Monday, June 24, 2019

The Reverend William R Cole part 2

Part 1

We will continue with a couple more articles on Bill, Claudia and Madaline.  Reporting the contents of the articles really doesn't capture the essence of the situation so they have been transcribed in full.  These articles are from the Kansas City Star, a "big town" newspaper and are without the quaintness of the weekly Gentry County newspaper.  They are down and dirty!

We learn a lot more about life at the McFall farm, about the tape that Bill took with them and a few other little nuggets. We hear from people who worked and stayed at the farm with the trio and from their landlords who seemed to truly care for Bill and "Linda."  A plus is, the photos that accompanied the articles were good enough post.

Kansas City Star
March 12, 1972
Harry Jones, Jr.

Manson ‘Kin’ Flee Missouri

McFall, Mo.- Life us quieter there now, less interesting.  The hippies have fled from McFall.
In their wake they left this little northwest Missouri town with the shudders.

Not because of anything they did here the last year and a half.  They were quite well behaved, in fact.  Didn’t bathe much, but most worked hard at their farming commune.

The shudders spring from the imagination as it contemplates what might have happened- retroactive whim-whams, call them- caused by acquisition of new information here about two weeks ago, right after the commune’s two full-time members hurriedly split for Kansas City 80 miles away in their old yellow pickup truck.

The new information was that three of the hippies, including the two that had been here the full 18 months, were former members of the demonic Charles Manson “family” of California.

The Manson family has not been much in the news lately, but its members are hard to forget- blamed for the mass murder of five persons at the Sharon Tate home one bloody summer night in 1969, of the wealthy La Bianca couple one night later, of Gary Hinman, musician, of “Shorty” Shea, Hollywood stunt man, and of God knows who else; the Satanic cult of zombie-like creatures, some of them, who reveled in wild, drug-fuzzed sex orgies, drank blood and killed on order whenever their egomaniac, racist, wizard-leader, pip-squeak Charlie Manson, said “kill.”

Lord Almighty, the 200 citizens of McFall had reason to exclaim, we might have all been murdered in our beds!

No one was, of course, Sheriff Ben Rainey of Gentry County can’t even think of an unsolved misdemeanor that might be attributed to them now.

One reason for this, apparently, is that the Rev. William (Billy) Cole, Mrs. Linda Cole and “Little Patti,” as they were known here, were a cut above Manson and some of the other family members who have been convicted of various murders.  Or that they have reformed.  Or Both.

Another factor is that they obviously did not wish to attract unnecessary attention.  Cole especially.  Not only are California law enforcement officials eager to find him, so are some of the family members who are still free.

Cole, 37, known as Bill Vance when he was with the weird cult, is believed to have vital information about several of the murders committed by family members, Sgt. Paul Whiteley of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s office, said.

Cole is believed to have in his possession long-sought tape recordings of Manson family members singing folk songs they composed about one or more of their savage killings, according to Sheriff Rainey.

This is the main reason Sergeant Whiteley and Bill Gleason, another Los Angeles officer, came here late last month expecting to take Cole into custody.  Specifically, they wanted him to testify at a murder trial in California, but they wanted to question him about related matters.  Warrants charging check forgery are outstanding against both Cole and Linda, so taking them into custody would have been no problem legally- just tactically.

Sheriff Rainey, who assisted the California lawmen when they were here, said that one of the officers told him he had talked to Manson in jail shortly before leaving for Missouri and that Manson has said: “If you see Vance, tell him I want that tape back.”

But Cole grew suspicious on the night of Feb. 25, that the security he enjoyed here so long might be near the end.  So, he and 22-year-old Linda sped off for Kansas City with a 16-month-old baby named Dawn, believed to be Linda’s, leaving most of their personal belongings behind.

They are known to have visited a hippie pad in the 4000 block of Tracy in Kansas City over the weekend, and according to a young man, who said his name was Joe Buffa, interviewed at the Tracy address, they left by bus for Texas two days later.

Buffa, 21, is one of numerous young men and women, several from Kansas City, who lived for a time at the commune.  Its population changed in number regularly, townspeople report, averaging 8 or 10 at a time in the warm months.  They lived in a 3-room and a 5-room shack (until the smaller one burned last summer) and inside an engineless white school bus when there was an overflow.

Buffa stayed a month.  Some visited for just a weekend, others for longer periods.  They worked the farm raising soybeans, corn, hay, tomatoes, cabbage, watermelon and other crops.  In the winters, when visitors weren’t so frequent, Cole chopped a lot of wood and sold it as far away as Kansas City.  He also hired out to other farmers for odd jobs at times.

Not all the townspeople welcomed them here.  No parades were held to greet them at any rate.  But no one reportedly opposed their presence openly and no untoward incidents between the town folk and commune dwellers could be recalled by those interviewed here last week.

Buffa said the only trouble he could remember was caused by a few “town Drunks” who like to stagger over to the 5-room shack and try to lure the young women outside with such entreaties as, “We got beer.”

Cole rented the 5-room shack for $15 a month from Mr. and Mrs. Clair Clevenger, who live nearby.  Clevenger, 57, is a farmer and rural mail carrier.

The Clevengers said they were under the impression that Cole and Linda were man and wife.  But after the two left the Clevengers received a letter from them with Linda signing her name “Linda Baldwin.”  California authorities report that her real name is Clair Smith and the “Linda Baldwin” is an alias and a girl known here and in the Manson family as “Little Patti” have used.

Little Patti is the third ex-Mansonite who lived here, but she disappeared last fall from McFall.  Clevenger said Cole told him she was in some sort of institution in Tennessee, but a letter found in the shack after Cole left indicated otherwise.

The letter was from another person in or close to the family and the writer referred to Little Patti’s disappearance from McFall.  He warned Cole that she could be dangerous to him if she “talked.”  The nature of the danger was not mentioned.

Dawn, the 16-month-old child now presumably traveling with Cole and Linda, was assumed to be theirs by the Clevengers.  They discovered two maternity ward wrist bands from Trinity Lutheran hospital in Kansas City in the shack after the couple’s departure and the bands bore the names “Linda Baldwin” and “Baby Dawn” on them.  But since Little Patti and Linda (Clair) has used that alias, it is not certain which young woman is actually the mother.

When Mrs. Clevenger asked Linda once, her reply was, “She belongs to all of us.”

While the Clevengers remember Cole and Linda with affection, they describe Little Patti as having seemed surly.  Several times, Clevenger said, he noticed her going to the mailbox in such a dazed condition he thought she might be using drugs.  Buffa describes Little Patti as being “spaced out.”
The Clevengers, a friendly pair, appeared actually to miss Cole and Linda last week, despite their surprise at the Manson tie-in.  They had added a fresh dimension to their lives- especially Linda.

“We liked them,” Clevenger said.  “They were nice people.”

Mrs. Clevenger what a cheerful, outgoing young woman Linda was, always smiling or laughing.
“Yep,“ added her husband with affection, not derision, “she was as happy as a pig in a mud puddle and just as dirty.”

They displayed a letter Cole and Linda has sent them after leaving.  It began: “Dear Clare (sic) and Kathy: We suspected this for quite some time.  I’m sorry we cannot make personal amends…”
It ended: “… we appreciate and love you all for everything you have done for us.”

The letter also gave the Clevengers authority to dispose of their belongings as they saw fit and use them to help pay off their debts in town.  They promised to repay them and three merchants what they owed them.

Such a letter is in no way consistent with the picture that has emerged of the typical Manson family member in California.  Cole, Linda and Little Patty all appear sporadically in the pages of “The Family” (Dutton; 1971), by Ed Sanders, a book detailing the activities of the “Mansonoids,” as he called them, from their beginning to the imprisonment of many of them.

Sanders, an ex-Kansas Citian, described Cole (Vance) as a former jail mate of Manson who joined the family in 1969 as an accomplished thief.  He did not link him or either of the young women to any of the murders.

In fact, he wrote that when Manson asked Cole’s girl friend to kill Gary Hinman, the musician, she refused and Cole interceded on her behalf.  The upshot was that Cole and the girl left for Texas and family members mumbled about killing them if they ever returned, Sanders wrote.

They did return, however, and Sanders wrote that a tape recording of the family’s re-creation of the Hinman’s murder was among those Cole took into hiding with him.

(Note: this is on page 249 of the very first edition of Sanders book)

Sanders also wrote that all three of the Mansonites who wound up in McFall were among those inside a house in California when another member, known as “Zero”, died of a gunshot blast in the head.  Little Patti, in fact, was alone in the bedroom with Zero at the time. He related. While the other two were in the next room.  Zero’s death was ruled a suicide, the result of an especially risky game of Russian roulette. With only one of six chambers of the gun empty.

Cole and Little Patti were among numerous family members arrested in Death Valley in October, 1969, at the time of the major roundup of the group, but they were later released for lack of evidence.  The three went to Kansas City for a time, then appeared here in the summer of 1970.

Sheriff Rainey remembers that Cole visited him in nearby Albany when he first arrived to establish himself as a law-abiding citizen.  He said he told Cole he was welcome “If you don’t throw any pot parties or rock festivals- if you do, I’ll run your … out of the county.’”

Clevenger recalls that Cole was a diligent but that he reminded him of “the fellow who works hard all the time but never seems to get anything done.”  He was particularly amused at the fact that Cole planted his crops in concentric squares instead of rows, making cultivation and harvesting difficult.
The publisher of the Stanberry (Mo.) Headlight visited the commune last summer and talked at length with Linda.  He left impressed with their industry and observed: “They work too hard for hippies.”
Linda apparently lectured the publisher at length on the virtues of organic farming, and with a twinkle in her eye, asked him, “What did you expect to find?   Wild parties and nearly nude women?”

If anyone held pot parties at the commune, neither the sheriff, the Clevengers nor several others interviewed here seemed to know about it.  Marijuana does grow in the area, but Clevenger said he does not think any was grown on the few acres Cole worked.

Cole gained access to the land through its owner, Stephen Hann, 9525 El Monte, Overland Park, who said he had allowed Cole to work the land for part of the crop but that Cole had not done well enough to share the crop with him.

Hann expressed surprise that Cole had been connected with Manson, and he was under the impression that Linda was Cole’s daughter.

Most of their belongings have been removed from the shack by now, either by Clevenger, who is preparing it for a new tenant, or by a group of Kansas Citians who drove here early the morning of Feb. 29 in Cole’s yellow pickup and a car to recover what they said was their property.

That expedition from Kansas City created a few tense moments for the young folks as well as Sheriff Rainey.

Clevenger noticed lights on in the shack about 3 o’clock in the morning.  He telephoned the sheriff, who hustled down from Albany with a deputy.

Not knowing who was inside and seeing Cole’s pickup, the lawmen understandably drew their revolvers before entering the shack.  When they kicked in the door, they discovered five surprised young men and two startled young women preparing belongings to be put in the pickup.

“Put the guns away,” one of the men pleaded earnestly.  “We’re peaceful.  We’re peaceful.”

Indeed, they were.  They explained they bought the pickup from Cole over the weekend.  The belongings they were loading into the truck were their own; they had loaned them to the couple, they said.

Their explanation satisfied Sheriff Rainey and Clevenger, and the youths were allowed to resume loading the truck.

“He’s one of the better sheriff’s we’ve run into,” commented Buffa, one of the seven, back in his pad in Kansas City.

Buffa and two others on that trip said they were disappointed, however, that they had not been able to tow the white school bus back to Kansas City.  They had planned to put an engine in it and use it for travel, they said.  The bus is now in the possession of one of the businessmen in town to whom Cole is indebted.

Buffa and the others said they were surprised to learn that Cole had been connected to Manson.  Asked whether Cole had tape recordings with him, Buffa said yes, he had, that he had shown one to some girls at the commune but had not said what was on the tape.

Why had he joined Cole and the others at the commune last summer, Buffa was asked.

“It was for people who wanted to get back to the land,” he said, “for people who didn’t like the city.”

Some fragmentary evidence of what life was like for Cole and Linda here was still inside the house last week.  No running water, for instance, inside the house.  A well pump was outside the back door, a 3-holer outhouse nearby.  Surplus commodity food was in the pantry.

(A check at the surplus commodity food distribution office in nearby Albany revealed that once a month Cole or Linda or both of them checked in promptly for food for a family of three.  The supervisor they always took all they were entitled to- dry beans, butter, cheese corn meal, egg mix, flour, fruit juice, shortening, macaroni, canned chopped meat, evaporated milk, instant milk, instant potatoes, prunes, rice, corn syrup, rolled oats, peanut butter and assorted vegetables.)

A Monopoly set, well-used, was in evidence.  An old TV set lay on a mattress in the front room.  A sun lamp light bulb was screwed into a ceiling fixture.  A photograph of the 8 young men of “Chicago,” a rock group, hung over a double bed.  Letters and postcards addressed to various persons “c-o Youth-for-Life, McFall, Mo.” Lay on a table.  A notebook lay among them, doodles, figures, and miscellaneous thoughts inside.  One page contained song lyrics:

“There’s a new world coming.  It’s just around the bend.  There’s a new world coming.  This one’s coming to an end.  There’s a new voice calling…,” and that was all.

Dozens of empty Prince Albert tobacco cans were piled together in the kitchen, a cigarette roller nearby.  Sheriff Rainey said he had sniffed the cans for marijuana but they only smelled of tobacco.
A certificate granting Cole, Linda Baldwin and “Patricia Baldwin” a charter for a “Youth-for-Life church” was found torn in eight pieces.  It was signed by “Rev. Dr. Herman Keck, Jr., President of the Calvary Grace Christian Church of Faith, P.O. Box 1674, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.” It was dated Feb. 28, 1970.

Cole and his small transient following apparently did not classify as “Jesus freaks.”  Linda summed up the Youth-for-Life religion for the Stanberry Headlight last year as: “Total acceptance of all churches and beliefs with no prejudice at all.”

Books found in the house did not dispute this impression.  They ranged in subject matter from revolution to religion, but the bulk of them were conventional, not even controversial.

Outside the shack were two sheds, one for a goat and sheep Cole sold before leaving, the other for three chickens that were still inside.  They also kept rabbits.  In the field near the burned out 3-room shack in which they had once lived lay a scarecrow wearing a blue sweatshirt that bore the peace symbol and the word “Love” beneath it.  The sweat shirt had been placed on the scarecrow upside down.

The murder trial at which the state had wanted Cole to testify was a 4-month affair.  The jury deliberated most of last week, and was finally recessed for the weekend without reaching a verdict.  Bruce Davis, a Manson family stalwart, is charged as one of the killers of Hinman and Shea, the stunt man.

Sergeant Whiteley said the state did not learn of Cole’s whereabouts here until very late in the trial, but he would not say how this was learned.  When officers did find out, they had to inform the court- and therefore the defense as well- where Cole was hiding before they could go get him, he said.

Sheriff Rainey said a defense attorney for Davis rushed here immediately, arriving even ahead of the Los Angeles County lawmen.  It is uncertain whether this lawyer alerted Cole or whether one of Sheriff Rainey’s own deputies accidently had aroused Cole’s suspicions the day before when he visited Cole’s shack to double check his appearance to compare it with what California authorities had supplied on the man they were seeking.

Whatever the case, Cole escaped.  “It’s too bad,” Sergeant Whiteley said.  “He could have been a very valuable witness.”  Sheriff Rainey added his regrets.  One television network, he said, had offered a large sum of money for the tape recording.

“I guess I could have put them in jail as soon as they called from Los Angeles,” he said.  “We got a pretty nice jail here.  Feed good.”

Kansas City Star
March 16, 1972
By Harry Jones, Jr.

Commune Falls Fallow

Well, Molly and Ned, you see, had been hitch-hiking all over the country last summer, you know?  Florida, New York, the Dakotas, all over, and they hit Kansas City and run into this friend they’d known in California, a guy they called “Boris”, not because that was his real name but because he was sort of a hairy-chested revolutionary, you know?  And Boris tells them about this farm up in Northwest Missouri.

So Molly, who is 23 and a very talented painter, and Ned, who is 20 and is very big for motorcycles and Molly and other things, decide that since they have nothing much else to do, why not join Boris and whomever else is up there and live in a farmhouse and till the soil and get back to nature and things like that, you know?

They thumb their way 80 miles up to this little town called McFall, Mo., and are walking along a dirt road looking for Boris when they run into this girl named Linda, in her early 20s, who is walking towards them on the same road and they ask her, you know, “Where’s Boris?” and “Where’s this neat farm?” and things like that.

That is how it started for Ned and Molly (although Ned and Molly are not their real names- they ask that their other names be used here).  Earlier this week, a friend called them and told them he had just read in the newspaper that the three persons who more or less ran that farming commune they had lived on for almost two months were (gasp) former members of the blood-letting Charles Manson “family” of California, and what did they think of that?

“That’s really weird,” said Molly yesterday, seated by her easel in an old farmhouse near here dabbling away at a canvas as she talked about life in a commune.  “I mean. It really blew my mind.  Why, I remember when farmers would stand around looking at us, I’d say things like, “Who do they think we are, the Manson family?”

Well, what was life like in the commune, anyway?  Idyllic?  Enrichment of the soul and soil? That sort of scene?

Not quite.

When they first arrived, the 8 or 10 others already there were living in filth.  Said both Molly and Ned, in separate interviews: “We told them, ‘just because you raise pigs doesn’t mean you have to live like them.’”

The group was living in two old farm houses and a motorless school bus.  Present were the three ex-Mansonites, who called themselves the Rev. William Cole, 37, Linda and Patti, both in their 20’s; young men who went by such names as “Bo,” and “Little John”; other young women with names like Nancy; and two infants, one apparently belonging to Linda, the other Nancy.

It did not take the hitch-hikers long to decide to move into the woods and build their own shack, for the sake of privacy, cleanliness and a desire to disengage themselves from the internal bickering and arguing over such matters as who was going to put in a good day’s work and who was going to be able to avoid work as much as possible, they said.

Then came the dysentery.  Seems as though someone was so unfamiliar with rural life that he or she did not realize that after you have drawn water from the well and used it for bathing, you are not supposed to dump the dirty water back into the well.

And as though suffering from dysentery were not bad enough, Ned said, the outhouse was so filthy that most in the group preferred trotting off to the woods when necessary.

Then someone thought he had caught a venereal disease.  As Molly explained it, “Everybody got worried.  I knew everybody’d been playing around with everybody else except Baxter and me.”  (Baxter,” is Ned- Molly continually referred to him in that way, while Ned, interviewed in the back room of a motorcycle shop in which he works as a repairman, kept referring to “me and Molly” in a manner that revealed both respect and adoration.)

Then came the heat- 100-degree weather, day after day, as they remember it- so that instead of working so much in the fields, “we’d drink beer and play the guitar and go swimming.”

Bill Cole, the leader of the commune, was a likable soul, both said.  He seemed to be the only one who knew anything about farming.  He hardly qualified as “Agriculturalist of the Year, however.  The only really outstanding crop on the 200 acres they naively thought they could work were huge tomatoes, Ned said.

“They were really fine tomatoes, “he added, rounding his hands to demonstrate their cantelopian size.  “And we had a whole acre of them.  But we didn’t have a truck and we couldn’t get them into the city to sell.  Linda sold a few around town, but most of them just lay out there, it was terrible.”
Cole, on the other hand, was patient, dealt fairly with the farmers in the area, and worked hard, they said.  When Boris nearly burned out the tractor engine (the tractor had been given to them), Cole did not bawl him out but patiently explained how tractors need oil, Ned recalled.  And Molly remembered how philosophically comforting Cole had been when she had been telling him one day about being terrified of lightning and thunder.

“He’d say it’s okay to be afraid,” she said, “that that was the first step to being aware.”

Molly also remembered how Cole would become angry when Boris started talking about revolution.  He’d tell Boris, “Shut up, I don’t want to hear none of that out here,” she said, and now wonders whether maybe that was because Cole had his fill of such talk when he was with Manson in 1969.
Finally, a friend of Ned and Molly visited the commune one Sunday, saw what it was really like and gave them and old truck, gratis, so that they could leave.  When they stopped by later, in the fall, everyone else had left too, except Cole, Linda and Patti.

Now those three have left, California lawmen on Cole’s tail, wanting him on a check forgery charge and as important, witness against Manson and others accused of murder from that “family.”
Boris is now attending a university.  Some of the others live in a hippie pad where they talk of traveling.  Molly will have an art show in Denver soon.  Ned is busy repairing motorcycles.
In the field nearest the shacks in which they lived lie hundreds upon hundreds of yellow-orange tomato skins, long since dried and wrinkled by the summer sun and winter cold.

Thanks to Gorodish for finding Sanders 2002 version of this story which he put in a comment in part 1.  I tend to believe this contemporaneous version of what happened over Sanders 30 year old recollection.  It's clear that Sanders knew about the Missouri connection of Vance, Smith and Cottage he just might gotten the facts a bit skewed.

It is possible that Sanders was the informant to Vance's whereabouts.  I searched for and  found corroboration that Sanders was in Missouri prior to Whiteley and Gleason going to Missouri with a warrant. The timing is perfect.

Sanders and Ken Kesey participated in "Perspectives on American Culture" Robert F Kennedy Memorial Symposium at the University of Missouri, Kansas City in mid February 1972.

I'm not convinced that there was nothing on the tapes but music. Vance could have destroyed the incriminating tape, if one existed, and only kept the ones that were solely music.  Regardless, it's an interesting story.