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Good-bye, Rosa Carney
It’s Wednesday morning, June 1, 1921, at the Reno County sheriff’s residence attached to the jail, 15 Avenue, East, Hutchinson, Kansas. Rose “Eva” Hopper Clark, 44, jail matron; and Minnie Marshall Deck,35, custodian for traveling prisoner Rosa Carney, 37; are talking prior to collecting prisoners for the train trip to Lansing State Prison.
“Please be careful,” said Eva, as she sipped her coffee. “You know she nearly killed Mrs. Mary Elward.”
“If we eat anything, I’ll make sure she doesn’t have access to a big carving knife,” Minnie replied with a straight face.
“Minnie! If someone heard you talking like that, they’d think you were being disrespectful to Mary Elward.”
“No disrespect intended,” replied Minnie. “I meant, we’ll be careful on the trip to Lansing. I know she’s unpredictable, and I can’t imagine the horror that Mrs. Elward went through while being attacked and held captive for several hours.”
“When Mary’s dear son, Rodney, visited us here at the jail, it was so he could be better informed for his duties as county commissioner. He told us that he thought his mother couldn’t remember everything that happened because she was unconscious for part of the ordeal. Rodney said that by a trick of fate the dull knife didn’t sever her jugular vein, but Mary received over a dozen wounds, lost a lot of blood, and needed 75 stiches at Methodist hospital.”
“At 76 years old, Mrs. Elward went out of her way to help a penniless woman,” said Minnie, as she frowned and slowly shook her head sideways. “She hired this Creek Indian to be a live-in maid, who didn’t have a place to stay and little clothing to her name. How was Mary rewarded? By nearly being slaughtered to death. How could any person be so cruel?”
“The doctors agree she’s demented,” said Eva. “They said she’s got paranoia with homicidal tendencies. In the time she’s been here in jail, over four months now, she hasn’t caused a disturbance, but she’s not right in the head. Bill’s sure she’s insane.”
“What does she do all day?” asked Minnie.
“She refuses to talk about her crime. Mostly, she incessantly rolls and smokes cigarettes, sews, and in the middle of the night sings, Goodbye, Dolly Gray.
“Back in January, when she nearly killed Mrs. Elward,” continued Eva, “she said she was under the belief that her employer was trying to steal her eyes, to take away her vision. Rosa also believes that she, Rosa, died as a Creek Indian and was reborn as a true Jewess.”
“My, my, she is sick,” declared Minnie. “Do you think she’ll ever get well?”
“There’s no telling,” answered Eva. “As sheriff, Bill takes a lot of insane people to Topeka, but most of them haven’t committed any serious crime. A few return to Hutchinson and lead pretty normal lives. But, with the drawing of a criminal complaint, Rosa will stay at the ward for the criminal insane until she’s cured. If that ever happens, she can be returned here to stand trial for assault with intent to kill.”
“Has Rosa ever said she was sorry for attacking Mrs. Elward?” asked Minnie.
“No, that’s a sign of her problem,” answered Eva. “She’s never seemed repentant. She’s expressed a strange belief regarding her right to take blood whenever she wants. When she talks like that, she sounds like a religious fanatic. Again, just be careful around her.”
“I’ll have Jesse and Herbert along,” said Minnie, referring to her husband, Jess Deck, 37, undersheriff; and Herb Clark, 15, deputy sheriff, son of Eva and Bill.
“You’ll all need to stay alert,” said Eva. “You won’t have trouble from crooked Dave Gilmer. He’s happy to get back to prison where he can do his time. No doubt, they’ll put him in charge of building paved roads, like he was here in Reno County when he was county engineer. Maybe he’ll learn a thing or two at the state’s expense, not from Reno County taxpayers.
“I don’t know about Hunter Gaines and Willie Bush,” continued Eva, “but I’m glad you’ll be an extra set of eyes for the trip.
“Remember,” said Eva, “Rosa believes the people of Hutch have raised money for her to return to Hackberry, Arizona. When she realizes she’s going to Lansing, not home, she may turn violent. Watch your self.”
“Hutchinson will be glad to see her go,” stated Minnie.
“On your return trip from Topeka, be thinking about a lady who would make handsome Rodney Elward a happily married man. I know he’s supposedly a confirmed bachelor, but it may be that he hasn’t met the right woman yet. He might be getting tired of personally cooking his own meals, washing his own dishes, and sewing buttons on his undershirt.”
“How about Minnie Bennet?” asked Minnie Deck. “She’s about his age and she could take her children along to his Castleton ranch. He’d have an instant family.”
“Oh, even though Rodney is down-to-earth, not presumptuous, I think he needs an intellectual sparring partner who can discuss art and the classics, someone who knows politics and is a progressive thinker. Even though he’s a farmer and a cattleman, he’s also a crusader, a University of Wisconsin graduate, writer, and lawyer. Rodney needs someone with an education beyond eighth grade.”
Click to open Rodney A Elward biography with newspaper photo
Jess Deck entered the room and said to Eva and Minnie, “If we want to be early to the depot, we better be leaving soon. Train number 10 departs at 9 a.m.”
Eva and Minnie didn’t have time to respond to Jess because as soon as he stopped talking they all heard faint singing. It was Rosa Carney.
Hear the rolling of the drums, Dolly Gray
Back from war the regiment comes, Dolly Gray
On your lovely face so fair, I can see the look of fear
For your soldier boy’s not there, Dolly Gray
For the one you love so well, Dolly Gray
In the midst of battle fell, Dolly Gray
With his face toward the foe, as he died he murmured low
“I must say goodbye and go, Dolly Gray”
Goodbye Dolly I must leave you, though it breaks my heart to go
Something tells me I am needed at the front to fight the foe
See, the boys in blue are marching and I can no longer stay
Hark, I hear the bugle calling, Goodbye Dolly Gray
Goodbye, Dolly Gray was first published in 1897 by Morse Music Publishing Company. Lyrics by J. W. Myers; music by Paul Barnes. It was popular during the Spanish American War, the Second Boer War, and World War I. Reproduced above are three of the six stanzas.
Until next time, happy writing and reading.