Saturday, December 31, 2016

Her Miserable End.

James Hartig, a watchman at the Massapoag House in Sharon, Massachusetts, traveling from the hotel the morning of December 5, 1885, discovered the body of a young woman lying on the muddy road. He notified the authorities, and Chief Wade of the district police sent two officers to investigate.

Snow had fallen the night before up until 11:00 when the snow turned to rain. Under the body was snow, while all around it the snow had melted, indicating the body had been placed there the previous night. Articles of her clothing appeared to be missing, and the officers searched the area for them. An autopsy determined that she had died from a broken neck that could only have been caused by a violent bending of the head forward. There were no other marks of violence except on her legs which appeared as though the body had been dragged over the ground some time after death.

No one in Sharon recognized the dead woman, so her description was published in newspapers throughout Massachusetts. On December 7, Officer Abbot of the Boston Police Department arrived in Sharon with a woman who believed she knew the victim. Officer Abbott’s companion instantly recognized her as Carrie Lee, alias Carrie J. Loring, whose real name was Carrie Whitney. She said if they examined her left forearm they would find an India ink tattoo of the initials “C W” and a star. The arm was stripped, and the marks were found as described.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Christmas Eve Murder.

Little Murders
(From New York Herald March 9, 1888)

A Christmas Eve Murder.
John F. Foley Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree.

The John F. Foley, alias “Mud,” pleaded guilty yesterday before Judge Gildersleeve in the Court of General Sessions to manslaughter in the first degree, in killing Dennis Carney. He was remanded until to-day for sentence.

The defendant and the murdered man were members of a west side gang who committed robberies from the outside of stores and from parcel wagons. On Christmas Eve, 1886, Carney’s body was found toward midnight in a gutter on Twenty-seventh street, near Eleventh avenue, and on examinations it was seen that he had been stabbed through the heart.

Foley had been seen with Carney a short time previous to the discovery of the murder and was arrested, but after several examinations before Justice Duffy he was discharged. Another of the gang, named Johnny Murphy, residing at No. 445 West Twenty-seventh street, was subsequently arrested, and at Police Headquarters told the story of the murder, which was briefly as follows:— On the evening of December 24, 1886, Foley and carney quarreled about a can of peaches, during which Foley stabbed Carney in the left breast. After a few words had passed between them and Foley had ascertained that the injuries were likely to be fatal, he ran toward the North river, but afterward virtually gave himself up.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Orrin De Wolf.

Orrin De Wolf
Orrin De Wolf was a humble hostler in Worcester, Massachusetts in January 1845, but he had prospects for a brighter future. He had a deal with Eliza Ann Stiles—on the death of her husband William they would share his estate. William was a deformed, alcoholic in poor health and not likely to live another year. But Orin did not want to wait and his impatience would be his downfall.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

“Coal Oil Johnny” Killed.

Little Murders
(From Cincinnati Commercial Tribune July 21, 1883)

“Coal Oil Johnny” Killed.
Tragic End of One of the Most Notorious Swindlers in the Country.
Shot by His Jealous Wife.
A Bagnio in Terre Haute the Scene of the Killing—Local Experience of John and Sadie Hall—The Climax of a Life of Crime.
Special to the Commercial Gazette.
Terre Haute, Ind., July 20 – The city was startled this morning by a report that another unprovoked murder had been added to the list of crimes enacted here. The murder took place just after daylight this morning, in a Second street bagnio run by Aggie Roland, and possesses much of a sensational nature.

John B. Hall, a street vender, possessed of a number of aliases, but better known by the sobriquet of “Coal Oil Johnny,” was the victim of the crime committed by his wife, who found him occupying a room with one Maud Hunter, an inmate of the house. Hall and his wife had quarreled during the day, and when he closed up his day’s business, instead of returning to his rooms at the St. Charles Hotel, he started out on a spree. He finally wound up at 2 o’clock this morning by retiring at Roland’s house. His wife started out in search of him, and, in a hack, made a tour of the open saloons, but did not find him. She heard about 3 o’clock of his visit to Roland’s, and with the hack driver entered the house, representing to the driver that her husband had a large amount of money on his person, which she feared he would lose. After a number of inquiries regarding accommodations for the night, she inquired if a certain friend of hers was at the house, describing her husband as the friend. Learning that he was, she asked to see him, and was conducted to the door of his room. She knocked, and was admitted by the Hunter girl. Entering the room, she found her husband asleep in bed. She walked to his side, and after gazing at him in silence turned as if to leave. Lying on a bureau at the head of the bed was revolver, which Hall placed  there after retiring. She saw it, and seizing the weapon, she pointed it full at the breast of the sleeping man and fired. The ball lodged in the right breast, producing instant death. The shock threw the body to the floor, the head and shoulders under the bed. Not a word had been spoken, and the shooting had taken place so unexpectedly that neither of the three witnesses could have interfered.

Mrs. Hall gave herself up, and has engaged attorneys for her defense and they refuse to allow her to be interviews or to testify at the Coroner’s inquest. This evening she regrets the deed, and acts as if partly insane.       

The murdered man was noted as one of the most expert bunko steerers and confidence men of the day, and had traveled under a number of aliases. His mother lives in St. Joseph, Mo., and she was notified of his death.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

American Murder Ballads.

The stories of many of America's most memorable murders have been kept alive by folk ballads that have been sung for more than a hundred years. Though seldom factually accurate, the songs are always moving and heartfelt. Here are just a few:

Poor 'Omie - The Murder of Naomi Wise -1807

The haunting folk ballad “Omie Wise” has kept the story of Naomi Wise’s murder alive for more than two hundred years, but how much of it is true?
Ballad: Omie Wise

"…Cut off in her youthful bloom." -1810

The mysteries of Polly Williams’s death have endured for two centuries; her story is neatly summarized in a song and a poem.
Ballads: Polly Williams, Polly Williams (poem)

The Indiana Hero -1820

When Palmer Warren refused to fight a duel with Amas Fuller over the woman he loved, Fuller shot him in cold blood. But Amasa Fuller was so popular in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, that the young lady was cast as the villain, and Fuller “The Indiana Hero.”
Ballad: The Indiana Here (aka Fuller and Warren)

The Ballad of Frankie Silver -1831

Charlie and Frankie Silver were the ideal young married couple, so the legend goes, but the reality was much darker. Frankie had endured physical abuse from Charlie throughout their marriage until, she fought back to save her own life.
Ballad: The Ballad of Frankie Silver

The Murdered Wife -1845

Eight days after Mary Ann Wyatt married Henry Green she died of arsenic poisoning. There is little doubt Henry Green murdered his wife but his motive in doing so is an enduring mystery.
Ballad: The Arsenic Tragedy

Hang Down Your Head Tom Dula -1866

The stories behind murder ballads are never as pretty as the songs. The 1866 murder of Laura Foster by Tom Dula in Elkville, North Carolina left a pretty song of an ugly murder.
Ballad: Tom Dooley

Jubilee Jim -1872

Jim Fisk was the consummate Gilded Age robber baron. Everything he had or did had to be the biggest and best. When his adulterous relationship turned scandalous, it was an epic scandal filled with blackmail, courtroom drama, and finally murder.
Ballad: The Stokes Verdict

Josie Langmaid-"The Murdered Maiden Student" -1875

On October 4, 1875, the mutilated body of 17-year-old Josie Langmaid was found in the woods in Pembroke, New Hampshire. The ballad her murder inspired is remarkably accurate, but profoundly sad.
Ballad: Suncook Town Tragedy

The St. Louis Trunk Tragedy -1885

The body of Charles Arthur Preller was found in a trunk in a St. Louis hotel. Though the death had been made to look like a political assassination, it was in fact the tragic ending of a “peculiar relationship.”
Ballad: Ewing Brooks

Freda Ward - "Girl Slays Girl" -1892

On the afternoon of January 25, 1892, Alice Mitchel met Freda Ward on Front Street and cut her throat with a straight razor. Was Alice driven by insanity, jealousy, or “an unnatural love?”
Ballad: Alice Mitchell and Freddy Ward

Poor Ellen Smith -1892

Ellen Smith, a beautiful but innocent young woman strays from the path of righteousness for a faithless lover who soon becomes her killer. It is the stuff of Victorian cautionary literature and mountain murder ballads.
Ballad: Poor Ellen Smith

The Knoxville Girl -1892

"The Knoxville girl" is an American version of a song with very deep English roots, modified to fit the drowning of Mary Lula Noel.
Ballad: The Knoxville Girl

The Meeks Family Murder -1894

6-year-old Nellie Meeks was the only survivor of an ambush that took the lives of her parents and two sisters. When her story was verified it became one of the most sensational crimes in Missouri history.
Ballads: The Meeks Family Murder, Midnight Murder of the Meeks Family

That Bad Man Stagolee -1895

The story of Stagolee has been sung by troubadours for more than a hundred years.  When Stack Lee Shelton shot Billy Lyons, in a fight over a Stetson hat, in Bill Curtis's Saloon in St. Louis, on Christmas night 1895, the legend was born.
Ballads (two of many versions): Stack O'Lee Blues, Billy Lyons and Stack O'Lee

Frankie Baker - "He Done Her Wrong" -1899

On October 16, 1899 Frankie Baker shot her lover Allen Britt. By that evening a local songwriter had composed a song that would become one of the most popular murder ballads of all time.
Ballad: Frankie and Johnny

Delia's Gone, One More Round -1900

On Christmas Eve 1900, Cooney Houston shot and killed his girlfriend Delia Green.  Delia’s story has been sung by generations of folk singers, and has been recorded by musical icons such as Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
Ballad: Delia's Gone

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Killed in a Saloon.

(From Augusta Chronical, January 2, 1888)

Killed in a Saloon.
 Political Factions Meet in New Orleans and a Fatal Fight Results.

New Orleans, LA, Jan. 1 – Soon after one o’clock this morning a shooting affray took place in Johnson’s saloon, 21 Charles street, in which city administrators, Patrice Mealey, was mortally wounded, Mike Walsh dangerously, and Daniel Markey painfully. The last named received a shot in the mouth. All were taken to Charity Hospital, where Commissioner Mealey died at 2:10 o’clock this afternoon. Walsh remains in a comatose condition. It appears that Commissioner Mealey and a party of political friends, supporters of Nicholl’s, went late to the saloon for the purpose of getting drinks. While they were there half a dozen McEnery men, including Special Officers Louis Clare and John Gibson, came in. As to the origin of the trouble statements conflict materially, there being so many persons present. Each aide, however, charges the other with being the aggressors. Be that as it may, there was shouting for Nicholls and for McEnery. Mealy and Clare met together, and then the shooting began.

Twelve or fifteen shots were fired, showing that several weapons must have been used. All accounts agree in one particular, that Louis Clare and John Gibson began the shooting. Mealy declared that he had been shot by Clare. Both Clare and Gibson have been locked up and charges of murder will be made against them.

"Killed in a Saloon." Augusta Chronical January 2, 1888.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Discarded Lover.

Little Murders
John Friese, a 22-year-old car conductor in Baltimore, courted 17-year-old Georgia V. Stone who worked at the Mt. Vernon Cotton Mill. Their romance was not going smoothly, and matters came to a head one day in September 1889, when Friese went to Georgia’s house drunk. It is not clear what transpired at their meeting, but afterward, Georgia returned all of his presents and refused to see him again.

On September 29, John Friese was sitting with some of his companions on a fence near the cotton mill. When he saw Georgia walking with George Moore, son of the mill superintendent, he rushed to her and demanded to know if she intended to come back to him. When Georgia said, “no,” he pulled out a revolver and shot her twice. Friese fled the scene. Georgia Stone was taken to the hospital, where she died before she could give her dying deposition.

The following morning John Friese went to the Central Station House and gave himself up. He said he had intended to shoot George Moore, but his aim was poor and Georgia was shot instead.

On February 1, 1890, John Friese was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary.


“A Brilliant Verdict,” Bloomington Daily Leader, February 1, 1890.
“Gave Himself Up,” Galveston Daily News, October 1, 1889.
“Local Matters,” Sun, November 14, 1889.
“She Discarded Him,” National Police Gazette, October 19, 1889.
“Shot by a Discarded Lover,” Boston Daily Globe, September 30, 1889.
“Telegraphic Summary, Etc,” Sun, October 2, 1889.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


Insanity has always been a popular murder defense. Sometimes the insanity plea is painfully appropriate, other times it is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

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 Veiled Murderess -1853

In 1854, a woman calling herself Henrietta Robinson stood trial in Troy, New York, for poisoning a neighbor and his sister-in-law. Despite the judge’s admonitions, she sat through the trial with her face covered by a black veil, hiding her appearance from the throngs of spectators who had come to watch. Everything about the defendant was a mystery—her motive for murder, her behavior before and after the crime, and even her true identity. It was well known that “Henrietta Robinson” was an assumed name, but who she really was has never been determined.

Dan Sickles's Temporary Insanity -1859

Dan Sickles, congressman from New York, was married to the most beautiful woman in Washington but his other interests, including his mistresses, often kept him away from home. Feeling lonely and abandoned, his lonely young wife, Teresa, found comfort in the arms of Philip Barton Key. When Sickles learned of their affair, he armed himself and confronted Key on the street. Blinded by rage he shot and killed his wife’s lover. Was it premeditated murder or temporary insanity?

The Richardson-McFarland Tragedy -1869

On the afternoon of November 25, 1869 Daniel McFarland walked into the office of the New York Tribune and there shot and killed Albert Richardson, a Tribune editor. Richardson had planned to marry Daniel McFarland’s ex-wife, Abby. The facts of the murder were irrefutable, but the trial that followed focused instead on the behavior of Abby McFarland. Was her adultery an attack on the sanctity of marriage that drove Daniel McFarland to murderous insanity? Or had she been justified in leaving a drunken, abusive husband, running to the safety of another man’s arms?

A Woman Scorned -1873

William Goodrich paid a visit to the lodging of his brother Charles, on Degraw Street in Brooklyn, on March 21, 1873. Getting no response at the door William entered the house to search for his brother, and found Charles in the basement, lying dead on the floor, neatly posed, as if laid out by an undertaker. Charles had been shot in the head. On the floor near the wound lay a revolver, and near the gun was Charles’s hand, suggesting suicide. But William Goodrich knew his brother too well to believe this. “You never did this yourself!” he said, “This is murder! Not suicide!”

The Walworth Patricide -1873

The name Walworth was an old and venerable one in the state of New York. William Walworth arrived there from London in 1689; during the American Revolution, Benjamin Walworth fought in the Battle of White Plains; Reuben Hyde Walworth, in 1828, was named Chancellor of New York, the state’s highest judicial office. But in 1873 the name Walworth was forever tarnished when Frank Walworth murdered his father Mansfield Walworth.

A Matter of Honor -1883

In the autumn of 1882, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, Nicholas L. Dukes learned that his fiancĂ©e, Lizzie Nutt, had been intimate with other men. An honorable man would have confronted his betrothed and ended their engagement face-to-face. Dukes chose to break the engagement in a letter written to Lizzie’s father, Civil War hero and Cashier of the Pennsylvania State Treasury, Captain A. C. Nutt. The resulting conflict was so divisive and violent that it would take two murders and two controversial trial verdicts to restore honor to Uniontown.

Professor Strunk -1886

In 1885, Professor Ira G. Strunk was a model citizen of New Albany, Indiana. He was the Principal of the New Albany Business College, a member of the Episcopal Church, and a happily married man with two young daughters. His wife Myra sang in the church choir, under the direction of Strunk’s friend, Charles V. Hoover. But behind Strunk’s back, the relationship of Myra and Charles went far beyond choir practice. Although the affair was common knowledge in New Albany, Ira Strunk was oblivious until he, quite literally, read about it in the newspaper. A small item in the gossip column of the local paper rocked Strunk’s world and set him on a course that could only end in murder.

The Nicely Brothers. -1889

Brothers Joe and Dave Nicely were the prime suspects in the robbery and murder of Herman Umberger in his home in Jennertown, Pennsylvania on February 27, 1889. They were arrested, identified by eye witnesses, convicted and condemned to death. But the Nicelys maintained their innocence and tried every means possible—legal and otherwise— to avoid punishment

The Worst Woman on Earth -1893

When two bodies were found in a hayloft on Paul Halliday’s farm in the town of Mukakating, in New York’s Catskill Mountains, his young Gypsy wife, Lizzie, became the prime suspect in their murders. It was not the first time Lizzie Halliday was accused of murder and it would not be the last. In court she would tear her clothes and babble incoherently; in captivity she was a danger to herself and everyone around her. Though she exhibited all the signs of a woman who was violently insane, many believed that Lizzie was merely a gifted actress. But no one disagreed when the press crowned Lizzie Halliday, “Worst woman on earth.”

A Contract With the Devil -1897

On April 16, 1897, cashier Joseph A. Stickney was murdered during a daring daylight robbery of the Great Falls National Bank in Somersworth, New Hampshire. The frenzied investigation that followed, crossed state and national borders resulting in the arrests of Joseph Kelley, a resident of Somersworth with peculiar habits. Joseph E. Kelley confessed to the murder, leaving the court to decide whether his actions were driven by a mental disorder, whether he was feigning mental disability, or whether Kelley had in fact made a contract with the devil.

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.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Maniac Murderer.

Little Murders

John Anderson
John Anderson was a Swede with a quick and rash temper. He worked in the spoke shop of the Hall & Parmelee wheel factory in Wallingford, Connecticut and in March of 1874 Anderson was having difficulties with a fellow worker named Edward Yale. Their arguments escalated rapidly and when Anderson threatened to shoot Yale he was taken seriously. The boss, Horatio Hall, fired Anderson and place another man on the machine he had been running. Edward Yale filed charges with the police and Anderson was arrested.

Out on bail and fuming with anger, Anderson entered the spoke shop on Mach 7 brandishing two loaded revolvers. He fired at Fredrick Newton who had replaced him on the machine, hitting him in the shoulder. He shot Horatio Hall in the temple, killing him instantly. Anderson then began firing indiscriminately around the shop, though he hit no one else. When both pistols were empty he ran from the shop.

Still in a fit of rage, Anderson ran to a nearby railroad depot and cut his own throat nearly from ear to ear. Though he was bleeding profusely it took four men to subdue him.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


Drowning is a very personal method of murder, and always a case of the strong overpowering the weak.

The Manhattan Well Mystery -1799

On January 2, 1800, the body of Gulielma Sands was found in the Manhattan Well, not far from her boardinghouse on Greenwich Street, New York City. There were two contradictory schools of thought among those who knew Gulielma Sands—those who remembered her as melancholy and suicidal, and those remembered her as happy and cheerful, especially so on the night she disappeared when she revealed that she was to marry Levi Weeks. When Levi Weeks was arrested for murder everyone in the city would take a side. The trial of Levi Weeks was the first of New York City’s sensational murder cases, the first American murder trial to be transcribed, and the first defense council “dream team.” Levi Weeks was represented in court by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

Poor 'Omie - The Murder of Naomi Wise -1807

The haunting folk ballad “Omie Wise” has kept the story of Naomi Wise’s murder alive for more than two hundred years. According to legend, Naomi Wise, a poor but beautiful orphan girl, was courted by Jonathan Lewis, son of a wealthy farmer. His mother persuaded him to stop the courtship but not before Naomi became pregnant with Jonathan’s child. To avoid marriage and scandal, Jonathan Lewis drowned Naomi Wise in Deep River. That is the traditional tale of Naomi Wise, but how much of it is true?

The Blue Eyed Six -1878

It was a foolproof plan. Six men in Lebanon County Pennsylvania bought insurance policies on the life of Joseph Raber, an elderly recluse living in a hut in the Blue Mountains. They were sure Raber would die soon and end their financial problems. But the premiums proved costly and the men grew tired of waiting for Raber to die. In July 1878 they decided to take matters into their own hands. Their plot was common knowledge in Lebanon County and it was not long before all six were arrested for murder. The conspirators had a number of common characteristics–all six men were illiterate, all six were living in poverty, all six were of low moral character— but one trait captured the public’s imagination – all six had blue eyes.

Kissing Cousins -1885

Lillian Madison’s relations with her immediate family in the 1880s were strained if not outright hostile. Her parents disapproved of her social life and kept her from the education she desired and as soon as she could, Lillian left their home in King William County, Virginia. She found comfort and support among her mother’s relatives but she also began a romantic relationship with her cousin, Thomas Cluverius, that would end in her ruin. When Lillian’s body, eight months pregnant, was found floating in Richmond’s Old Reservoir, Cousin Thomas was the prime suspect.

Little Conestoga Creek -1888

Calvin Dellinger was a philanderer, an abusive husband, and a sadistic father, but was he a killer as well?