Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sin and Sorrow.

Little Murders
When neighbors heard two muffled gunshots, the afternoon of September 20, 1880, coming from the home of George Ware and family on Maple Street in Dayton, Ohio, it caused little concern; they assumed someone inside was trying to kill rats. But a few moments later Lee Brumbaugh hurried from the house, bleeding from a wound in his side. He was staggering when he reached the grocery store on the corner. Entering the store, he said to the proprietor, “I’m shot; George Ware did it.” The proprietor caught him and laid him on the floor. Less than five minutes later Brumbaugh was dead. George Ware then entered the store carrying Brumbaugh’s coat, vest, and hat and said, “I shot Lee Brumbaugh, but I am sorry now for it.”

Lee Brumbaugh was a prominent attorney, well known in Dayton, and news of his murder spread quickly through the town. It was first rumored that the motive had been political, Brumbaugh was a member of the Democratic Central Committee, and Ware was president of the Republican Central Committee. But a second rumor, that Ware had caught his wife and Lee Brumbaugh in flagrante delicto, proved true.

Lee Brumbaugh had been George Ware’s attorney and had recently defended Ware (who apparently had fidelity issues of his own) on a bastardy charge. The Ware and Brumbaugh families were very close and often visited each other. But neighbors had observed for some time that Lee Brumbaugh frequently visited the Ware home when George Ware was out of town.

Ware was a mail route agent working on a railroad line that traveled between Cincinnati and Cleveland, and his schedule was “two on, one off”—he traveled with the train for two weeks, then spent a week at home. His week off had just ended, and he left for the depot night of September 19, but instead of boarding the train, he went back home and hid in the basement. He had intercepted a letter from Lee Brumbaugh to his wife, arranging a meeting the following afternoon. He planned to wait for his arrival and catch them in the act.

At first, there was talk in Dayton of lynching Ware for the murder, but as the facts became known, tempers softened, and by the time of Ware’s trial in November, public sympathy was on his side. His attorneys stressed that Ware had been a prisoner at Andersonville during the Civil War and he had undergone such great suffering from starvation and fever that it weakened his mind, rendering him unable to bear a sudden mental shock. The jury deliberated for just eighteen minutes before returning a verdict on not guilty. The verdict was generally regarded as “satisfactory and just.”

“A Wronged Husband's Vengeance,” Daily Inter Ocean, September 21, 1880.
"The Fatal Ball,” The National Police Gazette, October 9, 1880.
“Not Guilty,” Daily Inter Ocean, November 19, 1880.
“Sin And Sorrow,” Plain Dealer, September 21, 1880.

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