This piece was written by the late Keith Clark, long-time editor of the Deschutes County Historical Society’s Newsletter. At the time of this writing, Keith was a bellhop at the Pilot Butte Inn on Wall Street. What follows is a nostalgic look at downtown Bend and its people, mid-way through World War II.
It is September, 1943, Saturday afternoon, in downtown Bend. Through the swinging doors of the Pilot Butte Inn steps a uniformed figure, carrying a zipper case. The hotel is sending the afternoon mail to the post office under the pedestrian protection of a hotel bellman, wearing the worn and tarnished livery of the inn, itself worn and tarnished in this second year of World War II.
It is three long blocks down Wall Street to the Federal Building, a walk which carries the observer south along the business area. That area contains the nucleus of the small city by the river. It is relatively quiet despite the crowded sidewalks. There is little vehicular traffic on the two-way streets. Overheard there were none of the airplanes which are a novelty to the community. The noises are human, not mechanized.
In the second block the messenger notes the display in the S & N Men’s Shop window. Inside, Ray LeBlanc and Len Standifer wait on customers. Some soldiers wistfully eye the civilian clothes for sale.
Principal impediments to speed culmination of the messenger’s appointed rounds are several—the streets are crowded with the Army. Ahead, his favorite restaurant, Polly’s Café, is like all other restaurants, jammed with the military. Long lines wait before each door which opens only to allow hurried entry and exits here room allows. Similar lines congest pedestrian traffic at each of the theater locations. Shopping malls like decades
ahead; there are grouped six small grocery stores, including Safeway, Piggly Wiggly, and Erickson’s. Irl Wagner manages the Bond Street Food market one block east. Safeway is selling fresh king salmon for 37cents a pound, sirloin steak for 46 cents, 49 pounds of flour for $1.98 and Airway coffee for 21 cents a pound.
The slight figure in the ill-fitting uniform decides to make a detour to retrace his steps past Symons Brothers Jewelers, noting the time on the giant clock face which stands before the entrance. After crossing to the east side of Wall, passes the bank with the realization that he will still need to wind his way through the military crowds enjoying the USO facilities. He skirts the lines, ignoring the speculation from other informed figures about the army from which he is a refugee. There is a blare of music combined with laughter and conversation; but there are quiet ones, too.
At the corner of Franklin, the messenger crosses to his destination. Here he stuffs into the mail slots the contents of the zipper case for sorting, then with a special key unlocks the hotel box, packing the mail into the case. By the post office clock it is 3 p. m. ; he decides to detour to Bond to determine whether foot traffic there is any faster. Across the street is the Bend Bulletin office where Robert Sawyer sits as editor and publisher. Coming out of the door is bespectacled Phil Brogan. On the trail of a story, surmises the messenger, and he daydreams about the life of a reporter as he recrosses Franklin, nimbly dodging the Bend City Bus and some army vehicles. There are not many cars downtown. Most people
walk, saving the ration gallons available for emergencies or special events. Service stations are all feeling the pinch. There are few tires to sell. At Houk Motor Company, Otto Houk and Bill Van Allen have no new cars, only some used; Detroit is wary as well.
The messenger turns the corner and starts north. Across the street is George Child’s hardware with the fire station behind it and north is Anton Aune’s Bend Feed and Seed. But this west side of the street boasts a row of saloons and beer parlours, relics of frontier Bend, which are as crowded as the theaters and restaurants on Wall. Thetravel is no less difficult past the Pine Cone and The Palace to the corner of the O’Kane Building where Maurice Cashman has had his clothing store since 1916. Beyond the Bank of Bend, another line of soldiers waits outside Bill Baer’s Waldorf for the bar is full. There, too, uniformed military police patrol. At the head of Bond Street the messenger hurries by the Superior Café, trying to ignore the smell of meat frying inside. There is no room anyway. Inside, waitress Vi Wood is bustling from table to table, kidding the servicemen, telling offcolor jokes, placing orders in a voice strong enough to pierce the babel and be heard by the cook. Across the street at the bus depot, Myrl Hoover’s Mt. Hood Stages is crowded with soldiers and civilians. So is the Trailways Coffee shop on the corner. Down Greenwood to the east are more soldiers unloading from or loading onto GI buses from Camp Abbot. On Greenwood are the remnants of Bend’s red-light district, the few girls inadequate to the demand, their places of business off-limits to military personnel. Everywhere on the streets, Army men “eye” the girls. Girls also look for soldiers but circumspectly and usually in “approved” circumstances such as the chaperoned dances at the Eagles Hall on Bond.
West on Greenwood the messenger makes his way, running up the steps, stopping to hold the door for a lieutenant of Army Engineers and lady, moving across the lobby to lay the zipper case on the clerk’s desk, then to his location near the elevator. The lobby, too, is full of uniformed men. There is a lull in the hotel routine; the messenger turns his thoughts to the downtown area again, thinking how much the community depends upon people like Maren Gribskov of the Pine Tavern, Dick Brandis of Brandis Drug, Ben Whisenand of Bend Drug, Vance Coyner of the Owl Pharmacy; people like George Childs, Anton Aune, Charlie Silvis, John Wetle, Frank Inabnit, and Bob Hemingway carrying the load of a community deprived by war of half of its physicians. There is Andrew Neibergall, jeweler, whose wartime efforts underlie War Bond sales, and who serves as Air Corps procurement chairman. And there are the people of Bend, in all occupations: the nurses at St. Charles, the housewives saving animal fats for explosives, the children engaged in scrap dries. War Savings Stamp promotions, and in the 1943 Victory Gardens, postal workers carry increased loads of mail as residents send letters and packages to family members in the service.
Somehow it all comes together on Saturday afternoon in downtown wartime Bend, where summer uniformed soldiers walk four and five abreast in constant circulation down Wall to Franklin, east to Bond, up Bond to Greenwood, west to Wall.
By Jim Crowell
Of all of the unsolved murders in Central Oregon history, the slaying of three Bend fur trappers at Little Lava Lake in 1924 ranks as not only the largest multiple murder in the county’s history but also the county’s longest standing unsolved capital crime…in theory.
What follows is largely a summary of the crime and investigation, as told nine years later by Claude L. McCauley, Deschutes County Sheriff.
The three trappers, Ed Nichols, 50, Roy Wilson, 35, and Dewey Morris, 24, had decided the previous year to trap together during the winter and make their headquarters in a log cabin, owned by Ed Logan, near Little Lava Lake. Logan was a prominent logging contractor in Bend.
Nichols had mushed his way into Bend at Christmas time with a pack of furs on his back and announced that the trapping was good. No word about or from the trappers, however, had been received since Christmas.
Innis, Owen Morris, a brother of Dewey Morris, and Pearl Lynnes, superintendent of the Tumalo Fish Hatchery, had suspected that something was wrong in the upper Deschutes. They had noticed that the mink traps set by the three trappers had not been cared for and the trappers were well known for being conscientious about their traps.
When the searchers arrived at the cabin, they immediately became even more suspicious. Pots were on the stove, filled with burned food. Dishes were still on the table, set for a meal but unused. The heavy sled used by the trappers to transport large loads of food and equipment was missing.
According to McCauley’s recollection, “Out in back of the trappers’ cabin one hundred feet was a fox pen, enclosing five very valuable foxes owned by Ed Logan. The trappers, in return for the use of the cabin during the winter, were feeding the foxes and looking after them. ”
When the three searchers arrived at the pen, the foxes were gone. In the corner of the pen, Innis found a blood-stained hammer. A search of the trappers’ trap lines was conducted and the frozen remains of 12 marten, four foxes, and one skunk were found in the unattended traps. When they returned to the Little Lava Lake cabin, they found Clarence A. Adams, deputy Deschutes County sheriff and game warden, had arrived to help in the search.
“The next day, the investigators made a thorough examination of the heavy sled, which had been discovered in a snowdrift on the shore of Big Lava Lake, some quarter of a mile from Little Lava Lake site. A stain was found on one of the boards in the sled which the searches took to be blood. The board was ripped off and turned over to Dr. George Vandervert, Bend physician, for examination. He reported that the stain was caused by human blood. ”
In following the depressed trail in the snow, the searchers came to where the sled had apparently been pushed on to the frozen Big Lava Lake and a depression where a hole had been cut in the ice earlier in the winter. The hole had frozen over and drifted snow had filled it but to their experienced eyes, there was no doubt that a hole had been chopped in the ice.
The searchers returned to the Logan cabin, feeling sure that the bodies of their relatives and friends were under the ice. A few minutes later, one of the searchers who was going down to the river for water stumbled across a patch of blood on the snow, now melted down several inches. A human front tooth, some hair, and dried blood were found mixed up in the slush.
That evening, Innis and Adams went back to Big Lava Lake to catch a couple of fish for dinner. When they arrived, they were surprised to see that half of the lake’s ice was gone. Ed Logan soon joined them and after locating a row boat buried in the snow, launched it. Soon they neared the spot where the hole in the ice had been. A few feet apart were three bodies floating on the surface, fully dressed but slightly decomposed.
The sheriff’s narrative continues: “Hastily trying ropes to the corpses, the grim procession headed for shore. Here the bodies were fastened to the shelf ice for the night. Adams donned his snowshoes and made for town on the run. ”
News of the murders produced large headlines throughout Oregon, especially in Bend. A group of expert woodsmen was assembled and started off for the crime scene. Included in the group was Adams, Jerome Ward, Ray Ward, three brothers of the murdered Dewey Morris (Owen, Ben, and Don), Robert W. Sawyer, editor of the Bend Bulletin, Myron Symons, official photographer; C. P. Niswonger, Deschutes County Coroner, and Paul Hosmer.
The scene at Big Lava Lake was described in gory detail in Sheriff’s McCauley’s report. The report stated, “Even though the weather was perfect, the clear air was impregnated with the odor of death and decomposition and it was with an undefinable spirit of awe and consternation that the little party of hardy outdoorsmen laid aside their packs, kicked off their snowshoes, and prepared to tackle a grim job which was little to their liking. ”
All three bodies displayed multiple wounds made by a shotgun, pistol, and a blunt instrument, probably a hammer. The hunt for the killer or killers commenced immediately and it was the owner of the Little Lava lake cabin, Ed Logan, who came up with the clue that eventually led to the suspected killer.
Logan recalled that a year before the murder of the trappers, a man by the name of Lee Collins had trapped with Nichols and that Nichols and Collins had quarreled over a wallet that Nichols had accused Collins of stealing. Nichols had told Logan that Collins had threatened to come back and kill him some day and Logan also recalled that Collins was sometimes known by the name of “Charles Kimzey. ”
The name of “Charles Kimzey” was familiar to local law enforcement officers because in 1923 he was arrested on a charge of robbery and attempted murder. He had allegedly hired W. O. Harrison, driver of a rented car, to take him to Idaho. On the way, Kimzey stopped the car, slugged Harrison and bound him with baling wire. He then threw Harrison down an abandoned well. Luckily, Harrison was able to extricate himself and made his way to the Last Chance Ranch while Kimzey continued his journey in the stolen car.
Another lead came from the Portland area when a traffic officer identified a photo of Kimzey, saying that about January 24, a man resembling Kimzey approached him while the officer was directing traffic at a Portland intersection. Kimzey was carrying a gunnysack over his shoulder and asked the traffic officer the location of a reliable fur dealer. He was directed to the Schumacher Fur Company on SW Third Street where he sold the furs.
Kimzey had a long police record, having been arrested several times for a variety of crimes, for which he had served time in the Idaho state prison before escaping. He had been employed by the government as a trapper and was known to be an expert shot with both rifle and revolver. A reward of $1,500 was offered for his arrest and conviction in connection with the murder of the trappers.
According to McCauley, “For the next four years the hunt for Kimzey went on unceasingly…Every report was investigated and sometimes Kimzey was reported seen in a half a dozen places at once. Gradually, the Lava Lake murder mystery was more or less forgotten by everyone except the officers of the law and friends of the murdered men. ”
On February 17, 1933, nine years after the triple murder, the case suddenly broke wide open…after more than one false start with suspects who appeared to be the killer but later were found to have perfect alibies.
A jailer in Kalispell, Montana was walking down the street when he immediately recognized Kimzey walking past him. The jailer hurried back to the courthouse and notified an officer who rushed downtown and arrested Kimzey without a struggle.
“I haven’t heard the name ‘Kimzey’ for years,” he told the officers. “They think I killed those trappers in Oregon but I didn’t.” The Kalispell officers had been careful not to mention the Lava Lake murders to Kimzey and because he was so quick to bring up the subject himself the incident was considered suspicious.
McCauley later reported, “With Sergeant Arthur Tuck of the Oregon State Police, I left immediately for Kalispell to bring the prisoner to Bend. We thought we might get him to talk on the trip home and Sergeant Tuck, who was shackled to him in the back seat, led the subject around to the Lava Lake case time after time.
“You can ask all the questions you want about that Lava Lake case he said, but I won’t answer a damn one of them!’”
Despite a wealth of circumstantial evidence regarding the selling of the furs from Ed Nichols’s cabin, the case against Kimzey fell apart when the Portland fur dealer could not provide a positive identification.
According to McCauley, “Schumacher…stated that he would hesitate to identify the man positively after a lapse of nine years, especially when Kimzey’s life might depend on his testimony. He thought he might be the same man but inasmuch as Kimzey had aged considerably since he last saw him and had grown quite bald, he did not care to swear he was the right man.
McCauley continued, “Baffled and disappointed, I placed the subject in the Portland jail and returned to Bend. Personally, I was satisfied we had the Lava Lake murderer in our hands but our case was ruined when our two most important witnesses blew up. Utah wanted Kimzey for murder and Idaho wanted him back on an escape charge but I decided he’d be safer in Oregon. We still had the attempted murder charge hanging over him and I accordingly sent for W. O. Harrison, the stage driver who had been slugged and thrown down the well by Kimzey the year before the Lava Lake murders. Kimzey was brought back from Portland and charged with assault and robbery while armed with a dangerous weapon. He pleaded not guilty.
“Harrison easily identified Kimzey as the man who had so nearly murdered him. The jury found Kimzey guilty as charged after three hours of deliberations. Two days later Circuit Judge T. E. Duffy sentenced Kimzey to life imprisonment in the Oregon State Penitentiary and the next day Sergeant Tuck and I left for Salem with the prisoner.”
By Phyllis Coe Long
I have greatly enjoyed my year as the Queen for the Deschutes Pioneer Association and feel like a true pioneer because my grandfather, L. D. Wiest, came to Bend in 1900. He was a civil engineer, hired by Alexander Drake, the founder of Bend, to survey the first streets for the town and also to design the canals for an irrigation system. He and my grandmother stayed and helped develop the city of Bend.
As soon as my mother, Marian Wiest, finished high school in Portland in 1902, she came to Bend to teach school. She was only 18 and some of her pupils were boys who were bigger and older than she was.
My father, M. G. Coe, came to Bend in 1906 to visit his brother, Dr. U. C. Coe, the “frontier doctor” of the Bend area. My father, who was a college-educated agriculturalist, loved the area around Bend and developed a ranch with an apple orchard and greenhouse on land near the current St. Charles Medical Center.
My mother and father were married in Bend and had three children. I was the youngest. We kids had a very happy childhood on the ranch. We sometimes climbed nearby Pilot Butte and even rode up on our horses bareback. I was always afraid I would slide off the back of the ascending horse. All of my family lived and worked in Central Oregon their entire lives and all are buried here.
Attending school in Bend was always a treat for me. I made friends with all of my schoolmates and appreciated the teachers. Sometimes I was referred to as the “teacher’s pet” but that might have been because my grandparents often had teachers rooming at their home.
At Bend High School we were fortunate to have an excellent business teacher and all of us girl students who took business courses usually got a job right out of high school without having to attend a business college first. While I was a senior, I was hired as the secretary at the first propane gas company in Bend. So, I attended Bend High in the morning and worked as a secretary for the gas company in the afternoon. I got paid wages by the gas company and received school credits for the office work I was doing. Sometime later I took a full-time job as a secretary with Hudson-Duncan, a big Portland grocery company that had a branch in Bend.
I then took a short session off work at the company to attend Redlands College in California. I later returned to Bend and sometimes worked at several different jobs in a single day. For example, I was a secretary for a Bend attorney, also for a real estate agent, and worked at the Pine Tavern.
When World War II started, I was working as a secretary at the Shevlin-Hixon mill office. With the start of the war, the American Red Cross asked for volunteers to assist in its programs. I volunteered and was sent to Washington, D. C. for a short preparatory training program and then left for Europe with four other young ladies. It was a very dramatic moment when we were in long lines with hundreds of young soldiers at the wharf in New York City one dark evening, all waiting to board the third largest ship in the world and not knowing if any of us would be coming back. But, to make a long story short, we reached England safely, where we were assigned to a general military hospital.
Even though all of the volunteers were civilians, we were with the military in military housing and lived according to military regulations. We were there to work with the military and to help our U. S. servicemen. There were registered nurses assigned to assist with the servicemen’s medical problems but we assisted with their worldly problems…and there were plenty of those. The Army hadn’t had enough time to prepare for dealing with these problems so they called on the Red Cross.
When the war ended in Europe, I was sent first to France, then to Germany to work in U. S. military hospitals because there were still many military patients waiting for transportation home. I experience many exciting, difficult, and unforgettable moments during my time in Europe. After a short vacation and a visit to Bend, I left for the Orient to continue my Red Cross work.
My first assignment was in Korea, where no one wanted to go and sometimes an assignment to Korea was considered a punishment. I agreed to go but I will say it was the worst place I have ever been. The Japanese had taken over Korea twenty years before and I thought it looked like it must have looked for hundreds of years back. There were very few conveniences. All the Korean ladies seem to look alike. They all dressed alike, combed their hair the same way, and had the same sad expression on their faces. They weren’t allowed to go out much and there were high fences around their homes so they would swing on extremely high swings in order to see what was happening on the other side of the fence.
While in South Korea, I would see lines of men carrying things on their backs and heads, walking along a path to another town so I would refer to them as “the Consolidated Freight Lines.” They had no cars, vehicles, or horses. They carried heavy loads for miles. Sometimes I would see one with a butchered head of an ox on his head, blood dripping down, or a birdcage on his head that carried chickens that were jumping around.
In Korea, I was given a very unique assignment which I had never heard of before. In Korea, life was very different for the G.I.s. There were no stores where they could purchase gifts, no restaurants where they could dine, no libraries where they could read books, no entertainments to participate in. They could neither speak nor read the language. They were not supposed to be involved with Korean girls and vice versa. Therefore, my superiors decided that I should be sent out to all of these places to help entertain the soldiers with musical entertainment since I was an accordionist. I could have anything I wanted or be any place as long as I was there to entertain with my accordion. I was taken all over the faraway spots in the Korean area where the Army had military bases. I usually stayed about two weeks before being driven or flown to a different area. I had lots of free time, saw many beautiful and interesting places, and made many new friends. However, I was usually alone and it was hard constantly going to a new place and meeting new people.
Eventually, I was assigned to an Army base near the infamous 38th Parallel where the communist troops would soon swarm over the border, attacking the South Korean troops. There was a two-story wooden house in the area and the Army assigned me the task of getting it fixed up to use as a recreation building. The weather was extremely cold with snow and ice that got so bad that sometimes I would have to crawl on my hands and knees to get safely back to my barracks. Fortunately, I was eventually re-assigned to a base in Japan. South Korea has now become a wonderful modern place with wonderful citizens.
Being in Japan was a like holiday compared to Korea. I was stationed at a huge and beautiful Japanese hospital. I had one quite unusual and unforgettable assignment when I was asked to fill in for a chaplain who was returning to the United States. He had been teaching a group of Doshisha College students. Think for a moment about the attitude of young Japanese who had grown up with the belief that their gods were invincible and so they never expected to be defeated. This created an unusual circumstance because their professor happened to be a Japanese Christian! The Army arranged for my transportation to a weekly class in this professor’s home. These interested and excited students attended faithfully and enthusiastically. Later, when I was leaving Japan, I was very impressed that they were all at the station to see me off and it was a very touching moment for me when some of these young men ran after my train as it left. They grabbed something on the side of the train and tried to hang on and ride out with me!
After I returned to Bend, I married Ed Long, who had come from Kansas and was living in Alfalfa. Ed was working for the Federal Aviation Administration then but was soon transferred to Alaska. We lived in Alaska for 15 years and three of our four children were born there. Ed was transferred to a different FAA area every three years so we saw lots of beautiful country and made many friends. Ed was transferred to Redmond in 1968 and that made me very happy because my elderly parents lived there.
Ed retired in 1970 and built a new home for us that had a view of the Cascades Mountains from Mt. Bachelor to Mt. Hood and was only a block from the Deschutes River canyon. We kept the property until his death in 2004. We had been married more than 54 years. My children insisted I move into Redmond so, grumbling, I sold the property and lived near friends in a beautiful mobile home park which had been built by my sister. At this writing in 2011, I am well, live alone, and am still able to do many things. I never have enough time to do a lot of musical practice but I play the accordion regularly and volunteer to entertain at assisted living facilities. I am now almost 94 so I can expect, like the rest of my family, to die in Central Oregon any time now but that’s all right because I am a Christian and will be just transferring from earth to Heaven, which the Bible states is “so wonderful that no one can even imagine it.”
I want to thank you all as I have enjoyed being the Pioneer Queen of 2011. I enjoyed the experience and appreciated the privilege to get acquainted with you and I want to wish you the very best.