Monday, January 5, 2009

"Ellsworth the wickedest..."

Will Showman

In the former cattle town of Ellsworth, Kansas, Will Showman and his family were visiting the home of W. O. Snook on Sunday, October 15, 1911. Mr. Snook worked nights and usually slept during the day so Laurie Snook was glad for the company in the evenings. Around nine o’clock, Will and his family said good night and walked the two blocks back to their house. The Showman's had lived in their little house for about four years. Will had purchased the property from the county after the previous owners had failed to pay the taxes on the house. It sat perched on a small hill overlooking the railroad tracks which were just a few feet from the front door. The house was originally a one room shack but at some point had been expanded with a lean-to addition on the back where the kitchen was located. The family slept in the front room with beds on both sides of the house. Just to the north of the Showman home lived Bill Miller and his family. In his front yard, embedded in a tree stump, was his axe. A few days before, Miller and some friends had a competition to see which of them could drive the axe head the deepest into the stump. Fred Boyer took the honors after driving it in so deeply the men had to use another axe to remove it, chipping the blade in the process. A few houses away lived the Ellsworth town marshal; his name was Merritt but I have never located a first name. Merritt was sitting in his front room reading when he heard a peculiar noise coming from the back room. It sounded as if an animal were scratching at the back door. The noise stopped and Merritt went back to his reading. The noise began again and this time the marshal decided to investigate so he grabbed his lamp and went to the back room. The noise had stopped again and when it didn’t return, Merritt assumed whatever it was had been frightened off and he left it at that. The next morning it was discovered that the screen had been removed from the back window and an attempt had been made to pry the window open. I’m not going to go into all the detail of the discovery of the Showman’s bodies because the Millers Paranormal folks have the newspaper reports available for you to read so go there.

I have more details about this crime to share and will talk about suspects and hypotheses later. I want to talk about the Showman’s a bit more as well since victimology is an important aspect and this site is more or less about remembering the victims and not just the crimes.  Till next time…lock up your axes. 

12 comments:

Miz Kizzle said...

Marshall Merritt's first name was Morris.
I like your blog, BTW.

Hank Panties said...

I have always wondered how the attempt to break in at Merritt's house (as well as the telephone operator in Villisca) fits into the larger profile of a serial ax murderer who targeted families. I have read speculation that he must have observed & selected his victims ahead of time, so it seems curious that he would be attempting to break into a house where someone was awake, reading by lamplight. Also no mention of if the Marshall had children/family that would have attracted the killer.

Inspector Winship said...

Hank - Morris Merritt's wife and daughter were asleep in another room of the house. Merritt himself was in the front room, reading. From the back of the house it likely appeared to the intruder that the house was dark and quiet. I'm the one who is probably most closely associated with the hypothesis that the victims' house was observed for a bit before entry by the killer but I don't think the victims were targeted ahead of time. If this intruder was the killer of the Showman family, he obviously didn't know Morris Merritt was the night marshal.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if the house is still standing?

Inspector Winship said...

Anonymous - No it is not. It was torn down some time after 1918 but no one ever lived there after the murders in 1911.

Anonymous said...

We drove by the Paola site today.There is STILL a 710 W.Wea and the house looks a lot like the small homes of the era....but it was new siding and a new concrete foundation.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Inspector Winship said...

Anonymous - "There is STILL a 710 W. Wea" Any house that is there is definitely a new one. As of 5 years ago the old corner lot the house stood on was vacant. There is a small photo of the house on my blog posts about Paola for reference.

Inspector Winship said...

Comment deleted
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

May 14, 2014 at 2:44 AM Delete

Comment moved to comments section of this post: http://gettingtheaxe.blogspot.com/2011/10/questions-about-dawsons-and-crime.html

Anonymous said...

Has anyone posted information on the Colorado Springs murders? If Loving Mitchell can be linked to that then the Kansas murders would be significant because of the attempts on the nearby houses. Does anyone know what became of Loving Mitchell?

McPherson County Paranormal Society said...

Great article thanks. I am looking to go to Villiscia in Sept for a paranormal investigation. Before I go there I would like to go to Ellsworth first. I know you have posted in the comments that the original house was demolished a few years later. What I was wondering is if you could provide me a psychical location of where the house stood? Thanks in advance, I appreciate it.

Inspector Winship said...

MCPS - The location is on private property and doesn't really have an address. It used to be a very dangerous place because the owner used it as a dump. Also, the local high schoolers like to use it as a party spot because its history makes it a pretty creepy place. Just ask one of the locals where "The Hatchet" is located. They might give you better info. Visit the historic downtown as well. It's pretty cool.