Happy Wednesday Readers!
Last week I told you all the beginnings of the Smith Conspiracy, which was a big event here in Perry in 1931. Today, we will be continuing that story, looking at the next big headline in the March 13th Perry Chief, which read “County Attorney Sackett to Ask Complete State Inquiry In Smith Case”.
The County Attorney at the time, George Sackett, formally requested that the State Department of Criminal Investigation in Des Moines inquire into the mystery of the John M. Smith Case. Now, many of you may be asking why such an inquiry was needed. Well, if you remember from last time, there was also an article in this paper titled “Body Exhumed Here Was Not That of John M. Smith Thought Killed in Accident.” This happened because of an inquiry carried out be three insurance companies: Traveler’s of Hartford, Massachusetts Mutual and Minnesota Mutual. Primarily, Mr. Smith had bought a $5000 Travelers policy in Omaha good for only 12 days, and his supposed death occurred 7 days later. There were also other details about John’s death that aroused suspicion, such as how the car had not been wrecked but merely driven off the road at an angle and then burned.
Both of these suspicions lead to the exhuming of the body at the C. D. Bemmar funeral home. Dr. D. J. Glomset and Dr. C. B. Luginbuhl performed an autopsy, along with many other doctors and dentists who attended. What they found was startling: the body that was buried there was not that of John M. Smith. There was much to back up this discovery. First, the doctors found that the body was embalmed before it had been burned. They found that the body had an incision under the right arm, arteries had been drawn and drained, and then had been tied off. In addition, they found that the dental work did not match Mr. Smith’s dental records. The doctors also examined the skull of the body for a fracture that Mr. Smith had received while living in Nebraska that they believed had left an indentation. They did not find any such marking on the skull of the body. Clearly, the body buried in the cemetery was not that of John M. Smith. So, the all-consuming question became “Where was John M. Smith?”
Further details only made the case more interesting. To start, friends of Mr. Smith presented the theory that foul play might be involved. Where the body was secured also became a mystery, and mutilation of that body was determined to be a charge placed against anyone found to have taken part in the incident. Mrs. Smith also gave a statement, saying she would not collect any of the insurance money as long as there was doubt that her husband was alive. However, it was reported that Mr. Smith had approximately $50,000 in insurance, which was all payable to either his estate or Mrs. Smith.
Many factors about the Smith Case were coming to light, and each one only brought with it more questions. What happened next? Find out next week as the story unfolds with the headline “Smith Escapes Officers and Wife”!
Hello once again readers,
Today I have a very interesting story for all of you! This story is also rather long, and spans about a year, so I will be telling it to you in chunks. Without further ado, here is the first part of the story about John M. Smith.
The year was 1931, and John Smith was 37. He had lived in Perry for 7 years, and was the owner and operator of the Farm Disintone, a manufacturing company that produced insecticide. On February 4th, an article about him appeared in the Perry Chief. The headline read, “J. M. Smith Burned to Death in Accident.” According to the news article, Mr. Smith had left Perry on February 3rd at 6:30 p.m., driving to Manilla to do some business with his brother, Otis Smith. John had turned south off the highway after leaving Carroll in an effort to take a short cut. Unfortunately, it was on this road that the accident occurred at around 10:15 p.m. The sheriff of Crawford County reported that upon examination of the scene, it “appeared that the car had struck a chuck hole in the road, causing a blowout, careened into a small cement culvert and ran down into a ditch where it caught fire.” Normally this would not result in the intense heat that almost cremated the body, but during the crash more than forty-five gallons of insecticide had spilled, and also caught fire, completely engulfing the car. The crash also knocked John Smith unconscious, and thus he could not escape the blaze.
A young man who saw the crash attempted to pull Mr. Smith, who was seated upright in the driver’s seat, from the blaze, but was unfortunately too late. The only clues that survived the fire, and helped to identify the body, were a piece of paper that had the company name printed on it and the license plate number of the vehicle. The body itself was unrecognizable. Mrs. Smith was eventually called to determine her husband’s whereabouts, and she had confirmed he was driving to Manilla. This established the identity of the body, and she left a short while later to Denison, where the authorities had taken the body.
So far, this story just seems like a tragic death of a simple man who went on a business trip. However, the story soon becomes much more complicated. For example, on March 13th of the same year, another article appeared in the paper related to John Smith. This one’s headline? “Body Exhumed Here Was Not That of John M. Smith Thought Killed in Accident.” If you want to know more, come back next week for part two of the story!
Happy Wednesday Readers,
Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I thought I would share some short stories with you from our collection! The first story comes from Bill Graney. Bill is recounting stories about Mike’s Pub, back before it became Mike’s Pub, when Stub Smithson owned it. He describes the day, saying that there was not much business, and as he was looking at the ceiling he say a big water bug, three to four inches he claims. When he told Stub, Stub removed the bib overalls he was wearing and threw them up at the bug. Now, you may be thinking that this does not sound much like a Valentine’s Day story. However, what you do not know is what Stub was wearing under his overalls. According to Bill, since it was right at Valentine’s time when this happened, Mrs. Smithson had bought Stub some boxer shorts with hearts on them. Stub was wearing these boxers when he took off his overalls. Imagine, seeing the bartender standing there in heart boxers. It seems like something out of a cartoon! However, Stub was unfazed, according to Bill, and Valentine’s Day went on.
The other story comes to us from tales of George Soumas. Apparently, around Valentine’s Day, George had a tradition. He, along with a few other Perry residents, would go to Suzette’s candy store in Des Moines. They would pick up at least two or three pounds of candy. George literally brought boxes with him, and the owners of the store would fall over him since he was buying so much candy. Then, he would take the candy down to the Dallas County Courthouse, and together they would hand out candy to everyone there. Even some of the people from Perry were allowed to keep some of the candy: Barry Bengtson apparently used the candy he got from George to give to his wife every year. She did not find out about this until much later, however. One wonders if she got mad at him or not for taking the candy from someone else.
I hope that these stories got you thinking about Valentine’s Day, and what you could do to surprise someone. In addition, do not forget to come down to the Hotel Pattee tomorrow for Art and Seek! There will be wine, cheese, and other refreshments. The purpose of the event is to highlight the new QR Codes that have been installed, and show everyone how to use them to learn more about their favorite art pieces. I hope to see you all there!
Good afternoon readers!
I’m excited to inform you all of an upcoming event that Hometown Heritage and the Hotel Pattee are presenting! To celebrate the opening of the Hometown Heritage QR Code Tour at the Hotel Pattee, we are presenting Art and Seek: a Digital Art Treasure Hunt. This event will take place in the Hotel Pattee on February 11th, starting at 5 p.m. and ending at 6:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend!
QR Codes are small, square barcodes that when scanned, bring up a related website or article. In the Hotel, these codes are installed next to pieces of art. Scanning one of the codes will bring up the Hometown Heritage website, and give the scanner information about the art. Some of the art also has a narrated audio clip talking about the art, the artist, or both. We see it as a chance for everyone to learn about the art at the Hotel Pattee, or at least about some of your favorite pieces.
Art and Seek will be a night of fun, starting with instructions of how to download and use a QR Code scanning application to your smartphone. There are many applications available, and many of them are free to use. If possible, downloading an application before coming to the event would save some time. We suggest the “i-nigma” app, as it is free and works on both Apple and Android smart phones. There will also be a question sheet to fill out, based on the information that can be obtained by scanning the QR codes. The first few people back from the hunt, with the correct answers, will win some prizes! There will also be wine, cheeses, and other refreshments available, provided by the Hotel Pattee. Again, the event is free and open to the public, so we encourage everyone to attend. I hope to see you all there!