On the 16th day of April, 1902, Mrs. Ziegler noticed something unusual in the Neosho River near her home two miles southwest of Americus. Just below Humphrey’s Bridge, lodged on a riffle was the body of a man. She immediately drove to J. C. Conklin’s store in Americus and asked Conklin if he had lost any friends. “Not today,” he replied and questioned her concerning her odd manner. It was then that she told him of her ghastly discovery.
Conklin and Charlie Gibson hurried to the bridge and sure enough, it was so. They threw out a hook and pulled the body to the shore. The man was clothed in striped cottonade trousers, dark shirt, brown sack coat, Congress plow shoes and tan socks. An eight foot length of barbed wire was twisted around his waist and on the other end a forty pound stone. There was a wound in the back of the head and bruising around the neck. The body had apparently been in the water for several weeks as it was badly decomposed.
The police were called in and it didn’t take long to identify the man as 22 year old George Crowley of Council Grove, who had been missing for about three weeks. George was in the junk business. He and his partner, 17 year old Henry Dumprope, were taking a load of old rubber to Emporia to sell. Homer Robison was in company when the two set out but returned to Council Grove from Strong City before the others started for Emporia. Had Homer remained, the outcome may have been completely different.
Dumprope had been closely watched since the disappearance of Crowley, as he was the only one who may have known anything. Upon the finding of the body Dumprope was arrested at Hoisington where he was staying with his parents. He was brought to Council Grove where he made a partial confession. He was then taken to Lyon County where the trial was to be held. As Dumprope was being escorted out of Council Grove he met the funeral procession and the hearse carrying the body of Crowley on the Main street bridge. The mourners were on their way to the Greenwood Cemetery to lay George’s remains to rest. It was a remarkable coincidence noticed by all and it clearly affected the murderer. The last time Dumprope was in company with Crowley was a couple of crossings lower on the river when the awful deed was committed.
We must rely upon Dumprope’s testimony as he was the only witness that survived. According to Dumprope, he and Crowley went to Madison from Emporia to buy a load of junk. On the way back to Emporia they got into an argument over a house they passed on the way. It was being painted and an addition was being built. Dumprope said, “Look at that old house they are painting.” Crowley answered, “That isn’t an old house; It’s just new.” Dumprope responded, “No it ain’t, don’t you see that old door?” So Crowley offered to make a bet on it. He bet two dollars and Dumprope bet his watch. After driving a mile further down the road they met a man and stopped him to ask about the house in question. The man didn’t know and wasn’t willing to go back and find out, so the two let the matter drop for the time.
They camped near Emporia and the next day after doing some business started for Council Grove. The subject of the bet came up again and Crowley called Dumprope a liar then jumped down in the box of the wagon and pulled the seat out from under Dumprope who was driving. Dumprope dropped down into the bed and continued driving but Crowley continued to harass him. Dumprope claimed Crowley hit at him a few times and then reached for a skillet that was lying in the wagon. Dumprope became frightened at this and grabbing the tailgate, struck Crowley with it. Driving on, Dumprope turned to look at Crowley and found he was quite dead.
Not knowing what to do or where to go, he wrapped the body in a blanket and drove on until night found him at the bridge near Americus. At 3 in the morning Dumprope twisted off a length of wire from a nearby fence, wrapped one end around a stone and the other around the body and threw it into the river.
Dumprope returned to Council Grove and took the wagon and team to Mrs. Crowley and told her that George had gone on to Kansas City for business and would be back in a few days. This was also the impression of the Emporia police and the junk man Crowley dealt with, that’s why they weren’t too concerned at first. While in Emporia Crowley had written a letter to his wife telling her he would start for Council Grove on the 27th of March. She received this letter nearly a week before Dumprope arrived. The young widow and her brother went to Emporia searching for clues as to what happened to George. It wasn’t like him to go off without telling his family.
The defense tried to prove that Crowley was ‘quarrelsome, arbitrary and easily provoked.’ The prosecution pretty well ate holes in all the witnesses’ stories. After all evidence and witnesses were heard the jury made their decision. Most in the courtroom were expecting murder in the first degree. However, when the jury pronounced the verdict, it was manslaughter in the third degree. The maximum penalty for this was three years hard labor. Even though the story of getting in a fight over an old farm house was pretty weak, it was evident to the court that Dumprope did not intend to kill Crowley, he was only acting to defend himself.
Dr. Brickell, who performed the autopsy on the corpse, happened to cross the very bridge where Dumprope and Crowley were camped on the 31st of March. The farmer who lived nearby also saw the campers, and a few others the day of the 31st thought they recognized Crowley on the road. With these witnesses it would appear that Crowley was alive that evening and Dumprope may not have been quite accurate in his account of the day.
Another odd part of the story is, while Dumprope was in jail he was converted to the Protestant faith by Reverend Pollett. Well, that in itself is not so odd, but I may mention that Rev. Pollett was in jail awaiting his trial for the murder of Isaiah Edmundson. The Rev. had been preaching daily to the other inmates to convert them. Dumprope was duly impressed by the sermons and being ‘wrought up’ one day he fell into a trance. He seemed a different person from that time on, taking part in the services and even singing.
So there you have it; one of the most shocking murders committed in Morris County history.