Murder in Linn County, Oregon: The True Story of the Legendary Plainview Killings

Murder in Linn County, Oregon: The True Story of the Legendary Plainview Killings

by Cory Frye

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Overview

This true crime account of a Prohibition liquor raid gone wrong illuminates “a dark and violent stretch in Linn County history” (Corvallis Gazette-Times).
 
On June 21, 1922, Linn County sheriff Charles Kendall and Reverend Roy Healy drove out to the town of Plainview to arrest a moonshining farmer named Dave West. By the end of the day, all three men were dead. First responders found Sheriff Kendall facedown with his pistol still holstered. The court appointed William Dunlap as the new sheriff, but within a year, someone killed him, too. Author and journalist Cory Frye delivers a riveting, detailed account of these shocking and tragic crimes that haunted Linn County for decades.
 
Includes photos!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781625857934
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date: 08/08/2016
Series: True Crime
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 147
Sales rank: 620,510
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Cory Frye is an award-winning writer and editor based in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. His work has appeared in the Albany Democrat-Herald, Corvallis Gazette-Times, the Oregonian, Under the Radar, Stereo Subversion, Yahoo! Music, iTunes, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The Minister

The ghosts of the past have not all betaken themselves to the otherwhere.

Near the end of December 1921, the Reverend Daniel Poling sat in his Corvallis home, corralling observations for the coming year. The kind-eyed fifty-six-year-old led Albany's Presbyterians, but this weekend his canvas was larger: the Sunday edition of the Albany Democrat. Charles Alexander oversaw the paper on those days — a good fellow, a printer and novelist who on the Sabbath mixed sober reportage with languid perusals, promoting and feeding Linn County's literary ambitions.

"Tomorrow I shall step across the threshold of 1922," he wrote, "and I ask for courage to march straight into it, and its experience ... I pray thus for myself in the year 1922. I pray for my friends unto the uttermost borders of the world. May this be a 'year of the Lord,' a prosperous, happy, progressive year."

Initial signs pointed toward abundance. As Poling's pronouncements went to press, Roy Healy, his brother in Christ, met with the board of his First Christian Church. The gathering's tone was celebratory. A basket lunch topped the agenda, followed by an encouraging dessert: 1921's final numbers, the best the church had ever known. Increases abounded in every department. Some 104 new faces had filled the pews, and collectively the congregation had raised more than $9,000 against expenses. Not bad for Healy's first full year. He'd proven a godsend, and the assemblage expressed confidence that the new year would build on the old.

Roy Healy seemed destined to answer "The Call," entering the world on Christmas Day 1886 in the nearby town of Lebanon (not exactly Bethlehem but quaint and charming). Yet he'd traveled well in his thirty-five years, ministering from the Willamette Valley to the upper reaches of the Pacific Northwest and then down through Northern California before returning once more to his native soil and to this twin-towered temple at the corner of Fourth and Broadalbin.

Hardship, naturally, moved with blessing. His birth mother, Emma, would never know of his godly achievements, would never watch with pride as Roy and his older brother, Leonard — whom many knew affectionately by his middle name, Bert — matured into upstanding men. She died in February 1898, when Roy was twelve and Bert fourteen, lain to rest in Lebanon's IOOF Cemetery, where her headstone, pristine as the day it was shaped, reads simply, "Wife of O. Healy."

Oscar Healy didn't play grieving widower for long. When the twentieth century began, he met it with his own fresh start. He took a bride, the former Harriet Pygall, that summer of 1900 and pushed the brood west to Corvallis, where Roy spent the rest of his adolescence.

The end came for the fifty-year-old Oscar in 1907, and Harriet herself seemed to separate from the narrative (she died in Portland in 1916). The brothers were adults by then. Bert had left Corvallis's Oregon Agricultural College (Oregon State University) two years earlier for a job in Cathlamet, Washington, hoping to return with enough money to finish school. He became a permanent resident instead, starting a family with his wife, Gertrude, and their children, Barbara, Leon and Roy, named as tribute to Bert's brother. Bert plied various trades for the rest of his life, from bookkeeper to county commissioner to stationary engineer. He was eulogized upon his 1934 passing at the age of fifty as "one of Cathlamet's best known citizens"; attorney J. Bruce Polwarth recalled, "As a friend he was steadfast and loyal; as a husband kindly, sympathetic and considerate; as a father he made of his children his best friends, and he entered in their hopes and happiness as his own."

Roy stayed in Oregon, joining his aunt and uncle, Martha and Robert Healy, in Coburg. There he met and courted Ada Belle Sidwell, the second oldest of Robert and Laura Sidwell's four daughters (a fifth, Bessie May, had died in 1903). The Sidwells were a large family — eleven children — and the women, perhaps through sheer number, couldn't help but enchant those Healy boys, as sparks soon flew between Ada's sister Edna and Roy's cousin Frank. But the original union reached the altar first, tying the knot on the morning of June 20, 1911, in time to make that day's Eugene Daily Guard. Ada was twenty-three and her husband twenty-four; Roy stands proud in a subsequent portrait, beside his smiling bride.

A 1914 directory finds the lovebirds at 1365 Onyx Street, a thirteen-minute stroll to Eugene Bible University (now Northwest Christian University), where Roy was enrolled as a student. The college had expanded considerably beyond its 1895 origins as Eugene Divinity School, a rented building ample enough to house its five-strong student body. Nearly twenty years later, Healy and 120 of his peers paid $150 to $200 in annual tuition to wander the growing campus, whose crowning glory was its library's rare Bible collection.

Traces lingered of humble roots. Its three original professors remained active: university president Eugene Sanderson, Hebrew instructor Ernest Wigmore and David Kellems, head of the Oratory Department, where the aspiring pastor sharpened his elocution. Healy graduated with a BSL degree in 1917 and later stood with the institution's most illustrious alumni in C.F. Sanders's Making Disciples in Oregon (1928). A church newsletter described his values thusly: "Brother Healy preached the Word with force and in love. He believed the Book, the whole Book, and was faithful in his teachings and diligent in declaring it to others."

Free from academia, and after a stint in Elmira, the reverend and his wife pressed north. By then thirty-two, Roy nevertheless fulfilled his duty to God and country by registering for the draft during the Great War. He listed his occupation as minister of the Christian church in Zillah, Washington, a tiny community of barely 650 souls. Another arrived on July 31, 1918, when Ada gave birth to the couple's only child, Eleanor Gertrude Healy.

Alas, the girl would never behold Zillah's pastoral beauty. Her nomadic family would soon make tracks again, spreading the gospel all the way to 155 Sycamore Street in Gridley, California, proudly described even in contemporary literature as a homey, small-town escape. They didn't stay long, however, returning to Oregon in the late summer of 1920.

For now, their adventures were over. All traveled roads — winding, thorny and otherwise — had guided Roy Healy home. Time had thinned his coif and softened his features, widening his countenance to accommodate a calming smile.

"The ghosts of the past have not all betaken themselves to the otherwhere," Daniel Poling wrote in words that burned from every newsstand in town.

Deliver me from all such. The ghosts of tradition, of theology, of dogmatic faith, of rutted and grooved educational systems; the ghosts of ignorance; selfishness, hate, bigotry, self-centeredness — free from all such, I implore ...

Reward my brethren for all their kindness and love toward me in the past. I write this record on the tablets of my heart and spirit. Assist me, Lord, in this, my labor of love —

And finally, I ask for myself, for my community, for my nation, a just and positive appreciation of the moral and spiritual values of life. A confession of faith in the invisible and intangible realities. Amen.

When 1922 had finally unfolded, in all of its shock and grief, many would quietly wonder if God had heard a word.

The Sheriff

I stand squarely on the right side of all moral questions and I shall sacrifice neither principle nor patriotism nor the interest of Linn County for politics.

When the National Prohibition Act became law in 1919, Albany may have wondered what took so damn long. A hotbed of temperance for decades, the town had gone "dry" some thirteen years earlier.

Not that it was easy to take a drink, even when the juice ran wild. As the law then read, "Liquor may not be served to common drunkards, persons intoxicated, women, girls, minors or Indians." None could enter a building where a single drop was poured. Sunday drinking was strictly forbidden. Everything appeared so perfect on the surface that the Albany College Bulletin confidently declared in 1911 that saloons were on the wane.

Eventually derided as a hectoring battalion, the temperance movement, in its powerful prime, was nothing to mock. Established in 1874, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union followed the lead of such earlier groups as the American Temperance Society and within a decade wielded influence far beyond its Hillsboro, Ohio base.

The ladies took as their credo the wisdom of Greek philosopher Xenophon: "Moderation in all things healthful; total abstinence from all things harmful." As daughters, sisters, wives and mothers, many had experienced alcohol's ruin firsthand: physical abuse, financial ruin, humiliation, diminished faculties, illness, murder, death. But they didn't stop at the bottled menace; under second president Frances Willard, they fought prostitution and for a woman's right to vote.

By 1880, the WCTU had come to Oregon, tapping Elizabeth P. White of Portland as vice-president for the state. The first union formed there the following March; Albany received its own one month later. However, the region's first union-specific building went up in nearby Corvallis after that city's branch was evicted from its previous rented address. The two-story, thirty-by sixtyfoot structure, with its free reading room and upstairs lodging, thrived despite heat from tavern owners. A local reportedly mused, "I believe it is conceded by all that W.C.T.U. of this city has been and is a great moral force, and that the reading room has done untold good. The saloons have decreased, owing, no doubt, partly at least to their influence." The group finally opened an Albany headquarters in 1887, coexisting peaceably with the Grand Army of the Republic, a club for honorably discharged Civil War veterans.

As the nineteenth century ended, so did faith in temperance unions. They'd become too massive, too scattered in their scope. From this perception rose Oberlin, Ohio's Anti-Saloon League, which quickly became the fiercest and most cunning of teetotaler collectives.

Crucial to its success was its American Issue Publishing Company, whose ceaseless press blanketed creation in magazines, pamphlets and newspapers. Manager Ernest Cherrington explained its strategy:

From this central publishing house there is to sweep a flood of anti-liquor literature, which with increasing volume and power will continue until by persistent application and by the constant wearing-away process, the stone of liquor domination which for so long has obstructed the highway of progress shall have been forever gathered in powdered dust into the urn of history.

Their publications often portrayed drinking as not just a social abomination or an affront to God but also as something much worse: hopelessly old-fashioned. The May 1912 cover of American Patriot magazine depicts a pair of gray-brushed, barrel-shaped rummies — one a brewer, the other a saloon keep — standing in a "Drunkard's Burying Ground," salivating over a stream of youth pouring into a nearby school. The barman laments, "Our best customers are dying every day." His partner suggests, "You must fill the ranks with the boys." Honestly, who wanted to age into fat, old predators or be obliterated by their own rotting guts?

Abstinence was clear-eyed science. It was intelligence, optimism, evolution. Indulgence wallowed in fog-brained avarice. There was no place in an enlightened century for such swine. Sneered Albany College history professor F.L. Franklin in a 1915 Oregon Teachers Monthly column, "That alcohol is an elixir of life, an invaluable stimulant, a much-to-be-prized food, was for ages as credible and as generally known to be true as were those other sacred truths that the earth is flat and that the sun moves around it daily."

Publicly, the tide appeared to be turning. But anyone game for a nip could find one, even in a dry community. Albany's more prominent souses bankrolled their own bootleggers and filled their cups in comfortable privacy. Others slipped out to blind pigs, lowdown kin to the more respectable speakeasy. "If you knew where the blind pig was," longtime resident Otho Franklin told the authors of Ah, Yes ... I Remember It Well four generations after such venues were de rigueur, "you could buy beer."

Liquor moved regularly through town, so authorities had to be as vigilant as traffickers were crafty. On the morning of Friday, January 31, 1919, a Southern Pacific Railroad detective, while inspecting the No. 55 northbound, came across a coffin emanating a peculiar odor. Curious, he cracked it open to find not mortal remains but enough bonded whiskey to preserve a mortuary — several dozen quarts, minus the telltale bottle that shattered. The detective continued with the shipment to Portland, where he planned to arrest the bereaved.

That had nothing on the olfactory cloud forming over Fifth and Broadalbin earlier that month, when outgoing sheriff Daniel Harvey Bodine reflected on his six-year tenure while draining ninety-three pints of hooch — $644 worth (about $8,800 in 2015) — into the sewers outside the jailhouse. A somber audience witnessed this symphony of smashed glass and liquid temptation.

An Albany Democrat reporter captured the lawman's soliloquy:

During my time as sheriff, I have destroyed nearly 500 gallons of whiskey. At the present price, this could mean that I have put out of commission $28,000 worth of contraband liquor. Several local physicians and the hospital authorities have asked me at various times to supply their medical needs, but under the law as it now exists, I can not turn over this liquor without violating my oath of office. At one time I consulted the district attorney in regard to the matter, but was advised that legally I could not turn any portion of my stock over to the physicians. Despite the claim that liquor in moderate quantities is beneficial in the treatment of Spanish influenza, I have no alternative than to perform the duties of my office as the statutes describe.

Bodine was leaving — he'd soon return as the city recorder, a less dangerous pursuit — but the office was in capable hands. His successor, Charles M. Kendall, had been with the department for the better part of a decade, since becoming a deputy in October 1911. He'd outlined his qualifications in a newspaper campaign ad:

I was chief deputy in the office for over 18 months and I have served as a peace officer and outside deputy at different times over 10 years. My record is clean. My accounts are accurate. I never made a false arrest, never failed to get the man I went after and never lost a prisoner.

He did, however, lose his first bid for sheriff, but only by 7 votes in a 1916 squeaker. Although his Republican affiliation guaranteed a Democrat snub (the newspaper backed his opponent, W.J. Moore of Brownsville), he handily won the 1918 election, 2,811 votes to 1,496. Even better news landed six days later, on November 11, when the Allies and Germany signed an armistice ending the Great War after four miserable years, clearing front pages of correspondence from the trenches, disheartening reports of hometown tolls and open threats against supposed "slackers" (what another generation would call "draft-dodgers").

Documenting Charles's early life has proven a labyrinth of blind turns and abrupt dead-ends. History keeps its secrets safe. According to his obituary, he was born in Chalfants, Ohio, on August 19, 1869 (or 1867, as his headstone reads). The town no longer exists, bleeding into Perry County anonymity (plug it into Google Earth and you'll land somewhere near Graber's Oak Flooring & Pole Buildings on Gower Road in Glenford). His mother's name was Caroline Cochran. The 1880 census puts her in a Hopewell, Ohio residence with her brother, Samuel Cochran, and his family, plus her son, listed as Charles Cochran, age thirteen (which, admittedly, could be a simple mistake of identification).

It is not known how or when he became a Kendall. Caroline appears to have married only once, very near the end of her life, to the widowed Joel Danison in the late 1800s. The Perry County, Ohio Probate Birth Index recorded twenty-one Kendalls and thirty-one Cochrans between 1867 and 1908. None was born to a mother named Caroline or on a date corresponding to Charles's birth, although a "Charley Cochran" was born in 1891. It's possible that Charles came in 1866, the year before the county began keeping such records. From birth to death, no available evidence can identify a father, Kendall or otherwise. Considering the fact that Charles became a stage performer and interlocutor, "Kendall" could very well be a name he chose himself. Whatever the case, by 1901, Charles Cochran had become Charles M. Kendall.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Murder in Linn County Oregon"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Cory Frye.
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

Acknowledgements,
Prologue. The Final Morning, 1922,
The Minister,
The Sheriff,
January 1922,
February,
March,
April,
May,
June 1-20,
June 21 (Prelude),
The Farmer,
June 21 (Afternoon),
June 21 (The Aftermath),
Rest in Peace,
A New Sheriff in Town,
The Fate of Russell Hecker,
May 20, 1923 (and All That Followed),
Russell Hecker's Luck Holds Out,
The Resurrection of Cloy Alvin Sloat,
Epilogue. 1979-1989,
Notes,
About the Author,

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