Men Who Tarred Woman in a Panic

(The following article, which comes from the November 11, 1911, edition of the Morning Oregonian, is a sad look at jealousy, gossip, misguided vigilanteeism and brutality. It was transcribed from a clipped copy of the Oregon newspaper by Scott Holl]

Three of Band Suddenly Admit Guilt
Jealous Wives Blamed for Attack on Schoolma’am
Prosecutor Says No Clemency Has Been Promised to Culprits Who Confessed
Change of Venue Plea Denied

LINCOLN CENTER, Kan., Nov. 16........Sherrill Clark, a wealthy merchant; A. N. Simms, a millworker, and John Schmidt were placed on trial late today for "assault and battery" in connection with the tarring of Miss Mary Chamberlain, after Judge Grover’s denial of their application for a change of venue.
Before court closed 12 jurors, all subject to preemptory challenges, were in the box.

Earlier in the day Everett G. Clark, president of the Shady Bend Milling Company; Watson Scranton, a farmer, and J. Fitzwater, astonished the prosecution by entering pleas of guilty and throwing themselves on the mercy of the court. Previously Edward Ricord, a barber, had entered the same plea.

Panic Seizes Culprits

Panic seems to have seized upon the men who stripped and tarred the pretty schoolteacher, the night of August 7 last, after she had been lured to a lonely spot by the local barber, Ricord, who had invited her to a dance. At a spot in the woods, far from any habitation or chance that her screams would be heard, they were intercepted by a band of men who had an iron bucket of tar warming over a small fire.

Miss Chamberlain was dragged from the buggy, her clothing stripped off, and, while two men held her down, another applied the tar from her waist to her knees.

Meanwhile, other members of the tarring party, fearful of consequences, took no part in the actual work, but viewed it from a hedge beside the road.

Twelve Men in Ambush

There were 12 men in the ambush and they fled when the girl fainted. When she revived Ricord took her home and she managed to get into her room at the boarding house without awakening any member of the family. The next day she told her story to her brother, who immediately started the present action.

Jealousy of the girl, who was more attractive and vivacious than the women and girls of Beverly and Shady Bend, was the sole cause for the outrage. Miss Chamberlain is 26 years old and last year taught school in Beverly, her home. When the Summer vacation began, she secured employment in L. V. Green’s store, and many friends in both towns visited her there and patronized the establishment.

Tongues Begin to Wag

Among the customers was a married man, and Miss Chamberlain had not been in the store two weeks until the wife of this man had started a campaign against her. Other women, jealous girls, snubbed suitors and ordinary run of small-town gossips, took up the secret hue and cry, and before long every smile, laugh and action of the girl were set down as damning evidence against her. There was laid the plot to disgrace her and give her a touch of vengeance.

Judge Grover said tonight that he would pass sentence upon the men who confessed and pleaded guilty after hearing the other cases.

No Leniency Agreed To

That no leniency in sentence had been agreed to by the prosecution was declared by S. N. Hawkes Assistant Attorney-General of Kansas.

"None of the men who have pleaded guilty," said Mr. Hawkes, "has any promise from the prosecution." He will prosecute the other accused men as vigorously as possible.

A $500 fine and a sentence of a year in jail is the maximum sentence that can be passed upon the men.

That the prosecution expects difficulty in proving the identity of the men who attacked Miss Chamberlain was admitted by one of the lawyers attached to the prosecution. He pointed out that the tarring was accomplished in silence, not a work being spoken by the mob. Even the men who tore Miss Chamberlain’s clothes and those who applied the tar to her body said nothing.

Tar Meant as Hint

The only conversation that passed was between Miss Chamberlain and Ricord, the girl’s escort, who was paid to decoy her to the spot. As the pair were driving home after the attack, Miss Chamberlain said:

"What did they mean?"

"I think," Ricord replied, "that they meant the tar as a hint for you to leave the country."

The only excuse for the act, said the Assistant Attorney-General, "was that several meddling, suspicious women had whispered evil of the girl and incited their "men folks" to punish her. An investigation by the county prosecutor convinced him that the remarks about Miss Chamberlain were unfounded.

Five men, Harry Armstrong, Fenton Hall, Alfa Lindermuth, Benjamin Painter and Roscoe Anderson, laborers of Beverly, have already paid fines of $1 each for their connection with the case. There were among those who witnessed the "tarring" from behind a hedge and were convicted and fined to prevent them from refusing to testify against friends.

The links below are for coverage of the trial in the New York Times.

17 November 1911
18 November 1911
21 November 1911
22 November 1911
23 November 1911
25 November 1911

Tar Victim Marries

Beverly Tribune, 10 October 1912

A very pretty home wedding, and one of much interest, was solemnized at high noon, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 1912, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J.M. Chamberlain, of this city, when their daughter, Mary D., was united in marriage to Homer J. Helfferich of Lincoln, Kan., by Rev. J.H. Kuhn of Salina.
After the ceremony, those present proceeded to the dining room, which was appropriately decorated in white and green, where a three course luncheon was served. The table was decorated, the centerpiece being a lovely hand painted vase containing a large bouquet of roses and ferns.
The bride and groom are both well known in this community and have the well wishes of a host of friends. They will spend the winter traveling in the south.

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