Halloween Tragedy 1937

Whenever I talk with folks who “remember when”, this tragedy always come up.  Back in the days when most people walked to town for socializing, two Muren women were tragically killed and others injured while walking home in 1937 from the Winslow Halloween party.

From the Dispatch, Friday, November 5, 1937:


Mrs Josephine Lang and Mrs. Luella McCandless Meet Instant Death When Hit by Automobile

Mrs. Josephine Lang, widow of the late William Lang, and Mrs. Luella McCandless, widow of the late Curtis McCandless, were both instantly killed Friday night at 8:30 when hit by an automobile driven by Paul Maxey, 21, of near Oakland City.  The accident happened on state highway 61 a few feet south of the bridge on lower Main Street.  The women were returning to their homes in Muren after attending the Halloween Party in Winslow.

There were six in the party of women walking south along the highway, the two who were instantly killed, Mrs. Frona Auburn, her daughter, Evelyn Stewart, 19, her sister Oma Talbert and Betty Whitney, 12, of Petersburg, a granddaughter of Mrs. Lang.  The ladies were walking south, the little Whitney girl holding hands with her grandmother with whom she intended to spend the weekend.  A truck, driven by Joel Evans was passing them going in the same direction.  Maxey caught up with the truck and turned out to pass it when he hit the women.  The two women were killed outright and both bodies were thrown clear of the concrete, great pools of blood made where the bodies lay.  They had evidently been thrown up on the Ford V-8 car as the windshield showed it had met with some sort of impact and the left front fender was badly bent.

Others seeing the wreck went at once and put in a call for ambulances and Dr. George Detar who went at once to the scene.  It was seen that both Mrs. Lang and Mrs. McCandless had been instantly killed and at first it was thought Mrs. Frona Auburn was dead.  They were removed to the Miller Hospital where Mrs. Auburn revived.  The bodies of the dead women were sent to the morgues, Mrs. Lang to the Crecelius and Mrs. McCandless to the Brenton & Company place.  Mrs. Auburn was given treatment at once.  She is still in the hospital suffering a concussion of the brain, a large cut place on her head and internal injuries.

Marshal Claude Smith arrested the driver and locked him in the town jail.  He was afterward removed to Petersburg to the county jail.  As soon as the accident happened he stopped as quickly as he could and came back to town where he was arrested.

Both Evelyn Stewart and Betty Whitney were shocked and bruised some but neither of a serious nature.  The Steward woman received a cut on her left knee.  The shock was almost unbearable for these youngsters.  They were taken to the hospital but were soon discharged.

Dr. D.W. Bell, county coroner, was notified at once as was Sheriff Goodman.  Dr. Bell did not complete his inquest until Monday when he rendered a verdict that “Luella McCandless came to her death by an avoidable accident, being struck by an automobile, driven by one Paul Maxey, Oakland City, Indiana.  The preponderance of evidence tends to show that the Ford V-8 automobile, driven by Paul Maxey, Oakland City, Ind., was traveling at a high rate of speed, and struck the deceased, Luella McCandless while she was walking on  the left shoulder of the road, and I highly recommend that criminal action be taken against one Paul Maxey, Oakland City, Ind.”

The verdict of the coroner on Mrs. Lang was in substance the same as for Mrs. McCandless.

In the car with Maxey were Lennis Gentry son of Mr. and Mrs. Isom Gentry, and Paul Roberts.  The boys were held pending the coroner’s inquest but were released as they were questioned.

Maxey was not drunk, as he was given a thorough test by Dr. Detar, although it was said he admitted to drinking two bottles of beer.  He was held in the county jail for sometime but later released after no charges were filed against him.  Maxey is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Maxey and lives at home with his parents east of Oakland City.

The ladies all lived in Muren, Mrs. Lang and Mrs. McCandless being near neighbors.  Mrs. Auburn was Frona Talbert, later married a man by the name of Stewart and after his death married Auburn.

Josephine Lang was Josephine Faiss.  She was born December 3, 1884 and was 52 years, 10 months and 26 days old at the time of her death.  She was a daughter of George and Temperance Hurt Faiss.  In 1902 she was married to James May with whom she lived until his death in 1904.  One child by this marriage survives, Mrs. Edith Heacock of Ontario, California.   In 1905 she was married to William T. Lang, a Spanish American war veteran and they lived together until his death June 5, 1935.  Surviving are the following children:  Mrs. Scott Norrington of Winslow, Mrs. Bessie Whitman of Indianapolis, Jodie Lang of Texas, Wilbur and Garnett Lang who lived at home with the mother.

Surviving also are six grandchildren, one great grandchild and a brother, John Faiss, of Centralia, Illinois.

Mrs. Lang was a member of the Muren General Baptist Church and was a Christian lady and a good neighbor who had the respect and esteem of all who knew her.

After the body was prepared for burial at the Crecelius Funeral Home it was taken to the home of her daughter, Mrs. Scott Norrington in the East End where it remained until Monday morning when the funeral service was held at the Muren G.B. church.  Rev. G.A. Hopper, pastor of the Winslow Church, conducted the service.  Burial was in the Williams Cemetery.

Mrs. McCandless was Luella Hopkins, a daughter of John P. and Hannah A. Hopkins.  She was born in Pike County March 8, 1898 and had reached the age of 39 years, 7 months and 21 days.  She lived in Patoka Township and grew to womanhood here and on January 30, 1919 she was united in marriage to Curtis McCandless.  They lived together until his death a few years ago.  The one child, Clifford, born to them survives.  Surviving also are three step-children , the mother, two sisters, Mrs. Bessie Johnson and Mrs. Pearl Mann of Evansville and one brother, Samp Hopkins of Muren.

Mrs. McCandless was a member of the General Baptist church and was a Christian lady who was known throughout this section as such.

After the body had been prepared at the Brenton & Company funeral home it was removed to the home of her brother, Samp Hopkins in Muren where it remained until Sunday afternoon when the funeral services were held at the Muren church with the Rev. Edgar Curry in charge.  Burial was in the Williams Cemetery.


Angel in Williams Cemetery.







Patoka Grove Church and Williams Cemetery

For many of us whose families lived and worked in the Muren, Maryville, Massey, and Turkey Hill areas of Pike County, we laid our loved ones to rest at Williams Cemetery near Patoka Grove Church. The timeworn cemetery has been known as Massey Cemetery and Whitman Cemetery but is now referred to officially as Williams Cemetery. It is older than the long-standing church it surrounds. It is a place of peace for me. I go there whenever I want to walk around in the quiet, mull over life’s mysteries, dwell on a problem, or remember someone I loved who is buried there. My family graves lie in a row directly behind the church, a long length of empty grass awaiting the next to join them.

In the autumn of 2004, my stepdaughter, Kristen Beyke of Sarasota, Florida, was visiting to attend a family funeral. She was majoring in photo journalism at the University of Florida at the time. She was so pleased to be here in the fall when the leaves were changing colors. She wanted to shoot photos of the blazing countryside and some old country churches. She took this photo of the Williams Cemetery and Patoka Grove United Methodist Church and it has become one of my favorite photos of that place.

Patoka Grove Church and Williams Cemetery

Patoka Grove Church and Williams Cemetery

There is much history surrounding the church and that burying ground, many stories to be told and some forever to be left untold.

My memories of attending Patoka Grove Church are all from my childhood in the 1960s. Like most children, the sermons were boring and too complicated for a 6 year old mind to wrap around. But the singing….I loved the singing… The hymn “In the Garden” was one I adored the most. I always stood with my grandma whenever they would sing that song.

“I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses. And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the son of God discloses. And he walks with me, and he talks with me…”

My Mamma Evans and I both prized flowers. On Decoration Day, not the Monday Government Memorial Day holiday that we celebrate now, but actual Decoration Day on May 30th when we honored the war dead , she and I would decorate the graves of our family at Williams Cemetery. We did not buy a fancy silk saddle or vase of colorful fake flowers. We walked the fence rows and yards of old home places that no longer existed and wandered along the roadsides, filling up tin cans wrapped in aluminum foil with flowers we would cut. I could not describe to you a single silk flower memorial I have decorated a grave with over the past few years, but I could describe to you the smell of the yellow roses we cut on Mary and Sampy Corn’s fencerow, the bees swarming the sweetpeas we cut along Number 7 road, and the deep red color of the peonies from Ma Bolin’s old home place. For years after the Government in 1971 made Memorial Day the official 3 day weekend on the third Monday of May, my Mamma refused to acknowledge it, she would take her flowers to the cemetery on Decoration Day. As she got older, she conceded to the new Memorial Day, but she still grumbled about it. Decoration Day was a languid day to spend hours at the Cemetery. Money was collected for care of the graveyard. Lunch was eaten there that day. Lawn chairs would appear from car trunks. It was a time to catch up with friends, family and neighbors. Kids would sit under the cedar trees on the hill in the “Old Part”, sometimes reading the grave markers of the children in the cemetery, retelling stories about how some had died and curious about the others.

Patoka Grove Church

Patoka Grove Church

Easter is another treasured memory of Patoka Grove . Even if the grown ups could not afford a new dress, the little girls always had their new Easter bonnets, pastel dresses, white patent leather Mary Janes, and wicker purses. Patoka Grove held an easter egg hunt each year in the field next to the church. I always wanted to be the one to find the Gold Egg that would win you a prize, but I never did. Each year however, the hope would be renewed that I might.

Easter Finery

Easter Finery

We attended Bible School there, tediously gluing together countless craft sticks, sprinkling glitter on paper plates and pasta, and when we were older stitching together a leather wallet. We would lay out all of our treasures on a long table in the basement for our family to admire on the night of the Bible School program. At Christmas Santa came to the basement and we had a treat from him. We would all have to remember our “piece” for the program. We would draw the little cut and folded pieces of paper out of a basket . I always hoped mine was short because I very much disliked standing in front of people. If my little brothers drew a harder one my mom would make me trade with them.

More Easter Bonnets

More Easter Bonnets

Our family held noteworthy events at that church and basement. Weddings, wedding receptions, baby showers, bridal showers all were at Patoka Grove. There weren’t big catered meal, kegs of beer, or dancing. We had a decorated cake, dinner mints and nuts. The cake was usually made by another of our Church friends. My Mamma made punch with pineapple juice, 7up and sherbert. We used the fancy glass punch bowl and cups, right beside our color coordinated paper plates and napkins. We made rice bags with toile and ribbons. Gifts were opened and displayed so that family and friends could appreciate them. After funerals all of the church ladies would make their best potluck dishes and a meal would be served to the family. Those are the best memories.

My Aunt and Uncle

My Aunt and Uncles Wedding Reception in the Church basement

You cannot have attended Patoka Grove without remembering old Perlina Whitman. An early recollection of mine is of my Grandma taking me with her to a Ladies Meeting at Perlina’s old farmhouse next to the railroad tracks on Number 7 Road. Perlina had no electricity, used kerosene lamps and had a lot of antiques. I had the stern “Don’t you touch anything” warning before we arrived. This day made an impression on me because my Grandma made a Baked Alaska. She opened a carton of Neopolitan ice cream, whipped up a meringue to smear on it and put that in the oven. I was so young and could not figure out baking ice cream.

One of the earliest graves at Williams Cemetery is that of Joshua Massey. He was born in 1795 and died in 1844. He was the father of Wash Massey, the man that the coal mining town and community of Massey was named for. Wash Massey married Lou Bolin (a possible ancestor of mine). Lou was the daughter of Jarrett Bolin. Her sister Phebe married Horace Williams. Many of the children’s graves we would wonder about on the hill under the cedar trees were the children of Wash and Lou Massey. When Joshua died, his sister had a gravestone delivered from Maryland by oxen to the cemetery for his grave. In the early 1890s the Massey school was built and doubled as the community church. In 1892, at a revival meeting held at the school, the congregation decided to have a church built. Lumber was cut and seasoned. Wash and Lou Massey deeded one half acre of land for the building. In 1894, the church was built and located in a grove of trees not far from the Patoka River in Massey, hence the name Patoka Grove. Like the cemetery, it was also called Massey Church. In 1934, the church members decided to move the church to a more accessible location. Since there was no church at Williams Cemetery, they decided to move the church there. Curtis and Lyda Williams donated the land. The church was moved about a mile to it’s present site. It took 18 ½ days to move the church at a cost of $226.00. Donations paid for the move. The movers made $2.00 a day, except Mr. Harper who furnished the horses, he earned $4.00 a day. The history remembers Lyda Williams and Perlina Whitman, who kept the church open in 1946 to 1951 when there was no minister, just them, a few children and a pot bellied stove in the center of the church. The church has been updated in the 1950s and the 1980s, but still retains it quaint charm as a little country church.