Good Afternoon Readers,
Those of us here at Hometown Heritage are happy to inform you about the first event related to our Gary Ernest Smith Exhibition!
Speaker Lynette Pohlman, Chief Curator and Director of University Museums at Iowa State University, will hold a learning and discussion session about how to connect with the artwork we see. She will be speaking at the Hotel Pattee on Tuesday, May 31st from 5 - 7 p.m.
Gary Ernest Smith, Idaho artist, will have a display of his distinguished art in Perry and in Ames beginning in August and lasting through December. Programs for the Art Show will need volunteer guides here in Perry. We invite you to this May 31st event to introduce you to connecting with the artwork of Gary Ernest Smith. We hope you will be inspired to pass the connection to others in Perry through the planned programming. This will also be a great opportunity to prepare yourself for the upcoming Exhibit, so that you can have a deeper connection with the pieces of art that will be on display both here and in Ames.
If you plan to attend, please let us know by sending an RSVP to email@example.com. We encourage all of you to attend!
Good Afternoon Readers!
Today I have another exciting crime story! Small town Iowa may seem like it is not a very lively place, but crime does happen. Sometimes, as you will see today, there are even bandits!
Thursday, July 23, 1931. The paper that came out that day told a frightening story under the headline “Bandits Shoot Marshal”. Early in the morning that day, between 3:30 and 4:00, three bandits robbed several business firms in Minburn. Gottschalk, E. H. Shaw grocery, a Minburn Oil company station and Butler’s garage were all hit during the robberies. In total, they stole some tires, tubes, and $205.00 dollars from all for places (that is worth about $3,011.65 today!) The bandits, however, did not quite get away clean. Mrs. Henry West, a night telephone operator in the building next to the Gottschalk store, heard the men moving around. She quickly spread the alarm, calling Bill Hagenstien, who called J. C. Untied and S. R. Gottschalk. Together, these three went to Virgil Untied, the marshal. A stranger who had heard the excitement joined the four men to confront the criminals as well. Together, all five went to the business district.
Once in the business district, the five men decided to split up to cover more ground. The marshal and Hagenstien were together when they were surprised by one of the bandits! The bandit commanded the men to back down or he would shoot. It is unknown if Untied refused to comply, but unfortunately for him the crook started firing at him with a sawed-off 12 gauge shotgun. Untied fell under the gunfire, and the bandit made off to a waiting car where he and his accomplice were whisked off. Presumably the third bandit was the getaway driver. The Minburn men exchanged shots with the fleeing vehicle, but the bandits made their getaway without any believed injuries. The car they were driving was either a Dodge or a Ford with a Polk County license plate.
Virgil Untied, the wounded Marshal, was immediately rushed to the Kings Daughter hospital. Upon arrival he was taken to the operating room, where Dr. Pond operated on him. The doctor unfortunately gave little hope for his survival. Virgil had his right eye shot out, the bullet entering the brain. He also had a slug in his abdomen, cutting the colon and making two perforations through the bowels, and a slug enter his left arm and one in his left leg. The article does not reveal more on Virgil’s condition, but one can assume that with such wounds he did not make it.
Sheriff Davis of Green County and Sheriff Knee of Dallas County began working on the case that day after the shootout. Based on their evidence, the bandits had also robbed places in Jefferson and Rippey. They had little other evidence to go on. No description of the men was provided, and the scene of the crimes left little evidence. There was a crow bar found, but no prints were left on it, meaning the men were wearing gloves. Brass shells were also found, but they proved to be no help either. Evidence from Rippey showed that a crow was used to get into the places that they robbed.
Despite all the tragedy, there was a slightly humorous moment in Rippey. The manager of the Hanson Lumber Company unwittingly left the card containing the safe combination on the dial of the safe. The bandits had found this and wrote a note on the back reading “We thank you for the combination but where in Hell is your money?” Only fifty cents in pennies was taken from the lumber office.
Were the bandits ever captured? Even I don’t know, as the article ends with a confirming that Virgil Untied’s condition has not changed. However, come back next week and I will find out if the story continues in another article!
Today I have another exciting story about an infamous member of the Perry community. In fact, this story is about three men who were arrested for nothing less than making counterfeit coins!
An issue of The Perry Press came out on Friday, May 20, 1938 with the headline “Counterfeiting Plant Found On Perry Farm.” According to the article, federal authorities were holding three men on charges of counterfeiting: V. R. Starling, his son Forest W. Starling, and Cartha M. Candall. They were arrested in a raid containing the combined forces of federal, state, county, and city officers on the Starling farm. Counterfeiting equipment was found in various places around the farm. The press was found in the basement, along with about $200 worth of fifty cent coins. A roller, furnace, and casting forms were found in the machine shed. Dies, crucibles, and punches were buried in a barrel under the dirt floor of the garage.
According to Starling, he had been making fifty cent coins since 1934. He claimed he and his son distributed the coins, but authorities suspected that others may be implicated in their distribution. The counterfeits were almost true reproductions of legal pieces, containing a good proportion of silver making them practically impossible to recognize them as fakes. Skilled Chicago Federal Reserve bank employees, who noticed an almost invisible flaking and pitting, first detected the fakes. They confirmed their suspicions after a microscope test.
After detection of the counterfeits, federal authorities started a search. A tip from an Iowa jeweler, who told authorities that Starling was buying all the scrap silver he could get, lead authorities to the farm. The plant that they found on the farm was reported to be the most complete plant both from a manufacturing and distributing point that had ever been found in Iowa. It was equipped to turn out a large amount of coins, as evidenced by the large amount of dies that were found. The coins were dated for several years, but the majority were either 1899 or 1912. The Starlings had distributed most of the coins through five and ten cent stores or tobacco shops throughout Iowa and surrounding states.
It is amazing to think that such a small group of people were able to make near perfect copies of fifty cent coins! V. R. Starling plead guilty to his charges, while his son plead not guilty and Cartha Candall was released after it was found he was not directly implicated in the case. Reading about this makes you wonder: do any of these coins still exist? I suggest checking your 1899 and 1912 fifty cent pieces (if you have any) to make sure they are real!
Today you will all be excited to know that we have finally made it to the trial of Mr. Smith! What will the verdict be? Will all get the answers to our questions about the case? Read on to find out!
We start the story of the trial on September 28, 1931. In that days edition of the Perry Chief, it is announced that Smith will come to trial on Tuesday (the next day). State Agent Tullar had been travelling nearby states the previous two weeks, investigating matters related to the case. He stated that he believed the “case against Smith is now airtight.” The case was built upon a charge of conspiracy to defraud an insurance company, and it was this charge that Smith would face the next day. The trial was to begin if the proper witnesses were secured to appear. Specifically, Doctors Wittle of Clarinda and Donohoe of Cherokee were slated to appear as the first two witnesses.
The next day, September 29, 1931 was the day of the trial. Perhaps surprisingly, the jury deliberated for only fifteen minutes before reaching a verdict. With a single sentence came the closing of the Smith Conspiracy: “We the jury find the defendant John M. Smith to be insane.” Judge W. S. Cooper immediately announced that Smith would be taken to the Criminally Insane Ward at Anamosa, until such time he was deemed sane upon which he would be returned to the Dallas County Sheriff for a second trial. What happened to the airtight case that Tullar was boasting about? What happened that caused Smith to be declared insane so quickly? Well, to start only Dr. Max Wittle and Dr. George Donohue were heard as witnesses before the jury. Both of these witnesses claimed unquestionably that Smith was insane. Dr. Wittle, for instance, said that Smith could not tell right from wrong, and that he was susceptible to suggestions from others who could influence him to act. Dr. Donohue said the same thing, adding that he though Smith was “too dangerous to be discharged.” Thus, the entire trial last only from 9 a.m. to 10:35 a.m., when the jury presented their verdict declaring Smith criminally insane. As if to prove the verdict, upon leaving the courthouse Smith collapsed at the bottom of the first flight of stairs. He appeared to be in a semi-conscious stupor and continually called for “Edith” his wife, even though she was with him the whole time.
Many of you may be wondering if this is it. Unfortunately, it appears to be so. Even the paper says that the entire debacle is a “mystery which still has many loose ends and which will probably never be fully told.” For example, the story of the body found in the car will never be fully told. A story about Smith did reappear in May 1932, but it was a small article about an interview where Smith claimed he was the victim of a “gigantic conspiracy”, and that he remembered nothing “from the time he was bumped on the head” the night the truck was found until he was found near Garner, Iowa. You will have to decide for yourself if the jury was correct, because for now, this case, is closed.