Friday, April 28, 2017

It was Tulip Time in Chariton --- first

Pella's annual Tulip Time (May 4-6 this year) is still a week away, but I think it only fair to point out that this bulbous flowering festival of our friends to the northeast is, in relation to Chariton, a Johnny-come-lately.

Tens of thousands of colorful tulips were blooming every spring in north Chariton --- long before Marion County's floral ethnic extravaganza was even a collective gleam in the eye of Pella's Dutch. 

You may recall the story --- Pella's first Tulip Time was held during 1935 and so few of the flowering bulbs had been planted the preceding fall that carpenter George Heeren had to carve 125 4-foot wooden facsimiles that then were brightly painted to make it clear what the festival was all about. Bulb planting didn't get under way big-time in Pella until that fall.

Back in Chariton, however, The Leader was able to report six years earlier in its edition of May 7, 1929, under the heading "Immense Tulip Bed," as follows:

"Residents of this city, many of them at least, are not aware that in Chariton is one of the largest tulip beds in the state. At the home of Mr. and Mrs. Pete West, corner of 12th Street and Park Avenue, is to be found a tulip bed containing 17,000 plants. Over 2,000 blossoms have been cut so far this season. In addition to the large bed there are a number of smaller tulip beds, scattered over the lawn, so that there are over 20,000 plants. Nearly every known variety, some of them very choice and rare, are to be found there.... In addition to the tulips, Mr. and Mrs. West have some unusual and beautiful shrubs and trees."

Two years later, in its edition of May 20, 1931, The Leader reported that "the greenhouse and yard at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Pete West, 12th and Park, has presented a magnificent scene this spring, 30,000 tulip plants were in full bloom, one large bed being of extra fine imported bulbs of the Darwin and Breeder varieties. There have also been large quantities of spirea, deutzia, narcissus, iris, pyretheum, double white Persian lilacs and lilies of the valley. Hundreds of bouquets were sold for Mother's Day. Flowers of other varieties are coming into bloom and the supply is never exhausted."

And again, in The Herald-Patriot of May 5, 1932, under the headline, "It Is Tulip Time at West's Gardens, Twelfth and Park," --- "A reporter for this paper paid a visit to the West Flower Gardens, Twelfth Street and Park Avenue, yesterday, and found, even this early in the season, a wealth of blossoms beautiful to behold. The tulips, thousands of them in various hues, are in full bloom, and are well worth a trip to the gardens to see. Then there are other spring flowers, narcissus, lilacs, daffodils, jonquils, geraniums and others."

The catch here, of course, is that West Flower Gardens was a private enterprise and no one in Chariton saw any future at the time in capitalizing on the floral fame that gardening entrepreneurs Pete and Grace West had brought it. So when the business closed during the early 1940s, Chariton's tulip tradition died with it.

Today, there's no trace of this once-spectacular enterprise; in fact, I'm not sure at which corner of the intersection of North 12th and Park it was located. Halferty Park (North Park at the time the Wests were gardening) fills the southwest corner of the intersection. West Flower Gardens, wherever they were, would have been next-door.


West Flower Gardens had grown out of the gardening passions of Grace (Palmer) West and her husband, J. Riley "Pete" West, and filled the grounds of their home. Grace was the only daughter of venerable Chariton merchants Thomas and Ann Palmer. Pete also was the son of a venerable merchant family and had been in the grocery and construction businesses before the couple turned their garden into a profitable business.

During the spring of 1932, they were advertising cut tulips for Mother's Day at 50 cents a dozen as well as bouquets for 25 cents and up and sprays, for $1 and up --- all delivered free of charge to any part of Chariton if the total bill was 50 cents or more.

Also for sale were tomato and cabbage plants at 5 cents a dozen and two dozen aster plants for 25 cents. Sweet potato plants were available for 40 cents per 100.

As the season progressed, whatever was growing in the gardens was cut and sold --- masses of iris and peonies in late spring, gladiolas and more during the summer and, in the fall, asters and chrysanthemum. Bulk fruit also was available in season, too, but the Wests took winters off.


Pete West died at age 77 on May 26, 1938, and Grace soldiered on, operating the business and supervising the gardens until 1944, when her health failed. She died at home on Aug. 9, 1945, age 81.

The Wests had no children, nor do they seem to have had any interest in selling their gardens, so the business and the gardens died with them --- and then vanished.

The tulips here are blooming this week on the grounds of the Lucas County Historical Society.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Buy your Ferry's Seeds at Tuttle's ...

It's time to plant garden and had you been living in or near Chariton about 1928-29 and for 30 years thereafter, Tuttle Hardware --- on the north side of the square --- would have been ready to supply you with the largest selection of Ferry's Seeds available locally.

Gifford R. and Elizabeth Tuttle went into the hardware business as part of a partnership during 1923 and emerged independently as the Tuttle Hardware Co. during 1928 or 1929.

This is a photo of a Tuttle display window decked out for spring and featuring Ferry's Seeds that probably dates from 1929 or shortly thereafter --- we're just not sure. It came to the historical society from Jack Young, who collected many things in his time but didn't recall specifically where this 8-by-10 "glossy" came from.

D.M. Ferry & Co., which originated in Detroit during 1856, still was operating independently during 1929, but merged with another seed giant during 1930 to become the Ferry-Morse Seed Co. of Detroit and San Francisco, the world's largest distributor of seeds. Tuttle Hardware still was advertising Ferry's Seeds well into the 1950s.

You can still buy Ferry's Seeds, although the brand is now owned by Jiffy International, a Norwegian corporation. Tuttle's, however, is no longer available.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Grandmother Gibbon and Friends"

Or "High tea at the Ilion," it might be titled, based on some educated guesswork. But the original identification written on the back of this vintage photo from the Lucas County Historical Society collection was simply "Grandmother Gibbon & Friends." Names written on a slip of paper scotch-taped to the back of the photo identify the women individually --- some with certainty, others with uncertainty. 

The donor of the photo in 1978 was the late Louise Johnston Copeland, widow of Lawrence Gibbon Copeland, who was indeed the grandson of Laura R. (Gibbon) Gibbon, the small woman at far left in this photo. Daughter of Leonard and Sarah Gibbon, Laura had married her cousin, Dr. William Henry Gibbon, Civil War surgeon and pioneer Chariton druggist, and they built in the year of his death, 1895, the grand old house that still stands at 216 South Grand. Their only child was Anna (Gibbon) McCollough/Copeland, Lawrence Gibbon Copeland's mother.

There were a total of six Gibbon grandchildren, three by Anna's first marriage, to Ralph McCollough --- Clement, Dorothy (Vaughn) and Henry --- and three by her second husband, Josiah Copeland, whom she married after McCollough's untimely death --- Lawrence Copeland, Anna Laura (Piper) and Katherine (Godman).

I suspect the photo was taken in the southeast parlor at the Ilion, home of Smith H. and Annie Mallory, for a couple of reasons. First of all, Annie is seated in the middle of the group, apparently presiding over the tea service. In addition, the window and door frames as well as their relationship to each other strongly resemble those in the southwest corner of the Ilion's southeast parlor. The ceilings here are extremely high, as were those of the Mallory home (demolished in 1955) and at the top of the photo, more evident in the original than here, is the trace of a chandelier similar to one known to have been in that room. But of course I could be wrong. The photo probably was taken during the 1890s, although it would be difficult to decide exactly when. It may have been taken by Jessie (Mallory) Thayer, Annie's daughter, and an enthusiastic amateur photographer.

Beginning with Laura R. Gibbon on the left, the women are identified as follows: Margaret McCormick or Mrs. Brant; Minnie Crocker or Mrs. D.Q. Storie; Margaret McCormick (sic), Annie Mallory, Jennie Russell, Mrs. Theodore M. Stuart, Mrs. Underhill and Emily McCormick.

I tend to think the woman on Laura Gibbon's left was Margaret McCormick rather than Mrs. Brant. The McCormick sisters, Miss Margaret and Miss Emily, were affluent mainstays in Chariton social circles into the 20th century --- But Miss Margaret was quite stout and Miss Emily, quite lean --- and the woman in question seems to have been rather stout. Miss Margaret was a mainstay of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church and Miss Emily, of First Presbyterian Church. Their large home, at the intersection of South Eighth Street and Woodlawn, just across Eighth west of the old Eikenberry house, was heavily damaged by fire and then demolished in the 1930s and they decamped to California, where all of their nieces and nephews lived, and where they died.

That still leaves the identity of the the third woman from the left in doubt and the fourth woman, certainly not Margaret McCormick, entirely unidentified. Jennie Russell, to Annie Mallory's left, was the wife of the rector emeritus of St. Andrew's Church; Mrs. Stuart, the wife of a pioneer Chariton attorney; Mrs. Underhill, I'm unsure about; and Miss Emily McCormick was Miss Margaret's sister.

If this photo looks familiar, it may be because I used it without much explanation in a December, 2015, post about the St. Andrew's Guild cookbook. Now you know as much about the photo as I do.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Great program and a packed house ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 24, 2017

Lilacs, blue and otherwise

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

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

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

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The passing of a cemetery preservation hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Zetamatheans are back!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

Chopstick nights at the Panda Buffet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Join us Monday to learn more about our history

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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