This story posted features the TROW surname. Mr. William Z. Trow & wife, Lucinda A. are both buried in the LeMars City (Memorial) cemetery, Block 10.

William Z. Trow
1840-1910 Obituary

Lucinda A. Trow
06 Jun 1848-May 1938




Yester Year Stories, Backed with Today's Research


The KNOX-TROW Case, LeMars, Iowa

Story from November 1938:


[Pictures of the house and yard are included with this article, along with a
photo each of Sheriff Scholer, Maybelle Knox, Lucinda Trow, Lemuel Trow, and Sumner Knox.]

LE MARS, IA --- In November 1938 a LeMars society woman who once led a
liquor raid while brandishing an ax was arrested by the sheriff here after
the body of her 80-year-old mother was found buried beneath a flower garden
at her home.

Frank Scholer remembers the bizarre case well. He was the Plymouth County
Sheriff at the time and was the man who supervised the search for the body
of Mrs. Lucinda A. Trow, 80, and the arrest of her daughter, Maybelle Trow
Knox, 49.

"We poked around with iron rods after a neighbor told us about some digging
done during the night," Scholer recalled.

The body of Mrs. Trow was found buried in a casket fashioned from a kitchen
cabinet on Nov. 13, 1938, in the yard of the frame house a block north of
the Plymouth County courthouse where Mrs. Trow and her daughter had lived.

On Nov. 30, 1938, Mrs. Knox pleaded guilty to charges filed in connection
with three Civil War pension checks that were made out to her mother and
cashed after her death. Mrs. Knox admitted she cashed six of the $40
pension checks.

District Judge R. G. Rodman of Cherokee sentenced Mrs. Knox to serve three
years in the women's state reformatory at Rockwell City.

Scholer said he thinks that after Mrs. Knox served her sentence she moved to
the Des Moines area where she worked for a time as an attendant at a nursing


The Knox case brought national attention to LeMars. There was not
television, but radio, newspapers and detective magazines played up the
story for some time.

"It certainly was the most famous case I ever was involved in," says

"I remember while we were checking reports about Mrs. Trow and after we had
found her body Mrs. Knox asked, almost out of the blue, Have you dug in the
flower garden yet?"

"I remember telling her we had searched the house and barn and planned to
start digging."

After the body was dug up, examinations by pathologists failed to find any
evidence of violent death. Officials said the woman had been dead for six
months and that she was believed to have died of natural causes.

Still, there was some speculation that Sumner Knox, husband of Mrs. Knox,
might have met foul play until he later notified officers that he was alive
and well and living in Oregon.

Maybelle Trow Knox was born May 27, 1889, on a farm near Kingsley southeast
of LeMars. Her father, William Z. Trow, had returned from duty with Union
forces in the Civil War and after marrying the former Lucinda Angela Lane of
Bangor, Maine, had settled on a farm near Kingsley.

Trow became one of the wealthier men in the county. After he died, his
widow and daughter, Maybelle, left the farm and moved to LeMars. They lived
in a somewhat pretentious eight-room home in one of the better residential
areas of LeMars.

Mrs. Trow served visitors tea and crumpets. Her daughter studied piano and
violin and enrolled in music courses at Western Union College, in LeMars.

Mrs. Trow served as state leader of the Women's Relief Corps, an
organization of wives and daughters of Civil War veterans.

In the fall of 1914, Sumner Browning Knox, a cousin of Maybelle Trow, came
to LeMars to study for the ministry at Western Union. He stayed in the Trow
home and earned his board and keep by doing odd jobs.

Knox quit his studies and took a job as a letter carrier in 1915. Mrs. Trow
found out her daughter and Knox were keeping company and did her best to
keep them apart.

On Sept. 22, 1919, they eloped to Woonsocket, S.D., and were married. After
returning to LeMars, they finally gained Mrs. Trow's blessing and lived with

As Mrs. Sumner Browning Knox, Maybelle blossomed into the grand dame of
LeMars society. She took up club life and causes. She became active in the
Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and was held in awe by other women
because of her intellectual achievements and her ability to talk about them.

Mrs. Knox thus became the important person she dreamed of becoming, while
she was a lonely, withdrawn school girl.


Then Mrs. Knox overstepped her talents and her ability and the bubble burst.
While toting a hatchet in true Carrie Nation style, Mrs. Knox led a raid on
a soft drink place operated by Joe Duster in downtown LeMars. No liquor was

"It really was a soft drink place," recalled Sheriff Scholer. "There
probably were other soft drink places where liquor could be obtained, but
not there."

And everyone seemed to know that except Maybelle Knox. Duster resented the
raid and also was irate because of remarks made by Mrs. Knox. So Duster
filed suit against the dry leader for $15,000.

That ended Mrs. Knox's career as a dry crusader. Other WCTU members
declined to re-elect her president of the local unit. Members of other
clubs started to avoid her.

Mrs. Knox went into seclusion. On Apr. 21, 1931, Mrs. Knox made a public
apology for her raid on Duster's place and the suit was settled out of

Less than 20 months later, on Dec. 9, 1932, Mrs. Knox pleaded guilty to a
forgery charge in connection with her claim to $10,000 from the estate of T.
M. Zink, LeMars attorney and woman-hater who specified in his will that his
estate was to be used to build a womanless library. [The will was set aside
by Judge C. W. Pitts.]


While she was in prison, her husband took care of her mother. When Mrs.
Knox returned home, times were tough. Title to the home had been lost in a
mortgage foreclosure.

The homeowner agreed to allow Mrs. Knox and her mother to live in the house
for $15 a month rent. (They were living on Mrs. Trow's $40 pension checks.)

Sumner Knox apparently left town but not before his wife had a spat with a
relief official at the courthouse which ended with the official floored and
minus several teeth from a punch by Mrs. Knox.

Mrs. Knox rarely appeared in public after that. She would come to the
courthouse once a month to collect her mother's pension check. She also did
some sewing for others.

By the fall of 1938, people were asking questions about the whereabouts of
Sumner Knox and Mrs. Trow.

To satisfy his curiosity, Rome F. Starzl, the editor and publisher of the
LeMars Globe-Post, went to the Knox home on Nov. 8, 1938, to check out
reports he had heard. He took one of his reporters with him.

Mrs. Knox denied that her mother had disappeared and that she was cashing
her pension checks. She said her mother was upstairs sleeping.

Starzl offered to take a picture of Mrs. Trow to quash the rumors and
gossip. Mrs. Knox seemed enthusiastic about the idea and set a time for the
picture-taking that afternoon.

The two newsmen returned to the Knox home at the appointed hour but no one
answered their shouts and door pounding.


The two men then notified Sheriff Scholer and Police Chief Fay Terpenning.
Scholer and Terpenning went to the Knox home. Inside, they found Mrs.
Knox's Pekingese dog, Kongie Chu Ehr, but not Mrs. Knox nor Mrs. Trow.

The next day, using a key proffered by a neighbor with whom Mrs. Knox had
left it, the officers entered the house. Hearing agonizing groans, they
rushed upstairs to find Mrs. Knox in bed. She declined the services of a
doctor but asked for a dish of ice cream to settle her stomach.

Mrs. Knox told the officers her mother was visiting relatives in Nebraska
City, Neb. Sheriff Scholer drove there and couldn't find Mrs. Trow, but he
discovered Mrs. Knox had listed her name with a matrimonial agency.

The sheriff asked the Iowa Department of Justice for help. State Agent
George Dickey was sent to LeMars.

The sheriff then convinced Mrs. Knox she would be better off staying in the
county infirmary since she was not feeling well and the house was not heated
properly. Mrs. Knox told officers her husband had taken her mother to
Wisconsin the previous summer.

Mrs. Knox then signed papers giving officers the right to search her home
and grounds. Her brother, Lemuel Trow, a trucker, arrived from Huron, S.D.,
and told officers he had received a telegram from his sister indicating that
his mother was dying.


Scholer explained the situation to Trow and he urged officers to start
digging in the yard at once.

After a probing rod encountered something in the flower bed, digging started
in the soft earth. Under two feet of soil, a long oblong box was uncovered.
Cramped inside the box were the remains of a woman wrapped in an old quilt
and a piece of lace curtain. Trow identified the body as that of his

The rest of the yard was minutely examined. The well, cistern, attic and
basement were probed with great care. Nothing more was found.

When officers told Mrs. Knox they had found the body of her mother she tried
to throw suspicion on her husband. "I wonder where he is," she said. "The
guilty always runs away."

Officers found that Sumner Knox and his wife, Maybelle, had obtained a
divorce at Perry, Ia., on April 6, 1934, although they had lived together in
LeMars long after that.


Officers also found out that Mrs. Knox had tried to hire a woman to pose as
her mother at the Iowa State Employment Bureau at Sioux City.

To satisfy a government claim for the amount of the forged pension checks, a
public auction attended by 1,000 persons was held to sell Mrs. Knox's
belongings, antiques and personal goods. Her dog sold for $10.

"It was a strange case," said Scholer. "She was pretty sharp and tricky in
her own way."

~More of this bizarre story and case can be read on the website. Most of the LeMars Globe-Post news stories about this case have been transcribed. Read about it on this IOP Plymouth County page link beginning Nov. 10, 1938 and following.

Also, Don't Miss These Articles found in 1932, six years prior to the burial in the flower bed in 1938:

LeMars Globe-Post
May 26, 1932

Physicians Not Sure of Cause But Say She’s Not Shamming

The condition of Mrs. Maybelle Trow Knox, whose trial on a charge of
uttering a false note for $10,000 against the estate of the late T. M. Zink,
was interrupted dramatically Monday afternoon when she lapsed into a coma
from which she could not be roused, still continues about the same, at
Sacred Heart Hospital, to which she was removed Tuesday, by court order.

Dr. J. L. Reeves examined the patient for the state, and Dr. J. A. Lamb for
the defense. Both declared that is undoubtedly a sick woman, and that she is
not shamming, as many persons at first believed.

Reports that Mrs. Knox had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage as an after affect
of a bump on the head received when she was being brought back from Kansas
City by her bondsman, a Sioux City professional, were not seriously
considered by the doctors. They thought that an injury received at that time
would have manifested itself sooner.

Sumner Knox, the patient’s husband, brought up the question. He declared the
bondsman was in such a hurry to get her over the state line before she
reconsidered and insisted on her constitutional rights, that he drove fast
and furiously. Several times, Mrs. Knox said, they struck bumps in the
road, so that his wife was thrown upward against the top of the car, causing
pains in her head, neck and back.

“There are no symptoms of a cerebral hemorrhage, or stroke, as it is more
commonly called,” Dr. Lamb said. “In such a condition, caused by the
effusion of blood from a blood vessel into the brain, the liquid presses
upon the contiguous brain tissue, sometimes causing unconsciousness. But at
the same time it practically always causes some paralysis. There is no
evidence of paralysis in Mrs. Knox.”

“The metabolic changes associated with cerebral hemorrhage are also missing
in this case. We notice a little acidosis, but this is explainable by the
fact that she has not taken any food for several days.”

Another physician ventured the suggestion that Mrs. Knox may be in the
rather rare condition known as hysteric coma. Medical books contain
references to such curious cases, but few physicians encounter them in their

Among such cases have been patients who became “stigmatized,” that is,
through some obscure nervous condition, wounds opened on their hands and
feet, in positions the same as if they had been crucified. Such cases in
medical history are ascribed to religious hysteria. The books tell of
catalepsy, which sometimes lasted for months, caused by fright. Sometimes
the most profound changes are said to occur, mystifying even to

Laymen usually associate hysteria with fits of weeping and emotional
fireworks, but according to medical authorities, these outward signs may be
entirely lacking in the most severe cases of “mental trauma.”

In the mean time the trial seems to be indefinitely postponed.

LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel, May 31, 1932

Doubt Expressed As to Progress of State Action Against Maybelle Knox

Reports gleaned from the office of sheriff and the county attorney, state
that Mrs. Maybelle Trow Knox on trial for uttering a forged instrument, now
a patient in the Sacred Heart Hospital, is much improved in physical health.

Mrs. Knox collapsed last week when brought into court for trial and remained
in an unconscious condition until Friday.

It is doubtful whether she will be sufficiently recovered to stand trial at
this term of court which reconvenes this morning.