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By Linda Emley
A few weeks ago, I wrote a story about the early days of the Ray County Museum and named some of the people who were around when the museum started in 1973.
Charlie Armour was on the Rec Board and was one of the people mentioned in my story. Charles Sylvester Armour died in 1991, and I know he touched many lives in his 85 years on earth because his name is one that always seems to pop up in different stories.
I found another Charlie Armour story this week that made me wonder what life might have been like in Richmond if City Marshall Charles Armour had died on April 9, 1938. I looked up Charlie’s obituary and he didn’t have any children, but he and his wife Margaret left many memories.
She died a few years before Charlie in 1987, but she is not forgotten because she was a news editor for the Richmond News. After serving as Richmond’s City Marshall, Charlie went on to be a Ray County deputy, the mayor of Richmond and worked 21 years at the Ford Claycomo plant.
Here is how this Charlie Armour story started. On April 9, 1938, a Ray County deputy was shot and killed. “Deputy Slain at Richmond. W.A. Lowrance, Former Carroll Countian Kills Ray County Sheriff. Odus Sisk, deputy sheriff of Ray County, was shot and killed Saturday evening by W.A. Lowrance, a gunsmith of Richmond, as he went to the latter’s house to serve papers on him. The warrant was sworn out by Gayliss Parks, 26 years of age, housekeeper for Lowrance, charging her employer with striking her and her 6-year-old daughter earlier in the afternoon.
“At 6:30 o’clock Sisk, W.J. Perdue, sheriff of Ray County, and Charles Armour, city marshall of Richmond, went to the Lowrance home. They were met at the door by Lowrance, who carried a shot gun in his hands, aimed at the officers heads. Sisk grabbed the muzzle, shoving the gun down about a foot. Lowrance fired, striking Sisk under the heart which caused instant death. As he fell to the porch, Armour shot at Lowrance, wounding him but not fatally.
“Armour and Sheriff Perdue then ran for shelter from the gunsmith’s shots, to the sides of the house and called to neighbors for them to summon other officers.
“A member of the sheriff’s staff soon arrived with a tear gas gun, which seemed to have no effect in removing Lowrance from the building. The reason being that he had crept from the house onto the back porch, hiding while he received enough fresh air to counteract the effects of the gas.
“Arthur Elliott, Ray County assessor, accompanied by Matthew Waller and Bud Winders of Richmond, dashed to the front porch horrifying the hundreds of on-lookers and carried the body of Sisk from the porch, as there was danger of the house burning after several blazing brands of gasoline-soaked rags had been hurled at it.
“John Bryce, who had previously obtained a charge of dynamite, but failed to use it, then ran to the front porch with a shotgun unloaded, in his hand, and kicked open the door. Several men then rushed in and as John Denton, a night watchman of Richmond, spied Lowrance scrunched behind a bookcase and fired a shot that took the gunsmith’s life.
“The body was taken to the Brothers Funeral Home, where funeral services were held Monday morning at 10 o’clock. Burial was made in Wakenda Cemetery.
“Mr. Lowrance resided in Carroll County for many years and was well known here. It is believed that he had been failing both physically and mentally for the past several months and was probably somewhat unbalanced at the time of the killing.”
Odus Sisk’s obituary provided a few more interesting facts to this story. “Funeral services in memory of Odus Sisk were held Monday afternoon at the Christian Church in Excelsior Springs conducted by the Rev. Edmund C. Miller, assisted by the Rev. Rupert L. McCanon and Elder Leon Clevenger. Mr. Sisk was born near New Garden Church in Ray County, April 9, 1894 and died on his 44th birthday. He was the son of James H. and Mary Alice (McGuire) Sisk and was the oldest of 11 children. He was married in Richmond Nov, 1, 1936 to Miss Myra Clevenger. The ceremony was preformed by the Rev. Edmund C. Miller, but had been kept a secret until made known Saturday night, by Mrs. Sisk after her husband’s death. Mr. Sisk was a man of pleasing personality and numbered his friends by his acquaintances. He was a Mason, an active member of the Richmond Kiwanis Club, a world war veteran, a successful business man and had been first deputy to sheriff Perdue since June 1935. Burial was in the Masonic cemetery at Excelsior Springs.”
Myra Clevenger Sisk was 46 when her husband died. I would love to know why they kept their marriage a secret for the two years before he died. My second question was what happened to Myra? She never remarried. She died in 1984 at the age of 92 in Liberty. She was buried in Excelsior Springs next to Odus, 46 years after he was shot and killed. I never walked in Myra’s shoes, but that sounds like real love to me.
I found a few more pieces to this puzzle in the Missouri death certificates for 1938.The cause of death for Odus Sisk is listed as “homicide, gunshot wounds upper abdomen. The cause of death for William Ely Lowrance was a bit more dramatic. It was listed as, “gunshot wounds inflicted by sheriff’s posse.”
I’m sure some of you recognized one of the other names in this story – Matthew Waller. He was one of the men who rushed the house and pulled the body of Odus Sisk away from it. Mat Waller could have died on April 9, 1938, but he didn’t.
We may never know why some people live and some people die, but for now we must continue moving forward and live one day at a time. We can only hope that Odus and Almyra B. Clevenger Sisk finally found the happiness they were looking for on Dec. 5, 1984, when they found each other again in the world after this one.
Have an interesting story for Linda? You can write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her at Ray County Museum, Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.