Happy Wednesday readers!
I hope that you are all surviving out there in the rain. Today we will be continuing the Smith Conspiracy Case, drawing ever closer to its conclusions. This week’s paper is from September 7, 1931, and it contains a big break-through in the case: a confession from Mrs. Smith that she was indeed involved in a conspiracy with her husband!
According to the paper, County Attorney George Sackett released portions of a signed confession from Mrs. Smith after she had been grilled for more than five hours. This session occurred at the statehouse in Des Moines, and was conducted by Attorney Sackett, State Agent Tullar, Sheriff C. A. Knee and James E. Risden, the chief of the state bureau of investigation. Sackett did not release the full confession, but the portions that were released were sufficient to unquestionably incriminate both Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Two particular portions were quoted directly in the paper. First, after admitting that she had conversations with her husband about life insurance, Mrs. Smith goes on to describe one in particular. She said that “In one of those conversations he told me that he would disappear and that it would be up to me to bury him and collect the insurance. Then, after I had collected the insurance, we could communicate in some way and then go back together and live together again after a year or two. Under our plan I was to collect the insurance or accept it when paid and then meet John when he got into communication with me, which might be any time from one to two years.” Clearly, Mrs. Smith knew of the conspiracy, and was quite willing to go along with it.
The second portion that was quoted in the paper indicates that Mr. and Mrs. Smith had indeed been in communication since his disappearance. Mrs. Smith said, “I received a note asking me to meet a certain party near Fremont, Nebraska, on the 19th day of June. On that day I together with my son drove to Fremont and met my husband, John M. Smith and spent the afternoon with him.” Most surprising about this meeting was that it occurred exactly four days before Mr. Smith was found on a side road near Garner, Iowa. Perhaps the two decided the conspiracy was in danger and they needed to take some kind of action. At this point, it is unclear.
Unfortunately, no details were secured about how the couple procured a corpse to use in the conspiracy. Other details also remain untold, but authorities said they would be released when the proper time arrived. Another unfortunate matter is that the case against the two does not seem to be moving ahead as fast as hoped. Sheriff Knee of Dallas County said that he expected no developments on Monday, as the court in Adel was not in session. In addition, although Smith has claimed he would tell all to a grand jury, he has not appeared willing to appear before them.
Despite this set back with the grand jury, it appears we are finally getting to the heart of this conspiracy! Come back next week to see if Smith and his wife finally go before the jury!
Good afternoon readers!
I hope that you are all ready for yet another exciting installment of the John Smith Conspiracy! Today we will be looking at the Perry Chief for September 5, 1931. In this issue, the mental health of John Smith is once again called into question, and Mrs. Smith is returned to her home only to be questioned for four hours!
The main headline of September 5’s paper reads “No Report on Smith’s Sanity.” Dr. Donohoe, one of Smith’s alienists (psychiatrists) apparently would not testify unless the court called for his appearance. Dr. Donohoe was the superintendent of the State Hospital for the Insane at Cherokee, and at the time of that paper, he was withholding his report on the matter of Smith’s sanity. In a different meeting between the doctor and the principals in the John Smith Case, Donohoe declined to discuss his findings. Meanwhile, Risden of the State Bureau of Investigation revealed a telegram in which “Dr. Donohoe claims he [Smith] is insane. I have also been advised that he was discharged from the army on the account of being insane.” If Smith was insane, Risden believed that he would be transferred to the state hospital for the criminally insane until he was declared fit for trial.
Another article in the September 5th paper is about the four hour questioning that Mrs. Smith was put through. According to the article, Mrs. Smith was taken from Des Moines to her home, where Court Attorney Sackett, Sheriff Knee, and deputy sheriff Burger, Chase, and McCarthy had her open a private safe. Inside the safe were dozens of business letters and a number of letters written by Smith since he had been confined in Clarinda Hospital. They questioned Mrs. Smith of the papers for four hours, but she maintained she did not know the businessmen in the letters well enough and she still upheld her position about the fraud conspiracy. Sackett claimed that nothing of exceptional importance was found, but they kept a large amount to use as reference if it was found to later pertain to the trial.
What will happen next? I bet many of you are wondering when the trial will actually start and if any progress will ever be made. I can ensure you that next time, when we will look at the September 7th 1931 paper which has the headline “Mrs. Smith Confesses Part in Conspiracy”, things will start moving. Return next week to found out what she says!
Hello and welcome back readers!
In today’s installment of the Smith Conspiracy, we are looking at the September 4, 1931 edition of the Perry Chief. The headline for this issue reads “Smith Before Alienists Again”, as well as smaller titles, such as “Smith Talks Willingly but Tells Questioners Nothing”!
Despite the headlines, action in the Smith case was moving slower than expected on September 4th. This is because John Smith’s appearance before the grand jury was delayed, in order to have alienists examine him a second time. An alienist, for those who do not know (like me), is an old term for a psychiatrist. The point of this examination, the second in three months, was to determine if he had recovered from his mental ailment. The examination was very long, as it was reportedly started at noon and still in progress three hours later. The continuation of the case rests on the report of the alienists.
In addition, Smith appeared to be talking willingly to questioners, but he was not revealing any new details that could apply to the case. For example, Smith had a conversation with a Chief representative, but while he at times gave the impression that he was about to disclose vital information, he never did. This behavior is not exclusive to just reporters from the Chief. Spying G. E. Whitehead while at the statehouse, Smith asked to talk to him. Their conversation included Smith complaining that he had no friends who would help him, and that he did not know what to do. Whitehead pressured Smith to confess, but Smith only said that he had confessed about the girl, and then complained of pain in his head and left the conversation. Other conversations with Smith have gone in a similar direction, and because of this evasiveness, authorities are doubtful that Smith will talk in front of the grand jury.
Mrs. Smith also made a brief appearance in the September 4 paper. Due to her believed connection to the crime, she was being held in the Des Moines jail. Two men attempted to release her from the jail, presenting a writ of habeas corpus and demanding her release. The writ, however, was found to be issued in another county and therefore was not binding. Later it was learned that she was removed from the jail, but remained in the custody of authorities.
For a final twist from September 4’s paper, it was reported that a search of the Smith home had been conducted. In the home at least one letter was found and been turned over to officials to use in the present inquiry. While the exact contents of the letter were not known, it purportedly was a communication from an unknown person attempting to clear Smith of any suspicion.
Will the letter prove enough to clear Mr. Smith of suspicion? While Smith ever appear in front of the grand jury in Adel? Find out next week as the Smith Conspiracy continues!
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!
The past couple of times I have come to you all with a mystery stemming from the lack of information in our system. However, that is not the case today! I have actually found something in our system that not only has information, but I would even say that it has an over-abundance of information. Because of this, today I will be telling you all about Seth Dayton, and his interesting, fun, somewhat unfortunate life.
Seth Dayton was an early settler of Perry in 1854. He built his own brick house on Lake Robbins Road that also served as stagecoach station on the Des Moines to Fort Dodge line. The house was two stories, so Mr. Dayton probably had a fair amount of money to his name. He was married twice, and had nine children in total, three with his first wife and six with his second. So far, it seems like Seth had a pretty normal life for an early settler. However, his story quickly becomes very interesting. Let us start with his nine children.
Now having nine children is not a surprising detail about an early settler, since families often needed as much help as they could get around the house and farm. The names of his first three children were Ellen, Frank, and Isabelle, and the names of five of his other children were Harry, Adeline, Eva, Jane, and Minnie. All of these names are, without trying to sound mean, common for the time and do not seem very interesting. It is his last son that has a name that stands out from the rest: Pharaoh Israel “Fez”. This name is amazingly unique. There are few people that I know of who are named Pharaoh (aside from all of the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt), and even less people who have the nickname “Fez”. Unfortunately, there is little else to say about Pharaoh, since the article in our system is about his father and not him.
Yet Seth Dayton’s family is not the only part of his life that is noteworthy. His house, aside from what I have already told you, is also very interesting. First, according to the article, Seth was a great horse race fan, and because of this, he had two horse race tracks next to his house. These tracks would get him in some big trouble later in life. According to the information in our system, he lost his farm because of horse racing: he actually bet it on a race and lost. This may not be the only reason that he lost his farm, however. According to the newspaper clipping, Seth had also built his house next to a knoll that was the site of an old Native American burial ground. I hope that I do not have to explain why this could be a problem (think Pet Sematary and the Poltergeist). It may even be possible that losing the farm in a bet was actually a good thing for the Dayton family: maybe they desperately wanted to get away from what they thought was a haunted house and farm.
What about you, readers? Have any of you ever thought that you lived in a haunted house, and would do anything to fix it or leave the house? If you have, leave a comment in the space below! In addition, the house itself is still standing and is even being restored. If you want to learn more about the house, you can go to the Dallas County Conservation site by clicking here, or even drive out to see it for yourself!