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!