Sometimes the ‘Good Guys” turn out to be the “Bad Guys”
(Continued from Blog Post of August 22)
The new trouble for Deputy Luther Clark came at 11:00 Sunday morning December 4, 1909 when John Blair was discovered dead in his jail cell at the town hall, where he had been placed the night before by Officer Clark.
John Blair, a pumper for the J. K. D. Shaffer Oil Co had been arrested Saturday evening just a few steps from his lodging place on Chestnut Street and locked up on a charge of public intoxication.
One of the field bosses for the Shaffer Company reported that he saw Blair about three-quarters of an hour before his arrest and that Blair had asked for his pay, but was put off until the tenth of the month, the regular payday of the company. John or Curly Blair, as he was familiarly known, was but 19 years of age and came to this place from Warren, Ind. when the oil boom began with his brother C. B. Blair, also employed by Shaffer Oil Co. Curly was of a cheerful disposition and was well liked by all who knew him. He was not considered a man of a quarrelsome disposition, although at times he indulged in liquor.
A prominent citizen, who witnessed the arrest of Blair by Officer Clark, alleged he saw the officer strike Blair twice, the first blow knocking Blair down, and the second blow being delivered as he attempted to rise to his knees. This citizen was unable to tell just what the officer struck him with, but he thought it was a mace. Another report was that Clark was seen to strike Blair with his fist after he had placed him in the cell.
After the body was discovered at 11:00 am, Coroner Black was at once notified. He arrived at 5:30 Sunday evening and the inquest lasted until 8:30 pm. Dr. J. F Schrader, was the Foreman; Tom Lackey, the clerk, Clay Seed, Bert Claycomb, Joe Jordan and L. B. Flanders made up the Coroner’s jury.
The evidence showed that the dead man was John Blair and his home was previously at Warren, Indiana; that he was very drunk Saturday night and had cursed several people when the officer came to arrest him and that in making the arrest Officer Clark had hit him, knocking him down; that he then took Blair and locked him up. At breakfast time Sunday morning Blair ate nothing, saying he was sick, and laid down in the hall of the jail where he died without medical attention.
The coroner’s jury, as well as the dead man’s brother who was present, requested a post mortem examination, to be done by Drs. Boyd and Caney of Vincennes. The doctors came on the early train Monday and arrived at 9:15. By noon they had completed their autopsy by removing the crown of the skull and exposing the brain to view. On the left side of the brain was found a clot of blood as large as an egg, which caused his death. Both physicians gave sworn testimony that this clot was from the effects of a blow.
The sealed verdict of the Coroner’s jury was turned over by the coroner to the grand jury.
( Continued tomorrow)