True Crime: Nita Gould’s “Remembering Ella”

In 2018, Butler Center Books published a century-old true-crime tale: Remembering Ella: A 1912 Murder and Mystery in the Arkansas Ozarks by Nita Gould.

In November 1912, popular and pretty eighteen-year-old Ella Barham was raped, murdered, and dismembered in broad daylight near her home in rural Boone County, Arkansas. The brutal crime sent shockwaves through the Ozarks and made national news. Authorities swiftly charged a neighbor, Odus Davidson, with the crime. Locals were determined that he be convicted, and threats of mob violence ran so high that he had to be jailed in another county to ensure his safety. But was there enough evidence to prove his guilt? If so, had he acted alone? What was his motive?

Author Nita Gould is a descendant of the Barhams of Boone County and Ella Barham’s cousin. Her tenacious pursuit to create an authoritative account of the community, the crime, and the subsequent legal battle spanned nearly fifteen years. In the book, Gould wove local history and short biographies into her narrative and also drew on the official case files, hundreds of newspaper accounts, and personal Barham family documents. Remembering Ella revealed the truth behind an event that has been a staple of local folklore for more than a century and still intrigues people from around the country.

Read more about the crime and trial on the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas here.

The tale was recently featured on the Faces of the Forgotten YouTube channel:

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Butler Center Books is a project of the CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the CALS Roberts Library. This nonprofit publishing program was made possible by a gift from John G. Ragsdale Jr. and Dora “DeDe” Ragsdale. Books are available at the Galleries & Bookstore at Library Square in the Roberts Library in downtown Little Rock and other local bookstores, from online retailers, and from the University of Arkansas Press (via University of Chicago Press). Order Remembering Ella from UA Press here.

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