems to have lived in California for a time, and in the 1970s married twice there (one marriage lasted only three months); records indicate that in the late 1970s he married in Nevada. He lived in Kansas for a time, as well as in a half-dozen towns of eastern Iowa. However, so far as the public record reveals, he never again flew an airplane, perhaps fulfilling the pledge he gave reporters after his capture in 1964: "You couldn't get me near a plane again" (Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, May 29, 1964).

***
Special thanks to Nancy Hendrickson for sharing with me her file on the events of 1964 and her recollections of that upside-down day.