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August 2001

Tammy's family reunion in Waterloo brought us back to Iowa in July, but we also set aside two days to attend to matters pertaining to our documentary Villisca: Living With a Mystery.  First we met Dr. Ed Epperly and his wife Joyce in Des Moines.  After examining the axe murder file at the Division of Criminal Investigation, we headed over to the State Historical Society where we spoke with special projects coordinator Roger Munns (a former Associated Press reporter who has written about our project) and special collections archivist Becki Plunkett.   We also met with grant programs manager Cynthia Nieb and discussed what funds might be available to the Villisca Historic Commission regarding their historical document collection.  The Historic Commission is chaired by former Villisca mayor Susie Enarson and is a subset of Villisca's State Certified Local Government Commission chaired by Darwin Williams.


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We also had time for a brief visit with our good friends Ervalene Brown (left) and her daughter Marcia Hostetler.   Ervalene is 103 years old and she vividly remembers events surrounding the June 10, 1912 Villisca axe murders.

From Des Moines, we traveled with the Epperlys to Villisca and arrived during a severe thunderstorm that inflicted significant damage to Villisca and Montgomery County.  During the following day we videotaped an interview with Villisca mayor Leland Carmichael regarding Villisca's 1912 Armory building and other issues related to recent events in Villisca.  We were peppered by rain periodically, but also managed to videotape Dr. Epperly for a new program called Remembering Villisca.


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Mayor Carmichael stands in front of the Armory and discusses Villisca's military history and the uncertain future of the now-vacant building.

That evening we met with Susie Enarson, Mary Hanson, Jan Hyink-Smith, and Larry Taylor of the Villisca Historic Commission.  Dr. Epperly presented the group with a collection of microfilmed turn-of-the-century Iowa newspapers from his personal collection.  We passed along grant information and printed material provided by the State Historical Society. Topics of discussion during the meeting included the community's significant military heritage, the history behind individual Victorian homes, historical records received from the Rundles in 2000, documents released to the Commission by the County Court House in early 2001, the possibility of forming a Villisca Historical Society, and of course, the 1912 axe murders.  We were encouraged by this group's commitment to preserving Villisca's rich history and we will do all we can to encourage support for their efforts.


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The Villisca Historic Commission met in Susie Enarson's living room.  Left to right: Susie Enarson, Mary Hanson, Jan Hyink-Smith, and Larry Taylor.  Commission member Elinor Brown was not able to attend.

Related Links:

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Villisca Historic Commission Iowa State Historical Society

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