Part 1 of two parts concerning a mysterious double drowning in 1919
Editor’s note: The following is part one a bizarre and unexplained story from 1919. The conclusion will be in Saturday’s TG edition.
Boating on the Walnut River, especially east of El Dorado, was a popular pastime for residents in 1919. It was not unusual when Claude Jones, a young man in his early 30s and a car foreman for the Missouri Pacific at El Dorado, rented a row boat from the boat livery near the East Bridge and Wonderland Park, on a hot August evening.
Jones and his date, a divorcee of 29, Mrs. Theola Taylor, were to go out with another couple that night, but the other pair failed to show, so Jones and Mrs. Taylor went alone.
The couple was well dressed in typical summer attire. Theola wore a pink blouse of light material, a black skirt, a black underskirt and black silk stockings with high leather shoes. She carried no identification with her.
Jones was clad in a pair of light trousers and a striped silk shirt with low, tan shoes, a leather belt with a gold monogram on the buckle, bearing the initials “C.P.J.”.
The next morning, Aug. 8, 1919, the boat livery owner discovered the boat rented by Jones the night before was never returned. The boat was soon discovered just beyond the bend where the river turns to the northeast about 100 yards to the north of a heavily traveled road. The boat was found within six feet of the east shore and between the boat and the shore, the top of the woman’s head projected out of the water. The sheriff’s office and police department were notified immediately.
Soon the woman’s body was brought to the steep banks and officers, along with members of the search party, assisted in carrying it to the ambulance that waited nearby.
Jones’ body was not visible from the surface of the water, but after prodding around the immediate vicinity of the spot where the woman’s body was found, scarcely six feet away and in about five feet of water, the man’s body was found. Deputy McCraner immersed himself in the water and brought the rigid body of the drowned man to the surface. His Panama hat was still floating in the half filled boat and bore a trademark indicating that it had been purchased at the local Taliaferro & Miller Store.
A knife found on Jone’s body with his initials led to the discovery of the identity of the couple.
Pending word from relatives, the bodies were taken to the Turner Funeral Home in El Dorado. The body of Mrs. Taylor would be sent the next day to Newton for burial and that of Jones would go to Redfield, home of his parents.
In the opinion of the coroner, W.E. Turner, the bodies must have been in the water for at least six or eight hours and possibly more. Not only were the bodies both quite rigid, but the faces had already assumed a dark, purple hue.
Jones had a splendid reputation and was considered an intelligent, capable and conscientious worker. He came from Iola the previous year, was unmarried, and his parents lived in Redfield, Kan.
The man’s companion, Theola Taylor, came from Newton, was survived by her former husband, Ben Taylor and three children. One of the children, the oldest, had been living with his mother at the Windsor Hotel on North Main St., and the other two children lived with relatives. Theola had been employed at the White Front Restaurant at 507 N. Main, for two or three months. The proprietor of the restaurant reported that she was a “faithful, steady worker, devoted to her children, and was not in the habit of going out much, but stayed in her room with her boy.”
Friends and families were shocked at the untimely death of the young people. What caused the drownings? Did the boat hit a snag or limb causing one or both to tumble in the water? Learn of the various theories of how it all happened and the conclusion to the mysterious drownings in Saturday’s TG edition.
Sources: El Dorado Daily Republican, Aug. 8, 1919; The Walnut Valley Times, Aug. 8, 1919, Aug. 9, 1919.