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Norton County News Historical Edition: Crimes

Theft of the County Seal

The county seal was missing in 1874 and James Vance who was at that time county clerk, told D. W. Mills, county Supt., of its loss. He asked Mills to keep it a secret and perhaps it would be found, but Mills after much persuasion, convinced Mr. Vance that the proper thing to do was to advertise its loss so that the people would be warned in case it was being used for illegal purposes. Vance advertised its loss in all of the Topeka papers and not long after that Mr. Mills received a letter from a man in Augusta, Maine saying that he had bought $5,000 worth of school bonds issued on district No. 1, Norton County, and asking him if they were negotiable. Mills immediately smelled a rat, and had one of the bonds sent to him. All of the necessary county officials names were signed to it but they were forged. The original county seal had been used and was evidently stolen for that purpose. Several persons were suspected but nothing was proven and the guilty ones to this day are still unpunished unless by their own conscience.

A. K. Mills, son of D. W. Mills, not long after the exposure of the theft of the seal, was teaching school and while the scholars were studying the free-arm movement, he asked them to bring scratch paper to practice on. In marking the papers, Mr. Mills found on the reverse side of one of them a letter written which had never been mailed. It was addressed to the same party in Maine who had bought school bonds, and the writer said that for a certain amount of money he would make the school bonds negotiable. However, the letter did not say how this was to be done and so there was no incriminating evidence, on which the writer could be punished, and so what was at first thought to be a clue to the one who had stolen the seal, was lost. (page 6)


The Cross Murder

In 1872 Charles Brinton came, and purchased the D. C. Coleman claim east of Almena. Brinton was the man who killed Cross, a suspected horse-thief. Cross came about the same time that Brinton did. Just before the Fourth of July, 1872 Cross rode to Hays, a distance of 100 miles to get some provisions and when he came back he had a different horse saying that he had traded. Nothing was thought of this until the fifth of July when a stranger came to Jim Hall's place looking for a stolen horse which corresponded with the one that Cross had said he traded for. When the came Cross was not at home so they went looking for him, and, when Cross saw the four men coming for him, all armed, he began to run and was not seen until July seventh, when Mrs. Hall saw him in the timber near the house. C. Brinton and Walter McGavan got their guns and started after him and found him in a tree and Brinton shot him down, shooting him fifteen times before he died. Cross was well liked and Brinton had but few sympathizers, and what few friends he had, soon deserted him and he left the county in 1877. His whereabouts was never known. It has been said that he spent the last years of his life in an insane asylum at Lincoln, Nebraska, but this was never verified.

It was never known where Cross came from. (page 6)


Chapman Murder

Henry Chapman came to Norton in 1873. He took up a claim two miles west of Norton and built a log house on it. He was reputed to be worth considerable money, although no one ever seen it. On the morning of May 4, he was found by Neak Louk, murdered. The coroner's jury returned a verdict of murder by parties unknown. The only thing of any value found in the house was a watch and he was undoubtedly murdered for his money. Several persons were suspected of the crime but no one was tried for it and so the murderers escaped. (page 6)


Landis Murder

John Landis was born in Allen county, Kentucky, October 28, 1827. He was a veteran of the Civil War. He came to Norton county in 1872 and homesteaded on the Solomon near where Edmond now stands. Landis was always active in political happenings of the county, and while he had a host of friends, no public man is without enemies, and he was no exception.

On September 2, 1878, Mr. Landis was shot in the back while talking to an emigrant. The assassin was hidden in a clump of willows a few yards away. He died September 4, 1878. J. E. Morris who was coroner at that time, empaneled the following jury: W. P. Crevlin, E. Fisher, Dey Smith, John Diffenbach, John W. Bieber, F. M. Duvall. They brought in a verdict that John Landis had been shot and killed by parties unknown to them, but recommended the arrest of Dr. Wm. Cummings and Henry Grandy. William Hepler made the complaint charging them with the murder. The same day Major Dannevik made the same complaint against E. R. Worthington. Worthington proved an alibi and was dismissed. No attention was paid to his arrest as it was not thought at the time that he was the guilty one. Grandy was arrested but Cummings escaped. Grandy's trial lasted from Sept. 27 until October 3. Over 100 witnesses were examined, but the case was dismissed on account of lack of evidence. All during the trial feeling ran high against Cummings and about 65 of his friends, and enemies of Landis, were seen on the Solomon, and when Jack and Pat Conarty went after him his friends refused to surrender him until I. N. Cope and J. W. Langford came to Norton and secured an agreement from J. R. Hamilton, Wm. Simpson and W. E. Case that Cummings should not be mobbed.

Cummings preliminary was held and he was discharged because of lack of evidence.

During his trial his friends were present, armed to the teeth, and about 50 colored friends of Landis (because Landis was a personal friend of John Brown in the Border warfare) attended the trial, all armed, to see that the murderer did not get away unfairly. County Attorney Beaumont was assaulted after working until midnight on the case during the trial. He was struck in the back with a rock; he fell, and his assailants, believing him killed, ran away. The same day Justice Oliver, who presided at the preliminary, was warned that he would be killed, but nothing of the kind happened. In May 1880, M. W. Pettigrew then had Dr. Cummings rearrested upon complaint of T. D. LaRue, because of the discovery of new evidence, but at the trial LaRue did not appear. The jury disagreed and the next term of court the case was dismissed, thus ending one of the most exciting murder trials in Western Kansas. (page 6)


Manus Murder

Charles Manus was shot by Wyatt in 1879. The trouble started over the Landis Murder. Manus was a friend of Landis and Wyatt a friend of Dr. Cummings, and there was some argument over the trial. The next day they met and quarreled and after leaving Manus, Wyatt turned and shot Manus in the back of the neck killing him instantly. 

Wyatt was convicted of murder in the first degree in 1880 and sent to prison, where he died.

Wyatt was the first murderer sent to the penitentiary from Norton county. (page 10)

 

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2005 Ardie Grimes.  Transcribed from Norton County News Historical Number 1870 - 1916, re-organized and re-formatted for ease of use. These pages are dedicated to free access to records, documents and photos of historical and genealogical value. Documents contained herein may be copied for personal, non-commercial use as long as this statement remains on all copied material.   These records, documents and photos may not be reproduced, published or re-published for any reason, in any format,  including electronic (web pages or CD's) and print, without prior written consent of the contributors or copyright holders.

 

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Ardie Grimes 

 


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