[From a record search, I think this was John McMahan, born about 1867 in Iowa to John McMahan (born in Ireland about 1837) and Sarah (born in Iowa about 1848). The children on the 1870 census are Michael (1863), Bridget (1865), John (1867), and Theresa (1869). The incident described below occurred in 1874. The same family appears on the De Witt, Clinton, Iowa, 1880 census without the child John (but the addition of four younger children by this time). I could be wrong, though, because there are several John McMahan with lineage out of Ireland in Iowa during that time period. Also, a contextual note: This was during the Temperance Movement, so the story would have been of note. This story has also been added to familysearch.org here.]
A Boy Murdered:–Is that word too harsh? We shall see. Here are the facts: On Sunday last, six boys, ranging in age from seven to twelve years, got together and were having a stroll on Silver creek, two miles south of town. In their rambles they happened across a man named Simon Fletcher, a trapper, hunter and laborer, who is stopping in that part of the country. To those lads he gave whisky from his flask. Afterwards, the boys, or at least the unfortunate one, found the liquor and took a big drink, no one knows how much; having no doubt a hankering for more after the villainous Fletcher had once whetted his thirst for the damning fluid by putting it to his lips. The lad was only seven years old, a son of John McMahan, living in the neighborhood. It was soon after noon that the lad took his stolen drink, and his playmates thought it very funny and quite like man-grown topers, when they laid the boy away in the shade to “sober off.” About three o’clock, T. F. Meagher, happening to pass that way, was hailed and informed that they “had a sick man,” and they made considerable sport of it. The man saw that the boy needed treatment, and accordingly took him up and carried him to his (Meagher’s) house, where every possible means was used to produce vomiting, but in vain. In the evening Dr. Langan was called, and he found that the liquor had produced congestion of the brain, and the case was a hopeless one. The boy died on Monday afternoon.
Now we submit that the man who gave that boy, and those other lads, the whisky ought to be dealt with. He is too mean and dangerous to be at large. He murdered that boy, and should be punished accordingly. Here is a temperance lecture that has its force. What shall be done in the temperance question?–De Witt Observer
August 13, 1874
Anamosa Eureka, 1st page, 3 column, midway down