The following subject matter is of a very sensitive nature. Some people may find it very disturbing, and discretion is strongly advised. The names of the victims have been changed to protect both theirs and their family’s privacy.
Davenport, Iowa, had hosted more than their fair share of entrepreneurs by late 1907, but never one quite like this.
During the first week of December, a man of medium build with a well-trimmed mustache strode confidently into the offices of the Davenport Democrat and Leader. He stated that he wanted to place an advertisement, and was promptly guided to a reporter.
Fixing the man in his gaze, he told the reporter that he wanted to advertise his availability as a husband. He wanted to place an ad for a prospective wife.
The reporter must have been astonished. People advertised for all kinds of things in the Democrat, but not for a spouse. He must have wondered if this guy was joking, but he seemed serious enough. Settling in, the reporter began to ask questions so he could write the ad.
The man’s name was Henry Warren. He was a 37-year-old carpenter from Washington, Iowa. He lived by himself at 311 Scott Street, in a modest apartment. Henry stated that he was looking for a woman who could keep an orderly home, knew how to cook, and had a fair share of common sense.
The reporter took down all the information, and wrote the ad. It listed all of Henry’s criterion, as well as his address.
Henry Warren became an almost overnight sensation. Women from all over the county flocked to 311 Scott Street to meet with him.
They came from all walks of life. Some had never married, others were widows. Some had money, others didn’t. The youngest were in their mid-teens, while the oldest was in her early eighties. Regardless of their backgrounds or his interest, Henry met them all respectfully and politely.
Over the next few days, Henry’s popularity just kept growing. In today’s world, Henry Warren would have just gone viral.
He began to actively criticize the bachelors of Davenport. In his opinion, they were selfishly choosing to remain single instead of marrying so many attractive and available women. Soon, Henry Warren became not only the most eligible bachelor in Scott County, but also an example of thoughtful manhood.
When asked by the Democrat if he wanted an attractive woman, Henry replied that wasn’t necessarily what he was looking for. He very thoughtfully stated that he wanted a practical woman who was good at managing a household. For him, beauty only went so far, and would never replace a spouse’s wisdom or intelligence.
In spite of having several letters of inquiry and callers, Warren very tactfully refused to divulge the names of any of his potential wives.
Several leading business and political leaders in the area praised Warren’s tactics. Warren was simply using an available tool in an innovative way to achieve his ends. And, quite obviously, there was a lot of interest.
The most criticism that Warren drew was the fact that he intended to take his new bride to Oklahoma. Henry had spent some time in the state during his younger years, and wanted to go back. His critics would rather see a man of Warren’s obvious caliber remain in the region.
A local theatre even invited Henry to do a short monologue giving his opinions on the state of bachelorhood in Scott County. About 15-minutes long, it was very well-received and was popular for a short time.
A few months after his sensation started, Warren’s popularity began to wane. Gradually, Warren faded back into relative obscurity. Although he asked one particular woman to step forward, apparently, she never did. Instead, Warren, despite all of his efforts, remained unmarried.
However, he seemed content. Warren bought and ran a hotel in downtown Davenport named the Iola. After that, he ran a rooming house along Brady Street, one of the major roadways in the city.
Warren was successful, and seemingly lived quietly. He was known for taking an interest in the neighborhood children. He bought them presents, and regularly gave them candy. Warren invited many of them over to his house and property, and the presents, which included skates, seemed innocent enough. Warren was a charismatic man with no family of his own, and apparently chose to share his success with the children around him.
Everything changed when Thomas Varner brought home the letter.
It was from Henry Warren, and addressed to his older sister, Janet. Their mother, Marlena, must have thought that this was strange. Janet had been to Henry’s residence before, but everything was fine. But still, Warren was a little odd. Just that past Christmas, he had given Janet an unusual gift: a box containing numerous feminine hygiene items, including kotex.
And now there was this. Why would a man in his early-60’s send a letter home to a twelve-year-old girl?
Curious, Marlena took the letter from her son and read it. Although the exact contents of the letter have been lost to history, what it said must have so appalled her that she immediately went to the police about it.
Apparently, the letter gave the reader the distinct impression that Henry was very interested in young Janet – sexually. The police immediately went to Warren’s home to talk to him. Henry, laying on the charm for them like he had for the newspapers a few decades before, said that he just enjoyed the children’s company and liked to buy things for them.
The police weren’t buying it. There was something … off… about Mr. Warren. They started investigating, beginning with talking to the neighbors and their children. It didn’t take long for the truth to reveal itself.
Henry Warren was a child molester, and had been assaulting a group of local children as young as seven years old. He was arrested and placed into Scott County jail.
At the trial, these same children detailed how Warren had given them candy and gifts in exchange for sexual favors. Favoring young girls, he would place his hands under their dresses and fondle them sexually. Warren also took his genitalia out of his pants on several occasions and asked the girls to fondle him. He attempted intercourse with at least one girl on three separate occasions.
Warren pled guilty to the charge of Lewd and Lascivious Activity with a Child, and was sentenced to the maximum three-year term as imposed by the law. He was sent to serve his sentence at Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, Iowa.
Released in 1935, Warren returned to running his rooming house in Davenport. It had been taken care of by relatives in his absence.
In 1937, Warren was arrested again. He, along with three other men, had been sexually abusing underage girls. Prison had done nothing to reform him, and it hadn’t taken him long to return to his former predatory habits.
Because it was his second offense of this nature, the much heavier charge of rape was applied. With a significant amount of evidence supporting the charge, Warren once again pled guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was about sixty-six years old.
Ten years later, he was released again. Just as he had done before, Warren returned to his rooming house business in Davenport. Once again, relatives had taken care of it while he was in prison. Now in his mid-seventies, Warren wasn’t suited for the carpentry jobs that he had done his entire life. He lived out the rest of his days quietly, passing away in 1958.
Henry Warren was an intelligent, well-spoken man. He was charming, and relatively well-dressed. Warren had worked hard his entire life, and had utilized his money well. But this was just a façade, a mask.
Warren used his charm to lure young girls to his side and sexually molest them, forcing the most innocent members of society to give in to his horrible desires.
While many people may not have known Henry’s secret, his own family never forgot. Nor did they keep quiet about it. For several subsequent generations, the Warren family may not have known everything about Henry, but they knew for sure that he had been a child molester. In the end, the only legacy that Loving Henry left were his awful crimes.
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Loving Henry Gets Boost By Prominent City Officials. The Davenport Democrat and Leader, 12/22/1907
Henry Warren Tells Fond Feminine Hearts Why He Has Remined a Bachelor All These Long Years – Gives Eulogy on Promised Land. The Davenport Democrat and Leader, 12/15/1907
Many Proposals For Mr. Warren. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 12/13/1907
Feminine Hearts Throb For Henry. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 12/08/1907
Girls Galore Are on the Marry. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 12/06/1907
Say, Girls! Do You Want A Man? Davenport Democrat and Leader, 12/03/1907
Many Girls After Handsome Bachelor. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 12/05/1907
“Loving” Henry Explains Matters. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 12/27/1907
Will Bombard Bachelor Trust. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 01/02/1908
Writes Poetry To Loving Henry. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 01/05/1908
Waiting For “Silent Adorer.” Davenport Democrat and Leader, 01/07/1908
“Loving Henry” At the Family. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 01/12/1908
Sensation At Family Theater. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 01/13/1908
Flowers For Loving Henry. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 01/15/1908
Pleads Guilty; Defer Sentence. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 05/15/1933
Trial of Burrall Opens After Plea Entered by Warren. The Daily Times, 5/15/1933
Man, 62, Arrested By Police On a Serious Charge. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 02/15/1933
Henry Warren Is Held On a Girls Charge. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 02/16/1933
Warren Is Held To Grand Jury On Statutory Charge. The Daily Times, 2/16/1933
Warren Is Given Three Years On Statutory Plea. The Daily Times, 6/16/1933
Council Critic Ejected After Salary Tirade. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 02/20/1936
Four Men Held As Results of Stories Told By Children. The Daily Times, 3/31/1937
Trio Held In Juvenile Vice Probe Face Grave Charges; Bond of Each is $10,000. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 04/02/1937
File Additional Charges Against Three Local Men. The Daily Times, 4/2/1937
Continue Hearing For Trio Held on Statutory Charges. The Daily Times, 4/3/1937
Group James Court Corridors for Glimpse of Defendants. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 04/04/1937
Verre Bound Over On Rape Charge; Bond is $10,000. The Daily Times, 4/10/1937
Old Offender Penalized On State Charge. Davenport Democrat and Leader, 04/08/1937
Phelps Sentenced to 6 Months Term For Lewd Actions. The Daily Times, 6/25/1937
U.S. Federal Census Records
Iowa Consecutive Registers of Convicts,1867-1970