|New information on the
murder of Joel Walker has been uncovered, which sheds more light on my
original story. While doing research for a book on another topic, at
the Bartow Genealogical Library in Polk Co., an
article on this murder was found by Bea Reifeis. Knowing that Lee has
been researching this story, a staff member at the
library, presented the recently discovered
article, to her
viewing. After looking over this new article, Lee then called and read
to me. After much excitement and discussion, I now add this
information to the original story as an addendum. It is as
Mr. B. E. Busnell was from Minnesota, but in 1894 he decided to buy property in Polk Co., Florida and found the Benjamin Guy property to his liking. He had a young friend back home and invited him to Florida to help with his newest undertaking. Mr. Busnell wanted to grow tomatoes for commercial use. This friend was Luther M. Cody. Mr. Cody arrived at Fort Meade in mid-November and started for Midland, where Mr. Bushnell now lived. Thanksgiving came and went and Christmas was fast approaching. The weather was still warm. Mr. Bushnell had been wanting to "visit Lake Walk-in-the-Water to search for wild orange trees and decided to go the day before Christmas, so, with young Cody, they took the dim trail that leads to Kissimmee Island and turned off to Lake Walk-in-the-Water." The two men were on their way back home Christmas day, from this trip, when they decided to stop and make camp. Mr. Cody decided to explore the area while Mr. Bushnell completed dinner. It was on his excursion into the near woods and "partly dry swamp" that Mr. Cody came upon Joel's body, "deep in a muddy hole." After slipping from Joel's body a water-soaked belt, he hurried back to camp. Upon his arrival, he found two hunters talking with Mr. Bushnell and after hearing the story of a dead body all four of the men returned to the scene of the grisly discovery, where a water-soaked map was also found with Joel's name on it.
The original story tells the happenings from this point forward, so I will not repeat it here. What wasn't known before was that Lon Holland who had been given a life sentence for Joel's murder and "after serving many years was pardoned because of poor health," also that, "Death ended his freedom in a very few years."
It has also been reported, "years later a private review of this case revealed that Joel Walker had operated “blind Tiger” in the woods back from Fort Meade and had been arrested by Sheriff Ballard. He broke jail and threatened the sheriff with death if he tried to arrest him again. As a fugitive Joel kept to the woods and Ballard feared the man. Lonzo Holland was a weak-minded man who was probably used by the sheriff to trap the outlaw."
"Just how Joel Walker was killed was never known, but there was a strong suspicion that Ballard himself did the killing when Walker and Holland arrived at Walk-in-the-Water and that the body was carried into the swamp."
Source: Mr. Cody's narrative of his first Christmas in Florida, which appeared originally in the Highland News in 1939 and repeated in the Frostproof News...11 Oct 1968..."Early Days of Frostproof" written by Sophronia Carson Ohlinger.
Author: Linda Flowers