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Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Murderous 1850s.

Reports of sensational murders had proven so successful at selling newspapers in earlier decades, that by the 1850s murder had become a front page staple of American newspapers. Murder stories, unfolded in the daily papers as if they were serialized mysteries, and readers could not get enough.


An Unfortunate Organization -1850

Phrenology, the theory that a person’s character is determined by the size and shape of his head, was quite popular in America during the 1850s. A phrenological analysis of Reuben Dunbar in 1851 found him to be excessive in Destructiveness, Combativeness, Aqusitiveness, Secretiveness and Firmness, while being deficient in Self-esteem and Philoprogenitiveness. He had “an unfortunate organization” in which his moral faculties were not sufficiently large to balance his animal propensities. While the phrenologist professed scientific objectivity in the analysis of Dunbar’s head, she may have been somewhat influenced the fact that, at the time, Reuben Dunbar was charged with murdering his two young stepbrothers to protect his inheritance.

The North Carolina Tragedy. -1852

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.

Arthur Spring Jr. vs. Arthur Spring Sr. -1853

On the morning of March 11, 1853, the bodies of Mrs. Honora Shaw and her sister Mrs. Ellen Lynch were found brutally stabbed and beaten in the front room of their home on Federal Street in Philadelphia. Circumstantial evidence pointed to Arthur Spring, a frequent guest of Mrs. Shaw’s, as the murderer. But the most damning evidence against Spring was the testimony of his nineteen-year-old son, Arthur Jr. who directly accused his father of the murders. Arthur Spring vehemently denied the charge and countered by pinning the murders on his son.

The Veiled Murderess -1853

In 1854, a woman calling herself Henrietta Robinson stood trial in Troy, New York, for poisoning a neighbor and his sister-in-law. Despite the judge’s admonitions, she sat through the trial with her face covered by a black veil, hiding her appearance from the throngs of spectators who had come to watch. Everything about the defendant was a mystery—her motive for murder, her behavior before and after the crime, and even her true identity. It was well known that “Henrietta Robinson” was an assumed name, but who she really was has never been determined.

The Killing of Bill The Butcher -1855

Bill “The Butcher” Poole was a champion New York City pugilist in 1855—before the Marquess of Queensbury rules—when kicking, biting and eye-gouging were acceptable tactics and “fight to the death” was more than a metaphor.  It was also a time when a challenge was likely to be issued out of pure hatred for your opponent.  When John Morrissey, the Irish enforcer for Tammany Hall challenged Bill Poole of the the anti-immigrant “Know Nothing” Party it promised to be the ultimate grudge match. But when the fighters turned to knives and guns, all pretext of sport was gone.  It would be Bill “The Butcher” Poole’s last fight.

The Bond Street Tragedy -1857

The townhouse at 31 Bond Street was, to all appearance, a model of staid middleclass Manhattan decorum. In 1857 it was a boardinghouse run by Mrs. Emma Cunningham with the dental office of Dr. Harvey Burdell on the second floor. But after Dr. Burdell was found in his office strangled and stabbed fifteen times, 31 Bond Street was shown for what it was—a hotbed of greed, lust, intrigue and depravity.

The Manheim Tragedy -1857

On a sunny December morning in 1857, Mrs. Anna Garber and Mrs. Elizabeth Ream were raped and murdered in Mrs. Garber’s home in Manheim, Pennsylvania. Evidence overwhelmingly pointed to Alexander Anderson and Henry Richards, two African American workmen seen in the neighborhood. Though there was little doubt as to who committed the murders, a question still remained: would they be tried by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or would the case would be handled by "Judge Lynch."

Dan Sickles's Temporary Insanity -1859

Dan Sickles, congressman from New York, was married to the most beautiful woman in Washington but his other interests, including his mistresses, often kept him away from home. Feeling lonely and abandoned, his lovely young wife, Teresa, found comfort in the arms of Philip Barton Key. When Sickles learned of their affair, he armed himself and confronted Key on the street. Blinded by rage he shot and killed his wife’s lover. Was it premeditated murder or temporary insanity?

A Balance of Probabilities. -1859

The morning of December 11, 1859, eleven-year-old Priscilla Budge carried a cup of tea to her mother’s bedroom. There she found her mother dead, lying on the bed with her throat cut. Mrs. Budge was known to be mentally unstable and her husband, the Reverend Henry Budge, immediately declared that his wife’s death must have been suicide. The coroner’s jury agreed and Mrs. Budge was soon buried—a quick conclusion to an unpleasant event. But as it turned out, it was not the conclusion, just the opening argument of a debate that would go on for years.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Yes, I Shot to Kill."

Little Murders

Commerce on the busy intersection  of Twenty-Fourth and J Streets, in Omaha, Nebraska, was interrupted, the evening of October 16, by the crack of three pistol shots. A young woman fired once in the air, trying to get the attention of the man who had just walked away from her. When he continued walking without turning around, she aimed at his back and fired again. Then she pointed the revolver at her own head and fired a third shot. Two bodies fell to the pavement.

Both were still alive and were quickly taken to Presbyterian Hospital. The man was Henry J. Reiser, a well-known, single, man-about-town, connected to the Armour meat packing company. The shot had severed his spinal cord, and he was not expected to live. The woman was Mrs. Eloise Rutiger, a prominent Omaha social leader, whose husband was also associated with Armour. The bullet had only grazed her head, and she was in no danger.

“Is he dead yet?” Mrs. Rudiger asked when she came to in the hospital, “Yes, I shot to kill. It was for my husband to do, but he would not, so I did it myself. The wretch has given me enough cause, and I hope I have accomplished what I undertook.”

Henry Reiser had come to America from Germany, ten years earlier. He was from an aristocratic family and was often referred to as Baron Henry Reiser. He first settled in Chicago where he became a packing-house promoter then moved to Omaha to work for Armour. He met Eloise Rutiger through her husband two years before the shooting.

Mrs. Rudiger was instantly fascinated and eventually seduced, by the handsome young baron. He had a “marvelous influence” over her—a “mesmeric power” she would later say—which seems to have been noticed by everyone except her husband.

“I loved the man at first and do not deny it.” Mrs. Rudiger said, but their relationship did not run smoothly. Reiser, at times, became abusive. Once he fractured her ribs, and she begged the physician who treated her not to tell her husband.

Eventually, guilt overcame the power over Reiser had over her and Mrs. Rutiger told her husband about the affair. Mr. Rudiger wanted to divorce his wife and went to Reiser asking if he would admit to adultery so they could settle the matter quietly.  Reiser refused, so Eloise Rutiger went to Reiser and asked him herself. When he refused again, she shot him and tried to shoot herself.

Henry Riser clung to life for nearly two months, but his death was inevitable. When he died in December, Eloise Rutiger was indicted for first-degree murder.

The courtroom was filled to capacity when Eloise Rudiger’s trial began in March 1894, and public sentiment was generally in her favor. She pled self-defense, citing Reiser’s hypnotic control over her. The jury deliberated for four days, sleeping when they could, in chairs or on the floor. They could not reach an agreement; seven wanted to convict and five to acquit. Two of the five would convict if the charges were reduced to manslaughter, but the remaining three were unyielding. The trial ended in a hung jury.

The case was tried again in June, and this time Mrs. Rudiger was acquitted. Her husband stood by her through both trials and during her ordeal they had reconciled. After the verdict was read, Mr. and Mrs. Rudiger left the courtroom together.

Sources:
“Died of his Wounds,” Logansport Reporter, December 16, 1893.
“Dressed to Kill,” Omaha World-Herald, March 19, 1894.
“Given to the Jury ,” St. Louis Republic, June 9, 1894.
“Henry J. Reiser Dead,” Daily Inter Ocean, December 16, 1893.
“A Married Woman Kills her Lover,” National Police Gazette, November 18, 1893.
“Mrs. Rudiger Acquitted,” Elkhart Daily Review, June 13, 1894.
“Mrs. Rudiger Killed Him,” New York Herald, October 28, 1893.
“Mrs. Rudiger of Omaha,” Galveston Daily News, October 28, 1893.
“Reiser's case is Hopeless,” Omaha World-Herald, November 10, 1893.
“Shot Her Seducer,” Salem Daily News, October 27, 1893.
“Sorry for the Jury.,” Omaha World-Herald, March 27, 1894.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Maniac at Des Moines.

Little Murders
(From Jackson Citizen, July 17, 1883)

The Maniac at Des Moines.

The fight with a maniac at a Des Moines (Iowa) hotel, briefly chronicled previously, was as follows: At noon Sunday a man who apparently alighted from the Rock Island train going west registered his name at the Morgan House, near the station as Henry Seage, of Swans, N. Y. He paid for his room and went thither at once. About 4:30 o’clock a boarder heard the cry of murder, and called the landlord. The latter hurried to Seager’s room, and found the door barricaded with the bed. Seager fired a shot at the landlord, and he fled. Other shots were fired, one of which carried off the door plate, and following in quick succession until thirteen had been fired through the door and wall, several of which scarred the wall across the narrow hall. Seager then demolished the furniture of his room, and did the same in several adjoining rooms, and threw his money, a considerable amount, into the gathering crowd below. He then had a collision with a boarder named Joseph Holmes, in a room at the end of the hall, but breaking away from Holmes he escaped to the roof of the wing to the building, Holmes followed, and while trying to grab seager he was felled by a blow from a bottle in the hands of the maniac, a bad gash being inflicted on the head.

By this time five policemen had reached the roof. A shot was fired, whether by Holmes or Seager is not certain, but it took effect in one of Seager’s legs, and he partly fell. In staggering, Seager fired again, aiming at the center of his forehead. He was then overpowered and taken to the city hospital, where he wounds were dressed. Seager’s skull was crushed by the ball aimed at his forehead, and the bullet that entered his thigh is thought by doctors to have entered his body. They consider his case fatal. He seems to be a mechanic or laborer. His luggage consisted of a pair of shoes, and inside his hat band was written the name of Mary Frew.



Saturday, March 4, 2017

Murder Among the Whyos, Part 2.

Daniel M. Lyons (burglar),
Dan Driscoll and Dan Lyons were the successful leaders of New York City’s Whyo gang in the early 1880s. After Driscoll’s arrest for murder in 1886, Dan Lyons became the sole leader, but his reign did not last long. Confusion surrounds the cause of Lyons’ downfall in 1887—most modern accounts say he was executed for murdering a popular amateur athlete, but in fact, he was shot to death by an angry saloonkeeper. Either way, murder led to the demise of the Whyos.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Mystery Solved by a Skeleton.

Little Murders
(From New York Tribune, September 12, 1884)


A Mystery Solved by a Skeleton.

Complicity of a Wife in the Murder of Her Husband and Children.
[By Telegraph got the Tribune]

Beaver Falls, W. Va., Sept 11.—The mystery surrounding one of the most remarkable crimes committed in the Coal Valley has been cleared up by a singular chain of circumstances. Some fifteen years ago the family of John Ireland lived in a cabin a short distance from this town. The family consisted of husband, wife and three children. One Thompson, who had been in the neighborhood for some months was a frequent visitor at the Ireland cabin, called there one morning and found, so he at the time reported, the dead bodies of the three children, all young lying on the floor in pools of blood. Ireland and his wife were missing. Thompson gave an alarm at the nearest house a mile away and a search for the missing people was made. After some time Mrs. Ireland was found gagged and bound to a tree. She affected to be nearly frantic and claimed that her husband had committed the deed. As he was missing she was believed. Soon after Thompson and the woman began living together. They quarreled frequently and one day she was found dead in her bed. No inquest was held and it was given out that she died of heart disease. Thompson disappeared four or five years ago.

On Tuesday, a party of boys came to the mouth of a shaft that had been sunk years before for coal, but for some cause was abandoned. While standing at its edge one of them dropped a knife into the shaft. They determined to recover it. Precautions were taken against foul air and by the aid of a rope and torch the boy was lowered to the bottom a distance of twenty-five feet. A scream of terror caused him to rapidly draw up when he declared there was a skeleton in the shaft. The authorities made examination and brought up few bones and a rusty tin tobacco box. In it was found a document written by Ireland saying that Thompson aided by Ireland’s wife had attempted to kill him but at first only stunned him, that recovering he discovered the three children dead. Seeing he was alive they again beat him and carried him out for dead and threw him into the shaft. He recovered and wrote the note after vainly calling aid. Undoubtedly Mrs. Ireland was bound to the tree by her accomplice to throw suspicion on the husband.




Saturday, February 18, 2017

Murder Among the Whyos, Part 1.

The Whyos, in 1886, were the strongest and most brutal criminal gang New York City had ever known. Under the joint leadership of Dan Driscoll and Dan Lyons, the Whyos grew to control criminal activity throughout the city. But Driscoll and Lyons were too violent and reckless to rule for long and their mistakes led to the demise of the gang. The Whyos’ downfall began when Dan Driscoll stole Beezy Garrity from her pimp John McCarthy. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Murderous Shooting in a Bagnio.

Little Murders
(From Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, June 2, 1875)


Murderous Shooting in a Bagnio.
A Girl Attacked with a Pistol.
Case of Jealousy and Revenge

The after-dark sporting fraternity was all agog last night over the report of a shooting of the inmate of a house of ill character on Longworth street. The particulars, shorn of the reportorial dressing up and exciting bristles, are these. Shortly before 10 o’clock last night a young man, well dressed, pulled the door bell of Kate Riley’s house, located on Longworth street. He was admitted by the mistress of the mansion, and shown to a seat in the waiting room, where he asked for Kate’s sister, Marla Riley, with whom the young man was well acquainted. Kate agreed to all Marla down form her room in the third story, and in a few minutes the young woman appeared to greet her guest. She found him, on entering the room, seated by a table, with a strange expression on his face and his hand behind his back. She misconstrued the expression and the attitude, cordially greeted the visitor, and advancing toward him, asked him what he was holding behind him—was it a present for her? The man responded with a menacing speech, presented a pistol, cocked it and fired at the girl, who, surprised and sorely wounded, and wildly shrieking, fled into a side kitchen. She was followed by her assailant, who fired at her again, and after she had thrown herself behind the stove for protection he fired another shot, while in the arms of the poor girl’s sister, endeavoring to restrain the murderer. In the struggle he dropped the pistol, and it is said he snatched it up again and fired at the prostrate and screaming girl the only load remaining in the chambers of the weapon, which was a four barreled Sharp’s pocket pistol.

Officers Sullivan and Daley, on their beat in the vicinity, hearing the shots, rushed to the place and arrested the man. He was taken to the Ninth Street Station and locked up giving there his name as George Wilder. He was recognized as Frank Wilder, a three-card monte man, and a character who has latterly made a living by following shows with trick and gambling apparatuses.

Doctors Freeman and William Judkins were called in to see the wounded girl. It was found that she had been struck by but one of the pistol balls, which entered her abdomen and came out under the skin of the left thigh. Dr. Judkins pronounced the hurt mortal, though Dr. Freeman thought it was not necessarily so.

The girl’s account is, substantially, that she is about twenty-five years of age, and has lived at her sister’s house for some time. She had known Frank Wilder intimately, as she had known a number of other men. She had not seen him for three years, until last Wednesday morning. He spent Monday night at the house in company with the girl, and left in the morning. The next time she saw him was last night when he accosted her with the pistol.

Wilder came here last from Newtown, Ohio. Some time ago, it is said he attacked the girl in Indianapolis, and attempted to shot her. This is one of the old cases, undoubtedly, of jealousy resulting from fast life and bagnio attachments.

At last accounts, the wounded girl was sinking, and it was thought she would die before morning.
Wilder, in his cell at Ninth Street Station, did not seem to regard the affair in a very serious light last night, but he refused to make any statements whatever in regard to it. In reply to interrogations of the arresting officers he said, “Oh, let up, now, I am just as ‘fly’ as any of you, and do not propose to give myself away.” He was perfectly sober when the shooting took place, and it is said was trying to borrow a pistol early in the evening.

After he had been left alone, he undressed and hung up his clothing in his cell with as much ease as if he were resting in a first-class hotel, and soon after laid down on the bench and fell asleep, in which condition he remained at 2 o’clock this morning when our reporter left the Station.

It looks very much like a clear case of premeditated murder, without the usual accompaniment of “emotional insanity.” The prisoner gave his age as twenty sever years, and his is rather genteel in appearance, about five feet seven or eight inches in height.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Monster or Maniac?

Sarah Jane Whiteling
On March 17, 1888, Mrs. Sarah Jane Whiteling of Philadelphia sent for the family physician, Dr. George Smith, to examine her husband, John, who was vomiting and suffering from abdominal pains. The doctor diagnosed John’s illness as inflammation of the bowels and prescribed some medicine. It did not relieve the suffering, however, and three days later John Whiteling was dead.

Dr. Smith was summoned to the Whiteling home again about a month later, this time to attend Mrs. Whiteling’s daughter Bertha. She expired as well, and Dr. Smith attributed her death to gastric fever. When Dr. Smith was called again in early June, to treat 2-year-old William Whiteling he refused; having already presided over two deaths in the Whiteling household he referred the case to Dr. George Dietrick. When William died, Dr. Dietrick gave obstruction of the bowels as the cause of death.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Murders, Murder Trials, Confessions of Murder, Discoveries of Murder, &c., &c.

Little Murders
(From Richmond Enquirer November 6, 1845)
The last Chicago Democrat 22d ult., is little better than a continued chronicle of horribles. First comes a confession said to have been made by Birch, one of the murderers of Col. Davenport, in which he discloses all the particulars of that horrible transaction.

“The Redmans, (or Redings,) kept a house which was used as a general rendezvous for the fraternity of rascals in their visits to that part of the country. It was at the house, (on Devil Creek, Lee county, Iowa,) that the plan was devised and conceived of murdering Col. D., and the father of the family, (there are three of them—the father and two sons) was present and assisted in the arrangement for the bloody deed. He has been indicted by the Grand Jury of Rock Island, as an accessory before the fact. A son of this old man (William) assisted at the robbery of Knox and Drury’s office, in Rock Island, about the time of Davenport’s murder, for which an indictment was also found against him.”

The trial of Birch, and two of his accomplices in the murder, was to have commenced last Monday:
“Fox of Indiana, alias Sutton of Illinois, alias Johnson of Iowa, is still at large In the violent indignation of the people against him, woe to the man or woman who secrets him. We fear that any discovery of the kind would lead to Lynch law; and unless he is found soon, some persons who have heretofore secreted him had better leave the State until the excitement is past. There is a point beyond which such knaves as Fox, Big Davis, Favor, Baker , Aiken, Land, Dean, Driskell, Button, &c., &c., cannot go in Illinois.”

Next comes the solution of a mysterious murder, committed some months since:
“It will be remembered that, soon after the two Hodges were hung, one of the brothers of the Hodges was killed in Nauvoo. Among other developments at Rock Island, it has come out that, out of fear of his confessing, he was shot by Jack Reding, or Redman, whose father and brother are now confined at Rock Island. Jack is still at large.”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Did He Murder His Namesake?

28-year-old Cornelius Callahan and his 23-year-old cousin also named Cornelius Callahan, took a train, on October 24, 1883, from Hartford, Connecticut to Meriden, Connecticut where Daniel Callahan, the brother of the elder cousin had a job opportunity for the younger. After transacting their business, the three had a few drinks before the cousins took the limited express that evening back to Hartford. When the train arrived in Hartford, only the elder Cornelius got off.

The arriving Cornelius Callahan told the family that his cousin had been standing on the platform outside of one the cars and had fallen off the train near the town of Berlin. He said he told the conductor and a porter, but was not believed. The family was also slow to believe this story, but the following day the brother of the missing man and the father of his cousin, walked the track near Berlin. They met a crew of railroad men who said they had found a body underneath a pile of crossties; it was their missing relative, almost exactly where Cornelius had said it would be.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Unsolved Massachusetts.

Massachusetts was the site of America’s most famous unsolved murder – the shocking daylight axe murder of Andrew and Abby Borden. The prime suspect, Andrew’s daughter Lizzie, was acquitted, a verdict that remains controversial. A number of lesser known nineteenth-century Massachusetts murders have also remained unsolved and are shrouded in mystery just as deep.

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe...Or Did She? -1892

Either Lizzie Borden got away with murder or someone else did. Lizzie was acquitted of the axe murder of Andrew and Abby Borden and no one else was ever arrested.                    

Her Miserable End. -1885

Alone and troubled in a strange town, Carrie Whitney fell prey to despicable men who were never brought to justice.

Two Shots, a Shriek. -1891                   

Josephine Brown, a Boston prostitute, was murdered on Christmas Eve, 1891. Her alleged killer was never captured.                   

The Medford Mystery. -1892

The mystery of Walter Debbins murder in Medford, MA, grew more dense with each new revelation. No motive was ever determined and the mysterious suspect was never captured. 

The Webster Mystery. -1887

Alice Hoyle must have known something about her sister Lillie's violent death, but each time she was questioned she told a different story. What actually happened that night in 1887 remains a mystery and her killer or killers were never punished.                   

The Boston Barrel Tragedy. -1872

The dismembered body of Abijah Ellis was found stuffed inside two barrels, floating in the Charles River. Despite impressive detective work by the Boston Police and the most advanced blood analysis available in 1872, no one was convicted of his murder.                   

Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Murderer’s Death Dance.

Little Murders
(From New York Sun February 10, 1888)


A Murderer’s Death Dance.
      
Fiddling and Singing the Night Before His Execution.


The Utica, N.Y., Feb. 9—Clement Arthur Day was executed in Utica jail at 10:24 ½ o’clock this morning in the presence of 24 citizens, including all officials. He was declared dead in 11 ½ minutes. His neck was broken. Before he left his cell, he declared that he had nothing further to say to the public. On his knees, in the presence of the Rev. E. Owen, his spiritual adviser, he declared himself guiltless of premeditated murder. Four drams of croton oil, sufficient to kill four men, were found in his cell within a week. His father declared he would never be executed.

Day clapped his hands after the death warrant was read, and smiled. On walking over the ice in the jail yard he laughed heartily over the falls of the sheriff, Rev. E Owen, a newspaper reporter, and Special Deputy Burke, exclaiming: “That’s four of them.” He yawned while his legs were being strapped on the scaffold. He shook hands and kissed Deputy Burke, and assisted Deputy Ballow in adjusting the rope about his neck, He smiled as the cap was drawn over his face and the smile was still there when the body was cut down.

The crime for which Day was hanged was the murder of his paramour, Johanna Rosa Cross. The crime was committed on the banks of the Black River canal the 9th of last June. Day’s father, a lock tender, was the only witness of the tragedy. Day was jealous of his mistress and feared she would leave him. She had tried many times to get his permission for her to visit her mother, but he always refused, saying she would never return. The day before the tragedy she received a letter from her mother saying she was dying and asking the daughter to come to her. She wrote a reply to the letter and she and Day started down the bank of the canal toward Boonville, where they intended to mail it. They had gone but a short distance when Day turned on her and struck her with a butcher knife. She fell and he continue cutting until eight distinct cuts were made, one of which entered the heart and another the abdomen. The father informed the authorities of the crime, and after spending a day in the woods the murderer gave himself up. In the interviews with him after his arrest not a particle of regret for what he had done could be drawn from him. He pretended to have been converted and to be penitent, but his conversation and instincts were vulgar and beastly to the end. The condemned man passed the last night of his life on earth without displaying any nervousness. On the contrary, he seem to enjoy his violin, and sang and danced with jail officials and others with apparent unconcern for his future until 12:30 this morning. He then went to bed and slept until 6:30.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Her Miserable End.

James Hartig, a watchman at the Massapoag House in Sharon, Massachusetts, traveling from the hotel the morning of December 5, 1885, discovered the body of a young woman lying on the muddy road. He notified the authorities, and Chief Wade of the district police sent two officers to investigate.

Snow had fallen the night before up until 11:00 when the snow turned to rain. Under the body was snow, while all around it the snow had melted, indicating the body had been placed there the previous night. Articles of her clothing appeared to be missing, and the officers searched the area for them. An autopsy determined that she had died from a broken neck that could only have been caused by a violent bending of the head forward. There were no other marks of violence except on her legs which appeared as though the body had been dragged over the ground some time after death.

No one in Sharon recognized the dead woman, so her description was published in newspapers throughout Massachusetts. On December 7, Officer Abbot of the Boston Police Department arrived in Sharon with a woman who believed she knew the victim. Officer Abbott’s companion instantly recognized her as Carrie Lee, alias Carrie J. Loring, whose real name was Carrie Whitney. She said if they examined her left forearm they would find an India ink tattoo of the initials “C W” and a star. The arm was stripped, and the marks were found as described.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Christmas Eve Murder.

Little Murders
(From New York Herald March 9, 1888)


A Christmas Eve Murder.
      
John F. Foley Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree.

The John F. Foley, alias “Mud,” pleaded guilty yesterday before Judge Gildersleeve in the Court of General Sessions to manslaughter in the first degree, in killing Dennis Carney. He was remanded until to-day for sentence.

The defendant and the murdered man were members of a west side gang who committed robberies from the outside of stores and from parcel wagons. On Christmas Eve, 1886, Carney’s body was found toward midnight in a gutter on Twenty-seventh street, near Eleventh avenue, and on examinations it was seen that he had been stabbed through the heart.

Foley had been seen with Carney a short time previous to the discovery of the murder and was arrested, but after several examinations before Justice Duffy he was discharged. Another of the gang, named Johnny Murphy, residing at No. 445 West Twenty-seventh street, was subsequently arrested, and at Police Headquarters told the story of the murder, which was briefly as follows:— On the evening of December 24, 1886, Foley and carney quarreled about a can of peaches, during which Foley stabbed Carney in the left breast. After a few words had passed between them and Foley had ascertained that the injuries were likely to be fatal, he ran toward the North river, but afterward virtually gave himself up.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Orrin De Wolf.

Orrin De Wolf
Orrin De Wolf was a humble hostler in Worcester, Massachusetts in January 1845, but he had prospects for a brighter future. He had a deal with Eliza Ann Stiles—on the death of her husband William they would share his estate. William was a deformed, alcoholic in poor health and not likely to live another year. But Orin did not want to wait and his impatience would be his downfall.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

“Coal Oil Johnny” Killed.

Little Murders
(From Cincinnati Commercial Tribune July 21, 1883)

“Coal Oil Johnny” Killed.
      
Tragic End of One of the Most Notorious Swindlers in the Country.
      
Shot by His Jealous Wife.
      
A Bagnio in Terre Haute the Scene of the Killing—Local Experience of John and Sadie Hall—The Climax of a Life of Crime.
  
Special to the Commercial Gazette.
Terre Haute, Ind., July 20 – The city was startled this morning by a report that another unprovoked murder had been added to the list of crimes enacted here. The murder took place just after daylight this morning, in a Second street bagnio run by Aggie Roland, and possesses much of a sensational nature.

John B. Hall, a street vender, possessed of a number of aliases, but better known by the sobriquet of “Coal Oil Johnny,” was the victim of the crime committed by his wife, who found him occupying a room with one Maud Hunter, an inmate of the house. Hall and his wife had quarreled during the day, and when he closed up his day’s business, instead of returning to his rooms at the St. Charles Hotel, he started out on a spree. He finally wound up at 2 o’clock this morning by retiring at Roland’s house. His wife started out in search of him, and, in a hack, made a tour of the open saloons, but did not find him. She heard about 3 o’clock of his visit to Roland’s, and with the hack driver entered the house, representing to the driver that her husband had a large amount of money on his person, which she feared he would lose. After a number of inquiries regarding accommodations for the night, she inquired if a certain friend of hers was at the house, describing her husband as the friend. Learning that he was, she asked to see him, and was conducted to the door of his room. She knocked, and was admitted by the Hunter girl. Entering the room, she found her husband asleep in bed. She walked to his side, and after gazing at him in silence turned as if to leave. Lying on a bureau at the head of the bed was revolver, which Hall placed  there after retiring. She saw it, and seizing the weapon, she pointed it full at the breast of the sleeping man and fired. The ball lodged in the right breast, producing instant death. The shock threw the body to the floor, the head and shoulders under the bed. Not a word had been spoken, and the shooting had taken place so unexpectedly that neither of the three witnesses could have interfered.

Mrs. Hall gave herself up, and has engaged attorneys for her defense and they refuse to allow her to be interviews or to testify at the Coroner’s inquest. This evening she regrets the deed, and acts as if partly insane.       

The murdered man was noted as one of the most expert bunko steerers and confidence men of the day, and had traveled under a number of aliases. His mother lives in St. Joseph, Mo., and she was notified of his death.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

American Murder Ballads.

The stories of many of America's most memorable murders have been kept alive by folk ballads that have been sung for more than a hundred years. Though seldom factually accurate, the songs are always moving and heartfelt. Here are just a few:


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, but how much of it is true?
Ballad: Omie Wise

"…Cut off in her youthful bloom." -1810

The mysteries of Polly Williams’s death have endured for two centuries; her story is neatly summarized in a song and a poem.
Ballads: Polly Williams, Polly Williams (poem)

The Indiana Hero -1820

When Palmer Warren refused to fight a duel with Amas Fuller over the woman he loved, Fuller shot him in cold blood. But Amasa Fuller was so popular in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, that the young lady was cast as the villain, and Fuller “The Indiana Hero.”
Ballad: The Indiana Here (aka Fuller and Warren)

The Ballad of Frankie Silver -1831

Charlie and Frankie Silver were the ideal young married couple, so the legend goes, but the reality was much darker. Frankie had endured physical abuse from Charlie throughout their marriage until, she fought back to save her own life.
Ballad: The Ballad of Frankie Silver

The Murdered Wife -1845

Eight days after Mary Ann Wyatt married Henry Green she died of arsenic poisoning. There is little doubt Henry Green murdered his wife but his motive in doing so is an enduring mystery.
Ballad: The Arsenic Tragedy


Hang Down Your Head Tom Dula -1866

The stories behind murder ballads are never as pretty as the songs. The 1866 murder of Laura Foster by Tom Dula in Elkville, North Carolina left a pretty song of an ugly murder.
Ballad: Tom Dooley


Jubilee Jim -1872

Jim Fisk was the consummate Gilded Age robber baron. Everything he had or did had to be the biggest and best. When his adulterous relationship turned scandalous, it was an epic scandal filled with blackmail, courtroom drama, and finally murder.
Ballad: The Stokes Verdict


Josie Langmaid-"The Murdered Maiden Student" -1875

On October 4, 1875, the mutilated body of 17-year-old Josie Langmaid was found in the woods in Pembroke, New Hampshire. The ballad her murder inspired is remarkably accurate, but profoundly sad.
Ballad: Suncook Town Tragedy

The St. Louis Trunk Tragedy -1885

The body of Charles Arthur Preller was found in a trunk in a St. Louis hotel. Though the death had been made to look like a political assassination, it was in fact the tragic ending of a “peculiar relationship.”
Ballad: Ewing Brooks

Freda Ward - "Girl Slays Girl" -1892

On the afternoon of January 25, 1892, Alice Mitchel met Freda Ward on Front Street and cut her throat with a straight razor. Was Alice driven by insanity, jealousy, or “an unnatural love?”
Ballad: Alice Mitchell and Freddy Ward

Poor Ellen Smith -1892

Ellen Smith, 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.
Ballad: Poor Ellen Smith

The Knoxville Girl -1892

"The Knoxville girl" is an American version of a song with very deep English roots, modified to fit the drowning of Mary Lula Noel.
Ballad: The Knoxville Girl

The Meeks Family Murder -1894

6-year-old Nellie Meeks was the only survivor of an ambush that took the lives of her parents and two sisters. When her story was verified it became one of the most sensational crimes in Missouri history.
Ballads: The Meeks Family Murder, Midnight Murder of the Meeks Family

That Bad Man Stagolee -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 in St. Louis, on Christmas night 1895, the legend was born.
Ballads (two of many versions): Stack O'Lee Blues, Billy Lyons and Stack O'Lee

Frankie Baker - "He Done Her Wrong" -1899

On October 16, 1899 Frankie Baker shot her lover Allen Britt. By that evening a local songwriter had composed a song that would become one of the most popular murder ballads of all time.
Ballad: Frankie and Johnny

Delia's Gone, One More Round -1900

On Christmas Eve 1900, Cooney Houston shot and killed his girlfriend Delia Green.  Delia’s story has been sung by generations of folk singers, and has been recorded by musical icons such as Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
Ballad: Delia's Gone

Saturday, November 26, 2016

An Insane Explorer.

Little Murders

Survivors of Jeannette expedition (James Bartlett, seated second from left)
On July 8, 1879, the U.S.S. Jeanette left San Francisco bound for the Bering Strait. Its mission, funded by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., publisher of the New York Herald, was to make the United States the first nation to reach the North Pole, on the theory that a warm Pacific current would provide a water route. After nearly two years sailing through ice-bound waters, the Jeanette was “nipped” in the ice on June 12, 1881 and sank the following day. The crew set off on foot, hoping to reach the coast of Siberia before winter set in. They struggled for 91 days, living on seal, walrus, polar bear, and sea birds, and covered nearly one thousand miles. Only thirteen of the original crew of thirty-three survived.

Among the survivors of the Jeanette expedition was James R. Bartlett, who, in 1892, was living in San Francisco with his wife and their niece. Mentally, Bartlett never recovered from his arctic hardship; and had previously been confined in an insane asylum.

Around 1:30, the morning of October 30, 1892, Bartlett went into his house and told his wife he was going to kill her. He drew his revolver and shot his wife in the shoulder. As she ran screaming from the room, their young niece, Lottie Carpenter, came in and tried to intercede. Bartlett shot her in the head and she died moments later. He then went to a back room and shot himself in the head.

The newspapers all agreed that the tragedy was a direct result of hardships Bartlett suffered as a crewman of the ill-fated Jeanette expedition. The Oregonian questioned the value of such ventures, “Neither science, humanity nor common sense warrants a man in putting so severe strain upon his physical and mental powers as to render his crippled existence a misfortune to himself and a constant menace to those about him. The Jeannette expedition was one of the most costly in life, hardship and money that has ever been sent out in quest of an “open Polar Sea,” while its profits are so meager that science takes no note of them.”

Sources:
“[San Francisco; Miss Lottie Carpenter; James R.,” Oregonian, November 1, 1892.
“An Insane Explorer.,” Plain Dealer, October 31, 1892.
“An Insane Murderer,” San Diego Union, October 31, 1892.
“Crazed By His Arctic Sufferings.,” New York Tribune, October 31, 1892.
National Geographic: The Hair-Raising Tale of the U.S.S. Jeannette's Ill-Fated 1879 Polar Voyage . “James R. Bartlett Dead,” Daily Register-Gazette, October 26, 1893.
USNI News: The Jeannette Expedition.
“News in Brief.,” Huntsville Gazette, November 5, 1892.