Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America's Heartland
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The Hossack Case

Frank and Eleanor Keller

Frank Keller was born in West Virginia in 1831 and married Eleanor McIntosh in 1851. Traveling in an ox-drawn wagon, they arrived in Warren County, Iowa, in 1854, shortly after the county opened its borders to settlers. When John and Margaret Hossack moved to the county in 1868, the Kellers were established on a farm in New Virginia, a few miles to the west of the Hossack property. Frank Keller and John Hossack, both leaders in the community, formed a friendship that lasted until Hossack's death.

Frank Keller and his wife both listened to confidences about family troubles from Margaret Hossack, who also asked Frank for help on several occasions. After Margaret left home on Thanksgiving 1899, Keller, along with Fred Johnston, traveled to the Hossack farmhouse to talk to the family and to try to reconcile the couple.

Keller was notified of the attack on John Hossack a few hours after the assault. He arrived at the farm shortly before John Hossack died. Keller was among the group of men who found the family ax—the supposed murder weapon—under the granary.

Keller's testimony about the ax and about the history of discord in the Hossack family was important to the prosecutors. Long-limbed and white-haired—known as “Uncle Frank” to most of the county—Keller was a distinctive presence in the courtroom. He proved to be an entertaining and garrulous witness who had to be admonished by the judge to keep his statements and stories responsive to the questions he was asked. Eleanor Keller also appeared as a witness at the first trial and was questioned about her conversations with Mrs. Hossack.

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Midnight Assassin copyright © 2017; Patricia L. Bryan and Thomas Wolf