This article and articles like it ran in several papers in Iowa during the first week of April, 1914. What the people of Dysart did not know is that the killer they were looking for, “James Nolan”, had strong ties to Tama County and only a year earlier had lived among them. Authorities in Montana had wired Waterloo to be on the lookout for Nolan who they believed had killed a homesteader in Montana on March 9. Authorities in Osage determined that he had arrived there by train but left almost immediately on another train, believed to be bound for Frankfort, Michigan, where the search for him continued.
Neighbors had reported the homesteader, Arthur E. Kerry, of Woodmountain near Regina, Canada, missing. The police had trailed the suspect, James Nolan to Glasgow, Montana, but the trail had been lost there. Sheriff Nacey found that the wagon and team had been disposed of at Nashua and the person had taken the train for Williston. From Williston he was traced to Minneapolis, going from there to Iowa.
On April 17, Nolan was arrested in Eagle Grove, Iowa, by Marshal Fisher and charged with Kerry’s murder. It turned out that his name was actually James Knowlen, not Nolan. He was arrested on a train headed for Fort Dodge along with his wife and young daughter.
The following day, he confessed to the murder . He stated that he went to the home of an Englishman named “Cary” one evening to get him to drive the Knowlen family some distance overland. “Cary” lived alone in a cabin. Knowlen admitted to striking Cary with a club or sandbag inside the cabin. He took the body of the dead man as well as his valuable team. The woman and child joined him and for three days and nights they continued on their way. The body was removed from the wagon at 4 a.m. the first day and hidden in some brush. The Knowlens reached Montana before the crime was discovered by neighbors who reported him missing to the Canadian Mounted Police. He disposed of the team for $60 although it was worth much more. Knowlen jumped from place to place to shake off any pursuit. He sold a watch belonging to the victim about two weeks before his arrest in Eagle Grove, Iowa. After his confession, Knowlen broke down completely and agreed to return to Canada to face trial. He was described as being about 35 years old and of small stature. The victim was about 25 years old and had staked his claim in Canada some time before his death. Based on Knowlen’s confession, the body was found in the brush on Porcupine Creek on Friday, April 17.
The papers reported that Knowlen previously lived near Toledo in Tama County and left for Canada about one year before this event. The Traer Star Clipper in August of 1913 had reported that he had moved from the Henry Taylor Place (west of Toledo) to the Hibbs property near Monticello. The Eagle Grove Gazette reported him as a former resident of that place and this seems to have been true. Both papers stated he had left their communities to go to Canada.
Canadian Authorities Declared Him Insane
Knowlen was tried in Canada. The Canadian government paid for Marshal Fisher to come and testify at the trial. It was revealed during the the trial that Knowlen was caught because he was recognized on a train between Livermore and Humboldt by a local doctor, Dr. Bowes, who knew him from when he had lived in Eagle Grove. The trial only took one day and the jury voted 9-3 for first degree murder. He was sentenced to fifteen years and went directly from the trial to prison.
Spring City – Colfax
Mr. & Mrs. Ed Gleim and Mrs. W. A. Lincoln of Dysart returned recently from Colfax, Iowa, where they had been for treatment of rheumatism.
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