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Police Collar Clergyman For Murder


This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on July 24, 1993




Roz Young


            It is more disquieting and generally excites greater interest when a clergyman is accused of wrongdoing than when an ordinary citizen gets caught in flagrante delicto.

            As Daytonians have recently seen in the First Lutheran affair, we expect better behavior from men and women of the cloth than we expect of our neighbors.

            No one on quiet Pease Street saw anything unusual on the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 7, 1891. The husbands had gone to work, the children were in school, and the wives were in the basement doing the weekly laundry.

            When the afternoon newspapers were delivered, they contained stunning news.

            "Rev. Charles M. J. Clark, pastor of the Third Street Baptist Church, Sprague Street, and his wife Carrie, were arrested this morning and charged with murder," said the front-page story. "Rev. and Mrs. Clark are held for a crime allegedly to have been committed in Yellow Springs.

            "Clark, it appears, was living with his third wife in Yellow Springs five years ago at the time the crime is alleged to have been committed. Clark, so the story goes, became attached to a woman in Yellow Springs known as Carrie Moss.

            "Clark's wife stood in the way of Clark and the Moss girl getting married."

            The story went on to say that allegedly at the solicitation of Clark, who was a minister at the time, a Yellow Springs woman obtained a quantity of arsenic to be used in the murder of Clark's wife.

            Mrs. Clark was taken violently ill; a physician was called but all he could do was in vain and the victim died a death that the physician ascribed to natural causes. Carrie Moss in due time became Mrs. Clark, and Mr. and Mrs. Clark moved to Dayton."

            The story alleged that the physician who attended Mrs. Clark had been paid $2,500 as hush money by the person who obtained the arsenic. The story became known when that person made a deathbed confession of her part in the murder.

            At the coroner's inquest Effie Taylor, 31, was named as the woman who had obtained the poison. She had been found dead in bed Monday, Jan. 5. with a bottle of strychnine close at hand. A Dr. Steinberger, who lived next door, stated to the police that Miss Taylor had told him she was remorseful over her part in the death of Mrs. Clark.

            Carrie Moss, according to Steinberger, had asked her help in poisoning Mrs. Clark so that she could marry the preacher. Their first attempt was to make a broth of match heads and serve it to Mrs. Clark, but she did not drink it.

            Then Miss Taylor went to Xenia and secured some "dog buttons," which she used in a soup and served to Mrs. Clark, who refused to eat in because it tasted bad.

            Then Miss Taylor procured a box of Rough on Rats and baked some of the poison into a pie, which she and Carrie Moss served to Mrs. Clark when she spent a day at the Moss home. This time Mrs Clark became very ill and told a neighbor that she thought someone tried to poison her at the Moss house. But she recovered.

            Finally Miss Taylor told Dr. Steinberger she concocted a dose of strychnine and quicksilver, which Rev. Clark gave to Mrs. Clark, who then died.

            Dr. Steinberger testified that Miss Taylor told him she was being blackmailed by the Clarks, and after paying them $1,000, she was becoming tired of life under the strain.

            A cousin of Miss Taylor, Omie Holverstott, testified that Dr. Steinberger had "deviled the life out of Effie" to get her property. It was revealed that she had left him her home and her $2,500 fortune.

            After the coroner's inquest Yellow Spring officials decided to issue warrants for the arrest of the Clarks.

            In a prison interview the Clarks denied all the charges.

            The preliminary hearing was held in Xenia on Saturday morning, Jan. 10. Four railroad cars of citizens of Yellow Springs and two from Dayton arrived for the hearing. The crowd was so big it could not get into the mayor's office.

            William Van Shaik, a prominent Dayton attorney, represented the Clarks.

            At the opening of the hearing, the prosecuting attorney said that Dr. Steinberger had not appeared to testify. He also that he had not been able to obtain any further information other than what had been given at the coroner's inquest. He moved for a dismissal of the charges.

            The mayor dismissed the complaint against the Clarks.

            The crowd in the mayor's office cheered. Rev. Clark asked and was granted permission to give a prayer. He thanked God for his deliverance and asked forgiveness for those who had accused him and his wife. He spoke so eloquently that tears spilled down the cheeks of the crowd. When he and his wife appeared outside the courthouse, the waiting citizens shouted joyously.

            Clark immediately filed suit against Dr. Steinberger for false arrest and defamation of character, but the case was dismissed on Jan. 14 at the request of Clark "without prejudice and at the plaintiff's cost."

            The general feeling was that Dr. Steinberger made a settlement out of court, but neither he nor the Clarks ever spoke further on the subject.

            The Clarks returned to Dayton and the minister, his good name restored, resumed his duties as pastor of the church. Once a year on the anniversary of his arrest he preached a sermon on the evils of gossip.