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Iroquois County, IL
Crime-related Newspaper Stories

A butcher in Sheldon named Christenson, was arrested the other day for larceny, and upon examination before a justice confessed to having, for a number of years, carried on a system of stealing, and also turned squealer and stated the E.M. CORBIN, formerly night watch and yard master at Sheldon, had been his accomplice and that the two had stolen many hides from the cars and depot when CORBIN was in Sheldon. CORBIN, who is now brakeman on the C & EI railroad was arrested and incarcerated in jail at this place, being unable to give bonds till Tuesday at Sheldon when his trial will be held. CORBIN had always sustained an excellent reputation, and he feels terrible about this accusation. [Iroquois County Times - 02 February 1878]

Store Manager Arrested Charged With Shortage
Willis Fox of Watseka was arrested Saturday because of alleged shortages in his accounts while manager of Foster's Book Store. It is claimed that the shortages amount to $7,500. Seizure was made of some cut glass which was packed in the attic at the house where Mr. Fox makes his home. Mr. Fox claims that this is his property and denies the alleged shortages. [Milford Herald News Vol. XL. No. 22 Thursday Afternoon, January 27, 1916]

Our town has been thrown into a high state of excitement by the arrest of six persons for the highest crime known under our laws. They are charged with the murder of the man whose body was found in Hickory Creek, a short time since. We understand that the body has been taken up and has been identified as the body of a Mr. Robbins, who resided in Dupage county, and who has not been seen since its discovery. The examination commenced yesterday before Justices Hattan, Doolittle and Curtis, and it is not probable that it will be closed for several days, as there are many witnesses to be examined. The prosecution is conducted by Messrs. Fellows, Bowen and Norton; and the defense by Mr. Osgood. The individuals were arrested on Tuesday last and have been kept in confinement ever since. They all, with one exception, reside in Iroquois county; and are most of them are in the prime of life. Great credit is due to the officers who have been engaged in endeavoring to bring this dark transaction to light – how far their endeavors have been successful, will be known in a few days. But we forbore giving further particulars until the examination shall have closed and the facts ascertained. – Joliet Signal. [The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, January 1, 1847]


[Douglas Monthly, Aug. 1, 1860, submitted by: Candi H.]
Southern Illinois is about as noted for the operations of slave-hunters, as New York city is as the port of slavers, and Richmond as the mart of slave-traders. Every few days negroes are seized in Egypt and carried off as slaves, without going through any forms of law in justification of the outrage. The Chicago Press and Tribune of July 6th gives the following particulars in relation to the kidnapping of three free men from Clifton:
We present below, upon indisputable authority, the facts of the recent and last kidnapping case in this State. We need add nothing in the way of comment. Three men, colored, and suspected of being fugitive slaves, are seized without warrant, or other form of law, and by brute force, without even that farce which the advocates of slavery call a trial before our United States Commissioner, are, despite the exertions of their friends, hurried off out of Illinois, into a slave State, where, unquestionably, they will be doomed to a life of bondage and toil. No such thing as an inquiry, an examination, or trial. The work was accomplished by the aid of bowie knives and revolvers, aimed first at the heads of the trembling negroes, and then at the breasts of their supposed sympathizers and friends. A fast train of cars and a consenting conductor complete the work. Illinois is the poorer by three willing pairs of hands; and some slave State has gained three mute and sullen beasts of burden, who may some day put in practice, at the expense of the man-sellers and kidnappers, the lessons of skill and daring that a life of freedom has taught them. But our concern it not with them. The ingenuity and unscrupulousness of the man-hunters have out them in a place where they will be heard of no more. The lash, hard fare, unceasing toil and spirits broken by bondage will probably shortly do their work. Our care is for the outraged sovereignty of Illinois, for the guards which shall make all such atrocities impossible hereafter, for the guarantees of personal freedom, dear alike to black and white, which this infamy has broken down. What matters it that these men were poor, unfriended [sic], black and suspected of having been born where men own and sell other men? They were under the protection of the State and its laws; they were entitled to the legal presumption in favor of their innocence and freedom. The State has been defied, the laws broken, and the presumption of freedom unceremoniously set aside.

Mr. Kingman's Letter.
Clifton, Ill., July 4th, 1860.
Solomon Sturges, Esq., Chicago:
Dear Sir:—About eight o'clock last Sunday evening, our usually quiet village was visited by a band of the most barbarous men that I ever witnessed. It seems by what was developed at the trial of some of the parties yesterday, that several men from Missouri have had their head-quarters at Ashkum the past three weeks or more, where, with the assistance of one George D. Smith, a trader in Ashkum, and a Mr. Cornelius, formerly a Kentuckian, who lives in the immediate neighborhood of Ashkum, they have been working up a plan for several weeks, to kidnap some colored men who have been living in this town. About eight o'clock they had managed to get five of the boys into the `Sellus House,' where Smith made himself very free in entertaining them, when eight other men armed to the teeth, rus hed in and presenting their pistols, told the boys they were prisoners. Two of the most powerful of the boys made a rush, and knocking down several of the ruffians, made their escape; the other three were pounded severely on the head with the butt of their pistols, overpowered, handcuffed, thrown into a wagon and driven off before any alarm could be given, all done in the space of ten minutes. What makes the affair the more diabolical, is the fact that one of the men carried off never was a slave, and one had been freed by his master, the third one might or might not have been a slave, but little was known of him. It appears from what we can learn since the affair occurred, that one of the boys that escaped probably had been a slave, and that his master was one of the band that figured here.
It appears that this slave owner made a bargain with Smith and Cornelius, of Ashkum, that it they would assit him to take `Ne d,' one of the boys that escaped, they would catch as many more as they could, take them South, sell them and divide the spoils. After the three were taken, they were driven to Ashkum, about four miles, where they were put on the cars of the Illinois Central Railroad Company. There seemed to be a perfect understanding between the kidnappers and the conductor of the train `much more'—as the cars hardly came to a stop before the negroes were thrust on board, and the train moving. A sufficient number of citizens went on the train from here to prevent the negroes from being put on board, and were fully prepared to have done so, had the train made the usual stop—but before half of the citizens who went on the train could get off to render the required assistance the train was in motion, and as I learn, the kidnapped negroes were taken to St. Louis.
In addition to the nine kidnappers, who were doubly armed with revolv ers and bowie knives, the Section men who work on the track of the Railroad Company, for about fifteen miles distant, numbering about twenty- five, were in attendance, apparently to render assistance if needed—all stout, able-bodied Irishmen. I hope and pray that it may never be my lot to witness another such scene.
In haste, yours, truly, J. E. Kingman.

In addition to the above, we have the following from an eye-witness:
July 3d.—We have to-day five persons on trial for assisting the kidnappers—three Irishmen of Clifton, and two Yankees (or something else) from Ashkum. We have employed an able lawyer from Kankakee City, and shall give them a thorough examination.— Conductor Muchmore on one of the Illinois Central trains, came up this morning and informed us `that the slaves (?) had been taken to St. Louis,' and he cursed Mr. White for daring to show his indignation at such proceedings, and thus injure the interests of the railroad company! The conductor also stated that `had any of us interfered, we certainly would have been shot, and that the damned niggers were no better than so many beasts, and he did not consider the Republicans much better.

Later.—Three of the men on trial have been held to bail in $500 each to appear at the next term of the court.
[Douglas Monthly, Aug. 1, 1860, submitted by: Candi H.]

Last Friday night, William
Lyons and A.W. Welch assaulted James Parks in Milford, beating and cutting him with a knife, from the effects of which the doctors say he is not likely to recover.
Parks was on his way home from William Misch's about eight o'clock when he was accosted by Lyons and Welch. They both came at him with the words; "Now we've got him,--we'll do him up." Parks was chased into C.M. Fry's yard then over into Colvin's lot, where he was knocked down by Lyons and stabbed by Welch in several places. As he ran toward home, Lyon's wife assaulted him. Parks' wounds are many and severe. The worst one is in the back, extending into the lungs.
Lyons claims the assault was made because Parks insulted his wife. Parks denies such a charge most emphatically, and says it must have grown out of an old law suit in which Parks got the better of the case. State's Attorney Kern went down to the scene of the affray on Monday. The parties were arrested yesterday and held to answer the charge of assault with intent to kill. Sheriff Ireland brought the Lyons woman and Welch and Lyons to the Jail Monday night to await trial.

Milford, September 29, 1897, 1:30 p.m. Parks is still alive but rapidly failing. Copied from THE WATSEKA REPUBLICAN, September 29, 1897, page 1, column 6

PROVES TO BE MURDER: The cutting affray at Milford, of which full particulars appeared in THE REPUBLICAN last week, has turned out to be a murder. James
Parks, the victim of the assault of both Lyons and his wife and Welch, died early Thursday morning last. The coroner was summoned to Milford upon Parks' death, and after a thorough investigation, the Lyons man and woman and Welch were held on the charge of murder without bail. Sheriff Ireland and State's Attorney Kern were present at the investigation. The particulars brought out at the inquest corroborated the account as it has appeared in these columns last week. It's a bad case. [Source: THE WATSEKA REPUBLICAN, October 6, 1897, Wednesday, page 1, column 6 - Submitted by Beverly Peterson]

Watseka, Ill., July 9 -- A family quarrel between B. D. Umphenour and Henry E. Ehrhart [sic], whose wives were twin sisters, resulted in the death of Ehrhart [sic] today and the arrest of Umphenour on a charge of murder. An old feud was renewed Saturday while the men were working on their adjoining farms near Beaverville. Umphenour is alleged to have struck Ehrhart [sic] with a hammer. The latter died this morning while Sheriff George Heikes was brining the accused to the county jail here. The quarrel was over the construction of a fence and a fight ensured, in which Ehrhart [sic] was mortally wounded. The feud started several years ago when both families were living at Pipestone, Minn. (Source: Troy Weekly Call, Troy, Illinois, 9 Jul 1910)

Watseka, Ill., Dec. 2 -- B. D. Umphenour was this evening was acquitted of the charge of murdering Henry Ehrhardt. The men quarrel over a line fence July fourth and Umphenour struck Ehrhardt over the head with a hammer, killing him. The accused pleaded self-defense.
(Source: 3 Dec 1910, Waterloo Times-Tribune, Waterloo, Iowa - Submitted by Teri Moncelle Colglazier who adds: "Henry E Ehrhardt and his wife, Rachel L Donaldson Ehrhardt are buried in Payne Cemetery, Eppards Point Township, Livingston County"

Watseka Deputy Must Face Jury For Wendel Death
Watseka, Nov . 16 - Ed. Heikes, deputy sheriff, son of Sheriff G. P. Heikes of Iroquois county, who was under arrest charged with the murder of Earl Wendel 23, was indicted today by the grand jury of Iroquois county. Heikes claimed the reason he shot Wendel on September 12, was that Wendel had "hogged" the road on the Dixie highway and had resisted when he tried to remonstrate. Wendel was a member of Triangle fraternity and the son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wendel, Chicago. [Daily Illini, 17 November 1922]

Electric Device to Catch Peeping Toms
Sheldon, Ill., Today -- An electrical device set to catch “peeping toms” who had been bothering Clayton
Jones, movie theatre owner and his 24 year old wife, resulted in the shooting early today of Ressell Hickey, East Peoria, Ill., railroad brakeman. Hickey was expected to die. Outside of the bedroom window of his house, near the railroad tracks, Jones had placed a board which covered an electric wire and which when stepped upon, caused a flashlight to be shined in the faces of the person outside the window. Early this morning the light flared up, Mrs. Jones screamed. Jones grabbed his rifle and ran outside where he caught Hickey. He told police that he started to march him to jail but that he broke loose and began to run. Jones fired once. Hickey is married and has four children. Jones was not held. [Lebanon Daily News, November 20, 1931]

Elwood Foley was arrested last evening by Sheriff Fred Shoaf, on a farm six miles east of Ludlow, on request of the sheriff of Iroquois county, who wants him on a warrant chargin burglary and larceny.  Foley is alleged to have entered the home of one Herman Simmons at Middleport, that county, and to have stolen a shotgun therefrom.  [Urbana Daily Courier, 17 August 1933]

State's Attorney William E. Gilmore was notified Monday that John Boyer, a convict from Champaign county, has been released on parole to a resident of Iroquois county.  Boyer has served a little more than a year in Chester penitentiary for a statutory offense. [Urbana Daily Courier, 8 April 1935]

Fiester Suffers Attack While Testifying
WATSEKA, July 16 - Robert Fiester, 55-year-old Watseka farmer, suffered a heart attack while on the witness stand today in circuit court where he is being tried on a charge of slaying his niece, Royalene Hinkle, 26. Fiester was taken to the Iroquois hospital in an automobile and placed under guard of a deputy sheriff. Attendants said that his condition was serious. Fiester suffered the attack after being on the witness stand for about three hours and at the time he slumped over on the chair, he was being cross examined by State's Attorney A. Fred Kendall of Iroquois county. [Daily Illini, 17 July 1941 ]

John Dillinger in Iroquois County??
My dad, Orville John Alder (now deceased), grew up in Loda. He claimed that he met the gangster John Dillinger as a young boy (about age 10) in the early 1930s. My dad was a good writer, and he actually wrote an account of his experience several years ago, but unfortunately I haven't been able to find it. Here is the gist of his story, based on what I remember...

As a boy, Dad would hang out at the local tavern in Loda with several friends. I believe the tavern was owned by the Maddox family. The kids would do odd jobs, like empty boxes, etc., to earn a few cents for candy and soda. There was a frequent customer to the tavern who claimed he was a farm hand, and the boys got to know him. He introduced himself as "John," and he was very friendly toward the boys. He often gave them money for candy, etc. One time John asked the boys if they wanted to play a game of blackjack. Most of the boys were excited about the idea and agreed, but Dad was embarrassed because he was the only one of the kids who did not know how to play the game. So John taught him how, and, during many visits after that, Dad and John would sit and play the dame of blackjack. Then one day, John suddenly disappeared. The kids were all disappointed that their friend didn't even bother to say good-bye. Not long after, Dad happened to be in the local post office, when to his shock and amazement, he saw a picture of John posted on the wall! It was a wanted sign of his friend John, with the last name Dillinger!! Dad said he knew without a doubt that it was him, even though in the picture John was missing his mustache. Dad soon learned that John Dillinger was known to be in the area, and that he even had a girlfriend outside of town. Dad's uncle, Earl Alder, ran a service station not far away, and even he claimed to have seen Dillinger stop in for gas. Some weeks or months had passed before Dad heard the sudden, sad news that his friend John was shot down by police in the streets of Chicago. A few years later, when Dad was a teenager, he happened to be visiting relatives in Brown Co., IN. Dad's father and uncle decided to stop in at the local barbershop for a haircut, he decided to wait outside on a bench. An old man with white hair and beard was also sitting on the bench, so Dad struck up a converstation with him. "Did you know John Dillinger?" Dad asked. "You bet I knew him, " the old man replied. "I knew him when he was only this tall," indicating the height of a small child. "Then I guess you know he was shot and killed in Chicago," Dad replied. "No, he wasn't," the old man said. "I was at the funeral. It looked a lot like him, but it wasn't him." "Really?! Then where is he??" Dad asked in astonishment. "He's on a chicken farm in Wisconsin, and that's where he's gonna stay!" was the old man's answer. Many years passed, and Dad often wondered about this. He even went into law enforcement himself, having served as police chief for two cities, and he wondered if the Chicago police might really have goofed when they thought they had gotten Dillinger. Dad read several books about Dillinger, and several suspicious things came to light. The "Lady in Red," who supposedly had fingered Dillinger for the police, was actually deported before she could testify. Dillinger's fingerprint files were missing or switched with someone else's. The inquest involving Dillinger's body had raised question about his identity. End of story.

I have gone a little "overboard" with my dad's story, but I felt I needed to tell the whole thing. What I would really like to know is if there are/were other people in or around Iroquois County who say or heard about John Dillinger. Have similar stories been told?--Norm Alder  (this story was submitted by Norm Alder and was originally submitted October 27, 2001 to the Iroquois County Historical Museum)

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