SHANKS, Clara - Fountain County INGenWeb Project

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SHANKS, Clara

Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal Friday, 19 May 1899

The Marshall correspondent of the Rockville Tribune says:

“In an obscure, unfrequented graveyard in Fountain County lies the headless body of Clara Shanks. Since its exhumation the skull has been in the custody of a physician. The two dislocated vertebrae of the neck were also secured. If the Keller damage case had been tried, the skull would have been introduced in court by the defendants as conclusive evidence that the girl met her death by violence. The public will doubtless be interested in the affair, and will make energetic efforts to ascertain who committed the robbery. Carelessly speaking the act can be called a robbery, but as the principals were authorized by the girl’s father to exhume the skull, the transaction can be considered perfectly legitimate.”

Source: Friday, 12 July 1895

Dan Keller, of Jackville, is said to be in deep water. On Sunday Clara Shanks, the daughter of Dan Shanks, of that place, disappeared and Monday morning her dead body was found in a sluggish stream some distance from her home. The body gave evidence of a most outrageous murder, the poor girl apparently having been choked to death

Her mother claims to have located the spot where the body was hidden by a vision she had Sunday night. She told it Monday morning and the girl’s brother proceeded at once to the spot designated and found his sister’s body. Some boys had been in swimming at the same place on Sunday evening, so the body was evidently placed there late Sunday night.

Dan Keller, a married man, was at once suspected of the crime and excitement is now running high in the neighborhood. Keller’s brother was in the city Tuesday and narrated the facts as above given.


Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 12 July 1895

The murder theory in the Jackville tragedy has been exploded and it seems that Miss Shanks committed suicide, being driven to the rash deed by the discovery of her intimacy with Dan Keller. Coroner Young has returned the following verdict:
Now after viewing the dead body of Clara E. Shanks, hearing and considering the testimony of the witnesses, together with the post mortem statement that said deceased came to her death by drowning, an act of her own volition.
                                        B. F. Young, Coroner
*****
We have just returned from a visit in Parke and Fountain Counties, where we attended commencement exercises Saturday evening and a birthday dinner on Sunday. At both places we were highly entertained and spent the time very pleasantly; but as sadness is oftimes the companion of joy and pleasures are often darkened by clouds of sorrow, we try to relate a sad incident that occurred in the vicinity where we were visiting. On Sunday morning the whole community was thrown into confusion by the announcement that one of the neighbor girls was drowned. The body was found in a deep pool in Wolf Creek, known as the “Falls” on the farm of J. S. Nickell, three and a half miles southwest of Wallace. Clara Shanks, the unfortunate girl, had left her home the day before about noon, and but little was thought of it as she had never threatened taking her life. The coroner came late in the afternoon and although his verdict was “suicide” the community feels that there is grave doubt on this point and that much may yet come to light. All day Sunday the house and yard was crowded while the horses and buggies on both sides of the road would have made a string a mile long. The dead girl was only sixteen years of age, yet her name had been darkly connected with that of a married man by the name of Dan Keller, who lived next door to the Shanks. The finger of suspicion pointed to this man and when search was made for him it was found that he had left for parts unknown. He will be looked after. As we looked on the blood stained face of the poor victim the thought came to us that if any girl could know and feel the horrors connected with such a death, it would be a great waning to them to be careful with whom they associate.


Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 26 July 1895

On Saturday, July 6, the dead body of Clara Shanks, of Fountain County, was found lying in a small stream of water, and the coroner returned a verdict of suicide.

Clara Shanks was the 18 year old daughter of Frederick Shanks, who lives one mile north of Grange Corner, and, as it now appears, she was murdered on July 6. Daniel Kellar, a young married man, 28 years old, lives just across the road from the Shanks’ home. The Shanks family carried water from the Keller place, and it was through this intimate relationship that a quarrel began. On Saturday morning, July 6, Mrs. Daniel Kellar made the startling allegation that her husband and Clara Shanks had been too intimate. That same afternoon Clara was missed from her home, and the next morning at 5 o’clock her brother, Daniel, found her dead body in the pool at Wolf Creek Falls, a half mile distant.

The coroner returned a verdict of suicide, but the citizens have never been satisfied, claiming the scars and wounds about the head could never come from jumping into the pool and drowning. The farmers in the district have been worked up to a fever heat, and now there is more danger than ever that they will take the law into their own hands. With last week’s verdict, which found the larynx and lungs free and open, they say it was impossible for the girl to have been strangled in the pool of dirty water. The sentiment is very strong against the Kellars and they have not lived at home since the tragedy.

Last Tuesday night a meeting of enraged and excited farmers of the Wolf Creek Valley met in the old school house east of Grange Corner and resolved upon this action. Again on Wednesday another secret meeting was held at one of the old log cabins, and it was declared that justice had not been done in former examinations, and that another must be held. It was then the coroner was petitioned and the other physicians summoned.

On Thursday, July 18, the body of Miss Shanks was exhumed and a post mortem examination held. This was conducted by Drs. Morris and Vancleave, of Rockville; Dr. Young, coroner of Covington; Dr. Fine, of Veedersburg; Dr. Mackey, Grange Corner; Dr. Williamson, of Covington, and Dr. Caplinger of Marshall. The coffin was taken up and removed to the woods near by, the examination being held under a large white walnut tree. It began at 1 o’clock and lasted until dark. After a brief consultation the following verdict was returned: “We find death to have been caused by violence; source unknown.”
During the examination the clerk noted that there was a lacerated condition of the left eye and a wound just above it two inches long. There were wounds over the right eye, with much congested blood. On the left cheek were abrasions of the cuticle, five or six in number. The skull was found in a congested condition, with attending bruises. Extending downward the search found the larynx open and clear of any foreign substance. The lungs were also free. Other parts of the body which were examined were found to be in a normal condition. In order to get some clue to the alleged intimacy between Dan Kellar and the girl, a careful examination by the physicians revealed the fact that the girl had no cause for shame and never had. This was a great surprise, in the face of the attempt to blacken the dead girl’s character, and the neighbors claim it is one of the strongest proofs of foul play, for they say the only possible basis for a suicidal theory was that the girl might have committed suicide in order to conceal some great shame. This last verdict has caused intense excitement, and lynching was openly hinted at.

No more romantic and mysterious place exists in all Parke or Fountain Counties than Wolf Creek Valley. It was an old Indian haunt, named by the red man, with Indian relics and Indian graves scattered all along its rocky gorge. The hollow has been famous ever since 1848, when a sawmill was built at the falls, the scene of this tragedy. Other lifeless bodies have been taken from this famous pool before that of Clara Shanks. Only a few rods away, Colonel Budd made his famous raid during war times, captured a man named Alwood and hanged him to a sapling
Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 26 July 1895

A special from the scene of the Shanks tragedy says: “The situation up the Wolf Creek  Valley over the Clara Shanks tragedy remains unchanged and the excitement following the post mortem examination, which found death caused by violence unknown, is unabated. No legal action has been taken to bear out the verdict of the examination because the evidence as yet is not substantial. However, two well known detectives are at work on the case, and it is confidently believed that this mystery, which rivals anything that ever happened in Parke  County, will be unraveled.

Every foot of the underbrush woods in the district surrounding Wolf Creek Falls is being searched by organized parties in the belief that some trace of a struggle will be found. In fact, some reports of circumstantial evidence have already come in. Late Saturday night word was reached here that one searching party had discovered distinct signs of a trail leading down the steep bank into the Wolf Creek basin thirty yard below the falls, where something had been dragged. The imprint of a man’s shoe, measuring No. 8, was claimed to have been seen very distinctly as it led down through the heavy underbrush into the hollow. This trail passed over two old logs on its way to the pool, on the first of which several drops of blood are said to have been found. Chips were shaved from the log and this alleged blood is now being carefully analyzed by experts.

The suicide theory has been almost abandoned since last Friday and now one more strong argument has sprung up against it. Late in the afternoon that Clara Shanks left home, a party of young men from the Mill Creek bottoms was in the pool bathing. They were there for an hour or more, diving all over the bottom, and they have come up offering to testify that no body was in the pool then, which leave but one sound conclusion—that the body of Clara Shanks was not in Wolf Creek Falls until after dark on that Saturday, however it may have come there then.

One other circumstance which is believed to have been clinched at the proper time, was that on Sunday morning when the body was found in the pool, a black sateen shirt was seen in the edge of the water which, from appearances, seemed to have been in a scrimmage. Excitement was so high at the time that no one though of the shirt and when searchers went back for it, it was not to be found anywhere. The pool has been dredged, but no vestige of a tell-tale garment can be found. This is believed to have been a most valuable clue. A courier from the north brought the news Sunday night that the parties strongly suspected of being implicated in this strange tragedy had left the neighborhood the night before.”
Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 8-2-1895

A court of inquiry in the Shanks murder case Tuesday brought out some startling facts. One result of the investigation was that the Kellers have very nearly cleared themselves of suspicion. Mrs. Keller testified that she saw Daniel Shanks cross a field on the run in the direction of Wolf Creek during the search for the girl and that he entered the woods at a certain point and in a short time returned and then went into the woods again at the same place and that he acted in a very suspicious manner during the afternoon. This testimony was sustained by Maggie Keller and partially so by young Shanks. So the mystery gets deeper and deeper and suspicion now points in the direction of the unfortunate girl’s own family.
Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 8-2-1895

The funeral of Clara Shanks - the young girl who was murdered at Wolf Creek Falls last summer took place Sunday at the Friends Union Church near Grange Corner. The services were conducted by Elder Joe Skeeters of Edgar Ill and Elder Cornelius Airhart of Advance, two Predestrian Baptist ministers. An immense concourse of people attended the services. kbz
Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal Aug 9, 1895

A special from the scene of the Shanks tragedy says, "The situation up the Wolf Creek Valley over the Clara Shanks tragedy remains unchanged and the excitement following the post mortel examination, which found death caused by violence unknown is unabated no legal action has been taken to bear out the verdict of the examination because the evidence as yet is not substantial. However, two well known detectives are at work on the case and it is confidently believed that this mystery, which rivals anything that ever happened in Parke County will be unraveled. Every foot of the underbrush woods in the district surrounding Wolf Creek Falls is being searched by organized parties in the belief that some trace of a struggle will be found. In fact, some reports of circumstantial evidence have already come in. Late Sat night word was received here that one searching party had discovered distinct signs of a trail leading down the steep bank into the Wolf Creek Basin 30 yards below the falls, where something had been dragged. The imprint of a man's shoe measuring No. 8 was claimed to have been seen very distinctly as it led down trhough the heavy underbrush into the hollow. This trail passed over two old logs on its way to the pool on the first of which several drops of blood are said to have been found. Chips were shaved from the log and this alleged blood is now being carefully analyzed by experts. The suicide theory has been almost abandoned since last Friday and now one more strong argument has sprung up against it. Late in the afternoon that Clara Shanks left home a party of young men form the Mill Creek Bottoms was in the pool bathing. They were there for an hour or more, diving all over the bottom, and they have come up offering to testify that no body was in the pool then, which leave but one sound conclusion - that the body of Clara Shanks was not in Wolf Creek Falls until after dark on that Saturday, however it may have come there then. One other circumstance which is believed to have been a valuable clew (sic) if it had been clinched at the proper time was that on Sunday morning when the body was found in the pool, a black sateen shirt was seen in the edge of the water which from appearance, seemed to have been in a scrimmage. Excitement was so high at the time that no one thought of the shirt and when searchers went back for it, it was not to be found anywhere. The pool has been dredged, but no vesitge of a tell-tale garment can be found. This is believed to have been a most valuable clew. A courier from the north brought the news Sunday night that the parties strongly suspected of being implicated in this strange tragedy had left the neighborhood the night before. kbz

Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 16 August 1895

A special from Bloomingdale last Friday says, "The noted Clara Shanks murder case reached its climax this afternoon when warrants were sworn out before Squire Penny of this place for the arrest of Daniel Keller, his wife, Nancy Keller, Margaret Keller a sister and John Keller, a brother. The first 3 are charged with the murder of Clara Shanks, while John Keller is charged with being an accomplicce of Daniel. The warranted were placed in the hands of Sheriffs mull of Parke Co and Moore of Fountaina nd they made the arrest t6onight at midnight. A preliminary hearing will be given the Kellers int he morning at 9 o'clock, Squire Penny, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sims of Covington and Prosectuor Maxwell of Rockville will represent the state while the Kellers have procured Mccabe of Covington to defend their case. Attorney sims has been here all day after spening yesterday in consultation with Prosectuor Maxwell of Rockville. It is believed that John Keller is charged wit h having helped carry the dead body of Clara SHanks fromt he Keller summer kitchen where she had been hidden all afternoon and threw her in the poola t Wolf Creek Falls, a half mile away. It is alledged that Mrs. Keller and Daniel Keller, together with his sister, Margaret were the principals in the crime. kbz


Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal Friday, 1 November 1895

The funeral of Clara Shanks, the young girl who was murdered at Wolf Creek Falls last summer, took place Sunday at the Friends’ Union Church near Grange Corner. The services were conducted by Elder Joe Skeeters, of Edgar, Ill., and Elder Cornelius Airhart, of Advance, two Predestination Baptist ministers. An immense concourse of people attended the services. - s

Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Jouranl Jan 31, 1896

The Kellar murder trial began in Terre Haute Monday and the Express speaking of the prisoners says; "When called upon at the jail the women were busy doing their ironing and preparing their wardrobe for their appearance in court Monday. They were in an exceptionally cheerful mood, apparently delighted that they are soon to know their fate. They talked jokingly of their experiencein Vigo Co and as Maggie is gifted with a bit of droll humor, her frequent ref to her jail life created no little amount of merriment. They have been model prisoners and have given the jailer less trouble than any prisoners ever committed to the Bigo Co institution on such a grave charge. They have tried to get all the enjoyment they could from the unfortunate circumstances, but at no time have they spoke jokingly of the crime of disrespectfully of Clara Shanks for whose death they are held to anaswer indeed if they have ever mentioned the girl's name it has been while talking among themselves. Whether they are guilty or not, their conduct while in the TH jail has been marked by modest bearing and those who have visited the jailw ill not condemn them until the trial is had and they are proved guilty. The prisoners are fully aware of the setinment that exists against them in Parke Co and the neighborhood where the crime is alleged to have been committed but in spite of this fact they say that if they are acquitted they will return to WOlf's Falls where they own a farm and there spent the remainder of their days. They believe that when their innocence has been established that they .. which is now so strong against them will be changed. The jury was accepted Monday evening and the opening speeches of counsel were made Tues. Monday afternoonD aniel Kellar, Nanie Kellar, his wife and Maggie Kellar, his sister in charge of Sheriff Butler & Deputy John Born, walked into the Vigo Co Court Room at Terre Haute to answer to judge and jury for the mysterious death of Clara Shanks, whose lifeless body was found in the bottom of a brook known as Wolf's Creek in Parke County on the 13th day of last July. The story of the death of the rural belle and the circumstances leading up to it is blending of romance and mystery sufficient for novel, while the scene of the dead girl's home and the picturesque, lonely spot where the body was found are the ideal scenes for the beginning and ending of a romance which ends in tragedy. The attorneys for the state will aim to show purely by circumstantial evidence that Clara Shanks was the belle of the neighborhood, a pure, innocent, light-hearted country girl; that the first trouble she ever knew was when her character was traduced by the Kellars and her own people believing the slanderous reports against her and left her friendless and practially homeless in the neighborhood where she had been raised and where she had known nothing but friendship and happiness. The state will aim to prove that when the poor girl, goaded to desparation went to the Kellar home to defend her good name and make her alleged tracuders retract and right the wrong they had done her, a fight followed in which the girl was killed. After the girl was dead, the state will claim, the Kellars carried her body to Wolf Creek and threw it in to hide their crime by creating a theory of suicide. There are 9 different theories as to how the murder was commited; each being describe dina spearate count of the indictment. When court was called to order Tues a.m. a juror named SOulee chosen to sit in the Kellar murder case was too drunk to appear and Judge Taylor ordered him brought in. After ahalf hour's consulation with the attorneys in the case, Judge Taylor resumed the bench and Attorney Lamb moved the discharge of the juoro Amos Hixon was then chosen as the 1wth juror in place of Soules. Soules is a prosperous farmer of Otter Creek Twp, Vigo Co who would not have been suspected of such an escapade. He aws put in the custody of the Sheriff to await action for contempot of court. Prosec Maxwell began his opening statement at 10;30 giving the state's theory of the murder of Clara Shanks by the Kellars. He said that on the day Clara Shanks arose form the dinner talbe and left bareheaded and barefooted never to return, Dan Kellar said to the searching parties that his wife and sister had seen Clara going down the road. There was no trace of her down the road. All afternoon the Kellar women were on the lookout at the windows of their house and Dan Kellar stood guard in front. They did not join in the search and late that night lights were seen in the windows of the Kellar house. Mrs. Kellar hqad threatend to "mash Clara's heap" if she ever came across the road to the Kellar's house. Dan Kellar had accused the girlw ith having accepted his vile proposals and this so stung the girl that it is claimed by the prosecution she went over to the Kellars to declare her innocence and that they then murdered her. Sunday morning Dan Shanks went to the Wolf Creek pool and wading in it, touched his sister's body. He ran home and told his mother about finding the body and taking his shotgun, went to the Kellar house where he called Dan Kellar to the door, fired at him and missed. The Kellar women went over to the Rice house for breakfast and the Rices will tell how suspiciously they acted. Dan went to Rockville to file an affidavit against Dan Shanks. He afterward met Dr. McKey and asked if Clara's body was bruised and when the doctor said it was, he turned white and said that his wife was jealous of Clara and that he (Kellar) had told his wife to "go ahead and he would stand by her to the end." When the court adjourned at noon, Judge Taylor gave orders that none of the jurymen should drink intoxicating liquors. In the afternoon John E. Lamb made the statement for the defense. He said it was an outrage that the sister, Maggie Kellar, should have been indicted and that it was down to discredit her testimony in the case against her brother and his wife. He said the girl committed suicide by drowning. When her body was first taken from Wolf Creek pool two physicians examined it and they found no external evidences that the girl had met with violence at the hands of anyone. The next day two other physicians examined the body and they made a like report. It was 12 days later when the body was exhumed and the evidence of a crushed skull and broken neck were found the defendants will go on the stand, he said and tell their story. The taking of evidence began with the testimony of Mrs. Elizabeth Shanks, the mother of the girl. She told of Clara's complaint to her that Mrs. Kellar was treating her coldly. The witness says she went to Mrs. Kellar and asked for an explanation and was told that Clara was too thick with Dan Keller, her husband. The mother would not believe it and Mrs. Kellar made Dan say it was true. He would not do so until his wife told must or make her out a liar. The last the mother saw of her daughter alive was when she left the dinner table July 6 and started for the Kellar house to make Dan tell the truth. Mrs. Shanks attempted to describe the apperance of Clara's body when taken from the pool. In this attempt the witness gave way to emotion, "Oh," she said, "It was the awfulest sight I ever saw She looked awful lying on the bed, her eyes wide open and her face was scartched, oh, so bad. I couldn't stand it to look at her. The blood was runiing from her mouth nose and ears and I could hardly believe it was her, I said, "Oh, my God is this my Clara?" Her face looked so awful she didn't look like herself. I know somebody killed her. She was a good girl and would never have killed herself. Oh, but her mouth did look awful - it was all out of shape and was twisted this way," and the wintess put her hands to her mouth and attempted to distort it to illlustrate to the jury how her daughter appeared. It was plain that the bereaved mother was being overcome with emotion and to prevent a scene or perhaps prostration Attorney Simms came to her relief by telling her she had told enough and she need not continue the description of her daughter's appearance in the death room and the state excused the witness. When the direct testimony was finished it was near 5 o'clock and on motion of Mr. Lamb court was adjourned until 9 this morning. kbz

Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal Friday 13 sept 1895

Rockville Republican: After working on the Clara Shanks murder mystery all last week, the grand jury late Monday evening returned indictments against Daniel Keller, Nannie Keller, his wife, and Maggie Keller, his sister, charging them with murder in the first degree. Tuesday evening the cases were placed on the docket and bench warrants issued for their appearance in court.

Proceedings were delayed until this forenoon to enable their attorney, Charles McCabe, to get here. They were brought into court just before noon when a motion to quash the indictment in every count was entered. Court then adjourned until 1:30.

Confinement appears to have gone well with the Kellers, Maggie in particular looks much better than at the Annapolis trial; indeed all of them appear fresher than then. The women were neatly dress. Dan’s confinement has taken the tan out of his face. All the defendants appeared very calm, not unconcerned as part of the time at Annapolis, but serious as though more than before realizing the serious nature of the charge resting against them.

After dinner, prisoners were again brought into court and a consultation was held as to whether the case could be tried this term. The fifty week is open but both sides agreed the case cannot be tried in one week. It will therefore be continued until next term.

The motion to quash the indictment will be argued next Friday afternoon.
Not much can be learned about the indictment. There are nine counts and the three defendants are jointly charged with killing Clara Shanks.


Source: Waveland Independent Waveland, Montgomery County, Indiana June 23, 1899

The grave did not end the troubles of poor Clara Shanks. Some months ago when the Keller damage suit was brought, the body of the murdered girl was disinterred and her skull taken for use at the trial. Last week it was buried again, and her body will now probably be permitted to rest in peace. kbz


Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal Friday, 19 May 1899
The Marshall correspondent of the Rockville Tribune says:
“In an obscure, unfrequented graveyard in Fountain County lies the headless body of Clara Shanks. Since its exhumation the skull has been in the custody of a physician. The two dislocated vertebrae of the neck were also secured. If the Keller damage case had been tried, the skull would have been introduced in court by the defendants as conclusive evidence that the girl met her death by violence. The public will doubtless be interested in the affair, and will make energetic efforts to ascertain who committed the robbery. Carelessly speaking the act can be called a robbery, but as the principals were authorized by the girl’s father to exhume the skull, the transaction can be considered perfectly legitimate.” -s

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