Date: September 30, 1885
Accused: George E. Graham
Emma Malloy had met George Graham when she held a revival meeting at the Indiana prison where Graham was serving time for forgery. It was George Graham’s second prison term. In 1871 Graham married Sarah Gorham in Fort Wayne, Indiana and they had two sons. Two years later Graham was sentenced to five years in prison for horse theft. When Graham was convicted, Sarah divorced him, but on his release in 1878 they remarried. The following year he was sentenced to prison for forgery and this time, against the advice of her family, Sarah did not divorce him.
When Graham was released the second time, he sought out Emma Malloy who gave him a job on her newspaper in Laporte, Indiana. Graham followed Mrs. Malloy as she moved her operations to Illinois, then to Kansas. In 1885, after the Springfield revivals, she moved again, buying a farm near Brookline, Missouri, about five miles west of Springfield. In July of that year, unaware that Graham was still married to Sarah, Cora Lee married George Graham.
Mrs. Malloy sent for the rest of her children—another foster daughter, an adopted daughter, and her natural son—and George instructed Sarah, still in Fort Wayne, to bring his sons to St. Louis where he would where he would pick them up and take them to live in Brookline. Emma Malloy was away on another series of revivals when Graham went to St. Louis to pick up his boys. Sarah arrived in St. Louis on schedule, but instead of dropping off the boys she insisted on accompanying them to Springfield. Graham left his sons with friends in Springfield and took Sarah to the farm in Brookline.
When he got her to the farm, Graham shot Sarah in the chest and dropped her body down an old well. He later told his 13-year-old son, Charlie, that he had left Sarah in Springfield, but if anyone asked he was to say she stayed in St. Louis. Graham moved his two sons to the farm to live with the rest of Mrs. Molloy’s family.
Around Christmas 1885, Sarah’s family began inquiring as to her whereabouts. Green County constables visited George Graham to ask about Sarah. He told them he had last seen her in St. Louis, but he knew he was in trouble. He tried to cash some forged checks to finance a trip away, but the fraud was discovered before he could leave. Emma Malloy made restitution with the bank and told Constable O’Neil that she believed Sarah Graham was working at a house of ill repute in St. Louis. Thinking the matter settled, Mrs. Molloy went to Peoria, Illinois for another revival.
The following January, T. L. Breese, Sarah Graham’s brother-in-law, arrived in Springfield to look for her. Finding George Graham married to Cora Lee, Breese preferred a charge of bigamy against him. Graham was arrested for bigamy on January 29, and incarcerated in the Green County jail.
Suspecting foul play, Breese, Constable O’Neil, and another Springfield man tried to search the farm but were turned away by Cora Lee. The citizens of Brookline, however, persisted in their attempts to search the farm and on February 25, they found the naked and partially decomposed body of Sarah Graham, shot through the chest, at the bottom of an abandoned well on the farm.
Emma Molloy and Cora Lee were both arrested in connection with the murder—Emma as accessory after the fact and Cora as accessory before the fact. They were held in Polk County jail in Bolivar. George Graham, still in Green County jail, was charged with murder.
Preliminary Hearing: March 12, 1886
The mob was gone at 5:00 AM when the sheriff arrived to cut him down. Pinned to his back was a note signed by “the three hundred” claiming their right to:
“remove from our midst the worst criminal who had ever infested our country”it also warned that anyone who tried to
“discover the actors in this tragedy will surely and speedily dispatched to hell, where all things are revealed to the curious.”On May 10, Emma Molloy issued a public statement declaring her innocence, saying her only fault had been trusting George Graham too much. The slanderous accusations against her, she said, had been motivated by her status as a temperance lecturer:
“There are no two classes of people whom the world…so readily believe a scandal about as a minister of the gospel and a woman, but when the two characters are combined, and a scandal can be concocted sufficiently ingenious for the public to swallow, however nauseating and polluting it may be, it is devoured with an ecstasy of delight.”
Sarah Graham was buried in Maple Park Cemetery, on March 13, 1886, at the expense of the people of Springfield, Missouri. The grave did not have a headstone until 2004 when, Clifford W. Gorham, a distant relative of Sarah's, provided one.