Seduction, Betrayal, Retribution

The true story of Kate McDade and Clifton Vernon Floyd.

Clifton Vernon Floyd was born into a farming family March 1878 in Upshur county in northeastern Texas. 1  Twenty years later, in July 1899, he married an Iowa girl, miss Virginia Ellen Thompson, in Clinton, Iowa. 2  They had a son seven months later and he was working as a piano tuner.  3  The next we hear of Floyd is a 1900 advertisement for his services as a piano tuner in Shelbyville, Missouri.  He listed his residence as Keokuk, Iowa. 4

Floyd brought his wife and child to Temple, Texas sometime after 1900 and abandoned them there a year later.  Her father came from Illinois and took his daughter and grandson home with him.   Floyd had been busy, managing to stir up trouble for himself in numerous places he traveled to, including Sedalia, Joplin and other Missouri towns, and also in Illinois and Coalgate, I. T. 5   In May 1904 he was reported to be under arrest in Hannibal, Missouri charged with embezzling a goodly sum of money from Miss Irene Willis, the owner of a music store. 6  He apparently jumped bail for there was an arrest warrant out for him for the embezzlement charge. 7

C.V. Floyd.

C. V. Floyd was a dapper, self-assured, slick-talking salesman who traveled over much of the United States plying his trade as a piano tuner and entertaining as a musician.  He traveled extensively, and he had money, allowing him opportunity to wine and dine the women.  It is evident that his motto was "love 'em and leave 'em" as letters found on him after his death indicated "he had married and deserted at least four women in Illinois, St. Louis, Mo., and other parts of the Union, also that he was corresponding with ten other women, with all of whom he seemed to be on intimate terms". 8  His disregard for people and laws had him using assumed names to avoid being discovered as he traveled.

History Professor James Marten wrote in the Piano Technicians Journal "... the many itinerant piano tuners making their livings in rural America during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries earned a poor reputation as con-artists, seducers, and blackguards ...". 9  C. V. Floyd fit that description.

His penchant for marrying, abusing and abandoning women would have one more victim – but he was too arrogant to entertain the thought that he might be called to account for it.

On one of his trips to Hempstead, Texas he made the acquaintance of miss Kate McDade, daughter of a prominent Waller County family.  He tried to win her favor, but she resisted, and thus became a challenge to his wiles.  Her family didn't trust Floyd and warned Kate to stay away from him, which made her even more of a challenge, so he romanced her secretly on his periodic visits to Hempstead.  He planned to use a scheme he had perfected on previous occasions – he arranged for a fake marriage, including a phony minister and a forged marriage license. and he began to set up a plan to seduce her.

Kate was not getting any younger, she was 26, and he was, after all, charming, had money and could support them, so she eventually accepted his advances.  Finally, Floyd wore her down and when he asked her to run away with him and get married, she happily agreed.  Floyd had planned for this moment for a long time.  He had a form prepared that looked like a marriage license filled in with their names.  The coup de grace was the actor he hired in Houston to pose as a minister to perform a fake wedding ceremony.  He had laid his trap well.  All this to seduce and ravish Kate.

Kate packed her bags, told her parents she was going to Houston to visit a friend, and joined C. V. at the railroad depot in Hempstead.  It was not unusual for her to visit relatives and friends in Brenham and other parts of the state from time-to-time, so her family thought nothing unusual when she said she was leaving to visit friends. 10 11 12 13

Floyd, a man always on the move, had several bags, including his tuning tools.  They caught the train to Houston where the charade proceeded as he had planned – Kate was shown the marriage certificate and the "Methodist minister" performed the wedding rites.  It was October, 1904 and she was now a happy bride, or so she thought.

The couple left on their honeymoon for the coastal resort at Matagorda Bay after which Kate accompanied Floyd to numerous places while he attended to his business tuning pianos.  He used assumed names when he purchased train tickets and when they checked into hotels.  This puzzled Kate, but Floyd dismissed her concerns with his glib lies.  In reality, Floyd used assumed names when he traveled because he had outstanding warrants for his arrest in several places and the families of angry women, some of whom he had also tricked into false marriages, were on the lookout for him.

It is not known how much time elapsed before Kate's family realized she had eloped with Floyd, but it must have been several weeks.  When they became aware of it, her father, Robert Rivers McDade, Sr., asked her brothers to go and find the couple and, if they were really married, to bring them back to the family at Hempstead.  Three of her brothers set out to find her.  It was a small town and everyone knew Kate and the brothers found people who had seen her board the train with Floyd.  They discovered that they had gone to Houston, whereupon they took the next train for Houston where, once again, they had to play detective.

Checking at the Harris County courthouse they discovered there was no record of a marriage.  The realization their sister had been deceived changed the search from a civil mission to bring the couple home to the family to one of avenging their sister's honor.  The need to find them becoming even more urgent, they inquired at the hotels in Houston to find any record of them, finally asking the station master and workers at the railroad depot if anyone had seen them and learned that they had gone to Matagorda.

Possible route taken by C.V. Floyd and Kate McDade.

The newly married couple had enjoyed their time together at Matagorda, after which she began to tag along as he visited numerous towns, staying one or two nights at each hotel, while he tuned pianos.

On October 20th, Floyd was headed to Eagle Lake, but stopped on the way at Bay City for a couple of days so he could respond to requests for a piano tuner.  They then took the Cane Belt train14 for Eagle Lake where they spent another couple of days as he tuned more pianos.

At Eagle Lake, Floyd explained to the hotel clerk that he was using the alias W. H. Lehman as some people were looking for him to do him harm.  When he got wind that the McDade brothers were on their way, he wasn't too concerned as he'd faced situations like this before.  He abandoned Kate at the hotel in Eagle Lake, telling her they were not really married, and beat a hasty exit to Hallettsville where he had other work.  He felt certain the brothers would stop when they found their sister and attend to her and, hopefully, wouldn't know where he went or bother to follow him.

The brothers had left Houston via the afternoon Southern Pacific for Bay City, intending to go on to Matagorda.  When they arrived at Bay City, they discovered that Kate and Floyd had just left on the Cane Belt train for Eagle Lake.  It was the last train for Eagle Lake that day.  They would not tolerate any delay in rescuing their sister, so they looked up Ben Kuykendall and paid him twelve dollars to take them by wagon as quickly as he could the 25 miles to Wharton.  It was 5 o'clock when they left for Wharton and they arrived there at 11 o'clock that night.  They went to T. Able's establishment, woke him up, and hired him to drive them in his livery rig the 26 miles north to Eagle Lake, another six or seven hour drive in the middle of the night.

The three exhausted brothers arrived in Eagle Lake about 5 a.m. in the wee hours of the 24th.  They found their bereft sister at the hotel.  Kate was heartbroken and terribly embarrassed but was overjoyed to see her brothers and the eldest brother packed her up and accompanied her back home.  The two remaining brothers, Rivers and John, learned that Floyd (a.k.a. Lehman) had gone to Hallettsville, so they took the morning train there to find him. 15

Floyd's libertine abuse of the ladies finally went too far when he defiled the only sister of the McDade brothers.  When the brothers arrived in Hallettsville on the morning of the 24th, they took a carriage from the train depot to the Park Hotel where they inquired of the desk clerk about Floyd.  They learned that a man named Lehman, who matched the description of Floyd, was registered there but was out on business at the time.  They registered at the hotel, using assumed names themselves so as not to alert Floyd, and proceeded to get some much needed rest.  The next morning, they had breakfast and went out and sat on the porch of the hotel and patiently waited for Floyd to return.

Floyd had done some work in Hallettsville that day and walked up the drive to the Park hotel for lunch, whereupon he was confronted by the brothers and retribution commenced.  On the afternoon of Tuesday, October 25th, 1904, as Floyd approached the hotel, the brothers met him and exchanged heated words with him.  Floyd dropped his grip containing his tools and appeared to reach for a weapon.  R. R. McDade, Jr., a deputy sheriff in Waller county, pulled his revolver and shot Floyd four times with his Colt 44, killing him.  It would have been five times, but the fifth round wouldn't fire, even though he snapped it several times. 16 17 18  After Floyd was killed, the two men waited for law enforcement.  The first to arrive was City Marshal East, who had been having lunch in the hotel.  Marshal East arrested them and took them to the Lavaca County court house and turned them over to Sheriff Noble.

C.V. Floyd's death report.

R. R. McDade, Jr., and his brother John declined to make any statement, but telephoned the news to their father R. R. McDade, Sr., who retained Hempstead attorney and Judge R. H. Hannay to come with him to bail his sons out of jail.  Judge Hannay had other obligations so the senior McDade retained a different attorney, Judge J. D. Harvey, and accompanied by the junior McDade's employer, Sheriff J. C. Lipscomb, and their brothers James and Wright McDade, all of Hempstead, they arrived the next Monday, October 31, 1904. 19 20  A writ of habeas corpus was sworn out and the two brothers were released on $2000 bond each, with R. R. McDade, Sr. and J. D. Harvey as sureties.

The Hallettsville New Era reported that the amount of the bail had been agreed upon the evening before at a meeting of the relatives of the deceased, McDade's lawyers, and the district attorney and that Floyd's relatives, who are all respectable people, seem disposed to not take any active part in McDade's prosecution.

Six months later, on Monday, April 24, 1905, the two brothers were put on trial at Hallettsville, Lavaca county. 21  Testimony was heard from R. R. McDade, Jr., who unapologetically confessed to shooting C. V. Floyd.  The jury also heard very emotional testimony from their sister, Kate, who related with tears and sobs the story of her betrayal.  She told how Floyd had made her believe that he intended to marry her, how at Houston he had shown her a marriage license (which was in reality forged), how they were married by an imposter posing as a Methodist preacher, how they had happily embarked on their honeymoon only to be abandoned later at Eagle Lake, Floyd telling her that they were not married and how at last, to her great joy, her brothers came, one of whom took her home. 22

Evidence to Floyd's character was presented to the court, including his criminal offenses in various states and outstanding warrants, the several women he had pretended to marry and had abandoned and the fact that he had only a year ago abandoned a wife and child in Temple, Texas.   The defense attorney presented no plea for self defense.  Neither the prosecution or defense presented any arguments and the district attorney asked Judge Kennon to instruct the jury to find a verdict of not guilty.  John McDade did not shoot Floyd and R. R. McDade had avenged his sister's ruin so they were acquitted of the crime.

That same day, back in Hempstead, a shootout occurred in the Waller county courthouse related to a prohibition rally,23  Four men, including John and Tom Pinckney, were killed.  Waller county Sheriff Lipscomb and members of the McDade family were at Hallettsville for the trial but were called upon to return to Hempstead immediately.

This is a true story compiled from newspaper articles and historical and genealogical records.  The principals in it are Clifton Vernon "C.V." Floyd, an itinerant musician and traveling piano tuner who was 28 when he was killed.  The McDade family consisted of four brothers: James, who was 33, deputy sheriff Robert Rivers McDade, Jr., who went by either "R.R." or "Rivers" was 32, Wright McDade who was 28 and John who was 22.  Kate was their only sister, 26 years old at the time.  She would marry for real two years later.  Their father, Robert Rivers McDade Sr., was 57 years old.  It is unclear which brother took her home, but it was either James or Wright McDade.

Clifton Vernon "C. V." Floyd was buried in the Hallettsville city cemetery the next afternoon, Wedneday, October 26th 1904.  Thirteen months later, December 1905, his family had his body exhumed and reburied in their family plot at Corpus Christi.24 25  He is on the 1900 census 26 living in Louisiana, Pike county, Missouri with his wife Virginia, who was born 1879 in Iowa, and their son Clifton Jr. born 1899 in Iowa.  This appears to be the family he abandoned in Temple, Texas a few years before his death.  His son, Clifton Joseph Floyd, became a deputy sheriff in Jim Wells county, Texas and he died in 1971 in Alice, Texas.27

The year after the trial, 1906, Kate married Morgan Moore McCown.  They had two children.  She lived 41 years more and died in 1947. 28  Neither Robert Rivers "R. R." McDade, Jr. or his brother John ever married.  R. R. McDade died in 1914. 29  John McDade became a druggist, being a partner in stores at Smithville and later, in 1919, when he moved back to Hempstead to open The Boulware & McDade drugstore with his partner Searcy Baker "S. B." Boulware (the son of James Boulware and Maria Hargrave).  He committed suicide in the back of his store in 1929. 30 31   Both men lived out their lives in Hempstead and both are buried in the Hempstead City Cemetery.  (Maria Hargrave was a younger sister of Cyllanae Hargrave, who was married to George Lynch and whose children were murdered in 1878 – see the Lynch Family Murders.)

See the newspaper articles about C. V. Floyd.


Footnotes

  1. 1880 census Upshur county, TX United States Census, 1880 FamilySearch
  2. Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934 C.V. Floyd and Virginia E. Thompson, July 29, 1899 FamilySearch
  3. 1900 census Buffalo Twp, Louisiana, Pike, Missouri United States Census, 1900 FamilySearch
  4. C. V. Floyd – Piano Tuner. The Shelby County Herald, (Shelbyville, MO), Wednesday, February 21, 1900, p. 4, col. 3. Newspapers.com transcription
  5. Habeus Corpus Trial Halletsville Herald, (Hallettsville, TX), Thursday, April 13, 1905, p. 2, col. 2. University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History transcription
  6. C. V. Floyd, Embezzler. St. Louis Globe-Democrat, (St. Louis, MO), Sunday, May 12, 1904, p. 9, col. 4. Newspapers.com transcription
  7. C. V. Floyd Wanted For Embezzlement. La Grange Journal, (La Grange, TX), Thursday, November 17, 1904, p. 3, col. 2. University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History transcription
  8. C. V. Floyd Killed. The Hallettsville New Era, (Hallettsville, TX), Friday, October 28, 1904, p. 3, col. 1. University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History transcription
  9. Piano Assassins and Bell Ringers: Itinerant Piano Tuners at the Turn-of-the-Century Marten, James; Marquette University History Department; Piano Technicians Journal, p 18, May 2014 Piano Technicians Guild, Inc.
  10. Kate McDade visits Mary Sallis The Brenham Daily Banner. (Brenham, TX.), Friday, May 22, 1896, Page 2, Col. 3 University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History.
  11. Kate McDade visits her cousin Kate Estes The Brenham Daily Banner. (Brenham, TX.), Sunday, November 21, 1897 Page: 3, Col. 4 University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History.
  12. Kate McDade returns to Hempstead The Brenham Daily Banner. (Brenham, TX.), Sunday, February 13, 1898 Page: 3, Col. 2 University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History.
  13. Kate McDade returns from visit to Caldwell The Brenham Daily Banner. (Brenham, TX.), Friday, June 28, 1901 Page: 1, Col. 5 University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History.
  14. Cane Belt Railroad Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia
  15. Floyd Killing Timeline The Matagorda County Tribune, (Bay City, TX), Friday, October 28, 1904, p. 9, col. 4. University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History transcription
  16. Details Of A Triple Tragedy The Fort Worth Record and Register, (Fort Worth, TX), Tuesday, April 25, 1905, p. 6, col. 2-3. University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History transcription
  17. C. V. Floyd Shot The Houston Post, Wednesday, October 26, 1904, p. 8, col. 6. University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History transcription
  18. C. V. Floyd Death Certificate Texas Deaths, 1890-1976 FamilySearch
  19. Halletsville Killing. The Houston Post, Thursday, October 27, 1904, p. 5, col. 7. University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History transcription
  20. C. V. Floyd Killed. The Hallettsville New Era, (Hallettsville, TX), Friday, October 28, 1904, p. 3, col. 1. (ibid) University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History transcription
  21. Career Of John M. Pinckney The Houston Post, (Houston, TX), Tuesday, April 25, 1905, p. 1, col. 3-6. University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History transcription
  22. Criminal Matters The Hallettsville New Era, (Hallettsville, TX), Friday, April 28, 1905, p. 3, col. 1. University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History transcription
  23. Details Of A Triple Tragedy The Fort Worth Record and Register, (Fort Worth, TX), Tuesday, April 25, 1905, p. 6, col. 2-3. (ibid) University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History transcription
  24. C. V. Floyd Remains Exhumed. The Halletsville Herald, (Hallettsville, TX), Thursday, December 7, 1905, p. 12, col. 6. University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History transcription
  25. Clifton Vernon Floyd (1876-1904), 28 years old. FindaGrave.com
  26. 1900 census Buffalo Twp, Louisiana, Pike, Missouri United States Census, 1900 (ibid) FamilySearch
  27. Clifton Joseph Floyd (1899-1971), 71 years old. FindaGrave.com
  28. Kathrine McDade McCown (1878-1947), 68 years old. FindaGrave.com
  29. Robert Rivers McDade Jr. (1872-1914), 42 years old. FindaGrave.com
  30. Hempstead Druggist Found Shot To Death The Navasota Daily Examiner. (Navasota, TX.)), Monday, November 25, 1929, p. 1, col. 6. University Of North Texas Libraries, The Portal To Texas History transcription
  31. John Frederick McDade (1882-1929), 47 years old. FindaGrave.com

Newspaper articles may be read at Timeline of News Reports.