Side Note 001 – Anna Bowles Carney Gunned Down By Husband
So often, while writing a podcast episode, I stumble upon a secondary story that I want to include in the episode. Sometimes I can find a spot for it and sometimes it gets lost in the notes. You may have heard me say, “Side note…” followed by a little snippet of information during my earlier podcasts. Well, now I’ve found a way to dive a little deeper into those interesting extras.
Welcome to the first edition of ‘Side Notes’. Today we look at what happened to Floyd Collins’ sister nine years after the events that took place in Episode 63 – Floyd Collins: Trapped in a Cold Kentucky Cave.
If you haven’t listened to Episode 63, please do. It’s available on all major podcast streaming services. For those who haven’t, Floyd Collins was a cave explorer looking for a new ‘show cave’ in the middle of the Kentucky Cave Wars in 1925. One chilly January morning, Floyd became stuck inside ‘Sand Cave’, where he remained for 16 days (although it’s believed that he died on the 13th day). The story caught the attention of the entire nation and thousands of folks came from all around to be near the carnival-like atmosphere that surrounded the opening to the cave.
Stumbled onto a new story
While researching the episode I learned of the awful events that took place in 1934 involving Floyd’s sister, Anna.
Arthur Carney was born in Clay County, Tennessee in February of 1898. His father ran a farm and by the age of 12, Arthur was reported as a farm hand in the 1910 U.S. Census. During World War I he enlisted in the army. In 1918 he was dishonorably discharged by the U.S. Army which meant he wouldn’t receive benefits later in life.
Anna B. Collins was born to Leonidas and Martha Jane Collins in Edmonson County, Kentucky in 1895. She was the third of seven children, with James and Floyd Collins ten and eight years her senior.
The Collins family owned a farm and dabbled in the Cave Tour business throughout much of her childhood.
In 1921, Anna gave birth to the unwed couple’s first child, Evelyn. The following year, on June 15th, Anna Collins and Arthur Carney were married. A week later, her oldest brother James died from Typhoid Fever. In September of 1923, Evelyn succumbed to food poisoning while eating vegetables.
A Growing Family
The couple waited until 1925 to have their second child, Raymond. Anna was pregnant at the time of her brother Floyd’s cave story. Twins Vera and Veda were born in 1928 and finally Betty Jean arrived in 1930.
By then, the couple had relocated to Moline, Illinois where a 1930s census lists Arthur as a Taxi Cab driver.
Vera’s Bad Luck
In 1933, at the age of 5, Vera was attempting to light a small heating stove when her dress caught on fire. Anna heard the screams and rushed into the room to put out the fire. Both were taken to the hospital and treated for their burns.
The following April, Vera was crossing a street in Moline when she was struck by a street car and thrown to the ground. She reportedly received “severe abrasions” to her legs and face.
Trouble at Home
In August of 1934, Arthur, Anna, and the children made a trip back home to Cave City to visit their families. They intended on staying in Kentucky but Arthur was called back to Moline for work. Arthur’s brothers noticed nothing wrong and thought that the couple were getting along well.
But things were getting uncomfortable around the Carney home, however. Arthur had reportedly become smitten with another woman and asked for a divorce on numerous occasions. On Monday, November 12th, the police were called to the Carney residence after Anna alleged that Arthur had become abusive.
On Tuesday of that week, the couple appeared in court and the charges were dismissed after Arthur promised to behave himself and to provide better for his wife and four children.
Things Escalate Quickly
On the morning of Friday, November 16th, Arthur Carney was seated at the dining table eating his breakfast. As he did so, Anna was preparing his lunch for him to take to work. The children, including nine-year-old Raymond, were awake and in other rooms within the home.
Raymond heard the couple fighting which was a common practice of late. The next thing he heard was his mother scream as Arthur stabbed Anna with a knife. Then came the first gunshot. Anna and the kids fled out the back door of the home where Arthur appeared, .32 caliber revolver in hand, and shot twice more.
A next-door neighbor watched Anna leave through the back door, clutching her side. Then she heard the gunshots and saw Anna reach for her back in two different spots. By the time she made it to the door of a different neighbor, her body fell into it, opening the door and collapsing on the floor. The couple quickly moved her and the children into a bedroom as Arthur went back into his home and fired off one last round into his heart. Anna died just minutes later from a stab wound and three gunshots.
In the Following Days
When the families back home in Cave City heard the horrible news, they got together and gathered enough money, $35, to take a taxi the five hundred miles to Moline. Inside the cab were Arthur’s brothers, William, Lester, and John along with Anna’s brother Marshall and his wife.
None of the families were well off but knew that someone needed to be there for the now orphaned children.
They arrived on the 18th and quickly visited their three nieces and nephew. On the morning of the 17th, the children were watched by neighbors, now they were under the care of the Moline Police Matron and on their way to the Bethany Home on Rock Island.
On the evening of Monday, November 19th, a funeral service was held for Anna and Arthur. The following day they were buried at Valhalla Cemetery in Moline. The hopes of both families were to move the bodies from Moline back to the Mammoth Cave area. Due to Arthur’s dishonorable discharge in 1918, the government would not be providing assistance to do so.
After numerous court hearings it was decided that the children would return to Kentucky where they would be split up to live with Arthur’s three brothers. Nine-year-old Raymond moved in with William. The six-year-old twins, Vera and Veda, joined Lester’s family and four-year-old Betty Jean would stay with Uncle John.
Despite the three different homes, the children were all within ten miles of one another and close to their mother’s family as well.
A Team Effort
The children were not left with much. There was a $250 payout from their father’s employer and each child was awarded $100 from the government, paid out in ten payments of $10 each.
The kids were all raised by loving family members and seemed to lead long, hopefully happy lives. Raymond was a WWII vet who served with the U.S. Navy as an engineer with the Sea Bee’s. He drove a truck for the Teamsters Local 142 for 39 years and was married for 57 years. He passed away in 2003.
Vera passed away at her home in Arizona at the age of 71 in 1999. She was a homemaker and active member of her church for most of her life. She’d been married for 54 years.
Her twin sister, Veda, passed away at the age of 81 in 2009. She married twice and had three children. Veda worked for a long time at the local Seagram’s Distillery and was also an active member of her church.
Betty Jean died just last June at the age of 91. She married at the age of 17 and stayed married for 72 years. Together, Betty Jean and her husband opened Nungesser Plumbing in Mulvane, Kansas. They had five children, 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.
In The End
Despite witnessing and living through a truly horrific event each of the four Carney children went on to live long, seemingly fulfilling, lives. And despite being poor and having problems and families of their own, Arthur and Anna’s siblings dropped everything to get the Carney children as far away from the events of November 16th, 1934, as possible.
It’s a story of tragedy met with family and love that turned out okay in the end.