Will Showman was the youngest son of David and Sarah Showman. David was a veteran of the Civil War and served in Company H of the Maryland Volunteers. He moved his family to Ellsworth County sometime between 1872 and 1880 and took a job as a mail carrier. David died in April of 1898. Pauline Kratky was the youngest daughter of John and Theressia and was born in Ellsworth County around 1884. John and Theressia had emigrated from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and were part of a burgeoning Bohemian culture establishing itself in the area. The influence of this culture is seen every July when the town of Wilson holds its annual Czech Festival. Will and Pauline were married around 1904 and had three children; Lester, Fern and Fenton. At the time of his death Will Showman was a chauffeur which didn’t pay too much especially in a rural town like Ellsworth. The family was regularly seen at church and Will was an active member in good standing with the local Redmen Lodge. Will was reported to have a kind heart. His former brother in law had been arrested a few years earlier and Will would visit him and bring tobacco and food while he was at the Ellsworth County jail.
As many of you probably read before, it was Laurie Snook who discovered the crime around five o’clock in the afternoon on October 16th, 1911. I have been debating with myself over how much detail on the crime scene to write about since it could very easily cross over into tabloid territory so I’ll give a few generalizations. Will and Pauline’s bed sat in a corner with Will positioned on the inside against the wall. Pauline was on the outside and two-year old Fenton was between his parents. Will was killed first without ever waking but Pauline woke up. She attempted to fend off the attack and in the struggle woke up the children. The children were all killed while sitting up. A bucket of bloody water was found in the kitchen as well as a blood stained piece of cloth. The killer used the water and the cloth to clean off his hands and the blade of the axe. He took a dress belonging to Pauline and hung it over the phone in the kitchen. He pulled the covers up over Will leaving only the top of his head exposed. He leaned the axe against the wall behind the door between the kitchen and the front room. He went about his macabre work by the low light of a coal oil lamp absent its glass chimney. The chimney was found, depending on the source, either under the foot of the bed or under a chair in the kitchen. The lamp was placed at the foot of Will and Pauline’s bed and left to burn out. Out of respect for family members who may be reading or may come across this post I will only say that Pauline was posed by the killer before leaving the scene.