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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Murder as a Luxury.

(From Puck , November 11, 1879)

Murder as a Luxury.
 The Expense of Trying Every Murderer Ever so Many Times.
The mania for murder seems to spread like an epidemic in tropics. It attacks all classes, both sexes, and even children are etting it hard. Now, murder is very disagreeable to the victim, and to the perpetrator, also when he is solemnly marched on to be hanged; yet murder seems to be one of the fashionable excitements of the day. It is a luxury, and must be paid for. Our 4-in-hand, and Polo clubs pay for their little fun; our yachtsmen draw upon their own back accounts for the expenses of their skimmers of the sea; Mr. Lorillard pockets his winnings and pays his losses at horse racing without troubling the public about it; then why should A. B., because he wants to indulge in the luxury of letting out the life blood of C. D., call upon the country in which he does the deed to pay the expenses of trying him therefore?

Now-a-days it takes generally two or three trials to convict, acquit or half acquit a party charged with murder. All the first-class chemists, experts in poisons, and microscopists, are brought, with their expensive apparatus, into court to utterly flabbergast a most miserable jury. Detectives, at great expense, are employed for months; the local prosecutor engages additional counsel who are granted an “allowance” of the most liberal kind by the court; witnesses are summoned form all sorts of distance, and the clerk is kept busy in reckoning up mileages, attendance expenses, and everything the cumbrous machinery of the law can grind out of the pockets of the poor tax-payers. The bill against the county in which the case is tried becomes enormous.

And what is the result?

Generally a miscarriage of justice, in a disagreement of the jury; or the ordering of a new trial from some legal mistake that neither lawyer, judges, nor the press discovered until the trial was over and all the expenses incurred.

Look at it! Greenfield was tried three times; Bishop and Kate Cobb twice; Buchholtz is going to have a second trial; Hayden is now undergoing a second trial; Saratoga county in this state, would doubtless give Mr. Jessie Billings another trial only that taxpayers growl at the enormous expense of the previous one; Cove Bennett and Mrs. Smith are soon to undergo a second trial. In some counties the expense of bringing murderers to justice is a heavier burden on the taxpayers than ll the expense of making and repairing roads, caring for the county buildings, etc. Now, all this is wrong. Either people must stop committimg murder or, if the will murder, they should guarantee the county against pecuniary loss.

If John Kelly is elected governor, as he now says he expects to be, we will call upon him to tackle this subject in his inaugural message. Let him demand the passage of a law that no man, woman or child in this noble old state shall be allowed to commit murder unless he, she or it first covers into the treasury money sufficient to pay the cost of his, her or its trial.

"Murder as a Luxury." Puck  11 Nov 1879.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

For a Wanton’s Smile.

Frank Whittaker came to Chicago in September 1892, accompanied by four or five young women from his New York City brothel. He planned to run a similar business in Chicago and set up an establishment in a somewhat weather-beaten version of the gilded palaces in the city’s red light district near the levee.

Around the first of November, Charles Ryan, a tall, silent man with piercing eyes and a small mustache, began to regularly visit Whittaker’s house. Ryan was a gambler, and from the size of his bankroll was a successful one.

One of the girls who followed Whittaker from New York was a capricious and whimsical, black-haired, blue-eyed, beauty named Susie Hess. Ryan fell madly in love with her and within two weeks of his arrival in Chicago, he was begging Susie to leave her wanton life and come live with him. Susie was fickle, and led him on, promising to go with him one day and rescinding the promise the next.

Ryan was in Whittaker’s brothel in the early hours of Sunday, November 14, 1892, and he asked Susie Hess again to come with him. They began to argue loudly, attracting the attention of Frank Whittaker. Whittaker, who had not previously met Ryan, tried to defuse the situation by suggesting that they all have a drink. Ryan said nothing; he pulled a revolver from his pocket, pressed the muzzle against Susie’s right side and fired. He then turned the gun on Whittaker and fired twice. Ryan looked at his victims for an instant, then walked into an adjoining room and shot himself in the head. By dawn all three were dead.


"Chicago Shooting Affray." Kokomo Daily Gazette Tribune 14 Nov 1892.
"For a Wanton's Smile." Le Mars Semi Weekly Sentinel 15 Nov 1892.
"Gave No Warning." Daily Inter Ocean 14 Nov 1892.
"His Fatal Infatuation." National Police Gazette 3 Dec 1892.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Murderous 1820s.

The 1820s were indeed murderous with most of the country still frontier and the forces of justice barely able to contend with a violent population. The stories of these murders have survived nearly 200 years through murder pamphlets published at the time but the facts they contain cannot always be trusted. The incidents are often exaggerated and where more than one pamphlet was written for a murder, they seldom agree on names and events and can even take opposing views on the guilt of the accused. In some cases, such as the murder of William Morgan, what really happened is the subject of heated debate to this day. In spite of—or maybe because of—the uncertainty of their facts, the stories of murder from the 1820s still resonate.

The Notorious Patty Cannon. -1820

Patty Cannon was, by all accounts, among the most barbarous and amoral women in American history. In antebellum Delaware, Patty Cannon led a gang who kidnapped free blacks and sold them into slavery further south. She would indiscriminately murder any man, woman or child—including her own husband and baby— who stood in her way. An1841 murder pamphlet sums it up, “And we can truly say, that we have never seen recorded, a greater instance of moral depravity, so perfectly regardless of every feeling, which should inhabit the human breast.”

The Indiana Hero -1820

In 1819, when the State of Indiana was still frontier country, Amasa Fuller, a prominent and popular citizen of Lawrenceburg, was courting a young lady of that town. While Fuller was away on business, the young lady’s heart was stolen by a younger man, named Palmer Warren. Fuller returned to find that his true love had agreed to marry her new suitor. When Warren refused to fight a duel with Fuller, Fuller shot him in cold blood. But Amasa Fuller was so popular in Lawrenceburg that, when a ballad was written about the murder, the young lady was cast as the villain, and Fuller was “The Indiana Hero.”

The Thayer Brothers -1824

The year 1825 was a momentous one for Buffalo, New York. The Erie Canal opened, connecting Lake Erie to the Hudson River, a celebration honoring the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution was held in Buffalo, and the city held its first and only public hanging. At least 20,000 witnesses gathered in Niagara Square to watch thee brothers—Nelson, Israel, and Isaac Thayer—hang from the same gallows.

The Kentucky Tragedy -1825

Jereboam Beauchamp stabbed Col. Solomon Sharp to avenge the honor of his wife, Anna Cooke Beauchamp. The story of the murder—known from the start as the Kentucky Tragedy—was viewed by the Beauchamps as one of love, treachery, vengeance, and tragic heroism; all the elements of the romantic novels they both so dearly loved. But in reality, Jereboam and Anna were enacting another familiar American narrative: two troubled misfits lashing out at a world they both disdained.

William Morgan - Revenge of the Freemasons -1826

In the summer of 1826, William Morgan of Batavia, New York, announced his intention to publish a book exposing the secrets of Freemasonry. On September 11 of that year he was abducted and never seen again. Morgan was considered a traitor by the Masons and a “Christian martyr” by their opponents. 54 Masons were indicted for his abduction and 10 were found guilty. Morgan’s disappearance led to the formation of America’s first “third party”, the Anti-Masonic Party. But was it Morgan's body that washed ashore on Lake Ontario a year later, and were the Masons responsible for his death?

The Sheriff's Mistress -1828

In the summer of 1827, George Swearingen was a hardworking, upstanding, young family man. He and his lovely wife, Mary, had a new baby daughter. Working as clerk and deputy to his uncle, the sheriff of Washington County, Maryland, George was being groomed to take his uncle’s job. Everything was going George Swearingen’s way; then he met Rachel Cunningham. In September the following year, George and Rachel were fugitives, running from the charge of murdering Mary Swearingen.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Shocking Murder in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

Little Murders
(From Jackson Citizen, December 15, 1868)

Shocking Murder in Charlestown, Massachusetts.
Two Brothers-in-Law Engage in a Difficulty and One Cuts the Other’s Head Off with a Cleaver—Arrest of the Murderer

Boston, Mass. December 4, 1868.

This morning a shocking murder occurred in Furbush’s fat factory, Furbush’s Court, Charlestown. Two men, brothers-in-law, were there at work quietly together when one went out, and returning soon after with a cleaver  deliberately cut the head off his unsuspecting companion, who was still at work, and whose head at the time of the murder was over a chopping block whereon fat is cut. The murderer then escaped. The murdered man was to testify against the other in some petty civil suit, and this is supposed to have been the cause of the deed. The name of the man is Dennis Cronan, the murderer’s name is Reene.

The murdered man and Reene were at work in a room by themselves, and from the cut it would seem that Cronan was leaning over when the blow was struck so his head was severed from the body except for a few ligaments in front. Officer Brower was informed about nine o’clock that a suicide or murder had occurred at Faribush’s factory. Officer Brower hastened to the place, which is located at the neck, and found the man lying on his shovel and some bones and fat, his head being severed from his body, with the exception that a small piece of the skin on the throat was not cut. The men at work in the adjoining room did not know that the murder had occurred and the body may have lain therefore an hour before it was discovered. A coroner was summoned and immediately took charge of the body and summoned a jury of inquest.

The murder must have been occasioned by the petty civil suit referred to. The two men had a dispute about some money, and the case had been in court once. It occasioned considerable hard feeling between the two men, which culminated in the act of Reene to-day. Cronan must have expired instantly, or, in the words of the officer, “he never knew what killed him.”

The two me were ordinary Irish laborers and both resided in Charlestown, near the factory, where they were employed to cut up and shovel fat, bones, &c.

"Shocking Murder In Charlestown, Massachusetts." Jackson Citizen 15 Dec 1868.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Maniac Murderer.

Little Murders

John Anderson
John Anderson was a Swede with a quick and rash temper. He worked in the spoke shop of the Hall & Parmelee wheel factory in Wallingford, Connecticut and in March of 1874 Anderson was having difficulties with a fellow worker named Edward Yale. Their arguments escalated rapidly and when Anderson threatened to shoot Yale he was taken seriously. The boss, Horatio Hall, fired Anderson and place another man on the machine he had been running. Edward Yale filed charges with the police and Anderson was arrested.

Out on bail and fuming with anger, Anderson entered the spoke shop on Mach 7 brandishing two loaded revolvers. He fired at Fredrick Newton who had replaced him on the machine, hitting him in the shoulder. He shot Horatio Hall in the temple, killing him instantly. Anderson then began firing indiscriminately around the shop, though he hit no one else. When both pistols were empty he ran from the shop.

Still in a fit of rage, Anderson ran to a nearby railroad depot and cut his own throat nearly from ear to ear. Though he was bleeding profusely it took four men to subdue him.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


Drowning is a very personal method of murder, and always a case of the strong overpowering the weak.

The Manhattan Well Mystery -1799

On January 2, 1800, the body of Gulielma Sands was found in the Manhattan Well, not far from her boardinghouse on Greenwich Street, New York City. There were two contradictory schools of thought among those who knew Gulielma Sands—those who remembered her as melancholy and suicidal, and those remembered her as happy and cheerful, especially so on the night she disappeared when she revealed that she was to marry Levi Weeks. When Levi Weeks was arrested for murder everyone in the city would take a side. The trial of Levi Weeks was the first of New York City’s sensational murder cases, the first American murder trial to be transcribed, and the first defense council “dream team.” Levi Weeks was represented in court by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

Poor 'Omie - The Murder of Naomi Wise -1807

The haunting folk ballad “Omie Wise” has kept the story of Naomi Wise’s murder alive for more than two hundred years. According to legend, Naomi Wise, a poor but beautiful orphan girl, was courted by Jonathan Lewis, son of a wealthy farmer. His mother persuaded him to stop the courtship but not before Naomi became pregnant with Jonathan’s child. To avoid marriage and scandal, Jonathan Lewis drowned Naomi Wise in Deep River. That is the traditional tale of Naomi Wise, but how much of it is true?

The Blue Eyed Six -1878

It was a foolproof plan. Six men in Lebanon County Pennsylvania bought insurance policies on the life of Joseph Raber, an elderly recluse living in a hut in the Blue Mountains. They were sure Raber would die soon and end their financial problems. But the premiums proved costly and the men grew tired of waiting for Raber to die. In July 1878 they decided to take matters into their own hands. Their plot was common knowledge in Lebanon County and it was not long before all six were arrested for murder. The conspirators had a number of common characteristics–all six men were illiterate, all six were living in poverty, all six were of low moral character— but one trait captured the public’s imagination – all six had blue eyes.

Kissing Cousins -1885

Lillian Madison’s relations with her immediate family in the 1880s were strained if not outright hostile. Her parents disapproved of her social life and kept her from the education she desired and as soon as she could, Lillian left their home in King William County, Virginia. She found comfort and support among her mother’s relatives but she also began a romantic relationship with her cousin, Thomas Cluverius, that would end in her ruin. When Lillian’s body, eight months pregnant, was found floating in Richmond’s Old Reservoir, Cousin Thomas was the prime suspect.

Little Conestoga Creek -1888

Calvin Dellinger was a philanderer, an abusive husband, and a sadistic father, but was he a killer as well?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Betrayal and Mercy.

Little Murders

Two men walking through the woods near Dalton, Georgia, came across the body of a young woman lying in Milk Creek. Her feet were bare, she was clad in old wrapper tied with twine, her chestnut-brown hair hung over her shoulders in disheveled locks, and two deep wounds cracked her skull. No one in Dalton recognized the woman; there was no way to tell where she had come from and who had killed her. Then a liveryman, Robert Springfield, made a startling discovery while taking out one of his buggies. The seat was covered with fresh clots of blood and strands of hair. He had rented the buggy the previous night, to a man named Charles Patton.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Crime’s Worshippers.

How murder becomes a virtue and misfortune a misdeed—two suggestive tableaus which every jail in the country has seen enacted.

The depraved taste of a certain class of humanity is very well shown in the way they run after criminals. The greater the crime the greater the hero. Cases of this kind can be cited from the story of any jail or prison in the country. The brutal wife murderer finds an army of sympathizers, while the poor, betrayed young mother who, in a fit of madness, has made away with the pledge of her fall from virtue, is abandoned by her sex to her despair and her doom. Our artist has effectively pictured the contrast. The shame is that such a contrast exists to be pictured.

Reprinted from "Crime's Worshipers." National Police Gazette 15 Dec 1883.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

“Happy Bob.”

Little Murders

Robert "Happy Bob" Van Brunt
Robert Van Brunt was born in England in 1863. He barely knew his father, who was a member of the Queen’s Scots Guards. His mother died when he was ten was ten-years-old, and from then on he was raised by his grandmother. She took him to Canada in 1878, and they settled in Toronto where he began a career as a tailor.

When a religious revivalist named Hammond held a series of meetings in Toronto, Van Brunt attended and became so enthusiastically converted that he would join Hammond on stage and speak to the assembled crowds. Hammond left Toronto, Van Brunt lost his job and became so discouraged that he attempted suicide. When he the Salvation Army arrived in town he joined their ranks and was given the ironic nickname of “Happy Bob.”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Murderous North Carolina.

North Carolina's greatest murders have found their way into enduring American folk songs - not always accurate but always engaging.

Poor 'Omie - The Murder of Naomi Wise -1807

The haunting folk ballad “Omie Wise” has kept the story of Naomi Wise’s murder alive for more than two hundred years. According to legend, Naomi Wise, a poor but beautiful orphan girl, was courted by Jonathan Lewis, son of a wealthy farmer. His mother persuaded him to stop the courtship but not before Naomi became pregnant with Jonathan’s child. To avoid marriage and scandal, Jonathan Lewis drowned Naomi Wise in Deep River. That is the traditional tale of Naomi Wise, but how much of it is true?

The Ballad of Frankie Silver -1831

Charlie and Frankie Silver were the ideal young married couple, so the legend goes; he was strong and handsome, she was kind and beautiful. They lived an idyllic life, with their baby daughter, in a little cabin in the woods of Burke County, North Carolina. But things changed quickly when Frankie learned that Charlie had been seeing other women. Allegedly, one night in December 1831, she methodically and brutally murdered Charlie in his sleep. That is the legend of Frankie Silver, the reality is even darker. Frankie had endured physical abuse from Charlie throughout their marriage until, on that December night, she fought back to save her own life. Frankie Silver’s subsequent execution was a tragic miscarriage of justice.

Hang Down Your Head Tom Dula -1866

The stories behind murder ballads are never as pretty as the songs. The story behind “Tom Dooley” – the 1866 murder of Laura Foster by Tom Dula in Elkville, North Carolina – is particularly ugly. Tom Dula was having an affair with Mrs. Ann Foster Melton and when her cousin Pauline Foster came to work at the Melton home, Tom Dula had her too. They had another cousin, Laura Foster, and Tom took her to bed as well. One member of this group contracted syphilis and soon they were all infected. Tom blamed Laura and threatened revenge. Laura Foster’s body was found in a shallow grave and Tom Dula had left for Tennessee. Might have gotten away, “Hadn’t been for Grayson.”

Poor Ellen Smith -1892

The morning of July 21, 1892 the body of Ellen Smith was found behind the Zinzendorf Hotel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She had been shot through the heart. The story of Ellen Smith’s murder is a classic tale of seduction and betrayal. A beautiful but innocent young woman strays from the path of righteousness for a faithless lover who soon becomes her killer. It is the stuff of Victorian cautionary literature and mountain murder ballads.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Murder of Chong Ong.

Little Murders

The murderer identified.
The basement of the building on the corner of Spring and Wooster Streets in New York City, housed the Restaurant Cubana, run by a former cigarmaker named Antonio Soloa. It was very popular among the Cubans and others in the neighborhood looking for a good inexpensive meal—Soloa’s specialty was ham fried with spice and garlic and served with vegetables.

On November 2, 1885, Thomas Daly, a produce vendor, entered the Restaurant Cubana to see if Soloa needed any provision and found him lying dead on the floor of the restaurant in a pool of blood. He fled from the place but went back down with Wooster Street coal dealer James Caughlin. Butchered, was how they described the body to the police. His face and the right side of his temple had been crushed, his shirt had been slashed open and his chest stabbed through his undershirt. Blood had spurted high enough to stain the ceiling. A closer examination revealed nine stabs to the chest, severing two ribs. A knife with a ten inch blade, bent and bloody, lay on the floor near the body. The coroner later discovered that one of the stabs had severed Soloa’s heart.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Our Current Record of Rowdyism and Murder.

Little Murders
(From New York Herald, New York, New York, June 19, 1873)

Our Current Record of Rowdyism and Murder.

Four murders signalize the opening of the present week. A sad commentary, truly, on our boasted civilization! Four brutal, inexcusable, fiendish murders are added to the list of deeds of blood that disgrace our criminal calendar. The week opened with an affray between brothers-in-law in a tenement house, during which one of the parties undertook to explain matters to the other with a hatchet. On the same evening a man was fatally stabbed in a drunken affray in a liquor store. After midnight the proprietor of another drinking saloon was desperately wounded by a knife at the hand of a man to whom he refused liquor. But the saddest case of all was the murder of Mrs. Gillen, at the age of eighteen years, by her husband, a worthy representative of the corner loafer class. This last mentioned tragedy is of such an atrocious character that it calls for grave reflection. A beautiful young girl, employed at a store, forms the acquaintance of a good-looking but dissipated young man, whose principal occupation seems to have been loafing. She foolishly consents to marry this wretch, contrary to the wishes of her father, and quickly ascertaining her terrible mistake, leaves her worthless husband and takes refuge with her parents. The husband killed her for this on Sunday night.

We cannot speak too often of this frightful epoch of murder which seems to be now at its zenith in this city. It is useless to argue more on the inefficiency of the law on this subject. When murderers become the especial protégés of the Court and every obstacle is thrown before the wheels of justice we can only wait patiently until such a monstrous outrage to civilization is removed from the statute book. The last session of the State Legislature was spent in purely political schemes, and nothing was done to secure the speedy punishment of assassins. Once in the Tombs the murderer finds numerous advocates, and the plain, unvarnished story of his cowardly crime, when it is place before the jury, becomes a tangled labyrinth of sophistry and irredeemable nonsense. When the jury find him guilty convenient judges and technical errors give him another lease on life. Trial after trial may take place until the public forgets the crime, and the execution takes place when the very object for which it is intended is no longer in the memory of the people.

But in the murder of this girl-wife the pernicious element of corner loaferism comes in to prominence. There is a class of young men—we may call them boys—in this city, whose principal occupation consists of profanity, drunkenness and, occasionally, murder. Unhappily this class is very large, and is constantly increased by willing recruits. Parents are too often to blame for the existence of such wretches, as they make poor attempts to curb nascent depravity. The police willingly, or in despite of themselves, allow a gang of ruffians to fester into crime at every prominent corner. The marriage law is so lax in its provisions that any weak-minded girl may be persuaded into wedding one of these scoundrels. The natural result of such a marriage is shown by Sunday night’s tragedy. The remedy for disgraceful conditions of affairs in society is plain. A criminal law, unencumbered with vexatious delays and miserable subterfuges; stern uncompromising action on the part of the police toward corner loafers, and a more rigid enforcement of the laws should protect the sacred institution of matrimony, will be found efficient checks the present avalanche of murder in this city.

"Our Current Record of Rowdyism and Murder." New York Herald, June 19,1873.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Two Shots, a Shriek.

Little Murders
“A dark, mean little bedroom, a woman, half-undressed, dirty and pale, and blear-eyed from long excesses, a male companion, leaning over her with a revolver at her head, two shots, a shriek, an ugly hole under the ear, and the vice and crime of Boston had added another murder to its long score.” The Boston Herald’s vivid description of the murder of Josephine Brown on Christmas Eve, 1891, served to underscore her sad and dismal life. Married and divorced by age twenty, Josephine’s family blamed her for the failed marriage and turned her away. Left to fend for herself, Josephine Brown spent the next twenty years as a prostitute.

Joe, as she was known on the street, had been working in a brothel run by Mrs. Mary Ann Fisher on Pitt Street, in Boston’s West End. The house had recently closed down with the arrest of Mrs. Fisher, and Joe was working as a street walker. The demise of Mrs. Fisher’s house meant more than the loss of shelter, it left Joe without protection from the potential violence of her profession, and without anyone to keep her away from whiskey, which, when she was left on her own, became Joe’s consuming passion.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Murderous Ohio.

The Buckeye State has been the scene of some especially gruesome homicides:

The Tanyard Murder -1874

In 1874, a feud within Cincinnati’s German community would lead to the brutal murder and illegal cremation of Herman Schilling, a worker at H. Frieberg’s tanyard. Andreas Egner wanted revenge for catching Shilling in bed with his 15-year-old daughter. But Shilling had other enemies as well and his killer could just as easily been George Rufer who believed Shilling had cost him his job at the tannery. The murder of Herman Shilling—one of the most gruesome in Cincinnati’s history—would also serve as a stepping stone for an aspiring young reporter on his way to international literary renown.

Murder among the Shantyboats -1883

Colonies of shantyboats on the Ohio River were densely populated and the boats were often the homes of unsavory characters — conditions ripe for violence and murder.

The Courthouse Riots. -1883

When William Berner was tried in 1884 for the cold-blooded murder of his boss, William Kirk, the people of Cincinnati expected a hanging. When the verdict returned was only manslaughter, the city was outraged. It was the last straw, breaching the limits of tolerance after years of political corruption, driving an angry populace into the streets for three days of violence that took fifty-four lives and left public buildings in rubble -- an uprising known as The Courthouse Riots.

The Sailor and the Spiritualist -1886

Alfred and Althadine Fisk had been married for more than twenty years but over time their lives had grown apart. He became a Great Lakes sailor interested more in drinking and carousing than in raising a family; she became a professional clairvoyant. When Alfred’s neglect turned to physical abuse and Althadine filed for divorce, she had the foresight to send the children away and bring in a friend for support and protection, but her clairvoyance failed when she was unable to predict the tragic consequence of letting Alfred stay just one more night.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Edward S. “Ned” Stokes.

This recently acquired carte de visite of playboy, Edward S. “Ned” Stokes, completes the set of principals in the 1872 murder of Jim Fisk, America’s most flamboyant and best-loved robber-baron. Though hardly in the same class financially, Fisk and Stokes were great friends up until Stokes stole Fisk’s mistress, Josie Mansfield, considered by some to be the most beautiful woman in the country. Not content to steal his girl, Stokes attempted to blackmail Fisk with his love letters to Josie. When that failed, Stokes sued Fisk for $200,000 in profits he felt he was owed from a business venture. This failed as well. Frustrated at losing the lawsuit, Stoke ambushed Fisk on the stairs of the Grand Central Hotel in New York City and shot him dead.

Read about it here: Jubilee Jim

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Tale of Deepest Crime.

Little Murders
(From Wheeling Register, Wheeling West Virginia, November 28, 1883)

A Tale of Deepest Crime.

The Mystery Surrounding a Murder
Which Resulted in Four Other Tragedies
Made Clear After Many Years.

Seymour, Ind., November 27—Yesterday there arrived in Medora, a town situated nineteen miles from this place, a woman giving her name as Eliza Kemp. She is now engaged as an agent of dress patterns. Seventeen years ago there occurred in Seymour one of the most blood curdling and mysterious murders ever committed in this part of Indiana. There were subsequently three other murders committed, caused directly by the first murder. For the past seventeen years these murders were entirely Surrounded by the Deepest Mystery, and not until the present time, when the testimony of Liza Kemp was given, was the true history of the crime known. A history of the crime, briefly given, is as follows. On the night of January 3, 1866, Moore Woodmansee, a wealthy merchant of Medora, came to Seymour, on his way to Cincinnati. He had $2,000 in cash, with which he was to purchase goods. He registered at the Rader House for the night, and was assigned to room No. 7. He was missed form his room, and his disappearance was, for over nine months, a mystery, when, in October, his body was found in White River, his head was cut off, but the examination by several doctors who treated Wooodmansee during life
Gave a General Verdict
that it was the remains of Woodmansee. The Rader House was ransacked for supplemental evidence of the suspected murder. After removing the carpet in room 7, blood stains were found on the floor, and attempts of scrubbing stains from the stairway were discovered. Gordon Kinney an employee of the hotel was suspected of knowing of the murder. When the excitement caused by the finding of the body was at its highest, an unknown man called Kinney from his door one night, and as he opened the door was shot and instantly killed. Soon the unfruitful efforts to find the murderers were abandoned. Again, a man named Eben Wheeler was mortally wounded and when told he had to die, Wheeler made a confession, stating that on the night of Woodmansee’s murder two men had taken from the Rader stable the horse and spring wagon.
In the Morning They Returned.
The bottom of the wagon was covered with blood. It was afterwards taken out and a new one put in instead. Rader was arrested for the murder, but acquitted, and again the affair was a dark mystery.

On the night of the murder a dance was being held in the dining rooms of the Rader House. Toward the close of the dance Sam Long and A. W. Flynn, both gamblers and hard cases, left. It was well known that Flynn and Woodmansee had had a difficulty and were engaged in a law suit. Flynn had threatened to kill him and his partner, Sam Long, said the case should never come to trial. It was also proven that they had followed him to Seymour. After the murder these men returned to Medora. Every time, during the many years, that new evidence or news concerning the Woodmansee murder was reported, it was followed by a meeting of these men
Suspicion Began to Point Strongly Towards Them.
Flynn threatened to shoot one Emery, who has talked about him but Emery shot first and instantly killed Flynn. Sam Long the partner, immediately disappeared and Alden E Rodman, a suspected accomplice was one night taken by unknown mob and hung. Thus, from knowing of the murder of Woodmansee, Gordon Kinney was murdered, Reuben Wheeler was mortally wounded, A. W. Flynn was shot and instantly killed, and A. E. Rodman was hung. Over seventeen years passed away, and the mystery of one murder had grown into the mystery of five still unsolved.

Yesterday, as before stated, Eliza Kemp arrived in Medora. The Woodmansee murder is no longer a mystery. For Eliza Kemp is no other than the Eliza Kemp who occupied Room 8, next to Woodmansee’s room in the Rader House on that fateful night . She said “On that night I was
Suddenly Awakened by a Noise
in Room 7. In a second I was fully awake, and realized that some one in the next room was begging for his life. I heard “Sam, kill the d—n s— of b—“ Then a blow followed by a heavy fall, and a moan or two. Then one said: “He’s dead, d—n him.” They then agreed to take his body, cut the head off and throw the body in the river. I left Seymour early in the morning and have not told what I have heard. I am going to Kansas in a few days, or would not now tell what I do, because my life had been threatened time and again by anonymous letters and in other ways.” Five of the six supposed to have been connected with this murder have been killed and Sam Long, the only remaining left in 1866 and has never since been seen or hear of. Thus, after seventeen years of mystery the murder did will out.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

He Emptied his Gun.

Little Murders
Clara Arnold, of Indianapolis, Indiana, had left her husband John and after several months of living apart sued for divorce on the grounds of ill-treatment. John Arnold countered by alleging that his wife had “evil associations” and too close a companionship with John W. Poe. Arnold had threatened his estranged wife with violence and she sent for Poe to stay with her for protection. Her sister Mollie and her husband were also staying with her on the night of December 8, 1889.

Around 10:00 that night the street door burst open and John Arnold entered brandishing a revolver. He fired two shots at John Poe, then turned to his wife shouting, “Clara, I told you I was going to kill you! I can’t stand it any longer! Get ready to die.” He fired three shots at her, one bullet hit her in the left breast and lodged near the lung, another hit her left leg near the pelvis. He then turned the gun on himself.

John Poe had been exceptionally lucky. One bullet had broken two teeth and cut his tongue, the other, deflected by his overcoat, inflicted a superficial wound under his arm. When the police found John Arnold lying on the floor they thought he had succeeded in killing himself, but he had been playing possum. He had a minor flesh wound in his arm. The wound was dressed and he was taken to jail.


"He Emptied His Gun." National Police Gazette 28 Dec 1889.
"Made Mad by Jealousy." Kansas City Times 9 Dec 1889.
"Shot His Wife." St. Louis Republic 9 Dec 1889.
"Shot to Death." Indianapolis Sun 28 Dec 1889.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Murderous California.

In the early 1800s, California was a region filled with outlaws, drifters, and gold-seekers, with too many murders to document. By the end of the century, though, the Golden State began to see some eastern style murders.

The Woman in Black. -1870

A prominent California legislator was sitting with his wife and son on board the Oakland-San Francisco ferryboat El Capitain the evening of November 3, 1870. They did not notice the woman, dressed entirely in black, wearing a broad brimmed black hat with a black veil covering her face, as she approached them. From the folds of her dress the woman pulled a derringer and shot the man in the chest. The family recognized the woman in black then; it was Laura Fair and she was finally ending her tumultuous affair with Alexander P. Crittenden.

"Thus She Passed Away." -1880

George Wheeler fell in love with his wife's younger sister Della. When she planned marry someone else he was faced with a dilemma: he could not marry her himself and he could not bear to see her wed to another. The solution he chose pleased no one.

The School-girl Murder. -1886

14-Year-old Mamie Kelly, murdered by the boy next door.

Theo Durrant - The Demon of the Belfry -1895

Theo Durrant, Superintendent of Sunday School at San Francisco’s Emanuel Baptist Church, was seen entering the church with Blanche Lamont on April 3, 1895, the day she disappeared. Though several people had seen them together that day, Durant was not a suspect in her disappearance. But when Minnie Williams, another girl he had courted, was found murdered and mutilated in the church library and the corpse of Blanch Lamont was found in the bell tower, the innocent Sunday school teacher was recast as “The Demon of the Belfrey.”

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Domestic Tragedy.

Little Murders

Annie Schau rushed from her home in Erie, Pennsylvania, on December 18, 1886, and ran to the neighbors screaming, “I am shot and Minnie is shot dead.” The neighbor ran to Annie’s house and saw her father, Christian Schau, running through the backyard with a smoking revolver in hand. Inside the house, Annie’s 22-year-old sister Minnie lay dead, shot through the heart. The girls’ mother was wild with grief, surrounded by her other six children mourning piteously.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Murder in a Saloon.

Little Murders
(From New York Herald,  New York, New York, May 8, 1876)

Murder in a Saloon.
A Cripple Beaten to Death with his Own Crutch.

Port Jervis, N. Y., May 7 1876.
Much excitement has been occasioned at Beach Ridge, near Stevensville, Sullivan County, by the perpetration of a murder in that usually quiet and law abiding community. The facts of the tragedy ae substantially as follows:--On Saturday James Morgan became engaged in an altercation with one James O’Hallen, the proprietor of an unlicensed drinking saloon. Morgan is a cripple, and during the trouble he
and struck O’Hallen a heavy blow with it. O’Hallen snatched the instrument from Morgan and knocked him down and left the saloon. Soon after, however, he returned and beat the still unconscious man until he was dead, The murderer then started to leave the village, but was arrested and imprisoned. There are said to be facts that will prove the murder to have been premeditated by O’Hallen for some time, and  the matter is to be thoroughly investigated.

"Murder in a Saloon." New York Herald, 8 May 1876.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Chicago Tragedy.

Little Murders

Oscar Grundman and his wife Annie were living unhappily in a Chicago tenement in 1891. Annie’s excessive drinking had been a continual source of trouble for her husband. He complained that she spent all of his hard-earned wages and neglected her domestic duties; he was running out of patience.

That September Oscar Grundman had Annie arrested and wanted to have her sent to the Washingtonian Home, an institution for the treatment of alcoholism. The judge dismissed her case, however, and sent her back home. After that, Annie lived in fear of her husband and locked him out of the house.

On September 15, Oscar persuaded a neighbor boy to knock on Annie’s door and tell her the police wanted to see her. When she came to the door he struck her on the head with a hatchet. Oscar ran away, escaping arrest, leaving Annie with a serious scalp wound. At the hospital, she was told that her thick hair had probably saved her life.

A week later, Oscar called on Annie again. This time, believing he had come to reconcile, she let him in. “Annie,” he said to her, loud enough for the other tenants to hear, “I have determined that we must part. We can’t live together happily. I have put our children in good hands. Now we must say goodbye.

Annie protested, pleading with him not to leave her. But leaving her was not what Oscar had in mind. The neighbors heard him say, “It’s no use Annie, we must die. Don’t scream. It will soon be over, Annie, and we will be happier than now.”

Oscar pulled out his revolver then and shot Annie once in the head, then turning the pistol on himself, fired a second shot. The neighbors heard the gunshots and heard two bodies fall to the ground. They forced their way into the room and found the unhappy couple lying dead, their blood mingling in pools around their bodies.

"Chicago Tragedy." Elkhart Daily Review 23 Sep 1891.
"Double Tragedy in Chicago." National Police Gazette 17 Oct 1891.
"Murder and Suicide." Daily Inter Ocean 23 Sep 1891.
"Struck with a Hatchet." Daily Inter Ocean 16 Sep 1891.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Murderous New Hampshire.

"Live Free or Die" is the motto of the great state of New Hampshire. Everyone has their own interpretation of those words, here are a few of the worst:

The Northwood Murderer. -1852

When a drifter came to town and committed murder, he was likely to get away without capture and was prone to kill again. But every now and then a wandering killer was caught and his whole bloody itinerary made public. Such was the case of the Northwood Murderer.

The Smuttynose Murders -1873

Life on Smuttynose Island, in the Isles of Shoales,off the coast of New Hampshire, was hard in the 1870's. The winter months were bitter cold and the winter storms were devastating. Maren Hontvet, her sister Karen Christensen, and their sister-in-law Anethe Christensen dreaded the loneliness and isolation of the island when the men of the house were away fishing. The night of March 6, 1873, with the men away, the women were prepared to be alone in the cold house, but nothing could have prepared them for the arrival, by rowboat, of a deranged axe murderer.

Josie Langmaid-"The Murdered Maiden Student" -1875

On October 4, 1875, 17-year-old Josie Langmaid was absent from school – The Pembroke Academy in Pembroke, New Hampshire. When her parents learned that Josie never arrived at school, they organized a search party. At 9:00 that night they found the mutilated body of Josie Langmaid in the woods near the academy. The following morning they found her head, half a mile from where the body had been. The gruesome discovery tore the community of Pembroke apart.

The New Hampshire Horror. -1883

After his wife left him in November, 1883, Thomas Samon began a weekend of drunken debauchery in Laconia, New Hampshire, with Jane Ford, the wife of his landlord. But when the beer ran out Saturday morning, events turned unexpectedly violent, ending in a horrible triple murder.

Cain and Abel. -1890

Like the Biblical brothers Cain and Able, the Sawtell brothers of Boston took divergent paths through life. While Hiram settled down and raised a family, supported by his successful fruit business, Isaac was doing time in Charlestown prison. And as with the Bible’s first murderer, Isaac’s jealousy of his brother became unbearable. Upon his release from prison, he lured Hiram from his family and killed him in cold blood.

Murder in the Vale of Tempe -1891

George Abbott was a young child when he began his career as a thief and by his thirtieth birthday he had spent a third of his life in jail. When he left prison he changed his name and tried to change his evil ways, traveling and taking honest employment. While working as a farmhand in Hanover, New Hampshire he fell in love with the farmer’s daughter, Christie Warden. When Christie did not return his love Abbot went back to his old ways and took it at gunpoint in the shady hollow known as the Vale of Tempe.

A Contract With the Devil -1897

On April 16, 1897, cashier Joseph A. Stickney was murdered during a daring daylight robbery of the Great Falls National Bank in Somersworth, New Hampshire. The frenzied investigation that followed, crossed state and national borders resulting in the arrests of Joseph Kelley, a resident of Somersworth with peculiar habits. Joseph E. Kelley confessed to the murder, leaving the court to decide whether his actions were driven by a mental disorder, whether he was feigning mental disability, or whether Kelley had in fact made a contract with the devil.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

“The Irish Giant”

Ned O’Baldwin was a heavyweight contender in the bareknuckle era of the 1860s and 1870s when a bout would continue until one man was knocked unconscious or the police arrived to shut the whole show down. Aptly dubbed “The Irish Giant,” O’Baldwin was 6’ 5”, weighed 200 lbs., and hailed from Lismore, Ireland. O’Baldwin is considered by some to be the greatest heavyweight boxer prior to John L. Sullivan, but outside the ring he was known for a violent temper which often landed him in court. He was once jailed for armed robbery after threatening to bludgeon a stakeholder.

Even for a championship contender, prizefighting as a source of income was less than reliable, so O’Baldwin partnered with a man named Michael Finnell to open a liquor store and saloon at 45 West Street in New York City. Apparently, the liquor business was not reliable either and on September 27, 1875, the partners met in the store for a vigorous business discussion. Only two men were present so it impossible to know exactly what transpired, but it was alleged that O’Baldwin was ready to sell out and leave the business and Finnell was not agreeable to this plan. The argument escalated, turned violent, and two shots were fired, attracting attention to the store.

Those who came to see what had happened found the Irish Giant on the floor, bleeding to death with a gunshot wound to the abdomen and another to the chest. The shooter was nowhere to be found. They quickly carried O’Baldwin to the hospital where he died the following day.

Those in the sporting community greatly mourned the big man’s death, but the New York press was not shedding any tears. Some editorials implied that Finnell’s action may have actually benefitted the community. The New York Herald was appalled by this advocacy of vigilante justice and, without wasting any sympathy on the dead boxer, wrote:

All large cities abound with people whose death might, in one point of view, be deemed a public benefit. If the haunts of thieves and burglars, or the streets or parts of streets given to lewd uses which make them the peril and often the ruin of young men, were blasted by lightning or engulfed by an earthquake, the moral atmosphere would, no doubt, be purified, but it by no means follows that the destruction of the vicious classes by human agency would be for the public advantage.

When the news of O’Baldwin’s death reached Finnell, he realized he either had to leave the city or turn himself in. He contacted a lawyer, and went to the police station claiming that he had acted in self-defense—not a bad plea given O’Baldwin’s size and reputed temper.  Michael Finnell was tried for first-degree murder the following February and was found not guilty for the murder of the Irish Giant.

"Equal Justice to the High and the Low." New York Herald 2 Oct 1875.
Boxing Forum 24: Ned O'Baldwin, the Irish Giant.
"Ned O'Baldwin's Murderer "Not Guilty"." Daily Critic 19 Feb 1876.
"New York." Boston Journal 28 Sep 1875.
"The Slayer of O'Baldwin." New York Herald 1 Oct 1875.