Dora Connelly Harvill, Idaho Penitentiary Convict #2563. I couldn’t help but stare, wide eyed/head tilted at the sight of her 1917 mugshot. A large woman: 5’5”1/8 tall, 225 lbs., square jaw and intimidating stare. At first glance, her mug shot portrays a tough woman. Dora was charged with rape and sentenced to 7 – 20 years imprisonment. The prison release record states Dora had 6 children ages 14-31. The more I studied her mug shot, I began to see a hard working woman in a lace trimmed housecoat. Intrigued by the story of housewife -to- rapist, I chose to investigate Dora Connelly Harvill’s ancestry. Were there events leading up to madness or was she wrongly convicted of a crime she didn’t commit?
Immediately I began to search for information regarding the crime. Newspapers.com search provided notice of the verdict. On November 8th, 1917 Dora was found guilty of the crime of rape and sentenced to serve seven to twenty years in prison. No additional details were given about the victim or the crime. Ancestry.com provided the only additional clue. After serving only 4 years of incarseration, on January 6, 1921, Dora was granted pardon by the Boise, Idaho Secretary of State. It’s hard to imagine a woman being granted a pardon during this period of time in history. Dora was incarcerated before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote. At the time the U.S. was founded, female citizens did not share all of the same rights as men, including the right to vote. Women were considered domestics and Dora was not likely represented by counsel for appeal.
It was difficult to follow Dora’s ancestry back to reveal the roots of birthplace and names of her parents. The spelling and initials of names differ on early census handwritten data. The earliest reference document, the 1900 Federal Census, indicates Dora’s father and mother were from Tennessee and Missouri, respectively. At this time, Dora is 31 years old, living in Union County, Oregon and married to William M Harvill. Together they have 5 children. The 1910 Federal Census lists Dora’s husband as William H Harvill and the birthplace of her father as Iowa. Jackson County, MissouriJackson County, MissouriDispite the discrepencies, Dora’s marriage to William Harvill in 1886 correlates to the year Dora was 16 years old; the same age noted as “runaway” on the 1917 Boisse Idaho Prison Record.
The 1910 Federal Census lists the names of 5 children born to William H Harvill and Dora Harvill. Futher investigation of the Birth Index records, 1861-1917 for Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Kansas confirm the couple had a total of 8 children together between the years 1885 and 1907. The 1904 Idaho Birth Index records the birth announcement of Edith Edna Harvill, their 7th child, listing: father- Robert William Harvill and mother – Rachel Madora Conley.
Having the proper maiden name for Dora led me to the 1875 The Kansas State Census Collection for Rachel M. Conley. Rachel “Dora” Madora Conley was the daughter of James H. Conley from Indiana and Nancy J. Conley from Missouri. Dora was born in April 1869 in Jackson County Missouri, the birthplace of her mother. At the time of the census, Dora was 6 years old, with three brothers (George C. and John W. and Robert).