Welcome to Small Towns Mysteries, Quirks and Character(s). I hope you enjoy this gathering of news, facts, and information about the small communities that can be found in every state in America. Ranging from populations of 1 to a few thousand, they exist in different locations, are made up of different demographics, face different challenges, and offer different solutions. Join me in looking at what makes them unique.                                                                                                                                                                                                    Bill Davis                 



Alexander City, Alabama

In 1977, Willie Maxwell was shot and killed at an Alexander City, Alabama funeral home in front of approximately 300 witnesses. Strangely enough, who shot him is the least mysterious part of the story. Robert Burns, a Vietnam veteran who was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, was arrested and tried.

However, there are still mysteries behind this story. According to this Associated Press story, Maxwell was a feared man whose first wife was found beaten and strangled. Maxwell was indicted, but after he married the woman who was the chief prosecution witness, he was acquitted.  There were other mysteries. A nephew, the second wife, and a brother also died under mysterious circumstances. Maxwell was suspected but never charged in connection with their deaths. For Burns, the trigger point leading to his act of violence was the death of Maxwell’s 16 year-old stepdaughter, found crushed to death under a car. Burns, who was the girl’s Uncle, felt like Maxwell was taunting him, according to the article. “That really burnt me up. I was so angry that I couldn’t hardly control myself,”  he was quoted as saying. That was when he turned and shot Maxwell 3 times. “Big Tom” Radney, the Lawyer who had represented Maxwell, now represented his killer. Burns was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

The final mystery? Harper Lee, the famous author of  “To Kill a Mockingbird,” visited Burns in the late 1970’s wanting to write a book about the killing. According to reports, she collaborated with Radney, obtaining his case files. Historian Wayne Flint was told by Lee’s late sister, Louise, that she actually finished the book. So where is it? The recent publication of a new Harper Lee manuscript, supposedly a first draft of what would become “To Kill a Mockingbird,” raises hope that this book, if it exists will also be found.



Dorset, MN

Three-year-old boy becomes mayor of small town in Minnesota

They start them young in the Midwest.  According to his article from Reuters, a 3-year old boy has been named the mayor of the small town of Dorset, Minnesota.

According to the report, “James Tufts was named mayor of the town of 22 residents during the annual Taste of Dorset food festival. His name was drawn from a bucket during a $1 raffle to become mayor for a year, taking over for his brother Robert, who served as mayor for two years.” By the way his predecessor left office at the advanced age of 6.



The five smallest towns in Alabama in reverse order are:

5.          Kellyton          206

3T.       Waterloo         202

3T.       Gainseville     202

1T.       Penton             201

1T.       East Point       201


Monowi Nebraska (population 1) is reputed to be the smallest jurisdiction in the US. According to Amy Kucera’s article in NebraskaLand Magazine published in November, 2014, “people have come from all over the world to have coffee with Elsie Eiler.” Among the many duties the article lists for Monowi’s single resident is that of “Mayor, Village Board President, Librarian, and local historian.” The 5000 book library, Rudy’s Library, is named after her late husband who passed away in 2004, cutting the town’s population in half.

Transportation in Bethel, Alaska is challenging. There are two busses and approximately 70 taxis but there are almost no private automobiles. For one thing, there are almost no roads leading in or out of Bethel so bringing in a car is very expensive. If you can find one for sale, it will be at least twice the price of the Kelley Blue Book value, plus gas is currently around $6 a gallon, so everybody takes a taxi; there is one for about every 85 residents in this town of approximately 6000 people.


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