1917 shooting results from dropped ice block
Editor’s note: There is great satisfaction in bringing old stories to light, especially the obscure and mostly forgotten tales, like the story of two ice men in 1917 El Dorado.
Before the invention of artificial refrigeration in the early twentieth century, ice was harvested every winter and stored in large ice houses. In the 19th century commercial ice houses were constructed to provide ice for general use.
City dwellers had ice delivered to them by horse and wagon. The iceman had to lift from 25 to 200-pound blocks. The ice was weighed on a spring scale on the truck, but an experienced delivery man could estimate the weight. The ice was carried to a kitchen using ice tongs, and chipped with chisels to fit the compartment of the ice box.
Delivery men were known for their brawn, as they hauled heavy blocks of ice all day long, and often up flights of stairs.
Two men who worked for the El Dorado Ice Company in July of 1917 had a quarrel after a block of ice had fallen on one of the men’s foot. The men were delivering ice to the Duton Cafe on West Central and Jim Cantrell, 26, accidentally dropped the ice on the foot of Alpine Palmer, 29, who was known as a large man who knew how to take care of himself. He had spent years on the Kansas City, Mo. police force. Palmer had arrived in El Dorado three weeks earlier. He had worked as an ice cutter after leaving the police force and came to Mr. F.A. Pielsticker, the manager at the El Dorado Ice Co., with high recommendations.
Following the accident, Cantrell was heard saying, “If that’s the way you feel about it, we’ll have this out right now.”
The two men started fighting in the back of the cafe. Palmer punched Cantrell in the face and got the better of the younger, slimmer man. Cantrell received a broken nose and two black eyes. Following the quarrel, both men were discharged from the ice plant.
Cantrell was known as a steady-going fellow and was recently married, bringing his bride to El Dorado. He seemed to enjoy working at the ice plant.
Pielsticker told the newspaper that Palmer was continually quarreling with co-workers and that he was “sort of a bully.”
Palmer was to begin working for the local police department the next week.
A friend of Cantrell’s told a newspaper reporter that Cantrell purchased a .38 caliber revolver and intended to “get Palmer.” The friend talked to Cantrell and thought he succeeded in persuading him not to shoot Palmer. But the two met in the front yard at the home of J.W. Abbot, a rooming house at 200 Settler Street, the next Saturday night. Hot words passed and Cantrell drew the gun, firing four times directly at Palmer.
One of the bullets entered Palmer’s head above the left eye, ranged downward and to the right, tearing out the left eye and lodging in the right jaw.
Police officer Mose Burch was within a half block of the scene of the shooting and Deputy Emory McKnight, deputy sheriff, was a block away. They hurried to the scene, put Palmer in a vehicle and rushed him to a hospital.
In all of the confusion, Cantrell escaped. He ran into the alley at the rear of the home and north. He stopped at the ice plant, got a bottle of water and exchanged his white hat for an old cap. A posse was formed, they tracked Cantrell four to five miles up the West Branch without finding him. Officers in surrounding towns were given a description of Cantrell.
The physicians at the El Dorado hospital reported that Palmer was hanging on and hopes were high that he would recover. However, he would never have the use of his left eye.
A couple of days after the shooting, County Attorney McCluggage’s deputy, E.W. Grant announced that Cantrell would be apprehended within 24 hours.
“We’re close to him now,” Grant said.
In the meantime, Cantrell’s brother-in-law was asking court house officials if it would be safe for Cantrell to come back voluntarily or whether he would be mobbed.
When Alpine Palmer was strong enough, he was taken by his parents back to Kansas City. Cantrell still evaded arrest. Cantrell’s wife remained at their home in North El Dorado and could give no information on her husband’s whereabouts.
Cantrell was located months later in Winfield when an officer from El Dorado was sent to arrest him. Asking permission to go into the house of his brother-in-law, where he was staying, he went through the house and again made his escape. The trail went cold and nothing was heard of Cantrell until two years later.
News reached F.A. Pielsticker, who was then the vice president and manager of the Midland Refining Company, and he shared what he knew with the newspaper.
“After fleeing Winfield, Cantrell made his way to Georgia, where he had relatives. Later, however, he gave himself up as a deserter and was taken into the Army as a private. He adopted the name Earl Bryant.
Through hard work he became a non-commissioned officer and was sent to France as a “top” sergeant. He was a good soldier, and letters from his wife said that it was his intention, if he lived through the war, to return to El Dorado and stand trial on the charges against him. But Bryant/Cantrell was killed on the battle field in France about three days before the armistice was signed.”
The case of the State vs. James Cantrell, was closed.
Sources: El Dorado Daily Republican, July 21, 1917; The Winfield Daily Free Press, July 23, 1917; The Walnut Valley Times, July 24, 1917; El Dorado Republican, July 27, 1917; The Walnut Valley Times, Jan. 8, 1919.