Posted tagged ‘Edward F. Clum’

Marching On

January 1, 2012

The year 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War.  In such a momentous year, I was given the opportunity to discuss the lives of our local Civil War soldiers to audiences in schools, churches, historical societies and cemeteries.

The first ever serial, in which I told the tale of A Wicked Affair:  The Lives of John Jay White and Edward F. Clum, ran in July and August on Illuminated History.  The saga lent itself well to the serial format, and it is something I would like to explore again in the future.  Through the other months of this busy year, Illuminated History highlighted the secretive – and controversial – uses of Civil War quilts, spotlighted Civil War soldier James Austen and even heralded a visit to the Perinton Historical Society by President Ulysses S. Grant, as portrayed by historian Steve Trimm of Grant Cottage.

The joy I receive from researching these local heroes is expanded tenfold every time I hear from one of their descendants.  In 2011, I was fortunate to be in contact with no less than four descendants of Major Harvey E. Light – Doug, Crystal, Mary & Glenn.  Each descendant had different information about the Light family to share with me.  On May 21, 2011, I received a wonderful gift.  Major Harvey Light’s great-great grandson, Doug, flew from Texas to attend my Pittsford Cemetery tour.  This was Doug’s first trip to Pittsford, where he had come to pay tribute to the man so many admired.  A visit to Major Light’s grave during our tour always draws a captive audience, since he is the highest-ranking Civil War soldier buried at the cemetery and he lived an extraordinary life.  At the gravesite, I gave my usual talk about Major Light and his family.  However, I managed to elicit gasps from the crowd after the talk when I said that, for the first time ever, we had a descendant of the Major in our midst.  I then introduced Doug to the group.  One of the most touching moments of my career as a historian was watching Doug place the flag at his great-great grandfather’s grave.

My hope for 2012 is to find time to post more articles on Illuminated History, to continue to contribute updates to Illuminated History Facebook, to persevere in my quest to locate more information about these Civil War heroes and to share that research with anyone who will listen.  Thank you for your continued interest in the lives of the men whose sacrifices may have occurred one hundred and fifty years ago, but whose spirits march on.

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A Wicked Affair: Part 4 – Lives Destroyed

August 31, 2011

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.

A Wicked Affair: Part 3 – A Vile Nest

August 6, 2011

In Missouri, John Jay White’s attention became drawn to another woman.  Seventeen-year old Ella Bowe was a local farmer’s daughter.  Despite the fact that Jay and Lottie Clum were living as man and wife on the 132 acres of land he had purchased, Ella soon began spending time at the White home.  By the time Lottie died in mysterious circumstances in January 1886, Ella had all but moved into the house.  Lottie Clum was just 35 years old at the time of her death.  It would later be suggested that the cause of her death was due to the “medicine” she had been given by Jay and Ella.  Also living in the home were the housekeeper, Mrs. Olive Vassar, and her son, Buddy.

At some point, Ed Clum heard that his wife, Lottie, was ill.  Although his parents begged him not to go to her, Ed headed out west.  He arrived in Missouri several weeks after Lottie’s death.  What was said between Clum and White at that time remains unknown.  However, Ed Clum began living in the house with Jay White and young Ella Bowe.  Ed became known around Cassville as “Mr. White’s brother-in-law”, for it was thought that he was the late Mrs. White’s brother.  The threesome seemed to be getting along well.

On Thursday, July 8, 1886, something finally snapped in Ed Clum.  He had been working the farm all day with Willis DeHoney, the hired man.  At sundown, Willis beckoned to Ed to come help him load onto the wagon the wheat he had mowed.  Ed assisted, and Willis drove off toward the barn with a full load of wheat.  When Willis looked back, he saw Ed Clum firing his gun, discharging both barrels in rapid pace.  Then Willis watched as Ed reloaded and shot twice more.  Ed must have known Willis was watching, because he motioned for Willis to come over.

Upon Willis’ arrival at the scene he saw John Jay White and Ella Bowe lying close together against a tree, dead.  Ed Clum threw some straw over the bodies, and the two men returned in the dark with an empty wagon.  They began their ghoulish task of loading the bodies onto the wagon and depositing them into a ditch near the creek, covering them with straw and rocks.  Ed Clum threatened Willis’ life if he told anyone about the murders.

For one week, Willis lived under the watchful eye of Ed Clum.  Then, after complaining of a need to get medicine, Willis was allowed to leave the farm and head to town.  He went straight to the City Marshal’s office, and told the story of the double murders of John Jay White and Ella Bowe by Ed Clum.  Warrants were issued, and Ed Clum was found to be working on the farm as though nothing had happened.  He was immediately arrested and jailed.

The authorities contacted friends and family back in New York for information about Edward F. Clum.  In a letter to Marshal J. F. Dumont responding to this inquiry, Adjutant John F. Huntington of Fairport’s G.A.R. E. A. Slocum Post #211 wrote of the unpleasantness of the characters of both men, finishing his missive with “…the world can well get rid of such a vile nest
as these people were.”

Coming soon – A Wicked Affair: Part 4 – Lives Destroyed.

A Wicked Affair: Part 2 – Escalation

July 14, 2011

Edward F. Clum and John Jay White served together in the 9th New York Heavy Artillery for about 18 months, from December 1863 to June 1865.  The 9th participated in the battles of Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Monocacy and others before ultimately ending up at Appomattox Court House in April of 1865.  Rivalry undoubtedly sprung up when Jay was promoted to Corporal on August 1, 1864.  He then mustered out on June 16, 1865.  Ed, however, transferred as a private to Co. I, 2nd New York Heavy Artillery at the end of June.  Records show his promotion to Corporal on September 1, 1865, just a few short weeks before he mustered out.

After the war, both men returned to Walworth, New York, in Wayne County.  The 1870 census lists Jay as a farmer, living in Walworth with his wife, Mary Augusta, and 6 year old son Warland.  By that time, Ed had been married to 18 year old Charlotte (“Lottie”) for about a year, and was working as a day laborer.

The years between 1870 and 1884 are unrecorded.  However, by the early 1880s, Clum and White were living just a few miles apart.  Tongues began to wag about the inappropriate behavior of Lottie Clum and Jay White, and about Ed Clum’s lack of interest in protecting his wife.  Several articles even insinuated that all three were living under the same roof.  This was the last straw for Jay’s long-suffering wife, Mary Augusta, who committed suicide on May 30, 1884.  She left behind three children – Warland, Ruth and little Lucy who was not yet four years old.  After Mary Augusta’s death, Jay became even more brazen.  He carried on with Lottie Clum, paying no heed to any conventions of decent behavior.

Jay and Ed had joined the G.A.R. E. A. Slocum Post #211 of Fairport, New York together in 1884.  On September 27, 1885, Edward F. Clum was dismissed from the post by court martial for conduct unbecoming a gentleman and a soldier.  He had arrived at a post-sponsored family campfire intoxicated, and had proceeded to use obscene language in front of the wives and children of his fellow veterans.  Jay White was dishonorably discharged from the post on the same date.  His crime?  Riding intoxicated through the streets of the village at a furious pace with Mrs. Edward Clum.

Shortly thereafter, John Jay White took off for the west – with Lottie Clum in tow.  They made their way to Cassville, Missouri, where they lived on a farm and Lottie was known as “Mrs. White”.  The fact that Jay White had once again bested him and made off with his wife apparently did not weigh too heavily on Ed Clum’s mind, for he did not follow them…until five months later.

Stay tuned for A Wicked Affair: Part 3 – A Vile Nest!

A Wicked Affair: The Story of Clum & White, Part 1

July 8, 2011

Even as a boy he had been trouble.  As a man, the bad reputation followed him still, and it was well deserved.  Edward F. Clum had gotten into scrapes with the law in more than one state, but this time he couldn’t escape.  There was a hangman’s noose with his name on it.

Ed Clum was born in Germantown, New York in July 1844. His father, Ferdinand, was a well-to-do farmer who was highly regarded in the little community of Walworth, New York, where Ed grew to adulthood.  Yet Ed was a wild child whose temper could not be curbed.  His parents despaired of him, and had hoped Ed’s older brother, Chauncey, would be a good role model.  Then the war came and Chauncey went off with the 33rd New York Infantry to fight.  It took him two weeks to die, two agonizing weeks of pain from the wound he received at Antietam.  Chauncey couldn’t help Ed now.

Ed most probably knew John Jay White even before they enlisted in Co. B, 9th New York Heavy Artillery together.  After all, they lived just two miles apart in Walworth.  Ed and Jay even enlisted in the 9th on the same day – December 7, 1863.  To all who knew them, they were an odd pair.  Ed was coarse, and would have been forgettable had it not been for his bad temper.  Jay was more refined, more intellectual, and had a charm that belied his inner demons.  Who would have suspected that this singular friendship would lead to murder?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of A Wicked Affair!


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