Arza Parker

Died Saturday night, Oct. 31, 1885

Yester Year Stories, Backed with Today's Research


LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel
November 3, 1885

Arza Parker, a Stanton Township Farmer Murdered at His Own Doorstep.

One of the most dastardly murders that ever occurred in Plymouth County was
perpetrated Saturday night in Stanton township, about eight miles south of
this city, the victim being an old farmer sixty years of age, named Arza
Parker. The first report of the homicide reached this city Sunday morning
through a messenger who came in to notify Coroner Myers of the killing and
request his presence. Mr. Myers at once responded, and in company with Dr.
Ensminger drove out to the home of the murdered man. An emissary of the
Sentinel was promptly upon the
and gained the following facts:
Saturday night about 10 o’clock, after Mr. and Mrs. Parker had retired for
the night and the daughter was sitting up doing some sewing, the latter
heard a strange noise at the barn and immediately woke her father, informing
him of the fact. The old gentleman hastily dressed himself and taking the
lantern, which the daughter had lighted, proceeded to the barn only a few
rods distant, and from which he never returned alive, his body being found
next morning about thirty feet from his own doorstep, the skull badly
crushed and his face and person covered with blood.

The appearances about the premises would indicate that as the old man
approached the barn door he was met by some one who assaulted him with a
pitchfork, as broken pieces of that implement were found near by and the
ground was badly torn up, giving evidence that the old gentleman had
desperately resisted the assault but he was most likely dazed by the first
blow, and fell an easy victim to the determined assassin. The remains of
Parker showed that several heavy blows had been inflicted beside a deep gash
near the temple made by one of the prongs of the bloody and broken fork.
After the murderer had accomplished his purpose and left his victim for
dead, the latter partially recovered and tried to reach the house, a bloody
trail marking his course from the scene of the tragedy to where he finally
fell exhausted and died, only a few steps from the door of his home.

The daughter, a young girl about fourteen years of age, informed the
Sentinel reporter that after her father went to the barn she heard nothing
further of him, and in about a half an hour got into bed with her mother.
Shortly afterward she and her mother became frightened, got up and went to
Mr. Jensen’s, a neighbor living about thirty rods distant, leaving alone in
the house a little 6-year old grandson. This was bout 1 o’clock at night.
They remained at Jensen’s a short time, then returned home and retired, not
looking to see what had become of the old gentleman nor visiting the
vicinity of the stable. Sunday morning they again went to Mr. Jensen’s and
then for the first time told him that the husband and father was missing. On
returning home in company with the neighbors, they saw the body of Parker
lying only a few feet from the house, where he had expired, and they
remarked, “There he is.” The
gave about the same account of occurrences of the night. When asked if she
and her husband did not have frequent and stormy quarrels, she replied in
the negative, though admitted that they had had trouble in the past. She is
a large, sinewy woman with a determined look, and of foreign birth. Her
husband, we learn, was born in Cheshire, England.

Coroner Myers summoned the following gentlemen of that vicinity to serve as
jurors: John Tripp, W. E. Gosting, and John Schroder. After viewing the
remains, the jury took part of the testimony of Mrs. Parker and the
daughter, then adjourned to meet at the coroner’s office in this city
Wednesday, when the investigation will be continued.

The reporter was unable to learn of any person or persons that held any
malice against Parker or that would be likely to desire his death, and there
is nothing to show that the murder was committed for money. There are many
conjectures and surmises as to the guilty party, but as the inquest will
probably develop all the facts, the public should patiently await the
verdict and not make a hasty judgment.

LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel
November 20, 1885

J. C. Parker, step son of the late Arza Parker, was a caller at the Sentinel
office this week. He was in Chicago at the time of the murder and was
notified of the same by a telegram sent by his mother requesting that he
come to her at once. This he did. The circumstances connected with the
murder, as published in the Sentinel at the time, were in the main correct.
The son, however, believes his mother innocent of the crime. He explains the
actions of the mother and daughter on the night of the homicide, by stating
that his step-father was very eccentric, and it was not an uncommon thing
for him to go out of the house at night and remain away for several hours,
some times days. Mr. Parker says there is no truth in the report that any of
the family have tried to run away, though he admitted that the old lady
attempted to take her own life. Every since the murder, the daughter is very
timid, and can hardly be induced to go out of doors after dark. A rumor was
started the forepart of the week to the effect that Mrs. Parker had made a
confession of being the guilty party, and several have called at this office
inquiring about the matter. So far as the Sentinel has been able to learn
there has been no confessions, neither has the coroner’s jury returned a
public verdict.

The step-son says it is his purpose here to settle matters of a financial
nature, and take his mother and sisters back with him to Chicago.

LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel
LeMars, Iowa
Friday, December 4, 1885

Mrs. Harriett and Miss Alice—Wife and Daughter of Arza Parker—Arrested,
Charged With the Murder

Though but little has been said concerning the Parker murder which occurred
some weeks ago, the Sentinel has all along been aware that the case was
being quietly worked up by one of Pinkerton’s detective force, who came here
in the interests of the county about one week after the homicide. The
detective has repeatedly visited the Parker homestead, talked with Mrs.
Parker and daughter, and the neighbors, and from them gained very conclusive
evidence—at least sufficient to warrant the arrest of the accused parties,
who have been suspicioned from the first as the perpetrators of this fearful
crime, and which was so intimated in the Sentinel account at that time.

Below we give the coroner’s verdict, which has been kept secret till the
arrests were made:

State of Iowa, Plymouth Co.—ss.
An inquisition holden at LeMars in Plymouth County, Iowa, on the 1st day of
November, 1885, before F. N. Myers, coroner of said county, upon the body of
Arza Parker then lying dead, by the jurors whose names are hereto
subscribed. The said jurors upon their oath do say that they said Arza
Parker came to his death by being pounded over the head with a pitchfork
handle and also being stabbed in the head by the prongs of the pitchfork
until dead, said fork was used in hands of a party unknown to the jury. The
jury feel satisfied after hearing all the evidence in the case that Harriett
Parker, wife of the said Arza Parker and Alice Parker, daughter of said Arza
Parker are implicated in the murder of the said Arza Parker and would also
advise the arrest of the said Harriett and Alice Parker as soon as the
coroner sees fit.

Corner Myers Wednesday filed the proper information, carefully drawn up by
Curtis & Durley, based upon the facts set forth in the above verdict, and
warrants for the arrest of Mrs. Parker and daughter were placed in the hands
of Sheriff Haerling, who departed for the country early this morning to make
the arrests. The accused parties will be brought to this city and lodged in

[From Thursday’s Daily, December 3.]
The arrest of Mrs. Parker and daughter occurred yesterday afternoon, the
warrants being served by Deputy Sheriff Fuller. On going to the country he
learned that the Parker family were moving to the home of Mrs. Parker’s
daughter, near the West forks of the Little Sioux river in Woodbury county,
and here the officer found and arrested Mrs. Parker. Returning to the old
Parker homestead, Mr. Fuller found the daughter, Alice, and arrested her,
bringing both of the prisoners to the city and lodging them in jail. When
arrested neither of the prisoners evidenced any surprise. They took the
matter rather coolly and calmly, and rather as if they expected it.

This morning the Sentinel reporter called upon
They were confined in separate cells, and Alice looked as if she had passed
a very restless night, her eyes being red and inflamed from weeping. She is
about fifteen years of age, of spare build, and not bad looking, and her
appearance impresses on rather favorably. She does not seem to fully
comprehend the serious nature of the charge resting against her, and though
nervous from weeping, talked calmly and to all appearances frankly about the
murder. She claims to know nothing as to who is the guilty party, and from
her no new facts connected with the case were learned.

Mrs. Parker takes matters less to heart, apparently, than the daughter. She
looked as if the night in jail had passed without particular discomfiture.
She is quite an elderly English woman of large frame, jet black hair, dark
complexion, and rather course features. She remarked to the Sheriff on the
way to the city that if she could have Alice with her she would about as
soon pass the winter in jail as in the old house on her farm. To the
reporter Mrs. Parker said that she had no idea who murdered her husband, and
she did not think that he had any more or worse enemies than men usually
have. She thought that she was more interested in having the mystery cleared
up than anyone else. When asked if she had employed counsel, she said, no;
that she had no money; that the money derived from the sale of hogs had gone
to pay debts, and that there was a mortgage on the farm, and she had not
means to employ attorneys, and would have to submit to whatever fate was in
store for her. She spoke without apparent nervousness or much feeling, and
the impression is left that through ignorance of the law she does not
comprehend the grave nature of the situation.

The evidence against these prisoners, implicating them with the murder, so
far as we have been able to learn, is purely circumstantial nature.

This morning Mrs. Parker was brought before Justice Alline for examination,
but not being prepared, the matter was deferred till afternoon, and at that
time the preliminary hearing was postponed for two weeks at the request of
the defense, who has retained as counsel Messrs. Argo, Kelley & Augir. The
prosecution will be conducted by Messrs. Curtis & Durley.

LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel
December 8, 1885


Mrs. Parker and her daughter, Alice, are inclined to talk but very little
since being incarcerated. And while they may not be, and probably are not,
the principals in the late homicide, it is believed that they know more
about it than they are willing to tell, and very wisely they keep closed