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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Two Lives for Five Dollars - Part II

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This is a guest post from an excellent author. It is a true story, originally published in 2009. It is quite a long piece for a blog and is a four part series, which I will post on consecutive evenings. At the conclusion, you will want to see more of her work and I will link you up and publicize her site. Enjoy!

PART II
Henry Nolte was already acquainted with death when it came for him on that final day of 1934. It had visited his family time and again.

We can trace the Noltes from 1880, when they first appeared in Ross Township from Illinois — a tiny household; only the widowed 62-year-old Henry (grandfather of the murdered man) and his namesake son, 26. The younger Henry was married in 1885 to Mary Harms, who, like him, was from Illinois and the child of German immigrants. The elder Henry never remarried.
The little household began to grow. A daughter, Louisa, was born in 1885. In 1887, Henry and Mary's second child, William, was born and died on the same day. But many more children were to come.
More than a decade of happiness followed, or so it would seem. The census of 1900 records a Nolte household comprising three generations; nine family members plus a hired hand filled the farmhouse. In addition to Henry and Mary, and the elder Henry, there were three daughters: Louisa, 15, Alvena, 12, and Bertha, 8; and three sons: Henry, 10, Louis, 2, and the infant Edward. Looking at that census schedule, I imagine the house noisy and busy; the children delighting in the vast playground that was rural Ross Township; Henry, Sr., proud of his grandchildren, and Henry and Mary happy, if tired — all in all, a charming family portrait.
Just as the twentieth century dawned, Grandfather Henry died. This was not so much a tragedy as the ordinary course of nature: he was laid to rest in the fullness of his years, leaving children and grandchildren to remember him.
Then death came back for the young women. Louisa died in 1902, 17 years old, unmarried. The next year Alvena died at 15.

Henry and Mary would bury no more children: she died in 1908, he in 1913.

In 1912 Bertha left home to marry Claude Campbell.

Early in 1920, death took the youngest child, Edward. He was 20 years old and unmarried.


The 1920 census records a sadly reduced family. Bertha and Claude Campbell farmed in southern Ross Township next to her in-laws. The two remaining Noltes, Henry and Louis, lived together, both of them bachelors, and a 74-year-old woman kept house for them.
Ten years later, the elderly housekeeper was gone, and so were Bertha and Claude; I cannot trace them beyond 1920. Henry and Louis, the bachelor brothers, lived and farmed together: a tiny household, like the one that had come into Indiana 50 years earlier.
I said that the years between 1887 and 1902 seemed to be years of happiness, but I have nothing to look at beyond a census schedule, and it is opaque. It doesn't hint at anything lying beneath the list of names and ages. From the crowded and seemingly vibrant family of 1900, I would have expected every one of the young folks who survived into adulthood to marry and recreate the crowded, vibrant home they had grown up in. But that didn't happen. Neither Louis nor Henry — healthy, in the prime of life and moderately prosperous — ever married. One newspaper would describe Henry as a "recluse." It's a puzzle, and I could engage in my usual rampant speculation, but in this case I just don't have the heart.
In the winter of 1933, Louis came down with a bad cold, and from there his health deteriorated. He developed kidney problems, and after two weeks in the hospital he died. It was March of 1933.
The newspaper report of Louis' death does not mention Bertha Nolte Campbell, nor do any of the reports of Henry's murder. She might have died before then, or become estranged; or perhaps the omission of her name was just an oversight.
Henry returned from Louis' burial to an empty house. For almost two more years he would live there alone.

♦    ♦    ♦
On Tuesday, January 1, 1935, near the small town of Reynolds, in White County, Indiana — about 80 miles south-southeast of Ainsworth — the town marshal, Carl Westphal, came across a car abandoned in a ditch along State Road 53. The car was a Ford, but beyond that, Marshal Westphal couldn't identify it. The license plates had been removed. Westphal found the engine number, wrote it down and returned to his office to phone the information in to the state bureau of motor vehicles. The state would be able to look the number up in their files and get back to Westphal with the owner's name.

On Wednesday, a citizen dutifully turned in to Porter County authorities a wallet he had found somewhere southeast of Valparaiso. Porter County and Valparaiso authorities, aware of the murder, speculated to reporters that the wallet had been Henry Nolte's. They may have been in communication with Hobart and Lake County officers and thus aware that Richard Chapman was a suspect, but if so, they did not mention him to the press. But Valparaiso police chief Freeman Lane was looking into Richard's background. He learned that the young man had formerly roomed in Valparaiso for several months and had been "keeping company" with a young Valparaiso woman.
Meanwhile, someone from the state got back to Marshal Westphal and told him that the Ford he'd found was registered to a Lake County resident named Henry Nolte. Westphal phoned the Lake County authorities with that information. He may have been surprised by the reaction on the other end of the line.
On the morning of Thursday, January 3, two Lake County deputies went to Reynolds to examine the car for evidence, Hobart police being temporarily occupied with other matters.
That afternoon, funeral services for Henry Nolte took place in Hobart at Reese's mortuary and the Methodist church. He was buried among his family in Ainsworth Cemetery.
In speaking to the press in the days after the murder, law enforcement officials were guarded, insisting that they had evidence that might lead to the killer, but refusing to specify what that evidence was. They did not name Richard Chapman.
Someone else named him to authorities, however — the night man at the Lincolnway Garage in Valparaiso told police that he recognized the young man who'd stopped at his garage very early on the morning of December 31, wanting to get the headlights on a car fixed.
Chief Rose's inquiries as to Richard's whereabouts finally yielded the information that he was currently employed as a hired hand by a 60-year-old widow, Mary Anker, on her farm a few miles from Reynolds. That news, added to what he already knew, must have removed any doubt from Chief Rose's mind. Perhaps a quick phone call from Chief Rose sent Marshal Westphal and White County Sheriff Will Hayes to the Anker farm on Thursday night.
There they arrested Richard, and — probably to their surprise — he sang like a bird.
He readily admitted that he'd gone to Henry's house intending to rob him. But he had not, he insisted, fired the gun that killed him. The killer was an ex-convict named James Allen, about 30 years old, who had joined Richard in concocting the robbery scheme. The two had met as Richard was hitch-hiking toward Hobart to visit his foster father. They fell into conversation, both complaining about being broke. The idea of robbery came up. Richard mentioned Henry Nolte, who supposedly had money. So they went to Henry's house in the early hours of December 30. No one was home; they entered by a window at the back. They waited all day and into the night. After midnight, when they heard Henry's car pull into the yard, Richard moved to the front door, armed with a rifle, while James Allen took the shotgun and waited at the back door. From across the house, Richard heard the back door open and two shots ring out. By the time he ran through the house to the back, it was all over. Allen ordered him to get the car from the barn. When he drove it out into the yard, Allen came out of the house, took the wheel, gave Richard a five dollars — half of their takings — and drove south toward Reynolds. He dropped Richard off near the Anker farm and drove off into the dark. That was the last Richard had seen or heard of him.

Police immediately set in motion a manhunt for the murderous ex-convict, James Allen.
On Friday morning, Chief Rose, along with Frank Traeger and Lake County sheriff's deputies, drove down to Reynolds to retrieve the prisoner. They brought him to the Hobart jail pending transfer to Crown Point.

By Friday night, Richard had changed his story. It isn't clear why — the Logansport Pharos Tribune seemed to imply that the retracing of the route he'd driven on the night of the murder had stirred something in Richard's conscience, while the Hobart Commonwealth credited the interrogation by Hobart police. For whatever reason, Richard took back his first story involving the ex-convict. Now he said he had acted alone. He was the triggerman. And this time, he put the story in writing and signed his name to it.

The Hobart Index-Commonwealth reprinted the entire text of Richard Chapman's second story — his written confession:
“I had been staying at the Anker home near Reynolds, Ind. for about a week, and on Sunday, December 30, I hitch-hiked to Wanatah on Route 43, then to Valpo, on No. 30. I loafed around Valpo for a while and then hitch-hiked to Ainsworth on the Lincoln highway. I walked across the fields to Chas. Chester's farm and helped Chester fix the wind mill and stayed there for dinner. I left Chester's place about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and walked to Nolte's place. I saw a small boy there and asked him if Henry was home, he said no. I then asked him if he was the Harms boy, and he said yes. The boy soon left, and I went to the rear of the house and raised a window and got into the house. I searched the rooms looking for money and jewelry but could only find a watch and chain. I then found a suitcase and filled it full of clothes such as sox, shirts, underclothes, neckties, and a pair of new shoes. I dressed up in a grey suit and overcoat and waited for Nolte to come home so I could rob him, and get his car. While I was waiting, I played the radio and got something to eat.

About 1 o'clock Nolte came home, there was another car with him, but that car turned around and went back. Nolte put his car in the garage, then went into the milkhouse, and then into the basement and fixed the fire, I had his shotgun loaded and was waiting for him to come in the house, as soon as he opened the door, I shot him, he staggered and fell and I loaded the gun again and shot him in the head. I then searched him and took his pocketbook containing about five or six dollars, then I took him by the feet and dragged him into the cellar way. I then went into the house and got the suitcase and a 22 rifle and put them in the car and drove to Hobart. I pulled off the metal plate containing the identification cards and threw it away at Dorman's bridge. I then drove to the Nickle Plate garage at Hobart and tried to get the lights fixed, but they could not fix them, so I drove to Valpo, and had them repaired at the Lincolnway garage, then I drove to Wanatah and took route 43 back to Reynolds.
On the way back I threw away some of the clothes and also took off the license plates and threw them away. I then changed back into my old clothes, drove the car into a side road a couple of miles away from where I stay and walked home.”
From Hobart, Richard was transferred to the county jail at Crown Point. All the evidence developed by authorities in Hobart and Lake County, Valparaiso and Porter County, Reynolds and White County, was assembled by the newly elected Lake County prosecutor, Fred Egan, now presiding over his first grand jury. On January 10, the grand jury returned an indictment charging first-degree murder. Because the murder occurred in the course of robbery, the death penalty would be mandatory if Richard were found guilty.
Trial was set to begin on January 22. Richard had no money to hire an attorney; the court appointed the "county poor attorney," Wilton J. Sherman, to represent him. Sherman would spend the next nine months working to save Richard's life in the face of considerable difficulties, some of which were created by his uncooperative client, others by his client's long-lost birth mother.
For Nellie Chapman had now resurfaced after an absence of fifteen years. She was living in Irondale, Ohio, married to a man by the name of Fishback. Her story was sad indeed. She had relinquished custody of Richard when he was about five, she said, because Richard's father had deserted the family, leaving her alone with eight children to support. She explained her failure to get in touch with Richard before the crime brought him into public view by saying that she had believed him dead for the past fifteen years, although none of the newspaper accounts explained how she arrived at that belief. She recounted to Wilton Sherman a horrifying incident during her pregnancy with Richard, when she had seen one of her small daughters burned to death. It had affected her mind, she said.
Sherman surmised that it may have affected Richard's mind, too. His plans for Richard's defense began to focus on the theory of insanity. His investigation into Richard's background turned up evidence of what Sherman called "unmistakable signs of insanity in boyhood." After a hearing on January 22 which resulted in a continuance of the trial until January 30, the newspapers reported some of Sherman's findings: "Chapman stole jewelry from his mother and hid it in a rain barrel. At another time he stole a watch and hung it under a gutter spout." It isn't clear from the news reports whether the mother in question was the birth mother or the foster mother.
Sherman asked the court to appoint a Chicago psychiatrist, Dr. H. Hulbert, to examine Richard to determine his sanity or insanity. Judge William J. Murray agreed to the examination, but appointed three local doctors to conduct it: Dr. E.S. Jones of Hammond, Dr. J.A. Teegarden of East Chicago, and Dr. Theodore V. Templin of Gary.
Trial opened on January 30. Part III tomorrow!

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