Sunday, August 8, 2021

Blown To Bits In Mason City Iowa

Nick Grba fell in love with his best friend’s wife,
Big Anna. A year later, Big Anna’s husband
was blown to bits after parking his taxi in his
garage. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald.
November 11, 1923)
Nick Grba, a Serbian immigrant, had been carrying on with his best friend’s wife, almost from the day they met. He took a taxi ride with Big Anna (his pet name for her) the day after he moved into the neighborhood, and within a month, they became lovers.

A year later, Anna’s husband, Mike Baldizar, got blown to bits after parking his car in the garage.


Investigators found a wire strung from an electric battery in a patch of nearby woods connected to a dynamite stick under Baldizar’s garage steps. When Baldizar left the garage, the killer detonated the dynamite.


Newspaper accounts said, “Baldizar was a mass of bleeding flesh and bones when picked up.” Doctors amputated his right hand and left leg. But his internal injuries were so severe that doctors said it would be a miracle if he lived.[1]


Baldizar died at the Park Hospital in Mason City, four days later from the injuries he sustained in the explosion.


Suspicion quickly turned to Nick Grba.


Grba admitted buying a sixty-foot roll of copper wire from the Mason City Electric Company, just days before the murder.  He insisted he used it to blow up fish in a pond near the Lehigh Cement Plant.


Witnesses saw him buy four sticks of dynamite at a local sporting goods store. He had first tried to get dynamite sticks and blasting caps at the Lehigh Cement plant where he worked, but employees there refused to sell it to him.

Davenport Iowa Author Alice French / Octave Thanet


Alice French
(The Reader. October 1904.)
In the 1890s, Alice French, pen name Octave Thanet, was hailed as “the wittiest letter writer among women.” Another paper declared, “she is without doubt one of the best writers of short stories in the United States.”[1] Several of her books sold over a hundred thousand copies, making her one of the highest-paid writers of the day.

Today, when she’s talked about at all, Alice is best-known as that lesbian writer from the turn of the century. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette called her the “best-known “lesbian Arkansan of the 19th century.” The paper noted that Alice, and her lover, Jane Crawford, lived “openly” from 1883 to 1909.[2]


For over three decades, the couple split their time between Thanford, their estate at Clover Bend, Arkansas, and their home in Davenport, Iowa.


Thanford was a lavishly appointed antebellum estate. After it burned in 1895, the couple built a 15-room mansion nearby, on a curve of the Black River. They enjoyed winters there until 1909, when Alice began to spend more time on the road. After that, they made their permanent home in Davenport.


Contemporary articles referred to Crawford as the author’s companion. The Des Moines Register followed suit in 1909, describing Jane as Alice’s “chosen friend and companion.”[3]


Jane and Alice were close in their teens and early twenties. Jane married Joseph Crawford in 1872 and divorced him four years later, in 1876. The two women got back together in 1882. They stayed close for the remainder of their lives, except for the short period Jane spent touring Europe.