The Battered Corpse: Murder of John Doe 1858

Murder Victim

John Doe 1858
Age and Occupation Unknown
Cause of Death: Unknown
Motive: Unknown

Murder Scene and Date

West of the Cedar River
Cedar Township
Sac County, Iowa
Autumn of 1858


By Nancy Bowers
Written July 2014

location of Lytton, Iowa

location of Lytton, Iowa

Sac County’s Cedar Township had seen violence, bloodshed, and death when the Sac and Fox Indians battled and pushed back the Sioux along the Cedar River.

But, the distinction of being the first “white man” or settler murdered in Sac County fell to an unknown male who was found dead west of the Cedar River on what later became the R.M. Long farm in Section 9 of the township. The nearest community was Lytton.

There in the fall of 1858, a party of settlers discovered a gruesome sight: a murdered man whose body had been mauled by wild animals. To afford some dignity, they buried the corpse.

Not long afterwards, the group returned to the area and discovered the body had been unceremoniously exhumed and mutilated — the face battered, the teeth smashed out — presumably to make identification impossible. The actions seemed “over-kill” in that the burial had hidden the corpse.

The History of Sac County, recorded the event, stating:

“It was never known who the victim was nor who committed the deed.”

As emigrants and settlers pushed westward in the mid-19th century, many died along the way of natural causes, accidents, and even homicide. Some were anonymous victims like this man, their families and friends back east unaware of their fates.

Click here to read a similar case — “Death Going West: Murder of Apple Grove John Doe 1866.”


Please note: Use of information from this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.



  • ☛ “Cedar Township and Lytton” by C. Everett Lytton. History of Sac County, Iowa. Indianapolis, Indiana: B.F. Bowen & Company, 1914, p. 228.
  • ☛ Cedar Township, Plat Book of Sac County, Iowa, University of Iowa Libraries Digital Library. Rockford, Illinois: W.W. Hixson & Company, 1930, p. 5.

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