A Wicked Affair: Part 4 – Lives Destroyed

Ed Clum partook of a delicious Thanksgiving dinner “consisting of a nice baked chicken with all the fixtures, such as dressings, choice jellies and pickles, beautiful bread and butter and choice coffee for desserts, different kinds of pies that suit the taste to a T, and the choicest varieties of cakes.”  The meal was quite a feast for a man who found himself on death row for the murder of one-time friend, John Jay White, and White’s paramour, 17-year old Ella Bowe.  Even more astonishing is the fact that this tasty meal was delivered by no less than ex-Senator S. R. Bridges and his wife of Cassville, Missouri.  No matter.  It would prove to be Ed Clum’s last Thanksgiving dinner.  Despite the stay of execution he had received the previous week, Ed Clum could not put off the hangman’s noose forever.

On April 15, 1887, Ed Clum was hanged in front of an audience estimated to be between 5,000 and 7,000 people.  Newspaper accounts note that nearly one-third of the spectators were women and children.  An article in The (Fairport) Herald dated April 22, 1887, discussed the event that had everyone in Cassville, Missouri and Fairport, New York riveted to the newspapers:

“Clum confessed that he did the deed, and said he was ready to pay the penalty; while he was in hopes that God had forgiven him.  This makes the end of a series of causes and effects, which have resulted in the suicide of Mrs. White, the death of Mrs. Clum, probably by murder, the murder of White and Ella Bowe, and the hanging of Clum.”

Edward F. Clum was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Missouri.  My question was whether I could allow this story to languish beside him, untold, where it had already lain for over a century unnoticed.  This was the first instance I had found where two Civil War soldiers I was researching proved to be of less than stellar character.  Illuminated History‘s goal is to shine a light on the Civil War soldiers of Monroe County, New York.  I felt the story needed to be told, if only to remind myself that these Civil War soldiers were real people with real faults.

A Wicked Affair was written as a serial, because the subject matter lent itself to the telling of a story in the most dramatic of fashions.  This story of lust and deceit and passion was a tale that could easily have come from the reels of an old Hollywood film – except it didn’t.  It came from my own community.  As I dug further into the circumstances surrounding the murders, I was saddened by the number of lives destroyed by these two men.  Not only their lives and those of their wives, but the heinous crimes committed also weighed heavily on the parents, siblings and children in the Clum and White families.  John Jay White had three children who were left orphaned.  The devastation and confusion they must have felt at the loss of their parents is unthinkable.  Those children grew to adulthood, married and had children of their own.  To their credit, they remained in the same area in which they had always lived.  It should be said that, with the exception of Ed and Jay, the Clum and White families were well-respected in this community.  I would hope that same respect continued to be shown to them even after the events of July, 1886 unfolded.

This concludes A Wicked Affair:  The Story of Clum & White.

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2 Comments on “A Wicked Affair: Part 4 – Lives Destroyed”

  1. Cheri Says:

    Once again I am so impressed with your wonderful writing style and content. “Serial” was suspenseful, but so tragic as well… Kudos!


    • Thank you! It was a difficult story to write because I wanted to respect the memories of the Clum and White families who, through no fault of their own, gained notoriety due to the completely selfish motives of Ed Clum and Jay White. However, I felt it was a story that required telling.


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