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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Guest Blogger: ExecutedToday  has been posting an execution story every day since Halloween 2007 so it’s not surprising when they come up with a murder not covered by Murder by Gaslight. Here is the story of the Blanc brothers, driven to murder by reading sensational books.

1897: Ernest and Alexis Blanc, brothers in blood
Originally posted April 2nd, 2013  by Headsman
On this date in 1897, some 4,000 residents of Lafayette turned up to watch the hanging of two Parisian-born young men.

It had been nearly a full year since Martin Begnaud was discovered bound, gagged, and stabbed over 50 times in his general store at Scott, Louisiana, just outside Lafayette. That was on April 22, 1896. The motive was self-evident: the prosperous late burgher had been plundered of several thousand dollars. But who did it?

The matter remained a mystery for many months, although two men were indicted for the deed — and blessedly never brought to trial.

But a few days after the murders, brothers Ernest and Alexis Blanc, teenage French orphans who were sharecropping on a plantation in April 1896 also abruptly disappeared without even bothering to sell their crop shares. This naturally raised suspicion as well, but their whereabouts were totally unknown and as months passed any hope of finding them had practically vanished.

Just after New Year’s 1897, the Blancs made a slight miscalculation: they turned up again in Scott and applied to work at their old plantation.

They were swiftly arrested and questioned separately. It did not take long for them to crack; indeed, full of guilt as they were, one might speculate whether these young Catholics didn’t return with the subconscious desire to purge themselves.

The older sibling Ernest explained that they had
secured the loan of a book treating of the daring deeds of Jesse James. From reading this
book originated the idea and our plans for the murder. Seeing how poor we were, and how difficult to otherwise better our situation, we made up our minds to emulate the examples inculcated by the book.
(In those days, television was called ‘books’.)

The boys executed this plan with something less than the steel-hearted aplomb of a seasoned outlaw, however. Having gained access after hours to Begnaud and his store on the pretext of making a purchase, the brothers nervously bought tobacco … and then sardines … and then made small talk about mouse traps … all the while trying to screw up the nerve to do the deed, and get Begnaud to turn his back on them so they could have the advantage. When Ernest (as he claimed) finally murdered the shopkeep, “my hand trembled. The triangular instrument burned my hand. I shut my eyes.”

(Both of the previous two quotes are as per the January 9, 1897 Lafayette Advertiser.)

After that, they took off on a travel spree which ought to have carried them safely away from the said matter-of-factly to a reporter before their sentencing. “That is all. Had we kept the secret and not confessed, we would not be here.”
scene of their crime for good. Instead they returned, like a dog to vomit, and gave up their lives to unburden their hearts. “We have talked too much,” Alexis

The fact that there was a sentencing at all was a bit of an achievement, and the Blancs have generally been considered the first legal hangings in Lafayette Parish. Actual or suspected malefactors were typically handled with more dispatch and fewer legal niceties previously (also making it something of a miracle that the original, wrongly-accused pair was still around to draw breath). Both Ernest and Alexis spent a good deal of their time jailed in New Orleans for their own protection.

But that protection ran out today.

The boys went to their death in good humor, never adding a failure of nerve to their account of sins. Ernest even joked on the platform at the sight of so many people scrambling up trees to catch a glimpse of the hanging that “There are some who will surely have their necks broken in advance of ours.”

The Lafayette Gazette scored a coup by securing a lengthy confessional from the hands of the doomed lads themselves, which ran on April 3 and reiterated the role of leisure reading in the crime spree.*
It was a life of tranquility, sweet and honest, which we regret having discarded to follow the evil promptings of ambition; the love of fortune, and the desire for gold which the devil suggested to us through the leaves of a book entitled the “James Boys.”** It was by reading this book we were lead to steal. Why work in the field? Why walk behind a plow? And at the end of the year receive not enough to buy clothes to put on our backs?
To rob one of his gold in a single night appeared to us much easier. The birds had eaten the crops and we were discouraged.
The murder itself, they said, had not been premeditated. But
[w]e were discussing the manner in which we would tie [Begnaud] so that he could not give the alarm before morning, when he said: 
“Do not destroy my account books nor my private papers, without which I cannot make a living.” 
In the silence of the night this sonorous voice appeared probably stronger than it really was and impressed us with a feeling impossible to express, and we rushed to his room and I (Ernest) stabbed Martin who was sitting on his bed. How many times I stabbed him I know not, nor did I ever know.
The Blancs logged some serious mileage in their months living on the Begnaud score. But Catholic guilt aside, it sounds as if their capture might really be attributed more to the country’s miserable economic situation.
After visiting Belgium and England we boarded a steamer for New York City arriving there on the 12th of July. We had already spent the greater portion of the $3,000 [stolen from Begnaud]. Then we commenced our journey across the United States, visiting Chicago, St. Paul, Helena, Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, El Paso, Salt Lake City, Ogden, Omaha, Council Bluffs and St. Louis. In the latter city we spent the remainder of our money. Each one having ten dollars, we took the Frisco line on foot, passing through Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana Territory and Texas, and followed the Texas Pacific as far as Mexico, where we rested a few days. All along the route we tried to get work, but failed. There was nothing for strangers to do. It is in this manner that we reached Lafayette on January 2, 1897. Knowing so many people there we thought it would be easy to find employment. We knew that we were risking our necks, but being so miserable, did not care very much.
And this decision to risk returning in preference to starvation is, after all, nothing but the same calculation of risk and reward that people at the economic margins have always made: to descend a lethal mine to feed one’s family; to seek one’s fortune on the treacherous seas; or if it should come to that, not to walk behind the plow but to follow the lead of the James boys and make one’s bread by banditry.

* According to No Spark of Malice: The Murder of Martin Begnaud, the Gazette cleverly obtained the full rights to all the Blancs’ prison writings, and were able to turn them into a 23-page French pamphlet La Vie, le Crime et les Confessions d’Ernest et Alexis Blanc; ou, L’Histoire d’un Crime Horrible. This sold like hotcakes after the hangings and would now be in the public domain; sadly, it does not appear to be available online as of present writing.

** There were probably several books of this title then, just as there have been since. This volume has a 1911 copyright, but if it is not a version of the same book the Blancs read, it’s surely not too far distant.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The School-girl Murder.

Mamie Kelly
Fourteen-year-old Mamie Kelly of San Francisco, had a crush on the boy next door, nineteen-year-old Aleck Goldenson. Though Aleck was the kind of boy who appeals to teenaged girls—an artist and a bit of a hoodlum—her family had no use for him at all. In spite of this, Mamie took every opportunity be near him. Aleck first enjoyed her attention, then tolerated it, then actively tried to put a stop to it. He ended their relationship for good one day in November 1886, when he met Mamie on the street and shot her in the face.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fanaticism and Murder.

Little Murders
(From The Wooster Republican, January 2, 1871)

Fanaticism and Murder.
The Cause of the Murder of the Family Near Dayton, O.

Cincinnati, March 11. – Further particulars in regard to the murder of a woman and three children, near Dayton, Saturday night, indicate the murder was committed by the father, Leonard Marquardt, who is evidently insane from a spiritual cause. The story the man himself tells is that a few days ago he read a chapter to his family from the Bible, and then rising up, accused his wife of being a witch and using witchcraft. He says his eldest daughter confirmed him in his suspicions. He says also that on Saturday night he told his wife he wanted their children to leave; then he and his wife stripped naked, and knelt down and prayed for fifteen minutes. They then stripped two of the children and took them out and drowned them and laid them side by side on the bank of the stream. They then dashed out the brains of the infant and left it in the woods, after which they returned home and went to bed. After lying there for fifteen minutes he told his wife that he wanted to send her to heaven also, and immediately fell upon and strangled her to death. After that he arose and prayed until three o’clock in the morning, when he went to the nearest neighbor and told him the whole story. Marquardt is a Germen farmer, and has been in this country about eighteen years. The murdered woman was his second wife.

"Fanaticism and Murder." Wooster Republican, 14 Mar 1872: 2.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Land of Undiscovered Murders.

In the 1880s, the state of Connecticut experienced a rash of unrelated, unsolved murders which baffled local constabularies, amazed the nation, and amused neighboring New York City.

In an era when sensational murders were followed in the daily papers as if they were serialized mystery stories, avid readers could not help but notice how many of these juicy murders took place in Connecticut and it was just as obvious how many of these murders remained unsolved. A murder story should end with an execution or at least a conviction and this was not happening in Connecticut. Eventually newspapers in other states would run headlines such as “Another Connecticut Murder” as if to warn readers not to become too invested in a story without a decent ending.

Puck, a national magazine of politics and humor who published the picture above in 1883, blamed the officials in Connecticut’s incompetent legal system who managed to twist the most obvious clues into baffling mysteries. “It is our firm belief,” said Puck, “that if a man were to walk into the most frequented street of a Connecticut town, in broad daylight, among a gaping crowd of villagers, and chop a well-known resident into fine-cut with a meat-axe, it would be considered and treated as a mysterious murder.”

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Webster Mystery.

Alice Hoyle had last seen her sister, Lillie the night of September 1, 1887 in the room they shared in Webster, Massachusetts. Lillie had left to use the outhouse and Alice fell asleep before she returned. The next morning, Alice was late for work and left in a rush, thinking that her sister had already left for her job. That evening Lillie did not come home and Alice noticed that her watch and jewelry were still on the nightstand where she had left them the night before. Lillie had gone out and never come back. This is the story Alice told the police the following day. As the investigation progressed, she would change it several times.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

19th Century Serial Killers.

There seems to be an ongoing debate on the question of who was America’s first serial killer. Often the names H. H. Holmes and the Bender Family are mentioned as the first, but both of these suggestions are wrong by decades. At Murder by Gaslight, we are not concerned with who was first since we are only interested in the 19th Century and serial killers have always been with us.

The other debate around serial murder is how to define it. For simplicity we will use the definition agreed upon at a serial murder symposium sponsored by the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime: “The unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s), in separate events.” This differs slightly from a federal law which defines serial murder as “three or more killings,” but, as we shall see, two murders are usually enough to identify the problem. In both definitions motivation was intentionally omitted to avoid complexity.

So here, in reverse chronological order of the year each started killing, is Murder by Gaslight’s list of nineteenth century murderers who fit the FBI’s definition of serial killer:

1895 Theo Durrant Known as “The Demon of the Belfry” Theo Durrant raped, murdered and mutilated Blanche Lamont in the Emanuel Baptist Church on April 3, 1895. Nine days later he did the same to Minnie Wallace. Durrant was captured and executed before he could kill more.

H. H. Holmes Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as H. H. Holmes, may have murdered many as 230 people between 1888 and 1894. While only convicted of one murder, Holmes confessed to killing 27 and police believed he burned, asphyxiated and tortured many times that.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Corn Field Murder.

Sarah Alexander, a seventeen-year-old Jewish immigrant from Poland, left her home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on December 12, 1875, to look for a job. She never returned. When she was still missing the following day her family placed an announcement in the New York Sun asking or information on their missing girl. Her uncle, Israel Rubenstein, noticed in the same edition of the Sun, a description of a murdered girl found in Brooklyn exactly matching that of Sarah Alexander. He later identified the body as his niece Sarah, but he never dreamed that her killer was his own son Pesach.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Verses from Beyond the Grave.

Thomas W. Piper killed Mabel Young two years after the death of poet Byron DeWolfe, so how was DeWolfe able to publish a poem about the murder? Read about the dead poet and Miss Lillie Darling, the Boston medium who channeled him in my article in the latest edition of The Readex Report, "Verses from Beyond the Grave."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Harold Schechter's The Mad Sculptor.

Murder by Gaslight is pleased to be a stop on Harold Schechter’s The Mad Sculptor (Of True Crime) Blog Tour. The works of Harold Schechter have been a part of Murder by Gaslight from the beginning, providing invaluable information on a number of historical murders. His books always deliver compelling stories based on meticulous research, and his new book, The Mad Sculptor, is no exception.
As part of The Mad Sculptor (Of True Crime) Blog Tour, Harold will answer questions about the book, his writing process, and the MADNESS in his topics of study as a preeminent true crime writer: murderers and the media!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Murder in San Francisco.

Murder in San Francisco. 
In response to the question, “Why cannot Murder be punished in San Francisco,” the Oakland Enquirer makes the following pertinent remarks:

“One most important reason why it is hard to punish murder in San Francisco is that in a great number of cases the majority of the people do not want it punished. They rather approve of murder in certain contingencies, and consider it the best redress for injuries that cannot be righted through the courts.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Boy Shoots His Sweetheart and Himself.

Little Murders
(From The National Police Gazette, October 16,1886)
A Boy Shoots His Sweetheart and Himself.
A Love-Sick Murderer.
Eddie Clark, Eighteen Years of Age, Kills Melissa Fultz and then Shoots Himself in Monroe Co., Ill.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Kentucky Tragedy.

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Victims of a Mysterious Strangler.

Five women of New York have been murdered by a fiend. Their cases are similar to that of the woman whose body was found in the courtyard in the rear of the tenement at No. 27 Monroe Street. The police accuse John Brown, a sailor, with this last murder. Is he the fiend who strangled the other women?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Murder Told in Pictures.

Robert Hoey told police that as he was coming home from work in the early hours of March 15, 1898, he literally tripped over the body of a dead woman in the courtyard of the tenement where he lived at No. 27 Monroe Street in New York City. An autopsy revealed that the woman had been strangled to death and the police believed that the body had been dragged to the courtyard known in the neighborhood as “Hogan’s Alley.” She was about thirty-five years of age, with light complexion, light brown hair and blue eyes. As she lay in the morgue several people claimed to identify the woman but in each case the identity proved false.

Mrs. Downing, housekeeper at 27 Monroe, said she had seen a group of men standing in the courtyard at around 2 o’clock that morning. Hoey changed his story then, and said he and two friends, wagon driver Thomas Cosgrove and mandolin player Charles Weston, had seen their friend John Brown leaning over the body. Brown was a “deep water” sailor whom the press would refer to as “Sailor” Brown. None of them knew who the woman was.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

William D. Sindram.

Little Murders:
From Defenders and Offenders:

William D. Sindram.

"On Friday, the 21st day of October 1882, William D. Sindram was hanged in the Tombs, New York City, for the murder of his landlady, Mrs. Cave. The murder was committed a year earlier. Sindram had been drinking, and entered his boarding house, and without provocation shot his landlady. He maintained a bold front up to the minute of his execution, and walked without flinching to the gallows, and showed more nerve than one would suppose possible under the circumstances."

Defenders and offenders. New York: D. Buchner & Co., 1888.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Chloroformed to Death.

A terrible crime occurred at the home of Dr. Arthur Kniffin, in Trenton, New Jersey, the night of January 2, 1890. While Dr. Kniffin was out of town, someone entered the house and chloroformed his wife Myra and her cousin Emma Purcell. Myra Kniffin died as a result, but Miss Purcell recovered and told of burglars charging through the door and subduing them both. Friends and family accepted this story, but Miss Purcell had a history of crying wolf and rumors afloat in Trenton said that Dr. Kniffin’s relations with his wife’s cousin “were not what they should have been.”

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Scenes from the Burdell Murder.

The 1857 murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell, with its colorful cast of characters and upscale urban setting, was the kind of story that sold papers for the penny press and the nascent illustrated newspapers of the day. In fact, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper was on the verge of bankruptcy when they sent an artist to the Burdell crime scene. The coverage sold enough copies to keep the paper afloat and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper became a national institution publishing for another sixty-two years.

This post summarizes the Burdell murder using engravings from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and other contemporary sources. The details of the Burdell murder can be found here: The Bond Street Tragedy.

The murder took place in a boarding house at No. 31 Bond Street in Manhattan, owned by Dr. Burdell and managed by his paramour, Mrs. Emma Cunningham. All of the murder suspects boarded there.

The Residents of 31 Bond Street.

Dr. Harvey Burdell
Dr. Harvey Burdell was a prominent and successful New York City dentist and real estate speculator. He was also a sporting man and a libertine, known to frequent gambling halls and borthels. In 1857 his affair with Emma Cunningham was turning sour and he was planning to evict her from the house.
Mrs. Emma Cunningham
Emma Cunningham was a widow with five children when she set her sights on Harvey Burdell and won his affection. She knew her position with him was tenuous and she was jealous of the other women she knew Burdell was seeing. After Burdell’s death she produced a marriage certificate showing that the two were married; at his request they had kept the marriage a secret.
John Eckel
John Eckel was tanner who had a room on the third floor of 31 Bond Street. His room shared a door with Mrs. Cunningham’s bedroom and maids at the boardinghouse testified that the two were sleeping together.
Augusta Cunningham
Augusta Cunningham was Emma Cunningham’s twenty-two year old daughter. August was implicated in the murder because a business associates of Dr. Burdell testified that Burdell feared violence from Augusta and her mother, along with John Eckel and George Snodgrass.
George Snodgrass
George Snodgrass was a poet and a banjo player with a room on the third floor of the boardinghouse. He was going out with Mrs. Cunningham’s daughter Helen and when his room was searched the police found some of Helen’s undergarments. It was implied that he was sleeping with Augusta as well.
Helen (Ella) Cunningham
Helen Cunningham, Mrs. Cunningham’s fifteen year old daughter had a room on the same floor as George Snodgrass.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Murder on Christmas Morning.

Little Murders
(From New York Tribune New York, New York, December 26, 1899)

Murder on Christmas Morning.
A Motorman Falls Asleep in a Barroom and Shoots the Saloonkeeper When the Latter Attempts to Eject Him.

Christmas was unfortunately marked in Jersey City by a tragedy. Nicholas Schmitt, fifty-three years old, a saloonkeeper at No. 1,134 Summit ave., was shot and instantly killed by Theodore Brunnert, twenty-three years old, of Homestead. The police acted promptly, and Brunnert is in custody on a charge of murder.

Brunnert, who has been employed as a motorman by the Jersey City, Hoboken and Rutherford Traction Company, quit work about 9 o’clock on Sunday night and visited his stepfatner Christian Schopp, who keeps a saloon at New-York-ave. and Hutton-st., Jersey City. He had several glasses of beer while there, and left there at midnight. He stepped into Schmitt’s saloon, drank two glasses of beer and fell asleep. About 3 o’clock Schmitt started to arouse him, and the fatal quarrel began. The stories are contradictory as to whether the pistol was used in self-defense or whether the mortal wound was inflicted without provocation.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Notorious Patty Cannon.

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

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Victorian Murderess.

The ideal woman in Victorian (and pre-Victorian) America was modest, prim and respectable, but when a woman deviated from the ideal she did it with gusto. When a Victorian woman turned to murder she was ruthless, efficient and often brutal. Poisoning was the traditional method for women; it required no strength and allowed for dispassionate murder at a distance. But when the murder was driven by passion, Victorian women proved equally adept at shooting, stabbing, slashing, strangling and chopping. Here in chronological order are Murder by Gaslight’s female killers:

Lucretia Chapman - 1831

Lucretia Chapman conspired with her young Cuban lover, Carolino Amalia Espos y Mina, to poison her husband William Chapman. Lucretia went free; Carolino went the gallows.

Frankie Silver - 1831

After enduring years of physical abuse from her husband, Charles, Frankie Silver could take no more. She chopped him up with an axe and burned the pieces in the fireplace.

Henrietta Robinson - 1853

Henrietta Robinson wore a black veil over her face throughout her trial for poisoning her neighbors, Timothy Lanagan and Catherine Lubee. The motive for the murder was as mysterious as the murderess herself.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Guilty of Murder.

Little Murders
(From Huntsville GazetteHuntsville, Alabama, August 9, 1884)

Guilty of Murder.
A Verdict of Murder in the First Degree Found Against "Big Bill" Kinney at Wheeling, West Virginia—Lynching Talked of.
Wheeling, W. VA., August 7.
The jury in the trial of “Big Bill” Kinney returned a verdict at four o’clock last evening, of murder in the first degree. Imprisonment of life was fixed as the penalty. The murder being a particularly shocking one, there is very general satisfaction over the verdict. Two cousins, known as Big and Little Bill Kinney entered the house of Barney Doyle, struck him on back of the head with an axe and killed him. The Kinneys then beat out the brains of Doyle’s youngest daughter, aged eight, and attempted to kill the second girl, aged thirteen, but who recovered, and on her testimony the Kinneys were convicted. Little Bill was sentenced last week to seventeen years in the Penitentiary. Lynching of Big Bill is freely talked of. The community is a wild one. Nine murders have occurred in the county in thirteen months and no hanging yet.

"Guilty of Murder." Huntsville Gazette 9 Aug 1884: 1.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Raven Stream Crime.

Rose Clark Ambler
Rose Ambler said goodnight to her fiancé at the Raven Stream Bridge, the night of September 2, 1883, and started walking home alone as she usually did. She was never again seen alive. Her body was found the next day, beaten and stabbed, and the perpetrator was never captured. Rose Ambler joined Mary Stannard and Jennie Cramer in the growing list of unpunished Connecticut murders.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Theodore Baker.

Little Murders:
From Defenders and Offenders:

Theodore Baker.

"Theodore Baker was hanged at Los Vegas, N.M.(sic), for killing of Frank Unruh, a wealthy ranchman, in December 1885. Baker worked on the ranch for Unruh and became infatuated with the latter’s wife, and it is supposed his love was returned. Mrs. Unruh engaged the highest legal talent to defend Baker. At one time he was taken from jail by a mob and hanged to a tree, but was rescued in the nick of time, and reserved later for the legal hangman."

Defenders and offenders. New York: D. Buchner & Co., 1888.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Did it Mean Murder?

Little Murders
(From Kansas City Times, Kansas City, Missouri, October 17, 1885)

Did it Mean Murder
Two Sisters Quarrel and Separate, and the Younger Visits the House of the Elder at Night.

Discovered, and Being Unknown, She is Pursued and Shot, and Two Revolvers are Found on Her Person.

A Probable Tragedy Averted.
(Special to the Kansas City Times.) 
Seneca, Kan., Oct. 16.—Capioma is a small trading point about sixteen miles southeast of this city, and is surrounded by one of the richest agricultural districts in the state, all the farmers being well-to-do, and some quite wealthy.  A highly sensational occurrence has just leaked out, which has thrown this unusually quiet neighborhood into a fever of excitement. The facts are as follows:

Walker Downs, one of the must substantial farmers in that section, was married to a Miss McCarty, who had a younger sister, Nellie, who lived with them prior to about three years ago. It seems that Nellie and Mrs. Downs had some difficulty which resulted in very bad feelings between the sisters and Miss Nellie left for Iowa to visit other relatives. A short time ago some one was seen to look into the windows of the Downs residence late at night, but on inspection no one could be found. The next night there was as a repetition of the occurrence of the night before, and the dog kept up an incessant barking until about 3 o’clock in the morning, but Mr. Downs and his hired hand, on going outside could see no one. The next evening about 10 o‘clock the dog began to bark but stopped in about an hour, and when the family awoke in the morning they found him dead on the doorstep. That night Mr. Downs and his hired man armed themselves and took their positions on the outside to watch for their tormentor. About 10:30 they saw what they supposed to be a man with an overcoat on approaching and demanded the person halt. No attention was paid to the command, and the party started to run, and the hired man followed calling several times to the fugitive to halt, with no better results, and he finally fired three shots, the past of which took effect and the wounded intruder exclaimed, “My God, you have killed me!” He and Mr. Downs hastened to the spot when they were horrified to find that they had shot Miss Nellie McCarty, sister of Mrs. Downs. She was taken to the house and it was found that the ball entered the fleshy part of the leg and was not dangerous. They also found on the young lady two 38-caliber revolvers and a large bottle of strychnine. Many stories are float as to what the young lady’s intentions were, some claiming that she intended to poison the stock, others that she intended to shoot her sister then poison herself. She is still at Mr. Downs’ and no prosecution will follow. She expresses herself deeply regretting her actions. She is about 25 years old, a school teacher and very pretty.


Kansas City Times, Kansas City, Missouri, October 17, 1885

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Marlow Murder.

William Bachmann came to Jamestown, New York, from Toledo, Ohio, in August 1871, intent on purchasing some property and he told everyone he met that he was carrying $6,000 in cash. This was a mistake. Bachmann was last seen alive at a brewery owned by Charles Marlow and Marlow was quickly arrested for Bachmann’s murder. But prosecuting Marlow would prove difficult because there were no eye-witnesses to the crime, there was no identifiable body, and Marlow’s mother-in-law, under oath, confessed to murdering Bachmann.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Brooklyn Wife Murder.

Little Murders
(From The National Police Gazette, November 10, 1883)

The Brooklyn Wife Murder.  
A Saloon Keeper, Prompted by the Green-Eyed Monster,
Kills his Better Half.
The shooting of Mrs. Thomas Young by her husband formerly a clerk in the Internal Revenue Department, and latterly a saloon keeper and politician, has created much excitement in the city of Brooklyn. The affair occurred on Tuesday, Oct. 23. Husband and wife had quarreled for some days, and on the 20th ult. Mrs. Young, who was a woman of great personal beauty, left the conjugal roof and went to live with her mother, Mrs. Mary Cole, at No. 95 Tompkins avenue. On the 23d Young called at this place and asked his wife to return to live with him. She refused emphatically. To his further entreaties she said,

“You have often threatened to kill me, and I know you intend to do it now. You have a pistol in your pocket, and you have come here to kill me.”

Young said he had no such intention, and denied that he had a pistol. He then appealed to his mother-in-law, and asked if he could not go into a private room with his wife, so that they could talk the matter over. If he could see her alone, Young said, he could induce her to return to his home. Both mother and daughter objected. Young again denied that he had any murderous intention, but even while he was speaking his wife saw him draw a pistol from his pocket. She ran from a back room on the first floor, where they had been talking, toward a front room, but before she could escape Young fired directly at her, the ball entering her abdomen.

James McCabe, who lives in the upper part of the house, ran down stairs when he heard the shot. Seeing Young with a pistol in his hand and Mrs. Young lying on the floor. McCabe knocked the husband down and took the pistol from his hand, and held him until the arrival of Roundsman O’Reilly, of the Thirteenth Precinct. After the pistol had been taken from his hand, Young got down on his knees and begged his wife to say that he had not intended to shoot her. Mrs. Young could not speak, but her mother said that no such statement could be made truthfully, because she had seen Young take deliberate aim at her daughter. On the following day the latter died and Young was held to await the action of the grand jury. Jealousy was the cause of his trouble with his wife.

Reprinted from "The Brooklyn Wife Murder." National Police Gazette 10 Nov 1883.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mabel Smith.

Little Murders:
From Defenders and Offenders:

Mabel Smith.

"This big mulatto is a wicked creature, who severed her grandmother’s head from her body with an axe, in order to effect her elopement with her white paramour, who called himself Thomas B. Hayward. After the deed, they skipped off together in a buggy. The old woman was opposed to the connection, and it was supposed the deed was done in a fit of anger while quarreling over the man. They were both captured a few hours after the deed."

Defenders and offenders. New York: D. Buchner & Co., 1888.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Another "Bender Family."

In the 1870s the people of Kansas were outraged by the crimes of the Benders, a family of four who welcomed weary travelers then murdered and robbed them. The Benders managed to escape before their crimes were discovered and, by most accounts, they were never captured. When another family in Kansas, the Kellys, duplicated the Benders’ crimes in 1887, the people of Kansas were determined to make them pay.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Murderous Clergy.

In the nineteenth century men of the cloth were often looked upon with as much suspicion as respect. When a minister was accused of murder it would turn the community against him, especially if a woman was involved. Though often condemned in the court of public opinion, clergymen fared much better in a court of law. All of the religious leaders in in our list were acquitted (though one Sunday school superintendent was hanged.)

Rev. Ephraim Kingsbury Avery - 1832

Rev. Ephraim Kingsbury Avery was accused of seducing and murdering Sarah Maria Cornell, but the two had a long, contentious history and the jury was convinced that Sarah killed herself and framed Rev. Avery.

The Prophet Matthias - 1834

Robert Mathiews, aka the Prophet Matthias, was the leader of a religious cult and controlled all aspects of his followers’ lives. When co-founder Elija Pierson was found dead, the Prophet Mathias was accused of going too far. The jury disagreed.

Rev. Henry Budge - 1859

When the wife of Rev. Henry Budge was found with her throat cut, suicide was suspected, but soon suspicion fell on the Reverend. Despite compelling evidence against him, Reverend Budge was acquitted.

Rev. John S. Glendenning - 1874

Church organist Mary Pomeroy was seduced and abandoned by her pastor, Rev. John Glendenning. She died soon after giving birth to his child. Though not technically a murderer, Glendenning was tried by the Presbyterian Church who found him innocent of all charges.

Rev. Herbert H. Hayden- 1886

Rev. Herbert Hayden was accused of stabbing and poisoning Mary Stannard, a young housekeeper employed by his wife. Many  believed that he had seduced and impregnated her. He denied it all and was released after a hung jury.

Theo Durrant - 1895

Mild-mannered Theo Durrant was the superintendent of Sunday school at Emmanuel Baptist Church in San Francisco. But Theo had a dark side—he murdered and mutilated two young women, leaving their remains in the church. "The Demon of the Belfry" was convicted. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Crime and Criminals.

Little Murders
(A bad weekend in the Midwest -
From Daily Inter Ocean , Chicago, Illinois, January 30, 1877)

Crime and Criminals.

Another Horrible Chapter of Murder and Murderous Affrays.

Another Whisky Murder—Fatal Stabbing.
Special Telegram to the Inter Ocean.

Decatur, Ill. Jan. 29.—On Saturday night Joab Wilkinson took from Decatur to Niantic a jug of whisky, which he distributed to some of his friends. A riot grew out of it, in which three Connihan brothers attacked a Mr. Carson, one of them striking him with a grubbing hoe, breaking his skull. The doctors have trepanned it, and he may recover. Today the parties were committed to await the result.

Last night Mr. McCall got into an altercation with Douglas Morris, at the house of the latter, in Decatur, and stabbed him twice, it is feared, fatally. McCall was at once arrested and lodged in jail.

Still Another Terrible Example

Special Telegram to the Inter Ocean.
Huntington, Ind., Jan. 29.—A house of Ill-fame at this place on Sunday afternoon was the scene of a bloody and fatal fight. Thomas E. Billings, the keeper, attempted to eject Delatus Shaffer, the clerk of the Hubbell House. Shaffer was intoxicated, and was very noisy, and was abusing the inmates. Finally Billings drew a revolver and shot his assailant, the ball entering the right side and inflicting a wound which will probably prove fatal. Billings was arrested a short time after and taken to Fort Wayne for safe keeping. He has kept a house of ill-fame at that place for several years.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Manheim Tragedy.

Richards & Anderson
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."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Husband Murder.

Little Murders
(From Daily Inter Ocean , Chicago, Illinois, December 19, 1877)

Husband Murder.

Cincinnati, Ohio, Dec. 18—The trial of Mrs. Creighton for the murder of her husband, which has been progressing at Lancaster (Ohio) for several days, was given to the jury at 10 o’clock yesterday. The jury has been out over twenty-four hours. It is thought they will disagree.

Cincinnati, Ohio, Dec. 18—The jury in the Creighton murder case, after a deliberation of twenty-six hours., returned a verdict of manslaughter at 12 o’clock to-day, which is considered a compromise verdict. The first vote stood four for murder in the first and eight for the second degree, which was finally changed to ten for acquittal and two for conviction, the latter two holding out to the end. The particulars of the murder are substantially these: On the 2d of last January Henry Creighton was found dead in his house by neighbors aroused by his wife, who confessed to having killed him in self-defense. There were no witnesses to the murder but Eddie Garland, her 12-year-old son by a former husband. His wife is believed, according to the testimony to have married his property rather than the man, with whom she lived in continuous warfare. On the morning of his death she says he had chased her about the house, shooting at her, and finally, with a broad-ax, drove her to defend herself, when she killed him by throwing an iron mortar and a nail-puller. A motion for a new trial by her counsel is now being entertained by Judge Wright.

"Husband Murder." Daily Inter Ocean 19 Dec 1877: 5.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Samuel Moore Williams.

Little Murders:
From Defenders and Offenders:

Samuel Moore Williams.

"Samuel Moore Williams in 1879 committed a cold blooded murder in Garrard County, Ky. He fled to California, but was followed by detectives. He was then twenty-five years old, 5ft. 11in. He is something of a musician, playing the violin and guitar, and is fond of frequenting saloons. Is in the habit of boasting of being a Southerner and a confederate."

Defenders and offenders. New York: D. Buchner & Co., 1888.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Who Killed Benjamin Nathan?

Benjamin Nathan, a wealthy stockbroker and philanthropist, was found brutally beaten to death in his Manhattan home the morning of July 29, 1870. Some jewelry and a small amount of cash were stolen and the police were quick to rule the incident a burglary gone bad. But if so, how and when did the burglars enter? And how could four others staying in the house sleep through the violent attack? In fact, the Nathan murder looked more like a classic “locked-room” mystery—a mystery that remains unsolved.