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Saturday, June 30, 2012

More Murders in Maine.


Here are the murders that were left out of the post “Murders in Maine” on 6/2/2012. Insert the text of this post between paragraphs two and three of the previous post to get the entire article published in the Boston Daily Globe on July 9, 1888.



Little Murders
(From The Boston Daily GlobeBoston, Massachusetts, July 9, 1888.)

Murders in Maine.


...
At the State prison at Thomaston more than 30 Maine murderers are imprisoned, nearly all for life. Here are Mrs. Mary Barrows and Oscar Blaney, her son-in-law, the woman who plotted her husband’s death and the boy who was her tool. Here is Thomas J. Libby, the Scarboro man who killed his mistress in bed at a Portland hotel. Here is old Joe Preble, the Androscoggin county wife murderer, who had been behind Thomaston’s walls since 1861. Charles E. Prescott, who hauled his victim’s body up and down the streets of Portland in a cart, is now in the last stages of consumption, and strenuous efforts are being made for his pardon.

On the scaffold in this old stone building Wagner, the Isle of Sholes murderer, Clifton Harris, who killed the two old women in Auburn, and Gordon, the Thorndike murder, expiated their crimes with their lives. Of these, the murder for which Clifton Harris was hanged was most awful in its detail. More than 20 years ago two old ladies lived alone in a little house in the outskirts of Auburn. It was a wild and stormy night in the dead of winter when the crime was committed. Late the next day a neighbor, thinking the absence of all signs of life about the little dwelling to be something unusual, entered the house. The sight was most horrible. There in the little bedroom lay the dead bodies of the two old ladies. One of them had been strangled to death and ravished while dying. To say that the community was wild with excitement is nothing. Men, women and children thirsted for the life of the assassin. In less than a week

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Saugerties Bard


Sketch by Johyn Hughes Kerbert

In my never-ending quest for murder ballads, I recently came across a prolific nineteenth century balladeer who was new to me. In the 1850s, Henry S. Backus, known as “The Saugerties Bard,” roamed the Catskills in New York State singing original ballads on the events of the day. Backus wrote songs about explosions, fires, prize fights, riots, and of course, murders.

Travelling in a broken-down wagon festooned with American flags and bells, he would enter a town, usually accompanied by a procession of barking dogs, and begin playing popular songs on flute or fiddle to the gathering crowd. He would sing his original songs then sell printed copies for a penny.

Henry Backus had been a school teacher with a wife and five daughters. When his wife died he began drinking heavily and became “rabid” with religion ending up in an insane asylum in Hudson, New York. By 1850 he was back in Saugerties and beginning his career in entertainment. In 1941, 87 year old Johyn Hughes Kerbert, drew a sketch of Backus from memory. He remembered the Saugerties Bard as “rather short, stocky, well built, long grey hair and beard, grey suit, a ‘Grant Hat’ and a wooden leg.”

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Brooklyn Barber.


A farmhand walking through an oat field in Watervliet, New York on August 7, 1873 came across the corpse of a one-armed man at the top of a ravine. Decomposition had set in and the man’s facial features were all but obliterated by the sun. A razor found on the ground near the body inclined the coroner to think the death was a suicide, but a closer examination revealed that, in addition to having his throat cut, the man had been shot nine times in the head and chest. There was nothing on the body to indicate the identity of the man except for a business card from a barbershop in Brooklyn, 150 miles south of Watervliet.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Joseph Sherer.

Little Murders:
From Defenders and Offenders:
Joseph Sherer.

"Two human forms, one that of a young man, the other that of a girl, the latter cold in death, the former in death’s agonies, each weltering in blood, that had streamed from deadly wounds; a revolver empty and harmless, now that its fatal work was done. This was the ghastly sight that met Police Captain Davidson of Albany, N. Y., on the night of June 16, 1888, when one of the doors leading into a bedroom on the second floor of an eating house on William Street, had been broken open. The man’s name was Joseph Sherer, and the woman’s Lizzie McCarthy. Investigation revealed the fact that Sherer shot Lizzie, who was his sweetheart, because she refused to marry him, and then shot himself."



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

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Murders in Maine.

This article on murders in the State of Maine appeared in The Boston Daily Globe on July 9, 1888. It was quite long, so I edited out six or seven gruesome Maine murders, leaving only the two stories that the author compares to those of Poe and De Quincey.  I may post the rest at a later date.


Little Murders
(From The Boston Daily GlobeBoston, Massachusetts, July 9, 1888.)

Murders in Maine.

A State of Very Many Awful Crimes.

Tragedies That Rival in Horror the Tales of Edgar Allen Poe.

More than Thirty Murderers Now Behind the Bars of Thomaston.

Lewiston, Me., July 8.—It certainly seems as if there were more murders committed in Maine than in any other State in the Union. Every few weeks the papers are called on to describe one. It was but three months or so ago that Chase shot Mrs. Stevens in the streets of Portland  and then tried to kill himself. Then came the killing of old Mrs. Gould at Saccarappa, and then the butchery of the old farmer at Wiscasset by the boy. And now the postal-car murder at Bangor is followed by the tragedy at Monson.

The story of the many murders in Maine in the past 20 years is a most peculiar one. It is especially peculiar in this respect—that out of the scores of tragedies hardly one has been the result of drink. In some few instances the murderers have been drinking men, but they were sober when the crime was committed. Another peculiar feature of the story of capital crime in Maine is that almost every murder is marked by some striking and novel feature, something unusual in the motive or in the manner of the crime. Edgar Allan Poe could not have told a more gruesome story than that of the Watson murder in the town of Parkman, and De Quincey, before writing his famous essay on “Murder as a Fine Art,” might have talked with profit to the never-to-be-detected assassin of Tax Collector Elliot of Glenburn.