Edward A. Schmidt
Property Owner, Investor
Cause of Death: Stabbed
Murder Scene and Date
506 High Avenue East
January 13, 1972
By Nancy Bowers
Edward A. Schmidt was a reclusive and wealthy eccentric who had lived for over 50 years in the basement of an Oskaloosa property he owned at 1215 7th Avenue East. He practiced law out of a basement office in a sprawling, yellow apartment house which he owned at 506 High Avenue East.
Written April 2011
A life-long bachelor, Schmidt was a large man — 6 feet and 200 pounds.
After an amputation following a severe foot burn, he wore an artificial leg. He got around his own home with a wheelchair and used a crutch or cane when he went out.
Because Schmidt was solitary, territorial about his property, and not particularly pleasant, he had few friends in the Oskaloosa community.
☛ Man Who Loved His Money ☚His law clients were few, but Schmidt didn’t really need an income from his practice.
As the years passed, he accumulated a great deal of wealth in other ways; he cut corners, denied himself luxuries, squirreled away his money, and was known for his fierce thrift, if not downright stinginess.
He cooked most of his own food and wore old, tattered clothes.
Not wanting to waste stamps, he stumped on his crutch around Oskaloosa to pay his bills. He argued with creditors about charges and refused to pay if he thought they were too much.
He carried almost no cash; he wrote checks for even the smallest amounts so he could always have proof of payment.
Although he could drive — he owned a 1960 Chevrolet at the time of his death — he long depended on acquaintance and local Firestone store owner Glenn Upton to run his errands and take him to and from his law office each day.
☛ Enormous Estate ☚
It was not just frugality that accounted for Schmidt’s wealth. Most of his worth came from his wise investments, which he managed like it was a full-time job.
To guide his financial ventures, he read the Wall Street Journal, borrowing a copy from Glenn Upton so he didn’t have to pay.
After his death, Schmidt’s estate reflected the depth and breadth of his investments.
According to the Des Moines Register, courthouse records showed he was worth approximately 1.5 million dollars, including 750,000 in stocks and bonds and more than 300,000 in cash. The Register broke down Schmidt’s estate for its readers:
- ☛ He held 59 different common stocks, including some blue chip. He owned $42,000 in the American Broadcasting Company, $28,000 in the Chrysler Corporation, nearly $2,000 in the Madison Square Garden Company, and an unspecified amount in Chicago’s Morrison Hotel.
- ☛ He owned tax-exempt municipal bonds and stock in several small Iowa banks.
- ☛ He maintained 41 separate accounts in savings and loan institutions, only one of which was in Iowa — he had $38,000 in a Des Moines bank which earned his loyalty for loaning him money for law school.
- ☛ His money was spread out in bank accounts across the country, including $25,000 in Pasadena, California; seven different accounts in Beverly Hills, California; and 11 separate ones in Whittier, California (he believed he made at least one per cent more on his money in California).
- ☛ He owned real estate valued at about $277,000 — an apartment house in Des Moines and other property in Oskaloosa (some merely vacant lots). But he expended very little in upkeep on the properties; and the city of Oskaloosa, citing health code violations, burned at least two of them when he failed to maintain them.
- ☛ His life insurance amounted to $16,000.
- ☛ Auction Advertisement, Oskaloosa Daily Herald, April 14, 1972.
- ☛ “Drake Receives $250,000 from Iowan’s Estate,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, April 16, 1974.
- ☛ “Iowa Recluse Still A Mystery in Death,” by Gene Raffensperger, Des Moines Register, April 30, 1972.
- ☛ “Iowan’s disputed estate is finally to be divided,” by Gene Raffensperger, Des Moines Register, March 31, 1975.
- ☛ “Lawyer Slain At Oskaloosa,” Des Moines Register, January 17, 1972.
- ☛ Linda Lanphier, Personal Correspondence and Community Memories, March 2011.
- ☛ “Lost Will Suit Filed By Drake,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 15, 1972.
- ☛ “May Have Been Robbed,” Muscatine Journal, January 18, 1972.
- ☛ “Oskaloosa Attorney Stabbed To Death,” Oelwein Daily Register, January 17, 1972.
- ☛ U.S. Census.
- ☛ He held oil leases in Oklahoma valued at $150,000.
☛ Death of an Eccentric Recluse ☚
As usual, Glenn Upton drove Schmidt to his office on Thursday, January 13, 1972 and returned at 3:30 to pick him up to grocery shop.
As Upton descended the outside steps to the office, he saw a note saying, “Gone Home, Ed.” Upton thought Schmidt might have gotten a ride home with a client, as he sometimes did.
The next day, one of Schmidt’s tenants called Upton and asked him to locate Schmidt to fix the furnace because there was no heat.
Schmidt was not at his apartment; phoning him produced only a busy signal, so Upton notified the Oskaloosa Police and Mahaska County Sheriff David “Dave” Reese.
On Sunday, January 16, Sheriff Reese, accompanied by Glenn Upton, found 85-year-old Edward Schmidt dead in his law office — slumped under his desk.
After an autopsy, Mahaska County Medical Examiner Dr. N. L. Saxton announced that Schmidt suffered four stab wounds to the chest — one directly to the heart — and was beaten on the head and face.
Mahaska County Attorney Hugh Faulkner deemed the death a homicide and Sheriff Reese requested the assistance of Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents in working the case.
Schmidt’s clothes were rifled as though the killer were looking for money, even though Schmidt typically carried little.
A little over $166.00 in un-cashed rent checks was found under papers on his desk, but there had been no money in the office. Schmidt’s antique safe, where he kept over $21,000 and his stock certificates, sat on the front porch of his home.
However, Glenn Upton claimed Schmidt always carried his will in a pocket, and Upton believed the killer took that document.
On April 22, an auction was held at Schmidt’s home. The large crowd bid on coin collections — one exclusively of Indian Head pennies — stamp collections, furniture, rings, and watches. The sale earned $5,709. Schmidt’s 12-year-old Chevrolet sold for $75.
After the sale, there were only a few bits of clothing left and — unsold amongst the clutter — Schmidt’s artificial leg.
☛ Who Would Get the Money? ☚
Settling the large estate of lifelong bachelor Edward Schmidt proved difficult. All of his immediate family was dead, and he had no children.
And there were questions about his will or wills.
In 1917, Schmidt drew up a will containing only one bequest: $10,000 to the Drake University College of Law — his alma mater — to be used by a Drake student for graduate work at Yale University.
However, Schmidt’s friend Glenn Upton filed an affidavit saying he was a signature witness to a second will drawn up in 1962 that left the bulk of his estate to Drake University’s scholarship program.
A court-appointed administrator for the estate declared that Schmidt died intestate because of the second will, which was believed stolen during the murder.
Drake University filed a “lost will” petition, asking the court to declare the missing 1962 will valid and make Drake the principal beneficiary.
In 1975, the estate was settled through a compromise. Drake University received $250,000 and the rest went to five distant family members: nieces and nephews in rural Keota, Iowa; California; Oklahoma; Boston, Massachusetts; and Missouri.
Glenn Upton was awarded $37,500 after presenting a 46-page account of errands and services he had performed for Schmidt over 28 years — since August of 1934. He originally asked for $150,000.
Almost $500,000 was paid in taxes on the estate, and legal fees totaled $140,000.
☛ Edward Schmidt’s Life ☚
Edward A. Schmidt was born September 12, 1886 in Nira, Washington County, Iowa, to Henrietta Malin and Henry D. Schmidt, who came to the United States from Germany in 1855. His father was a farmer. He had two sisters — Julia Schmidt Breeden and Tilla Schmidt — and two brothers, William and Alexander Schmidt.
Schmidt graduated from Oskaloosa High school and Drake University Law School in Des Moines. He practiced law in Oskaloosa his entire life and operated a farm.
He was a veteran of WWI. Military records describe him as tall and slim with brown eyes and black hair.
Schmidt was buried with his parents and brother William in a family plot at Forest Cemetery in Oskaloosa.
Please note: Use of information in this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.