Tracks in the Night: Murder of Edward Moore 1898

Murder Victim

Edward “Ed” Moore
23-year-old Farmhand
James LeGore Farm
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Motive: Robbery

Murder Scene and Date

Railroad Tracks
1 mile north of Ely, Iowa
Putnam Township
Linn County
October 20, 1898


By Nancy Bowers
Written February 2013

location of Ely, Iowa

location of Ely, Iowa

It was 8:00 p.m. by the time 23-year-old Edward “Ed” Moore finished his chores on Thursday, October 20, 1898 at the LeGore farm in Section 18 of Linn County’s Putnam Township.

As usual when his employer James LeGore was away on business, Ed Moore had been entrusted to oversee the farm operation by himself and make certain Addie LeGore and her children were protected and safe.

James LeGore was expected to arrive back the next morning from Chicago at the train station in nearby Ely, so it probably seemed to Ed Moore a good time for a trip to town.

When the last task was done that evening, Ed left the farm. Addie LeGore thought it odd he did not tell her he was going because he usually asked if she felt comfortable staying alone

But that night, Ed said nothing — he just walked south towards Ely, wearing his Mackintosh and rubber boots and carrying a lantern to light his way in the autumn night.

What Addie didn’t know and what was revealed later was that her 6-year-old son James Herald saw Ed Moore take a .32 caliber revolver from his trunk and tuck it in his coat pocket.

☛ Late-Night Purchases ☚

Joseph Woitishek’s store and grain elevator (from)

Joseph Woitishek’s store and grain elevator

In Ely, the stores were still open; about 9:30 p.m. Ed Moore entered Joseph Woitishek’s dry goods store at the corner of Dows and Main streets. Wotishek later said Moore was in an extremely good mood, his high spirits seeming to be natural and not from alcohol.

Ed tried on and bought a three-dollar pair of boots, paying with a two dollar bill and a silver dollar.

Joseph Wotishek sold Ed Moore new boots the night he was murdered (from)

Joseph Wotishek sold Ed Moore new boots the night he was murdered (from

Moore kept on the new footwear and tied his rubber boots together and slung them over his shoulder. He bought a dime’s worth of stick candy and left the store with his lantern.

He walked north past the grain elevator along the Burlington Cedar Rapids and Northern Line that ran parallel to Main Street; then he headed towards the train depot.

Moore was planning either to hitch a ride with the next northbound train or to use the tracks as a walkway to guide him in the night, as pedestrians often did in those days.

Fourteen-year-old Stanley Matthews, son of the station agent, was looking out the depot window and saw Ed Moore go by, striding quickly along the tracks with his lantern.

Night Operator Langdon, who was walking back to the station about that time from the Post Office, also noticed Ed’s light bobbing in the darkness.

At 10:00 p.m., Ely druggist Joseph Lawrence heard two gun shots only a few seconds apart. He was certain there were only two and that they came from the direction of the railroad tracks.

☛ Next Day’s Discovery ☚

from the LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel

from the LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel

The next morning, Friday, October 21, passenger train #60 on the Burlington Cedar Rapids and Northern Line traveled southbound towards Ely.

At 6:00 a.m. and a mile north of town, Conductor Walter J. Edwards spotted a man lying next to a post just outside the rails. He ordered the train halted.

When train crew got out, they saw the man was dead. Near the body was a .32 caliber revolver. A farm lantern and a pair of rubber boots in good condition lay about 500 feet to the north.

Walter J. Edwards had the dead man placed in the baggage car to be taken on to Ely.

The body was laid out in the Conductor’s Room of the passenger station area, and Linn County Coroner Cordy H. Ranck was notified to come at once.

The dead man wore a Mackintosh which had been ripped nearly off his back. Under the coat, his clothing was plain and functional, like that worn by a worker or farmhand.

He had on, however, brand new boots that were spattered as though he walked through farm fields or along a muddy road.

Only a small amount of blood was visible on the body — a spot on his left hand that had trickled down his sleeve.

In the man’s pockets were papers identifying him as Edward Moore. James LeGore, who had just returned from Chicago on the train, needed only a minute to recognize his employee.

from the Marion Sentinel

from the Marion Register

Linn County Sheriff John Cone and his Deputy J. Craig Shields headed the investigation into the murder.

After the revolver found beside the body was identified as the one Ed Moore had with him the night before, a rumor circulated around Ely that Edward Moore killed himself.

However, Coroner Ranck quickly dispelled the notion of suicide when he found two bullet wounds to the left side of Moore’s body — one passing through the upper part of the heart, the other entering four inches below. Powder burns on Moore’s shirt and undershirt indicated the shots were fired at close range.

☛ The Missing Bullet ☚

A closer examination was made during a post-mortem by Coroner Ranck and Railway Surgeon Dr. Alvin Brainard Poore, whose job it was to care for those injured by trains and to autopsy bodies found on trains or near tracks.

The two men discovered three .32 caliber bullet wounds in Moore’s body, although they could not account for all three bullets.

from the

from the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette

They removed one bullet from just below the skin in Ed Moore’s back, where it lodged above the 12th rib after passing through soft tissue. Another bullet — taken from the left arm above the elbow — had split in half as it struck bone.

What puzzled was the clear path of a third bullet through the heart, a bullet that could not be located in the body even with thorough probing. In addition, no casing for that bullet was found near the murder scene.

Investigators concluded the assailant wrested Moore’s revolver away and shot him twice — two chambers were empty — and then used his own .32 caliber gun to shoot Moore again.

Still, Ely druggist Joseph Lawrence insisted he heard only two gunshots.

The coroner’s jury returned a verdict of murder, concluding that Ed Moore was killed by shots fired by “a party or parties to them unknown.”

☛ Motive ☚

Ed Moore had a photo button of baseball player Ed Hutchinson in his pocket

Baseball player Ed Hutchinson’s photo was on a button in Moore’s pocket.

Moore’s pockets contained an eclectic assortment of items: a memo book containing figures and notes, an amusing valentine, a business card for an Omaha hotel, a photo button of baseball player Edward Hutchinson, and a letter dated June 9 and postmarked from Luverne, Minnesota, written by Moore’s brother-in-law Joseph Graham.

James LeGore told Coroner Ranck that his employee usually carried “a quantity of money”; however, only one penny was found in Moore’s pockets. His watch was also missing.

Robbery quickly became the motive for the killing.

☛ Theories of Murder ☚

Investigators hoped the scene where Moore’s body was found along the train tracks would yield clues to the crime.

The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette reported:

“Coroner [Cordy] Ranck, Deputy [J. Craig] Shields, Mr. [James] LeGore and a Gazette reporter went from Ely to the place where Moore’s body was found by the train crew this morning. Buttons from the man’s coat were found along the track for a distance of 1,500 feet. Clots of blood were found on dozens of ties. Six or eight buttons, some of which belonged to a Mackintosh, were found in a group inside of the rails, where the body was picked up, indicating that a fearful struggle had occurred between Moore and some unknown party or parties.”

Deputy Shields tracked shoe prints in the mud which showed where a man fled the scene and jumped a nearby fence.

from the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette

from the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette

There were two possibilities. Moore might have been accosted as he walked along the tracks and his overcoat torn when the assailant grabbed him from behind or as he tried to flee. Or he was robbed, shot, and pushed off the train, his coat getting torn on the machinery or the rails.

Either way, it was a fierce struggle; and Ed Moore fought for his life.

Investigators concluded Moore was the victim of a tramp along the rail lines, one of the rough hobos who stole rides on trains and victimized passengers and crew members, never hesitating to use violence to take others’ money, clothing, or whatever was needed to survive.

Ely druggist Joseph Lawrence, who heard the shots the night Ed Moore was murdered, told investigators that three tramps lurked about town on the afternoon of the murder. One begged for a pair of shoes, but Lawrence told him he didn’t give away merchandise to strangers.

Was Ed Moore targeted by one of these men for his shoes and then something went wrong during the robbery, leading to shots being fired?

☛ Reward Offered, Suspect Arrested ☚

from the Cedar Rapids Evening Journal

from the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette

Linn County Sheriff John Cone sent a notice to sheriffs in bordering jurisdictions offering a one hundred dollar reward for information about the murder. He urged that any suspects be arrested and that he be wired at once with the information.

Cone also asked citizens and law enforcement to be on the lookout for Edward Moore’s stolen watch, described as being a size number 18 and having a stem wind. The nickel case was open-faced and bore the number 3421570; the Elgin gilt movement was numbered 5207385.

Cone’s notice of a reward led to the arrest in early November of 1898 of Daniel W. “Dan” Blake, a Johnson County bridge building crew foreman. Few details were released about the arrest, including why Blake was believed to be involved and jailed at Cedar Rapids.

Hopes that Ed Moore’s killer would be brought to justice, however, faded as investigators soon learned that Blake did not commit the crime and he was released from custody.

In late December of 1898, the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette urged the Linn County Board of Supervisors to offer a reward in the Moore Case:

“It is now nearly two months since Edward Moore was murdered and robbed on the B.C.R. & N track about a mile north of Ely, and although the officers have worked on the case as faithfully as the great volume of their other duties has permitted, little has been accomplished because of a lack of funds for expenses. It is believed that the board will spare no expense in bringing the fugitive, whoever he may be, to justice. The taxpayers would rather see a reckless waste of money in the pursuit of such a criminal than to see a guilty man go unpunished.”

☛ Marriage Plans Cut Short ☚

When Coroner Cordy Ranck was attempting to eliminate the possibility of suicide, he asked the LeGore family if Moore’s behavior had changed in recent weeks. Addie Le Gore told him:

“He had seemed to be brooding over something and was apparently more or less worried, although he had been uniformly kind and courteous to me and the children.”

There was likely a simple explanation for the change in Ed Moore’s behavior: he was in love.

Discovered in Moore’s trunk at the LeGore farm were packets of letters from the object of his affection: 24-year-old Mary Largent of Adair, Iowa — Ed’s first cousin.

The LeGore family told investigators that in the weeks before his death, Ed anxiously awaited the mail and was eager for letters from his sweetheart, who was far away in Adair County.

Although the LeGores could plainly see the envelopes he cherished were postmarked in Adair, Iowa — 180 miles west of Ely — Ed Moore did not tell the LeGores whom the letters were from, nor did he comment on the relationship they represented.

In the fall of 1898, Edward Moore rode the train to the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition, a World’s Fair in Omaha, where he stayed in a hotel and took in all the sights.

On the way home from Omaha, he stopped in Adair to visit with Mary Largent’s family — who once lived in Putnam Township near Edward Moore — and told his employer James LeGore he “had been royally treated,” although he did not reveal the name of the young woman he visited.

The letters between Ed Moore and Mary Largent showed a developing relationship fraught with problems because they were first cousins.

from the

from the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette

Mary’s father Isaac Newton Largent was so opposed to the romance that she wanted to leave home in order to stay involved with Ed. The two young people hoped to keep the relationship secret until they were married.

Despite the hardships of distance and kinship, the two seem to have made plans that included having a photo taken together, perhaps as an engagement picture.

The latest letter Ed received from Mary — dated October 12, 1898 — contained details about family members, threshing, and a community dance she stayed home from, presumably because of her devotion to Ed. But mostly she wrote of her feelings for him:

“Mr. Ed. Moore—Dear Cousin: Your letter was received Monday and was so glad to hear you got home all right. I am well at present and hope you are the same . . . .

I saw the proof of our picture, Ed, and if they are as good when they are finished as the proof is they will be all right. He said they would be finished Friday. . . . .

My how I would like to be with you this evening. It is so lonesome since you went away. We could have had lots better times when you were back here if it had not been for the folks. It makes me all the madder, when I think what Pa said down to John’s that night. But Ed, I am not going to stay at home any longer. If I can get a place to work.

You write to me so I will get your letter Saturday. You write to me every week and I will do the same. You don’t want to let anybody read my letters. No one ever got to read yours that you wrote to me.

Are you working so hard since you got home that you did not think of me? If I think of you once I think of you fifty times a day. I guess this is all the tomfoolery I can think of for this time.

Hoping you will answer soon I remain your loving cousin, Miss Mary Largent.”

Under Mary’s name was written:

“Remember me when far away,
Riding in a pleasant sleigh,
Sitting by your dear girl’s side,
Asking her to be your bride.”

Ed Moore was absorbed by his future and making plans for a new life with Mary, although he may also have been worried – the “brooding” Addie LeGore observed — about problems the two of them faced. Or his mood may just have been the outward manifestations of infatuation and longing.

Moore approached James LeGore about buying or renting land so he could be independent and support a wife, but did not mention his intended’s name.

And Ed searched for furnishings to set up housekeeping, beginning as early as the previous June.

The letter dated June 9, 1898 found in his pocket was from his brother-in-law Joseph Graham, the husband of Ed’s late sister Martha Moore Graham. Joseph was living in Luverne, Minnesota, and had no need for all the domestic furniture he’d left behind in Iowa when he was widowed. He wrote:

“Now, Ed, if you want that stove you can have it for $10. Don’t you want my table? You can have it for what you think it is worth, and I would like to have send me my bureau and machine and the three pictures. You can send them by freight; and, Ed, you see that the looking glass and pictures are packed together so they come through safe. You pay the freight you can send the balance to me any time. Would like things sent right away. Have the sewing machine put in a rack. When you write tell me who you bought of and what you paid for it.”

Genealogy records searches have not yielded what became of Mary Largent.

☛ Held in “High Esteem” ☚

photo by Carla Ramey

photo by Carla Ramey

Edward Moore was born August 15, 1875 in Putnum Township of Linn County, Iowa, one of 12 children of Illinois native Emma Moore and her Irish immigrant husband John, a farmer. He lived in Putnam county his entire life.

At the time of his murder, Ed Moore was survived by four brothers — James Moore, a train engineer; Robert Moore, who worked for the Cedar Rapids & Marion Street Railway Company; and Albert “Al” Moore and William G. Moore, who lived in Iowa City.

Edward Moore’s funeral was held at 2:00 p.m. on October 23 at the Union church, which was located southwest of Ely on the Iowa City Road. He was buried in the Rogers’ Grove Cemetery, also known as the Neiderhiser Cemetery.

Moore’s tombstone — engraved with an opening gate and a replica of a book — was purchased for $20 by the administrator of his estate, attorney A.T. Cooper, who was paid $50 for taking care of Moore’s affairs.

The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette wrote that:

“The grief of the [LeGore] family at the sad intelligence [of Edward Moore’s death] was ample evidence of the high esteem in which the young man was held by the LeGores.”

LeGore told the Gazette Ed Moore was “one of the most exemplary young men he ever knew” and was entrusted with the management of the farm in his absence because of his “integrity and judgment.”

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


Many thanks to the fine website Historic Ely, Iowa, which provides an excellent documentation of the city.

  • ☛ “The County Wins Out,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, January 18, 1900.
  • ☛ Dr. A.B. Poore references, The Railway Surgeon, Official Journal of the National Association of Railway Surgeons, Volume 1, January 1895.
  • ☛ Edwin Forrest Hutchinson photo,
  • History of Linn County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1878.
  • History of Linn County, Iowa, from its earliest settlement to the present time, vol. 1 by Luther Brewer and Barthinius L. Wilk. Chicago: The Pioneer Publishing Company, 1911.
  • History of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898.
  • ☛ Humboldt County Republican, November 10, 1898.
  • ☛ Iowa State Bystander, October 28, 1898.
  • ☛ Joseph Wotishek photo, Vavra Family Collection, Historic Ely.
  • ☛ LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, October 26, 1898.
  • ☛ “Murder or Suicide,” Atlantic Daily Telegraph, October 22, 1898.
  • ☛ “Murder or Suicide,” LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, October 24, 1898.
  • ☛ “News In Brief,” Spencer Clay County News, November 10, 1898.
  • ☛ “Personal and Local Information,” Marion Register, December 30, 1898.
  • ☛ “Probably Murdered,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, October 21, 1898.
  • ☛ “Reward Is Offered,” Cedar Rapids Daily Republican, October 28, 1898.
  • ☛ “Reward Is Offered,” Marion Register, October 24, 1898.
  • ☛ “Room For Much Doubt,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, October 21, 1898.
  • ☛ “State Brevities,” Dubuque Daily Herald, October 27, 1898.
  • ☛ “Three Shots Fired,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, October 22, 1898.
  • ☛ “To Hunt The Murderer,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, December 28, 1898.
  • ☛ “Undoubtedly Murder,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, October 21, 1898.
  • ☛ U.S. Census.
  • ☛ Waterloo Daily Courier, November 2, 1898.

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