An update: Once again the sources disagree. Last week’s column on Heynen Monument Company used an article from the Sedalia Democrat’s Centennial Edition, Oct. 16, 1960. The Democrat reported the company was founded in 1879. However, this information is contradicted by another source. Becky Carr Imhauser’s history “All Around Downtown” reports the firm was originally started around 1860 in “Sedalia’s infancy,” according to J. West Goodwin of the Sedalia Bazoo. C.C. Clay bought the business in 1872, and C.H. Heynen bought a partner’s share in 1874; Heynen became the sole owner in 1898.

On Dec. 11, 1877, the Sedalia Weekly Bazoo reported on a trial in Warrensburg that involved a gruesome discovery in Cedar Creek on Feb. 24, 1877. Local farmer J.C. Castle reported he had found the body of a man wrapped in a patchwork quilt caught in driftwood in the creek about 60 yards from the road. He said it appeared that a wagon had been in the area near the creek and he found blood droplets near where the wagon had been. He contacted the sheriff and the county coroner.

Castle remained at the scene and recounted what the coroner had found when he arrived. The body was dressed in underwear, overalls, a grey wool shirt, and a vest. The victim appeared to have been struck several times on the head.

Coronor W.H. Evans testified he had held an inquest there the day the body was found. The victim, he testified, had indeed been struck several times on the head with an ax. The victim also possibly had his throat slashed. The death had apparently occurred on about Feb. 21 and animals had been chewing on the remains, making the slit throat difficult to confirm.

Apparently the body could not be identified so it was buried in the potter’s field section of Crown Hill Cemetery. The body was later disinterred (exhumed) so it could be properly identified. Coroner Evans said the body was in a relatively good state of preservation when it was exhumed. Mrs. Jesse Miller identified her husband by the clothing he was wearing, which she said she had sewn and mended. She also recognized that he had lost his left eye several years earlier. A friend testified that Miller had a scar from a gunshot wound on his leg; Coroner Evans confirmed this.

The court attempted to learn when, how, and why Miller was in the Cedar Creek area. Mrs. Miller testified she had last seen her husband on Feb. 20 when he had taken his team and wagon to go to Johnson County with John William Daniel, who was paying Miller $1.50 per day to take him there to collect some money owed him.

When Miller did not return, Mrs. Miller said she went to Daniel and asked where her husband was. Daniel said he had left Miller in Sedalia. The next day, Mrs. Miller saw Daniel with her husband’s wagon and team of horses, attempting to move out of the area. She questioned him again about her husband and was told that he was leaving her.

Cross examination raised some questions about the nature of the Miller’s relationship and of Daniel’s character, as well as who had killed Miller and why. Next week’s column explores the rest of the testimony.


Contributing Columnist

Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society. 

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