Lewis Bloomfield was trouble
Editor’s note: This is part one of a three-part series. Part two will be published in Thursday’s edition and part three in Saturday’s.
He was called a bandit, a desperado and a murderer. What everyone could agree on was that Lewis “Lew” Bloomfield was trouble. He was considered a tough character, having served sentences for selling liquor and carrying weapons.
This tale begins in 1906 in Winfield, where Bloomfield had lived for some months and considered himself a sort of watchman and detective. His detective work led to his arrest on the charge of disturbing the peace of a neighbor. The case was tried in court and Bloomfield was convicted and sent to the Cowley County jail to serve 10 days.
Upon his release, he moved to Leon and found employment in John Warren’s restaurant on the main street in Leon. Bloomfield had trouble staying out of trouble. Soon after moving there, he was arrested on the charge of carrying concealed weapons. He was given a charge and served a short term in the Butler County jail in El Dorado.
While serving his sentence, it was reported he learned of Jesse Sesser, 27, a divorced man and son of a prominent Leon real estate man, who was paying a lot of attention to Bloomfield’s wife.
When Bloomfield was released from jail, he immediately went to find Sesser. Witnesses stated Bloomfield threatened the life of Sesser, causing Sesser to worry and he went to El Dorado and appeared before Judge Granville P. Aikman. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Bloomfield.
Newspaper accounts stated Judge Aikman was familiar with Bloomfield and urged every precaution be exercised by the men making the arrest.
Constable Lee Kyser took the warrant, went to Leon and had little trouble in placing Bloomfield in custody. The arrested man was searched and no weapons were found.
Before being taken to jail by the constable, the prisoner asked he be given the privilege of seeing his wife. This was granted.
The two went to Bloomfield’s home and the prisoner went up stairs. A short time later, he came down the stairs and gave the officer no trouble as they walked up the street. On the main corner in downtown Leon, they met Sesser. Perhaps the prisoner’s visit home was a mission to find Sesser.
Murder on the street
Sesser started to go around the two men and as he was even with Bloomfield, the prisoner quickly pulled out a revolver from his hip pocket and turning, shot Sesser through the chest, the bullet exiting out his back. Sesser staggered, but gained control of himself, and Bloomfield fired again, the last shot striking near the right shoulder blade and coming out above the heart. The wounded man staggered half a block down the street and fell dead.
In the meantime, Bloomfield had turned the revolver on the constable before the officer had time to draw his own gun. He shot once, hitting the constable in the right arm. The bullet whizzed up the street, nearly hitting a woman standing in front of a store. Bloomfield pulled the trigger again, but the gun failed to discharge. The misfire was all that saved Constable Kyser. Bloomfield did not attempt to shoot again, but fled down the street and before witnesses realized what was happening, Bloomfield was out of town.
Manhunt in the Flint Hills
A few men started in pursuit on foot. Bloomfield cut across a pasture south and east. The posse came within firing distance of him once or twice and emptied their revolvers, but they did not stop him. The Sheriff’s office was called and within a half hour, Deputy Sheriff Joliffe in an automobile reached Leon.
Bloodhounds were brought in and an exciting manhunt took place. Heavily armed officers and a posse of more than 200 men joined the bloodhounds. Because Bloomfield was known to be desperate, it was believed he would not be taken without a fight and more bloodshed was expected.
It was the first murder in four years for Butler County and excitement was high. There would probably be no coroner’s inquest because there had been so many witnesses to the shooting.
A businessman from Wichita, who arrived in Leon minutes after the shooting, told the press, “I drove into Leon about 10 o’clock this morning, soon after the shooting. On the street were knots of men talking about what had happened. I soon took in the situation for it was little trouble to find out the details. The shooting occurred near the town well on the principal square of the city. A pool of blood was on the sidewalk where Sesser had fallen, several feet from where the shooting occurred. A posse had already gone in pursuit of Bloomfield when I reached the town and when I left there in the afternoon he had not been found,” the man continued.
“The gossip in Leon is that Bloomfield discovered a letter that his wife had written to Sesser and after he was released from jail, he swore he would kill Sesser. In fact it is said that the threat was made openly before several witnesses.”
Local papers reported the next day although his escape had been an easy matter, he had been located in the rugged sides of a long hill, but had shot at the officers, even shooting and killing one of the bloodhounds.
Despite being surrounded, Bloomfield escaped and was supposed to be hiding in the Flint Hills. Several people claimed they saw him and recognized him. He disappeared again.
One rumor being circulated was Bloomfield had been seen three miles outside of Douglass. He at one time lived there and it was thought he might go to that place. Another thought was he was hiding in the Flint Hills and hopes were high he’d be caught after the first snow.
Butler County authorities wasted no time in notifying Sheriff Welfelt of Cowley County to be on the lookout for Bloomfield, as it was thought he would be certain to go back there to the home of some relatives. Sheriff Welfelt and his deputies were on alert for the murderer.
Find out in Thursday’s edition if Bloomfield was captured and if he stood trial for his crime.
Sources: The Wichita Daily Eagle, Sept. 29, 1906; The Topeka Daily Capital, Sept. 29, 1906; Arkansas City Daily Traveler, Sept. 30, 1906.