The Villisca Axe Murder Victims

The family of Josiah B. Moore, Lena and Ina Stillinger

Josiah B. Moore
Josiah B. Moore was one of Villisca's most prominent businessmen. At the time of his death, he was survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. C.C. Moore of Villisca, brothers; John Moore of Summerfield, Kansas, George Moore of Portland, Oregon, Fen Moore of Red Oak, James, Charlie, Ross and Harry of Villisca, and sisters, Mrs. George Fisher of Villisca and Miss Minnie Moore of Omaha.

Josiah married Sarah Montgomery on December 6th of 1899 at the home of her parents. Josiah and Sarah Moore had 4 children; Herman, Katherine, Boyd and Paul. Josiah had been a resident of Villisca for 13 years and was employed by Frank Jones at the Jones Store for nine years.

Sarah Montgomery (Moore)
Sarah Montgomery (Moore) was born in Knox County, Illinois in 1873 and moved to Iowa with her parents Mr. and Mrs. John Montgomery and her sister, Mary, in approx. 1894. She was thirty-nine years old and the mother of four children when she was murdered in her bed. Sarah was an active member of the Presbyterian Church and led the Children's Day Exercises on June 9th.

Survivors included: her parents, Mrs. Mary Van Gilder (sister), Fay Van Gilder (niece), Lee Van Gilder (nephew), and Mrs. Mary Kingan (grandmother who lived with the Montgomery family).

Among the suspects immediately after the murders was Sarah's brother-in-law, Lee Van Gilder. The ex-husband of Sarah's sister, Mary, Van Gilder had a few previous brushes with law enforcement and was known to be prone to violence. Although he and his wife had divorced, there was apparently enough bad blood between the two for him to be a suspect. He was later cleared.

The Children of Josiah and Sarah Moore

Herman, the eldest of the Moore children was born in 1901 and was 11 years-old at the time of his death. It was said that Herman was quite his father's son and was often seen at his side.

Katherine, born just two years after Herman in 1903, was 10 years-old when she was killed. The Stillinger sisters, Lena and Ina were close friends and it was at Katherine's request that they spent the night with the Moore family on June 9th,1912.

Boyd and Paul were the youngest Moore children. Aged 7 and 5, respectively, at the time of their murders, only one photograph of the two boys has ever been presented. The photographs shown here were obviously taken when the boys were much younger than they were at the time of their deaths in 1912.

The Stillinger Sisters

Lena Gertrude Stillinger and her sister Ina May were the daughters of Joseph and Sarah Stillinger. Both girls were born on the Stillinger family farm just outside of Villisca. Lena was 12 years old when she was murdered and from the position of her body, it was concluded that she was the only victim that had attempted to fight off her attacker. Many experts have also suggested that Lena was the victim of some type of sexual molestation by her killer. Ina May and Lena had 7 surviving siblings, Edith, Ed, Lester, David, Blanche, Ralph, and Ada Lou. Both members of the Presbyterian Church and the Junior Society they participated with the Moore children in the Children's Day activities at the Presbyterian Church on the night of their murderers. Ina was eight at the time of her death. The Stillinger sisters are buried side-by-side in the Villisca Cemetery.