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John Kephart
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Birth: Aug. 8, 1799
Pennsylvania, USA
Death: Jul., 1860
Jefferson County
Iowa, USA

Philip (Gebhard) Kephart
Wife Mary Babcock 1812 1887
Isaac Kephart
Margaret Kephart
Elizabeth Kephart
1830 1914
Barbara Anna Kephart
Mary Kephart
1834 1885
Sarah Jane Kephart
1837 1919
John Henry Kephart
1840 1917
Jacob Addison Kephart
1844 1914
Maria Kephart

Don't know if he was ever buried at a cemetery.

One of the most gruesome tragedies of the early history of Batavia occurred about one and one-half miles north of Batavia on Cedar Creek. On June 29, 1860, T. B. Barnett was fishing in Cedar Creek when his fish hook caught in something and in pulling it to be the body of a woman. Looking farther he found the bodies of a little girl, about three years old, and a boy was young approximately nine years old. The woman and the girl had drifted partially under a tree that had fallen into the water and the boy
was found a short distance away under a log.

Mr. Barnett spread the news and a message was sent to Fairfield about midnight after the sheriff and coroner. An inquest was held and the following statement was made:

"State of Iowa, Jefferson County. An inquisition held in Batavia, Jefferson County, State of Iowa, before said county, upon the bodies of three persons lying dead, found in Cedar Creek. The said jurors upon their oath do say, that the said persons names unknown, came to death by some person, as there are four large cuts on the head of the woman; one just before her right ear, one on her forehead; jaw broken, skull broken, and the left shoulder broken. The boy had wounds on his forehead, skull broken and
brains oozing out, another wound on the back of the head, skull mashed, with a bruise on the left arm. The girl had her right cheek, with part of her upper lip, and part of her nose, upper jaw, and teeth cut off, with her under jaw considerably fractured.

"We the jury are of the opinion that the wounds were sufficient to produce immediate death. The woman had blue eyes, dark auburn hair, and was about thirty years of age. The boy had blue eyes and auburn hair, and was
either eight or nine years old. the girl had blue eyes and auburn hair and was about three years old. All of which we submit this first day of July, 1860. Thomas Barnes, coroner, A. Collins, H. P. Holmes, John Adams, jurors.

The county judge immediately issued the following handbill offering a reward for the arrest of the murderer.--Two Hundred Dollars Reward--A woman and two children were murdered in this county on Friday evening last, and the bodies thrown into Cedar Creek north of Batavia. The murderer is supposed to be six feet high of ordinary weight, dark complexion, without whiskers, and when seen on Friday afternoon was wearing a half worn Leghornhat and a dirty white shirt; and was without a coat or vest.

He was driving two yoke of oxen to a wagon. The wagon was an old, light, two horse wagon, muslin cover, dirty and old, but sound. The lead yoke of cattle was the smallest, and of a yellowish-red color with some white; the other yoke was dark red and brindle, the bridle being on the near
side. An old fashioned red and matched work coverlet was over the forehead of the wagon. With the team were two dogs, one a reddish-yellow, and a puppy of four or five months. From the tracks where the bodies were carried
to the creek it was supposed there were two persons involved in the murder.

On behalf of the county of Jefferson--I offer a reward of $200.00 for the apprehension of the murderer or murderers.

William K. Alexander--County Judge
Fairfield, Iowa--July 1, 1860

An additional reward was raised by a subscription from Batavia and Fairfield residents. Sheriff Roff started at once for Batavia, where he had learned that an old man and a little boy, with an oxen team, answering tothe
description given in the handbills had been seen on the road that day near, where the bodies were found. The sheriff, with David Huffstutter,Harrison Smith, William Tegarden, H. A. Miller, Andrew Smith, Lewis Spurlock
and Samuel Espe, together with several from here started out in pursuit and tracked the party to Upton, Missouri and found the old man and the boy four miles south of there. One of the oxen had a crooked hoof and they followed
this track easily.

The man, John Kephart, 60 years old gave up without resistance. The little boy was very frightened and ran crying to one of the party who was in with the search. He told the sheriff that his name was Willis, that the
dead woman was his mother, and the two children his brother and sister. He was awakened one night and found his mother dead in the wagon with a large gash in her head, and saw Kephart kill his sister and brother. They had jumped out of the wagon and tried to run away, but he had caught them andkilled them with a club.

Kephart and Willis had lived as neighbors in Cherokee County, Missouri.There Kephart had kept a grocery store and sold whiskey to the Indians. He had also been at one time a preacher, having held small meetings near County Line. He had lived in Henry County in 1850 and at that time was considered rich.

When arrested he had his certificate from the United Brethren Church to preach.

His wife and nine children at the time of the murder lived in Washington County, Iowa. Kephart had had a shady past. He had been in jail for various misdeeds and had been associated with John A. Murrill, noted criminal pirate on the Mississippi.



Mr. Willis had sold most of his household goods and had hired Kephart to take his wife and children to their new home in a covered wagon. They had with them the money from the sale in gold and silver pieces. It was hidden in a keg of soap grease. Kephart was after the money and Mrs. Willis
refused to tell him where they had hidden it.

Kephart had killed the woman near Eddyville and hauled the bodies to Cedar Creek. He had stopped to get food on the way and the storekeeper had noticed flies swarming around the wagon. Kephart had planned to kill the boy with him as soon as he could make him tell where it was hidden.

The sheriff brought the prisoner back to Fairfield where he was given a preliminary hearing before the county judge and then put in jail. Kephart had attempted suicide in the jail with a rope he had secretly had hidden on his body the first night in jail.

On Tuesday morning, a group of well-armed men marched to the jail and asked for the keys. Judge Alexander, Mr. Wilson, and Acheson Lamson and others pleaded with the mob to go home and allow the prisoner a fair trial.
But the mob was not easily sent away.

They used a post as a battering ram and broke the door down, seized the prisoner and put him in a wagon under guard and took him to the spot where the bodies had been found, north of Batavia.

By this time more than 2500 persons had gathered by Cedar Creek, to witness the mob execution, nearly 400 women were present. About 3 o'clock the prisoner was helped up a ladder, for he could barely make it on his own
as he had been subject to extreme rough treatment. Kephart's body was taken and thrown into a ditch in Chautauqua Park in Fairfield and was found some days later very decomposed. Medical men had never had a chance to study the body as they left the remains of him in the
ravine for his shallow grave. The bodies of the woman and two children were buried in the Batavia Cemetery and the boy was given the wagon and money and lived with an appointed guardian until his father came for him.

Family links: 
  Mary Babcock Kephart (1812 - 1887)*
  Isaac W Kephart (1822 - 1890)*
  Margaret Kephart Smith (1826 - 1897)*
  Elizabeth Kephart Neff (1829 - 1914)*
  Barbara Anna Kephart Land (1833 - ____)*
  Mary C. Corbin (1834 - 1885)*
  Sarah Jane Kephart Moore (1837 - 1919)*
  John Henry Kephart (1840 - 1917)*
  Jacob Addison Kephart (1844 - 1914)*
*Calculated relationship
Non-Cemetery Burial
Specifically: Chautaqua Park Fairfield, Iowa Jefferson CO
Maintained by: SRBentz
Originally Created by: "IRISH EYES ARE SMILING"
Record added: Nov 05, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 22671427
John Kephart
Added by: SRBentz
Photos may be scaled.
Click on image for full size.

I've heard so many good stories about him but I have never heard about what happen to him and what he did. I was surprised to hear about this story about him- very shocked.
- SRBentz
 Added: Mar. 9, 2012
May God have mercy on your soul
 Added: Nov. 8, 2007

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