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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Murderous New Hampshire.

"Live Free or Die" is the motto of the great state of New Hampshire. Everyone has their own interpretation of those words, here are a few of the worst:


The Northwood Murderer. -1852

When a drifter came to town and committed murder, he was likely to get away without capture and was prone to kill again. But every now and then a wandering killer was caught and his whole bloody itinerary made public. Such was the case of the Northwood Murderer.

The Smuttynose Murders -1873

Life on Smuttynose Island, in the Isles of Shoales,off the coast of New Hampshire, was hard in the 1870's. The winter months were bitter cold and the winter storms were devastating. Maren Hontvet, her sister Karen Christensen, and their sister-in-law Anethe Christensen dreaded the loneliness and isolation of the island when the men of the house were away fishing. The night of March 6, 1873, with the men away, the women were prepared to be alone in the cold house, but nothing could have prepared them for the arrival, by rowboat, of a deranged axe murderer.

Josie Langmaid-"The Murdered Maiden Student" -1875

On October 4, 1875, 17-year-old Josie Langmaid was absent from school – The Pembroke Academy in Pembroke, New Hampshire. When her parents learned that Josie never arrived at school, they organized a search party. At 9:00 that night they found the mutilated body of Josie Langmaid in the woods near the academy. The following morning they found her head, half a mile from where the body had been. The gruesome discovery tore the community of Pembroke apart.

The New Hampshire Horror. -1883

After his wife left him in November, 1883, Thomas Samon began a weekend of drunken debauchery in Laconia, New Hampshire, with Jane Ford, the wife of his landlord. But when the beer ran out Saturday morning, events turned unexpectedly violent, ending in a horrible triple murder.

Cain and Abel. -1890

Like the Biblical brothers Cain and Able, the Sawtell brothers of Boston took divergent paths through life. While Hiram settled down and raised a family, supported by his successful fruit business, Isaac was doing time in Charlestown prison. And as with the Bible’s first murderer, Isaac’s jealousy of his brother became unbearable. Upon his release from prison, he lured Hiram from his family and killed him in cold blood.

Murder in the Vale of Tempe -1891

George Abbott was a young child when he began his career as a thief and by his thirtieth birthday he had spent a third of his life in jail. When he left prison he changed his name and tried to change his evil ways, traveling and taking honest employment. While working as a farmhand in Hanover, New Hampshire he fell in love with the farmer’s daughter, Christie Warden. When Christie did not return his love Abbot went back to his old ways and took it at gunpoint in the shady hollow known as the Vale of Tempe.

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, May 21, 2016

“The Irish Giant”


Ned O’Baldwin was a heavyweight contender in the bareknuckle era of the 1860s and 1870s when a bout would continue until one man was knocked unconscious or the police arrived to shut the whole show down. Aptly dubbed “The Irish Giant,” O’Baldwin was 6’ 5”, weighed 200 lbs., and hailed from Lismore, Ireland. O’Baldwin is considered by some to be the greatest heavyweight boxer prior to John L. Sullivan, but outside the ring he was known for a violent temper which often landed him in court. He was once jailed for armed robbery after threatening to bludgeon a stakeholder.

Even for a championship contender, prizefighting as a source of income was less than reliable, so O’Baldwin partnered with a man named Michael Finnell to open a liquor store and saloon at 45 West Street in New York City. Apparently, the liquor business was not reliable either and on September 27, 1875, the partners met in the store for a vigorous business discussion. Only two men were present so it impossible to know exactly what transpired, but it was alleged that O’Baldwin was ready to sell out and leave the business and Finnell was not agreeable to this plan. The argument escalated, turned violent, and two shots were fired, attracting attention to the store.

Those who came to see what had happened found the Irish Giant on the floor, bleeding to death with a gunshot wound to the abdomen and another to the chest. The shooter was nowhere to be found. They quickly carried O’Baldwin to the hospital where he died the following day.

Those in the sporting community greatly mourned the big man’s death, but the New York press was not shedding any tears. Some editorials implied that Finnell’s action may have actually benefitted the community. The New York Herald was appalled by this advocacy of vigilante justice and, without wasting any sympathy on the dead boxer, wrote:

All large cities abound with people whose death might, in one point of view, be deemed a public benefit. If the haunts of thieves and burglars, or the streets or parts of streets given to lewd uses which make them the peril and often the ruin of young men, were blasted by lightning or engulfed by an earthquake, the moral atmosphere would, no doubt, be purified, but it by no means follows that the destruction of the vicious classes by human agency would be for the public advantage.

When the news of O’Baldwin’s death reached Finnell, he realized he either had to leave the city or turn himself in. He contacted a lawyer, and went to the police station claiming that he had acted in self-defense—not a bad plea given O’Baldwin’s size and reputed temper.  Michael Finnell was tried for first-degree murder the following February and was found not guilty for the murder of the Irish Giant.

Sources:
"Equal Justice to the High and the Low." New York Herald 2 Oct 1875.
Boxing Forum 24: Ned O'Baldwin, the Irish Giant.
"Ned O'Baldwin's Murderer "Not Guilty"." Daily Critic 19 Feb 1876.
"New York." Boston Journal 28 Sep 1875.
Jo Sports: O'BALDWIN, NED CABINET CARD ("THE IRISH GIANT").
"The Slayer of O'Baldwin." New York Herald 1 Oct 1875.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Two Murderers Murder Each Other.

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Little Murders
(From Trenton State Gazette, Trenton, New Jersey, May 2, 1871)

Two Murderers Murder Each Other.

One of the most remarkable personal rencontres ever recorded in the annals of this city occurred on Tuesday last, resulting in the instant death of the notorious William E. Rose, and the equally notorious Jesse Robinson. Rose shot Robinson fatally through the body and then ran. The dead man (as it were) pursued, without heeding the icy hand of death upon his vitals or the dread eternity, upon whose very brink he reeled, and, with his last agonies of exertion, emptied his revolver at his enemy, inflicting wounds which proved instantly fatal, after which he himself almost instantly expired. Since the event this community breathes freer, as many citizens of Jefferson were considerably apprehensive of violence from one or the other of these men. Several suits brought against them in the name of the state of Texas will abate on account of their death. The findings in the case of Robinson were disapproved by General Reynolds and he was set at liberty. The findings in the case of Rose were either not acted on by General Reynolds or else President Grant dodged the responsibility of ordering the execution of the sentence. - Jefferson (Texas) Radical, April 8.




"Two Murderers Murder Each Other." Trenton State Gazette, 2 May 1871.



Saturday, May 7, 2016

Stranglers.


Strangulation is the most intimate form of murder, the killer takes the life of his victim with his bare hands. Perhaps this is why it is used so often to dispatch loved ones and family members.

Here, in chronological order, is the Murder by Gaslight strangers hall of fame:


Sarah Cornell was found hanging in a barn in Tiverton, Rhode Island. Was it murder or suicide?     
Mary Runkle's “cup of affliction,” was filled with tragic deaths of four family members and the suspicion that she was responsible.

An Unfortunate Organization. - 1845
A phrenologist determined that Reuben Dunbar had “an unfortunate organization” in which his moral faculties were not sufficiently large to balance his animal propensities. The diagnosis may have been influence by the fact that Dunbar had been convicted of strangling his two young stepbrothers.
After Dr. Harvey Burdell was found in his office strangled and stabbed fifteen times, 31 Bond Street was shown for what it was—a hotbed of greed, lust, intrigue and depravity.
“Little Mary Mohrman,” as she was known by all, was described as “one of those sunny-haired, bright-eyed, sylvan-like children, whose innocence, one would think, could soften the hardest soul.” This sentiment would be tested and proven horribly false.
When a drifter came to town and committed murder, he was likely to get away without capture and was prone to kill again. But every now and then a wandering killer was caught and his whole bloody itinerary made public. Such was the case of the Northwood Murderer.
A feud within Cincinnati’s German community would lead to the brutal murder and illegal cremation of Herman Schilling.
Sarah Meservey was strangled to death in her home in Tenant’s Harbor, Maine. Was Nathan Hart falsely accused?     
When George Wheeler's mistress planned marry someone else he was faced with a dilemma: he could not marry her himself and he could not bear to see her wed to another. The solution he chose pleased no one.


A web of circumstantial evidence around James Titus as the man who raped and murdered Tillie Smith. The public story soon became the official story, but there is a good possibility that none of it was true.
A series of violent home invasions on Long Island in 1883 left two people dead and four more seriously injured. The  community was thrown into a state of confusion with at least a dozen false arrests, two perjured eye-witnesses, a false confession, lynch mobs, a jail break, and for a time, two independent and equally valid lines of inquiry that could not be reconciled.