The Menomee Murder

From the memoirs of Kitty Keeton.  This happened around 1915 according to him.  He lived on Turkey Hill at this time.

Grandfather died in May of 1915. A few, maybe 10, like he had a party telephone. Everybody was on the line in that part. That slowed down some night visiting, as all the neighbors had phones then. Think it was very cheap.

About that time, they began drilling oil wells all over that part of the county.

Grandmother would give me 50cents a day to help her draw water with the pulley and fill the reservoir in the kitchen cook stove and help her scrub. There was a rough kitchen floor — “oak”. She would cook and spread a big kitchen table with meat, sweet potatoes, Irish beans, jelly, fresh biscuits, coffee, possibly pie or cake, and feed a bunch of oil workers charging 50 cents for dinner. Alot of times when she picked up the plate there was a 1 dollar bill. More than 50 per cent of diner did that. Sure tickled Grandma. They got their money’s worth and knew it.

About then, an old man and 2 sons named Memonee — they looked like Indians or Mexicans — came through right in front of the Keeton home putting up the first so called high line or electric line in Pike Co. or the first around here. The old one was the boss of the crew erecting the line. He offered me a job and I asked if I had to climb poles and hook up the lines, He said, ‘Yes, that would be part of your job”. I believe it would have been about $3.00 a day. I said, “I would like to have the job and money, but I am afraid to climb that high and afraid of the hot line”. And that is the first real job offered and I refused. The three ate dinner there every weekday when in that part of the county.

At a later time when on a passenger train from Winslow to Muren, we had to come through Ayrshire about half way from Muren then and Winslow. I was sitting in the Smoker Car and when the train was stopped at Ayrshire, I saw several fellow from Muren looking out the window. I looked also and saw one of the young Menomee boys standing on the steps of the train and two Winslow Marshalls, Marshall Wilder and Deputy Tisdale, and a Marshall of Muren named Garrison was talking to him.

He said, “I know nothing about it.” About that time, the train started to move and Menomee saw that they were not looking at him, and since the Smoker was next to the engine and the train was starting slowly, he started to run by the engine and cross in front and get away.

I saw Wilder, a nice man and Winslow regular Marshall, start toward him from the side of the platform and yelled “stop”. He fired 3 shots from his side arm gun in the air. He hooked his foot in the guy wire from the telegraph line pole and fell rolling. He wasn’t shooting at Menomee and Garrison didn’t pull his gun. Since I had my head out of the window, I saw Menomee was about to get ready to try to go around engine. Between me and Menomee, Tisdale had his gun shooting and being back and over him, it was like me taking aim on Menomee.

He, Menomee, fell in front of the engine and the engineer, seeing what was happening like I did, stopped and didn’t hit him with the engine. I had a box of shot gun shells — only baggage — and I jumped off the train. When they went to see about Menomee —train men Conductor Engineer Freeman — Menomee said, “Keeton, why did they shoot me”? I think I was the only one there he knew.

I said, “I don’t know”, I helped put him in the baggage car to get him to Oakland City for medical attention, I suppose that Conductor saw what I saw when we loaded him, a spot right on the center of the spine at the shoulder, a big spot of blood about the size of a half dollar, The Conductor wanted me to get in the baggage car with him — but I had my thinking cap on that day!

I said, “I will ride cushions”, But instead, of going to Oakland City like the Conductor asked — a few from Muren did and the others of Muren like I got off.

The two Winslow Marshalls wanted to get on the baggage car and go with them, The Conductor said, “You can not ride this train, you did not have no reason to shoot this man. Therefore, don’t try to board”. They didn’t attempt to get on. He really meant what he said. They told every kind of tale about how it happened. I got off the train and soon was over Turkey Hill, not talking, the others did. Menomee was sent to the hospital at Vincennes for about a week and he died. At that time, the police of city or burg like Winslow, the pay was very low and insurance possibly nill. Don’t know how it happened, but the regular Police Wilder took the blame. Possibly he was the only one with insurance. But I know that he was not the one and Tisdale was.

At that time, no good roads, no bus. Could have rode the Southern to Princeton and the C & E at that time to Vincennes and would have stayed at Vincennes for at least a week for the trial. The ones that told their story had to go and after the trial, Wilder was not sentenced.

Out of the dozen telling it, I told them, “You just got scared and dreamed up alot of this to make it sound good. To me it looks to show that I must have been the only one not scared and could see and know how it happened”. I believe I made believers out of most of them, but anyway, I was the winner. I didn’t ride the baggage car, hit for Turkey Hill, and didn’t have to attend the trial. I almost lost sleep thinking that Menomee, knowing me, would tell his brother and Father and they would get me on trial, but I think he went in a coma soon after his entrance to the hospital.

They kept some Marshalls on at Winslow. A few years later, Guy, then having a Chev. Roadster, and I was in Winslow and Tisdale came up to me and Guy and said, “When you two went through the covered bridge, didn’t you meet two girls walking towards Southern Railway”? We said, “Yes”. Tisdale said, “Alright Kitty and Guy, I deputize both of you to take me to Ayrshire store — Ingle Company store — in your car”. (Guy’s my cousin). I said, “Tisdale, go jump a rope, you are only a Deputy you have no right to order us for that — and I saw you shoot and cause the death of a man — and you might do the same to me. I am not going’. He wilted and said, “OK Guy, you will have to take me”.

They and a Corn — he has folks here at Oakland City now in 1980 and Corn is dead. I don’t remember the girls names — only met them walking when Guy and I was riding in the car. But Tisdale said that Corn and the two girls had pulled a fast deal at a store in Velpen and he wanted to go and get them.

I told Guy to refuse to go, but he was afraid not to I think. Guy told Tisdale he would have to take me to Uncle Charley’s and leave me until he got back and take me home then. When we got to Uncle Charley’s house, I told Guy to stall all he could. He had to hunt for his rubbers for it was a little muddy, then he might need a light, finally found Carbide light, another 10 minutes finding a Carbide flask, then on to Ayrshire.

Corn and the girls had left on the railway or maybe a car with someone about 20 minutes before they got to Ayrshire. The stalling helped Guy.
The next time I saw the County Sherriff, I told him about my refusal of Tisdales orders. Reese Burns, the County Sherriff said, “I don’t blame you at all, but he had authority to order you to help him. But for Guy, the same for him also, but not the right to order Guy or anyone to use their car unless there was a bank robbery, murder, or rape. So you put the bluff on the scrupulous skunk and he was too dumb to know it.’ Said, “He could have had you fined for not going’. Wilder, Tisdale, Guy, Corn, and Reese Burns are all deceased. Also the father of Menomee was an old man then, so I know he is gone.

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12 comments on “The Menomee Murder

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow! Where did you find this. Guess the old saying is true – what goes around comes around. Dose’nt seem as much has changed over the years does it???

  2. A well-told tale, for sure. Thanks for posting this!

    • rose says:

      Uncle Kitty was an amazing storyteller. He ran a barber shop for years after working in the coal mines. He called him self a Barber Lawyer 🙂

  3. Amber says:

    Rose, I live near #7 Road, and I am fascinated with your blog. It it so amazing to read the history of this area and all these things that happened here; I spent two hours last night reading some of Kitty’s stories to my husband. I enjoy nature-walking and photographing in the area and would love to see the old coke ovens and the soldier’s grave you wrote about in a previous post; would you be interested in accompanying me to some of these locations or allowing me to accompany you on some excursions?

    • rose says:

      We could do that. I only tromp in the winter when the ticks and poison ivy are dead 🙂 I will keep you in mind for a day of exploring.

      • Amber says:

        Excellent, thank you! I sent you a friend request; I’m hoping you can provide me with directions to the Dedman cemetery, or who I should contact to get permission to go there. I’d love to get some shots of the stones with the fall colors if it won’t be disturbing any hunters. Would also love to get some advice on starting research on my own genealogy. Thanks again!

      • rose says:

        Thanks for reading my blogs 🙂

  4. thom mominee says:

    Kitty Keeton’s memory is extraordinarily good. My name is Thom Mominee and the man shot in Ayrshire was my grandfather. The date was November 10, 1915 and his son (my father) was born 17 days later in Oakland City where my grandparents lived. Tom was immediately paralyzed by Wilder’s shot and died at my grandfather’s home in Vincennes in July, 1916. Marshal John Wilder
    took the rap for the shooting because Tisdale wasn’t even authorized to carry a weapon. Wilder was level-headed and would not have shot at my grandfather, Tisdale was a loose cannon and may have had a personal motive as well.

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