ORANGE CITY—The third annual “Nights at the Museum” at the Orange City Dutch American Heritage Museum have taken on a more macabre tone this year.
Dutch American Heritage Museum Board member Jill Haarsma said this year’s lineup has drawn a large audience than expected.
“People in this area love history,” she said.
The June 26 presentation titled “Bullets, Booze and a Noose” by Sara Huyser and Rebecca Koerselman was about Ira “Hard Boiled” Pavey, a Sioux City bootlegger who was hung by the state of Iowa for the March 1919 murder of Claude Letner.
Pavey encountered Letner near a mud hole near Hull. Letner was a competing bootlegger who was transporting 11 cases of illegal liquor back to Sioux City from Trosky, MN. Pavey stole the booze from Letner, who was found with a gunshot behind his right ear. Pavey earned the nickname “Hard Boiled” because of his lack of emotion.
Huyser’s interest in the Pavey case began when she was shown a collection of whiskey bottles and two of them had handwritten notes that contained the names of Pavey and Red Burzette.
Haarsma said about 105 people attended that presentation. The board had set out chairs in hopeful anticipation of 65 people.
Museum board secretary Nan Reinking said “Bullets, Booze and a Noose” was a stellar performance.
“‘Nights at the Museum’ was intended to draw people in and we did that,” Reinking said.
Board member Alan Donaldson agreed credited packed presentation to the diversity of the new museum board.
“There are so many different talents and we are all interested in this area where we live,” Donaldson said.
The next “Nights at the Museum” is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 10, and is titled “Widow on the Witness Stand.” It is about rural Hull resident Alice Blood who shot her husband, George, in November 1898. The presentation is one that Haarsma is particularly looking forward to.
“She killed her husband across the breakfast table,” she said.
Newspaper clippings from the Hull Index and the Hawarden Independent stated that on the morning of Nov. 16, 1898, Alice used her son’s .38-caliber revolver and shot George twice in the head. Alice admitted to shooting her husband and the jury wrote that they had profound sympathy for her.
The murder charge against Alice was dismissed due to insanity.
Alice was found to be driven insane as a result of the excessive cruelty of George — throwing sour milk and swill at her, horsewhipping her for using a buggy and accusing her of purposely killing one of their children.
During her trial in the Sioux County Courthouse in Orange City Alice was carried in to the courtroom and placed upon a mattress. Occasionally, her mother “tenderly lifts the slight figure to a sitting position and places her in a big rocker that stands by the side of the couch, but most of the time Mrs. Blood is either asleep or in a state of indifferent unconsciousness.”
Greta Grond of Hull will give the “Widow on the Witness Stand” presentation.
“I hope the audience has a chance to reflect on ideas about justice,” Grond said. “How do people respond and react to situations in which they do not see a way out? I think of this particular case and trial as being representative of a number of issues at that time — domestic violence, roles of women, insanity and even the role of newspapers.”
Haarsma said the “Nights at the Museum” series began as a way to bring more people to the Orange City museum.
“We wanted to have people hear about the stories and artifacts in our collections,” she said. “We have five presentations this year and so far there has been all kind of different subjects. We are already talking about what we are doing next year. We will try to get the schedule put together in December or January.”