Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cause of Death ... For the Graveyard Rabbit Carnival

Perusing a cemetery, my eyes are flooded with stones that bear the customary information. They have names, dates of births and deaths, the occasional description of a personality or character trait. The stones that draw my attention, toward which I gravitate, are the ones highlighting an unnatural death, one that came amidst unique or tragic circumstances. I have discovered stones that say "killed by lightning," "killed by black widow spider," and "died in the line of duty." But my interest is peaked by those stones with a simple epitaph declaring the deceased "assassinated," "murdered," or just "killed." Often, I find only short articles detailing the "five W's" in the whodunit: who, what, where, when and how. There may be no real details on the deaths, let alone the grizzly ones, and no accounting of suspects or eventual punishments for the convicted. But sometimes I get lucky. This is the case of Dr. A. W. Chenoweth.

This is my first assassination mystery.

Walking through the Pineville Cemetery, my eye fell on a large stone monument nested in the shadows of a tall, nearby tree.


The name was unusual and certainly worth a closer look. Sharing the shade with the tombstone, I read:

Dr. A. W. Chenoweth
Born
Oct 15, 1835
Assassinated
Sept 12, 1883
Died a Martyr to the cause
of Temperance and Religion

The inscription left many unanswered questions and infinite possible answers. Arriving home again, I rushed to search the name "Dr. A. W. Chenoweth" on the Internet. My screen bled with information about the Chenoweth family, and I waded through all the facts and accounts, along with a detailed family tree, for the next several hours.
The search proved to be my most fruitful yet, as I found plentiful details spanning the death of Dr. Chenoweth, the trial of his accused killer, and the meting out of prescribed justice. I immersed myself in the accounts until I felt transported to 1883.
As he drove his horse drawn buggy home from Pineville, Mo., Dr. Chenoweth was shot twice, forcing him from his carriage to the ground, mortally wounded. A local townsman, Garland A. Mann, had previously threatened the doctor. He was immediately arrested and jailed for the crime.
Mann was tried twice and convicted once, after a jury failed to reach a verdict in the first attempt. He was guilty of murder and he was sentenced to be hanged, but his punishment could not be carried out. The Supreme Court overturned the sentence and order a third trial, which again ended with a hung jury and a mistrial.
So a fourth trial was begun, but it ended prematurely. An angry mob, tired of the delays, broke into the jail and shot Garland Mann.
Dr. Chenoweth now rests beside his wife in Pineville Cemetery, while Garland Mann resides in the nearby Neosho Cemetery.
Soon, I will visit Mann's grave to see if his headstone adds it's own perspective to this already intriguing story.

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