Cora: Thomas (12)

Read the full Cora Stallman series here.


Aug. 31, 1925. Humboldt, IL.

“A crowd that filled the town hall here to overflowing endured stifling heat of the stuffy wooden building to hear the proceedings.” — Decatur Herald

It was late-summer hot and the flies were relentless, but the spectators at Cora Stallman’s inquest stayed in their chairs. They were waiting to hear the last witness, maybe the most anticipated of all: Cora’s brother-in-law Thomas Seaman.

For all of August he had been a cipher. While his wife Anna (and probably her friends) promoted the Seamans’ side to the newspapers, he was quiet. Thomas had stayed mum even as the gossip ran loose with speculation about him, and about his relationship with Cora.

Now he could have his say.

As in previous days, Coroner Frank Schilling led the questioning, with State’s Attorney Charles Fletcher as his second. With his usual deliberate care, Schilling began by having Thomas explain the parameters in which he, Anna, and her sister Cora had operated their three lives across two farms.

“I live on my own farm, where I have a home, and with my wife, who has a home on her own farm,” Thomas said. “We have been married six years, and I have known her sixteen years. There is just a road between her farm and mine.”

And then this: “The home on my farm is just as my first wife died and left it.”

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Cora: Wheat and Chaff (11)

Read the full Cora Stallman series here.


 

His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you have them, they are not worth the search. — The Merchant of Venice

When Cora Stallman’s inquest resumed on the last day of August 1925, it had been just three days since the last adjournment, but a full month since her death.

She had died at the zenith of summer; now, the people were looking toward fall. In Arcola, the broomcorn harvest was under way. Threshermen and hired hands were in high demand. The county fair was in two weeks. And for some, a new school year loomed.

Out on her sister’s farm, Cora’s cottage stood empty under the receding sun. When its screen door banged in a late summer wind, or the last swallows dipped between the porch pillars, she was no longer there to notice.

Cora was gone, but the business of her death remained unfinished. If the investigation itself were a tended crop, it too must be brought in for the year.

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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)”