|GEORGE WILLIAM (BILL) GILLETT FAMILY HISTORY||
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The Mountain View, Missouri,
George Emmett Morlan
Lyda May Morlan
and their daughter
Atha Arthela (Morlan) Gillett
Bill Gillett's mother
In January 1919, George Morlan (38) with his wife, Lyda (32); son, Erwin (9); and daughter, Atha (4) were living slightly southwest of Teresita, Missouri.
Teresita is located in Shannon County, Missouri, about 12 miles east of the Howell / Shannon County line or 4 miles east of Mountain View, Missouri, which is in Howell County.
Living on the farm next to the Morlans were Pearl and Frank Welton and their 3-month-old daughter. The Weltons were married in September 1917 in Shannon County. Pearl Welton was the former Pearl Tyler who had recently moved from Kentucky to southern Missouri with her father, J.T. Tyler, a farmer.
Frank Welton was about 43 years old at the time. Pearl was about 23 years old, a beautiful but large woman.
In 1905 Frank Welton had been homesteading near O'Neill, Nebraska, on a 320-acre ranch. He was also a railroad man in Sioux City, Iowa, when he met Mrs. Carrie (Erickson) Hofland. At the time Carrie had a three-year-old daughter, Myrtle Hofland.
Mrs. Hofland was a Norwegian, a small stocky woman weighing about 189 pounds.
They moved to live on the O'Neill, Nebraska, ranch where they resided for the next 12 years as man and wife (a common-law marriage). Their neighbors in Nebraska always thought they were married. Later her daughter, Myrtle, now 16 years old, would testify in court that she thought that she was Frank Welton's step-daughter. Mrs. Hofland had inherited $5,000 from her mother and had used it to improve the ranch.
In the spring of 1917, Frank sold his livestock and other personal property on the ranch. He told Carrie he was going to southern Missouri to look at some land. She never heard from him again. In southern Missouri Frank met and married Pearl Tyler in September of 1917.
In January 1919 Carrie Hofland finally was able to trace down her common-law husband. Learning he was now living near Mountain View, Missouri, with a new wife, Carrie decided to confront him and therefore went to Mountain View , Missouri, on Thursday, January 16th. She walked the four miles to the Welton farm near Teresita.
When she arrived Frank Welton was working in the fields. Seeing her, he ran to her. He could not persuade her to leave so they decided that she would be introduced as his sister. She was also introduced as his sister to some neighbors that came by.
Carrie Hofland stayed that night with the Weltons.
From there the stories varied depending upon the time and the person. The story as initially told to the authorities and some neighbors:
Shortly thereafter Frank returned and after learning what happened went to the cistern, lowering himself down by rope. The water was only about two feet deep and the baby was either floating on top of the water or on top of her mother. He placed the baby in a bucket which was raised up by Carrie. He then tied a rope around Pearl. He then climbed out of the cistern and pulled up his wife. Frank then ran a half a mile to a neighbors house to get help. This probably was the home of George Morlan.
Authorities were called from Mountain View -- this was a problem since Mountain View was in Howell County and the Weltons lived in Shannon County. The doctor from Mountain View checked the baby and found no problems. Water had not even soaked thru her clothes. He officially declared Pearl Welton dead.
The sheriff and the doctor had some problems with their stories and therefore called authorities of Shannon County in Eminence, Missouri.
Because of the timing, the body was left on the farm Friday night with a neighbor, Lyda Morlan, asked to watch it. That night Carrie (Erickson) Hofland needed a place to sleep as she did not want to stay in the house with the dead body. Lyda suggested that she could sleep with their daughter, Atha Morlan. Thus, Atha Morlan slept in the same bed with a potential murderer.
The next day problems arose as there was no evidence of water in Pearl's lungs and she had bruise marks on her neck and face. A coroner's jury was set up in Teresita on Saturday and after hearing all of the evidence, they came back with the verdict that Pearl Welton's death came from violence at the hands of Frank Welton and Carrie Hofland. They were both then arrested.
The funeral for Pearl Welton was held Sunday, January 19, 1919, in Terestia, Missouri. Frank Welton was allowed to attend under guard. I believe that the George Morlans also attended the service.
Shortly thereafter the Justice of the Peace of Teresita was able to obtain a confession from Carrie Hofland where she admitted that she, and she alone, killed Pearl Welton.
During the argument with Pearl, Pearl ran toward Carrie and Carrie fought with her, eventually grabbing her by the neck with her hands and began to choke her until she no longer moved; she then discontinued the pressure and dragged the body to the cistern and threw her in. The baby then began crying and she picked it up to stop the crying. While leaning over the wall of the cistern looking at the body, the baby accidentally slipped into the cistern. After the confession, she waived hearings and requested a speedy trial.
After the confession the authorities released Frank Welton.
At the time of her confession sentiment was so strong against her, a lynching was narrowly averted. Women of the community joined with the men in demanding that the sheriff bring the woman out of the home of Justice of the Peace, John House, where she made her confession. Officers immediately took her to Eminence and then to West Plains, Missouri.
At the trial and inquest neighbors (at least part or all of this testimony was done by George Morlan) testified the following:
Although at the time of the confession there was a great deal of sympathy for Frank Welton, the sentiment had changed in the four months since the murder. The neighbors of the Weltons (the Morlans were probably one of them) decided that Mrs. Hofland might have purposely shielded Welton in her confession.
A petition was signed and sent to the county court in Shannon County asking that a grand jury be called to investigate what connection (if any) Frank Welton had with the crime. Frank Welton was then rearrested for being an accessory to the murder. He was confined in jail in Eminence, Missouri, while Carrie was detained in jail in West Plains, Missouri. The trials were in Eminence.
During the trial in June, which lasted a day and a half, Carrie claimed self-defense as Pearl initially attacked her. The jury was out all night and came back with a verdict of guilty. She was given the minimum sentence of 10 years in the state penitentiary at Jefferson City. Her daughter, Myrtle Hofland, now 17 years old, collapsed and was near death when she heard the verdict. Her mother was allowed to be at her bedside until she improved. (Myrtle was going to business school in Fremont, Nebraska, when she heard about her mother's problems.)
In the later part of 1919, the George Morlans left the area for Oklahoma. This caused George to return to the area to testify in the trial of Frank Welton. Welton was tried twice, the first time in November 1919, with the trial ending in a hung jury. The second trial, in May 1920, resulted in a guilty verdict with Frank sentenced to 15 years in prison for second degree murder for being an accomplice.
In both of his cases Carrie Hofland testified, trying to place all the blame on Frank. She testified that Frank was there during the quarrel and that she ran from the house. She did not know how the body got in the cistern but that she helped Frank retrieve the body. She also claimed that the baby was never in the cistern.
Notice the difference in punishments - she got 10 years for the murder and he received 15 years for being her accomplice in the murder. The paper indicted the main reason for the difference was the life, love and sacrifices she made for him as his common-law wife.
Both cases were appealed, but I don't know the results of those appeals.