Edward Polen Double Murder

April 3, 1896, Friday
Clinton Register

Ed Polen Kills His Wife and Her Mother, Mrs. Wm. McMullen, with a Shot Gun.
The Murderer just captured one-half mile East of the Scene of the Murder and is now in Jail.

Just as we go to press the news comes that Ed POLEN, who lives near the shops killed his wife and her mother, Mrs. Wm. McMullen, with a shot gun.  After committing the act, he started east on the railroad track swearing he would kill the first man attempting to arrest him.  Marshal Moffet armed himself with a shotgun and started in pursuit, and captured him in about 40 minutes after the murder.

After committing the deed he ran east on the track and about half a mile east of the shops he started out in a field.  He saw his pursuers coming towards him and at the same time he saw a train coming which had just started east.  He ran back to the track and threw himself in front of the engine for the purpose of committing suicide, but the train was moving slowly and he was pushed off the rail.  However the pilot struck him with sufficient force to cut a deep gash in the back of his head.  He spoke a few words after being picked up and then became unconscious.  He was brought up and placed in jail and a doctor summoned, who was trying to restore him to consciousness.  It is not yet known how bad he is hurt.

His wife Myrtle POLEN, was shot in the front part of the head at short range, making a hole large enough that a man’s fist could be inserted.  Mrs. Wm. McMULLEN, mother of Mrs. Polen, was shot in the back of the head with the same gun and making such a wound as his wife received.  The scene was certainly heartrending to see two women who a few minutes before were enjoying good health, lying dead in a pool of blood.  They had both fallen with their heads to the west about ten feet apart.

A REGISTER reporter was there when the husband and father, Wm McMULLEN, first looked upon the awful scene.  It was one not to be forgotten and caused many eyes to moisten with tears.  He seemed crazed and it seemed impossible for him to realize the horrible crime that his wife and daughter had been the victims of.

There seems to have been trouble between Polen and his wife and some months ago they moved to Iowa where they remained until last Friday when she returned, followed by her slayer.  Money was sent to her two weeks ago to Iowa for her to return to Clinton, un-beknown to him, but in a few hours after she started to this city, he started, he having suspicioned that she was coming to Clinton.  Since their arrival here he had been trying to induce her to forget the past and live with him, but she refused.  It appears that all members of the McMullen family were fearing him.  Mrs. McMullen was away from home at a neighbor’s house, Mrs T. B. Wilson, and when she saw Polen go to her home, she at once desired to go home, fearing trouble.  Mrs. Wilson pleaded with her not to got as she knew trouble might follow, judging from the way Mrs. McMullen spoke, but she paid no heed to Mrs. Wilson’s pleadings and at once went home.

Mrs Wilson watched and saw him shoot both of them, thus witnessing the most horrible crime ever committed in this county.

Lynching is freely talked of, and the law will probably not be allowed to take its usual slow course to mete out justice.

The gun he committed the murder with was Harber Borse’s gauge No. 10, loaded with a No. 4 shot.  It was borrowed at noon under the pretext of going snipe hunting.

The murdered woman is a sister of Coroner JONES, and Austin J. Richey, J.P. has been deputized to hold the inquest.

Note: Harber Borse should probably be Heber Morse, who lived in Clinton.

Submitted by Jennifer Everett


April 10, 1896, Friday
Clinton Register


Edward POLEN, the murderer of his wife and her mother, was taken to the jail Friday evening where he was kept until after dark.  There was so much excitement and threats of lynching that the murderer was taken to Decatur where he was jailed.  He was taken to Maroa in a buggy, and from there on the Diamond Special.  The people here regard the work of Polen as cold-blooded, premeditated murder, and while there was some danger of lynching, it is hardly probable that the people would have taken the law into their own hands, as they realize that it is almost impossible for one guilty of such a crime to escape the gallows by any legal technicality or criminal loop hole that may be found in the law.  The only dodge that would possibly admit of escape (and it is said that one will be resorted to) is insanity, but as there had been no previous indications of an unbalanced mind, it is highly probable that the slayer of the two women cannot escape the wages of his awful deed on that ground.  Unless there are previous evidences of insanity, the sooner the dodge is made unpopular the better it will be for the people and the community they live in.  If murderers are allowed to escape justice in this manner, others will be encouraged to “remove” a portion of the population by the aid of a revolver or shot gun.

Early Saturday morning Polen was given lodging in the Macon County jail, and the REVIEW of Sunday contained the following:

Ed Polen, the double murderer who was brought down from Clinton early yesterday morning and placed in the county jail here to keep an angry mob from wreaking vengeance against him, passed an uneventful day yesterday.  He was very sore and sick from the injuries he received when he threw himself in front of a freight train at Clinton and he kept himself apart from the other prisoners in the jail for the greater part of the time.  Polen complained during the day that his cuts and bruises pained him and the county physician was called to see him.  The doctor said that the man was all right and that his wounds were doing as well as could be expected.

Polen does not look like a desperate man by any means.  He is a sparely built fellow, perhaps 5 feet 8 inches in height and weighing 140 pounds.  He has not a good face, but it shows more evidence of weakness of character than viciousness.  While the man is not talkative he showed no hesitation about answering questions about the crime he committed.

He said last night that he was sorry for what he had done, and that he was crazy and didn't know what he was about when he did it.  He declared that it was his intention to kill himself when he realized his crime and when asked why he did not shoot himself at the place where he killed his wife and mother-in-law said that he thought it would be a more sure way to throw himself in front of the moving train.  “I ought to have known better than to throw myself in front of an engine,” said he.  “I fired one long enough to know that the pilot would throw me off.”

He said he did not think there was any fear of his being lynched at Clinton, as he had too many friends there that would not let a mob hang him.  Sheriff Neal thinks differently, however, and the murderer will be kept here until the excitement has died out entirely at Clinton.

At supper time last night Polen asked for ice cream and cake, but was told that they were not on the bill of fare of the jail.  To this he replied that Sheriff Neal had told him that he could have anything he wanted.

The murderer asked for a razor with which to shave himself yesterday and when it was refused him he wanted a barber brought to the jail to shave him.  This was not done.   Sheriff Nicholson thinks that Polen is seeking an opportunity to kill himself and he does not intend that one shall be given the man.

Polen has already begun to prepare for a defense of the charge that will be brought against him in DeWitt County.  Yesterday he made arrangements with Gray and Gray to look after his case.  Edward Gray used to be Polen’s school teacher at Clinton and he called at the jail yesterday to see the murderer, the result of the meeting being that the arrangement was made as stated.  Gray and Gray went to Clinton last night to look into the case.  Polen’s father, who lives at Clinton, and his grandfather, who lives in Iowa, have some means and will probably furnish money for the defense.  On what lines the defense will be made is not stated.


As Mrs. McMullen was a sister of Coroner Jones, Squire Richey held the inquest.  The evidence was that Polen had gone to McMullen’s house with a shot gun about 4 o'clock and had tried to induce his wife to live with him.  She refused, and her mother tried to persuade her daughter to go into the house.  After half an hour’s fruitless persuasion he shot his wife, then Mrs. McMullen.  Reloading the gun as he ran he threatened to shoot anyone who pursued him, but made no attempt to shoot the others when they came upon him, near the shops.


Mrs. W. E. McMullen and Mrs. Edward Polen were buried in the same grave Sunday afternoon in Woodlawn Cemetery; funeral services were held at the home of W. E. McMullen, conducted by Rev. D. McArthur. Mrs. McMullen was born in Madison County, Ohio, Sep. 14, 1854, and her parents came to this city one year later.  Her first marriage was to Johnathan GREEN; to them two children were born, one dying in infancy.  The other was the late Mrs. Ed Polen.   Mr. and Mrs. Green were divorced and she married W. E. McMULLEN January 14, 1882, to them four children were born, and are left without a mother’s care by the fiendish act of the murderer.  She was a sister of Coroner Cyrus Jones.

Miss Myrtle Green was born Feb. 14, 1877, and married to Edward Polen Aug 15, 1894.  Their married life had not been a pleasant one.  Polen had accused his wife of unfaithfulness, which it is said was without foundation.

Submitted by Jennifer Everett


December 18, 1896, Friday
Clinton Register

A Life Job.
Edward Polen, the Double Murderer, given a life sentence.
Brief History of the Trouble and the Killing.

Thursday afternoon, at 2 o'clock a beardless young man, who had been in jail since the third of last April, was taken to the circuit court room for trial.  The charge was murder.  He killed his wife and her mother with a shot gun, and twelve of his fellow men were to decide according to the law and the evidence what degree of justice should be meted out for him.  A large crowd was present; Judge Herdman presided, and the Attorneys, States Attorney, Fuller for the state and Fred Bail and E.J. Sweeney for the defense, were ready to proceed.  The jury was composed of the following gentlemen: Chas. (Charles) Merrifield, Chas. (Charles) Webb, P. N. Marvel, Harry Cantrell, James Connor, Wm. (William) M. Fritish, Chas. (Charles) Arbogast, R. R. Greene, David Walker, Robert Marsh, Gene Taylor, [and] A. B. Horne.


The facts about the murder and the circumstances leading up to it, briefly told are as follows: August 19, 1894, Edward POLEN, son of James POLEN, of this city, and Miss Myrtle GREENE, daughter of Mrs. W. E. (William Shaw) McMULLEN, were married, and in a short time began housekeeping.  They were both young, he being 21 and she 19.  Ere long clouds began to appear in the sky of their domestic life; and, as is usually the case, the clouds increased as the days passed by.  Polen claimed that the darkness that was hovering over his home was due to the influence of Mrs. McMullen over his wife.  Mrs Polen applied for divorce, but afterward consented to live with Polen.  At last the young couple decided to move to Iowa, Polen thinking they would be happier if they were far away from Clinton.  But even this did not cause their home to be as happy as it should be.  It has been said letters from home helped to prevent the disappearance of the clouds.   They arrived in Iowa about the first of March, and within three weeks, Mrs. Polen left her husband and started to Clinton.  Soon afterward, he started back.  After their return, matters grew worse, but no one thought murder would result.  April 3 there had been trouble.  Polen seemed determined to have his wife again live with him; but her mother seemed equally determined she should not.  That forenoon there had been trouble up town.  Polen had one of his wife’s letters she wanted.  Marshall Moffet had interceded and Polen promised to give her the letter that night.  Just before noon he borrowed a shot-gun of Mr. Morse, saying he was going to the reservoir to shoot ducks.  Between 3 and 4 o'clock he got in company with his wife and went to the McMullen home, and was ordered away by Mrs McMullen.  He refused to go unless his wife would go with him.  This she refused to do.  Mrs. Mcmullen went to call an officer; when she returned the quarrel was renewed.  As they were out doors, several were watching from their homes.  Before they could realize that there was danger of a murder, two shots were fired by Polen and his wife and her mother were instantly killed, both being shot in the head.  The latter was shot first.   Polen ran east threatening to shoot anyone who followed.  Near the shops he saw a train moving.  Running to the track, he threw himself in front of the train before trainmen were aware of his intention.  The guard pushed him off the track and he was not seriously hurt.   He was taken to jail and there was some talk of lynching, the sheriff deeming it sufficient to justify him taking Polen to Decatur a few days.  He was brought back to Clinton and the case did not come up for trial until this term.

As Polen’s relatives were not able to hire a lawyer for him, the court appointed those named to defend him.  The killing was admitted, and the aim seemed to be to show that Polen’s mind was not right, and that he was temporarily insane at the time of the shooting.  Though all the attorneys in the case are young men, they handled it with the ability of those more experienced.  The examination of witnesses, there being 42, continued Wednesday afternoon, Wednesday night, and until about 10 o'clock yesterday.  There were only a few that knew much about the case.  The lawyers made short speeches, and the Judge instructed the jury, ending about 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon, when the jury retired to consider the evidence.  At 7:30 this morning a verdict of guilty was returned, punishment fixed at imprisonment for life.  At first 5 of the jury favored hanging, so that the life sentence was a compromise verdict.  No motion will be made for a new trial, and Polen will be sentenced today.  Court will adjourn today for the term.

Submitted by Jennifer Everett


December 25, 1896, Friday
Clinton Register

Ed Polen Entered on His Life Work at Chester.
M. McPherson There Too.

Sheriff Neal and J. B. Botkin left Friday with E. Polen and M. McPherson for Chester.  Polen had secured a life job there, and McPherson and been given work for the enterprise he exhibited in securing possession of a horse without the inconvenience of paying for it.

Before Polen was taken from Clinton, he was taken to see his mother, Mrs. Jas. Polen.  The scene was a most affecting one.  As the woman on whom the act of her son and his sentence of life imprisonment fell with crushing force—almost too much for her to bear—bid her son farewell—a long farewell—tears came to the eyes of the strong men present.  She bade him think of her in her loneliness, and their parting was a scene that no one would wish to see.  Polen seemed especially pleased with the efforts of his attorneys on his behalf, and he had no bitter words against anyone.  He denied making the threats testified by Mrs. Fisher and others, and claimed he would not have committed murder if he had been in his right mind.

Submitted by Jennifer Everett


July 10, 1914, Friday
Clinton Register

Was a Model Prisoner and Had Served the State the Best Part of His Life.

Tomorrow, through action of the state board of pardons and the signature of Governor Dunne, Edward F. POLEN becomes a free man after being incarcerated in the Chester Penitentiary more than eighteen years following his trial and conviction on the charge of murdering his wife from whom he had been but a short time separated previous to the tragedy.  Polen was also under indictment for the murder of his wife’s mother, Mrs. Wm. McMULLEN, at the same time that he shot his wife, but the latter indictment was quashed some time ago.

From the time of his confinement Polen has been a model prisoner, and repeated but unsuccessful efforts had been previously made by his aged parents, J. N. POLEN and wife of this city, as well as other relatives and friends for his release, but to no avail until his health gave away, which attendants at the prison attribute to lost hope of freedom, followed by despondency and finally ending in tuberculosis.

Clintonians who resided here nineteen years ago are familiar with the story of the tragedy.  Polen had always been a harmless, hard-working young man, but domestic troubles for which he always blamed others, especially his mother-in-law, soon followed.  On the morning previous to the forenoon of the shooting he had conversed with his wife and begged her to come home with him which she refused to do.  In the afternoon he secured a double-barrel shot gun and started east, ostensibly to hunt snipes at the reservoir adjoining the Central shops here.  On the way he encountered his wife and mother-in-law and accompanied them to their home which was at that time near the end of East Washington street.  On the way out he renewed his entreaties to his wife, and at the edge of the yard at the home, stood the gun against the fence while he continued his request to the wife which she again refused, and, Polen stated, was encouraged to refuse by the taunts of Mrs. McMullen.  Becoming enraged, he seized the gun and fired two shots in such rapid succession that witnesses to hearing the noise could testify to but one report.  Both women fell stone dead, shot through the head.  It was over in a moment and the slayer started for the railroad.  Being pursued by an engineer he turned and pointed the empty gun at the latter, who turned and fled.  Polen reached the track and threw himself in front of a slowly moving switch engine.  His injuries were slight and he was shortly removed to the old brick jail, followed by a quiet but determined mob.  The late Harry Magill was mayor at the time and F. E. Downey, also deceased, was called to attend the injured prisoner.  Both were cool- headed men and on advice of the physician the mayor stepped to the front and informed the angry crowd that Polen’s injuries were fatal and that he had but a few hours to live.  After dark when the crowd had dispersed, the prisoner was secretly taken to Decatur, the jail here having at that time long been a place of confinement in name only, as it was comparatively easy to break either in or out.

Feeling was still running high when the trial was called the following winter, and it has always been claimed that only the tenacity of one lone juror prevented a verdict calling for capital punishment.

With few exceptions all will be glad to see Polen again enjoying his freedom, as he is thought to have paid sufficient penalty.  The late Judge G. K. Ingham was attorney for the defense, and had made repeated efforts during the years following the sentence to have it changed or the prisoner paroled.

When Judge Ingham became unable to continue his practice, Geo. B. Marvel was engaged to assist L. W. Ingham in the matter and in January appeared before the board of pardons and made a plea for the release of Polen.

Thousands of others have committed crimes more revolting and without any reasonable excuse or provocation, and although the murders they committed were cold-blooded and premeditated in the eye of the public, it is not for the people, but for the attorneys, the court, and an intelligent, honest, jury to determine as to their guilt or innocence.

Submitted by Judy Simpson


July 24, 1914, Monday
Daily Herald
Chicago, Illinois

Bloomington—Nineteen years after he left to serve a life sentence for murdering his wife, Edward POLEN returned to Clinton from the Chester penitentiary.  Polen was pardoned because of ill health.

Submitted by Judy Simpson


He wasn't too ill. He lived another 32 years!

From the Illinois Statewide Death Index:
POLEN, EDWARD     1946-08-07     MCLEAN      BLOOMINGTON

He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.