Price Vincent Evans
Osage High School
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Motive: Concealing a Secret From the Past
Murder Scene and Date
October 14, 1895
By Nancy Bowers
Written November 2011
In the fall of 1895, 24-year-old Price Vincent Evans had everything in place to begin an outstanding career as an educator.
The youngest child of 11 in a high-achieving Williamsburg family that included bankers, lawyers, and businessmen, he, too, had excelled.
In June of 1895, he graduated from Iowa College — now Grinnell College — where his grades were excellent and he earned many academic prizes, particularly in oratory.
At the college, he also had a wide circle of friends, both men and women, especially one young lady with whom he kept in touch after leaving.
Following his graduation, Price returned to Williamsburg for a well-earned vacation.
During that time, Price was hired to be the Principal of Osage High School in Mitchell County. Along with the position came the title “Professor.”
His hometown took pride in Evans. The Williamsburg Journal-Tribune reported his new job and bragged, “He is a splendid gentleman, a good scholar and a most excellent teacher.”
Evans was called “Professor” in his position of Principal of Osage High School.
On the first of September, Evans moved to Osage and into a rooming house there. He began the school year with soaring aspirations.
Letters home to his widowed mother were upbeat and positive. He mentioned no problems connected with his teaching or new life in Osage or particular worries, except that he had a great deal to do.
On Sunday, October 13, he wrote to the young woman he met at Iowa College who was later described by some newspapers as his “betrothed.” The woman’s name did not appear in the media, although one source termed her a “noble Lady” who taught in the Panora public school system.
She later told the Williamsburg Journal-Tribune that the October 13 letter was “bright and cheery, telling of his plans for the future, not a trace of sorrow or worry or the slightest anxiety expressed.”
☛ Price Evans Disappears ☚
About 5:00 p.m. on Monday evening, October 14, 1895, Price Evans was seen walking along a pathway created by an abandoned Chicago Great Western Railway spur — known as the Winona Track — which led southwest from Osage to the Cedar River just east of Spring Park.
The path, which dead-ended at a large tree, was one many used for walks or to reach the park.
Evans had been seen on the pathway before, heading for a spot where he could target-practice with a revolver he purchased a few weeks after moving to Osage.
On Wednesday morning, Evans did not appear at school. Superintendent of Osage Public Schools George Chandler at first thought Evans was ill; but at 1:00 p.m. word came from Evans’s boarding house that he had not been seen there since the night before.
Professor Chandler dismissed all the female students from Osage High School and then organized the boys into a search party, which started out where Evans was last seen: the path on the abandoned railway spur.
☛ Students Find Their Principal’s Body ☚
Not long after they began searching, the high school students found the body of Price Evans propped up against the base of the large tree at the end of the pathway.
Gunshot wounds to his head were visible and his revolver was beneath him. Leading from the scene and into the woods were the footprints of a man with a long stride.
Embedded in nearby trees, investigators found bullets from Evans’s gun.
Coroner Dr. William H. Gable convened a jury, which declared the death a suicide by gunshot because some who knew Evans said he behaved unusually in the days before his death.
On Sunday, he did not attend church, although he taught his Sunday School Class. That night, he was heard by others in the rooming house agitatedly pacing the floor. During his classes at the high school on Monday, he seemed disheartened to some. That evening at the boarding house, he spoke to no one during dinner and left when he finished.
Nothing found in his room or his school papers provided a clue about what had happened to him.
William Davis “Will” Evans claimed his brother’s body in Osage, and School Superintendent George Chandler accompanied Will and the body back to Williamsburg.
Price’s coffin was taken to the Evans family home so his mother and siblings could say goodbye. Rev. T.C. McFarland preached Price Evans’s funeral on Friday afternoon in the Presbyterian Church.
The crowded sanctuary and galleries also heard remarks from family friend Rev. R.W. Hughes of Des Moines and from Leonard F. Parker, Professor of History at Iowa College, who spoke of “the nobility and Christian character” of Price Evans and his excellent college work.
☛ Motive for Suicide? ☚
When the death was declared a suicide, shocked newspapers tried to explain why a young man with such a promising future would take his own life. The Williamsburg Journal-Tribune came up with perhaps the most innovative explanation — over-studying:
“There is, and always will be a great mystery connected with this tragical [sic] death. Long years of study may have weakened the nervous system until reason tottered on her throne and the brain, feverish by disease failed to see things correctly, hence he would in no sense be responsible for the act that deprived him of life. . . . Mr. Price Evans never took his own life, unless his mind was entirely unbalanced by disease.”
☛ Was It Murder? ☚
It was then that the Evans family learned the Osage coroner’s jury, on the assumption of suicide, did not order an autopsy.
At first, the Evans family, too, accepted the suicide verdict; but Williamsburg citizens and friends of Price Evans refused to believe it.
When the undertaker found a bullet wound to the heart, the family, too, began to rethink things.
After the funeral, the Evans family asked Williamsburg physicians Arnold Moon, Enoch Long, and Dr. Young to perform an autopsy before the burial in Oak Hill Cemetery.
The autopsy results — spelling out murder, not suicide — were summarized in the November 29 edition of the Williamsburg Journal-Tribune:
“The Theory of murder is based upon the following incontrovertible facts:
- ☛ First: The absence of any rational motive for such an act.
- ☛ Second: The absence of any reasonable evidence of mental aberration.
- ☛ Third: The absence of any powder marks or burns, on the skin or clothing of the deceased.
- ☛ Fourth: The fact that the autopsy showed it to be a physical impossibility for a person to inflict three such wounds, of which, two were necessarily fatal.
- ☛ Fifth: That the autopsy showed that the wound in the heart was made after death.”
After the autopsy, the Osage coroner’s jury changed the cause of Price Evans’s death to “murder at the hands of unknown parties.”
Yet, there were no theories about motive. Price Evans had no enemies — and, actually, few friends in Osage because he lived there so briefly — and no rivals for his girlfriend. His watch and money were not taken, so robbery could be ruled out.
The Evans family then hired its own detective to investigate the death and come up with answers and motive.
Price’s brother David W. Evans, a lawyer in Pipestone, Minnesota, told newspapers he was prepared to go to great lengths to solve the murder. Two years before, David Evans — then living in Des Moines — was attacked by robbers and came close to death. After he recovered from his wounds, he helped track down the suspects, two of whom were sent to the penitentiary.
☛ Connection to Another Sensational Case? ☚
Many believed there was a connection between Price Evans’s death and the murder-suicide of Arta Moore and M.E. Stinson on September 26, 1895 at the Asher House in Oskaloosa.
The two were secretly married — or so said her family after her death — and checked into the elegant hotel on the southwest corner of the Oskaloosa Square as man and wife.
Shots were heard in their room and they were found lying on their left sides with a revolver between them. Stinson shot Arta in the head, as she lay facing away from him — newspapers reported that she died “with a smile on her beautiful face” — and then shot himself in the head while facing her.
Stinson had pressured 20-year-old Arta Moore, the daughter of a prominent Panora businessman, to drop out of college and accompany him to St. Louis.
Speculation was that when she hesitated, he killed her and took his own life, leaving a note containing instructions about what to do with their bodies, but no explanation of his actions.
The school Arta Moore attended was Iowa College in Grinnell. There, she and Price Evans were acquainted. Some said that Evans’s romantic interest was a close companion of Arta Moore, but Price Evans refused to talk about Arta’s death to anyone.
However, very soon afterwards he purchased the revolver which was used to kill him and his own death came less than a month after the Stinson/Moore murder-suicide.
Proponents of the suicide theory claimed Evans killed himself out of despair over the loss of his friend. Some who believed he was murdered wondered if he knew too much about the deaths.
☛ A War of Two Cities ☚
In mid-November, Iowa Governor Frank D. Jackson offered a $500 reward for the capture of the person who took Price Evans’s life.
That made it official: the State of Iowa believed Evans was murdered.
This declaration did not go down well in Osage. Mayor Jere Wright Annis called a Condemnation Meeting of interested and concerned townspeople.
The citizens did not want the taint of murder associated with their town. They wanted Price Evans’s death to be at his own hand.
Speeches accused the Evans family of interfering in their town’s business by hiring private detectives and withholding the alleged facts that Price Evans was moody, subject to despondency and “melancholy,” and took drugs to sleep.
At the conclusion of the meeting, insulting and highly personal resolutions were passed that condemned the Evans family, the detectives they hired, Price’s young woman friend, and Governor Jackson.
On November 22, the people of Williamsburg reacted, in turn, with their own Condemnation Meeting organized and overseen by City Councilman G.W. Alt, State Senator Michael J. Kelley, and Williamsburg Journal-Tribune editor Thompson T. Osborn.
The Osage resolution condemning the Evans family was read and then a statement responding to it was drawn up and passed unanimously.
The Williamsburg document termed the Osage resolutions “utterly false and misleading, in so far as they relate to the conduct of the family of the deceased.”
Further, it called the depressive personality accusation “absurd” and claimed the Evans family had no knowledge of Price taking drugs to induce sleep either before or after moving to Osage.
The resolution was published in the Williamsburg Journal-Tribune and sent to Governor Jackson, the Cedar Rapids Republican, and the Cedar Rapids Gazette, as well as to newspapers in Osage.
On December 7, Price’s brother Attorney William C. “Will” Evans, who later became a Franklin County Judge, wrote an open letter to the citizens of Osage, chastising them for their speculations about suicide and their attacks on his family. The letter included this rebuke:
“We have had a postmortem examination and there can be no doubt, whatever, that my brother was murdered. Each of the head wounds was fatal, and would have made him unconscious immediately. The direction taken by the ball that went through his heart was such that it could not have been self inflicted.
You have offered to relieve us by the theory of suicide, and because we turned away from it upon discovering its falsity you have turned upon us the tusks of the wild boar. I have stated to the world sufficient, in my judgment, to satisfy a candid mind that we stand in the presence of crime. I cannot state more without detriment to the investigation.”
☛ The Life of Price V. Evans ☚
Price Vincent Evans was born in Williamsburg on May 30, 1871 to prosperous Welsh immigrants Catherine Ann Davis and Evan J. Evans.
He had 6 brothers — John E. Evans, William Davis “Will” Evans, Evan J. Evans Jr., David W. Evans, Edward Evans, and Morris J. Evans — as well as four sisters: Alice Rebecca Evans, Elizabeth E. “Libbie” Evans Campbell, Ellen Egryn Evans Jones, and Anne “Annie” Winifred Evans Corrongh.
Following in the footsteps of all his siblings, including the sisters, Price Evans graduated from college with many honors and prizes.
Price V. Evans was buried in Williamsburg’s Oak Hill Cemetery.
The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette wrote of Price Evans: “He was [a] very active member of ‘the church,’ being an enthusiastic member of the Christian Endeavor.”
The Williamsburg Journal-Tribune, always supportive of the Evans family, captured the sentiments of all who knew Price Evans:
“[The family] have the warmest sympathy of the entire community in this dark hour of sorrow, but only the Divine Master can comfort them, with the assurance that they shall meet again in a land of eternal sunshine.”
Please note: Use of information in this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.
- ☛ “Condensed Items,” Anita Republican, November 13, 1895.
- ☛ “Condemns Osage Citizens,” Burlington Hawk-Eye, December 8, 1895.
- ☛ “Indignation Meeting!” Williamsburg Journal-Tribune, November 29, 1895.
- ☛ “Iowa News Items,” Pocahontas County Sun, October 31, 1895.
- ☛ Iowa Postal Card, November 28, 1895.
- ☛ Iowa State Register, October 25, 1895.
- ☛ “Laid To Rest,” Williamsburg Journal-Tribune, October 25, 1895.
- ☛ Mitchell County Iowa Genealogy, IAGenWeb.
- ☛ “The Murder Theory,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, November 21, 1895.
- ☛ “The Mystery Deepens,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, October 18, 1895.
- ☛ “The Price Evans Case,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, December 16, 1895.
- ☛ “A Sad Death,” Williamsburg Journal-Tribune, October 18, 1895.
- ☛ “Suicide Unaccounted For,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, October 18, 1895.
- ☛ The Story of Mitchell County 1851 – 1973.
- ☛ “Turns Out Murder,” Waterloo Daily Courier, October 21, 1895.
- ☛ U.S. Census.
- ☛ Williamsburg Journal-Tribune, September 6, 1895.