Monday, September 24, 2012

I'm descended from a murdering pirate

As mentioned in my last post, "Family Secret," I learned that an ancestor, my 3rd great grandfather, was born in England and murdered his wife, my 3rd great grandmother. Today I learned that he was also a pirate. Maybe that is why I changed my language to "Pirate" on Talk Like a Pirate Day.

The following came in an email from a volunteer, Tamara Jorstad, who does lookups on the Nevada Evening Journal.  Thank you to Tamara and all the volunteers.

1853 -- Nevada Evening Journal Centennial Edition -- 1953

Nevada, Iowa, June 13, 1953

Vol. 59, No. 64, Section Page 16

Published June 13, 1953 *copyright protected *

100-Year-Old Court Docket Reveals First Murder Trial

Some of the very first pages of Story county history are unfolded in an old leather bound volume labeled “The First Justice Docket in Story County” the first entry in which is dated June 23, 1853.

This volume, which will be 100 years old this month, came near being burned in a pile of rubbish when the late John V. Waldron of Nevada found it in 1906. This early day record of proceedings in justice court was first presented to the Story County Historical Collection by Mrs. Waldron, October 1912, and since that time has been treasured, with other early day records, in the Story County Auditor’s office.

Page 1 of the Docket records the case of the “State of Iowa vs Barnabus Lowell, Charged with the Crime of Murder.” The warrant for the arrest of Lowell was issued by Eli Deal, coroner, to “Any Constable in the State of Iowa,” following a coroner’s inquest “held upon the body of Ann Lowell and information upon oath being laid before me by Aldophus Prouty, Nathan Webb and Jeremiah Cory. You are therefore commanded to arrest Barnabas Lowell and bring him before any Justice of the Peace in this county. Dated at McDaniels this 23rd day of June, A.D. 1853.”

Justice moved pretty fast in the early days for the next entry of June 26 shows that the defendant was before Joseph P. Robinson, Justice of the Peace, entered a plea of not guilty, and demanded a jury trial.

The jury of six men after deliberation brought in a verdict of first degree murder, and Story county being without a county jail, Lowell was ordered committed to the sheriff of Polk county for safe keeping “until the first day of the district court next to be holden in Story county.”

It must be remembered that while Story county was organized in April, 1853 by the election of county officers under act of the General Assembly of January, 1853, and while the county seat had been established on June 27, 1853, there had not yet been a term of district court.

Was a Pirate

The preliminary hearing on Barnabas Lowell had been held at the home of a Mr. Heald and it was said that Lowell lay on the bed and threatened those who testified against him. He was reputed to have been a pirate in his earlier years and that he carried a sheath knife on his leg.

The district judge at that time was Wm. McKay of Des Moines who convened a special term of court to attend to the Lowell case and court was held in the home of Judge Evans on the west edge of Milford township near Bloomington.

Because Squire Robinson was foreman of the Grand Jury and had been Justice of Peace in the preliminary hearing Lowell asked for, and was granted, a change of venue to Polk county where he was tried, convicted, and sent to the penitentiary for life, dying three and a half years later.

It is interesting that at the conclusion of the first district court case in Story county, the Court ordered the clerk to use the eagle side of the U. S. dollar as the official seal of the court.

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