Cora: The Party Line (10)

Read the full Cora Stallman series here.


 

Thursday, Aug. 27, 1925. Coles County, IL

Untangling the events of Cora Stallman’s last day alive is no simple task.

The most obvious solution would be to get sheriff’s records or a transcript of the inquest testimony. Many years ago, I contacted the Coles County coroner’s office, hoping to do just that. The coroner himself was kind enough to search for me. Sadly, nearly all documents related to Cora’s case had disappeared in the intervening decades. “Sometimes the basement floods,” he said with some regret.

Continue reading “Cora: The Party Line (10)”

Cora: Until the Corn Grew Too High to See Them (9)

Read the full Cora Stallman series here.


Thursday, Aug. 27, 1925. Humboldt, IL

On the first day of Cora Stallman’s inquest, Edith Lilley was in the witness chair twice. Both times she had plenty to tell — and yet, she hardly figures in the resulting newspaper accounts. Her testimony was mentioned only at the ends of articles, when it was mentioned at all. Maybe this oversight was due to when she testified, halfway through the event, after people had been sitting in the stuffy town hall for hours. Or maybe it was simpler than that. A farm wife, despite knowing Cora as a person and friend, could not compete against the allure of learned experts — even ones who knew her only as a body. The newspapers wanted to hear from doctors and scientists, so that’s who they put on the front page.

Continue reading “Cora: Until the Corn Grew Too High to See Them (9)”

Snoop 101: Know Your Stones

Some years back, I was doing a cemetery walk with friends. While trying to talk about styles of grave markers, I had a momentary brain freeze and sputtered: “One of those… Oh, you know! The sticky-up kind!”

It was not a great moment for me, although my friends thought it was hilarious. So to spare you a similar moment, I’ve put together a few examples.

Continue reading “Snoop 101: Know Your Stones”

Cora: The Rain and the Corn (8)

Read the full Cora Stallman series here.


 

The wind and the corn talk things over together.
And the rain and the corn and the sun and the corn
Talk things over together. — Carl Sandburg

Aug. 10-27, 1925. Coles County, IL.

Coles County had rolled into the deepest part of summer, with days of 90 degrees or more.

The heat had to be endured — there was just too much to do. There were church picnics and family reunions, orchestra dances and club outings. At the tiny town of Dorans, about a mile west of Anna Seaman’s farm, a nightly tent revival meeting ran for two weeks. “Our services are short during the summer weather,” advertised the First Christian Church.

The electric fans never stopped rumbling.

Continue reading “Cora: The Rain and the Corn (8)”

Cora: How Deceptive Appearances May Be (7)

Read the full Cora Stallman series here.


Friday-Sunday, Aug. 7-9, 1925. Coles County, IL.

On Friday morning, Edith Lilley hit her limit.

The question of how Cora Stallman did, or did not, die had hung over the Lilleys’ farm for a week. It pulled Edith’s husband, Bos, out of bed early the Saturday before, and brought him hustling back home for the telephone. It barged into their conversations and upset their schedules. It kept both of them from sleeping.1 It was a heavy summer haze, hanging over everything. A body could hardly move under it all.

Continue reading “Cora: How Deceptive Appearances May Be (7)”

Unearthed: Four Faces

My husband noted this week that I’ve only posted about newspaper finds lately — no headstones, no graveyards.

“It IS Graveyard Snoop, after all,” he remarked (pretty bravely for a guy whose wife hangs out in cemeteries).

Continue reading “Unearthed: Four Faces”

Cora: Her Face in the Water (6)

Read the full Cora Stallman series here.


Thursday, Aug. 6, 1925. Coles County, IL.

Mattoon Daily Journal-Gazette; Aug. 6, 1925
Mattoon Daily Journal-Gazette; Aug. 6, 1925

By the sixth day, the people of Coles County were tired. The suicide-or-murder question still hadn’t been answered. Cora Stallman’s curious death had made national papers, bringing 19 press agents to Mattoon. They chased the story, and the locals, like a honking flock of geese. For the journalists, too, their time in small-town Illinois was getting old. Telegrams in their pockets barked: Get a story or get home.

Fortunately for everyone, on Thursday, Coroner FS Schilling and the other investigators — State’s Attorney Charles Fletcher, Sheriff Tom McNutt, and Deputy Sheriff Frank Shirley — were ready to talk.

Continue reading “Cora: Her Face in the Water (6)”