This case is the story of Enos McCollum, born August 22, 1897, and his criminal activity, only to find an unexpected crime and triggering crime at the end.
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Today's case was brought to me via Facebook from Katie for her son's paternal great-grandfather. Thanks, Katie for sharing your ancestor with me and everyone listening. I hope I do his story justice and even though it can be exciting to find an ancestor who was a criminal, it can be sad too.
Enos McCollum was born on August 22, 1897, in Iconium, Missouri to Francis "Frank" McCollum and Rosa Lee Green. Enos was the oldest of 10 children, having 5 sisters and 4 brothers.
Today, Iconium is an unincorporated community in St. Clair County, Missouri. It is located about 120 miles southwest of Kansas City, MO, 120 miles north of Branson and 240 miles west of St. Louis, MO. It has a population of about 35 people! Wow.
If you are a Boy Scout then you may have traveled to this area because it is located miles from the H. Roe Bartle Boy Scout Reservation. And Iconium is well known for Scott's Iconium Store which has everything a boy scout and their families would need. This iconic store was built in 1900, when Enos was 3 years old.
However, in 1900 the family is found in Box Township, Cedar County, MO and Enos is 2 years old (he would turn 3 two months later) living in the home of Rosa’s mother, Sarah Green. Mrs. Green is listed as widowed and is 46 years old. Also living in the home are Rosa’s siblings Mina, Benjamin, Rengie, and Elyzabeth and Frank and Rosa’s newest baby Annie who is 10 months old. Box Township was about 40 miles southwest of Iconium and today is an inactive township. It was established in 1850 and named after, you guessed it, Mr. Box, a pioneer settler.
In April of 1910, the family is back in St. Clair County in Jackson, MO. Frank and Rosa now have 7 children in the home and luckily in the 1910 federal census, it lists relationships so we clearly know that all of these children are siblings with the same parents. The children are Enos, Anna L (Annie), Henry F, Sarah L, Artie M, Stella M, and one listed as “Baby” with a age of 0 months. Until further verification, I have to assume the child was literally born or perhaps she was still pregnant and wanted the baby included. I’ll confirm this later to determine who this baby was. Also living with the family is Frank’s father and Enos W’s namesake, Enos F McCollum. Enos F is listed as 75 and widowed.
Jackson Township was located in the same county as Iconium, it was established in 1841 and aptly named after Andrew Jackson. Like Box Township, it is now an inactive township.
Going back a bit, let's discuss Enos's parents, Frank McCollum and Rosa Lee Green. Francis who went by the name Frank was born Nov 20th, 1878 to Enos F McCollum and Anna Rozella Vinzant. The location of his birth is listed on some records as Missouri and some as Iowa. After researching various documents, I am confident that he was actually born in Iowa. Frank is shown on the 1880 census when he was 3 years old and the family is living in Iowa and Frank is listed as born in Iowa. The family at this time shows Frank’s parents, Enos and Anna, and 7 siblings. His parents are listed as born in North Carolina and Indiana. The oldest sibling is listed as Sarah E and she was 20 years old, born in Indiana. Then Louisa Jane, 17 and William S, 15, both born in Indiana. Another son, James Henry is 13 and shown as born in Illinois and then the family appears to have moved again because Lovey Ann, a daughter, age 11 is born in Missouri. Lastly, they end up in Iowa as Andrella, age 10, Enos J, age 10 are both born in Iowa followed by Frank. So much more I could talk about with this family but let’s move on to Enos’s mom, Rosa Lee Green.
Rosa Lee Green was born December 2, 1880 in Iconium, Missouri to William Robert Green and Sarah Jane Collins. William and Sarah married on June 21, 1877 and their last child was born in 1887. It is unclear when William died but in the 1900 census, Sarah is shown as widowed as discussed earlier, so William would have passed anywhere from 1887 to 1900. Without an 1890 census to verify and a death certificate, I am unable to confirm at this time. Rosa had 4 siblings that I mentioned previously from the 1900 census.
Back to Enos, by 1920 he was 23 years old and had 9 siblings by then. The “baby” sibling listed on the 1910 census was Ina or Iva. In 1912, another sister Alta was born and in 1916, a brother Ray was born. The last sibling was born on April 19, 1920 and was named Frank after his father. Unfortunately, this happy occasion turned into a sad moment because Rosa Lee died in childbirth and Enos lost his mother.
Enos was living in Cuba, Republic County, Kansas as listed on this WWI Registration card from 1918, stating he was 21. These documents are a great source of information because it tells us that his father was born in Lionville, Iowa which wasn’t known information to this point. Enos would have been the informant on this document so the reliability is strong that this was more accurate than Census record where we typically don’t know who the informant was. The registration card also says that Enos’s employer is Martin Prison in Brantford, Washington County, KS, which means he is either an actual employee or a prisoner. If we didn’t know he was a criminal before, this would be our first clue that something was amiss. Or was he once a correctional officer turned criminal?
Also on his draft card is a physical description which says he is tall, medium build, light brown hair with blue eyes.
His registration card for WWII draft in 1944 lists him as 47 and his residence as Nebraska Penitentiary in Ogallala, Keith County, Nebraska. I’m pretty confident he wasn’t an employee at this location. His next of kin is listed as Wilma Ruth McCollum. So what happened between 1918 and 1944?
On March 21, 1925, Enos married Helen Haupt in Sterling, Logan County, Colorado. At this point, we know Enos has lived in Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska from birth to 1944. The thought of moving down the street for me is too much work, so I can only imagine moving from state to state and that it had to be exhausting. Their first child Jackie Frances was born in Kansas about 1926 (guess they moved again) and then their second daughter Wilma was born in Nebraska in 1928, yet another move. In 1929, the family is found back in Kansas in Jerome Township, Gove County. Their first son, Francis (Frank) L was born in January of 1930 and the family was living in Logansport, Logan County, Kansas. He is shown on the 1930 census from April as 3 months old. I think we need a map for all these moves because in 1935 the family is in Nebraska in Keystone, Keith County. The family is still in Keystone on the 1940 census with a new son, Enos Jr, who is listed as 2 years old and born in Nebraska, however it says he was in 2nd grade and that in 1935 he was living in Keystone, which means he would have been 7 or 8 years old and making his birth year around 1932.
It states on the 1940 census that Enos was not employed for pay and was seeking work; his occupation is listed as laborer. Could this perhaps be the reason he made the decision to commit a crime? He has a wife and 4 children to take care of and he isn’t working – this could cause anyone to make some bad decisions.
Well apparently, that was the reason, but sooner than 1940.
When Katie sent me his story, she stated to me that “It's a sad story because he had a wife and three small children and they were very poor. When he first got arrested, news articles tell of the police finding his children filthy and hungry and all sharing the same bed. His wife, at first, pleaded for leniency and tried to get him released. When that didn't happen, she ended up turning against him and no matter how much he told her he loved her and pleaded with her for forgiveness, she would not respond to his letters. According to his family, she was responsible for keeping him locked up every time he came up for parole, she fought it and he remained in prison.”
Katie also stated that “Enos and his bank robber friends used a rental car to do the "hold-up" and then escaped from Nebraska to Colorado in that car and that's how the cops tracked him down.
Here is what we do know based on newspaper articles. According to the Salt Lake Tribune from July 14, 1931, Enos and 2 other men were found in Colorado after fleeing from Nebraska following their robbery of the Max State Bank. The three men pleaded guilty to that robbery and one other at the Le Mayne State Bank, signing written confessions. The Lincoln Star newspaper out of Lincoln, Nebraska states in the July 18th, 1931 issue that Enos had not previously been in trouble with authorities. It spoke to Enos’s wife and 3 young children and that Enos said he had been out of work for months prior to the robberies and felt his wife and children had to be fed. (Side note – this was the time of the Depression and times were tough for a lot of people. And Helen, Enos’s wife was pregnant with their 4th child at this time). It states his family came to Benkelman during the hearing and planned to move to Lincoln to be closer to him.
Remember the mention from Katie about them being caught because of a rental car? My first thought was they had rental cars in 1931? Apparently, they did. According to an article in The Lincoln Star from July 12, 1931 the men were caught at the Regent Hotel in Denver after agents had traced their disappearance through a local driverless car company, aka a rental car company. One of the other men, George Savage had rented the car on July 1st and when the company had not heard from Savage since, they reported the car stolen. Perhaps not a brilliant plan if you plan to rob a bank or two.
As far as the story goes about his wife Helen pleading for his parole and then switching to keeping him in prison, who knows what the truth is on this one. I can say that she did indeed plead for his parole in Feb 1940 according to the Nebraska State Journal’s article from February 15th. It states in 1931, Enos was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the robberies and he had currently served 8 years and 7 months. Helen pleaded with the parole board that she needed Enos more than ever as most of their children were in high school at this point, and their youngest was born after Enos went to prison. Her request was heard and Enos was released that same month.
Skipping forward, we find that Enos died January 30, 1953 when he was 55 years old. We don’t yet have the 1950 census out to see if and where he shows up, but we know that he was in the Nebraska State Penitentiary in 1944 according to his WWII Draft Registration card where he listed his daughter Wilma as his next of kin. Family stories stated that he was in prison when he died but no one was sure what he was in there for, since he had been released in 1940 for the bank robberies. After some digging, I found the answer and this may be a trigger for some so proceed with caution. I have to say I was SHOCKED when I saw his crime, for which he was sentenced 23 years.
According to the Nebraska Prison Records Index from 1870-1990, Enos was sentenced to 23 years for Incest. The index doesn’t state when this occurred but that it happened in Keith County, Nebraska. Nor does it provide any details of the case and who the victim might have been. His prisoner number for this conviction was 15108 and it states the Reel number is RG034#3, so anyone listening that is related to Enos and wants to find out more should contact the Nebraska Prison Archives to see if they can get more details on the case. My assumption is that the context of this was the same as it is today but perhaps it could mean something else back in the 1940s. I wasn’t going to google that to find out.
The stories about Helen trying to keep him in prison make more sense now and this finding adds credibility to that family story, though the story made her out to be the bad guy in this story. It seems she was trying to protect herself and her children should that have been the case. Unfortunately, there are no newspaper articles about this case to confirm more details.
I have to say that this last finding threw me for a loop. I had assumed that he likely committed some type of robbery again to end up in prison. This is why we don’t assume and we research thoroughly. And we learn that when we start digging into the past, sometimes we find things that are uncomfortable and probably family secrets our ancestors never thought we would find out.
Until next time, remember one thing my criminal genies, records don’t lie but your ancestors might…