Saturday, January 25, 2020

A Fearful Fratricide.

The Rogers family were early settlers in Blue Lick Springs, Kentucky, having fought a bloody battle with Indians to secure their homestead. They never lost their frontier zeal for violence as a tool for solving problems, even for family disputes which, apparently, were frequent and quite intense. In the 1880s, Willis Rogers had eight children, five boys and three girls. In the heat of an argument, Willis’s brother shot and killed one of the boys. To make amends, the brother willed his entire estate to Willis. He died soon after leaving Willis Rogers a very wealthy man.

When Willis died in 1883 he left the fortune to his sons Samuel and Robert, for some reason disinheriting his other two surviving sons, William and Thomas. William, who was an attorney in St. Louis, and Thomas, who was a farmer of “high standing,” had no intention of taking the matter lying down and made plans to contest the will. On September 27, they met at the old Rogers’s mansion on Indian Creek, with their brother Samuel, president of the Farmer’s Bank in Carlisle, and executor of the will, along with several other attorneys.

As they took depositions for the lawsuit, tempers were on edge and the tension in the room was palpable. During a wordy exchange, Samuel believed that one of his brothers had moved to draw a weapon, so he drew his own revolver and fired a shot. It was reported that William and Thomas then pulled out their pistols and began firing. As the lawyers hurriedly left the room, Samuel’s son entered with his gun drawn, and “… all blazed away until smoke made it impossible to do creditable work.”

When the smoke cleared, Samuel emerged unscathed but William and Thomas were fatally wounded—William shot in the right knee and abdomen, and Thomas in the left arm and right temple.  On his arrest, Samuel maintained that his brothers had drawn on him first, but the attorneys present claimed that Samuel, who had emptied his pistol, was the only man to fire. It is safe to say that Robert Rogers, the brother who had not attended the meeting, was the only man to benefit from this negotiation.

Originally posted on August 8, 2014.

Sources:

"[Kentucky; Blue Lick Springs; Willis Rogert; Willis]." Springfield Republican 2 Oct 1883: 4.
"A Fearful Fratricidal Crime ." Jackson Citizen Patriot 28 Sep 1883: 1.
"Cold Lead as a Surragate." National Police Gazette 20 Oct 1883

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Murder in the Well.

This week we present a guest post from Shelley Dziedzic of Lizzie Borden: Warps & Wefts, a blog devoted to the Borden murders and the city of Fall River, Massachusetts—"News, articles and photos about The Lady, The Crime, The City and The Era.” Shelly is a member of the Muttoneaters, a group that investigates all things related to Lizzie Borden, and the Pear Essential Players who annually re-enact the Borden Murders at the house where they occurred (now a Fall River bed and breakfast.)


The post, “Murder in the Well”, tells the story of a gruesome murder/suicide from another branch of the Borden family tree.




Uncle Lawdwick  and Those  “Children Down the Well”

Photography and text by Shelley Dziedzic (all rights reserved)

For students of the Borden case, the tale of Lizzie’s great-uncle Lawdwick (also seen as Ludwig, Ladwig, Ladowick and other variations) has long been an interesting footnote to the saga of the Borden murders of 1892.  Lawdwick Borden was the son of Martha Patty Bowen and Richard Borden.  Lawdwick’s brother Abraham Bowen Borden was Andrew Jackson Borden’s father.  Uncle Lawdwick was Lizzie Borden’s great-uncle.  He will be referred to as Lawdwick hereafter as that is the spelling which is seen on his grave marker.

Abraham Bowen Borden (Lawdwick’s brother and Lizzie’s grandfather)


Lawdwick would enjoy the company of four wives over the span of his life, not an unusual occurrence in the days when women often died in childbirth or from complications following childbirth.  There are records of four marriages:  Maria Briggs, Eliza Darling, Eliza Chace (sometimes seen as Chase), and Ruhama Crocker.  Ruhama Crocker Borden is listed as Lawdwick’s widow in Fall River city directories after Lawdwick died in 1874. The spelling and handwriting in censuses of the period is often poor or illegible, thus creating a challenge for historians generations later to decipher.

It is the second wife, Eliza Darling Borden who has piqued the excitement of Borden case scholars today, for it is she who did the unthinkable- she killed two of her three children and then took her own life.  Today it might be chalked up to post partum depression. She had three children in rapid succession. Even the details of her suicide are clouded over time.  Most versions would have it that she went upstairs in the little Cape Cod style house next door south of the Charles Trafton house in 1848, (which would become the Andrew Borden house in 1872) when she was at the age of 37, and sliced her throat with Lawdwick’s straight razor after dropping her children in the cellar cistern. Another version has her committing self-destruction behind the cellar chimney.  As thrilling tales often go, they tend to improve and evolve with the retelling.

Paranormal investigators today who visit the Lizzie Borden home, take great pains to attempt to contact these ghostly children who died so tragically years before Abby and Andrew would be done to death by hatchet on August 4, 1892.  Guests who stay at the Borden home, now a popular bed and breakfast, leave toys for the “ghost children” in the guest rooms and declare they can hear childish laughter and sounds of play on the second and third floors.

This sad tale has endured for so long due primarily to Lizzie Borden herself- and her trial of 1893.  Lizzie was carefully examined to determine if she were mentally competent.  Questions were asked as to the sanity of the Borden clan in general.  Not surprisingly the topic of Eliza Borden and her unfortunate children was introduced as a possible source of inherited madness.  This was quickly shot down as Eliza Darling Borden was only a Borden by marriage, and not a blood relation to Lizzie Borden at all.  Mention was made that the sole survivor of the well incident, Maria Borden (Hinckley), was “alive and well and a mother herself still living in the city”.  It is a possibility Maria was named for Lawdwick’s first wife, Maria Briggs, as was a common custom in cases of the untimely death of a young spouse upon remarriage of the widower.

But first, the details on all of the family members.  Mother of Lawdwick:  Martha Patty Bowen Birth Jul 13 1775 in Freetown, Bristol, Massachusetts, USA ,  Death Nov 16, 1827

Father: Richard Borden Birth 1769 in Bristol Co., Massachusetts, USA , Death Apr 04 1824 * note that Richard’s mother was named Hope Cook.  Most likely Cook Borden was named for her family surname.

Lawdwick’s Siblings:

Abraham Bowen Borden  1798-1882



Thomas Borden 1800

Amy Borden       1802-1877

Hannah Borden 1803-1891

Richard Borden  1805-1872

Rowena Borden 1808-1836  (stone below)

 
















Cook Borden  1810-1880

Lawdwick  1812-1874 (stone below)


Zephaniah 1814-1884 (stone below)













Lawdwick’s wives:

Maria Briggs  married Sept 8, 1833

b. 1811 – d. 1838 (stones below)




Eliza Darling  married March 16, 1843


b.1811 – d. 1848 suicide and mother who drowned two of her three children


(engraved Second Wife)



Baby Holder S. Borden- Drowned 



Eliza Ann, aged 2 Drowned





Born October 22, 1844  died 1909 buried under Maria Borden, no mention of husband Samuel B. Hinckley.

Maria Borden (Hinckley) (daughter and only living child)



Eliza T. Chace  married February 29, 1856 Third Wife

  • 1813-1864

Ruhama Crocker Borden shown living with Lawdwick in 1870 census with sister Lydia and Maria, Eliza’s daughter now 25 and married to Samuel B. Hinckley, a Civil War veteran on 2 Oct 1866. Ruhama is listed as Lawdwick’s “widow” in Fall River city directories after 1874.




Ruhama Crocker-  b.  1814-d. 1879 (in Providence in 1850, living with parents and siblings in 1860 in Attleboro


An interesting detail about Maria Borden and her husband Samuel B. Hinckley. Samuel had been a boarder in 1850 at the Lawdwick Borden house when Maria was a little girl of 5.  Samuel was 18.  The two would wed on October 3, 1866.  Samuel had served in the Civil war and was mustered out as a full captain in Washington D.C. on July 14, 1865. (click on image below for full size). In 1850 both Samuel and Lawdwick are listed as “Millers”, presumably in a lumber yard.


At least two more infants are buried in this plot, both near Maria Briggs Borden, which would make them half siblings of the Maria who survived the cistern. One was born the year after Lawdwick’s marriage to Maria Briggs, the other two years later. A name is barely readable on one stone, the other reads Matthew.







Census listing for 1860


Lawdwick is a Lumber man, second wife Eliza T. Chace Borden is keeping house and Maria is now 15. Whatever became of the marriage of Maria and Samuel is unclear. The newspaper article in 1893, during Lizzie Borden’s trial mentions the living child from “the cistern was a mother herself and living in the city”. Maria Borden Hinckley would have been 49 years old at the time of Lizzie’s trial in New Bedford.


My thanks to the groundsmen at Oak Grove Cemetery, Will Clawson, Len Rebello, and Ancestry.com

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Fatal Family Feud.

The morning of December 18, 1889, Edward O’Connor, a San Francisco bartender, surrendered
himself to a group of police officers saying, “I hit a man with a stick last night, and I think he is dead.”

O’Connor was quite intoxicated and was reluctant to take the officers to see the body.  He finally led them to the home of his father-in-law, Henry Armstrong where they found Armstrong’s body laying on the floor of the front room. The floor was strewn with broken glass, clay pipes and cigarette butts and a number of half-empty whiskey and gin bottles stood on a table in another room. 

Armstrong’s wife lay passed out on a bed near the body. O’Connor’s wife Sarah, as drunk as her husband became excited at the approach of the officers. Apparently unaware of what Edward had told them, Sarah said that the shooting had been accidental then corrected herself saying Armstrong had dropped dead from heart disease.

O’Connor then exclaimed “No, no! I am the murderer! I killed him. He abused my wife and I shot him.”

Armstrong had begun throwing things at his wife, O’Connor explained, pointing to an alarm clock Armstrong had hurled. O’Connor hit him with a stick and Sarah ran to get his revolver. The gun went off accidentally as O’Connor tried to take it away from her. Examining the body, the officers discovered a bullet wound in Armstrong’s left side.

Sarah had married Edward O’Connor on November 7, and the four of them lived together in a four-room cottage—it was a disaster waiting to happen. Since the wedding, the household had been “on a protracted debauch” of drunken animosity. Henry Armstrong, who owned the cottage, was bitterly opposed to his stepdaughter’s marriage and had threatened to throw everyone out. He was a confirmed drunkard with a mean disposition and had been arrested two years earlier for feloniously assaulting Sarah. Edward O’Connor was also a drunkard. His first wife had recently secured a divorce on the grounds of cruelty and intemperance. That night all four had been drinking heavily.

Once everyone had sobered up, police managed to piece together the events of the night before. Armstrong had come home drunk at about 9:00 and everyone else had already gone to bed. Sarah got up and prepared supper for him, then took a bowl of soup to her husband and a drink of liquor to her mother. Armstrong became angry that Sarah had not brought him a drink. He verbally abused her saying the dinner was not fit for a dog. Becoming increasingly angry Armstrong began throwing things at her including a lamp chimney and an alarm clock.

The noise aroused O’Connor who grabbed his cane and rushed at Armstrong, intending to give him a clubbing. Armstrong evaded the stick, rushed into his room and shut the door. O’Connor turned to go back to bed and was surprised to see his wife approaching with his bulldog pistol in her hand. O’Connor grappled with her and managed to take it away after the gun went off. Thinking nothing was wrong the two went back to bed.

Two hours later, Mrs. Armstrong called out saying that her husband was hurt. They thought she was fooling and paid no attention. She insisted they come and when they did they found Armstrong on the floor very weak and faint. O’Connor went to get some whiskey and when he returned Armstrong was dead. Then he went for the police.

Sarah claimed that she had not intended to use the pistol; she wanted to hide it so her husband wouldn’t use it. Sarah was released and Edward O’Connor was held for murder. At his trial the following March, O’Connor was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to five years at San Quentin.


Sources:
“The Day of Doom,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 22, 1890.
“Fatal Family Feud,” San Diego Union, December 26, 1889.
“Kicked out of the House,” San Francisco Bulletin, February 13, 1890.
“Mrs. Sarah O'Connor Kills Her Step-Father,” Evening News, December 18, 1889.
“Murder Most Foul!,” The National Police Gazette, January 11, 1890.
“On Trial for Murder,” San Francisco Bulletin, March 1, 1890.
“A San Francisco Tragedy,” Sacramento Bee, December 18, 1889.
“Who Shot Him?,” San Francisco Bulletin, December 18, 1889.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

An Insane Explorer.

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.”

Originally posted on 11/26/2016.

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.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Caught in Bad Company.



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.

Originally posted March 5, 2016.

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, December 21, 2019

A Christmas Poisoning.

Mrs. Mary Paye.
On Christmas Day, 1882, Captain David W. Paye lay dying with symptoms so severe and unusual that three physicians had been called to his home in Fishkill Landing, New York, to consult on the case. For the previous week, Paye had been violently ill, with a burning in his throat, pains in his stomach, and an unquenchable thirst. Doctors Tiel, Wilson and Jones concluded that Paye was stricken with arsenic poisoning. Late that night, in great agony, Capt. Paye died.

At the time, arsenic in small doses was believed to be a cure for impotence, but Capt. Paye swore, as God was his judge, he had never taken anything to cause this illness. Though he did not accuse his wife, Mary, of poisoning him, he believed that the poison had been in a pie that she had baked; he had eaten heartily of the pie, he said, while his wife had just a little. Mary Paye tearfully denied this, saying that she had eaten most of the pie herself.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Olive Peany.

Today we have a guest post from Undine, who describes herself as “Blogger of the Grotesque and Arabesque. Remarkably lifelike.” And who would argue? She hosts the blog Strange Company (http://strangeco.blogspot.com/) which consistently delivers on its promise of “A walk on the weird side of history.” Undine also hosts The World of Edgar Allan Poe (http://worldofpoe.blogspot.com/) providing everything you need to know concerning that esteemed gentleman. 

“Olive Peany,” simultaneously posted on Murder by Gaslight and Strange Company, recounts the tragic 1895 murder of an ambitious but hard to please Ohio girl. 


Olive Peany
by Undine

Hopkinsville Kentuckian, April 2, 1895
Olive Bernthisel was not only one of the prettiest girls in Wood County, Ohio, she was unusually smart and ambitious as well.  The family farm in the small hamlet of Tontogany was well-managed and reasonably prosperous, but Olive was not content with a rustic existence.  She persuaded her father to contribute a considerable sum of money that would allow her to get a better education than was available in the countryside.  Accordingly, she spent several years in a boarding school in a more metropolitan area of the state.

When she returned home she was even more attractive and popular than before...and just as ambitious.  At about that same time, Tontogany gained a new resident, a young German doctor named Adam (or Adolf) Eddmon.  Dr. Eddmon was a handsome man who radiated an Old World sophistication that left Miss Bernthisel utterly charmed.  Unfortunately, the doctor was a poor man, so despite his attractions, Olive reluctantly agreed with her father's assessment that Eddmon was no fit match for her.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

“Happy Bob.”

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 the Salvation Army arrived in town he joined their ranks and was given the ironic nickname of “Happy Bob.”

Saturday, December 7, 2019

A Parricide's Tale.


William J. Elder, aged 61, was addicted to drink and when under its influence was violent and uncontrollable. His wife tolerated his abuse as long as she could then packed up and moved out of their farm in Hammonton, New Jersey, leaving behind her two sons, Robert and Mathew. In 1887, 19-year-old Robert Elder moved out of his father’s house as well.

12-Year old Mathew Elder was still living with his father and still the victim of his abuse and neglect. In the summer of 1888, Mrs. Elder had her husband arrested and brought before the justice of the peace for the ill-treatment of Mathew but could offer no proof. William was discharged.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Judge Lynch in Pennsylvania.


Joseph Snyder murdering Jacob Geogle and wife - Judge Lynch metes out death to the scoundrel in a summary manner
Portraits: 1. Joseph Snyder - 2. Alice Geogle, whom Snyder attempted to rape.

In 1880, Jacob and Annie Geogle lived with their three children in the town of Santee’s Mills near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Jacob worked in an iron ore mine and to supplement his meager income, the Geogles took in a boarder—27-year-old Joseph Snyder, also a miner. Snyder became infatuated with the Geogels' oldest daughter Alice and expressed his desire to marry her but Alice was only 14-years-old and she did not return Joseph Snyder’s love. Her parents were appalled at the idea and would have thrown Snyder out but he owed them two months’ rent and they needed the money.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Murder of Dr. Burdell.


Fictional dime novel detective Old King Brady solves the Bond Street Mystery!

Read the true story of Dr. Burdell's murder:
Songs about the Burdell murder by The Saugerties Bard:

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Medford Mystery.

Scene of the Debbins murder
Walter R. Debbins was shot twice in the back, in broad daylight, on Highland Street in Medford, Massachusetts, on the afternoon of Saturday, March 27, 1897. Though no one saw the murder or heard the gunshots, there was enough traffic on Highland Street that afternoon for the police to precisely pinpoint the time of the shooting to between 1:00 and 1:05. But that was all they could pinpoint; everything else about the crime was shrouded in mystery that grew more dense with each new revelation.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Assassination of Captain Watkins

This week we present a guest post by Kyle Dalton; the story of a Civil War era murder by a probable Lincoln assassination conspirator. Kyle Dalton is a public historian and museum professional currently employed at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. He writes and maintains the website British Tars: 1740-1790, exploring the lives of common sailors through primary sources. This post was largely researched and composed for Historic London Town and Gardens in Edgewater, Maryland, where Kyle was employed as the Public Programs Administrator.

Assassination of Captain Watkins
By Kyle Dalton



Captain Thomas Watkins, closeup, 
(The Horse Soldier collection)
In 1861 most white residents of the South River in Maryland were pro-slavery if not outright secessionists. In the presidential election of 1860, only three people in all of Anne Arundel County voted for Abraham Lincoln. The county was narrowly won by a slim margin of twenty-four votes by Stephen Bell and his Constitutional Unionist Party, which sought to avoid the issue of slavery. Voters for Bell’s optimistic neglect of the issue were closely trailed by Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge, and his virulently pro-slavery stance. We do not know for sure who made up the three voters who publicly declared their support for Abraham Lincoln, but it is quite possible that two of them were Dr. Benjamin Watkins and his son Thomas.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Tenth Anniversary!

This week marks the tenth anniversary of Murder by Gaslight! The first posts dropped on November 2, 2009, and every week since then I have added at least one new post related to murder in 19th century America.

Here are the top 10 most popular posts, since 2009, based on average pageviews per day:

1 The Meeks Family Murder
2 The Legend of Lavinia Fisher
3 The Killing of Bill The Butcher
4 The Notorious Patty Cannon.
5 Lizzie Borden Took an Axe...Or Did She?
6 Jesse Pomeroy - "Boston Boy Fiend"
7 19th Century Serial Killers.
8 H. H. Holmes - "I was born with the devil in me."
9 Big Harpe and Little Harpe
10 The Bloody Benders
It is probably not surprising that the list is dominated by serial killers whom the public find endlessly fascinating. The rest are sensational multiple murders and a gangland slaying. The only exception is Lavinia Fisher who, contrary to her nasty reputation, never killed anyone.

It is interesting that the most popular post of the last ten years is “The Meeks Family Murder” posted in 2011. Compared to the rest it is a relatively unknown case, but a good story with a somewhat happy ending.

What’s Next?

I plan to continue posting 19th century murders when I find stories that interest me (the supply is virtually endless). Going forward, I will also be reposting existing stories. Murder by Gaslight has more than 500 posts and most have not seen the light of day in years. They deserve another look. Murder by Gaslight will also be featuring guest posts from other bloggers and authors with stories relating to murder in 19th century America.

Murder by Gaslight will also be the platform for projects outside the blog—a book-length murder story, a mystery novel, some serial fiction, a podcast experiment, and other possibilities. Keep watching.

I want to thank everyone who has followed Murder by Gaslight through the years. A special thank you to those who have left glowing comments on the blog and on Facebook; they been very gratifying and encouraging.  For the past ten years, I have kept outside advertisements off the site and I will continue to do so (you’re welcome). If you would like to support the blog, I have books available at Amazon: 

Cheers,
Robert Wilhelm

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Married at 15, Dead at 20.

James Tout, a wealthy businessman of Byron Center New York, died before the birth of his daughter Florence, but before he departed this world, he set up a sizable trust fund for the new baby. The inheritance, which would be hers when she married, was managed by a banker, and by the time she was in her teens had grown to a small fortune.

When Florence was 15 years old, she received the attentions of Howard Benham, an ambitious young man of 23 who worked as a travel agent, booking trips to the Chicago World’s Fair on the installment plan. For many reasons, Florence’s mother and stepfather did not approve of the courtship but were fearful that their opposition might drive Florence to run away with Benham. On the night of August 3, 1892, she told them to have no fear; she had no intention of running away. The following day, she said she was going to Batavia to consult a dentist, but instead, she traveled through to Rochester, where she met with Benham.  The two were married in the private office of Justice White.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Liquor and Jealousy.

In October 1893, 64-year-old Patrick Finney of New Bedford, Pennsylvania, was visiting his old friend and drinking buddy James Campbell in Hazelton, Ohio.  Campbell had been a saloonkeeper in Pittsburgh before retiring and moving with his wife to Hazelton, a suburb of Youngstown. 

As was their custom, Finney and the Campbells were drinking heavily the night of October 9. James Campbell had a reputation as a man of ungovernable temper when intoxicated and this night was no exception. Around 10:00, when it became clear that Campbell had exceeded his limit, a neighbor who had been drinking with them helped Campbell to bed. Finney and Mrs. Campbell stayed up and continued talking. 

Around twenty minutes after going to bed, Campbell came back downstairs. Still drunk and angry, Campbell was holding a 22-caliber revolver. 

“I’ll fix you,” he said, then fired three shots. One went through his wife’s chest, killing her instantly and the other two hit Finney in the head and abdomen.

The police arrived quickly, arresting Campbell and rushing Finney to the hospital. Campbell told the police he had shot his wife and friend because he had caught them in a compromising position, but once he was locked in a cell he said, “I don’t know what made me do it.” The newspapers concluded that liquor and unfounded jealousy were the cause.

In January 1894, James Campbell was indicted for the murder of his wife and attempted murder of Patrick Finney.  He announced his intention to plead insanity but being “crazy drunk” has never been a good defense. The following March, Campbell was found guilty of second-degree murder.

Sources:
“An Old Man's Murderous Jealousy,” Evening Herald, October 10, 1893.
“Commits Double Murder.” Daily Inter Ocean, October 10, 1893.
“Jealousy Causes Murder,” Patriot, October 10, 1893.
“On Trial for his Life,” Plain Dealer, February 27, 1894.
“Plenty Of Indictments,” Plain Dealer, January 18, 1894.
“Shot his Wife Dead,” National Police Gazette, November 4, 1893.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

A Troubling Spirit.

John Delaney met Mary Jane Cox in October 1886; she smiled at him as they passed each other on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, and he turned to follow her. She was 17-years-old, he was 15. Mary Jane did not refuse his advances outright, but gave him her address and told him to write to her. Their relationship progressed quickly, and eight months later, Mary Jane told John she was pregnant, and he had to do something about it.

John said he had already told her he would marry her, but Mary Jane rejected this saying they were both too young; he would have to find something else. On June 2, 1887, he gave her a glass bottle containing a clear liquid. What he told her at the time is uncertain, but the next morning Mary Jane was found dead in the kitchen of the house where she worked as a domestic servant. An autopsy showed that her death was caused by some irritant poison like arsenic, and the bottle found in a pocket of her dress was half-filled with a solution of arsenic.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Poughkeepsie Tragedy.

Antone Werner came to America from Austria in 1885 and settled in Poughkeepsie, New York. There he worked as a shoemaker along with his good friend and fellow immigrant Joseph Fischer. He and Fischer had probably known each other in Austria.

Werner adapted well to life in Poughkeepsie and had even met and married a young woman there—the only problem was that he already had a wife in Austria. In 1887, Werner’s Austrian wife came to America, and he left his second wife and went to live with his first wife in Brooklyn. Before long he decided he liked his second wife better and returned to Poughkeepsie to live with her. His first wife sought assistance from Joseph Fischer and together they had Werner arrested for bigamy.

The Grand Jury failed to indict Werner, and after his release from jail he threatened to kill Fischer. He went back to his second wife, but without any income, she was forced to sell furniture for money. Werner asked her for some cash, and she gave him $2; he went to a gun shop and bought a British bulldog pistol. Stopping at a lager beer saloon he drank a glass of beer and smoked a cigar then walked to the shop where Fischer worked. No one was in the shop but Fischer; Werner waked in and approached him, raising the pistol he shot Fischer once in the chest killing him almost instantly. Werner was immediately arrested and taken to jail.

At his trial, the following March, Antone Werner was found guilty, but after a day of deliberation, the jury could not agree on whether the degree was first or second. The judge angrily sent them back to decide, but after an additional forty minutes they were still deadlocked, and they were discharged. Later that day, rather than face another trial, the District Attorney accepted Werner’s plea of murder in the second degree. Werner was sentenced to life in the state penitentiary at Sing Sing.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Andrew Hellman, alias Adam Horn.

Andrew Hellman Murdering his Wife.
(Serious Almanac, 1845-1846.)
Andrew Hellman was 25-years-old when he traveled from Germany to Baltimore in 1817. He had been apprenticed to a tailor, but when his apprenticeship ended, he decided to see the world, after a few years of wandering around Europe he set sail for America. 

In 1820 he was boarding at the farmhouse of George M. Abel in Loudoun County, Virginia and working on neighboring farms. Hellman professed a strong dislike of women and was quite outspoken in his belief that their only role in the world was as servants to men. In spite of this, he engaged the affections of George Abel’s 20-year-old daughter Mary. The Baltimore Sun described her as “a blithe, buxom and lighthearted country girl with rosy cheek and sparkling eye, totally unacquainted with the deceitfulness of the world.” Mary and Andrew were married in December 1821.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Shot by a Jealous Husband.

Daniel Monahan, aged 45, lived with his wife, Maggie, and their children on Henry Street in Binghamton, New York, and kept a saloon in a building adjoining the house. In 1885, a young man named Patrick Garvey began working as a bartender at Monahan’s saloon. Garvey, an attractive 34-year-old Irishman, grew especially close to Maggie Monahan. Before long she expressed her love for Garvey, and the two began an intimate relationship. Garvey became a frequent visitor at the Monahan home when Daniel was away, and their romance became the subject of rumor in Binghamton.

Daniel had already suspected that improper relations existed between his wife and his bartender, so he fired Garvey and openly accused his wife of adultery. Maggie replied that, yes, she did think more of Garvey than she did of her husband, and she would go with Garvey as much as she pleased. Daniel pleaded with Maggie to abandon the romance and not disgrace their little daughters, but she ignored his pleadings and continued to meet Garvey, not only at home but at various places in the city. In desperation, Daniel told her if she did not leave Garvey, he would shoot him. Maggie told Garvey about her husband’s threats and bought him a revolver to defend himself.   
Maggie Monahan