FOUND DEATH IN THE WOODS
By S. C. Turnbo

There is a spring of water on the east side of the Pro-tem and Chadwick Wagon Road which is a noted one. The road in the vicinity of this water leads along the crest of the dividing ridge between the breaks of Brushy and Caney Creeks that empty into Beaver on the west side and the left hand prong of Big Creek and the east prong of Shoal Creek on the east side. The ridge is heavily timbered mostly of black oak trees. The spring of water is in a gulch on the east side of the wagonway and is well known to stockmen and freighters who haul goods from Chadwick for the merchants of Pro-tem. The vein of water is not strong but it is cold and a drink from this noted water cools the thirst of the weary traveler or freighter during the warm days of the good old summer time. Freighters or moving families often stop here to noon or camp of hights. In the month of June 1903 an aged lady was found dead in the neighborhood of this watering place. Though this sad event occurred in recent years but it is of much interest and I give it as a sad occurrence in the annals of the history of Taney County, Mo. The most of the account was given me by Mrs. Emiline Gilbert wife of John Gilbert who lives on this ridge north of the spring and some 6 miles south of Hercules. Mrs. Gilbert is a German lady being born in West Prusia Germany and came from there to the United States and lived a few years in Chicago Illinoise. Soon after her and Mr. Gilbert were married they came to Missouri and settled in Taney County. Mrs. Gilbert related the story to me on the first day of September 1906 while on my return back from the Indian territory to Pontiac Mo. She stated it about as follows:


"The woman’s name was Mrs. Sherman. She had left her husband many years ago and brought her children to Chicago where she lived until she came to Taney County with her son in law Wesley Wilson who had married her daughter Miss Mira Sherman. Mrs. Sherman was quite an old lady and resided with her son in law Wesley and Mira Wilson on the ridge just north of our house. The old lady suffered with a cancer on her right breast. The sore of which was greatly inflamed and was as large as a saucer which caused her to undergo terrible suffering and no doubt deranged her mind at time. The woman was of a peculiar nature and belief in religious matters and held to superstitious notions. She said that the lord told her he would heal the cancer and seemed tobe under the impression that she did not suffer with pain yet the sore was an eating one. On Monday evening she left home and Wilson and family thought she had went to Herman Reiders who lived on the road just south of our house. The weather at the time of her disappearance was warm and showery at intervals which was followed with much cooler temperature and heavy rains. The woman did not return back home as expected and her prolonged absence awaked uneasiness and on inquiry it was found that she had not been at Mr. Reiders. Further investigation proved that she had not made her appearance at any house in the neighborhood. It was now that the alarm spread all over the country and men collected together from the surrounding country and searched the woods for her for several days without discovering her whereabouts. Some of the people were Inclined to believe that the woman had been murdered and her body had been concealed . It is said that she claimed that Mr. Reider was the lord and that he was able to heal the cancer without an application of medicine. She seemed to have much confidence in the man as a divine healer of malignant sores which proved conclusively that her mind was unballanced which more than likely was caused by the great suffering she endured from the effects of the cancer and was not responsible for what she thought or believed. When the men began searching for the woman and some of them supposing that she had not gone far and was murdered and that her murderers had hidden the body had a tendency to prevent them from going far enough. As the hours passed by a few of the men become more auspicious and suspected Herman Reider, John Gilbert, and Wesley Wilson as being the men that committed the murder and that the body had been cut to pieces and hidden in some dark recess in the hills or about a house. Some of the more auspicious ones searched our house claiming that I and husband had buried her under the floor. Rail piles were torn down and other places where they conjectured the body might have been put away were closely investigated but no revelation was made as to the supposed disposition of her remains. Other men continued the search in the woods and extended their investigations over a wider range. At this time the weather grew very cool for the month of June and a number of the searching party put on their over coats to keep warm. After a few days more of closely hunting the woods for her more of the men gave it up that she was not in the woods or they certainly could find some trace of her but they finally decided to help hunt for her until the next Monday and by that time if her whereabouts were still unknown to them a hanging would occur on that day. But fortunately for the men who were accused, Mrs. Sherman’s dead body was discovered on Sunday before the hanging was to take place. The dead form was found near Frank Owens stock ranch and near three quarters of a mile south of the Eastview Spring. The body lay in the head of a hollow that leads Into Big Creek. It is supposed that she had reached the wire fence in the night time and probably had made an attempt to get through the wire to the inside of the ranch - not knowing where she was going - and in her efforts to pass through between the wires she dropped her hat on the inside and it appears that after her hat fell from her head she left the wire and passed on up the hill side some 40 yards from where her hat was picked up where she was found dead. The remains were in an advanced state of decomposition. An inquest was held over the dead form and the jury was convinced that she had not beet murdered but had died from exposure and the horrible effects of the cancerous sore and it was more than probable that she had succumbed to death during one of those cool rainy nights of that period. It is sad to think of the death of this unfortunate and suffering human being out in the dark dreary forest alone with no bed to lie on except the rough stoney ground, no shelter but the bows of the trees and surrounded by darkness and gloom with the rain drops pattering down on her. She had endured great torture from the painful sore. Her agony in the death struggle must have been awful for she had scratched the cancer sore with her fingernails and the blood had run from the bleeding sore and flown over bosom and stained her clothing. Oh what a blessing it was when the great ruler of Heaven sent the death angel to relieve her of the pangs of suffering here on earth. The body was prepared for burial and received interment in the grave yard at the Cedar Grove School House on Caney Creek.

Next Story | Table of Contents