Murder at Millen Ralston’s Farm 1886

Kate Caven Murdered 


Posted By: Ken Wright (email)
Date: 3/6/2013 at 19:15:17

Jackson Sentinel, May 13, 1886

Kate Caven Murdered

On Monday, May 3, Miss Kate Caven left her home at the house of her brother, Perry Caven and was found on the Wednesday following in the Ralston cave, shot through the heart. The Ralston cave is a half a mile or so from her home and is situate on the farm of Milan Ralston, the Canton and Maquoketa mail carrier. The cave is like hundreds of others which Jackson county abounds, but this one is unusually large, being large enough for a team to turn around in. The body of the girl was in good state of preservation, the air in the cave being nearly ice cold, however, some wild animals had slightly eaten one hand and one foot.

Miss Kate Caven was 25 years of age and has been affected from infancy with St. Vitas dance, and of late years her mind seems to be affected. On the day of the tragedy Kate packed up her valise as if to go away, whereupon Mrs. Perry Caven went to the field to call her husband and try to have him persuade her not to go, but when they returned to the house Kate was gone and was never afterwards seen alive, but her departure caused no surprise, for it was her custom to often go over to the house of W. B. McCullough, her brother-in-law who lived near and also she had a way of leaving without notice and staying three or four days with friends of the family living near Garry Owen. However, on Wednesday, two days after the disappearance, the Caven family found out casually that Kate was not with the people above mentioned, and search was begun in earnest and in the afternoon the same day Mrs. W. B. McCullough found the body. In the search Mrs. McCullough had a faint clue, from the fact that Kate had frequently mentioned of late that she had found “such nice caves,” and further, that on Easter (May 25th), Kate had brought her father to visit in her company, the cave in which the tragedy occurred. Mrs. McCullough then went directly to the cave mentioned and found Kate shot dead with two revolvers lying at her side. One revolver had two empty chambers, the other was fully loaded. Her kinspeople were taken wholly by surprise by the event, for after missing her it was discovered that Perry Caven’s revolver had been taken from the house. The other revolver had formerly belonged to W. B. McCullough, but had disappeared three years before.

The event is casting a gloom over the whole community, but the calamity falls with especial weight upon her aged and respected father. Miss Kate Caven awaits the “last day” in the cemetery in Hickory Grove, Brandon township, where her remains were laid to rest Thursday, May 6th, by a large concourse of sorrowing friends.

Ralston Family in 1905 Jackson Sentinel Article

My friend Marion Pliner sent me a photocopy of an article from the Jackson Sentinel of 26 MAY 1905 page 07, titled “Memories of the Past Fifty Years” by M. Kiester. In it, Kiester talks about the Ralston family. Since I cannot produce a good reading quality scan, I have transcribed the Ralston portion below:

Then John Ralston, with a large family lived on his farm joining the Shirleys on the north, now belonging to the James Boyd farm. Mr. Ralston died many years ago, leaving a wife and eight children, three boys and five girls. Susan the oldest, was married to John Shirley. Mellen was married to Eliza Sinkey, daughter of Matthew Sinkey who lived on a farm near Emeline. Nelson married the old lady Ead’s daughter, grandaughter of the old Mr. Jacobs, of whom I have written. He was a soldier in the rebellion and died soon after returning home. Alexander is on a farm about three miles south of this place, with quite a family of children being married to a daughter of Wm. Potter, an old resident of Brandon township. Mary was married to John Shroyer, son of old John Shroyer who then lived on a farm one mile west of Ozark and now owned by Patrick O’Connell. Alvira was married to A. E. Sutton and then lived on a farm two and one-half miles west of Canton and at her death Mr. Sutton was in possession of a large tract of land in that neighborhood and sold it to Mr. Williams a few years ago and moved to this place, where he lived a few years, then bought a farm on the North Fork of the Maquoketa river, about four miles above Ozark, near where the old mill stood where I sawed so much lumber, and on that farm is where he now lives. The old lady still lives (Nancy Ralston) but she is quite old. She makes her home with her grand daughter, Fred Morris’ wife.

Elam Ralston, a brother of John’s was also among the old settlers and lived on a farm a half mile south of Ozark. The old folks have been dead a number of years ago, leaving a boy boy and girl in this neighborhood, Mrs. Curtis living with her husband on a farm one mile south of Ozark, Uriah, now running a billiard hall in Canton, has been married twice and has several children two of whom are making their home with Mrs. Curtis.

David Ralston, too, was among the early settlers of this vicinity, though a resident of Butler township and bu the way, cast the only republican ballot in the township in a great many years, and I think the next was cast by David Burk, who then lived on a farm about six miles north of Ozark called the “pine tree farm”.

Here Mr. Keister goes on to talk about other members of the community then states that he will finish Mr. Ralston in the next chapter.

What can we derive from this article to help us in our family history search? A LOT!

We can now search for land deeds with approximate locations and also dates of sale in some instances.

We can search for Nancy Ralston on the 1900 Census and sure enough, she is there with her grand daughter and listed as being Agnes Morris. I will post this another time.

We have some married names for daughters now.

We know to check to see if Nelson Ralston really was a soldier in the Civil War.

We have some approximate dates of both when people were still alive and also when they died.

We know that David Ralston recently voted Republican but no one else had for a “great many years”, telling us that the Ralston’s were Democrats in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

We know that this story is continued in another article in the Jackson Sentinel and perusing this paper should provide us with the “next chapter”.