The Death of Etta Stone and Her Children

Another story from Crime Beat, Murder, Mystery and the Mundane.

Crime Beat
Crime Beat, Murder, Mayhem and the Mundane

The Death of Etta Stone and her Children

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
August 3, 1904
St. Charles Cosmos-Monitor

WOMAN AND CHILD FOUND
Their Bodies Taken From the Missouri River Saturday Afternoon

      Saturday afternoon about 5 o’clock Richard Diggs took a female floater out of the Missouri river at the foot of Water street, and about half an hour later Robert Winkel caught the body of a little boy about 4 years old floating down the river near the Wabash bridge. The bodies were removed to Dallmeyer’s undertaking establishment and an inquest held.
      The woman appeared to be about 35 years old. She was 5 feet 6 inches in height, was a brunette, had very black hair, slightly gray over her forehead. She weighed about 130 pounds. She wore a blue wrapper, white undershirt, black-ribbed stockings and laced shoes, almost new. The boy resembled the woman. He had a dark complexion; wore a blue and white dress and a red and white checked hood.
      The bodies from appearance, evidently had been in the river six or seven days. It is thought they were drowned some distance from St. Charles and floated down.
      It is strange that the disappearance of the woman and child was never reported as such things usually are. There is no doubt of the fact that they were poor people as their clothing proves it beyond a doubt. The woman’s dress was of a very cheap material, and the only under-clothing she wore was a shirt, which was homemade with a single row of cheap embroidery around the neck. She also wore a cheap breast pin.
      Some are inclined to think they are from an island near town and were in a skiff which was overturned and they were drowned. Others look at it in a different light and believe the woman threw her child in the river and then jumped in herself. The truth may never be known.
      At the inquest nothing was learned except that the bodies were found in the river. The jury was composed of Mike Jutt, J. L. Westbrook, Ben Raus, Henry Achelpohl, Louis Ebeling and Alex Fisher.
      Both bodies were interred Saturday night in the same coffin in the city cemetery.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
September 7, 1904
St. Charles Cosmos-Monitor

LITTLE BABY FLOATER FOUND
Was Shoved Into a Jar and the Lid Fastened On—Nothing to Identify the Infant

      Amon Weeke and Hertz Wilke made an unusual find this afternoon; a little infant child which had been shoved into a jar the lid fastened on and the jar thrown into the river. He was on the river near the southern city limits when he noticed an object floating near him. At first he thought it was a jug and supposed it to be the property of some fisherman who had been out jugging. He picked it up and upon investigation found it to be a jar with the lid fastened onto it. Taking the lid off, he found a little baby in the jar which had been shoved into the jar. Its legs and arms were cramped in the jar and his eyes had rotted out. There was nothing to identify the infant.
      Weeks reported the find to Chief of Police Linnebur and Coroner Dr. O. H. Ilch and an inquest will be held this afternoon.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
September 14, 1904
St. Charles Cosmos-Monitor

LITTLE BABY WAS UNIDENTIFIED
Remains Were Buried in the City Cemetery Wednesday Evening

      Coroner Dr. O. B. Ilch viewed the remains of the unknown girl infant found here Wednesday afternoon by Amond Weeke and Hirtz Wilke while they were out skiff riding and ordered the body buried I the city cemetery.
      There was nothing by which the child could be identified. It was naked and it is thought it had been murdered as the head indicated that it had been struck by a hammer or some other blunt instrument.
      The body was shoved into a slop-jar and the lid tied on. The boys picked the jar up and when young Wilke opened the lid and discovered the baby, he was badly frightened and dropped baby and jar back into the water. The jar sank to the bottom but the body floated and the boys hooked it with their fishing lines and towed it to the shore and notified the coroner.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
November 15, 1904
St. Charles Cosmos-Monitor

WAS IT SUICIDE OR MURDER?
A Note and Other Articles Found South of Town in The Woods Point to Suicide

      Two months ago the dead bodies of an unknown woman and little baby were found in the river here. They could not be identified and were buried in the city cemetery. The infant was found in a slop jar by two boys who were out fishing in a skiff on the river. The mystery surrounding the deaths remained unsolved.
      Sunday afternoon, two tramps, a white man and a colored man, called upon Sheriff Dierker and reported a strange find two miles south of town in the woods near the river bank along the Katy track. Sheriff Dierker and the white man returned to the spot to investigate. A woman’s overskirt and hat, a tine bucket containing baby clothes and other children’s clothes were found. A pocket book, lead pencil, paper and a Wabash baggage check were also found. The check was number 13080 and good from St. Louis to St. Charles. The clothing was damp and looked as if exposed to the weather for some time.
The most important article found was a note, written with a pencil. This note proves beyond a doubt that the dead woman found floating in the river here two months ago, met her death at the spot where the articles were found Sunday afternoon. The note appears to have been written by a despondent mother, who tired with the hard battle of life, had decided to murder her children and then drown herself in the river. But some are inclined to believe that foul play may have been done and the note written by the murderer. The mystery may never be solved but beyond doubt the woman and children perished in the river, two miles south of this city and two of the four bodies were found here and laid to rest in the city cemetery.
      Following is the note:
      “I am a widow with three little children and no money, so I have no way to make a living so I am taking their lives and mine for I do not want to put them out to be abused, so this is the only way I have got of helping myself. God will forgive me I know. If any one finds this money and things, please pay on to bury us. If I had a home I could do all right but I have not, so good bye to one and all I am not crazy at all. I am in my right mind. There is no name signed nor date given to the note.

MAY BE MURDER

      The Wabash baggage check 13,030 is the point in question that leads some to think that the woman and children were murdered and their bodies thrown into the river after which the note was written to make it appear as the work of a suicide. The fact that a man called at the Wabash bridge depot several times and asked for the baggage saying that he had lost the check, adds light to the supposition that at least, he knew the woman was dead. After many calls the box was delivered to him. This was but a short time ago. As no one else had called for the baggage after it had been at the station for two months, nor seemed to know anything about it. Agent Ringe was led to believe the stranger’s story about losing the check and delivered the baggage to him. The fact that the man had waited two months for it seems strange. It surely must have been valuable property or he would not have wasted so much time here.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
November 30, 1904
St. Charles Cosmos-Monitor

SHERIFF DIERKER RECEIVED A LETTER

Wednesday From Mrs. M. M. Hobbs, Mrs. Stone’s Mother of Perry, Ill.
      Sheriff John H. Dierker has received a letter from Mrs. M. M. Hobbs of Perry, Ill, dated November 29, in which she states that Etta Stone, whose body is supposed to have been found here in the river last summer is her daughter.
      She says “Etta Stone is my daughter and she was with Norman the last time we heard from her. Will you please tell me all you know about her and Norman. Upon what charge was he arrested? Where Mrs. Stone is and any other information you have.”
      Sheriff Dierker will write her at once as it is hoped she will be able to give much information concerning the mystery which has puzzled him for several months. Norman still claims he knows nothing about Mrs. Stone nor the death of her and her three children.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
November 30, 1904
St. Charles Cosmos-Monitor

NORMAN ARRESTED SATURDAY
It is Thought He Knows Something About the Dead Bodies Found Here in the River

      It will be remembered that several months ago the COSMOS-MONITOR published an account of four dead bodies having been found in the river here, consisting of a woman and three small children. The bodies were found in the river at different places near the river bank by different parties.
      One of the bodies was that of an infant, and was found in a small bucket at the river’s edge at the foot of Madison street. The same day the body of an unknown woman was also found floating in the river. An inquest was held on the bodies by Coroner Ilch but no facts were developed to prove the identity of the parties. Undertaker Dallmeyer kept some of the clothing of the children thinking that later on the bodies might be identified.
      Last week children’s clothing and a woman’s dress and several articles amongst which were a woman’s hand-bag in which was a baggage check on the Wabash Railroad company, good from St. Louis to St. Charles, and a note stating that the writer had taken her life and the lives of her children were found near the M. K. and T. railroad track some two miles above town.
      The fact that an unknown man called repeatedly at the Wabash bridge depot after a box redeemable with the heck found, later in the dead woman’s hand bag, aroused suspicion of foul play. Agent Ringe only delivered the box to him after waiting several months and no one else had called for it. The man told him he had lost the check. Mr. Ringe furnished a good description of the stranger and later the officer secured information that the contents of the box had been shipped in sacks to Fayette, Mo.
      Saturday night, Sheriff Dierker arrested at Fayette in Howard county, James R. Norman and lodged him in the county jail on a charge of obtaining goods under false pretence (sp). It appears that Norman got the box that had on it the baggage check corresponding to the same number found in the woman’s hand-bag that was picked up above town. Norman asked agent Ringe, of the Wabash, to let him have the box, claiming that he had lost the check. After making several calls, and making the same statement, the agent let him have it without the check.
      Sheriff Dierker is satisfied that he has the man who knows much about the whole mystery. The goods, that were in the box, are now in the possession of parties in Fayette.
      The name of the woman is Mrs. Stone, and she formerly lived in Perry county, Ill. Norman was mixed up in trouble with her at Macon and other places in this state and must know more about her than he wants to tell. The preliminary hearing takes place next Friday.
      J. W. Smith a youth of Fayette, Mo., who says he was with Norman here, was also arrested by Sheriff Dierker. He was “sweated” by the Sheriff of Howard county and said that Norman was in the habit of traveling about the country as a horse trader. He lived with the woman and that he thought Norman is the father of two of the dead children. He wrote letters for Norman to the woman as Norman claims he can not read nor write The woman and Norman had lived together in St. Louis and another time at Mokane. Smith stated that she had a mother living at Perry, Ill., and was some relation to Thomas Stone of that place.

NORMAN GOT THE BOX

      Smith says Norman is the man who got the box at the depot. He stated “I told him not to fool with the box, but he said as no one else would call for it; that he might as well get it.” He divided the contents placed them in sacks and sent them via the M.K.& T to Franklin Junction and from there on to Fayette. He had Smith to write a letter to his (Norman’s) wife commanding her not to open the sacks until he got home.
      Smith says Norman is married and that his wife and children live at Fayette. Smith was released but will be brought here to testify Friday. Two other witnesses who reside here on Main Street will testify that they met Norman here last summer and he asked concerning the woman, saying she was his cousin and that he was looking for her.
      Norman told Sheriff Dierker that he did not get the box at the depot. He does not know what Smith testified to the officers.
      Norman denies having had anything to do with the box or having been acquainted with the woman reported drowned although confront by Mike Housan in the county jail who stated that he met him some time ago when he said he was in search of a woman with three children who had a baggage check for a box at the Wabash depot. Norman when asked if this were true said no and did not recognize Housan.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
December 7, 1904
St. Charles Cosmos-Monitor

MOTHER HERE TO INVESTIGATE
The Strange Mystery Surrounding the Death of Mrs. Stone and Her Children

      Mrs. Mary M. Hobbs and William Six of Perry, Ill., arrived here last night to investigate the death of Mrs. Hobbs’ daughter, Mrs. Etta Stone. It is thought that Mrs. Etta Stone and her two children, Earnest, aged 6 years, and James, aged 2 years, were drowned here in the river last summer. The bodies of an unknown woman and two little children, one of the latter an infant, being found in a bucket, were picked up here and buried in the city cemetery. In all probability the remains of the woman will be exhumed and Mrs. Hobs will view them in order to ascertain if the body is that of her daughter or not.
      Mrs. Hobbs, is 86 years old. Mr. Six states that the matter will sifted To the bottom and is of the opinion that Norman, the Fayette, Mo., man held here, knows something of the deaths.
      The Perry, (Ill.) Citizen, a paper published by Mr. Six’ son, dated December 9, says: “The Stones and Normans formerly lived in Marshall, Mo., and in the spring of 1901 Norman was arrested on complaint of Stone for ruining his home. Mrs. M. M. Hobbs of this place, mother of Mrs. Stone, sent an agent to Marshall and by paying fines and costs the case was dismissed. During the year 1902, Norman was again arrested at Monroe City, Mo., on the same kind of charge, and after getting out of this trouble, told Mrs. Stone that the next time Stone interfered with him he would shoot him. In the meantime, Mrs. Stone had returned to this place but was in correspondence with Norman and went to him several times. While Mrs. Stone was in Perry, Norman came here but soon left. Mrs. Stone left here last on January 4, 1094, presumably to meet Norman who had sent her the money. She has not been heard of since.”
      Norman now claims that he knows nothing of Mrs. Stone. He says he never met her. He also says he can’t write. A note was found in her clothing on the river band, stating that she intended drowning herself and the children. His friend Smith says that Norman lived with the woman. Smith also says that Norman got her baggage after waiting weeks for it. He told Smith that no one else would call for it and he (Norman) might as well get it. That was before the body and the note were found. How did Norman at that time, now that no one else would call for the baggage?
      This afternoon Mrs. Hobbs was shown the articles found near the Katy track above own and identified the Lady’s hat, pocket purse and a boy’s cap, as being the property of her daughter, Mrs. Etta Stone.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
December 14, 1904
St. Charles Cosmos-Monitor

MYSTERY IS A CHINESE PUZZLE
The Truth May Never be Known Concerning the Death of Mrs. Stone and Her Children

      The remains of Mrs. Etta Stone and her infant child were exhumed at the city cemetery, Thursday and at 2:30 o’clock in the afternoon were identified by Mrs. Mary M. Hobbs, mother of Mrs. Stone, and Mr. Wm. Stix, of Perry Ill. The bodies will be shipped to Perry Friday evening and buried there.
      The note found with the dead woman’s clothing on the river bank above town is thought to have been written by Mrs. Stone. The writing has been identified as her’s by her mother and others. Some are inclined to the opinion that Norman educed her to write the note stating that she was going to drown her children in the river and commit suicide, by telling her that they would go to some part of the country where they were unknown and that by making people and their relatives believe that she had killed herself and children, they would not be followed or bothered by them. All this is supposition and may never be proven. Mrs. Hobbs states that her daughter begged her for $600 before she left her the last time, during last January, to go to Norman. Mrs. Stone told her that she and Norman were going away where they would never be heard from and they needed that much money.
      It is also thought by the dead woman’s relatives that Norman had tired of Mrs. Stone and wanted to get rid of her. His wife was at Marshall when he and Mrs. Stone got into trouble and no doubt his family affairs were not always pleasant.
      Her relatives think that Norman knows a great deal but will not tell it. When confronted by Mrs. Hobbs at the sheriff’s office Wednesday he said that he was not acquainted with her, had never visited her home at Perry, Illinois and had never known her daughter Mrs. Stone. His friend Smith contradicts all this by testifying that Norman and Mrs. Stone have lived together in many towns and the he (Smith) had written many letters to Mrs. Stone at Norman’s request, asking her to come to him. Norman claims he can’t write and Smith acted as secretary while they were wandering around the country, horse trading. When told this, Norman smiled and said that there were other James Normans besides himself, and surely a mistake had been made.

      It’s a badly mixed up affair and the truth may never be ascertained.
      Mrs. Stone has two grown daughters, the oldest of whom is aged 20 years. Just where they are or the whereabouts of her former husband Thomas Stone, are also unknown by Mrs. Hobbs. Stone usually wrote to Mrs. Hobbs, even after a divorce had been granted his wife and told her the news concerning her grand-daughters. But he hasn’t written for a year.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
December 7, 1904
St. Charles Cosmos-Monitor

MAN PLEADED NOT GUILTY
Trial Set on December (?) Witnesses Here from Fayette, Mo.

      James R. Norman, the man charged (unreadable word) mixed with the mystery and death of Mrs. Etta Stone, will (?) preliminary hearing the 21st of December before Justice J. W. Bruns.
      Norman was arranged before Justice J. W. Bruns Friday morning and pleaded not guilty to the charge of obtaining goods under false pretenses from the Wabash railroad company, the technical charge upon which he is being held.
      The following witnesses were present from Fayette, Mo., where Norman was arrested. Claud Sims, (unknown name), James William Smith, (unknown) Hancock. Attorney R. P. Spenser of St. Louis has been employed by Norman to defend him.

Dateline: St. Charles, Missouri
December 21, 1904
St. Charles Cosmos-Monitor

JAMES R. NORMAN GIVEN A HEARING

      James R. Norman who is confined in the county jail on a charge of obtaining goods under false pretenses from the Wabash Railway Company had a hearing before Justice J. W. Bruns Thursday afternoon. Norman was represented by R. D. Ruff of Marshall, Mo., C. J. Daudt and R. P. Spenser of St. Louis, and the state by prosecuting attorney T. C. Bruere. Attorney L. T. Graham of Pittsfield, Ill., attended the trial in behalf of Mrs. Hobbs, mother of Mrs. Stone, whose body and that of her children were found in the river.
      The following jury was selected: C. W. McKinney, Adolph Hildebrand, John Bode, Max Langstedt, Chas. Nagel and Fred Panhorst.

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