Thursday, July 21, 2016

Clint and Ina

He walked up to Clint and struck him a slight blow with the hammer; then turning quickly he cut Ina on the neck with the knife.

When the Kansas City Times carried the story of the Spragg murder-suicide on December 13, 1894, the report seemed to indicate that two of the children had survived the knifing, but that it was expected to only be a momentary reprieve. Those twolisted as "Clint Onstatt, aged 8 years" and "Ina Onstatt, aged 6 years"were likely the ones with "dozens of cuts that cover their little bodies" whom another newspaper had determined "cannot recover."

Just as we saw yesterday, that rush to report such horrific news brought with it a package deal full of errors. Not only were there errors in the children's names, but alsothankfullyin the prognosis.

A quick look at the Find A Grave entry for the perpetrator of the murdershead of the household, David G. Spraggsrevealed, for instance, that Ina had, indeed, lived beyond that fateful year of 1894. It wasn't long before she could be found in her grandfather's home in the 1900 census

Realizing it was in a Spragg household where I found Ina, right away we realize yet another reporting error: no matter how it was spelled, Ina was not an Onstott.

The elder Spraggnow, himself, on his second wife, Matildawas still resident in Greene County, Pennsylvania, the same place from where David Spragg and his first wife had set out for a brighter future in Missouri.

Ina remained in her grandparents' home in Greene County through the 1910 census, growing up with her father's half brothers in the same home in which he likely was raised. Though grandfather Caleb Spragg and his wife were no longer alive by the time of the 1920 census, Ina was still there with her uncle, a man barely three years older than she was.

According to a note someone posted on her Find A Grave memorial, Ina completed high school in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, then graduated from nursing school in Wheeling, West Virginia. Ina never married. One wonders just how much a role the trauma of that event played in her decision to follow a career in nursing. She went on to do post-graduate work in Michigan and finally settled in Lawton, Oklahoma, where we can find her in the 1930 census.

As for the one listed, back in the newspaper report of the family horror in Missouri, as Ina's brother Clint Onstatt, it turns out he was, indeed, an Onstott, and step-brother to Ina. At first, I had believed the newspaper reports enough to assume he had died shortly after the 1894 tragedy, but a hint on my family tree at Ancestry alerted me to the possibility that that might not be so.

It was a record from the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index that revealed the son of John Onstott and Lucinda Wells was actually named Clinton Burrell Onstott. Recovering from whatever wounds were inflicted upon him by his stepfather, David Spragg, Clint survived for another sixty eight years, dying in Paducah, Kentucky, in 1962. Though he was married twice, throughout the decennial census records, I couldn't find mention of any children of his own.

There was one other child who long outlived that dreadful day in Ridgeway, Missouri. That was the child whose eyewitness report triggered that cascade of journalistic errors: Dora Onstott, herself. We'll take a peek at what the rest of life brought to her, tomorrow.

Above: Ina Lee Spragg in household of her paternal grandfather, Caleb Spragg, in Greene County, Pennsylvania, from the 1900 U.S. Census; image courtesy



  1. Survivors! I wonder how much they talked about it or if it was too hard and they pushed it out of their minds:(

    1. That's what I wonder. Thinking about the stories I know from prior generations in the early 1900s--the type where such things never got mentioned--I tend to think it was not talked about much. Would love to know, though, just how they got beyond such a tragedy in their own lives.

  2. I just hope they didn't feel guilty about it - they might have thought they "caused it" or "triggered it" or even just felt guilty because they survived.

    1. If nothing else, the dilemma about staying to help--or rescuing the baby, for instance--must have haunted them, even though there was likely nothing they could have done, as children.


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