Iowa County in Iowa

Iowa County in Iowa

Frank Searway


Frank Searway
AKA Searaway, Serway, Seraway, Seareway
43 YOA
Lincoln Township
Rural Millersburg, IA
Near Marengo
Iowa County
May 8, 1911


Note: Mr. Searway’s last name has been spelled differently in historical papers, including Serway, Seraway, Searway, Searaway and Seareway. The Iowa GenWeb Death Records Index for Iowa County, Iowa, lists his surname as Searaway, though his gravestone in Longstreth Cemetery shows it as Searway. Marriage records for his sister, Francis, spell her maiden name Searaway.


Millersburg in Iowa County

Millersburg in Iowa County

Frank Searway, a 43-year-old single farmer, had just sold a horse for $850 when he was murdered and buried in his barn about six miles northwest of Millersburg, Iowa, on or around May 8, 1911.

Courtesy the Williamsburg Journal-Tribune,

Courtesy the Williamsburg Journal-Tribune, July 27, 1911

Searway lived alone in his Lincoln Township home in Iowa County, and was last seen drinking beer with friends in Millersburg. He went missing sometime between Sunday, May 7, and Monday, May 8, 1911.

According to a Williamsburg Journal-Tribune article dated Thursday, July 13, 1911, neighbors thought for a time he had gone to see his sister in Benton County, whom he visited often. They suspected something was wrong when he stayed gone so long, and wrote his sister in Vinton asking about him.

When the sister replied that Frank had not been there, a number of men organized a search party on Sunday, July 9, 1911, and set out to find him.

One search party member saw loose dirt in Searway’s barn, and began digging at it with his foot, uncovering part of Searway’s leg and then a pair of shoes.

“The coroner and sheriff were sent for,” the paper reported. “They dug him up and on examination found the wounds.”

frank-searway-gravestoneCourtesy photo Dawn/John Vesely,
Frank Searway is buried in the Longstreth Pioneer Cemetery in Iowa County.

Searway’s skull and chest were crushed, as if he’d been beaten with a club, and he’d also been shot three times in the head before being buried in his own stable.

Area residents believed Searway had been robbed before being killed.

According to Searway’s certificate of death, he’d been murdered with a 32 caliber gun.

The township trustees interred Searway’s remains in the Longstreth Cemetery Sunday evening, July 9, 1911.

The Journal-Tribune referred to Searway as “a harmless, inoffensive man, living alone and troubling no one,” and called his death “deeply deplored in a community” and “one of the worst tragedies in the annals of Iowa County.”

In another article dated July 27, 1911, the Journal-Tribune wrote:

By the process of development it is quite likely that the officials may uncover the dastardly crime. The old theory that “Murder will out” has held good in every case since Cain’s and there is every reason to believe that the Lincoln township murder will not prove an exception.

It proved to be an exception.

On Saturday, Sept. 9, 1911, Governor Beryl F. Carroll posted a reward of $300 for the apprehension of Frank Searway’s murderer or murderers. “State to Aid in Search for Murderer of Iowa County Hermit,” the Gazette printed in the subtitle of the September 9 article, which ended with a notice that, “The authorities of Iowa county have been unable to make any headway in the case.”

Hidden skull found nearly century later

On June 12, 2007, construction workers found a skull inside a metal box in the attic of the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma.

In a Dubuque Telegraph-Herald article dated Sunday, June 24, 2007, Poweshiek County Sheriff Tom Sheets said he believed the human skull found in the courthouse belonged to Searway.

Gazette map of skull found at courthouse

Courtesy The Gazette, Sat., June 23, 2007

“We’ve found a possible grave site where the victim was buried,” Sheets told the Telegraph-Herald.

Sheets said she skull might have been taken in the late 1930s for use as evidence.

In addition to the skull, officials also found decayed clothing and leather belts.

While officials transferred the skull to the state’s Medical Examiner’s Office for positive identification, local historians indicated it belonged to Frank Searway, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported on July 13, 2007.

Gazette reporter Dave Rasdal wrote in his column that day:

A 1975 history of nearby Longstreth Cemetery indicates Searway’s skull was kept for years in a courthouse as evidence. His murder was never solved.

If the skull turns out to be Searway’s, it means he was buried without his head.

“That’s what we’re going to have to assume,” said Poweshiek County Chief Deputy Mark Martin, “that he was buried without his skull.”

~ Dave Rasdal, The Gazette, July 13, 2007

About Frank Searway

Frank Searway was born May 23, 1867, to Joseph and Frances (Dustile) Searway.

He is buried at the Longstreth Pioneer Cemetery in Iowa County.

He was survived by his sister, Francis (Mrs. William Henry Paul).

Information Needed

Anyone with information regarding Frank Searway’s unsolved murder is asked to contact the Iowa County Sheriff’s Office at (319) 642-7307 or the Poweshiek County Sheriff’s Office at (641) 623-5679.

  • “For Friday the 13th, read these tales of 2 heads,” by Dave Rasdal, The Gazette, Friday, July 13, 2007, Page 9B
  • “Skull might belong to victim of 1911 slaying,” Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Sunday, June 24, 2007
  • “Skull Found in Courthouse May Belong To 1911 Slaying Victim,”, June 23, 2007
  • “Sheriff tentatively identifies skull found in courthouse,” The Gazette, Saturday, June 23, 2007, Page 2B
  • “Poweshiek courthouse workers discover skull,” by Christoph Trappe, The Gazette, Wednesday, June 13, 2007, Page 2B
  • “REWARD FOR SLAYER OF SEAREWAY: State to Aid in Search for Murderer of Iowa County Hermit,” Special to The Gazette, The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, Saturday, September 9, 1911, Page 1
  • “The Lincoln Township Murder,” Williamsburg Journal-Tribune, July 27, 1911
  • “Millersburg: The Finding of the Dead Body of Frank Seraway [sic],” Williamsburg Journal-Tribune, Thursday, July 13, 1911
  • Frank Searway (1867 – 1911) – Find a Grave Memorial,
  • Certificate of Death for Frank Searway, State of Iowa, Department of Vital Statistics,
  • IAGenWeb: Iowa County Death Records Index, Book 2, 1907 – 1911
  • Person Details for Francis Searaway, “Iowa, Marriages, 1809-1992” –
  • Person Details for Francis Searaway, “Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934” –


One Response to Frank Searway

  1. Tim says:

    Rest In Peace Frank, you are not forgotten.

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