Deer Park’s 1894
Halloween Murder Mystery
Wally Lee Parker
© Wallace Lee Parker
(Reprint from the November, 2016, issue of the Mortarboard;
newsletter for the Clayton/Deer Park Historical Society, Clayton, Washington.)
Under the headline “This May Hide a Crime,” the following article appeared in the Wednesday, October 31st, 1894, edition of Spokane’s Chronicle.
“A strange mound of earth, artfully concealed, will give up its secrets today. What has been a mystery for three years will be explained before sunset, or will become a greater mystery than before. A band of officials started to Deer Park today to begin the investigation, and on their return will at least explain the mound, if not the mystery.
“Three years ago last August the son of a farmer living near Deer Park, a lad of fourteen years of age, mysteriously disappeared from home, and from that day to the present his whereabouts and fate have always been a mystery. Foul play was suspected and a diligent search was made for some trace of the missing lad, but although every effort was made, it ended in naught. No grave could be found nearby, and the generally accepted theory was that the boy had tired of the life he was leading and the treatment to which he was subjected and had run away from home.
“A few days ago the sheriff’s office was put in the possession of certain information which may lead to a solution of the mysterious disappearance of the lad. This morning Felix Pugh, Deputy Charles Cole, Prosecuting Attorney Fenton, Coroner Newman and Dr. Dutton took the Spokane & Northern train for Deer Park and expect today to clear up the secret, find the missing boy’s body, and possibly place under arrest those suspected of having been the cause of his death.
“A few days ago a neighbor passing near the boy’s old home discovered what appeared to be an old grave. The charred and blackened stump of a tree was in the center of the grave, but a slight push dislodged the stump and showed that it was only the round end of a tree that had been placed in the ground. Remembering the incident of the boy’s disappearance, the discoverer of the mound replaced the stump and drove away.
“At night he returned and began further investigations. With a wagon rod he began probing in the grave and at a depth of a few feet the point of the rod came in contact with what was apparently a board surface. After some little effort the rod was forced farther down and appeared to be in a cavity. When it was withdrawn a terrible stench, as though from a dead body, arose, and the conclusion was at once reached that this was the grave of the boy who had so suddenly disappeared.
“The discoverer hastened to town and reported the matter, and, as stated, the above parties left this morning to make an official investigation. They will open the supposed grave, and if the skeleton of a fourteen-year-old boy is found, some arrest may follow.”
To understand both the aforementioned article, as well as what comes after, the following background regarding the five men involved might prove helpful.
According to Jonathan Edwards’ Illustrated History of Spokane County — published in 1900 — Felix M. Pugh was a deputy sheriff for Spokane County when the above incident occurred. Born in Linn County, Oregon, in 1854, he arrived in the area in 1880 and took a homestead a dozen miles east of Spokane. He moved into Spokane eight years later, taking on the job of deputy sheriff. In 1894 he ran for the office of Spokane County Sheriff on the Republican ticket. The election was held on November 6th, just a week after the above described investigation. It’s not known what part the Halloween mystery may have played in the election, but, as the Illustrated History states, Deputy Pugh was “defeated by a majority of only thirty-one votes.”
Deputy Sheriff Charles A. Cole is also mentioned in Edwards’ book. Just a year younger than Felix Pugh, this native of the State of New York migrated to the Territory of Washington in 1879. He was accompanied on that journey by Francis Cook, publisher of Spokane’s first newspaper, the Spokane Times (1879 — 1882), at which Mr. Cole worked as “a solicitor.” Apparently leaving the Spokane area in 1881, he tried out various jobs before becoming editor of a newspaper in Corvallis, Oregon — a job he was fired from after a dustup with the paper’s owners centered on the paper’s anti-Republican leanings. (This last bit of data was drawn from a source other than Edwards’ largely non-critical Illustrated History.)
Mr. Cole returned to Spokane in 1887, engaging first in “a fish and poultry market,” and then “the real estate business.” Edwards’ book then notes, “For four years from 1889 he was deputy sheriff,” that being his occupation at the time of 1894’s Halloween incident. “He then became expense bill clerk at (the) Union depot.” At some point prior to the above book’s 1900 publication date, Mr. Cole appears to have rejoined the sheriff’s office. And after the resignation of his superior, was himself appointed Spokane County Sheriff — a post he retained by voter consensus at the next election.
As for “Prosecuting Attorney Fenton,” according to Julian Hawthorne’s 1893 “History of Washington, the Evergreen State: from Early Dawn to Daylight,” James Edward Fenton was born in Clarke County, Missouri, in 1857. In 1865 his family settled in Oregon’s Willamette Valley — having made the trip from Missouri by wagon train. After legal training, Fenton was admitted to Oregon’s Bar in 1882, and, according to Hawthorne’s book, “In February, 1890, he removed to Spokane and formed a partnership with his brother, Charles R. Fenton, under the firm style of Fenton & Fenton.” It’s then recorded that in 1892, Mr. Fenton, running as a Democrat in a largely Republican county, was, by a fair margin, elected Prosecuting Attorney.
According to the 1928 edition of American Blue Book, California Lawyers, James E. Fenton “served one term of District Attorney, Spokane County.” Whether that would have been a two or four year term isn’t made clear, but what is made clear is that he left the State of Washington in 1899, and settled in California several years later.
“Coroner Newman” appears to have been one Dewitt Clinton Newman. Edward’s History of Spokane County states that he was born in Ohio in 1857, and “commenced the study of medicine at Starling Medical College, Columbus, Ohio, graduating in February, 1882.” After some further education in San Francisco, Doctor Newman practiced aboard ship — and for a time overseas. He came to Spokane in 1889. The Illustrated History goes on to say that “the doctor is a Democrat. He was coroner of Spokane County from 1892 to 1895.”
Doctor Newman’s dedication to the healing arts is suggested in an article appearing in the October 28th, 1905 edition of the Spokane Daily Chronicle. Under the banner “Is Spokane River Full of Zinc and Lead,” the article describes the heavy metal contamination drifting downstream from the Coeur d’Alene mining district, and the danger to health this constituted at a time when the city was drawing its drinking water from the river. Doctor Newman, then health officer for the City of Spokane, is quoted as saying, “I have believed for a long time that poisonous substances are contained in the water consumed here… .” And, “I believe it would be wise to sink wells to obtain a new water supply. In any event, we should discontinue the use of water poisoned by lead and zinc.”
Over a hundred years later and Spokane’s still dealing with this issue, but nowadays the concern has moved to the region’s underground aquifer, and the very system of wells Doctor Newman was proposing.
A notice of the doctor’s May 1st, 1915, passing appeared in that year’s July edition of Northwest Medicine: the Journal of the State Medical Associations of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Utah.
The last named passenger disembarking from the October 31st locomotive to Deer Park was Doctor W. O. Dutton. We know Dr. Dutton had replaced Dr. Newman as Spokane County Coroner by 1896. Beyond that, all we can currently say is that Dr. Dutton was still practicing medicine in Spokane as of 1905.
The next day — November 1st — the Spokane Chronicle printed the results of the five above noted gentlemen’s investigation.
Under the headline “Found the Bones: The Deer Park Grave Gives Up Its Dark Secrets,” the newspaper reported, “A strange mound of earth, artfully concealed, gave up its secrets on Halloween. A band of county officials yesterday invaded the sanctity of old man Hermann’s place at Deer Park and desecrated the grave of his departed Jersey cow.
“It was a somber, silent crowd that alighted from the train at Deer Park yesterday and took up their silent march to the old German’s place to exhume what was supposed to be the body of the boy. Felix and Charles tightened their cartridge belts and assumed an I-am-after Gloystein air. Coroner Newman was pale and placid, thinking of the votes he would gain when the terrible mystery was explained away. Prosecutor Fenton took a look at Hill’s statistics and located the drug store, and the Republican reporter whistled for the dog.
“When they reached the old man’s place he was there and kindly escorted them to the grave which it was supposed contained the body of his boy, Julius. At the brink of the sepulcher the old man paused, but at the fierce look from Felix, he and his other son snickered and began to remove the clods of earth. Down, down they dug, until the body was reached and then dragged out. It was only the carcass of a cow and the old man laughed at the discomfiture of the officials.
“With a look of withering scorn the committee of investigation turned their backs, marched to the Deer Park drug store, and said not a word until the Hostetter's bitters bottle had thrice made the rounds. Then they came back to Spokane.
“The boy, Julius, who so mysteriously disappeared some three years ago, is said to be working on a ranch at Cheney. His father will be here in a few days and will go out and get his son and take him home.”
At some point we may be able to identify both the above noted “old man Hermann” and the location of the “old German’s” place. Eventually we might even find something more about his son, Julius. But not today.
Some of the other specifics and allusions in this last Daily Chronicle article can more readily be interpreted. For example, the passage “Felix and Charles tightened their cartridge belts and assumed an I-am-after Gloystein air” undoubtedly refers to another incident of dubious clarity Deputy Felix Pugh had become immersed in just that summer.
On Monday, July 30th, 1894, a flare of headlines in the Spokane Daily Chronicle introduced a story that quickly began echoing in newsprint across a wide swath of the United States. Following a common pattern among newspapers of the era, Spokane’s Chronicle first boldfaced the most sensational bits of the story down inch after inch of column. This lead-in read, “KIDNAPPED — Charles Gloystein Secretly Spirited Away by Night from His Home Near Mica — HE WAS PROBABLY MURDERED — Evidence that His Political Enemies Have Made Away with a Prominent and Respected Citizen — HAT RIDDLED WITH BULLETS — Sheriff Pugh Makes a Startling Discovery, but Does Not Find the Body.”
In essence, the story stated that Charles Gloystein’s wife recalled her husband being “called out of bed about midnight last night.” She reported hearing some type of conversation going on outside — possibly something to do with a wagon. She went back to sleep, and in the morning discovered her husband missing.
Deputy Sheriff Pugh “telephoned from Rockford that he had gone to Mica and had searched Gloystein’s barn and premises for traces of the missing man. He finally found his hat about a quarter of a mile south of the house. There were three bullet holes in it and it was covered with blood and hair. No traces of the body had been found at the time, but Sheriff Pugh is almost certain that Mr. Gloystein has been murdered.”
The Chronicle had the motive covered as well.
“He (Charles F. Gloystein) was well known as a Republican politician and took a decided and positive stand on all public matters. This characteristic made him some bitter personal enemies.”
An inclusion in the August 4th edition of Salt Lake City’s The Deseret Weekly defined Gloystein’s enemies more sharply. It stated, “The missing man had incurred the enmity of the Populists of his neighborhood, and the feeling against him was intense.”
The above mentioned “Populists” was a left-leaning independent third party formed in 1892, but largely dissolved after the 1896 elections, with the remnants of the group merging into the Democratic Party.
On August 11th, under the headline “Murder Will Out,” the Chronicle suggested that the murder was related to Gloystein’s withdrawal from the “Freeman’s Protective Silver Federation,” an organization associated with the Populist Party. The article goes on to quote Deputy Sheriff Pugh as saying, “sooner or later the whole horrible story will come out and the assassins will be brought to justice.”
And justice — of sorts — was eventually served to most, if not all, concerned.
The September 24th issue of the Chronicle reported that a tip delivered to Deputy Pugh just four days earlier had solved the mystery of Gloystein’s disappearance — which the deputy confirmed by visiting a farm near the small community of Moro, in north central Oregon, and speaking with the missing gentleman in person. Simply put, Mr. Gloystein felt the political animosity around Mica had become so great his only recourse was to fake his own death and flee.
As later reported in The Islander — a newspaper representing western Washington’s San Juan County — “Gloystein refused to return with the sheriff and said if his wife would come to him, he would go far away and make a new start.” According to the newspaper, she stated she would. And assumedly that’s exactly what happened.
So the Spokane Chronicle’s statement in its November 1st issue that deputies “Felix and Charles,” upon stepping from the train, “tightened their cartridge belts and assumed an I-am-after Gloystein air” in preparation for their onsite investigation of Deer Park’s mysterious grave, was at the very least a humorous ribbing, and at worst a sharp political jab.
Which begs the question, was there some sort of political sabotage afoot in the Chronicle’s reporting?
Was the anonymous author of the last article (and quite possibly the former) suggesting some conspiratorial subtext to the goings-on when he wrote “Coroner Newman,” a Democrat,” was pale and placid, thinking of the votes he would gain when the terrible mystery was explained away?” Was the writer also implying that Spokane County’s prosecuting attorney, James Fenton, another Democrat, was inclined toward strong drink by referencing the attorney's desire to locate a “drug store,” and its probable cache of notoriously high-octane “Hostetter's Bitters?”
On the other hand, deputies Pugh and Cole, both Republicans, were not spared in the general skewering; that being the only thing that would divert a suspicious mind from considering the entire episode an elaborately constructed dirty deed staged, as it were, just seven days prior to 1894’s election.
And speaking of conspiracies, why, when old man Hermann was compelled to uncover the grave of his supposedly missing son, did “he and his other son snicker?” And, once the grave was uncovered, he “laughed at the discomfiture of the officials?”
Having put the cow there, they obviously knew what they were digging up. Most likely they also knew the supposedly murdered boy was in fact working at Cheney. In other words, they knew the punchline. Whether they tried to explain this to the criminal justice experts before beginning the disinterment isn’t stated. But the story, at face value, suggests not.
So … was Deer Park’s Mr. Hermann an innocent victim of judicial exuberance inflated by the possibility of political gain? Or was he a knowing participant in some carefully plotted political shenanigans? Or then again, was he part and parcel of an epic Halloween prank — something akin to tipping over a political outhouse or two for no reason other than the fact that political outhouses occasionally need a cleansing tip?
All that considered, the remaining puzzle is — how again does Hostetter’s Bitters fit into all this?
Describing the clutch of investigators arriving at Deer Park, the Chronicle’s reporter stated, “Prosecutor Fenton took a look at Hill’s statistics and located a drug store.” A working theory is that “Hill’s statistics” was something provided by the railroad to describe the amenities, if any, found at each stop — amenities such as “a drug store.”
After the body inside the grave was revealed, and old man Hermann had commenced his laughing, the article stated that it was with a “look of withering scorn (that) the committee of investigation turned their backs, marched to the Deer Park drug store, and said not a word until the Hostetter's bitters bottle had thrice made the rounds.”
Hostetter’s Celebrated Stomach Bitters, a widely available patient medicine with a reported alcohol content varying between 25 and 47 percent, had been around since 1853. Reputedly useful for correcting a wide spectrum of vague complaints such as toxic liver, it wasn’t until the Pure Food & Drug Act was passed in 1906 that Hostetter’s (and the like) were finally forced to reveal something of their ingredients on the label. That said, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue — as reported in the September 8th, 1883, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association — had already drawn some conclusions, validated through a laboratory analysis conducted by the Department of Agriculture. The commissioner said, “Containing as it does no deleterious drugs and only 4 percent of anything like a drug, I should probably be entirely justified in deciding outright that one who sells it for any purpose is a retail liquor dealer.”
And so, with freshly purified livers, our skilled investigators returned to Spokane, leaving Deer Park to its Halloween chuckle.
——— end ———