Jealousy and Bad Whiskey, Day 4: Witness Charles Smoley, Innocent Bystander?

Before we get started I wanted to make a correction. Andrew MEDFORD never went by A. J. although the newspapers had him listed that way. This issue was cleared up by Barbara- his granddaughter-in-law.

Today’s witness is Charles SMOLEY. He has a small role so the testimony will be light tonight. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket and settle in for a short stint in the courtroom.

Charles SMOLEY’S Background:
Charles SMOLEY was the brother-in-law of Willie PETTY’s sister, Nora (the brother of Nora’s husband, James). Charles was the son of James and Mary Elizabeth SMOLEY. The end of March/first of April of 1913, Charles got a job in the Hillsboro, Illinois smelter near St. Louis. Other Dearing men were there working. He left Dearing for Hillsboro on 1 April 1913. He worked in the blacksmith shop at the Hillsboro smelter. He worked under A. L. KEITH who was also from Dearing. Around the third week of June of 1913 the smelters shut down. He was able to find work right away in Collinsville, Oklahoma. In August of 1913, Charles’ mother passed away “after a long and painful illness”. She was only 46 years old. He had already lost his father 14 years prior to that. His father was a farmer and was killed “in a runaway on Walnut Street” in Dearing. (An interesting side note: in October of 1914 Charles’ brother James would also be in a runaway accident involving his wagon and horses. I can only imagine what was going through James’ mind on that wild ride considering that’s how his dad died.) Charles’ experience with drinking liquor started at a young age as you can see with the article below from Newspapers.com:

preston seely blog headline 3.jpg

There were actually at least 2 separate incidents that year with adults getting caught selling liquor to Charles. One man selling him the liquor was the druggist in town, Dr. W. K. JOHNSON.

A month before the shooting, Charles returned to Dearing, Kansas from a one-month stay in Kansas City. I don’t know why he went there- maybe work, maybe visiting family. He was 19 years old when the shooting happened- just a couple months shy of his 20th birthday.

Charles SMOLEY’s Testimony:
The 1 April 1914 edition of The Evening Star (Independence, KS) ran a story that Willie PETTY was being charged with First Degree Murder and Charles SMOLEY would also stand trial for assisting in the murder of Preston SEELY. The residents of Dearing had demanded an investigation and trial due to the “questionable character” of both Willie PETTY and Charles SMOLEY.

preston seely blog smoley headline 1.jpg

In this article found on Newspapers.com, the paper erroneously listed James SMOLEY’s name instead of Charles’, but it is Charles and I wanted to include the article to inform the jury members.

Charles was out on a $2500 bond. One story states Willie was also out on a small bond although earlier reports stated he was out on his own recognizance. County Attorney ISE accused Charles SMOLEY of being an accessory to murder. Charles was arrested on 31 March 1914 and given a hearing before Justice WANACK of Dearing, KS on a First Degree Murder charge (apparently they dropped it down to accessory after the hearing). Charles plead not guilty to the First Degree Murder charge and provided a bond of $2500 for his preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing was scheduled for 8 April 1914 but due to Isabelle STEWART still being too sick to testify, the hearing was bumped back to 15 April. Smoley had been in custody a short time on the night of the murder. He was in the small group that was present when Press SEELY was murdered. The jury at the Coroner’s Inquest didn’t even bring up SMOLEY’s part in the murder and therefore never made any judgment in regard to him. They only came to the conclusion that Press had been shot with a revolver by Willie PETTY, the cause being unknown.

The hearing at which the charges were dropped lasted from 10:00 a.m. until 4:30 that afternoon. There were about 40 witnesses put on the stand and most of them were called by the State to testify. (Just for comparison, 40 people would have equated to about 1/6 of the population of Dearing at that time!) No new evidence was presented other than what was already known and the evidence submitted supported Willie’s claim of self-defense. Charles presented an alibi in his testimony. He provided evidence that he was at the home of John DANIELS at the time of the shooting.

Dismissed
Preston Seely blog smoley headline pic.jpg
Newspapers.com

I bet the SMOLEY family was never so glad to see a headline in their life as they were on 16 April 1914. The Evening Star out of Independence, Kansas declared Charles’ innocence that day. The article said there was not enough evidence to sustain a case against Charles or Willie. The investigation was ongoing though, and either man could be re-arrested and start the process all over again if new evidence was found that indicated Press was murdered rather than killed in self-defense. The reporter insinuated that this was best for the case because if the case went forward without sufficient evidence a jury could have acquitted either or both men and they could never be tried for the murder again in the future no matter what evidence was found (the legal principle of Double Jeapordy). Based on the evidence produced at the preliminary hearing it was likely both men would have been acquitted by a jury. The evidence showed that, although SMOLEY had been present when the murder happened, “there was little” to connect him with it. But if there was “little” to connect him, that’s not the same as “nothing” to connect him. I would so love to get my hands on that court file just to see what was really said. I see a future trip to Independence in my near future!

By April of 1915, Mr. and Mrs. Charles SMOLEY no longer lived in Dearing. They were living in Kansas City. In August of 1917 Charles was drafted for military service. In 1920 Charles was working at the Buick automobile factory in Flint, Michigan. In April of 1920 Charles was part of a strike against the factory and he ended up being one of a number of defendants sued by the car company. In November of 1920, the SMOLEY’s returned to Dearing.

A Few Endnotes
The SMOLEY’s and PETTY’s were close. They owned cattle together, farmed together, married each other, traveled together, shopped together, owned businesses together, and even worked together to get people run out of town.

Preston Seely blog headline 4.jpg

If something bad happened to one of them, it affected all of them. Alliances. Sometimes close ties can bind each other in ways that hurt others. In addition to these alliances between the two families, Charles SMOLEY was known to go hunting with one of the local judges. Keep that in mind as you deliberate, jurors. Notice small changes in testimony. Consider, for a moment, that people do sometimes lie under oath. What would you do to protect yourself and a close family member or friend from life in prison or a possible death sentence? Ponder the question. Ponder the testimony. We may be calling Charles SMOLEY back to the stand later in the week. Until then, deliberate with open minds. Consider that sometimes people have connections, sometimes newspapers only report the more sensational details, sometimes people lie or omit information or fudge a little on testimony. Consider that Press had no one with him that was on his side when all this went down. Put your thinking caps on and work it out. The verdict poll is coming soon. Be ready. Here’s a little practice poll in the meantime:

Until tomorrow,
Lisa @ Days of Our Lives

Resource list:
The Coffeyville Daily Journal
5 July 1906; 15 November 1907; 30 October 1908; 7 November 1908; 29 April 1910; 4 November 1910; 9 November 1910; 9 December 1910; 28 December 1910; 15 November 1911; 10 January 1912; 17 January 1912; 3 February 1912; 7 February 1912; 30 March 1912; 23 November 1912; 22 March 1913; 2 April 1913; 21 June 1913; 16 August 1913; 20 August 1913; 27 August 1913; 14 February 1914; 26 March 1914; 28 March 1914; 1 April 1914; 9 April 1914; 7 October 1914; 1 April 1915; 2 June 1915; 5 June 1915; 12 June 1915; 15 September 1915; 9 February 1916; 17 February 1916; 23 February 1916; 24 April 1916; May 1916; 4 13 May 1916; 28 November 1916; 12 February 1917; 27 March 1917; 18 August 1917; 14 September 1917; 1 June 1918; 27 February 1919; 31 March 1919; 21 April 1919; 3 July 1919; 23 December 1920

The Coffeyville Weekly Journal
27 August 1909; 22 July 1910; 4 November 1910; 18 November 1910; 9 November 1910; 17 March 1911; 24 March 1911; 29 September 1911; 15 November 1911; 17 November 1911; 24 November 1911; 8 December 1911; 15 December 1911

The Arkansas City Daily Traveler
29 May 1920

The Evening Star
1 June 1908; 26 March 1914; 27 March 1914; 28 March 1914; 31 March 1914; 1 April 1914; 13 April 1914; 15 April 1914; 16 April 1914; 13 February 1915

The Daily Republican
17 November 1911; 17 November 1913; 26 March 1914; 1 April 1914; 10 January 1916

The Hutchinson News
26 March 1914

The Parsons Daily Sun
24 June 1905; 26 March 1914

The Oxford Register
2 April 1914

The Alma Enterprise
3 April 1914

The Leavenworth Post
26 March 1914

The Chanute Daily Tribune
26 March 1914

The Wichita Daily Eagle
27 March 1914

The Independence Daily Reporter
15 December 1908
1 April 1914
16 April 1914

The Sun
28 May 1920
9 November 1920

The Fort Scott Daily Tribune and The Fort Scott Daily Monitor
9 April 1920

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