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The Topeka state journal. (Topeka, Kan.) 1892-1980, August 05, 1911, LAST EDITION, Image 11

Image and text provided by Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, KS

Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82016014/1911-08-05/ed-1/seq-11/

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City officials establish a temporary
ojamntme district.
31. .. Sparks, Nearest Neighbor,
Tells of Their Crimes.
Certain They Were Never Cap
tured and Killed. '
John,tlie Son, Attended Meetings
of Vigilance Committee.
When Trail Uecame Warm fam
ily Left Hurriedly.
Mr. Sparks Says Graveyard Was
Carefully Cultivated.
Some of the liodies Had Long
Been Buried.
"Neither Kate nor Jo'ui Bender, nor
their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Vm. Ben
! :-. has ever been captured and I am
t-.i tit"n il that none of Uie reports of
their fli.ath. which have been circulat
ed from time to time, were founded
upon fact." is the declaration of M. E.
tipHrk. of Cherry vale, oie of the few
f-iirvivitic persons whose own familiar
ity with the deeds and disappearance
of that mysterious fam'.ly entitles him
to a hearing.
As the guest of T. H. Frice in Oak
land. Mr. Sparks has beer, spending a
few dit-3 here. His account of the un
covering of the horrible occupation of
the Bender family and the subsequent
(forts to find them in many states Is
told with all the circumstance of the
eye-witness. At the solicitation of
the State .Journal he' has given one of
the bo-t detailed accounts of the dis
covery of the Bender crimes ever set
clown on paper.
"The Bender family moved into the
neihhot hoo 1 sometime in 1ST0 and
located a claim adjoining one which I
had tHken in 1S6V said Mr. Sparks.
"I was away at the time for several
months so that when I returned T
found them installed in their little
house in which they lived until they
tied the country in the latter part of
April. 1ST:?. Jt was not until that time
that myself or any of their other
neighbors became aware of their
"As I look back upon it I realize
that there was really little that any of
lis came to know of the personal habits
of the family for while they went and
came about their usual business and
kept a little store which brought many
persons to their place in the course of
the three years they lived among us,
there was little intercourse between
them and their neighbors. in fact T,
who lived nearest them, never entered
thr ir house until a rter they had quit
it forever.
Were. N"t Sociable.
"They were evidently Herman peo
ple, or of ('Firman descent, but never,
ts we afterward recalled, did one of
them mention any place they had pre
viously lived. Their origin has re
mained as mysterious as their disap
pearance, altnongh we generally took
it for tzranted they had come from
pome of the middle states'. Kate and
John, The children, were best known.
They wire young folks the, the girl
being possibly twenty-two and John a
yea.r fir two older. Their mother was
a slight, straight woman, wiry with
sharp eyes and plain features. The
oh! man was powerful i;i build, taci
turn and unsociable. We guessed his
nee at something over ixty while his
wife may have been ten car-. younger.
!'!.! . '. - - 9
May be promoted by those who
gently cleanse the system, now and
then, when in need of a laxative
remedy, by taking a deseitspoonfm
of the ever refreshing, wholesome
and truly beneficial Syrup of Figs
and Elixir of Senna, which is the
only family laxative generally ap
proved by the most eminent phy
sicians, because it acts in a natural,
strengthening way and warms and
tones up the internal organs without
weakening them. It is equally benefi
ficial for the very young and the mid'
die aged, as it is always efficient and
t free from all harmful ingredients. To
get its beneficial effects it is always
necessary to buy the genuine, bear
Jng the name of the Company
California Fig Syrup Co. plainly
printed on the front of every package.
Ij 0 1 If " " 1 " ) : 1- . r if
1 iMir 1 (P lli W 1
"Old Abb" hears call of Cooley in
the Desert league.
Tho Render murder farm from a photograph owned by Mr. Sparks taken just after the bodies of tlie victims had
been found. The small building in the background is the Bender house, to the rifiht of which Uie ruin of
the sheil stable is shown. The numbered places in the foreground are the opened graves and the bundle to
Uie riht of the central figure Is one of the bodies covere-i with blankets
No. 1 Grave in which the body of
G. W. Langchur and his little daughter
were found. i
They never left the place, but the
young folks occasionally attended Sun
day school or traveled hack and forth
on errands to Thayer, Cherryvale and
"Kate Bender was not a bad looking
girl as I remember her although my
only personal recollection of seeing her
closely was one day when. I stopped at
their house on the main road and talk
ed for a few minutes with John who
asked me to come and lock at his pen
of pigs. Kate was seated 0:1 a bench
at the side of the house with the old
folks. She was bare-focted and clad
in a shabby wrapper. John invited me
to sit down but I declined and went on
my way.
7v cteji'ls Te Ar
Floor plan of Bender house, which
was 14 by feet. The store was in
one corner.
' The famous Bender house stood on
the main road which crossed the coun
try from Fort Scott and the old Osage
Mission to Independence. It was twelve
miles from Thayer and five miles from
cherry vale so that it occupied a posi
tion close to the point where the four
counties cornered but it was in La
bette county. Along that road passed
most of the travel through the country
as it was part of one of the old south
western trails and had probably been
used long before territorial days. It
gave the Benders what they evidently
wanted, a chance to prey upon passers
by who were unknown m the imme
diate vicinity and would rot ' e missed.
How long their caution had enabled
them to commit murders we never
knew but an examination cf the bodies
finally discovered made it evident that
they had not been in the country many
months when thev found their first
victim. Probably several months oc
casionally elapsed between crimes. I
think that the vivid impression made
upon the public by the deeds of the
Benders was due in part to the hor
rible composure with which the family
had continued living so long surround
ed with daily reminders ot their mur
ders. John Attended Meetings.
"John took part in most of the pub
lic affairs of the community and we
met him frequently at the meetings
held to discuss matters of local mo
ment. We were collectively interested
in a suit to disprove the claim of the
railroad to the land we occupied and
he often hailed me for news of the
suit's progress. More than that he had
the effrontery to attend some of the
meetings we held in our effort to solve
the mystery of the disappearance of
Dr. William H. York, whose life he
had probably himself helped to take.
Of Kate it was said that she had pow
ers as a spiritualistic medium and on
one occasion John spoke to me about
" 'She can do anything that Christ
did,' he asserted. I accepted the state
ment rather humorously and said:
" 'No. No, Johnnie, she can't do
" 'Yes she can,' he reiterated, and 1
let it go at that.
Topeka man Is sent out ta chase
pretty girls for float delation.
-No. 2 Grave of W. F. McCrothy.
No. .': Old well in which body
John Greary was found.
"She was reported to have occa
sionally exhibited her powers but I
think there was little actual founda
tion for the occasional atories of her
Their Plan of Murder.
"You probably havp heard the state
ment so frequently repeated, that the
Benders placed their victm in a chair
in such a manner that their heads
touched a curtain that formed a par
tition in their house and that the blow
of a hammer from behind the curtain
did the work. The curtain being on a
row of studding which had never been
lathed or plastered. I had the best op
portunity to judge of that for I was
one of those who first entered the
house after their night and while such
a. plan might easily have been used I
found no actual evidences of it. The
presence of the studding made it al
most impossible to strike from behind
the curtain tho upright timbers were
in the way.
"I believe they killed their victims
anywhere and at any time they found
an opportunity always within the
house, of course, but 3ot as circum
stances dictated. You must remem
ber that at that time the country was
so new and so thinly populated that
they could count on few interruptions
in their business. Their house was out
of sight of my own but I lived nearest
them. One incident I recall strength
ens my belief contrary to the curtain
The Deadly Hammer.
"One of the men who took part in
the investigation of the inurder farm
told of his visit to the place when, he
believed, he had escaped death only
because the Benders learned that he
lived not far away. He had recently
settled a few miles further west and.
on the first occasion that his stock of
provisions ran low, he had concluded
to go to the Benders' store to see if he
might replenish his larder there. Ty
ing his horse before the house he en
tered and took a seat on a keg which
occupied the center of the front room.
At one corner was the little counter
behind which the scanty stock of goods
was stored. He looked over this stock
from his seat on the keg and talked
with Mrs. Bender who was waiting on
"Presently the old man emerged
from behind the curtain which screen
ed the back part of the place. Bender
carried a hammer such as a blacksmith
uses and as he came in he looked the
customer over and Inquire:', abruptly:
" W7iere did you come rom?'
"He was apparently not satisfied
with my friend's reply for, a few min
utes later he asked, again:
" 'Where did you say you live?' And
for the third time Bender asked a sim
ilar question before my friend left the
place. He was afterward confident
that, had he told Bender that he was a
stranger In the country, he would have
received a blow from the hammer, of
which he took little notice at the time
for he supposed it was carried for the
purpose of opening a box.
"No. The Benders didn't take the
trouble to place their victims against
the curtain in the dirty little back
room where they cooked and ate, far
there was no occasion to. They did
not keep a hotel as has eo often been
asserted and such a proceeding could
hardly have failed to appear myste
rious and sooner or later arouse sus
picion on the part of some intended
"In the floor of the back room was
the trap door which has become his
toric. It was square and filled the
width between two joists. The door
fitted snugly in the floor as we after
ward found and was supported by
strips nailed to the joists below. We
had to pry to force it open. A stain
of blood on one of these sTrips was one
Money to Loan
Capitol Building &
Loan Association
534 Kansas Ave.
Automobilists are threatened with a
rise in the city ordinance.
No. 4 Grave of Benjamin M. Brown.
No. 5 Grave of H. F. McKegzie.
No. 6 Grave of Dr. Wm. H. York.
of the first indications of iheir methods
to be observed.
Dr. York's Murder.
"Dr. York was the last man to be
murdered and the first whose body was
found in the little grave yard behind
the houss- Dr. York lived near In
dependence and had mce a trip to
Fort Scott to visit his relatives and it
was on his return that he was killed.
His murder occurred probably in
March for there followed aeveral weeks
of search and inquiry in an effort to
trace him. John Bender came to one
of the meetings which our citizen's
committee held to talk over the mys
tery keeping himself informed, of
course as to the direction of our hunt.
I do not recall that suspicion was pub
licly turned toward the Bender fam
ily at that time. So far as most of
the neighbors knew the affair had
blown over before the Fenders finally
left. Col. York, the doctor's brother,
had kept up a careful search until
every part of the adjacent country had
been gone over. The missing man had
been traced on his journey home from
Fort Scott to the Osage Mission. The
Benders said he had stopped at their
place, watered his horse and gone on
toward Independence. When he start
ed out on the Independence road from
Osage Mission he was never again seen
alive by anyone save the Benders."
The Benders' Flight.
Mr. Sparks recalled the circum
stances surrounding the departure of
the family of murderers. Two brothers
by tho name of Tolle lived two miles
east of the Bender place, being next to
Sparks, their nearest neighbors. On
Saturday about the first of May, 1873,
one of the Tolles took occasion to ride
by the Bender place to tell them to
guard their cattle which had done
some damage to his growing crops.
Evidences of the desertion of the
place were immediately noticed as he
approached the house, the doors of
which were closed. The body of a
young calf, dead from starvation, was
found in the barn. It had been left
tied and had perished from want of
attention. Some gaunt nigt:, likewise
nearly dead of starvation, were, squeal
ing in their pen. Tolle kicked down
the bars of the pig pen ard let the ani
mals out to forage. Ho then spread
the news of the disappearance of the
Bender family, which intelligence be
came generally known on Sunday
when the real investigation was set on
"It was while a crowd of people
were examining the premises of the
Bender homestead that someone recol
lected having seen a note in a Thayer
paper reporting the takjng up of a
team of horses and a wapon that had
been left standing at the edge of town
some days previous. Mr Sparks with
Frank Ferguson acted as a committee
of two to go to Thayer on Monday to
look at the team and wagon. Suspicion
was directing itself toward the Benders
in connection with the death of Dr,
York and the rumors of the disappear
ance of other travelers on the Inde
pendence road. But it was not yet
sufficiently strong to arouse the coun
try in a search for the missing- family.
The Team Identified.
It required but a moment to identify
the Bender team which had been found
in Thayer, and Sparks and Ferguson
sought further information from the
local railroad ticket agent. While
vague as to the date, the agent recol
lected having sold four tickets to a
party of travelers a few days previous
ly. He believed they had purchased
tickets to Humboldt, but was not sure.
Someone else in the town remembered
having seen a small dog, afterward
found with the team, kicked from the
steps of a. departing passenger train a
few days before. Such was the fare
well of the Bender family, not one of
whom, believes Mr. Sparks, has ever
since been seen and recognized.
The Bodies Found.
Word was immediately sent by mes
senger to Col. York, brother of the
missing doctor, advising him to come
to the Bender place, and he reached
there Tuesday, when the Bender grave
yard was discovered. Hurrying home
with the confirmation of the family's
unceremonious departure, Sparks and
Ferguson assembled the neighbors and
with Col. York they broke into the
Bender house which had not hitherto
been entered.
Little had been taken away, appar
ently although, since tha family lived
Grocers and butchers take the fam-
ily, a lunch and a day off.
in squalor there was little left behind
save the remnants of their stock of
merchandise and some household
things. The door in the f.cor was soon
discovered and the blood-stain on the
lintel heightened the fears of the
searchers. Below that cloor was found
a rude cellar, merely an irregular ex
cavation, unwalled and onlighted, save
from the outside celiar doorway.
Nothing of importance was found be
low, though there was a frightful
stench in the little cellar. The search
was then turned to the yard.
First Body FVund. j
Persistent cultivation of the door- !
yard had been one of the habits of the
Bender family. It had been plowed
and harrowed regularly, sometimes
without apparent reason, but the hor
rible meaning of this activity soon be
came apparent. Some distance from
the house it was presently noticed that
the surface of the soil had cracked
slightly in the form of a rectangle and
a scarcely noticeable depression ef the
soil inside that square was observed.
Prodding with a pole developed that
this ground was softer than that out
side. A few minutes diggir.g uncovered
the body of Dr. York. His clothing
had been partially removed and noth
ing by way of coffin or shroud had
been employed in his burial. A wound
where the skull had been crushed as
with a hammer-blow boi e testimony
of the manner of his death. Further
examination of the murder farm was
suspended for the day, the searching
party scattering to spreact n nvs of the
discovery, set the county authorities on
the traii of the fugitives and to prepare
the body of the murdered man for
Six More Bodies Found.
Next day, however, the digging was
resumed with method. A breaking
plow and team were brought and fur
rows made across and around the plot
of ground which the Benders had so
faithfully tended. Behind the plow
men followed prodding the ground to
test its firmness. One by one six more
graves were located and each in turn
gave up its ghastly evidence of the oc
cupation of the fugitive homesteaders.
One grave had been made in what was
presumed to have been first intended
for a well, the circular opening shown
in the illustration. In every case, save
one, the bodies showed that a blow on
the head had taken the life of the vic
tim. The one exception was that of a
little girl of perhaps four years, whose
body was found in the same grave with
her father. It was thought she had
been choked to death.
The names of the seven Bender vic
tims as finall5r ascertained are given as
follows: Dr. William H York of In
dependence, Benjamin M. Brown of
Howard county, John Greary, W. F.
McCrotty, H. F. McKegzie, G. W.
Laugchor and his little daughter. No
date was actually determined for any
one of these deaths and several of the
victims remained unidentified until the
widespread newspaper reports brought
relatives from distant cov.iities or other
states. Probably some ot the murders
dated back more than two years.
Search for Benders Futile.
"I am positive no member of the
Bender family has ever bee . captured
or punished for their crimes," said Mr.
Sparks in conclusion. "My interest
naturally has always been keen in fol
lowing reports of their arrests and on
two occasions I was, myself, sent to
identify suspected men. I made one
trip to Denver where it was believed
John Bender had been found and a
second time I was sent to Fremont,
Neb. A man living there was believed
to be'John Bender, but he had never
been arrested nor publicly accused. I
met and talked to him. He was not
either of the Bender men. Naturally
I have followed every subsequent re
port of their apprehension with deep
interest but never has a description of
a man or woman arrested as one of
that family ever tallied. I am certain
they have never been caught."
Among other individuals now living
who helped in the investigation of the
Bender farm Mr. Sparks named John
Sperry of Thayer, Frank Ferguson of
Morehead and Frank Deinst of Par
sons, formerly sheriff of Labette coun
ty. There may be others whose resi
dence he does not know, but most of
the people who were familiar with the
many of the men who hejped uncover
those graves are long since dead.
A Story of the Benders' Killing.
One report which has been widely
credited and never actually disproven
was from the dying statement of a
man who formerly lived in Montgom
ery county. He asserted that he was
the last survivor of a vigilance com
mittee which followed the Benders,
killed them and burned their bodies on
the "Verdigris river near the line ' of
Oklahoma, a few davs after their
flight. Apparent confirmations of this
report have come from various sources
in subsequent years but it has never
been well established. The vigilantes
had promised one another that they
would never disclose their participa
tion in the revenge which was wreaked
upon the family.
According to that story the Vigil
antes found the family in camp at a
lonely place, killed them after a fight,
threw the bodies into the river and
burned their wagon. They claimed to
have divided several hundred dollars
in money found on the bodies of the
Bender men and to have agreed to
keep still about it for fear their own
right to the money might be ques
tioned. As this story confl'cts with Mr.
Sparks' knowledge of th manner and
direction of their flight, and as it would
seem Impossible for it to remain sup
pressed for years during such intense
excitement over the case, Mr. Sparks
points out that this and eim'lar stories
seem too unreliable to b trusted.
Railroads start repair work follow-
ing a night of washouts.
Every Day Will Be a Special
Exposition Will Open With Sa
cred Concert Sunday.
Several State Meetings Occur in
Fair Week.
Famous Painting a Feature of
the Exposition.
Every day will be a special day at
the Kansas State Fair at Topeka, Sep
tember 10-13, hot alone 1n the sense
that each will be a big day, but that
each of the five days has been desig
nated as a special day.
The first feature of the Drosram will
be a sacred concert on Sunday, Sep
tember 10, which will begin at three
o'clock, and Sig. A. Liberati, leader of
the famous military and concert com
pany which includes acide from the
players of musical instruments, twenty
grand opera musical singers will ask
all the church and other musical or
ganisations of Topeka to be present to
form a mighty chorus for the purpose
of singing sacred music.
Special lajs.
Monday will be Old Soldiers' day,
Ladies' day and Children's day. Old
soldiers, widows of veterans and the
veterans' wives will be t-dmitted free,
as will children under 15 years of age.
On this day the regular admission for
adults and children over 15 years old
will be half the usual price 25 cents.
Concerts by Liberati's band, daylight
fireworks and a full and complete race
program will be given. The rule that
all exhibits must be in place at 8
o'clock Monday morning will insure as
complete a fair day as any of the week.
Tuesday will be Topeka day. The
closing of places of business on that
day will permit the attendance of every
loyal Topekan to witness the derby.
On this day those who have so loyally
assisted in making possible the present
beautiful grounds as a nucleus for the
biggest and best state fair in the world
will be shown a good time. In the
evening grand opera by twenty singers
of renown accompanied by Liberati's
great band, followed by Pain'K specta
cular fireworks panorama, "The FaTI
of Pompeii," will be put on in front of
the grand stand.
Wednesday is dedicated to the job
bers and manufacturers, the traveling
men, and members of the press. The
movement inaugurated last year by the
Kansas wholesalers of inviting their
customers to come to the fair will be
enlarged upon this year. The special
invitations will be sent broadcast by
the manufacturers and jobbers to be
the guests of their traveling men, and
see the fair right. The newspaper men
will take part in the festivities of the
occasion in force, and the many cour
tesies that they have shown Topeka as
the only feasible and logical location
of Cuti
enra Oint
ment forAU Hinds ol
AHhomrh Cutfcura Soap ml Ointment am
old by druggists and dealer e w J m here, a liberal
ample of eata, with S2-pi booklet oa the care
aad treasnent of aktn &a4 kalr. will be sent, post
free, om appucatloa la "CtrUmua." Depc 1. Boston,
Civil war starts among Santa Fe ball
players shops against offices.
for a state fair will in part be repaid
by their proper entertainment.
Home Coming Day.
Thursday, Fraternal day. will be one
of the days on which honor will be di
vided with the College alumni and
Kansans coming home to greet old
time friends. Home coming day at the
old established state fairs is one of
the biggest events of thc5 week, and
though it is just inaugurated here it
svill no doubt become in time a date
long to be remembered ss a welcom
home to the wandering Kansan.
on Friday, the last day of the fair.
nothing will be permitted t be taken
from the grounds, and exhibits will not
be allowed to be disturbed, until 5
o'clock p. m., so that there need be no
fear but that the last day will be a big
fair day. The same full program of
races, the same concerts and grand
opera, and all the exhibits in place is
the intention or the management. The
prize winners among the livestock ex
hibits will be paraded at. 11 o'clock a.
m. Friday on the race track. This
alone is worth coming miles to witness,
and is a special feature that will be
impossible any other day for the
reason that the Judging of the stock
will not have been completed before
State Meetimrs.
A number of state meetings will be
held in Topeka during the week of the
fair. Last year convention dates were
left open so that when the fair dates
were announced the time of the meet
ings could be announced by the secre
taries, in one or two instances, and in
others the meetings of 1910 were held
after the dates of the big fair were
fixed. This idea will grow in Kansas
as it has in other states -here annual
state fairs are held.
On the grounds of thq Minnesota,
Iowa, Illinois and Texas state fairs are
permanent headquarters of many asso
ciations and societies that are a stand
ing advertisement of these organiza
tions. Invitations are sent-out over the
state calling attention to this fact, and
asking that members of the civic,
semi-military, fraternal or other orders
or organizations having headquarters
on the grounds make those places their
headquarters when in the fair city.
Some of these are exquisitely furnished
and decorated, and all are rest rooms,
provided with every convenience for
the comfort of the visiting member.
The same facilities might be furnished
by tho state fair management, but the
feeling of proprietary rights does not
pervade the reception rooms of the fair
as those of one's own society or order,
no matter how strong a welcome is ex
tended, and how free the service may
be of restrictions.
A Famous Painting.
One of the features of the art ex
hibit will be the wonderful painting by
Henry Hammond Ahl, which has been
accorded the distinction ot being an in
spired conception of a full length figure
of Christ, and combines an almost su
pernatural luminosity that makes Him
appear walking in the moonlight. Th
effect was not intended by t'.ie painter,
but was first discovered bv him on the
occasion of a night visit to his studio
before the painting was completed.
The effect w as as if the soft moonlight
was streaming through en open win
dow upon the canvas. The picture
was never finished. And artists and
scientific experts have never been
ale to explain the phenomenon.
No mixture of pigments has Vver
been known that would produce
a like effect. This luminous back
ground assumes distinct radial
qualities in the dark, and won
derful though it may seem, takes -tha
form of a distinct cross above and
behind the figure of the Savior
The painter of the now noted canvas
upon discovering this phenomenal
shadow, refused to finish hla concep
tion, and its strange quality so impres
sed him that he called scientists and
the clergy to see It In hopes of learn
ing something that wou'd explain th
mystery. All who were called were
much astounded as he. A physician
of Washington, D. C. purchased the
canvas, and owing to its peculiar light -giving
reputation, the privacy of his
home was destroyed by visiting hund
reds, and he placed it in charge of a
Philadelphia establishment for public
exhibition. It has been shown at the
World's fair at St. Louis, the James
town and Yukon expositions, and in ;
about forty of the big cities of this
country. Topeka is fortunate in get
ting an opportunity to show this weird
art treasure to visitors to the Kansas
State Fair.
Prospect of Early Return of Company
li from Texas.
Leavenworth. Kan., Aug. 5. It is
probable that the strength of the gar
rison at the post will be increased by
about 300 enlisted men. The maneuver
division is to be disbanded next Thurs
day. This will relieve Company L,
Third .battalion of. engineers, from that
Company L Is now on survey duty
at New Braunfels, Texas, and it la not
known whether the company will re
turn next week; but at the longest it
will be only a short time until t re
turns to the post.
It has been rumored for several davs
that a company of hospital corps will
come to the post for station. Hospital
Corps company No. 3 will be the or
ganization setn to the post in event
the order is issued by the war depart
ment. This company has approximate
ly 100 men.
Nineteen recruits will arrive Monday
for the Second squadron, Fifteentn
cavalry, from Jefferson Barracks, Mo.,
and will fill this organization to within
two men of the authorized strength of
sixty men to a troop.

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