Murder of Ira Day

August 24, 1906
Clinton Register
Clinton, Illinois

Ira Day Shot and Instantly Killed By James Whitehead.

Chickens the Cause of the Tragedy—

The Families Were Neighbors and There Had Been Ill Feeling for Some Time—
The Inquest Was Held Yesterday.

In the last ten years there have been four people murdered in the east part of Clinton. Two of the murderers are in the penitentiary and one is in jail in Clinton. In April 1896, "Sixty" POLEN killed his wife and her mother with a shot gun. About a year ago Tom WATTERS killed Miss GRANT, the charge being intended for another. Tuesday night of this week James WHITEHEAD shot Ira DAY with a revolver and he died without speaking. The ball entered just below the left eye and lodged in the brain. Whitehead went into his house and waited till the officers, Marshal HENSON and J. M. WILLIAMS, a deputy sheriff, arrested him. He was taken to the jail in a carriage and when he stepped to the ground several hundred were there. He seemed to fear lynching as he hurried into the jail.


About two years ago Whitehead bought of Day a property on East Main street. Day also owned two more properties, the one he occupied and the one between it and the one he sold to Whitehead. There was no well on the lot sold, and it is said Day allowed Whitehead to get water from the well on the property adjoining the one he bought. For about a year there had been ill feeling between the families but there had been only words. The trouble is said to have been over some chickens that could not find room to scratch at home. Tuesday afternoon Day's chickens wandered on Whitehead's lot and were scratching in the flower beds. Mrs. Whitehead was chasing them away when Day ordered her to let them alone, and used strong language, calling her names. He also told her they could have no more water from the well, which is on the property Day had leased to L. B. JONES.

When Whitehead returned home about 6:30 in the evening, his wife asked him to not go to the well for water, but he said he had a right to get water there and went to the well. Day appeared and told Whitehead he could get no more water there. There were hot words, and it is said Day jerked the bucket from Whitehead and struck him with it. Whitehead tried to dodge the licks, backed away a few steps, but Day kept striking him with the bucket. Then Whitehead fired the shot. The shooting was seen by Mrs. WHITEHEAD, Mrs. JONES, Mrs. DAY and Mrs. Jas. LONGBRAKE, and Geo. SUTTON.

At the jail Whitehead told the officers the revolver was at his home; they returned and found it, also the bucket that played a part in the tragedy and showed evidence of the use to which it was put. Whitehead claims Day was in fault and that he acted in self-defense. His explanation of how it was he had the revolver is as follows: He was employed to sweep Con DUCY's saloon, and as he went to the saloon before daylight of mornings he bought the revolver. He kept it at the saloon during the day and took it home with him of evenings. Tuesday evening he stopped at the saloon on his way home from work and got the revolver. He did not take it out of his pocket when he got home and had forgotten he had it until the trouble began. It was a 22-caliber.


Coroner JONES held the inquest yesterday. The witnesses knew but little about what took place before the shooting, except two or three. Mrs. Whitehead said she saw Day striking her husband with a bucket, but refused to say whether she saw the shot fired.

Mrs. Jas. Longbrake heard loud words, saw the smoke and heard the report of the revolver. Day seemed to be pushing Whitehead just before the shot was fired.

Mrs. Lucinda Jones stood just inside her kitchen door when Day was shot. She heard angry words and stepped to the screen door which was closed. Heard Day say, "This will be your last…." Whitehead said it was in the contract he could get water there and he would continue to get it. Then Day struck him. Whitehead backed and threw up his hands. Day grabbed the bucket and stuck him as he backed.  When she saw Whitehead take the revolver from his pocket she stepped back and did not see the shot fired or Day fall. Said Day did not tell her Whitehead was to get water at the well and didn't reserve any right for anyone to get water there when they leased the property.

Chauncy PORTER, who boarded at Mr. Whitehead's was in his bedroom and didn't see nor hear any of the trouble.

E. G. WELCH heard the shooting while eating supper and saw Day before he was dead but knew nothing of the trouble.

T. M. HAMLIN saw the men fighting, heard report of revolver and saw a man fall. Did not know either at that time.

Geo. Sutton saw the men fighting. Saw Whitehead take revolver from his pocket and shoot, was at his home about 160 feet west.

The jury went to the home of Mrs. Day to hear her evidence which was substantially as follows: Heard Day tell Mrs. Whitehead not to kill the chickens. Also heard Day tell Whitehead it was the only bucket of water he could get there. Saw Day strike Whitehead twice with a bucket; Day took hold of Whitehead, who then drew his revolver and shot him. Never knew of any agreement for Whitehead to get water at the well. It was only a few minutes after Day talked to Mrs. Whitehead about the chickens until he came after water.

The jury returned to the court house about 1 o'clock, and, in accordance with the evidence, recommended that Whitehead's bond be fixed at $5,000.


Ira M. Day was 53 years old and Clinton had been his home nearly all his life. He was a son of John E. DAY and his parents died several years ago. He is survived by a wife and one child. It is said he has no near relatives here.

James Whitehead is 60 years old and has lived in this county most of his life. For many years he lived at Wapella. He was married about fifteen years ago, and for several years lived at Maroa, moving to Clinton about three years ago and worked for Richard SNELL about a year. Since then he had occupied property he bought of Day. His beard and hair are white.

Submitted by Judy Simpson