Wednesday, May 3, 2017

June 22, 1874: Clark Evans

Our first article comes from The Cairo Bulletin (Cairo, Illinois) published Tuesday June 23, 1874:

Sequal[sic] to the Halbirt Murder.

The Murderer, Clark Evans, Lynched.

CARROLLTON, ILL., June 22—At last we have the sad sequel to the horrifying details of recent Halbirt murder, in this county, which have been given in your columns, together with the particulars of the arrest of one Clark Evans, and his subsequent confession of the murder and other crimes of which he had been guilty in the course of the past few years.

At about 2 o'clock this morning the jail in this city was visited by a large number of men in wagons and buggies. The jailer was aroused by an alarm at the door, and the statement that the party on the outside were in possession of a party arrested for murder, whom they desired to imprison. When the door of the anteroom was opened some nine or en men rushed in, pushing one of their number before them, under pretense that he was the culprit. Getting fairly in the jailor discovered that they were all in disguise, either by wearing masks or with blackened faces, and at once suspected the object of their vist [sic]; but as quick as thought he was pinioned by several of the party, pointing cocked revolvers at his head, and demanding the keyes [sic] of the main door and cells. Simultaneously some of the party discovered the keys hanging near the barred entrance, and took possession of them. While one-half of the party held the jailor at bay, the other half proceeded to unlock the doors, going immediately to the cell where Clark Evans was chained down, and they released him by means of a hatchet and cold chisel. In a few moments they rushed back to the entrance, with Evans in charge, and hurried him into one of the wagons. On looking out into the streets the jailor saw a large number of persons afoot as well as in the buggies and wagons, and they hurried away in various directions. He gave the alarm at once, but could not get enough persons together at the hour to pursue. The sheriff and deputies started out, but could not get on the track of the fleeing party. About 7 o'clock this morning ex-Sheriff Bell, who resides at Providence, came in, bringing the news that a man was found by some passers by hanging to a tree by the road side, near the south approach to the Apple Creek bridge. Hurrying thither the officers ascertained that it was Clark Evans, the prisoner who had been taken from the jail a few hours before. The culprit was suspended in such a way that his feet nearly touched the ground by the bending of the limb but he was dead and cold.

A coroner's inquest was held, in the presence of a vast crowd of people, who had gathered from all quarters. The corpse was taken down and placed in a rough box made at the saw mill near-by, and then deposited in the Providence grave yard.

Of course, the authorities have not the remotest idea as to who composed the lynching party, but the whole affair was well planned and adroitly executed. One of the buggies evidently used by some of the midnight visitors, broke down within a block from the jail, by running off a small bridge. Doubtless as quick as the horses could be removed from it the parties accompanying it fled, as in the buggy were found an old felt hat, the sleeve of an old coat, two plugs of tobacco neatly wrapped in a portion of the county papers, a quart bottle with about half a pint of whisky in it, and a small leather valise containing some heavy twine, a cold chisel and a hatchet. This buggy has not been identified or claimed, but a rumor prevails that it belongs to a party residing near Whitehall. The whole affair has created a profound sensation, and so outrageous was the murder committed by Evans that but few are disposed to blame the parties who have taken the law in their own hands. The broken buggy is in the hands of the sheriff and will probably never be claimed.

Our next article is about the murderer and comes from the Decatur Daily Republican (Decatur, IL) dated May 4, 1874:

CARROLLTON, Ill. May 2.—It is quite definitely ascertained that a desperate character who hails from the vicinity of Montezuma, Pike county, Illinois, is the murderer of Mr. John Halbirt, which occurred near this city on Thursday night last. He is best known by the name Clark Evans, but has traveled under the names of James Bridges and William Owens.— Those who saw him on the day of the murder describe him as about five feet eight or nine inches high, fair complexion, short sandy or light hair, and no beard. He has two or three teeth out of the lower jaw, and is about twenty-four years old. When last seen he wore a pair of stogy boots, striped store pants with a patch on one knee, a close-bodied blue- black soldier's coat with frock tail, and a grayish cap. He carried away from Halbirt's house a suit of nearly new dark steel mixed clothes and a pair of light pegged boots nearly new, one of which had been cut below the instep and sewed up. Halbirt's son offers $300 reward for the arrest of the murderer, and late this afternoon news were[sic] received that parties were in close pursuit.

As you can see from the previous and will see in our final article, Evans was clearly considered an undesirable in the community. Our final article comes from the New York Times (New York, NY) dated May 6, 1874:


Special Dispatch to the New-York Times.

CHICAGO, May 5.—A special from Carrollton, in this State, says that Clark Ivans, twenty-four years of age, who was brought up in Pike County, is ascertained to be the murderer of John W. Halbirt, killed near that city on the night of the 30th ult., the particulars of which were telegraphed THE TIMES. Ivans was arrested this morning in Scott County, and all the evidence leading to his detection and arrest are almost positive proof of his guilt. He is supposed to be one of the party who murdered Dr. Foley two years ago in Pike County. His brother is now serving a term of twenty years in the State Prison for killing an old man in Pike County about four years ago. The culprit just arrested has but recently concluded a term of years at Joliet for breaking into the Catholic Church at Carlinville and stealing the church plate and jewels.

Thank you for joining us and, as always, we hope we leave you with something to ponder.