Cora: Wheat and Chaff (11)

 

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: The Party Line (10)

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.

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Cora: The Rain and the Corn (8)

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.

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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.

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Cora: People Are Talking (3)

More evidence than answers.

Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 3-4, 1925. Mattoon, IL.

Cattle and crops can’t go untended, so it didn’t raise eyebrows when Anna and Thomas Seaman returned from Cincinnati immediately after Cora Stallman’s funeral. She was buried on Monday afternoon, Aug. 3; they were back in Mattoon that night.

Perhaps more unusual: Once they returned, Thomas took to his bed.1

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Unearthed: Calogero Lalumia

They can’t all be good guys.

Mt. Carmel Catholic Cemetery in Hillside, IL, is packed with striking, dramatic headstones. Calogero Lalumia’s is one of them.

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Cora: Her Life Before (2)

Cora Stallman died on a farm, but she lived most of her life in the city.

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