Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sudden Death, Foul Suspicions.

Maria Hendrickson
Sudden death seemed to be John Hendrickson’s constant companion. When his six-week-old baby died suddenly, it was viewed as a tragedy. When his father-in-law died suddenly in a farm accident it raised a few eyebrows. But when his healthy teenaged wife died suddenly with symptoms of poisoning, foul suspicions ran wild.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Curley Confesses.

(From Harrisburg Patriot, July 12, 1877).

Curley Confesses.

Miss Whitby’s Murder—The Result of a Bloodthirsty Impulse.

The New York Herald publishes the following dispatch from Pottstown:

“Thomas Frances Curley, who has been sentenced to hang at Norristown on the 9th day of August next for the murder of Mary Ann Whitby, near the Trappe, in May 1875, has made a full confession of his terrible crime to his counsel. At his trial Curley was convicted on purely circumstantial evidence, and doubts existed in the minds of many persons as to his guilt, but these are removed by the startling statement which has been made to his legal advisers. Though the facts were known to his attorneys some time ago, they have just been made public, and though it is denied by the counsel, it is generally believed to have been made in order to have the death penalty commuted to imprisonment for life. This belief is strengthened by the fact that, at the meeting of the board of pardons at Harrisburg, today, Curley’s case was postponed until the September meeting, and thus a new lease of life is given the condemned man.

“From the meagre facts that can be obtained, Curley, in his confession, states that he has had an insatiable desire for blood form childhood up; that he had previously inflicted unnecessary cruelty to dumb animals—stuck a penknife into calves, in order to see the blood flow, and committed other inhuman acts. In the killing of Miss Whitby he says that a desire to murder her seized him on his way home to dinner and that he struck her with a hoe handle and not the stove lifter, which was believed  to have been the instrument of death from evidence give at the time of his trial. He states that no words passed between them; that no quarrel took place, but he came directly home from the field, secured a hoe and dealt her the murderous and fatal blow.

“The ground on which the commutation of the sentenced to imprisonment for life is asked is that the murderer is a monomaniac and is not responsible for his acts. His whole demeanor during and since the trial proves him to be, what is now beyond question, a person of low, brutal instincts, devoid of all human feeling and sympathy, and but little above the brute creation. It will be a relief to the community to know that Curley was justly convicted of the awful crime, and it is but a just atonement that he shall suffer the death penalty.”

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Deliberate, Damnable Murder.

William B. Baldwin
Around 2:00 a.m., the morning of November 25, 1879, the citizens of Hastings, Nebraska, were awakened by frenzied cries of “fire!” The Burlington & Missouri Railroad Depot was burning. Firemen were dispatched to the blaze but, in the words of The Nebraska State Journal, Hastings had “as poor a Fire Department as could be well conceived.” The depot burned to the ground along with two freight cars, for a loss estimated at $20,000.

When the smoke cleared an even greater loss was revealed, the partially consumed body of Allen J. Yocum, a brakeman on the B&M line. Two other men at the scene Ralph M. Taylor, another brakeman, and William B. Baldwin, the telegraph operator at the depot said that an oil lamp had exploded and they managed to escape the fire. Baldwin expressed regret that he hadn’t tried harder to rescue Yocum.

But Baldwin and Taylor were clearly drunk when they were questioned and their stories were confused and contradictory. Witnesses stated that they had heard two or three gunshots prior to hearing the alarm. Rumors began to circulate that the fire was not accidental. Yocum’s body which was in the process of being transferred to his parents in Albia, Nebraska, was stopped in transit. A post-mortem examination revealed that Allen Yocum had two bullet wounds on his left side.

A coroner’s jury determined that Yocum had been murdered, shot by either Baldwin or Taylor. William Baldwin had a 22-caliber revolver which had recently been discharged. It was supposed that Baldwin had quarreled with Yocum and killed him, then set the fire attempting to hide the crime. He forced Taylor at gunpoint to keep quiet. “A Deliberate, Damnable Murder,” said The Nebraska State Journal.

But when the case went to trial the following June, the charge had been reduced, probably due to the circumstantial nature of the evidence. William B. Baldwin was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to ten years at hard labor in the Eastings Penitentiary.

“Burned to Death,” The Nebraska State Journal, November 26, 1879.
“Caught By the Fire,” Chicago Tribune, November 26, 1879.
“A Hardened Villain,” National Police Gazette, November 27, 1880.
“The Hastings Affair,” The Nebraska State Journal, November 29, 1879.
“Murder and Arson,” Chicago Tribune, November 29, 1879.