'THE GIRLS' - 1900

In a residence in Oklahoma city owned by the 'notorious' Big Annie Wynn in 1900, were listed a group of women who informed the census taker their profession was 'prostitute'. Scattered among them were some men who were such things as musician or barber.  Living space may have been at a premium in 1900. Listed in Block 37 (near Walker Streeet, all after Wynn were labeled as "roomers." 

Residence 402 or 422 (writing is hard to read)
Annie Wynn, 34,   b. July 1865, Il
Girtie Anderson, 21, b. Jan 1889, Il
Lulu Little, 18, b. March 1882
Gracie Maxwell, 23, May 1887, Il
Dana Goodwin, 22, b. Dec 1877, Ill
Mattie Probo, 33, b. Feb 1867, Ky
Gertie Hodge, 18, b. Feb 1882, Ky
Effie Fisher, 27 b. March 1873, IL
Harry Anderson, 22, b. Oct. 1877, KS "musician"
Ed Roberts, 30, b. April 1870, "Machinist"

Residence 406:
Susie Fields, 28 b. March 1873, KY
Fannie Richards, 27, March 1873 . NM
Laura Evans, 28, March 1872, KS
Girtie Sawyer, 20, Jan 1880, IL
Harry Brown, 32, b. Aug 1867, KS "Barber"
Mrytle Moore, 27, April 1873, TX
Bessie Moore, 25, 1875, TX

There is more than a good chance these names are all false.  It was common for women in such work to create a persona and a history to suit their needs, cover their tracks, or keep them self hidden from those who might be looking for them.  Papers around 1910 will note methods employed to get and keep workers for the sex trade.  Some entered the business willingly, some because of being wronged by some man, but some were tricked into it through a method recorded in London in the 1700's.  Young girls, travelers or runaways, were met at the local depot by a kindly person offering them help, shelter, or a ride to their destination.  Instead, they were taken to a house of ill repute, drugged, seduced, and kept a prisoner until they too joined the "stable."


At the turn of the century - the 20th century - sprawling communities were connected through trolley systems and small rail lines that connected to larger lines and the world.

For newly a century these lines moved people swiftly, easily, and cheaply.  A woman told me that as a young woman in about 1920 she had ridden the train from Enid, Oklahoma to Blackwell, Oklahoma for pocket change.

Our love or lust over the automobile, eventually led to the demise of this means of transportation.  Yet, fuel costs, environmental concerns, and parking issues are causing many to look at the older system and see if it can be updated to meet modern needs.  

In an age when health concerns encourage getting exercise, when parking can be impossible in some urban locations and work is seldom close to where anyone lives, the idea looks pretty good.  To be able to drive to one parking lot, park and step aboard a network of fuel efficient or alternatively powered light rails to take us around the traffic clogged highways makes a lot of sense.  

The mystery will be - who will be the ones to call out "All Aboard!!"

For a great coverage of Oklahoma City trolleys check out the rich coverage of OKC History at Doug Dawgz Blog.


A Family Slaughtered

SLAUGHTERED A WHOLE FAMILY.: John Hoy, with His Wife and Two Children, Hacked to Pieces in Their Cabin. Washington Post (May 30 1893),1.  

A New Haven, CT family of John Hoy, living in a cabin on the Youghiogheny River,  were found dead in their kitchen by fellow minors on their way to work.  Hoy, his wife and several children were dead.  Police theorized that he had committed the killings and then slit his own throat.  A mystery remained due to the presence of blood splatter throughout the house and the impression of a hatchet behind the ear of the daughter.

This is especially interesting due to the fact that in the early 1900 a number of families would be killed by person or persons unknown practically from coast to coast.  Notable were the murders in San Antonio, Colorado, Kansas and Iowa (Villasca).  No mention is made of an ax being found, although a razor and knife was found by the bodies.

Like all serial killers - the person who killed the later families - had to have begun somewhere.  Could it have been the Hoy family were early victims?  


For The Other Victims by William Slack

One of the rare delights of research is encountering interesting people whose passion for uncovering the truth of historical mysteries is also tempered by an empathy to all involved in the more tragic episodes.   This was the case recently as a person with families ties to the noted Katie James Murder of 1905 made contact.   William Slack, our guest columnist,  has doggedly searched out the story from his family tree but with still many questions unanswered sought out the rest of the storyM.A.H.

Although most of the excitement surrounding the murder of Katie James in 1905 involved the search for Katie and the woman suspected of killing her, there were other victims of which almost nothing is told; these victims were the children of Katie and Fannie Norton; Lulu Blanche James and Roy, Leta & Elsie Ham.

Lulu Blanche was only 18 months old when her mother was murdered. A newspaper article from  The Weatherford Democrat, Thursday, January 23, 1913 says the following:
Blanche James Dead

Another chapter in one of the saddest tragedies in connection with Weatherford's early history ended recently with the death of Little Blanche James. A letter received by the Cheyenne Marble Works of this place Monday from Mr. DeWitt at Knowles states that he had just got a letter form his sister, Mrs. Shinsteffer who had been notified of the death of the little girl on Jan. 2nd. So little can be known of the fact except that the girl had been visiting her father and took sick with spinal meningitis from which she died. The letter from Mr. DeWitt closed with the cry of the old man's broken heart, "I think they might have might have let me know. I would like to have been with her.

Many of our readers will remember the gruesome story. Seven years ago Mrs. James, having had trouble with her husband on account of his cruelty, had come to Weatherford to her father, Mr. DeWitt. At Clinton she met with Mrs. Ham who offered to drive her through the country. Some place on that lonely drive she was murdered. The body was afterwards found hidden in the bushes near Deer Creek. A little boy related that a woman driving the wagon called hi and asked him to hold the baby as the horses were fractious, then drove furiously away leaving the little child in his arms. Two years ago a trace of the murderer was found in Colorado but she was wanted for stealing horses in New Mexico, so she could not be brought back here for trial until her sentence expires.

But many have asked, what became of the little babe deprived of its mothers care and left to strangers? The father came and took the child, never letting Mr. DeWitt have anything to do with her or to see her. Mr. James married again, but through the years the child was guarded from any knowledge of her grandfather. Mrs. Shinsteffer, the sister of Mr. DeWitt, lived in the same county, Dewey county, and through neighbors kept track of the child and informed Mr. DeWitt. The old gentleman in the course of time amassed considerable property. Mrs. James was his only child and he has no heir. It was the wish of his heart to have and to help little Blanche. Although he was not allowed to see her he could not resist sending her pretty clothes. These were sent through his sister and without letting them know where they came from. Mr. James always told his daughter that her mother still lived and that the clothes were sent by her. And so the story ends with the death of little Blanche."

The Ham children spent their last days together as a family traveling to Guthrie Oklahoma. On July 11, 1905 they were placed for adoption by their Mother Mary Francis Norton, who then left for Shawnee where she eventually committed suicide. Roy, the older brother was 13, his two sisters Elsie and Leta only eleven and seven.

The records that survive show the children placed with families in August 1905; sadly they were not kept together. The entries state:
*  Roy Ham-  With farmer, good people man and wife of Quaker faith.
*  Elsie Ham-With intelligent family, who will give the child a good home. Methodist faith.
* Leta Ham-With Dr. B. and his wife, no children, fine people. The child will have good advantages. Presbyterian and Methodist Churches preferred.

Roy and his sisters had little contact with one another. All letters between the siblings were sent via the Children’s Home. While the records are incomplete they do show that at least in the beginning the children tried to maintain contact with one another. Transcripts of the few remaining letters show the children adapted well to their new lives. Only Roy seems to make any mention of their mother, and even that is only a short sentence to say he is sorry to hear she is dead.

I haven’t been able to track down anything about the family Roy Ham was placed with. He kind of disappears until October 1918 when dies of pneumonia. Roy’s obit in the Kansas City Star of October 20, 1918 reads:
"Ham-Roy L Ham, 26 years old, died Friday at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Gilmer, 5948 Brooklyn Avenue, of pneumonia. He made his home at that address. His father, Taylor Ham, lives in Turlington, Tex. Two sisters also survive him."   Roy’s sisters never knew what happened to their brother.

Elsie Ham married in October 1913. She and her husband had three children, a boy and two girls. Her son died during World War II; I don’t know what ever became of her daughters or if she ever shared with them the sad story of their grandmother’s life and death.

Leta was perhaps the luckiest of the three Ham children. She was placed with a doctor who eventually adopted her. She wrote to her brother of her little pony and of the four dolls she had. Leta too went on to marry, raise children and live her life.

For more on the story see these Mystorical entrires:




In late March 1911 a most foul deed was done in San Antonio, Texas.   It would enter the story of  a horrific time in American history, a time when a murderer, or murderers, traveled the land targeting families and individuals for death by ax.

The Louis Casaway family was particularly tragic given the personal struggles of the family slaughtered.  

Louis Casaway was the local school janitor and an industrious individual well known as a man of honor and dignity. He had been involved in local politics.  His wife Elizabeth  had survived a disastrous first marriage and had started a new life with Louis.  At the time of their deaths there were born three children: Josephine S., Ruby B., and an infant.

What made this union unique in its time was the fact that, despite Texas laws forbidding such a union, Louis was a Black man and his wife a White woman.  Elizabeth Castalow had been married to a man named Layne some 20 years earlier. They divorced and she married Casaway. 

The are probably listed on the  1910 census of Bexar County, Texas in San Antonio's 6th Ward.  There, an Alfred L. Casaway (listed as a white male, 30 years old born in Louisiana) is listed. A wife name Elizabeth, white female, born Texas, aged around 36.  Her parents had both been born in Georgia.  They had gone to Mexico to be married (since it was against the law in Texas and most of the South) and been married twenty years.  Two children were listed: Josephine S. 7 years old, white, born Texas; Ruby B. 2 years old born Texas.

On the 1900 Census they are listed in San Antonio, Bexar Co., TX (election precinct 9).   He is "A.L. Cassaway" and she is "Lizzie".  They are listed as living at 109 Nesbit and are identified as Black.  He is shown as age 40 (1860) she is 35 (1865) and both say they were born in Texas.

One of the theories of their awful death was they were victims of the strange death cult accused of killing other families in Louisiana and Texas. All were families of mixed racial profiles, what was called "Mulatto".  Law officers did quickly surmise the killer, or killers, used the rail lines to enter a community and leave undetected. 

Did the unfortunate Casaway family become targets because they had gone against segregated social structures?  Was a bizarre cult really killing mixed race families in some strange attempt to purify the community? Was a mass killer traveling the rails of the south, hopping off to slaughter before slinking back into the darkness of the long bloody night?  

Most authorities did look at the concept of a white killer but soon ruled that out due to the location of many of the crimes.   A white man would have been seen noted, and remembered.

The truth may never be known.  What is known is that a family was slaughtered, "in a crime, absolutely inhuman in its conception and atrocious in its execution" in the dark of an early spring night. (Chicago Defender, April 8, 1911).  We remember Louis, Elizabeth and their three innocent children - may they rest in peace.



14 August 1880, New Echo (Phelps Co., Mo)
“ It has been said to me by some of my good Democrat friends that they did not want me to leave them. I can inform them I am not leaving democracy, I am only sticking close to it. They are leaving it and following after the monied aristocracy of the northeast.  I am kind of a Davy Crockett type of fellow, both politically and religiously. I look until I know I am right, then I go ahead regardless of man.  I have watched the movements of congress for some time, praying for them to do something to relieve the people.  I could see no move by either of the old parties to relieve an oppressed people.  When there was bill introduced to relieve the tillers of the soil, both of the old parties voted it down. I then saw the toiling masses would need to do something for themselves: I then jumped on the National Greenback platform .  I plainly saw there was no difference in the leaders of the two old parties financially: I looked with anxiety for something on our behalf by our Dick, but lo! Not a word: consequently, I voted for him every time out of the depths of my heart, thinking he would fight for the poor oppressed people; I was mistaken; I kept listing until I decided R.P. ad done as Esau and sold his birthright for a morsel of meat.  After I had all these thoughts, just before the adjournment of congress, our Dick fills the country with electioneering pamphlets.  Dick  I can’t support you any more: I fear you sold out to the money kings. They have stolen enough to buy our congressmen that love money better than they love their country. We must change our class of legislators. I stuck close to the old Democratic party; consequently tought they would not steal, they talk so much about the Radicals stealing. Amid all my troubles, up comes the Gates steal; a man that was blowed up by the Democratic Party, so called, thinks I then when the legislature meets they will judge him sure. I was mistaken again; they went ‘up’ there, and guess enough of them sold out to sustain and whitewash him, and enact laws to make the toilers pay. I lost confidence in the old Democratic Party, so called. Now, brother and sister toilers, we must do something for ourselves and our families; old issues are dead, and now new ones have come which we are all interested in equally.  My impression is we should all jump on the National boat and all pull together.  Oppression has caused every reform; oppression caused the Revolutionary war. Let us show the money kings we have some of the blood of our Revolutionary fathers in our veins. ..” – P.P. (Ptolemy Philadelphus) Brown, 1829-1904.

Most of his comments revolved around the new National Greenback Party platform.  The National Greenback Party emerged from the Grange movement seeking to redress negative agendas, taxes, and economic policies detrimental to American rural farmers and growers. The Greenback Party would be an alliance of organized labor and reform-minded farmer’s intent on toppling the political hegemony of the industrial - and banking-oriented Republican Party that had ruled the North during the Reconstruction period. By 1890, it was evolving once more into the predecessor of the Populist party, i.e. The People’s Party. 



A few years ago at an event a local woman approached me and shared a story of her own which was indeed strange.  She lived in southeast Oklahoma where the hills grow steep and thickly wooded.  She was of Native American descent and so shared many of her own beliefs about the more unusual things encountered in life and through history.  Then she shared a story from her small corner of the world. 

It was the early 1960's and there was a small gas station hugging a small narrow road amid hairpin turns and surrounded by the thick forests and steep shadowed hillsides.  The woman and her new husband stopped one day for gas and the elderly woman came out and filled the tank until the younger man stepped in to do it.  The woman struck up a conversation with the younger woman as she sat in the old pickup. 

The conversation went something like this:
'You got any kids? I got me a boy and a girl inside. They have to stay in there. They can't come out. Not safe for them at all. You wanna come see?'

The younger woman stepped out to be polite and followed as the woman tottered over to the door into the house at the side of the station.  The smell caught her attention first. It was strong and smelled like wet dog and worse.  Sorry she had gotten out she tried to excuse herself but the old woman dragged her forward. Inside, there was a cage in a corner of the room with a small creature sitting in it covered with hair.  A similar creature sat in front of a small screened television showing a grainy cartoon.  This one was wearing a t-shirt and jeans too short in the legs.  His big hairy feet were without shoes.

"I found 'em in the trees up yonder a winter ago. I'd seen them before in the forests and down by the river. The mama, well she was a human but the daddy was just like them.  He disappeared. The mama was dead and they were starving. So, I brought 'em home. I expect I'll send them back there pretty soon; I'm getting pretty old you know..."

The couple drove off after that.  Sure enough, the old woman did die soon and the house, according to people the young woman asked, was found empty of any other living creatures...just an empty cage in the corner of the room and a pile of old children's clothing.

I thought of that story when watching a documentary on History that suggested what we call Bigfoot might be a lingering species of something similar to a Homo Hidelbergensis - a species known to have been still in Asia when the crossing of the Bering Strait were made.  Thus, making it possible they too make that trek into North America.  This opened up the possibility of widespread native tales of interbreeding with the creatures might be based on real events.  Closer to humans, mating could happen with those incredibly tall humanoids. 

Although the tale may be a tall one crafted by a woman pulling the leg of a visiting author of the arcane, it might be mis-identification of someone suffering from a medical condition known to produce long hair over the body or it might - just maybe - have a kernel of truth in it hinting at something truly amazing and incredibly strange.


Early SE Oklahoma Explosive

Between mining disasters, gas line breaks, industrial accidents and oil field happenings, Southeastern Oklahoma was pretty explosive.

In the 1920's alone there were numerous reports of explosions related to one, all, or a combination of the elements in a minimum of six locations and the pages of newspapers were filled with similar accidents from other states.

In Poteau in Sept. of 1929 an explosion rocked a mine jetting workers out the opening and horribly mangling those who remained inside. Those killed included  Jeff Shelton, William Cates. Seven others were listed as missing, a Herman Cureton, Willoughby Wells, Bob Hanson (Jenny Lind, Ark), --Howard, -- Smith, and two unidentified miners.  In 1906 this same area had been devastated by a similar incident.

In Tulsa, an explosion at a plant, rocked the entire city and frayed nerves. Several oil derricks exploded usually with no loss of life. 

In Bristow, in March an explosion killed  Patrick James Hurley (or James Patrick Hurley) in the 28 Mar 1929 Coalgate Record Register reported:  "James Patrick Harley, formerly of Lehigh, was killed in an explosion at Bristow, Oklahoma, last Friday night and the body shipped to Lehigh for burial. Funeral services were held Sunday afternoon and interment in the Lehigh cemetery. No particulars of the tragic accident are available."   He was the son of Scottish immigrant Patrick Hurley who owned the Shamrock Mine in LeHigh.   

Also in Bristow, but that August, Jess Hudson, (38) \, an employ of the Southwest Pipeline company was working on a Sunday on a city gas line near the entrance to city park at  West 8th street. The line exploded sending a piece of steel into him and knocked him some fifteen feet.  He died shortly after being taken to the Bristow Hospital. He left a widow, two sons, and a step-son (who was also a member of the crew that day and saw the accident). (Bursting Gas Main Kills Jess Hudson, Tulsa World, 12 August 1929, pg. 2)



A large and very nice memorial stands in the now open area of the cemtery. Gone are the fences and gates and many of the headstones. Most appear to be older adults and may some of the elderly brought there to live in the 1920's. The fact so many died in the 1920's is a combination of natural age and disease which ran rampant through OKC in that time. Other news accounts verify many deaths in the era. On the nice memorial at the center of the area are etched the following names:

Cosati, Angela 1916- 1931

Ayres, Robert 1939- 1943

Brice, James G. 1846- 1923

Burke, Pat 1844-1932

Camthorn, Ann 1879 -1939

Cawley, Mike 1876 -1943

Cozrat, Augustine 1915- 1927

Downey, Ellen L. 1849 -1922

Gard, Paul (Rev.) 1922

Giebel, Ernestine M. 1864- 1939

Hardin, Dorothy 1932- 1943

Hardisty, Frank 1867 -1931

Jacobe, Franickovick 1836- 1933

Keller, Anna (Mrs.) 1849 -1921

Lacey, John 1847 1933 -

Lynam, Michael (Rev.) 1871 -1921

Malone, John Edward 1869 -1939

Morrison, Mary Ann 1853- 1939

Murray, Mrs. K. C. 1873- 1921

Richter, Charles 1861- 1942

Rose, Pearl (Mrs.) 1924-

Stine, John 1857 -1936

Sullivan, Cornelius R. 1868- 1950

Sweeney 1930 -

Teyssier, Fredric L. (Rev.) 1884 -1919

Tracey, M. Joseph 1852 -1929

Triennekens, Wm. (Rev.) 1923 -

Wagner, Joseph 1927 -

Wegner, Edward A. 1904 1922

Wegner, Michael 1860- 1930

Weichart, Theresia L. 1896 -1924

Wooden, David 1934- 1945

The inscription reads:

St. Joseph Orphanage Cemetery
Bethany, Oklahoma
In Memory of All Decedents and God's Cherished Infants and Children
We Offer Special Homage to Them For This Is Sacred Ground The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

Also seen at - http://genealogytrails.com/oka/oklahoma/st_joseph_orphanage_cemetery.htm (Includes nice picture of the memorial itself)



One morning in mid November of 1917 the busy mining community of Virginia, Minnesota had its peace shattered by the discovery of the grisly murders of local inhabitants.   What would become known as the " Alar-Trepich Axe Murders" would stir to new life old prejudices, nearly forgotten fears of other slaughters, and destroy the fragile sense of community struggling to emerge from ethnic enclaves and racial fears.

It was the early days of WW1 and the Austrian born victims were walking a tightwire in the community with Anti-Germanic sentiment on one hand and Pro-Austria elements on the other.  The local news paper quickly drew the line in the sand by noting the victims had shown their support of the American war effort by buying liberty bonds. Mr. and Mrs. Alar and Peter Trepich, a boarder, were murder Nov. 16, 1917 by ax blows and knife wounds. The murderer apparently paused in washing up in the kitchen to write a note warning of similar death to any who supported liberty bounds or the red cross.

Like so many of these mysterious ax rampages across the nations landscape, it started when someone found the bodies...but it has yet to come to a solid conclusion.  It joins the corpus of  lingering and mysterious crimes done by ax-wielding murderers.


From the "who knew?" files:  Lucille Leseur, who would become the famous Joan Crawford, was born in San Antonio, Texas.  Briefly, however, she actually lived in the southwest Oklahoma community of Lawton, Oklahoma. She is listed on the 1910 census there with her mother and step-father, Henry J. Cassin.  Cassin ran a movie theater in the Comanche County community.  Their residence on April 20, 1910 showed Henry, Anna, Lucille, and Hal all labeled as "Casson".   They were living at 910 "D" Street in Lawton.

Most published accounts locate the family in Lawton through 1917 and within just a few years in Kansas City.  Soon, however, Lucille's acting career would take off by the 1930's Joan Crawford was a full fledged Hollywood Star.


Just How Infamous?

There is a fascinating character who comes out of Virginia and moves into Kentucky in the very early days of that region. His moniker is interesting.  I ran across him while doing some genealogical work. I knew right away he could not really be a connection - because we have no one famous!  The man's name is Famous Mortimer (sometimes Mortemer, Mortimore).  Since I have a Mortimore line, I wanted to know 'just how famous was this guy?'  He is a much married man - marrying a Mary Blue and a woman named Fanny and possible others. All of which meant a lot of descendants

I ran across a will out of Loudoun County, Virginia in 1779 where a William Mortimer dies of sudden disease while away from home and his last words are described to the court.  His earthly remains and property were left to a mother named Sarah, a sister named Bethelmere, and a brother named...Infamous Mortimer.

So, is Famous really Infamous?  What is this infamy desirable enough to bear their name or to even self-moniker with such appellation?  Apparently in Hertfordshire in England is one clue...  "The Mortimer Trail is named after the infamous Mortimer" who apparently were powerful in the reign of Edward III and later and who plotted, bedded, and schemed to acquire, maintain and add to their political power but in the end achieved a mere passing few notes in history, "family who have been a clan of Marcher Lords. This family ruled the Welsh borderlands for approximately 400 years, starting in Norman times. One of the most  feared and powerful families, their seat was Wigmore and Ludlow Castle  though  they  governed lands from Normandy and all across England and into Wales. These holders of quite a bit of the most influential of the Norman Earldoms influenced the history and geography of the Welsh Marches." ( http://travel-preparation.myvemma4all.com/?tag=mortimer-trail  and  A biographical index to the history of England by Sterling Yancey McMaster).

Did a line of disenfranchised Mortimer's come to the New World with dreams of new success?  Did "Famous" simply drop the "In-" as better PR?  Did he track into the wild of Kentucky with Daniel Boone like visions dancing in  his head?  The frontier had a tendency to make men into myths based on their acts of valor, courage, or daring.  Sometimes their fame remained and sometimes...as records burned, people died, and moved away....history (as it is so often the case) was simply forgotten.


How did they do that?

In those days before sidewalks, cement, and even available bricks at a reasonable price, how did people walk around their houses when it rained or snowed?  This early Oklahoma photograph shows just how they did it.  Long planks of wood, side by side, formed a crude but workable sidewalk.  Taken about 1910 an older man and woman, a young woman and a young man (about 12 with his bike) pose for the camera.  It was taken in Guthrie, Oklahoma and the exact location or the family is unknown.


This smiling family group were caught enjoying a swimming area in Oklahoma (most likely either Creek or Oklmulgee County).  Note there is either a windmill or water tank in the upper right corner of the image and three people at the far side of the pond or lake. 

They are left to right: Jesse Marvin Hudson, Effie A. Ray Conner Hudson, Jess Hudson, and Freeman Conner.  Based on the fact Jess died in 1929 in a gas line explosion in Bristow, Oklahoma and the fact the youngest child was born in 1915, this image was taken about 1920. They epitome of swimming fashion, the family looks to be having a grand time beating the heat in eastern Oklahoma. 

Hudson Family, eastern Oklahoma, ca 1920


Grand Structures of McAlester

Known primarily as the location of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, the historic community of McAlester is today a fascinating community.  In many parts of Oklahoma the custom was to create larger footprints and occasionally rise several stories above the broad streets of Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and other communities. In McAlester there is at work different approaches to the classic downtown. The emphasis appeared to be on smaller footprints but taller and more imposing structures.  The result is a city-scape that seems to lurk and loom over the steep and hilly downtown.  In places, they create dark canyons suggesting plans to recreate a Chicago or a New York amid the tree covered and mine rich terrain of the community.
Grand Avenue UMC
The Grand Avenue United Methodist Church, 1922- is one example of the spirit and structure of the city. The Pittsburgh County Courthouse. The Aldridge Hotel, 1929, has been recently renovated and serves as living space for seniors.  The Scottish Rite Temple (a one time hospital). One has to stop and be in awe of the drive to create such massive, towering structures in the tree covered hills of southeastern Oklahoma. What motivated them? Whose visions were expressed in stone and mortar?

County Courthouse

Scottish Rite


An Intriguing Book

I must admit a weakness for old buildings, mysteries, and vintage times.  So I was interested when I ran across a newspaper piece from March 20, 1955 titled, "Mystery Grips Old Hotel."  

I was further intrigued as I read that Jean Waldschmidt, author of The Mystery of the Old Thorndyke (NY:Thomas Nelson, 1955) was from Oklahoma.  It was apparently a young adult mystery featuring two teen boys who have been sent to take photographs of the soon to be demolished old hotel for their father, member of the faculty of Midwestern University. 

The old hotel, set in Carson City, where cattlemen and cowboys had once both found rest and beauty in old prairies of Indian Territory, was a fading grand dame of other times, had been willed to the university.  Soon after they arrive a series of weird and frightening events begin to happen and the tension mounts. 

Marable, Mary Hays. "Mystery Grips Old Hotel." The Oklahoman (March 20, 1955):67.
Download here

Copies of the title are in the special collections of the Metropolitan Library System (OKC), The Oklahoma Department of Libraries, and Oklahoma State University. Additionally, the Library of Congress has a copy along with some dozen other institutions.



Marxism, Communism, and Socialism all lifted high the rights of the "Worker."  Many of the first labor organizations were coming from these political and philosophical stances.  In fact, in Mao Tsetung's little red book, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung ( Peking, Foreign Language Press, 1972)  The page before the title page reads " Workers of all countries, unite!"   It is interesting to note that the Progressive Movement actually worked to do away with the amatuer in many fields ushering in the era of the professional, the scientist, and the skilled worker as platforms of their reform movements. Although both functioning as radical reform organiations they approached the worker from two sides of the issue.  One raised the common, muscled worker with shovel, pick, or hammer to an almost mythic superman position.   The progressives did the same thing with the schooled, trained, scientifically based 'new professionals'. This in many ways would greatly marginalize the 'worker.'  In the middle was the American middle class - a new and trying to grow group - who were as much in the middle ideologically as they were socially and economically.

When Socialists Nearly Won The Presidency

In the years between WW 1 and the Great Depression, the socialist party (sometimes also labeled the progressive but this is generally incorrect)  in the United States made strong inroads.  They had become active in the industrial (mining and rail) strikes of the late 1890's, the farmer's revolts and the Grange movement.  Teddy Roosevelt in the 1912 election has witnessed a hostile and bitter election as the three groups struggled for power.   Some historians consider it a close call.

In the 1920's, they won increasing numbers of elections, gaining supporters from all walks of life.  The 2-party platform of the Democrat and Republican was in severe danger from the growing strength of the  Socialist Party and its candidate Eugene V. Debs.  Although, the group was not as vigorous as in the previous decade, there were enough unsettled voters that it was growing issue. It was so worrisome that FDR actually began to integrate many of the ideas and suggestions from the Socialist Party platform into the his own campaign and the campaign of the whole Democratic Party.  The jobs acts, social security, and other activities of FDR's "New Deal" reforms were all initally (to some degree) part of the platform of the American Socialist Party. In essence, he grafted into the Democratic Party the values and goals of the Socialist movement.   It worked, in the end he was able to attract enough Socialist votes to carry the day and the Socialist Party was a minimal independent  political power for many years after that.

Forced underground in the 1950's and the era of McCartheyism, the party begant to reassert itself in the late 1960's and since the 1980's have run a Presidential candidate almost every term.

Sources for more reading:



Agnosticism’s strong right arm, Robert G.Ingersoll, figures prominently in two interesting stories from America’s heartland. 

In Oklahoma, a tale comes about a grave and W.H. Sade, of Douglas, Oklahoma  (http://cybermarsx.mls.lib.ok.us/Folklore/Originals/XI-1_009.pdf).  He was reported to have been an infidel whose home was decorated with art and images depicting religious themes in a most sacrilegious  manner and raised his family to despise all things religious. 

His 15-year-old son, whom he had named after Robert G. Ingersoll, soon came down with an illness similar to appendicitis.  He suffered for many days and spat out curses to his father for raising him wrong and telling him, he would suffer.   This appears to have occurred as he developed strange ideas. The man believed his son’s illness arose from eating a peach. He became convinced his son would grow into a peach after death. When the boy died he had first did not want him buried in the regular cemetery but in a pasture across the road from the Douglas cemetery. His daughter convinced him finally but he insisted in carving a peach in the reverse of the stone.  Years later, she had this moved to his feet and replaced the headstone with a more traditional one.  As of 1936, John Miller reported the stone was still there in the cemetery.

One source did identify a grave in the cemetery which matches the description given,  Robert G. Sade, b. 1881 and died 1897 (http://www.okcemeteries.net/garfield/douglasunion/douglasunion.htm).

Near Joplin, Missouri, a most horrific event was linked to Robert G. Ingersoll as well in 1899 (http://www.historicjoplin.org/?p=635).  James Moss was a 35-year-old worker who was living with his wife and children in an area called the “Kansas City Bottoms.”   A stench led some people to the remains of their camp in a tent where the horrific sight of the mutilated bodies of the youngest child outside led to the bodies of the other two children, the mother and Moss.  Police determined he had killed his family and then shot himself.   A Kansas City paper reported he was attracted to the writings of Ingersoll and his views on Suicide.  A general belief seemed to be that his various views all indicated he was insane.

This all leads to the question - can agnosticism, like extremes in of any belief system, make a person mad?  Is it possible the wide-eyed, ranting, ignorant, superstitious Bible believing or religious extremist may need to move over to allow room for the wide-eyed, ranting,and murderous agnonist?  Opens up all kinds of charector possibilities.



Doors from the time period
Although it had been around for at least ten  years, in 1903 'Big Ann's Place' became the recognized center of evil in early Oklahoma City.  A court case which made it to the state supreme court forever sealed its place in the more colorful side of history and presented numerous mysteries as a result. In the court records it is called a 'recruiting station for hell.'   A clever turn of phrase given an area in Oklahoma City, just west of the rail deport and Reno was known as "Hell's Half Acre."  The current convention center and gardens cover the same general area.

'Big Ann' was known variously as Annie Wynn, Annie Wynne, and Annie Bailey.  The reason for the sudden notoriety was the occasion of charges filed against Annie and her employee Maud Davis and George Garrison, concerning the alleged rape of two young Dutch immigrant girls, Ann and Lucy Patt (filed February 1903).  The crime was charged to have been done by a couple of small time would be hooligans, George Garrison and Jim Harman, aka the Arkansas Kid. The location was Big Ann's Place on west 2nd street.

The girls said Annie herself had served them small glasses of beer which was strangely bitter and resulted in almost immediate illness.  As they were led away by the young men they thought they were being taken somewhere to be sick, when instead they were taken to two different rooms and were, they said, raped by their male companions and possibly others.  Yet, later court records seem to paint a different picture of these girls.  Another man was also considered in the rape case, Jim Harman.

Annie Wynn Bailey, or whatever her real name may have been, by this time was well known for having avoided several serious episodes, avoided the long arm of the law, and was flagrantly operating in violation of the law.  Since most of Hell's Half Acre was similarly functioning beyond the law it was not too surprising.  It was suspected the money coming into the brothels, gaming dens, and saloons paid law and judges to look the other way.  

This single year would see Annie's name in the news almost every month.  There were numerous reasons for this.  It was time of growing anti-drink movements with people such as Carrie Nation who was ramping up her activities (she would visit Oklahoma in 1904).  It has been alleged some people were becoming aware that a lot of real estate in Oklahoma City and elsewhere (such as Lawton) was being purchased by this venal entrepreneur. It has been alleged it was this wealth that allowed Annie to have a pass for so many years.  She may have, however, been up against a two pronged attack beginning in 1903 and ending (perhaps) in 1909 when it is believed she left the City for California.  This attack may have been from some of the women she had supervised and trained to help her with her OKC operations, possibly aided by OKC men with a desire to acquire the real estate owned by the notorious Madam.

--Marilyn A. Hudson


They sit there on most formal forms, little boxes asking people to place themselves into small, political, cultural, and biological boxes labeled 'race'. In the period after various legal battles and social corrections these were helpful to equalize and make fair opportunities to groups who had been marginalized for generations. 

Now, however, with growing numbers of people unable to select simply one box - is the labeling still appropriate?

The American Association of Anthropologists in a statement from 1998 said: ""Race" thus evolved as a worldview, a body of prejudgments that distorts our ideas about human differences and group behavior."

Modern studies in genetics, DNA, and other biological factos have shown we are all more alike than different and that once hard held 'racial' traits are as likely to be found in diverse populations and other 'races'. 

An example is the recent DNA discovery that many of a group termed Melungeon derive from  a mating of a Black sub-Saharan male and European white woman challenge the frail house we call "Race."  Maybe it is a clue we should help blow down the structure once and for all and embrace the fact we are all more than we think we are. 

This group of people - which includes often stories of "Indian princesses", Gypsy, Portuguese, or "Black Dutch" to explain a tendency to dark hair, olive toned skin and dark eyes.  These people, it is believed, kept apart in order to avoid being placed in slavery or denied rights.  Although the initial DNA results indicate only the Sub-Saharan connection, it is unclear how wide the testing was and if other results, supporting the Native American or Portuguese claims, might still be made. 

It still does not diminish the question: should race be eliminated on forms and diminished as  major element in social or personal identity?
Is race actually a shackle that keeps all of society tied to a 16th century idea of human value and an outdated social-political structure of colonialism and hierarchy?

Is skin color, hair type, shape of a nose, or a length of leg really the things we should be using as guides to understanding human existence?

We are shaped more by culture than race and once the culture begins to recognize and accept diversity, celebrate children born of two people instead of two races, and have enough self understanding to known that personal self worth is not based on making someone else feel bad, conquered, menial, or inhuman.

I celebrate anyone who is proud of their ancestral heritages, their cultural roots, and their own God crafted uniqueness. I sorrow with those who have been made to be ashamed of their identity, their looks, their social position, their skin color, or other factors used by manipulators to make themselves feel better by marginalizing others.

It is time, I think, to stop focusing on the differences and begin to celebrate the human species who reside precariously on a small blue island planet in the great cosmic ocean. To begin to understand that simply because one is white, black, brown or any other tone they are not special or minimized. To recognize that racial calls to power, privilege, or prominance are about as sensible as granting all redheads the right to vote but not blondes. It simply makes no sense and is indefensible.

Something to think about....the next time you see those little boxes on those official little forms. Does it really matter? Or, can we all siimply join the HUMAN race and be done with it?



According to records of the event presented in court and through newspaper articles, the events went something like this.  A husband and wife were in a difficult patch, but planning to move from their downtown rooming house on North Broadway to a fresh start in booming Capitol Hill. On a warm early summer evening, a scheming false wife and her lover planned and carried out the murder of a hard working, decent man.  Truth is not only stranger than fiction; it can be a lot more complicated.  

Over the course of the ‘newspaper trial’ that ensued, suggestions were that Meadows had an affair (or had ruined a young woman in the very boarding house where he lived) and was blackmailed. This was what caused an estrangement between the two. Countering that would be charges that Lila Meadows, far from the gentle and frail female, had been abusive to him blackening eyes, throwing a butcher knife at him, and withholding money.  

The rooming house was called the “Palace”, was situated over a saloon, and was said to be either at 116-116 ½ North Broadway or at 316-316 ½ North Broadway.  At both of these locations, local stories and advertisements, suggest the area was rife with con artists (usually posing as fortunetellers or psychics).   These ‘rooming houses’ or ‘boarding houses’ were also well known for their connection to the Oklahoma City criminal underground (the gambling, prostitution, white slavery, and con jobs).  These locations were both very close to the notorious “Hell’s Half Acre” of Oklahoma City where brothels, saloons, and gambling houses were located.

Shortly after the disappearance, police noticed that the woman and a young man, Rudolph Tegeler, seemed to have an undue interest in each other.  Initially denying they even knew each, witnesses soon recounted how she sent fruit and delicacies to young Tegeler at work.  Message boys testified how they carried notes between the two. He called her pet names and carried her picture.  She was seen riding in a buggy with Tegler, had some undisclosed all night escapade with him, and was often seen by Mrs. Keith talking on the back steps of the Meadows rooming house. Co-workers reported phone calls between the two. Tegler bought or leased the rooming house, located above a saloon operated by Bass Alder,  for Mrs. Meadows to operate.  

Although initially indicted as a co-conspirator in the murder, Miss Dorothy B. (or Dora) Keith, nurse and “boon companion” of Mrs. Meadows, would later tell authorities of the “queer actions” and “extreme excitement” on receiving two mysterious letters on the day of the disappearance.   She told authorities that the day of the disappearance,  the Meadows’ spoke at about 6:30 p.m. in the Oklahoma City residence.  Mrs. Meadows expressed the thought she might come to Capitol Hill that night to visit her husband. He told her the door would be unlocked.  That evening, it is was also reported, Mrs. Meadows and Tegler go for a buggy ride at about that same time.

Around midnight, a local hears gunfire near Meadows home in Capitol Hill. A neighbor reports her dogs were excited about some activity. Strangers lurking in the area are suspected and the next day, Meadows does not arrive for work and his supervisor calls the police.  Over the coming days and weeks, co-workers and volunteers keep watch over the nearby North Canadian River, make inquires, and assist local police in trying to locate Meadows.

During the disappearance, Tegler often brings newspapers to coworker C.M. Roberts to have him read and explain them to him.  This man said Tegler first said he thought Meadows had disappeared but as the time grew on he said he did not know what to think.  He also said Tegler had given him a memo book with a photograph of the woman Meadows and other undisclosed items.  This was in turn, handed over to Chief Post.  When the medium, Mrs. Rodie, Ronie,  or Rose Myers, wrote him with her vision of the missing man and where his body was buried, he of course believed this and reported it to the police.  He could take them to the place, resolve the disappearance, and then the two lovers would be free to marry.

What developed was a nearly decade long courtroom drama and newspaper presence for the case of the mysterious murder of James R. Meadows.

The day after the body is found, the police begin proceeding to indict Mrs. Lila Meadows, Miss Dorothy Keith.   Roy A. Baird and Edward Loughmiller identify the remains at the city morgue as James R. Meadows.  As a photo in the local paper shows, the body was badly decomposed.  Investigators, however, noted he had been shot in the back and the face.  They could not find a matching hole in his shirt and this added to the aura of mystery that would ensue. Near the time of the funeral, Dorothy Keith claims the casket is empty and Meadows is not dead.  In July of 1912, the witness of two physicians attending the body added to the debate. The body was badly decomposed, but the doctors were able to ascertain the man was a) in good health and b) had a full set of teeth. Some of Meadows closest friends, however, indicated he had been in very poor health and was missing a tooth. Further discussion of these points is missing in later accounts and no explanations are given for the disparities other than the extreme level of decomposition may have hindered findings.

 Later in 1910, coworkers Harry Warrrenton, F.H. McCane, and A.J. Scott testified the body they had seen in the morgue was their missing coworker.  A receipt in the pocket was to Rudolph Tegler for a meter for the Meadows rooming house on N. Broadway (but a worker later was unable to identify Tegler as the man who had gotten the meter).

Two days after the body is found, the theory of the police was clear.  Tegler was a na├»ve young man besotted and manipulated by a lovely older woman who used her sexual charms to her advantage. The man’s belief in the supernatural powers of the medium Myers, and a sad story of an abusive husband , were used to develop a patsy (at the least) for the murder of her husband, and so soon had both Mrs. Meadows and Rudolph Tegler were facing indictments for murder.



From , "Tales of Hell's Half Acre", Marilyn A. Hudson:


It was little wonder the story remained a major headline event for over a decade.  The tale had it all: a murder mystery with titillating intrigue, illicit lust, yellow journalism, city officials on criminal payrolls, a guilty till proven innocent public sentiment, clairvoyant mediums, shady peripheral characters,  lying witnesses, plots and shenanigans, a grand standing defense attorney, a lovely and frail widow, a virile young villain, and lingering rumors of a man thought dead still being alive.   


James R. Meadows, the Victim.
In 1907, Oklahoma was looking forward to its soon-to-be state status but was already a growing and increasingly sophisticated land.  One example was the Pioneer Telephone Company.   Originally opening in 1905 as the Pioneer Telephone and Telegraph Company it was a sure sign of the technological leanings of the people of Oklahoma.  

One of the men overseeing a work crew for them was a James R. Meadows who had been living in a boarding house he and his wife ran on Broadway in Oklahoma City, but had recently removed to the small community to the south of town called Capitol Hill.  The Pioneer Company was already running telephone lines to Capitol Hill indicating the stability of the community.  He had begun as a line man. For some reason, things had begun to turn sour in the marriage and he had hopes that in a new location he might mend his marriage and get a much-needed fresh start in the relationship with his younger wife.

He may be the man listed on the 1900 U.S. Federal Census living at 201 Reno Street as a boarder.  That individual was listed as being 31 years of age, born in Tennessee, and so would be within the age range of Meadows, but there is a similar man also listed on the 1910 census only he is 44 years old but also born in Tennessee.  Wherever Meadows was, reports were he lived as a married adult on Grand Avenue, North Broadway, and in the vicinity of Kentucky and “B” (print is fuzzy and could be 10 or 11th street, which would better match the numbering system of Oklahoma City). 

Lila Meadows, the Widow
Maiden name un-known, but that that is only part of the mystery of this woman.  She was said to have been living in Wichita, Kansas when she first met James Meadows. Another version says they met in Kansas City. One version was he and she had lived together unmarried until she had shamed him into marrying her, while another was she had followed him from Kansas to El Reno, Oklahoma, were he lived, and married there in about 1901. Mrs. Lila Meadows, wife of James R. Meadows, remains something of an enigma, although subsequent events lend themselves to several observations of her life and character.  

She was frequently ill, court testimony identified it is a morphine addiction, and then later she has dramatic  appendicitis surgery in 1910.  Good woman cruelly used, grieving widow, seducer of the young killer, it is hard to classify the woman but some clues lead to ideas about underlying truths. She is  known to have been living in 1908 with Annie Wynne Bailey aka “Big Annie”, and one of Annie’s former courtesans Fannie Ritchie, at the notorious  Arlington on West 2nd Street. About this time, Annie left for California after her first unsuccessful run-in with local law.  Did Annie cut a deal? Was Lila a charity cause or one of Annie's own girls?

Significantly, a few days before June 4, J.O. Green of the Sun Accident Insurance company calls to remind Mrs. Meadows of the due date of the life insurance premium on James was due June 1.

Mother Myers aka Rose Myers aka Ronie Myers, the Psychic
The boarding house had provided some income but it had also brought Meadows' wife into contact with some questionable people.  The so-called “Mother Myers”, who convinced people she was a clairvoyant with powers to see things, had also swindled people so that she had to flee to avoid arrest or worse. There were others, women mostly, who may have had been giving his wife ideas that were not to her betterment and were detrimental to a happy home. Dorothy Keith was one such friend and confident. He urged them to leave the boarding house and he set out to find somewhere in Capitol Hill for them to live.

Labeled a fortuneteller, medium, clairvoyant, and physic, Myers had been operating in Oklahoma City, in the boarding house, prior to the death of Meadows. It was suggested at one point she was the real mother of Lila and after some searching was finally located in Doxie near Elk City.  One of Annie's connections?

Dorothy or Dora Keith - woman of mystery
Mysteriously labeled the nurse and ‘boon companion’ of Mrs. Meadows. She is dramatically devastated when she is indicted with Mrs. Meadows early in the affair, strangely jovial while in jail, and then strangely missing after testifying in court.  It was even suggested she and Lila may have dressed as men to murder James and Dorothy laughed as she held up a petite hand that she was sure would convince no one of any other gender.  So far, no woman of that name has been located on the 1900 or 1910 census. Another of  "Annie's girls"?  

Rudolph Tegeler or Tegler, the Killer?
Over at the Oklahoma City Waterworks, a young, handsome man with a slight German accent worked hard and to get ahead in this new place. Rudolph Tegeler or Tegler (it is spelled both ways in many documents), was born in Germany in 1884 (U.S. Census, 1910, Oklahoma, Pittsburg Co., Ok State Penitentiary). He was a machinist for the new waterworks (http://boards.ancestry.com/surnames.tegeler/15/mb.ashx).  His co-workers included C.M. Roberts, M.E. Hollingshead.  His own wife had died tragically after a buggy ride just a year before. 

At some point, he met the young wife of Meadows, and he was so struck by her charms, that he bought the Palace Rooming House from her, resold it and then ultimately rented  the rooming house with her from W.W. Shipp.   They seemed to be very compatible and able to talk about anything.  Her husband did not understand her: he was a brute, an evil man who abused her terribly.  Before long, one of the rooms in the boarding house, The Palace, now owned by the young man, became of place of secret whispered love promises and finally the first act of a long scene of adultery.  The man came to know another boarder, the medium, Mother Myers, and was soon convinced of her abilities.

Co-workers noticed special tempting dishes and delicacies sent to the young man at the Works for lunch or an afternoon treat.   Special couriers sent letters and phone calls came from a soft-spoken female voice.  Things were over-heard by co-workers, and much more was suspected, about this secret love affair of the young German accented man.

Momen Pruiett - Lawyer
A colorful attorney who was energetically creative in fighting for his clients.  His legal approach was a ‘watch me pull a rabbit from my hat” style designed to keep the story on the front page, incite public debate, and insure a need for a change of venue plea.  A onetime jail occupant himself, he was committed to bringing the system down in his own unique way. Cited for frequently skirting the limits of the law, and a few possible excursions over the line, he was a lawyer for Rudolph Tegeler in his later court cases. http://www.10thcircuithistory.org/pdfs/Moman_Pruiett.pdf

Annie Wynn, aka Big Annie, Local "Business" woman.  
Annie, better known as “Big Annie” had been a fixture in the prostitution, gambling, and bootlegging world of OKC’s “Hell’s Half Acre” since the land run.  The 1900 census lists her as a 35 year old, born in Illinois, whose profession was “prostitute.”  This would mean that she would have been about 24 if she came to the city in, or just after,  the land run of 1889.   In 1903, she was prominent in a case of a woman alleging she had been raped in her resort.  Although she came to dominate the local vice landscape and achieve the veneer of acceptable society, by the time of the murder things were not going so well.  Ron Owens notes in his “Oklahoma Justice” that on August 27, 1907 (two months after Meadows’ murder), her “resort” burned to the ground and arson was suspected.  A disgruntled employee charged that  Annie and another courtesan had plotted to rob and kill a customer and dump his body in the North Canadian River.  Sometime in 1908 she was living in The Arlington, a notorious but elegant sporting house, with Lila Meadows.  Meadows had been acquitted of the murder of her husband.   In Annie’s trial, the jury did not accept the testimony and so in 1909 Annie sold her property, moved to California, and there died some time later (pg. 49). http://www.dougloudenback.com/maps/vintage_vice.htm.  Proof of her death has not yet been discovered and since she was in a profession where discarding and assuming new identities was an art form - who knows?

Broadway Palace or The Palace, 
This was the apparent name of the boarding house where Meadows lived in OKC and where Mrs. Meadows and Tegeler had had some assignations.  It was located at either 116 ½ or 316 and 316 ½ North Broadway. Both addresses can be found in the news articles and ads. Early stories cite the 100 block while later ones favor the 300 block between 2nd and 3rd streets.   There was an incidence at the Broadway Palace, 316 North Broadway, in 1904.  A “Prof. Mott”, a fortuneteller or clairvoyant, was accused of mesmerizing a young woman from Cushing and freeing her of some $700.   At that time, the proprietor was one Mrs. Massey.  Both locations were sites of frequent fly-by-night con artists  labeling themselves as ‘fortunetellers”, “physics”, and “clairvoyants”.   

The location of the rooming house in the 116-116 ½ address on North Broadway is also very interesting because it only within two blocks of the northwest edge of Oklahoma City’s “Hell’s Half Acre” with its brothels, gambling dens, saloons, and other resorts.  The colorful area from Main to Reno   included colorful streets and lanes established with the 1889 land run: Battle Row, Harlots Lane, Alabaster Row, and Hop Boulevard.  Some rooming houses, especially those closer to this section of town, were no doubt subsidiary income for the people, like Big Annie.   Later news articles would cite the procurers who traveled the countryside, ran boarding houses, and  lurked at the train depot to derail young ladies from real jobs and trap them into prostitution.



The Meadows Murder, Part 4
As if staged by a Hollywood director of suspense or horror, the grave was uncovered in the dead of night, by lantern light, with a storm approaching.  The body was covered only by about two feet of dirt.  Nearby was the cornfield of farmer Stielitz and the Twin Creeks bite into the area located to the west of Capitol Hill and within just a few miles of the residence of Meadows.

The railroad and a river cupped the area where both the victim’s home and grave were located in southwest modern Oklahoma City.  In 1907, the area was still largely undeveloped with more rural and wild environs still in place.

The working theory developed that Matthews had been in bed asleep or laying down when he was awakened and in response to someone at the door or to something heard in the yard, he rose.  He either went outside, or was led outside by his surprise visitor, to his death. Given the evidence he was no doubt led to the very sport where he was buried.  The story of a neighbor seeing something (or someone) in the yard and draw near the houses may be him being led to his death or attacked and then carried to the grave.  Strangely, reports of a mysterious group of men seen in the area are not seriously considered.

When people investigate the next door for the missing man, certain things are noticed. The door to the house at Kentucky and “B” or “13” in Capitol Hill was ajar, there was no apparent blood, and the bed had the impression of a head on the pillow. 

The body when finally discovered showed he had been shot in the back, with the bullet exiting the front just below the breastbone and another bullet went in his face just above the mouth.  The trajectory of the head wound might have coincided with a short fired while he was lying down on the ground either unconscious or already dead.

Although a bloody (or dirty) piece of carpet and a woman’s dress were located nearby just north of the body, the area was one where people camped passing through and apparently debris was not too uncommon.  A resident found a discarded spade as well with the suggestion it was the one used to dig the grave.  

Physicians who examined the body noted the advanced stages of decomposition (from the image of the body shown in local papers that is clear), but a cursory examination revealed no matching holes in the shirt on the body.  Other details were the man appeared to the doctors to be a healthy male with a full set of teeth.  These details will all be issues in the trails to follow but are quickly explained by other doctors stating the state of decomposition dissuaded closer examination of the body or the clothes.

1907 Verdict : The Letters
The day of the husband’s disappearance, Dorothy Keith testified, Lila Meadows received two mysterious letters that greatly agitated her.    Two other letters from a mysterious “Mother Myers” ,aka Ronie or Rose Myers, to Tegler and  Meadows.  The one to Tegeler, it was asserted, contained a diagram of the location for the body of the missing husband. One version of contents asserted it was only through this letter that Rudolf could take police to the body.

Strange and jumbled claims emerged about the letters: they had not been written by the woman, they had been recopied, and they had been written by some person unknown.  Most of the letters, thankfully, seem to fade into the background.  One remains due to the diagram informing  about the body's location.

On February 13, Tegler was given a life sentence for the murder of James R. Meadows, with two jurers holding out for acquittal. Out on bail he planned to go to Rock Island, New Mexico for a visit with his step-father and uncle, George L. Tegler and his mother Hermina Tegeler before taking up residence “in the pen”.   His defense team (now J.W. Johnson and A.N. Munden) had charged that Meadows had been in Panama where he had been working for the telephone company and was  returning to New Orleans on the 28 but had not so far been located. The attorneys then suggested he had drowned in the sinking recently of a White Star ship in the gulf.   A third trial was set to start in December.

1910 VERDICT: Shenanigans
In the courtroom of Judge Carney, the  Defense lead council was Judge D.B. Welty and Morman Pruiett . The chief tactic was the claim that  ‘Meadows lives.”  They brought in witnesses from Kansas,  a Johnson from Kansas City and a Livingston from Atchison, stating the man was alive.  Livingston had known James and Lila Meadows in El Reno and claimed they had been married there and lived in the town for a while.  In 1909, he was the proprietor of the Robinson Hotel in El Paso, Texas and there, two years after the murder, he entertained both Lila and James Meadows.  They were using the name Mr. and Mrs. Frank Hall and urged his silence. Tegler was set to go to New Mexico again to visit relatives, took a tour of Oklahoma City, visited with his sisters Mrs. J.D. Carpenter (Ft. Worth, TX), Mrs. John Hoppleman (OKC) and his attorneys Welty and Pruiett.  His bond was paid by an assortment of local business and farming people. This may indicate there was some public belief that he may have been an innocent pawn in a larger game.

In September of 1910, defense accused the victim (Meadows) of having ruined the life of a young girl (Amelia Shamcok, had a child, and  had tried to blackmail him (thus explaining the initial missing $200 from the telephone company).  This affair and the blackmail was what were behind the disappearance of Meadows.  The Judge and the defense attorney noted a morphine problem with Mrs. Lila Meadows (whom one called a ‘dope fiend’).  The defense also charged other lovers for Lila as well.  A prominent, but unnamed city official, was implicated in the placement of the young girl in the north Broadway rooming house of Meadows.  Tegler, it was claimed, denied leading the police to the grave and that a Webb Jones was the first man there.  

The jury found Tegler guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in the pen by the district court of Judge Brown of Mangum in Februry.  On the way to a cell, he passed Mike O’Brien who had perjured himself years before  and had been sentenced the previous month.  He had said under oath that he had seen Meadows alive after Teglers' arrest.

A year later, in March, Judge Joseph G. Lowe, receives a mysterious letter in red ink. In this letter were claims that Meadows himself had sought to wreck vengeance on the couple cuckolding him by hiding the body, writing the diagram sent to Tegler, and had then left the country.

In the fall of 1914, a year after Lila Meadows dies in Wichita, Kansas, rumors appeared in local newspapers about a secret pardon deal worked out for Rudolph Tegler.  Lt. Governor J.J.McAlister was to have worked a secret deal. This followed by a short piece, almost hidden, explaining how such a thing could not happen based on various legal complications. Yet by late decade and into the 1920’s there was a veritable avalanche of pardons in Oklahoma, enough that it drew the attention of many as being possibly excessive.

A story so rich in the dramatic and so immensely convoluted cannot be easily resolved and such is true of the Meadows-Tegler Murder Case of 1907.   The basket of red herrings tossed out by the wily defense team often contained some valid and unanswered questions.  The prejudicial newspapers and judges targeted some issues while others, more important, were totally ignored. 

Newspapers and census records  locate a Rudolph Tegler, matching the age and birth location of the Rudolph Tegler on the 1900 Oklahoma Census. There he is living with Charles W. Tegler, Hermine P. Tegler, Louise C., Paulina A., Nellie K., Otto E., Esther, Walter D. in Oklahoma city’s 2nd Ward.  He was listed  as 16,born in Germany and these names match later news articles mentioning his family.  In 1910, he is listed as an inmate at the State Penitentiary in McAlister, Oklahoma.  In 1920, in Quay County, New Mexico there is listed a Charles (57), Otto (31, son), Walter (20, son) and a William H. (34, labeled son, born in Germany).  He is later living in Osage County, Oklahoma and in 1931 is buried in Fairlawn Cemetery in Oklahoma City.  He is listed with a wife named Lila which raises many questions. Did he marry Lila Meadows?  She is gone, possibly dead, by 1920.   Later, he is with a woman named "O. Anna."  Many questions remain about this complex, intriguing, and very human tale.

What , for example, was the influence of the Aggie Myers case in Missouri on the murder of James R. Meadows?  The similarities are interesting enough to bear closer examination.

What was the connection between Annie Wynn Bailey, aka Big Annie, and the widow Lila Meadows?  What was the connection to the strange Dorothy B. Keith, Rose or Ronie Myers, and several other women who crop up in the story?  Women, interestingly enough,  who often seem to have disappeared from the face of the earth or assumed new identities.

Were these women all former courtesans of the entrepreneurial madam Annie? Were they running her web of dens, houses, and intrigues that had served to keep the police, politicians, and the law in Annie’s hand for nearly twenty years?  What was the connection between Moment Pruitt and Big Annie?  Did he become Tegler’s attorney because of Big Annie’s relationship with Lila Meadows?

The mysterious murder of Meadows in 1907 remains a tantalizing tale of lust and intrigue in the middle of Oklahoma’s onward thrust to statehood. The sultry days of that June were shoved aside by the excitement of that November as statehood was achieved. It had simmered that summer as the sensation of pre-statehood and though shoved to the back burner by events and lengthy trials it did not go away for many years.  In the end, the sights and sounds of their 1907 world have been largely eradicated and only the story, and the questions, remain.

--Marilyn A. Hudson, c2010

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