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  • Writer's pictureRicki King

Murder in the family leads to 15 family history facts

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

Triple murder near prescott

The one thing most people don't want to find when doing family history research is a murderer in the family. Yet, you are liking to find a murderer as you are a slave owner. I have always looked at it as a bonus to find a murderer or any criminal in the family. Or as some like to call them black sheep of the family. You should be prepared for these black sheep when you’re beginning your genealogy journey.

Why would I want to find a criminal? Because I believe they can leave the most family history with their wrongdoings. If your family was poor or didn't trust the government, they will be hard to find in records and some people avoided being recorded or were missed. Yet, the black sheep have left many records in newspapers or in court cases. Depending on the period also in local and federal government correspondence where a pardon is issued or requested or extradition requests to another state. The flip side can also be true when your family member is the victim of a crime.

A murderer in the family. Finding 15 family history facts in newspaper stories about the victims and murderer.

1. Name of John’s father Wallace Hoskins. [Transcriptions are below newspaper clippings.]


"He is the son of Wallace Hoskins, president of the Nevinville bank, …"


2. Name of Huldah’s brother Chas. Jackson.


"Mrs. Hoskins owned 40 acres in Carl township, which she sold for $160 per acre to her brother, Chas. Jackson."


3. Name of John’s deceased wife with maiden name is Fannie Stinman. She is the mother of the surviving children.

  • Merlin/Murline Hoskins age 12 born circa 1907.

  • Irene Hoskins age 15 born circa 1904.

  • Approximate year of birth is determined by subtracting the age listed from 1919 the year of the murders.

4. Name of Fannie’s father is John Stinman of Fontanelle, [Iowa].

5. Places where families previously lived.

  • Adair county near Nevinville, [Iowa].

  • Fontanelle, [Iowa].

6. Huldah’s maiden name was Jackson.

7. Huldah is the youngest daughter of Larry Jackson.


"John Hoskins, who did the deed, was first married to Miss Fannie Stinman of Fontanelle, and to this marriage was born two children, Irene aged 15 and Merelin aged 12. They resided in Adair county, near Nevinville, where the wife and moth- er died and later Mr. Hoskins was again married to Mrs. Clem Campbell, formerly miss Huldah Jackson,youngest daughter of Larry Jackson. In her marriage to Mr. Campbell two children were born who figure in this terrible crime, being Gladys aged 19 and Roy aged 16, …"


8. Clem Campbell deceased husband of Huldah.

  • Huldah was age 40 born circa 1879. Date of death 11 January 1919.

  • Gladys Campbell age 19 born circa 1900. Date of death 11 January 1919.

  • Roy Campbell age 16 born circa 1903. Date of death 11 January 1919.

  • Approximate year of birth is determined by subtracting the age listed from 1919 the year of the murders.

9. Date of Clem Campbell and Hulda Jackson’s marriage is 3 September 1899.

10. Clem Campbell’s date of death is 30 May 1907.

11. Date of John R. Hoskins and Huldah Campbell’s marriage is 31 Aug 1915.


"Mrs. Hoskins was Miss Huldah Jackson. She was married to Clem Campbell September 3, 1899, and to them were born the two children who were victims of the crime of last Saturday. Mr. Campbell died May 30, 1907, and on August 31, 1915, the widow was married to John R. Hoskins. The latter had been married before and had two children by his first wife."

gladys hoskins-roy-hoskins

"The victims of the murder were Mrs. Hoskins, aged 40 years; her daughter, Gladys, aged 19 years, and her son, Roy, aged. 16."

12. Photos of four victims and murderer.

13. Merlin Hoskins story of his escape.

  • A brother of John Hoskins lived in Nevinville, [Iowa].


"Murline Hoskins, a son of the murderer, is a lad of about 12 years. He escaped the fury of his father and went to Nevinville, to the home of a brother of Hoskins. The lad made the journey on horseback. There are conflicting stories concerning his escape. Some say that he was sent by his father to tell the latter’s people of the crime; while others say the boy went on his own accord."


Bonus government records to search

14. Iowa Supreme court records

  • “The case went to the supreme court and was decided September 27, 1930. The record of the case is found in 212th Iowa. Page 265.”


"About seven years ago attorneys for Hoskins sought to have the two pending indictments disposed of but nothing was accomplished. The case went to the supreme court and was decided on September 27, 1930. The record of the case is found in 212th Iowa. Page 265. This is sufficient evidence to state that the indictments were brought by the grand jury and are still pending."

15. Iowa Governor correspondence records

John R. Hoskins did seek a pardon in 1938 from Governor Nelson G. Kraschel. However, before he requested a pardon, he had to have the two outstanding indictments for the murders of Gladys and Roy Campbell dismissed. He had only been charged and sentenced on the murder of his wife Huldah. There had been three indictments brought against him. To verify if John R. Hoskins did indeed receive a pardon you will what to check Iowa governor correspondence located at the State Historical Society of Iowa.



State Board Requests Clemency in Old Murder Case

Des Moines-(AP)- Members of the Iowa parole board said Monday they had asked Gov. Nelson G. Kraschel to clear the way for a parole for John R. Hoskins, 57, who 19 years ago was imprisoned for allegedly clubbing to death his wife and two step-children. The parole board’s recommendations in such cases usually are followed by the governor."


A Survivor’s story of murders

  • Irene Hoskins tells the story of the murders. (Transcription below. )


"The crime was committed shortly after 6 o’clock in the morning, following a quarrel between Hoskins and his wife. The story of the murder, as told by Irene Hoskins, the daughter of the murderer, to County Attorney Maxwell is substantially as follows: On the morning in question the parents were quarreling over the girls in the household not arising as quickly as Hoskins thought they should. Quarrels had been frequent between the parents, and there appear to have been some jealousies between them on account of the children. The couple had each been married before and each had two children by a former marriage. Irene states that Mrs. Hoskins did not say much when the quarrel was in progress, but that when she stepped out of the house to a nearby house to get some lard, Hoskins went out of doors and returned in a moment with a large club. He struck Roy Campbell over the head and killed him, then did the same with Gladys Campbell. Irene attempted to intercede for the victims and Hoskins struck at her with the club. The blow was a glancing one on the back of the head; inflicting an injury, but not very serious. The little girl, who is about 16 years of age, ran to the neighbors and gave the alarm. When Mrs. Hoskins returned from the smoke house she was met on the porch by the infuriated husband, who commenced using the club on her. As Irene passed she saw Mrs. Hoskins lying in the yard near the porch, but did not see any blood near her at that time. Later, when the body of the woman was found, it was on the porch, and there was a large pool of blood near her. It is thought by the authorities that Hoskins probably had not killed her and she crawled onto the porch, where Hoskins afterward finished his fiendish work. The two children were inside the house."

John R. Hoskins confession

  • John Hoskins confession. (Transcription below.)



In the District Court of the State of Iowa, in and for Adams County,

January Term, 1919.

State of Iowa )

vs. ) Statement and Confession of the Defendant.

John R. Hoskins)

I, John R. Hoskins, defendant in the above entitled cause, of my own free will and without the hope or promise of reward, being first duly sworn, on oath say that on February 12, 1919, I requested the county attorney of Adams count, in writing, to call on me at the county jail for the purpose of making to him a statement with reference to the above entitled matter which statement I now voluntarily make:

I state that I am guilty of the crime that I now stand charged with, to-wit:- the murder of Huldah Hoskins as charged in the indictment.

I state that I am guilty of the crime that I now stand charged with, to-wit:- the murder of Gladys Campbell as charged in the indictment.

I also state that I am guilty of the crime that I now stand charged with, to-wit:- the murder of Ray [Roy] Campbell as charged in the indictment.

That each and all of said crimes were committed by me in Adams County, Iowa, on January 11, 1919, in the way and manner charged in said respective indictments.

I state that for some years I had family troubles which during the last year became worse than ever before; that about five years ago this spring a burr oak pole 6 or 8 inches thick at the butt fell on my head from the floor of the loft of the barn, stunning me for a time, since which time I have had severe pains at times in my head; that about two weeks before January 11, 1919, I suffered an attack of the Spanish Influenza and I believe because of these things and my weakened condition. I was lead to commit the above crime; that I have at all times considered that I was a sane man and knew what I was doing but I can not understand how I happened to commit the above crimes, but I did commit them; that after I struck Huldah Hoskins the first time, I had a talk with her before striking her the second time; that about 8 month after the above mentioned pole fell on me I fell down a hay chute or well and on the way struck my back and spine on a floor joist about 8 feet from the ground and alighted on my head and shoulders and was stunned, laying there for some little time; that about one year ago while carrying corn in a basket out of the crib, I stepped on a hog, losing my balance throwing me down on the end of my spine which stunned me and made me feel so badly that I was compelled to go to the house.

It is my desire that my difficulties and troubles, my actions and my punishment therefor shall so impress the minds of the general public that they shall be fully forewarned to obey the laws of God and of man and that each shall strive to control himself that none may find if necessary to bear all that I have and will be forced to


John R. Hoskins.

Subscribed and sworn to by John R. Hoskins this 12th day of

February, 1919. A. Ray Maxwell,

Notary Public in and for Adams County.

The above statement was signed in our presence by John R. Hoskins on said 12th day of February, 1919, and he stated that he signed the same voluntarily and without any force or demand.

W. R. Hoskins

George T. Simpson

Ike Van Wagenen

John Miller"


Complete stories can be found free at using search term John Hoskins. Stories can also be found in other Iowa newspapers and in other state newspapers.

Remember, these facts are not proof but a starting point to use in your family history research. You will want to find original documents or several supporting documents to support these facts.

copyright Ricki King

15 May 2019

Roots To Branches Genealogy

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