· William E. “Bill” Long (1862-1940)
William Elbert Long and Sarah Cassandra “Cassie” Baker (1871-1913), both natives of Tennessee, were married in 1897 in Pawnee, Nebraska. Their three children, Clella, Charles, and Chester, were born in Reno County, Kansas.
Photos compliments of Alice Dugan
It’s Saturday, October 15th, 1927, in Hutchinson, Kansas. Houston Whiteside, 81, and Bill Long, 65, are talking about the olden days in Reno County.
“Fortunately, I didn’t have to view the bodies of the five murdered children,” said Houston Whiteside. “The trial was enough, and I was only an observer in the courtroom.”
“In March of 1899, prior to the gruesome murders, I’d been sheriff for over a year. I distinctly remember thinking things were going pretty well,” recalled William E. Long, Hutchinson chief of police. “Boy, was I wrong.”
“It’s unnatural for parents to kill their children,” said Whiteside. “What could anyone have done to prevent such a tragedy? Should Emporia have put John Moore in an insane asylum?”
“Years before the crime, while a tenant farmer in Lyon County, he had been treated for epileptic insanity,” said Long, “but setting the house on fire after the murders, showed an attempt to hide his gruesome acts from discovery. That helped influence the jury from accepting the defense of insanity.”
Neither man—Long or Whiteside—said out loud what both men could never forget. With a hatchet, while they slept, John A. Moore, 35, had crushed the skulls of his children—Carl, 12; Mary, 9; Pearl, 7; Charlie, 6; and Lee, 3—and slit their throats.
Moore was described by people who new him as: “always non-communicative, morose and melancholy . . . but affectionate to his children and ambitious of their future . . .” (Hutchinson Democrat, March 25, 1899)
The Hutchinson News (March 23, 1899) described Moore as: “extremely ignorant and cannot read or write . . . character woefully warped and his mind badly balanced . . .”
“The children are said, by their teachers and those who knew them, to have been bright, pretty children, clean, neat and tidy.”
“In his statement he says that for several years he has been subject to severe epileptic fits and during these spells he knows nothing of what he does or what is going on around him. He claims to have felt great anxiety about the future of his children and worried greatly over his inability to find work. He declares that he often thought that he would rather have his little ones dead than grow up worthless.”
Thus, when Mattie Franklin Moore told her husband she would seek a divorce and live with her parents, he said he could not bear to think of leaving his children to live like her family.
“I recall you housed Moore in the McPherson County jail just in case there was a demand for a lynching,” said Whiteside.
“It was precautionary,” replied Long, “and my wife, Cassie, was glad to have him from under our roof.”
“I recall Moore bolting after he was found guilty,” said Whiteside. “He got as far as his father-in-law’s house, isn’t that right?”
“Moore didn’t have much use for any of the Franklin’s except for Mattie, his love,” said Long. “With no good result, Under Sheriff Metz emptied his gun at the fleeing Moore. If Ed had been a better shot, the two of us would have never had to take him to the penitentiary at Lansing.”
“Two years after the Moore murders, during my second term as sheriff, I had my world turned upside down again,” said Long. “When Ed Metz, my under sheriff and my friend, died in the train accident at the new Missouri Pacific passenger station, we were aghast. He was a really good man, and to the end cared deeply about his family.
“Captain Metz wanted to serve people in the community. After he failed to get enough Republican primary votes for sheriff, he enthusiastically supported the Republican ticket. When I took office, Ed agreed to be my under. He was the one who showed me the ropes.
“Until the day I die, I will always remember responding to word of that awful accident on Monday night, January 7, 1901. While trying to catch a train at the Missouri Pacific depot after it had started, Ed was thrown under the wheels when he lost hold of a rail. Both his legs were severed. An hour later he was dead.”
“I’ve seen how you and Ed, Jr. work together for the city,” said Whiteside. “There’s a feeling of respect and family.”
“Ed’s a competent city clerk,” replied Long. “At the time of his father’s death, Ed was working for the pensions department in Washington, D.C. He returned here for the funeral, and basically, has never left, caring for his mother, Flora.”
“She’s a dear,” said Whiteside, “and he’s a loving, bachelor son.”
“How are Bill and Arie?” asked Julia of her husband, Houston, who had just returned home.
“Bill didn’t say,” answered Houston. “But being chief seems to agree with him. It can be a challenging job. Bill’s worked for a couple of mayors and each one is different. It’s not the same as being an elected sheriff. Sheriffs have the final say.”
“When I think of Bill after Cassie’s death in 1913, I’m glad he finally found someone else to spend his life with, but Cassie died too young,” said Julia. “Ari and Bill married in Wichita in 1921.”
“Today, Bill was open to talking about his first years in office, so we discussed the dark days,” said Houston.
“Let me guess, you talked about John Moore and Edmund Metz.”
“You have amazing clairvoyant powers!” exclaimed Houston.
“I’ll bet you wasted your time on John Moore, when you could have discussed Mattie Moore,” said Julia.
“Moore was the murderer,” said Houston.
“Mattie was the survivor,” said Julia. “Remember how she couldn’t be convinced that her husband had killed their children? Remember her misplaced loyalty? Even after he was convicted, Mattie couldn’t take her eyes–or her hands–off her husband.”
“Yes,” said Houston, “she even followed him to Lansing so she could have occasional visits at the penitentiary.”
“She couldn’t believe he had killed the children because she knew how much he loved them,” said Julia. “Finally, he admitted they had died at his hands. That broke her free. She hurried back to Hutchinson, divorced him, and swore she never wanted to hear his name again.”
“She was true to her word,” agreed Houston. “The following year she married, became Mattie Blanchard, and worked on a ranch in Colorado, far from Hutchinson.”
“Eventually, Mattie was strong enough to return,” said Julia. “Now, whenever she wants, she can visit her children . . . at Eastside Cemetery.”
*In 1901 the State of Kansas voted to begin biennial elections so that federal, state, and counties would hold their elections every two years, rather than annually. This saved money and made it more convenient for voters. In order to establish conformity, the sheriffs and county treasurers were held over a year in 1902 by appointment of the governor. Therefore, Reno County Sheriff W. E. Long, who had been re-elected in November 1899 to serve until January 1902, held over until January 1903. As a result, he served five years even though he was elected to serve four. The biennial state law also limited sheriff’s to serving two terms.
Until next time, happy writing and reading.
How do you find all of this?!
Jim Potter says
Thanks. Most of my research is from reading old newspapers. I also search the U.S. Census to learn more about the family structure. Sometimes, when I visit the grave to get photographs of the markers, I’ll ask questions…
Jim Potter says
Thanks, Matthew. I love the old photos. As for the gravestones, I’m getting familiar enough with our cemeteries, that I can point out where the sheriffs are buried.
Joni Gold (Tucker) says
Good mornin’ Jim! Wow! So great to hear your voice again. Serendipity led me to your blog here. I see then that you, just recently, wrote about the tragic murders of the five Moore children! I was initially just looking for information about the wishing tree online. Spirit works in wonderful ways. So now I want tell you my personal experience about these murders. I learned of this tragedy at my first partake in the Talking Tombstones event at Eastside Cemetery. The actress was portraying Mattie Moore. We were at her gravesite. “Mattie” explained that her five children were also laid to rest there at Eastside in unmarked graves. She chose not to have markers because she was afraid, due to the nature if their deaths, that someone would disturb the gravesites . She indicated the area where they are buried but no one, not even the cemetery today, knows the exact location. That is sad to me. Mattie told us the Hutchinson address of their home that the murders took place. She explained that after he killed their children her husband had also caught the house on fire and then fled by horse and wagon that night. He made it to McPherson and was caught soon thereafter. Mattie described many other details about her life and about the horrific murder scene that Hutchinson firefighters discovered upstairs once the fire was put out. So many aspects to this tragic story touched my heart. After the event was over I immediately drove by the address. It was a vacant lot with the house numbers having been changed. The Moore home address was missing. The home was a total loss in the fire and was raised. I cannot imagine anyone would have ever lived there again anyway after what happened. So Spirit then led me to know that I needed to do a Healing Ceremony at that spot and Pray for those children. Later that month myself and a dear friend went to that address that is now a grassy lot . We Smudged, Prayed, and carried out a Healing Ceremony for those children and for Mattie. I still think of the children often. I am not native to Kansas but have lived here most of my life. I am fascinated with Hutch history and have sought out much about it. You take care Jim! Crazy times we are all living …in many many ways. Your friend, Joni
Jim Potter says
Joni, great to hear from you! Thank you so much for helping settle their spirits. Talking Tombstones is so amazing! BTW, when I visit the graves, I say “hello,” explain that I’m doing historical research, and ask them my questions.
Mattie’s gravestone is broken in two. Makes me wonder the circumstances. Symbolically, I think of it being her broken heart.
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Pat Bussen says
That’s a very intriguing and detailed story, Jim. I read it twice. The John Moore hatchet murders reminds me of the Villisca axe murders that took place in Villisca, Iowa in 1912 where six kids and two adults were axe murdered while they slept.
I think it’s a fitting addendum when you include photos of the gravestones of the people that you mention in your stories. This was a good read, thanks for putting this one together. – Pat
Jim Potter says
Thanks, Pat. I had a friend respond. She told me that Mattie Moore decided against having grave markers out of fear of what someone might do if they knew the exact location of the graves.
When we look at our history, there were some ghastly murders which occurred before TV & violent video games.
Great story, Jim. I liked the added photos with captions. These added realism to the story.
Jim Potter says
Thanks, Louise. Real photos are possible with historical non-fiction, unless you can draw.
I love your research, Jim.
Jim Potter says
Thanks, Louise. I do enjoy it. However, I do get obsessive. Labor of love.
Wonderful as always!
Jim Potter says
Thank you, Linda.