A Timeline Detailing the Day the Villisca Axe Murders were Discovered - Part Four
By Tammy Rundle
Fenwick Moore learns of the axe murder of his brother Joe, Joe's wife and children, and the visiting Stillinger girls.
Charles N. Fessler (53), an undertaker in Villisca, arrives at the Moore house. He sees a crowd standing around outside the house. He enters the house around 10:30 am.
Dr. Hough sees axe marks in the ceiling above Katherine Moore's bed.
Bruce Stillians and several others obtain barbed wire and attempt to surround the Moore house with it to keep the growing crowd out of the crime scene.
Lindquist said that Stillians, a druggist, entered the house a couple times and took photos. Lindquist testified that Stillians said, "he would make it right with me when he sold them."
After touring the house with the doctors, Villisca Marshall Hank Horton walks to City Hall. Frank F. Jones approaches Horton and asks him about Joe's brother-in-law VanGilder and suggests there were problems between them. Horton knows nothing of VanGilder. Jones also tells Horton that his wife Maude heard a noise around 2 am, and he got up, turned on a light, and looked around. He found nothing.
Horton calls Omaha for a detective and also contacts Beatrice, Nebraska with a request for bloodhounds.
The large crowd gathered in City Hall agrees to chip in to cover the cost of the hounds. Jones also volunteers a share and says the bank would guarantee money.
Bruce Stillians reenters the murder house to take pictures of the bodies. He sees the axe, and the lamp, but does not notice the bacon. He plans to sell the photographs to a reporter from the Omaha World-Herald.
Victim Joe Moore's sister-in-law Jessie Moore poses for pictures in one of the rooms of the house.
Joe and Sarah Stillinger learn their daughters Lena and Ina are dead when his wife tries to phone the Moore home and the operator says a call can't be placed because everyone there has been murdered.
Posses form every hour searching for the killer in and around the city.
Victim Sara Moore's father John Montgomery learns of her murder and makes his way toward the house on foot. A friend, Frank Cleary, meets him along the way and gives him a ride. As Montgomery arrives and moves to enter the house, Methodist Reverend Taylor says, "John, don't go in. Remember those people as you seen them, and it will be a great deal better for you than to see them butchered up as they are." Montgomery decides not to enter the house.
Ed Selley, his father and other employees lock-up the Moore Implement store and return to the murder house. Selley sees that all the shades have been raised.
Undertaker Charles N. Fessler enters the Moore house. He sees undertaker Smith and Mr. Glackmeyer. "We were told not to touch anything," he said. He sees four or five other people in the house.
Fessler enters Joe and Sara's room and notes blood and tissue scattered over the bed and the wall. He sees a lot of blood on the mattress at the head. There was no blood in the hall. He notes that Mrs. Moore's head was not mashed, but it looked as if it had been hacked with the sharp edge of a dull axe from her forehead to below her chin. None of victims were struck below the neck.
"Joe was the worst mutilated of them all," Fessler said. "Mrs. Moore was in the second best condition. One of the Stillinger girls, I think the youngest, was in the best condition. The children were all pretty badly mashed." He said, "Herman was struck on top of the head, in what we call the Circle of Willis. The cranial cavity was knocked off and the brain had run out. A large piece of his skull was detached, but held by skin.
Bill Lunney, 42, learns of the murders and immediately recalls seeing Albert Jones and Bert McCaull early in the morning in Grant.
Reverend Ewing sends a quick letter off to Reverend Lyn George Jacklin Kelly on the noon train to Macedonia telling him about the murders and asking if Kelly saw any suspicious characters in or near the depot as he departed earlier that morning.
Villisca Mayor F. L. Ingman returns to Villisca after a break in the country and finds the city in chaos.
Mrs. Mabel Hoover gets a call from Mrs. Freeland in Villisca informing her of the murders. Her husband Arthur learns of the ax murders while at work at the Omaha National Bank. Mabel boarded with the Moore family as a young teacher. The Hoovers were still friendly with Joe and Sara.
A passenger train from Clarinda arrives in New Market a few minutes after 12 o'clock. The people on the train are all abizz about the Villisca murders and they talk of nothing else as they empty out into the street.
Two men unshaven men ask every man they encounter if they have a morning newspaper. They are told to check at the Post Office.
Joe's brother Ross Moore and A. J. Seefeldt travel to Red Oak to interview local soothsayer "Aunty" Hamilton. She reviews coffee grounds and describes the path the bloodhounds will take, and says the killer is a Villisca man with a beard.
Mike Overman stands guard at the murder house the entire day. Noting that onlookers continue to enter and leave the murder scene, Page County Sheriff E. C. Gibbs enquires, "Why don't you keep those fellows back?" Overman replies, "I can't do it alone." "Get six or eight men and I will deputize them," Gibbs says. Overman gets the men and he and the Coroner deputize them. Once they are placed around the house, Lindquist says the act is useless. "They would sneak around in the back and in the front, and get on the yard. You could not hold the people back. They were hysterical and they insisted on going up there."
Lindquist said the axe was taken from the house by the Sheriff Whitmore to a photographer in the afternoon. Lindquist takes possession of a key chain he found on the floor of the Stillinger girls room.
Sheriff Whitmore gets a report that a suspicious man was seen on a motorcycle on the "east side" road, and that the motorcycle stopped between a well and an old bayou. Whitmore goes to investigate, thinking the rider may have changed clothes and dropped them down the well. A three-hour investigation yields nothing.
A suspicious man is picked up by authorities in Essex, Iowa. Horton is told the man, called Newkirk, will be brought to Villisca on Wednesday.
J. S. Harris, an implement dealer in New Market, sees two tramps leave on a freight train headed West. They had been sitting on the porch of his implement house. "They whistled out of town, and it was two blocks to the railroad track. They took a keen run as fast as most men can run and it was down hill and...when the train struck the sidewalk they just both went in on the floor of the box car on their bellies." Harris thought he saw them holding a gun, or perhaps a bottle, as they ran for the train.
Residents in Villisca talked in the streets and watched from inside their homes as every building in the city was searched. They were waiting for the bloodhounds to arrive from Nebraska.