Life Abbreviated: Earl C. Carpenter & Wife—Part 2 of 2

In 2018, this building stood were the Carpenter’s once lived at 346 S. Washington Street.

After the death of E. C. in 1923, there wasn’t much to keep 45-year-old Alice at her home on S. Washington Street in Bloomington.  Her mother, Sarah (McCollough) Worley had died in 1888 and her father, James, in 1917.  She had no siblings, no children and few strong attachments in Bloomington.  So when Alice’s brother-in-law, George Carpenter, with his wife, Flora, decided to move to Florida about 1926 or 1927, Alice decided to tag along.

A few years later, in 1930, George with his wife, two children and widowed father, 79-year-old Guy Carpenter, were living in Orange County, Florida.  Alice, who had completed two years of college, lived alone in Tampa and was not employed.  She wasn’t wealthy, but she had enough money to live comfortably.  A decade later, age 62, she lived in St. Petersburg.

It was while living there that she met Alfred Leonard Cline in early 1944.  He was a decade younger than her, silver-haired, rather shy and portly, seemingly quite religious and had a good deal of money.  He liked to quote the gospel and told Alice he used to sing in a Denver choir.  What he did not tell Alice is that he had spent time in a Denver prison on fraud charges in connection with the attempted murder of 75-year-old Mrs. Laura Cummings.

Alfred Leonard Cline c. 1945.

Alfred had taken a trip with Laura in 1930.  For reasons not known but easily imagined, Laura made out her will leaving Alfred $60,000 (nearly $857,000 in today’s currency).    Laura survived Alfred’s attempt to poison her and eventually was persuaded by her family to return to Massachusetts and change her will.

Alice was undoubtedly flattered by Alfred’s attention.  And his lucrative job offer.  In February, he offered her a position paying $250 monthly (about $3,500 in today’s currency).  It didn’t take long for her to accept.  Soon afterward she passed along the information to George and Flora.  Then she was gone.

George and Flora never heard from Alice again.  However, on October 21, they received a call from Alfred.  He said Alice had become sick several days earlier at the hotel where she had staying in Dallas.

Mrs. Alice Carpenter is believed to have died in a Macon, Georgia, hotel as “Alma Carter.”  See Des Moines (IA) Register, June 30, 1946, p. 10.

A doctor was brought in to see her on three different occasions.   The first time, according to the doctor, she reportedly was rather dismissive and spoke about the Christian Science faith.  The second time, when he asked her if she was in pain, she only grunted.  Lastly the doctor called on Alice a third time only to discover that she had passed away either late on October 17 or early on the 18th, 1944.

Alfred had had the body cremated and was making arrangements to have the remains buried in Texas.  When George and Flora learned of the death, they insisted it was only fitting and proper that Alice’s ashes be returned to Bloomington for burial at the Rose Hill Cemetery by the side her husband.  Alfred acquiesced with some reluctance.

During the next few months, George and Flora were dismayed to learn that Alice’s personal property in stocks and money had disappeared.  Moreover, Albert had had himself made the administrator of her estate in the absence of a will.  This was brought to the attention of the police who began to investigate.  What they found suggested something much more sinister than fraud.  They suspected Albert was guilty of murder.

Because he was not new to crime or the penal system, the police looked at him quite closely.  Their investigation uncovered a number of marriages, nearly all of which had ended with the sudden death of his wife and an increase to his personal wealth.

Alfred’s last wife, Delora Krebs Cline, who he married in May 1944, was formerly married to a Chicago manufacturer who died leaving her a very wealthy widow.  She was missing when the investigation was begun, but Alfred had been cashing her annuity checks for some time without fail.  On a hunch the police showed Delora’s picture to the doctor in Texas who had supposedly cared for Alice in October 1944 just days before her death.  Surprisingly, the doctor recognized the woman in the photo as Delora, not Alice.

The next step of the investigation was rather surprising given that forensic science in 1944 was different and much more limited then than it is today.   Police requested that Alice’s remains be exhumed and examined.  They were sent to the IU Med School where technicians discovered eighteen “artificial” teeth among the remains. George Carpenter reported that Alice had only two “artificial” teeth which excluded her as the person whose remains were buried in Rose Hill under Alice’s name.  Investigators soon came to believe the remains in Bloomington were those of Delora Krebs Cline who wore both upper and lower dentures.  The district attorney noted that it was his belief that Alice died in 1944 in Macon, Georgia, and was cremated under the name of Alma Carter (sic).

Although the police had many reasons to believe that Alfred was guilty of serial murder, they didn’t have enough evidence to convict him on a murder charge.  According to American Murder:  Criminals, Crime and the Media written by Mike May and published in 2008, Alfred’s MO was effectively simple.  He’d marry and honeymoon at a distant hotel where his new wife was not known.  “He’d lace a drink with sedatives powerful enough to knock out the bride but not kill her.  A doctor would be summoned and told she was suffering ‘another heart attack.’  Soon thereafter [Alfred] would kill her with a stronger dose.  The doctor would list heart failure as the cause of death.  The grief-stricken widower would have the woman’s body cremated and then move on to his next target.”

Instead of murder, Alfred was arrested in December 1945 and tried on nine charges of fraud growing out of the estate of Delora Krebs Cline.  He was surprised at the amount of evidence presented against him.  Members of the jury took only two hours to find him guilty of all charges.

The judge sentenced Alfred to 14 years in prison on each count, the sentences to run consecutively for a total of 126 years.  In 1946, he was sent to Folsom, a state prison in California established in 1880 and long known for its harsh conditions.  Until air holes were drilled into cell doors in the 1940s, inmates spent most of their time in dark, stone cells measuring 4 by 8 feet with eye slots.  During the course of his incarceration, Alfred studied religion.

Two years after his incarceration, Alfred died suddenly of a heart attack on August 5, 1948.  He died without revealing any of the details of his crimes.  It is believed that he killed at least eight women and an evangelist, Rev. Ernest Jones.   Alice Carpenter’s date and place death remain a mystery.  Although she has a tombstone in Rose Hill, her final resting place is not known.

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Blog post by Randi Richardson

Life Abbreviated: Earl C. Carpenter & Wife—Part 1 of 2

Earl Collins Carpenter was born July 29, 1878, in Illinois to Guy C. and Viola (Irish) Carpenter.  Earl, typically referred to as E. C. or “Doc,” had two younger brothers, Guy, Jr., and George.  His maternal great great great grandfather, Benjamin Irish, was a veteran of the Revolutionary War who died in 1795 when he was lost at sea.

In the spring of 1900, E. C. was among the 13 graduates from the Indiana Veterinary College at their fifth annual commencement.  Immediately afterward, he came to Bloomington, boarded at the Bundy Hotel where the CVS store is now located at Washington and Kirkwood, and began his career as a veterinary surgeon.

Earl C. Carpenter, photo courtesy of his nephew, George Carpenter, of Bloomington, Indiana.

Although E. C. loved all animals, he was particularly passionate about horses.  He spent time at James Worley’s livery barn.  James had only one child, a lovely daughter, Alice.  Perhaps it was Alice and not the horses that prompted E. C. to visit the livery barn.

By 1902, E. C. was already making a name for himself among horse owners throughout the state and elsewhere.  In 1902 he went to Lafayette to train “fancy horses” for the Indianapolis horse show.  The following year, William H. McDoel, the president of the Monon Railroad sent his two “fine driving horses” from Chicago to Bloomington so that E. C. might train them to take “fancy steps” and “thoroughly educate them in his school which is said to be the best of its kind in the country.”  Thomas Taggart, owner of the French Lick Springs Hotel, also took advantage of E. C.’s expertise in 1903 to have him train one of his “fine stepping horses.”

In fact, E. C. was spending so much time training horses that the newspaper announced in the summer of 1903 that he would no longer be able to devote all of his time to veterinary work.  It seems likely that there were other things on E. C.’s mind as well.  On December 22, 1903, he married James Worley’s daughter, Alice.  The newlyweds soon purchased a home at 346 S. Washington Street in Bloomington.

E. C. also turned his attention to performing in various venues with his horses.  He performed for a time in various locations with the Gentry Bros. Shows riding King Araby, his “beautiful, milk white Arabian.”  After leaving the Gentry Bros. he joined Miller’s Wild West show, but sold Araby, “the fancy steeping horse,” in 1913 to the Gentry Bros. for $1,000 (in today’s dollars, the equivalent of more than $25,000).  Araby was said to be among the best trained horses with any of the big shows and could perform innumerable tricks “with the precision of a clock.”

When the U. S. joined it allies to fight in World War I in the spring of 1917, life changed for many Americans.   E. C. began spending more time at home in his veterinary practice and training horses and less time on the road performing.   He registered for the draft in September 1918.  At that time he was 41 years of age, still married to Alice and still living on South Washington Street in Bloomington.  Three months later, the war ended without E. C. ever serving in the military so much as a day.

E. C. Carpenter astride his “fancy stepping horse,” King Araby. Photo courtesy of his nephew, George Carpenter, of Bloomington, Indiana.

During the course of war, 116,708 American military personnel died.  Although many died in combat or combat related wounds, many also died of the flu.  From January 1918 through December 1920, the deadly influenza was prevalent throughout the world killing 50,000,000 to 100,000,000 people making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.   After that, the number of flu victims diminished, but the flu far from disappeared.  In the early spring of 1923, E. C. came down with the flu which was, at the time, also called la grippe, grippe or grip.

We might assume that E. C. was not initially over concerned.  He was, after all, a man of medicine.  But when the symptoms lingered, he scheduled a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  Upon his return home on May 1, he was hopeful that he could regain his health with bed rest.  To that end, he announced through the Bloomington Evening World that he was retiring “due to health issues.”  His patients were asked to settle their accounts with him by sending payment to 346 S. Washington.

Several weeks later his condition worsened.  On May 28, after a debilitating stroke of paralysis, his parents were called from New York to his bedside.  He died before their arrival at 10 AM on the morning of May 29.  The official cause of his death was uremic poisoning.  He was 45 years old.  Burial was in Rose Hill Cemetery.

E. C. was survived by his wife, Alice, his parents, and a brother, George, of Bloomington.  He had no children.

Watch for Part 2 of this story next week and learn the mystery behind Alice’s strange disappearance following her employment with a notorious bluebeard.

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Certificates of Selection for the Civilian Conservation Corps

The Civilian Conservation Corps was a public work relief program that operated from 1933-1942 during the presidency of Frank D. Roosevelt.  Initially, the program provided manual labor jobs related to unemployed, unmarried men between the ages of 18-25.  Later it was modified to include older men up to the age of 45 and they were no longer required to be single.

Most of these records are reportedly kept at the National Archives in St. Louis.  For some unexplained reason, however, the Certificate of Selection for 83 of those young men from Monroe County and nearby communities is available at the Indiana University Lilly Library in Bloomington, Indiana. [1]  The documents pertaining to each man are contained within a single folder and the folders as a whole contain the 480 items (pages) that make up the collection.

Documents within the file typically include at minimum the Certificate of Selection and an intake interview.  Both of these documents are rich with information.  Consider, for example, the 2-page intake interview for Ward E. Stevens completed by Mary Eloise Humphrey, identified as “visitor” on December 7, 1939.[2]  Excerpts are noted below.

” ‘Visitor called at the home of Lola Stevens, Ward Stevens’ mother.  The visitor was directed to the house by Mr. Tidd, Ward Stevens’ grandfather, Jacob Tidd.  From the very first, Mr. Tidd took complete charge of the interview.  Mr. Tidd said, “I’m the one who manages things around here, and I’m the one to say if there is any change made in [Lola’s] pension.”  This attitude of Mr. Tidd’s seemed rather odd, but it had been brought about because of the fact that his daughter was feeble-minded and he had since the death of her husband realized her inability to manage for herself and therefore had tried to manage for her as best he could.’

‘Mr. Tidd said that he was the one who had made the living there and when asked what the living was he said it consisted of the $30.00 a month ADC which he got for Mrs. Stevens, for her two youngest children, and the $3.20 a week which he got from the relief for himself [and other members of his household].  Mr. Tidd pointed with pride to the fact that he had worked 18 years for the City of Bloomington.  Among various other things, he had been on the fire department.’

‘Ward seemed to be tolerated in the household and recognized as quite a problem.  He would go away and stay for days.  Mr. Tidd hoped that Ward would not get to go to camp because he was afraid that Mrs. Stevens’ assistance would be taken from her if Ward got to camp.’

‘The visitor does not recommend that Ward Edward Stevens be selected for CCC enrollment.  The fact that he was only in the fourth grade at the age of 16 years and his general inability to comprehend makes the visitor feel that he would not be able to adjust very well into a CCC program.’ “

Section 1 of the Certificate of Selection includes information pertaining to the applicant’s person, members of his household and place of residence.  Section 2 reveals information about his education; Section 3 is about employment; and Section 4 notes the applicant’s reason(s) for desiring placement with the CCC.


To access CCC enrollee records other than those at the Lilly Library, contact the National Archives at St. Louis and submit either a written request or NA Form 14136.


[1] When the folders were reviewed in March 2018, the last three items in the inventory were missing.  Their names, however, were included in the index.

[2] According to a digital image of the death record at Ancestry, Ward E. Stevens, the son of Albert and Lola (Tidd) Stevens died in Noblesville, Hamilton Co., Indiana, on June 19, 1947.  His death was occurred when a boxcar backed up and accidentally pinned him to a shed.

Blog post by Randi Richardson




Mystery Object in McDoel Gardens!

We recently had a Bloomington resident call the History Center to inquire about a particular object he had in his basement. The origin and purpose has stumped him. He sent us some photos and it has stumped us as well! We’re hoping one of you will recognize it and be able to tell us what it is!

Here is what he has to say: “It is in the far northeast corner of my (unfinished) basement. It is about three feet tall and sits on a base made out of bricks, which is cemented to the floor. It looks like it was built out of three pieces and these are cemented together. The lid is also made of cement and has a wooden handle attached by two heavy wires. Beneath the lid is a dugout, about 8″ x 12″ and 7″ deep. On either side of the dugout, there is a chain embedded in the concrete. Each is two heavy-duty links.”

Thing 5

Thing 4


Thing 1

His home was built in 1925 and is in the McDoel Gardens neighborhood. Is this some lost remnant from the circus? from a mill? from the rail yard? Please let us know your thoughts! We’d love to solve this mystery!

Remembrances of Drs. David Hervey and James D. Maxwell

The clipping noted below, written by Agnes McCulloch Hanna, was published in an undated, unsourced Bloomington newspaper under a column called “Looking Back.”  It was found in a scrapbook compiled by a man named Fred Lockwood.  The scrapbook is held by the Monroe County History Center, Bloomington, Indiana.  The item below was abbreviated from the original, as noted by the ellipsis, and excludes much of the information pertaining to the home built by Joshua Owen Howe later the property of David H. Maxwell.

According to information from the Rose Hill Cemetery Index, David H. Maxwell was born September 17, 1786, and died May 24, 1854.  His burial was in Rose Hill.



…Dr. David Hervey Maxwell had written the constitution of our state with his own hand, and it may be seen to this day in our archives.  In 1838 his son, Dr. James D. Maxwell was elected to the Board of Trustees of Indiana University and held this office with the exception of a short period until his death in 1892.  In the discharge of his duties as secretary and trustee, he was noted for his fidelity and abiding faith in the ultimate success of the institution.

He helped his college through trial by fire and political controversy and was steadfast to it.  He saw it develop to the new and enlarged institution on its new campus.  Maxwell Hall is named in honor of David Hervey and James Darwin Maxwell.  His service rendered with no financial reward.  Miss Juliette Maxwell, youngest of his daughters, offers an annual prize to women students of the university, the James Darwin Maxwell medal, for excellence in scholarship and principals.

In a spacious house [on S. College Avenue, described at length in an earlier MCHC library blog] he and Mrs. Maxwell entertained twice each year the trustees and members of the faculty and their wives at dinner parties.  Dr. James Darwin Maxwell was born in 1815 near Hanover, Ind.  Of his ten children, three daughters are living—Mrs. Allan B. Philputt of Indianapolis, Miss Juliette Maxwell who resigned recently from the department of physical training at the university, and Miss Fannie Bell Maxwell, formerly an instructor at Ferry Hall, Lake Forest, Ill.  Mrs. Grace Philputt Young, his granddaughter, is a member of the Department of Romance Languages of which her husband is the head at Indiana.

This is a family which is tied intimately to our state and its university.  The house, which was for many years connected with the town and college, still holds its place as it is now the home of the Burton-Woolery post of the American Legion, many of whose members were graduated from the university, some of whom are attached to the university and all of whom see and take part in its activities.  A long life and a happy one, the Howe-Maxwell house has had in Bloomington.  Few can belong more closely to the community.  –Indianapolis Star

Blog post by Randi Richardson


Scoby’s Divorce and Battle for Child Custody

divorceAlthough there were significantly fewer divorces in the early nineteenth century than there are today, they nevertheless did exist.  One of the earliest divorces on record in Monroe County is that of James and Ruth Scoby.

On August 24, 1824, the Monroe County sheriff was commanded to bring several witnesses to court to testify on behalf of James Scoby and his petition against Ruth.  The witnesses included Samuel R. Cavin, George Hardesty, George Johnston and James Edwards.

According to an index of divorces available at the genealogy library in the Monroe County History Center, James was granted the divorce on March 7, 1825.  The couple had one child together, an infant daughter named Eunice.  Ruth was apparently given custody.

Following the divorce, James married again on October 3, 1826.  His second wife was Rhoda Polly. Sometime thereafter, he brought Eunice to his home and refused to give her back to Ruth.

Understandably, Ruth was upset.  She protested that she had rightful custody of Eunice and asked the court to intervene on her behalf.  On August 8, 1827, the judge ordered the sheriff to bring James and Eunice to court so that James might explain, if he could, why he refused to return Eunice.

There is little more information than this in the circuit court file for James Scoby vs. Ruth Scoby.  (See Circuit Court Records Box 5 at the Genealogy Library, Monroe County History Center, Bloomington, Indiana.)

Post by Randi Richardson.