Marie Clapasson Mack

Our genealogy society responds to requests for help relating to research in our area.  Here’s one I worked on recently.

The request for information about Marie was a simple one that came through our website. Gérard from France was looking for an ancestor who came to the US in 1895, and who married in 1907 a man named Edward Mack, barber. He had their information from the 1910 census, and found Ed’s burial information in the on-line Missoula Cemetery interment records, but Marie was not with him. Gérard’s request was simply to know how to find out when and where Marie died, if in Missoula.

The answer was easy to find – a trip to the library to check the cemetery index and biographical sheets from the Missoulian vital records index. First, I checked a few other resources. I confirmed that Marie or Mary Mack was not listed at the Missoula City Cemetery (although Ed was), nor in Find-A-Grave (many at Saint Mary’s are listed.) Knowing that the Missoula Cemetery office has more than just the burial information for some interments, I sent an e-mail to the office to see if there were any clues in Ed’s record that might lead to Marie. I found the image for Marie’s marriage record to Ed at, and was surprised to see that it was an interracial marriage, performed by a Justice of the Peace, not in the Catholic church. Mary’s name was recorded as Chapasson, not previously married, and Ed was divorced.

At Missoula Public Library, I easily found Mary Mack in the cemetery index books, and she was at Saint Mary’s. The bio sheet included the date, page, and column number for the newspaper items. With that, I was able to go directly to her death notices in the newspaper microfilm. I saved the images to a USB drive, so they were easy to e-mail to Gérard.
Gérard shared that he had a Canada border crossing record where Marie Clapasson named her contact in Missoula. I found that record on Ancestry, and it appears that the person listed was Mrs. Gleim. Mary Gleim is a notorious figure in Missoula history, known for, among other things, operating brothels. Her addresses, and those of Marie (from city directories) put them living adjacent to each other, in the downtown area of Missoula. I don’t know what type of relationship existed between Marie Clapasson and Mary Gleim. I found no arrest records for Marie during a check of historic jail records at UM’s Mansfield Library Special Collections, nor at the new Missoula County Records Center. Gérard later said that he was aware of the possible connection to Mrs. Gleim. The staff at MCRC also checked their naturalization records for Marie, but didn’t find her. Perhaps she claimed automatic citizenship based on her marriage to Ed Mack.

I went to Saint Mary’s cemetery where a staff member escorted me to Mary Mack’s burial place. She has no headstone. She probably had a flat “paver” with her name. Probing with a large metal spike didn’t reveal it, and it may have disintegrated after 99 years. I took special note of the location, then used Google Maps (satellite view) zoomed in all the way, plus street view (Marie was close to the fence) and was able to give Gérard a virtual visit to the burial site of his great grandmother.
I received an e-mail back from the Missoula Cemetery. They found no information about Marie Clapasson Mack with her husband’s record, but the burial record for Ed’s second wife Callie indicated that she had been murdered!

I visited the courthouse to get death certificates for Marie, Callie, and Ed, then went back to the library for the bio sheets for Callie and Ed. The newspaper reported that Callie had been found with a bullet wound in her head, and a gun in her hand. The initial thought was suicide, but investigators ruled that out. A female associate and a former male guest at Callie’s boarding house were initially charged with Callie’s death, I read that Ed Mack was charged a few days later with killing his wife. The newspaper vital records index did not have the date of Ed’s trial. Back at MCRC, I was able to read the trial record. Sadly, it only listed the charges, the list of jurors, and the list of witnesses (which included the two people originally charged in the murder). The jury instructions included explanations of first and second degree murder, manslaughter, premeditation, and other information the jurors would need for the case. The file included no list of evidence and no testimony or law enforcement reports, but a final sheet of paper that said Ed was acquitted. His death notice in The Missoulian said that Ed had come to Missoula to play baseball. Perhaps he was part of one of the local company teams. He worked as a horse trainer in his earlier days, and was a barber until he became too ill to work. The notice referred to the murder of Callie, saying that he was acquitted after a lengthy trial, and vowed to find the real killers.

Feeling the full story of Marie’s husband wouldn’t be known without more information about the trial, I used the microfilmed Missoulian for February 11, 12, and 13, 1925 to review the coverage of event. The reporter commented on the large number of people who came to watch. The State was seeking the death penalty if Ed Mack was found guilty. The coroner and a doctor ruled out the possibility that the wounds could have been self inflicted, as she had three bullet wounds, anyone of which could have been fatal, and the body had no powder burns. Prosecution witnesses reported hearing three gunshots, and a voice they identified as Mack’s, in the area of the woodshed behind Columbia Rooms, Callie’s business. However, some of these witness statements were not consistent with their previous testimony at the earlier inquest, and some were specifically contradicted. Apparently in response to criticism about the quality of the character of some of those witnesses, the prosecutor was quoted as saying, “One can’t get witnesses from a Sunday school for a crime that is committed in a house of ill-repute.” Defense witnesses testified seeing Ed at his barber shop during the time in question, and character witnesses described him as a good citizen. In the end, the jury deliberated only 40 minutes before acquitting Ed Mack of the murder, to the approval of the large crowd which had attended the trial.

I was glad to have the opportunity to work on this research request. Since my personal research doesn’t include this geographical area, it was fun to learn what wonderful resources we have available right in our own home town. And most of all, the staff at every stop was friendly and helpful.