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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Compelled to Die.

Little Murders
In the autumn of 1889, Mrs. Nathaniel Strang, of Moserville, Michigan, began to exhibit signs of insanity. The extent of her condition came to light on November 18 when she tried to kill herself and her eighteen-year-old daughter Maud with aconite, a poisonous herb, because she feared that murderers were after them. A doctor was called in time to save both women.

In spite of this incident, Nathaniel left his wife and daughter alone again two days later. This time, Mrs. Strang poured two tumblers of Paris green, a compound used to kill rats and insects. She drank one herself, then pointing a revolver at Maud’s head, forced her to drink the other.

When Nathaniel returned home, Mrs. Strang told him what she had done. Nathaniel quickly summoned the doctor once again, but it was too late, the poison had already begun working. Mrs. Strang died in agony at midnight. Maud, who had watched her mother’s horrible death, begged the physician to save her life, but there was nothing he could do. She died an hour later.

Sources:

"A Horrible Suicide." New Haven Register 21 Nov 1889.
"A Mother's Crime." New Castle Weekly News 27 Nov 1889.
"A Mother's Terrible Deed." Michigan Argus 29 Nov 1889.
"Compelled to Die." National Police Gazette 7 Dec 1889.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Butler Fratricide.

The Murder of Henry Butler - Portrait of his Killer.
On October 6, 1879, Henry Butler went to visit his younger brother, Robert, at the King farm outside of Bradford, Pennsylvania, where Robert boarded. The brothers exchanged warm greetings, they had not seen each other in four years. They made plans to visit a third brother in Hornellsville, New York, then all three would go together to see their father. But first, they would have a night on the town.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

James E. Eldredge.

James E. Eldredge
James E. Eldredge left his home in Canton, New York in the spring of 1856. He returned six months later with a new name and a duplicitous personality to match. All those around him soon learned to distrust anything the young man said—all except his fiancĂ©, Sarah Jane Gould. She remained trusting to the end, when Eldredge poisoned Sarah Jane to pursue her younger sister.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Heathenish Murder.

Little Murders
(From New Haven Register, New Haven, Connecticut, September 4, 1879)



A Heathenish Murder. 

A case of “voudooism” and murder is reported from the very heart of New England. On Sunday last, Freddy, the two-and-a-half-years-old son of J. W. Smith of Springfield, Mass., died of arsenical poisoning. The person who committed the murder and who has been arrested or the crime is a mulatto woman of 25 years of age, named Julia or Lizzie Shepard. She claims to have come to Springfield from Madison, Connecticut and she has for some weeks been employed as a domestic in Springfield. The facts in the case regarding the alleged poisoning are as follows: The Shepard woman, coming to this city three weeks ago in search of a friend named Smith, went to J. W. Smith’s and, though finding it the wrong family, was permitted to remain, being of respectable address. The child Freddy was much thrown in with her, as Mrs. Smith was sick and he seemed to be constantly “ailing,” vomiting much accompanied with violent contraction of the leg and arm muscles. These attacks were especially noticeable after the child had taken milk, which the woman often gave him. Miss Shepard would express great solicitation for the child, but after a time the boy conceived such a dislike for her as to scream whenever she approached him. She also said that he was too handsome to live, and would die at a certain time. The family were naturally alarmed, and secured prescriptions from two physicians, and the boy appeared to mend. But on Sunday afternoon the child suddenly died after violent spasms, and the Shepard woman left. A chemical analysis showed evident traces of arsenic, and there seems to be no doubt that the child died of the effects of that poison. After the woman’s arrest, a bottle containing arsenic was found in her trunk. What lends additional force to the charge against her is, that a robust six-year-old boy in another family, where she went on Tuesday, was the same night attacked with symptoms similar to the Smith boy’s though he recovered the next morning. A pudding she carefully prepared for the family on that day is preserved for the chemist. Miss Shepard had also washed and ironed all of her clothes, intending, she said, to leave town soon for Troy. She is an unusually smart, attractive and neat-appearing woman, and is withal rather stylish, and she protests her innocence of the cause of her imprisonment. The father of this second child says he caught her face suddenly off its guard Tuesday, and found her regarding him in a manner that he describes as devilish in the extreme; and he suspects that the pudding was for his benefit. No motive can be imagined for the crime, except that the murderess wanted to be considered a Voudoo prophetess, a character both dreaded and revered among the more ignorant colored people of the South, and that to achieve the religious honor she predicted the death of the Smith child and, to clinch the fact of her gift of prophecy, used the arsenic to secure its death. That such a horrible a crime for so shameful a motive could be committed at all seems almost incredible, but there are many well authenticated cases of similar affairs among the barbarous blacks of Africa, as well as among the southern negroes. It is to be hoped that the case will be thoroughly sifted to the bottom and, if guilt is shown, that a speedy hanging affair may occur at Springfield. The ordinary hates, malice, rivalries and lusts of men and women are plentiful enough causes of murder without counting so fanciful a reason for murder as the desire to gain the character of a prophetess. The Freeman murder at Pocasset was a religious affair. This Springfield murder seems to be a heathenish affair although the motives are not altogether dissimilar. Trifling with human life in all such cases should be punished with the highest penalty of the law.




"A Heathenish Murder" New Haven Register, 9 Sep 1879.



Saturday, March 26, 2016

Love and Arsenic.

Little Murders

Elizabeth Ragan
As Arthur Ragan lay dying of a stomach ailment, in Piqua, Ohio, on April 3, 1855, his wife, Elizabeth took the physician aside and told him she believed her husband had poisoned himself. She said she thought the cream of tartar he had been taking for his stomach was actually arsenic. Mr. Ragan died that day, and a post-mortem examination proved his wife correct, he had died of arsenic poisoning. However, there were reasons to believe that Arthur Ragan had not committed suicide, and suspicion fell on Elizabeth as his murderer.

After Ragan’s death the postmaster of Colesville, Ohio, came forward with a highly incriminating letter. The previous December, the letter had, by mistake, been given to a man named Murray. When Murray read it and realized it was not for him, he returned it to the post office. The letter had been intended for James Mowrey, and the postmaster made sure it was delivered correctly, but the contents had been so disturbing that he first made a copy which he turned over to the police:

Saturday, March 19, 2016

“But you’re stabbed, don’t you know.”

Little Murders
On Wednesday evening, October 1, 1888, Brundage H. Welton, a well-known insurance man, was standing in Wilcox Brother’s cigar store in Bainbridge, New York, when a young man came into the store, walked up to Welton and punched him in the side.

“Don’t punch a fellow that way; you hurt,” Welton said to him.

“But you’re stabbed, don’t you know,” the other man said, grinning. He punched him again and said “Look and see.”

Welton unbuttoned his coat and was horrified to see a great quantity of blood flowing from stab wounds in his side.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Cup of Affliction.


If Mary Runkle was to be believed, she lived a life of sorrow, made all the worse by false accusations. Her “cup of affliction,” was filled with tragic deaths of three of her children and the suspicion that she was responsible. When her husband John died as well, under questionable circumstances, she lost the benefit of doubt and was forced to pay the price.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Caught in Bad Company.

Little Murders


Luke Dimick was a successful livery stable keeper in Rock Island, Illinois, and the son of a wealthy Chicago real estate man. To all appearance, Luke seemed like an ideal husband, but he had one fault that his wife could not abide— a fondness for ladies of the night.

The night of July 27, 1889, Mrs. Dimick took her revolver and followed Luke to a Rock Island bawdy house, where she caught him in flagrante delicto with one of the prostitutes. In the scuffle that followed, Mrs. Dimick fired the pistol, hitting her husband. Luke Dimick died two days later and his wife was charged with manslaughter. Luke’s father, O. J. Dimick, took his daughter-in-law’s side and paid a $5,000 bond for her release.

The case went to trial the following October. Mrs. Dimick claimed that she had not intended to kill her husband, she meant to shoot the woman he was with, and Luke interfered. The women of the bawdy house disagreed, saying Mrs. Dimick had deliberately shot her husband. The jury took Mrs. Dimick’s word and found her not guilty.


Sources:
"Among Our Neighbors." Decatur Daily Despatch 14 Sep 1889.
"Court Cullings." Rock Island Daily Argus 28 Sep 1889.
"He Was Caught in Very Bad Company." The Decatur Herald 29 Jul 1889.
"Held for Murder." Decatur Daily Despatch 30 Jul 1889.
"In a Bawdy House." National Police Gazette 5 Oct 1889.
"Telegraphic Brevities." Daily Illinois State Journal 14 Oct 1889.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Murderous Missouri.

The “Show Me State” has been the scene of quite a few sensational murders, including three that inspired memorable songs.


Love and Law. - 1874

The tragic love affair between Charles Kring and Dora Broemser ended in one maddened instant—he asked her to leave her husband, she refused, he shot her dead. The prosecution of Charles Kring for the crime of murder lasted eight years, included six trials and required a ruling by the United States Supreme Court..

The Talbotts. - 1880

When Dr. Perry Talbott was shot by an unknown assassin on September 18, 1880, in his dying breath he blamed his political enemies. The Nodaway county authorities, however, believed the killer was someone closer to home.

The Graham Tragedy. - 1885

Evangelist, temperance leader, author and publisher Emma Molloy opened her home to the lost and lonely the way others took in stray cats. Her charity led to a murder, a lynching, and a scandal for her entire family..

The St. Louis Trunk Tragedy. - 1885

Found inside a trunk left at the Southern Hotel in St. Louis, was the decomposing body of a man wearing only a pair of white drawers. Apparently one of the two young Englishmen sharing the room had murdered the other.  Though the death had been made to look like a political assassination, it was in fact the tragic ending of a “peculiar relationship.”

The Knoxville Girl.- 1892

William Simmons murdered his sweetheart, Mary Lula Noel, and left her strangled and battered body floating in Elk River. The brutal murder was memorialized by an equally brutal folk ballad, "The Knoxville girl."

The Meeks Family Murder. - 1894


6-year-old Nellie Meeks was the only survivor of a vengeful attack that killed her parents and two sisters.

That Bad Man Staggolee. - 1895


The story of Stagolee has been sung by troubadours for more than a hundred years. When Stack Lee Shelton shot Billy Lyons, in a fight over a Stetson hat, in Bill Curtis's Saloon, on Christmas night 1895, the legend was born.

"He Done Her Wrong." - 1899


The afternoon of October 6, 1899, Frankie Baker shot her lover for cheating on her. By that evening a St. Louis songwriter had composed a ballad about the murder which became an American classic.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Kiss of Death.

Little Murders

Frank Sharon, a young barber in Fall River, Massachusetts had some difficulty with his wife in December 1881, which resulted in his arrest. After his release, he went home and entered the room where his wife, and mother of his three children, lay sleeping. He leaned over and kissed her three times, then drew a pistol and shot her in the side of her neck. She died almost instantly.

Sharon went straight downtown and turned himself in to the police. He said something crossed his mind and told him to kill his wife. At his arraignment in January, Sharon pled not guilty to the charge of murder. He was probably planning to plead insanity, but it does not appear that the case ever went to trial.

Sources:
"Brutal Case of Wife Murder." Philadelphia Inquirer 8 Dec 1881.

"Kiss of Death." National Police Gazette 24 Dec 1881.

"Local Intelligence." Springfield Republican 23 Jan 1882.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Little Conestoga Creek.


The discovery of the murdered body of Mrs. Mary Dellinger led to the very public airing of her family’s dirty laundry. Calvin Dellinger was a philanderer, an abusive husband, and a sadistic father, but was he a killer as well?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Mystery in Pittsburgh.

Little Murders

Police Lieutenant Snyder, walking down Frankstown Avenue in Pittsburgh’s East End, around one a.m. on January 8, 1889, heard a gunshot from the house of Albert Davis, a well-known African American restaurant owner. The Lieutenant forced his way inside and found Davis lying dead at the bottom of a staircase. A revolver lay on a table next to several empty beer bottles. Standing near the body in their nightclothes were Carrie Palmer and Mollie White, both African American. Mollie White, a girl no older than 14, said she had been awakened by the shot and saw Davis fall down the stairs, but knew nothing of the circumstances leading up to his death. Carrie Palmer refused to give any information.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Jack the Ripper in St. Louis.


(From Salt Lake Tribune , January 10, 1889)

The Whitechapel Murderer.

St. Louis, Mo., Jan. 8.—A thorough scare exists in the worst haunts of vice in St. Louis to-night over a letter received today by chief of Police Huebler. The writer claims to be the genuine author of the horrible murder atrocities committed in Whitechapel, London. The letter is dated in St. Louis and is as follows:

     Chief Huebler and the City Police:-- Gents:--
I want you to have fare warning. I am for business, coming Frida from N. York and have canvassed Clark Avenue and some other places and have spotted four victims already. My knives are in good order and I will send you the lungs of every other woman I kill. You need not look for me. You can’t find; I don’t hide, have been all over town and talked to all your detectives. I can fool this town easier than London. I will operate in three streets, Spruce, Clark Avenue, and Thirteenth Streets. The word of God must be obeyed and sin must be abolished. My nerves are strong and true as ever. I have seen you once, now you have warning enuff. Tell them to repent soon. Ha. Ha. Look for blood in ten days. They call me
Jack the Ripper


Whether this correspondent is ”Jack the Ripper,” or a crank, he has succeeded in alarming the localities mentioned and Chief Huebler has promised the score or more wayward women who have appealed to him that extra police precautions will be taken in the threatened district.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A New Jersey Mystery.

Little Murders
The body of Francisco Avidois was found lying among the cat-tails in the meadows outside East Newark, New Jersey, on September 8, 1889. His throat had been cut to the bone, and he had been shot three times by a .32 caliber revolver, twice through the heart and once through the upper chest. Avidoir, between 55 and 60 years of age, was a bootblack in Newark, his shoeshine kit lay near the body. He was an Italian immigrant who had been living in New York City but fled two months earlier after stabbing his son-in-law for paying too much attention to Avidoir’s young wife.

Avidois had not been killed where the body was found. There was no sign of a struggle, and no trace of blood on the ground, though the neck wound would have bled profusely. The pistol had been fired at such close range that the shots left powder marks on the body. However, the shirt was not marked. Holes on the shirt corresponded to the bullet wounds, but they appeared to have been punched out of the cloth, and the shirt had no blood stains. Apparently, the shirt had been changed after death.

A money pocket stitched on the inside of the shirt had been torn open implying that robbery had been the motive, but it was hard to imagine such a violent killing over a bootblack’s earnings. The motive and circumstances of the murder remained a mystery, but the Boston Herald had suspicions: “…it might have been a murder ordered by one of the murderous Italian societies, the Maffia, for instance.”


Sources:
"Another New Jersey Mystery." National Police Gazette 28 Sep 1889.
"Found Murdered." Jersey Journal 9 Sep 1889.
"Mysterious Murder." Boston Herald 9 Sep 1889.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Illicit Infatuation.


On the surface, George and Fanny Crozier were a well-bred, churchgoing couple in a happy and stable marriage. But not too far beneath the surface, George’s “illicit infatuation” with 18-year-old Minerva Dutcher, had long been the subject of rumor in the small town of Benton, New York. With Fanny Crozier’s sudden death in the summer of 1875, George’s desires became public knowledge, and small-town gossip turned to damning evidence against him.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Murderous Chicago.

Referring to an 1889 book entitled The Crime of the Century or, The Assassination of Dr. Patrick Henry Cronin, noted crime writer Edmund Pearson remarked, “…anyone with the faintest knowledge of Chicago will remember that that city has a Crime of the Century every four or five years.” With that in mind, this small list of big Chicago crimes is presented in full awareness that it merely scratches the surface.

A Shrewd Rascal.


Samuel Smith and his wife Emma appeared happy and affectionate, but they hid a turmoil, not revealed until Emma was found dead in their apartment, her head blown apart by a shotgun blast.


Clan-na-Gael and the Murder of Dr. Cronin.

When Dr. Patrick Henry Cronin accused the leaders of Clan-na-Gael, of embezzling funds, he was denounced as a traitor and a British spy, and ultimately assassinated.

H. H. Holmes - "I was born with the devil in me."

Dr. Henry Howard Holmes was probably America’s most prodigious serial killer. He perfected his skills in his self-styled “murder castle” during Chicago’s Columbian Exposition.



Louise Luetgert - The Sausage Vat Murder.


Adolph Luetgert, “Sausage King” of Chicago, was constantly fighting with his wife Louise. Did he solve his domestic problems by dissolving her in body in one of his sausage vats?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Elmira Tragedy.

Little Murders


Two boys playing near a bridge at Carr’s Corners outside of Elmira, New York on Sunday, January 6, 1884 found the body of a young woman frozen in the snow under the bridge. The coroner determined that the woman had been murdered, causing a sensation in the small town of Elmira, on New York State’s Southern Tier.

The unidentified woman had been seen in several Elmira beer shops the previous Friday afternoon, accompanied by a young German man. She had displayed a large roll of bank notes and was wearing some distinctive jewelry—a gold watch on a slender gold chain, large old-fashioned gold bracelets, a large ring, earrings with long pendants, and a gold breastpin. Neither the money nor any of the jewelry were found on the body.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Shot His Father.

Little Murders
(From National Police Gazette, January 29, 1888)

Shot His Father.


William Howell, of Ashland, Ky., 17 years old, shot and killed his father, John Howell, on Saturday. John Howell served a term of years in the penitentiary, and returned home last August. Since then he has frequently beaten his wife and daughters. Thursday night he drove his entire family from home, and threatened their lives. Saturday morning his son procured a warrant for his arrest for abusing his family, and requiring him to give bond to keep peace. After the trial Howell returned home, swearing vengeance on his son, who met him at the door and shot him.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Notorious Mrs. Clem.


The sensational murders of successful businessman, Jacob Young and his wife in Indianapolis, in 1868, exposed a web of financial fraud involving some of the most influential men in the city. Circumstantial evidence soon pointed to Mrs. Nancy E. Clem, mastermind of the fraudulent scheme, as the perpetrator of the murders. The notorious Mrs. Clem, however, proved remarkably hard to convict. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Murder of a School Mate by Two Girls.

Little Murders
(From Sun,  Baltimore, Maryland, December 25, 1879)
Murder of a School Mate by Two Girls.

Cincinnati, Dec. 24. –A dispatch to the Enquirer, from Hogerstown, Ind., states that a murder, which occurred near a country schoolhouse between Centreville and Williamsburg, two weeks since, had just come to light. Two school-girls, about fifteen years old, daughters of wealthy parents, were expelled from the school for bad treatment of a school-mate of the same age, named Miss Kates. While the latter was on her way home, after school, they assaulted her—one knocking her down with a base ball bat and the other jumping on her and breaking four of her ribs—Miss Kates managed to crawl home, and died soon after communicating the facts to her mother. According to reports the parents of the assailants went to the murdered girl’s mother and persuaded her by a bribe of $3,000 to keep the affair secret. The facts, however, leaked out through school children who witnessed the assault, and have created much excitement.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Hawkins Matricide.

Little Murders


Islip was a quiet little town on the southern shore of Long Island, populated by the families of seafaring men and summer visitors from New York, escaping the noise and bustle of the city. The town had no saloons and had did not have enough crime to justify building a jail. So the discovery, in October 1887, of woman’s body, shot and beaten, off the Brentwood road in the woods just outside of Islip, threw the town into a state of high excitement.

The body might have been missed completely, but it was wrapped in a bright red shawl. The wagon driver who spotted it got down to take a look and found a middle-aged woman, shot three times in the head, her face bruised and disfigured beyond recognition.

From her clothing, she was identified as Mrs. Cynthiana Hawkins, widow of Captain Fredrick Hawkins, who had made a fortune as a sea captain and later in the lumber business. Her maiden name was Clock, one of the most prominent families in Long Island society. Her brothers immediately initiated an investigation of her murder. Robbery was ruled out as a motive; she had not been assaulted, it looked more like a revenge killing.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Murdered in Court.

Little Murders


A bitter rivalry between two Ashland, Ohio newspapers turned bloody in a Cleveland courtroom on October 30, 1887. The details of the lawsuit have been overshadowed by subsequent events in the courtroom, but C. D. Mason, the editor of the Ashland Gazette, was the plaintiff in a suit to recover $52.50 from Elias Lutz on a note transferred to him from his brother James Mason. Representing Mr. Lutz was attorney W. H. Reynolds, who was also the editor of the Ashland Times. In a separate case, the Mason brothers were suing Reynolds for libel over an article in his paper characterizing the note transaction as a swindle.

The tension in the room was palpable when James Mason took the witness stand. As he spoke, W. H. Reynolds made irritating remarks regarding his testimony. D. C. Mason soon had enough of Reynolds’s comments; he stood up and struck Reynolds with a chair. Reynolds, who was lame, stood up as well, and supporting himself on a chair, began to strike D. C. Mason with his cane. James Mason came to his brother’s defense from the witness stand, by pulling out his .38 caliber revolver and firing two fatal shots into W. H. Reynolds. Spectators who were supporting Reynolds called for the lynching of James Mason, but cooler heads prevailed and with some difficulty, both Mason brothers were protected.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Recent Acquisitions.

Here are some murder related cartes de visite I recently acquired. They were produced at the time of the murders and sold as souvenirs.


Jennie Cramer
Poisoned in Connecticut, 1881.
Jim Fisk
Shot in New York City, 1872
Josie Mansfield
Jim Fisk's mistress
& cause of his downfall.


Josie Langmaid
Beaten and Decapitated in
New Hampshire, 1875
Moses Sargent
Private Detective
active in the Langmaid Case
& Other N. H. murders.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Transitory Frenzy.

Little Murders
Charles E. Henry came to Denver, Colorado, determined to live the fast life. The ambitious nineteen-year-old left his home in London, Ontario, in 1887 after winning $5,000 in the Louisiana lottery. He planned to use his winnings as seed money to begin a career as a professional gambler and to finance a life of luxury as he did so.

Henry had some initial success in the arcades of Denver, winning, on average, $30 a day for his first two weeks in town, but he spent more than that on the girls at the Palace Theater. The show at the Palace featured a variety company with a number of attractive young actresses and female vocalist. The theater required the women, when not on stage, to entertain individual customers, luring them to private boxes in the theater balcony and enticing them to buy drinks, for which the women received kickbacks. Charles Henry bought drinks for most of the cast before focusing his attentions on Miss Effie Moore, an actress with a round face and long curls of shiny black hair, who did a solo seriocomic performance in the show.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Little Mary Mohrman.


In 1868, Mrs. Mohrman, a widowed mother, lived with her five daughters, on Orkney Street in Philadelphia. The youngest girl, Mary, was a favorite of everyone in the neighborhood. “Little Mary Mohrman,” as she was known by all, was described as “one of those sunny-haired, bright-eyed, sylvan-like children, whose innocence, one would think, could soften the hardest soul.” This sentiment would be tested and proven horribly false.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Devil in Essex County.

In honor of Halloween, I am switching, this week, from nineteenth century murder to seventeenth century witchcraft. Everyone knows of the mass hysteria surrounding the Salem witch trials in 1692, but as this excerpt from my book, Murder and Mayhem in Essex County, points out, fear of witchcraft, in Massachusetts, did not begin or end with the witch trials, and accusations of demonic possession spread far beyond the borders of Salem.


The Devil in Essex County.

    Without a doubt the most nefarious events ever to take place in Essex County, Massachusetts, were the trials and executions of twenty women and men, and the imprisonment of dozens more, between 1692 and 1693, for practicing witchcraft. The witch trials in Salem have become synonymous with mass hysteria and injustice, and have left an indelible stain on the reputation of Salem, Massachusetts. The notion of accusing and punishing witches has become so tightly bound to Salem as to leave the impression that it was an isolated incident, a brief moment of insanity limited to that place and time, ending as suddenly as it began.  In fact, accusations of witchcraft had a long history in Essex County, which neither began nor ended in Salem.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Murder in McDowell.

Little Murders


Stephen Effler
On January 6, 1881, a traveler named Sowers stopped at the home of Stephen Effler and his wife and was invited to stay for supper. The Efflers lived near McDowell, North Carolina, in a wild gorge in the Blue Ridge Mountains, so remote that no wheeled vehicle could pass within a mile. During the meal, Effler and his wife, got into a terrible argument and she told him she planned to leave him and return to her mother the following day. By the time Sowers left, the fighting had ceased, and Mrs. Effler seemed to be in good health.

Some time later Effler went to his grandfather’s house and told him that his wife was very ill. His grandfather alerted the neighbors, and they went to see how Mrs. Effler was doing. “Very ill” was an understatement, they found Mrs. Effler lying dead with her three-month-old baby sleeping on her breast. Her neck had been broken, her right shoulder dislocated, and she had wounds and bruises all over her body. Effler was arrested, and a coroner’s jury summoned. Their conclusion was “that the deceased came to her from wounds inflicted by some weapon in the hands of her husband.”

Saturday, October 17, 2015

An Ancient Mystery Solved.

Little Murders
(From New York Tribune, November 29, 1883)


An Ancient Mystery Solved.
 The Perpetrator of One Murder, Which Led to Four Others, Discovered.

Seymour, Ind., Nov. 28. – An old murder mystery, resulting in four other tragedies, has just been cleared up. Moore Woodmansee, a wealthy merchant of Medora, nineteen miles from here, came to Seymour, January 3, 1866, on his way to Cincinnati. He had $2,000 with which to purchase goods. He was missed from his room at the Roder House, and the cause of his disappearance was a mystery until October, when his body was found in White River, with the head cut off. Gordon Kinney, an employee of the hotel, was suspected of the crime. When the excitement caused by the finding of the body was at its highest, an unknown man called Kinney from his door one night; as the latter opened the door he was shot and instantly killed.

In 1872 Reuben Wheeler was mortally wounded. When told he had to die, Wheeler made a confession, saying that on the night of Woodmansee’s murder two men had taken from the Roder stable the horse and spring-wagon. In the morning they returned. The bottom of the wagon was covered with blood. It was afterward taken out and new boards substituted. Roder was arrested for the murder, but acquitted; and again the affair was a dark mystery.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Unrequited Love.

Little Murders

Andrew J. Gillen
When he was a young law student, Andrew J. Gillen was mentored by Michael Sigerson, Assistant Corporation Lawyer for New York City. Gillen was a troubled youth whose family had disowned him over his “habits of dissipation,” and appreciated Sigerson’s help and hospitality. He would often visit Sigerson’s home on Lewis Street, where he lived with his widowed mother, his brother John and his sister Mary.

The mentoring continued for several years and over that time Gillen fell in love with Mary Sigerson. She was thirty-years-old, brunette, short and somewhat stout, quiet and reserved, educated as a teacher, but did not feel robust enough to follow that occupation. Though she was described as “not particularly handsome,” Gillen was infatuated with Mary and, after passing the bar, he continued to visit the Sigerson home to see her.

Andrew Gillen was a fine looking young man with light hair and blue eyes, but he was only twenty-three and Mary did not take his advances seriously. Undeterred, Gillen persisted until his conduct became too annoying to tolerate. Mary and her mother requested that he cease his visits.

Devastated, Gillen sent Mary a note, appealing for an opportunity to win her affections. Mary sent a note back, agreeing to see him once more. She told her mother that she would dismiss Gillen after a few minutes. When he arrived, he was allowed into the family sitting-room on the second floor, and Mrs. Sigerson went in and out of the room several times, to make her presence known.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The North Carolina Tragedy.


The Reverend George Washington Carawan, prominent and powerful North Carolina Baptist minister was a man of violent temper and strong animal passions, more apt to inspire terror than piety in those around him. The sorrows he begat in his relationships would follow him to the courtroom for the last savage act in Carawan’s tragedy.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Dark Mystery.

The Carlton House was a cheap hotel on the corner of Franklin and William Streets in New York City. The basement of the building housed shops and a laundry, and below them was a sub-cellar that served as a repository for ashes and refuse from the hotel and businesses above. In the fall of 1884, the Board of Health received several complaints about the unclean condition of the cellar. After inspecting the premises, the board ordered the owner of the property to remove the heaps of dirt and ashes that had accumulated there. 

After about a week of hoisting barrels of rubbish up to the street, one of the workmen found what he thought was a slender piece of wood. When he grabbed it and tried to pull it out, he dropped it quickly, with a cry of terror. It was not a piece of wood, but the leg of a woman, dried and shriveled. The workmen removed about six inches of dirt, uncovering the corpse of a young woman who had been dead for more than a year. She was wearing a black cloth sacque, with lace trimmings on the sleeves, a brown cloth dress and muslin underskirt. On her legs were blue and white striped stockings, partially worn away or eaten by mice. The flesh of the body had wasted from the frame which was now little more than a skeleton. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Murderous New Jersey.

The state of New Jersey has been the scene of quite a few sensational murders, and it was famous in the nineteenth century for swift prosecution and harsh punishment. All but one of the following murder cases are prime examples of “Jersey Justice.”

A Crime of Passion.

Joel Clough fell madly in love with his landlady’s daughter, Mary Hamilton. She did not return his love, and in 1833 his passion drove him to stab her eleven times in the chest.


Antoine Le Blanc.

Hatred of Antoine Le Blanc, murderer of the Sayre family, was so strong in New Jersey that after a speedy trial and execution his body was used for bizarre experiments and his skin tanned and made into wallets.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Charcoal Pit Tragedy.

Little Murders
North Madison, Connecticut, was rural and sparsely populated in the 1880s. The land was rough and rocky and the soil hard to cultivate; charcoal manufacturing was the chief occupation of people living there. Among those eking out a living, farming and making charcoal in North Madison, was the Johnson family. The parents long dead, two brothers and two sisters lived together in a long low white house about a mile from the turnpike.  Though all were verging on, or well past, forty years of age none had ever married. The sisters kept house, while the older brother, Edgar worked the farm, and the younger brother Eldridge tended a charcoal pit, down the hill about 40 rods from the house. 

Charcoal pits require frequent monitoring, and Eldridge Johnson would often spend the night in a small shack built next to the pit. The night of December 2, Eldridge left the house at 10:00 bound for the pit, but when he did not return for breakfast the next morning the family became concerned. Edgar went down to the pit and found his brother stretched out on the smoldering, sod-covered heap of charcoal. His skull had been fractured, his body was bruised and his lower limbs badly burned. The ground around the pit showed signs of a struggle. Eldridge’s axe and lantern were missing along with $41 he was known to have had in his pocket.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Hamilton Murder.

Little Murders
(From Cincinnati Daily Gazette , Cincinnati, Ohio, December 27, 1870)


The Hamilton Murder.
 A Most Mysterious Tragedy.
Special Dispatch to the Cincinnati Gazette.
 Hamilton, O. December 26.
The murder of Thomas Meyers, in George Johnson’s saloon, in this city last Saturday night, is almost the only topic of conversation here now. The circumstances of the tragedy are so very peculiar that no one knows exactly what to make of it. The murder occurred in a room over the saloon used as a faro bank, but in which were also several card tables, employed at times by those who wished to enjoy a quiet game of cards for amusement.

In this room, where the affair occurred, were gathered several of our prominent citizens among whom were Co. A. C. Sands, Job E. Owens, Dr. Huber, Peter Schwab, David E. Brown, John McKinney, E. Bannister, J. C. Lindley, Samuel Davidson, Solomon Schurz. Colonel Sands says, however, that hi had left the room before the shooting occurred, although he was there but a short time before. Of all those who were present, no one but Peter Schwab can give an intelligent account of what happened, and his statement is singularly deficient in some important particulars.

He says that he and Dr. Huber were playing casino at one of the tables. Colonel Sands and three others were playing seven-up at another, while Meyers and a number of others were engaged at the faro bank, George Johnson, the proprietor, dealing the same.

Of a sudden he heard the cry, “Oh, murder,” and looking up saw Meyers fall against the wall and sink toward the floor. As he slipped from his seat he discharged a revolver, the bullet lodging in the wall over the faro table. As he reached the floor he fired again, the ball being imbedded in the wash board just above the floor. At the cry of “murder” the room was cleared in a jiffy, only Schwab and Bannister remaining. Seeing that Meyers was badly hurt, Schwab ran out upon the street, captured Dr. Huber and brought him back, who examined Meyers’ condition. He found that Meyers had received a pistol shot in the abdomen which had severed an important artery, and death ensued in a few minute. In addition to this wound he had received three blows upon the head, evidently made by a slung-shot, either of which would have proved fatal.

Now, what is particularly curious about the affair is that no one saw the man enter and deliver the blows upon Meyers’ head and no one heard the report of the pistol when he was shot. The first circumstance which attracted attention was the cry or “Oh, murder.” Of course, under these circumstances, it is very difficult to fix upon any one as the perpetrator of the deed. Suspicion rests, however upon Tom McGehen, a man who has had a deadly quarrel with Meyers for some time past. A boy stated that, shortly before the occurrence, he saw Tom McGehen, his nephew, James McGehen, Jack Gavin, Daniel McGlynn and Ich Sheely pass through the saloon below, and go to the card room. Upon this statement a warrant was sworn out or the arrest of these parties. This morning, however before the warrant was served, they learned that it had been issued, and voluntarily surrendered themselves to esquire Wilkins. Upon representations made by the defenders that the presence of witnesses from abroad was necessary to their defense, they were placed in charge of a constable and sent to the Hamilton House to be kept until Wednesday morning when the preliminary examination will take place.


"The Hamilton Murder." Cincinnati Daily Gazette 27 Dec 1870.