By Jared Olar
In last week’s column, we reviewed what the March 14, 1896 edition of the Pekin Daily Times reported about the background and motive of Albert Wallace’s murder of his sister Belle Wallace Bowlby the year before. The Daily Times that day published a lengthy and detailed report on Albert Wallace’s hanging for his crime, and the Times report recently was reprinted in the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society Monthly.
The Times’ account of the crime appears in the Dec. 2016 Monthly, on pages 1787-88. The story was published under the headline, “WALLACE’S CRIME,” with the subheadline, “Murder For Which He Was Hung Was Cold Blooded and Premeditated.” Ben C. Allensworth later retold the story of Belle Bowlby’s murder and her brother Albert’s hanging in the 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” but the 1896 account is much more complete and detailed. Following is the Daily Times’ 1896 account:
The murder of Mrs. Belle Bowlby was one of the most shocking domestic tragedies in the history of the county, for domestic it was, as the murderer was a brother of his victim, lived with her family and was treated with the utmost kindness and that has made the crime seem all the more atrocious. The tragedy was the culmination of several years of drunkenness and immorality on the part of Albert Wallace, who did the deed, and during which time his mind became depraved and he grew to hate the whole world, for it is a sad fact that no one ever cared to call him friend from the time he gave himself up until his body shot through the scaffold and he was no more.
The murder was committed between 8 and 9 o’clock on the evening of February 19th, 1895, at the Bowlby home, a pretty homestead, nestling among the picturesque hills that flank the Mackinaw river in the central portion of Dillon township.
On the fatal day Wallace and Lawrence Lyman, a hired man, were hauling corn to Delavan. Wallace was in a bad humor and said to Lyman, for whom he had a nick name, “Duff, there is Ed. Judkins getting $1 a day and you and I getting nothing. We will see about this after awhile (sic) .” Lyman did hear something and it forever deprived him of the sight of one of his eyes. Wallace, early in the evening offered to bet $10 that the teams would not leave the stable the following day, this proving that he had fully made up his mind to do the deed that night.
The Bowlby family had gathered in the sitting room after the evening meal, and though the house had witnessed some dramatic scenes, as a result of the feeling that Wallace had for John Bowlby, his brother-in-law, peace seemed to have blessed the home for once. Bowlby was lying on the lounge, as he had been sick. Lyman and Jesse Strawbridge, another hired man, were sitting near. Annie Krile, a domestic, was playing the piano and the little Bowlby girl was singing fragments of gospel hymns that her loving mother had taught her.
Wallace was the last to eat his supper that night and he then went into the living room and after remaining a few minutes walked out. In about a minute a gun cracked and a charge of shot tore through the window in the northwest corner of the room. Its effect was to cut off two of John Bowlby’s fingers on his right hand and inflict a wound on his head.
Lyman ran to the front door, and as he opened it a second shot was fired. The charge shattered the door casing and the powder put out Lyman’s eye.
By this time all was confusion. Annie Krile grabbed little Stella Bowlby and rushed into an adjoining room. Mrs. Belle Bowlby did not see the child removed and missing the little one, she rushed to the door, shouting, “My God, where is my child?” Her answer was a load of shot from the murderer’s gun and she staggered back, bleeding from her terrible wounds.
Lyman got a revolver and started out to get help. As he reached the door he was shot twice, nearly one hundred shot entered his body.
Strawbridge escaped from the house and made a remarkable run of three miles bareheaded without stopping. He spread the alarm among the neighbors.
Messrs. Paul and Mitchell were the first to arrive at the Bowlby home. They entered and found a shocking state of affairs. Blood was scattered everywhere. The sitting room was on fire from the wadding of the gun. Mr. Bowlby had used rugs and pieces of carpets in an unsuccessful effort to extinguish the blaze and was afraid to go for water, as he was fearful that he might be again shot. Mrs. Bowlby was in bed, as was Lyman, and both were in great pain.
Mrs. Bowlby was given the best of medical attention, but died after lingering in great agony for thirty-six hours. Bowlby was ill for six weeks and Lyman would have died but for his iron constitution.
After the shooting Wallace walked around in the neighborhood in an aimless manner for a time and then finally threw away his gun. It was found the next morning sticking upright in the snow. He then went to the barn of John Connell and taking a horse, started for this city. He reached here about midnight and tieing (sic) his horse in the stable at the Tremont House, he requested Officer McClellen to accompany him to the jail. Sheriff Stout refused to lock him up at first as Wallace would not tell what the trouble was, but he finally said, “John Bowlby has been shot and they say I did it.” He was then put in a cell in the county jail where he has been confined since that fatal night.
Next week: Wallace’s conviction, sentence, and appeal