Saturday, October 29, 2016

Murdered her Mother.

Little Murders

Mrs. Annie Brownlee and her daughter, Mrs. Mary Marean, were two widows living together in a house on Dana Street, in a fashionable section of Cambridge, Massachusetts. In the fall of 1892, both women were both unwell. Mrs. Marean had suffered from the grippe two years earlier and had never fully recovered; Mrs. Brownlee, who was nearly 80 years old was probably suffering from the effects of old age.

The morning of October 31, Mary leaned over her mother who was lying in bed, and asked, “Do you love me?”

“Yes,” her mother replied, “of course I love all my children.”

House where the murder was committed.
They were her last words. Mrs. Brownlee got out of bed and as she started toward the stairway to the kitchen, Mary shoved her and she fell to the bottom of the stairs. Mary followed, and as Mrs. Brownlee lay stunned, her daughter smashed her head with a furnace shaker—a two-foot long iron wrench—until she was dead.

Mary washed the blood off the shaker and took it back to the basement. Then she went next door to her neighbor, Mrs. Endicott, and calmly told her that she had killed her mother. When Mrs. Endicott realized that Mary was telling the truth, she sent for the police.

While the murder appeared to have been somewhat premeditated, there was no motive, and it soon became clear to everyone that Mary Marean had lost touch with reality. When asked why she did it, Mary responded, “I don’t know; I had to do something. Every night for the past two weeks I felt something within me urging me on to a desperate undertaking. Oh, I had to do it, that’s all. What could I do when there was something that kept biting and knawing at my very brain.”

Neighbors told the police that Mary had lately been obsessed with the fear that she would die first leaving no one to take care of her mother. They believed that her brain had been affected by her bout with the grippe.

Mary Marean was never brought to trial. The police physician declared Mary insane, and Dr. Jelly, a Boston expert, confirmed his diagnosis. She was committed to the Worcester lunatic hospital.

"A Matricide." Boston Journal 1 Nov 1892.
"Awful Act of a Cambridge Woman ." Springfield Republican 1 Nov 1892.
"Dr. Jelly as an Expert." Boston Daily Globe 5 Nov 1892.
"Killed by Her Daughter." National Police Gazette 19 Nov 1892.
"Killed Her Mother." Boston Daily Globe 1 Nov 1892.
"Murderess Adjudged Insane." Boston Daily Globe 18 Nov 1892.
"The Murder in Cambridge." Boston Herald 1 Nov 1892.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Murder as a Luxury.

(From Puck , November 11, 1879)

Murder as a Luxury.
 The Expense of Trying Every Murderer Ever so Many Times.
The mania for murder seems to spread like an epidemic in tropics. It attacks all classes, both sexes, and even children are etting it hard. Now, murder is very disagreeable to the victim, and to the perpetrator, also when he is solemnly marched on to be hanged; yet murder seems to be one of the fashionable excitements of the day. It is a luxury, and must be paid for. Our 4-in-hand, and Polo clubs pay for their little fun; our yachtsmen draw upon their own back accounts for the expenses of their skimmers of the sea; Mr. Lorillard pockets his winnings and pays his losses at horse racing without troubling the public about it; then why should A. B., because he wants to indulge in the luxury of letting out the life blood of C. D., call upon the country in which he does the deed to pay the expenses of trying him therefore?

Now-a-days it takes generally two or three trials to convict, acquit or half acquit a party charged with murder. All the first-class chemists, experts in poisons, and microscopists, are brought, with their expensive apparatus, into court to utterly flabbergast a most miserable jury. Detectives, at great expense, are employed for months; the local prosecutor engages additional counsel who are granted an “allowance” of the most liberal kind by the court; witnesses are summoned form all sorts of distance, and the clerk is kept busy in reckoning up mileages, attendance expenses, and everything the cumbrous machinery of the law can grind out of the pockets of the poor tax-payers. The bill against the county in which the case is tried becomes enormous.

And what is the result?

Generally a miscarriage of justice, in a disagreement of the jury; or the ordering of a new trial from some legal mistake that neither lawyer, judges, nor the press discovered until the trial was over and all the expenses incurred.

Look at it! Greenfield was tried three times; Bishop and Kate Cobb twice; Buchholtz is going to have a second trial; Hayden is now undergoing a second trial; Saratoga county in this state, would doubtless give Mr. Jessie Billings another trial only that taxpayers growl at the enormous expense of the previous one; Cove Bennett and Mrs. Smith are soon to undergo a second trial. In some counties the expense of bringing murderers to justice is a heavier burden on the taxpayers than ll the expense of making and repairing roads, caring for the county buildings, etc. Now, all this is wrong. Either people must stop committimg murder or, if the will murder, they should guarantee the county against pecuniary loss.

If John Kelly is elected governor, as he now says he expects to be, we will call upon him to tackle this subject in his inaugural message. Let him demand the passage of a law that no man, woman or child in this noble old state shall be allowed to commit murder unless he, she or it first covers into the treasury money sufficient to pay the cost of his, her or its trial.

"Murder as a Luxury." Puck  11 Nov 1879.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

For a Wanton’s Smile.

Frank Whittaker came to Chicago in September 1892, accompanied by four or five young women from his New York City brothel. He planned to run a similar business in Chicago and set up an establishment in a somewhat weather-beaten version of the gilded palaces in the city’s red light district near the levee.

Around the first of November, Charles Ryan, a tall, silent man with piercing eyes and a small mustache, began to regularly visit Whittaker’s house. Ryan was a gambler, and from the size of his bankroll was a successful one.

One of the girls who followed Whittaker from New York was a capricious and whimsical, black-haired, blue-eyed, beauty named Susie Hess. Ryan fell madly in love with her and within two weeks of his arrival in Chicago, he was begging Susie to leave her wanton life and come live with him. Susie was fickle, and led him on, promising to go with him one day and rescinding the promise the next.

Ryan was in Whittaker’s brothel in the early hours of Sunday, November 14, 1892, and he asked Susie Hess again to come with him. They began to argue loudly, attracting the attention of Frank Whittaker. Whittaker, who had not previously met Ryan, tried to defuse the situation by suggesting that they all have a drink. Ryan said nothing; he pulled a revolver from his pocket, pressed the muzzle against Susie’s right side and fired. He then turned the gun on Whittaker and fired twice. Ryan looked at his victims for an instant, then walked into an adjoining room and shot himself in the head. By dawn all three were dead.


"Chicago Shooting Affray." Kokomo Daily Gazette Tribune 14 Nov 1892.
"For a Wanton's Smile." Le Mars Semi Weekly Sentinel 15 Nov 1892.
"Gave No Warning." Daily Inter Ocean 14 Nov 1892.
"His Fatal Infatuation." National Police Gazette 3 Dec 1892.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Murderous 1820s.

The 1820s were indeed murderous with most of the country still frontier and the forces of justice barely able to contend with a violent population. The stories of these murders have survived nearly 200 years through murder pamphlets published at the time but the facts they contain cannot always be trusted. The incidents are often exaggerated and where more than one pamphlet was written for a murder, they seldom agree on names and events and can even take opposing views on the guilt of the accused. In some cases, such as the murder of William Morgan, what really happened is the subject of heated debate to this day. In spite of—or maybe because of—the uncertainty of their facts, the stories of murder from the 1820s still resonate.

The Notorious Patty Cannon. -1820

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.”

The Indiana Hero -1820

In 1819, when the State of Indiana was still frontier country, Amasa Fuller, a prominent and popular citizen of Lawrenceburg, was courting a young lady of that town. While Fuller was away on business, the young lady’s heart was stolen by a younger man, named Palmer Warren. Fuller returned to find that his true love had agreed to marry her new suitor. When Warren refused to fight a duel with Fuller, Fuller shot him in cold blood. But Amasa Fuller was so popular in Lawrenceburg that, when a ballad was written about the murder, the young lady was cast as the villain, and Fuller was “The Indiana Hero.”

The Thayer Brothers -1824

The year 1825 was a momentous one for Buffalo, New York. The Erie Canal opened, connecting Lake Erie to the Hudson River, a celebration honoring the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution was held in Buffalo, and the city held its first and only public hanging. At least 20,000 witnesses gathered in Niagara Square to watch thee brothers—Nelson, Israel, and Isaac Thayer—hang from the same gallows.

The Kentucky Tragedy -1825

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.

William Morgan - Revenge of the Freemasons -1826

In the summer of 1826, William Morgan of Batavia, New York, announced his intention to publish a book exposing the secrets of Freemasonry. On September 11 of that year he was abducted and never seen again. Morgan was considered a traitor by the Masons and a “Christian martyr” by their opponents. 54 Masons were indicted for his abduction and 10 were found guilty. Morgan’s disappearance led to the formation of America’s first “third party”, the Anti-Masonic Party. But was it Morgan's body that washed ashore on Lake Ontario a year later, and were the Masons responsible for his death?

The Sheriff's Mistress -1828

In the summer of 1827, George Swearingen was a hardworking, upstanding, young family man. He and his lovely wife, Mary, had a new baby daughter. Working as clerk and deputy to his uncle, the sheriff of Washington County, Maryland, George was being groomed to take his uncle’s job. Everything was going George Swearingen’s way; then he met Rachel Cunningham. In September the following year, George and Rachel were fugitives, running from the charge of murdering Mary Swearingen.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Shocking Murder in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

Little Murders
(From Jackson Citizen, December 15, 1868)

Shocking Murder in Charlestown, Massachusetts.
Two Brothers-in-Law Engage in a Difficulty and One Cuts the Other’s Head Off with a Cleaver—Arrest of the Murderer

Boston, Mass. December 4, 1868.

This morning a shocking murder occurred in Furbush’s fat factory, Furbush’s Court, Charlestown. Two men, brothers-in-law, were there at work quietly together when one went out, and returning soon after with a cleaver  deliberately cut the head off his unsuspecting companion, who was still at work, and whose head at the time of the murder was over a chopping block whereon fat is cut. The murderer then escaped. The murdered man was to testify against the other in some petty civil suit, and this is supposed to have been the cause of the deed. The name of the man is Dennis Cronan, the murderer’s name is Reene.

The murdered man and Reene were at work in a room by themselves, and from the cut it would seem that Cronan was leaning over when the blow was struck so his head was severed from the body except for a few ligaments in front. Officer Brower was informed about nine o’clock that a suicide or murder had occurred at Faribush’s factory. Officer Brower hastened to the place, which is located at the neck, and found the man lying on his shovel and some bones and fat, his head being severed from his body, with the exception that a small piece of the skin on the throat was not cut. The men at work in the adjoining room did not know that the murder had occurred and the body may have lain therefore an hour before it was discovered. A coroner was summoned and immediately took charge of the body and summoned a jury of inquest.

The murder must have been occasioned by the petty civil suit referred to. The two men had a dispute about some money, and the case had been in court once. It occasioned considerable hard feeling between the two men, which culminated in the act of Reene to-day. Cronan must have expired instantly, or, in the words of the officer, “he never knew what killed him.”

The two me were ordinary Irish laborers and both resided in Charlestown, near the factory, where they were employed to cut up and shovel fat, bones, &c.

"Shocking Murder In Charlestown, Massachusetts." Jackson Citizen 15 Dec 1868.