Muncie epitomizes the small-town America of squeaky-clean 1950s sitcoms, but its wholesome veneer conceals a violent past. Public scandals and personal tragedy dogged the long, notorious life of Dr. Jules LaDuron. Baseball ace Obie McCracken met a tragic and violent end after joining the police force. A mother’s love could not stop James Hedges from committing murder. The paranoid delusions of Leonard Redden hounded him until one day he carried a shotgun into a quiet classroom. Detectives Melvin Miller and Ambrose Settles chased a murderer across county lines in pursuit of justice. And newsman George Dale’s showdown with the Klan prepared him for the political fight of his life. Douglas Walker and Keith Roysdon, authors of Wicked Muncie, introduce a new cast of characters from the city's notorious past.
About the Author
Keith Roysdon is a reporter at the Star Press in Muncie, Indiana, where he is the paper's watchdog reporter, covering not only the normal functions of government but also the abnormal--when things go wrong, money is misspent or elected officials misbehave. Roysdon has won more than two dozen awards in Indiana newspaper contests. In addition to many awards for their work together, he and Douglas Walker won the Kent Cooper Award for Story of the Year in Indiana for their 2010 Cold Case story on Muncie's most notorious unsolved murders. Roysdon marked his fortieth anniversary in journalism in 2017.
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THE CITY EVERYONE SHUNNED
In 1893, Lizzie Borden was found not guilty of murdering her parents in Massachusetts. Also that year, the Indiana, the first battleship of its kind in the U.S. Navy, was launched. Arthur Conan Doyle killed off his creation, Sherlock Holmes, at the hands of villainous James Moriarty in "The Final Problem."
In Muncie, a city not yet thirty years old and experiencing growing pains, Dr. Frank Jackson had an alarming problem.
Jackson had been named the city's first health officer, a position for which he was paid $400 a year. At thirty-four, he was a young physician compared to others in Muncie. He was bucking his elders, then, when he suggested that the cases of chickenpox the city was seeing were not chickenpox. The illness was smallpox, and it was deadly.
Not that Jackson could convince some people of his diagnosis — at least not at first. Before Muncie's smallpox epidemic of 1893 was beaten back, reputations were won and lost, an entire portion of the city was quarantined and neighbors spread the disease not only through ignorance and arrogance but also malice.
Muncie and Delaware County were undergoing a boom just as smallpox broke out. It wasn't the first time smallpox was found in the city, and it wouldn't be the last, but the epidemic of 1893 was notable because of its virulence and because of how the city reacted.
In 1893, Muncie was growing. Many of its twenty-two thousand residents had come from the southern United States, looking for work. They were the first wave of people looking to make their fortune — or at least a good living — in Muncie. The discovery of natural gas in the Midwest in the 1880s brought speculators and developers, would-be industrialists and the workers they needed.
The Ball Brothers, container makers from New York, were searching Ohio in 1886 for a possible factory site when a Muncie businessman contacted them and offered to show them around the town. By 1888, the Ball Brothers were settled in Muncie after accepting incentives that included $7,500, free land for their factory, a railroad siding and a supply of natural gas, free of charge, for five years. By 1893, the Balls were making nine million home food canning jars a year in Muncie.
Although the Balls' manufacturing dominance — and influence — in Muncie would last for decades, the natural gas supply did not. Natural gas wells were left to burn around the clock because the powers that be believed that gas would last for seven hundred years. It did not. By the early 1900s, the natural gas supply was exhausted.
But in 1893, the city was riding high on the seemingly inexhaustible supply of fuel and the workers attracted by the city's burgeoning industry. With them came their children: Muncie's schools, which had begun in the city even before the city was incorporated, had several thousand students by 1893. The first high school had opened in 1881, and in 1893, Blaine School, the latest of several school buildings, opened.
The children of Muncie, unfortunately, were the easiest targets of smallpox.
It was August 1893, and the Delaware County Fair, an annual event that draws the town's residents to this day, was underway. According to William G. Eidson's 1990 article "Confusion, Controversy and Quarantine: The Muncie Smallpox Epidemic of 1893," as many as ten thousand fairgoers — nearly half the city — were enjoying horse races and hot-air balloons.
Instead of enjoying the fair, Doctor Jackson was making a house call at the Macedonia Avenue home of Thomas Murray and his family. Dr. Robert Bunch, whose son Rollin would later be mayor of Muncie, had diagnosed the Murray family with chickenpox.
Jackson doubted the diagnosis of the forty-one-year-old, well-established Bunch, however, and was worried that the high fever and skin eruptions were symptoms of smallpox, not chickenpox. Jackson contacted the Indiana State Board of Health, and Dr. Charles Metcalf came to Muncie and confirmed that the illness was smallpox.
Jackson quickly met with members of Muncie City Council and convinced several of the officials that smallpox was not only present in the city but also spreading. The disease had been introduced in April when a visitor from New Jersey, infected with smallpox, visited a local family, the Dilks, who then passed the disease to the Malloy family. One of the Malloy children went to class at Blaine, where she sat next to a child from the Murray family. The Malloy girl had smallpox blisters on her face but still went to school.
The Murray girl had been treated by Dr. Bunch in May, while school was still in session, but her illness was diagnosed as chickenpox.
Throughout the summer, Dr. Bunch saw and treated patients with smallpox — but he diagnosed them with chickenpox despite severe blistering, high fevers and convulsions. Bunch decided to notify Jackson and the health department in August, although he still maintained that the sick were afflicted with chickenpox.
At Jackson's urging in mid-August, city officials approved quarantines of houses where smallpox had been diagnosed. Yellow cardboard signs reading "smallpox" were posted on the houses and, Eidson wrote, guards were stationed near the houses to prevent coming and going.
All but one of the families lived near a wooded area that would come to be known as Heekin Park, in a portion of the city that was eight blocks wide and sixteen blocks long. In an area bounded by Willard Street, Macedonia Avenue, Walnut Street and Ohmer Avenue (later renamed Twelfth Street and, still later, Memorial Drive), red warning flags were erected, but entry and exit from the area was not prohibited. Only comings and goings from the individual houses were forbidden.
Groceries, milk and even water were delivered at a safe distance. Doctors entering each infected house wore rubber coats and boots. Eventually, even the guards watching the borders of the area were required to spend their off-hours there. Eidson wrote that two people were arrested for breaking quarantine, although they were not the only violators.
The city quickly began vaccinating Muncie residents. If people couldn't afford the fifty-cent cost of the shot, the city would pay for it.
Even while precautions were being taken, a group of smallpox disbelievers arose. Among the most prominent among them was Dr. Bunch, who continued to say publicly that the disease was chickenpox, not smallpox.
For a few days, no new cases were reported. That late August break in the disease's spread caused many to join Bunch in doubting that smallpox was among them. The quarantine was still on, however. With guards out front, members of infected families left by their houses' back doors, traveling throughout the city. Garbage men refused to collect the trash from infected houses, and it piled up outside rather than being burned.
The Delaware County health officer, Hugh Cowing, said that he and his city counterpart Jackson and other authorities had to fight not only the disease but also "the surroundings and the people" of Muncie.
Mayor Arthur Brady brought Indianapolis physician Henry Jamison to town, and Jamison argued that the epidemic would get worse if a smallpox hospital, or "pest house," was not created. But city officials said they wouldn't open a smallpox hospital, because so many people in Muncie didn't believe the disease was present. Officials cited 1885 riots in Montreal when that Canadian city tried to force smallpox patients into pest houses.
The debate continued. Then, all hell broke loose.
As Eidson wrote, in late August and early September, "dozens" of new smallpox cases in Muncie were identified. A sixteen-year-old girl, Mary Emma Russell, died. And cases of smallpox were found outside the quarantine zone.
On September 7, the state board of health did what Muncie officials wouldn't do: impose a restrictive quarantine on the city. Public gatherings, whether at churches, ball games or schools, were outlawed. The public wasn't allowed to gather on the street, and police could make arrests for "loitering or loafing." And thousands were to be vaccinated. In fact, the entire population was subject to vaccination orders.
The Delaware County commissioners followed suit and shut down church services and schools, including those that were yet to begin classes for the fall. Spurious smallpox "cure" recipes were printed in local newspapers.
The state told people outside Muncie that they entered the city at their own risk. Those who wanted to leave the city by train had to be certified healthy by authorities, and other cities hired police officers to ensure that people from Muncie had that certification before crossing their borders. Neighboring Randolph County said that visitors from Muncie would be quarantined for ten days. The baggage of travelers from Muncie had to be fumigated before it left the city. Even letters and packages were fumigated by the post office, and library books returned from the quarantine area were burned. Panic broke out in the town of Daleville when a man told people he had a visitor from Muncie who might be infected. The visitor, a boy, was found as he fished, but physicians determined the rash on his body was from poison ivy, not smallpox.
Mothers in Anderson reportedly told their children that if they didn't go to bed, they would be punished by being sent to Muncie.
The smallpox plague finally had the public's attention.
Officials quickly moved to build a pest house in the woods in what would later be called Heekin Park. Patients were reluctant to leave their homes, and authorities enacted plans to have them forcibly removed.
As an initial measure, however, health officials urged friends of smallpox-infected families to persuade the sick to go to the hospital. One family threw rocks at a friend who implored them to go. In another incident, a father shot and wounded a man who tried to take his sick child to the hospital. One family refused to go, and officials decided to cut off their food supply to force them out of their home, but friends sneaked food in to them. In one instance, a man threatened officials with a gun rather than give up his sick father, who died a few days later.
While authorities worked to open a second hospital and persuade the sick to commit themselves for treatment, some from smallpox houses took infected rags and threw them at the houses of people who were not infected in an attempt to spread the disease.
Ignorance wasn't limited to the general public. Dr. Bunch and other Muncie physicians joined the Indiana Anti-Vaccination Society and continued to maintain that chickenpox, not deadly smallpox, infected Muncie. Some of those smallpox deniers issued proof-of-vaccination paperwork to their patients who were, in reality, not vaccinated.
The debate ended up in court, where a judge said health officials could mandate vaccinations. So ten thousand Muncie residents were given preventative shots.
Successive waves of the disease hit Muncie, with more than one hundred infected by October. But as fall passed into winter, the progress of the disease slowed. Nevertheless, Eidson wrote, twenty-two people died during the Muncie smallpox epidemic of 1893. No funerals were allowed, however, and all of the victims were buried in the middle of the night.
Fighting smallpox cost the city $22,807, and Indiana's governor, Claude Matthews, considered financial help for the city. But some smallpox deniers from Muncie wrote to the governor to argue that state money shouldn't go to the city, which, the writers maintained, had blown the epidemic out of proportion.
By November, with the likelihood that the epidemic had subsided, the quarantine was lifted; schools opened for the year and churches and organizations held their first public gatherings in weeks.
The ripples from the smallpox epidemic of 1893 were felt for decades to come. In 1913, county health commissioner Hugh Cowing said that he considered smallpox a continuing threat. In 1932, now retired Cowing recalled for the Muncie Evening Press the middle-of-the-night burials of smallpox victims of the 1893 epidemic. In 1937, Mayor Rollin Bunch — son of the smallpox denier of 1893 and a physician himself — recommended vaccinations as a mini-outbreak of smallpox occurred. Five cases were under quarantine. Another handful of smallpox cases was diagnosed in 1938.
In 1943, on the fiftieth anniversary of the epidemic, Cowing noted that severe blows were dealt to the city by the epidemic. "The epidemic taxed the doctors, health officials and nurses beyond capacity," Cowing wrote in the Muncie Star. "For weeks, Muncie was quarantined from the outside world. ... After fifty years, the lesson of this epidemic remains: Vaccinate and prevent smallpox."
It was not until 1979 that smallpox was declared eradicated throughout the world.
And in Muncie.CHAPTER 2
JULES LADURON'S EARLY YEARS
Jules LaDuron had a talent for making the news. He did it often throughout the twentieth century, sometimes for his political accomplishments, sometimes for his medical career — and sometimes for the sudden death or disappearance of those in his life.
For a man whose life was in the headlines over the course of seven decades, it's not surprising that Jules LaDuron — athlete, politician, family man and physician — became one of the best-known and, at times, most controversial figures in Muncie in the twentieth century.
LaDuron's penchant for appearing in the headlines started early. He was only a sophomore at Muncie High School in May 1911 when, in what was likely the first of many times his name appeared in newspapers, he broke a fellow student's jaw with a roundhouse punch. On page nine of the Muncie Morning Star on May 18, 1911, an article headlined "Students in a Fight; One Gets a Broken Jaw," recapped an incident among high school students during a baseball game at McCulloch Park the previous day. "Class spirit reached so high a pitch that a clash ensued between some of the students and in the mix-up, Russell Beck, a junior, had two teeth knocked out and his jaw broken."
Near the end of the game, the article reported, an argument broke out among students watching the game and "Jules LaDuron, a sophomore, took exception to some of the remarks and with a heavy right he swung into a crowd of juniors standing behind him."
"The blow struck Beck squarely on the jaw and had he not been standing in a crowd he probably would have gone down for the count of ten," the article continued. "He was taken to the office of Dr. Owens where it was found his jaw was broken. As a result of the mix-up, charges may be filed by some of the students."
On May 18, Delaware County court records show, an arrest warrant was issued for LaDuron for assault and battery. The case was ultimately dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence.
It wasn't unheard of for incidents and grievances that might be considered a small matter to be fodder for newspapers. In an article next to the one-paragraph LaDuron story was one in which an Albany woman was reported to have sued for divorce, maintaining that her husband had left her three years earlier for another woman.
A little more than a year after LaDuron's brush with the law, he was chosen by fellow students to represent them on a board with the aim of "reviving" Muncie High School athletics. The school had been "a terror" in football in 1905 and 1906 but had been on a "downward path" in the years since, according to newspaper accounts. One hurdle LaDuron and his fellow committee members had to overcome: convincing the school corporation to build a gym.
LaDuron's physicality played into his post–high school years in ways both good and bad. His oldest grandson and namesake, Jules, recalled in a fall 2017 interview that his grandfather was well over six feet tall and a natural athlete. The elder LaDuron was a friend of Jim Thorpe, the Native American athlete who won gold medals in the 1912 Olympics, family members say. LaDuron was considered as a competitor in the hammer throw but ended up instead accompanying Thorpe and taking care of the medalist's pit bulls.
Born in 1893 — the year of the Muncie smallpox epidemic — Jules LaDuron was the son of Fernando Jules LaDuron, a native of Belgium, and Jemima Joris, from Norristown, Pennsylvania. The couple also raised a daughter, Grace Adele, who was a Muncie schoolteacher for thirty years before retiring to Florida.
Jules LaDuron was rarely out of the headlines for most of his life. In 1914, newspapers recounted how the "big high school athlete" would likely play varsity football at Indiana University. In August 1914, LaDuron was attending IU classes at Winona Lake when he disappeared. Fernando told reporters that his son had left school and was on his way to New York, where he hoped to join the Belgian army and fight in the European war. Jules LaDuron had reportedly spoken "enthusiastically" about the war.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Muncie Murder & Mayhem"
Copyright © 2018 Keith Roysdon and Douglas Walker.
Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. The City Everyone Shunned,
2. Jules LaDuron's Early Years,
3. Waiting for Harry Bateman,
4. Mountain Justice,
5. George Dale vs. the KKK,
6. "The Luckiest Guy in the World",
7. The Disappearance of Freda LaDuron,
8. The Meat Market Murder,
9. Jules LaDuron and the Carter Brothers,
10. Enter at Your Own Risk,
11. The Cops Who Wouldn't Stop,
12. The Death of Innocents,
13. A Mother's Love,
14. Murder in the Classroom,
15. Life Is Cheap,
16. To Protect ... and to Steal,
17. Jules LaDuron, His Final Years,
About the Authors,