Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Scott Jackson.

Scott Jackson
Courtesy of The Cincinnati Enquirer

Phrenologist, Dr. S. E. Hyndman, performed measurements on the head of Scott Jackson, accused killer of Pearl Bryan, shortly after his arrest in February 1896. He came to this conclusion:
"My analysis of Scott Jackson reveals a bold, fearless, intense organization, with a perverted amativeness, and unwise gratification of this faculty has changed his physical, intellectual and moral condition and debased his higher mental qualities. He readily and quickly reasons from cause to effect; is intensely selfish in whatever he does; would mislead anyone to assist himself and has strong perceptive powers. He is a good planner and a fearless executer; once his mind is made up to do a thing, neither God, nor man, nor the devil, would prevent the attempt, every faculty would be perverted."

Dr. Hyndman’s assessment was probably influenced as much by public opinion as it was by the bumps on his heads In Cincinnati, Scott Jackson was viewed as strong, self-centered, and fundamentally evil. Jackson was the master manipulator who seduced the farm girl, persuaded the preacher’s son to send her to Cincinnati, and enlisted the country boy to help kill her. Some believed that Jackson had hypnotic power to impose his will on others and attributed that power to a property that even phrenology could not measure: his evil eye. 

Every written description of Scott Jackson referred to the power of his eyes. They were steel blue, some said violet, and had a mesmerizing power that he used to beguile Pearl Bryan into an intimate affair that she kept secret from her friends and family. She was—referencing the most popular novel of the time—Trilby to his Svengali.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

It was Santa Claus' Fault.

In the Eagle Creek precinct of Shawneetown, Illinois, the Christmas tradition was for parents to bring presents for their children to a party at the local church. Each present was labeled and hung on the Christmas tree then everyone would watch as the presents were distributed to the children. On Christmas Eve, 1889, chaos ensued when the tags fell off some of the presents and were replaced haphazardly. 

After a dozen or so presents were handed out, a farmer named Johnson grabbed a sled from one of the children and declared it was the present he had brought for his little boy. The sexton tried to explain the mix-up, but Johnson would not listen, and he rudely pushed the sexton aside. Several young men had been drinking heavily at the celebration, and one of them tried to snatch the sled back. When Johnson would not release it, another man hit him with a chair.

The room erupted into a free fight with chairs, clubs, knives, and pistols. Thomas Burroughs, the church Doorkeeper was dangerously stabbed in two places. A bullet struck Stout Colbert in the chin. Several others were wounded. At the height of the battle, it looked as though several combatants would be killed, but none of the wounds proved fatal. A Christmas miracle. 

“Fight at a Christmas Tree,” Helena Daily Herald, December 26, 1889.
“A Free Fight in a Church,” Boston Herald, December 26, 1889.
“It Was Santa Claus' Fault,” National Police Gazette, January 11, 1890.
“Wound Up om a Free Fight,” New York Herald, December 26, 1889.

Monday, December 20, 2021

So Far from Home.

New Book!

So Far from Home 

The Pearl Bryan Murder

"Yes. they drove far from the city,
To a place so far from home,
There they left her body lying
Headless and all stained with blood"
 Pearl Bryan (Traditional Ballad)

Available at Amazon.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Murder of Col. Sharp.

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.

Read the full story here: The Kentucky Tragedy.

Illustration from:

Confessions, trials & biographical sketches of the most cold blooded murderers, who have been executed in this country from its first settlement ... compiled entirely from the most authentic sources; containing also, accounts of various other daring outrages committed in this & other countries .. (1837). Boston: Thomson.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Michael M’Garvey.

The evening of November 21, 1828, Michael M’Garvey violently chastised his wife, Margaret, in the room, they occupied on the top floor of a house at the corner of Pine and Ball Alleys, between Third and Fourth Streets, and between South and Shippen Streets in Philadelphia. He tied her by the hair to a bedpost and began beating her, unmercifully with a whip, continuing at intervals for the next hour and a half. When she passed out, he attempted to throw her out the window but pulled her back in when someone outside saw him and cried out.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

The Wife's Lament.

In 1870, Peter Kenney and Richard O’Keefe opened a liquor store and barroom on the corner of B and 4th Streets in South Boston. Kenney was married to O’Keefe’s sister who owned the building. The Kenney’s lived on the second floor and in 1872, O’Keefe boarded with them.

The business was doing well, and the two men got along until O’Keefe moved in. That winter they frequently argued over the way Kenney was treating O’Keefe’s sister. Kenney was a quiet man when sober, but aggressive when drunk, which became increasingly frequent. The arguments sometimes turned violent with punches thrown and bottles broken. Kenney ordered O’Keefe out of the house. O’Keefe refused to leave, and his sister took his side. O’Keefe remained but the two men barely spoke to each other.

At dinner on May 2, 1872, O’Keefe asked Kenney about the store. Kenney had been drinking heavily for several days and O’Keefe worried that it would hurt their sales. Kenney told him to mind his own business, but since the store was O’Keefe’s business, the argument escalated. When the subject of Kenney’s cruel treatment of his wife arose again, Kenney jump up and said, “Come down to the green and we will settle this matter.” Mrs. Kenney interceded then and separated them. 

Around 8:00 that night, as Kenney was waiting on a customer and O’Keefe came to the barroom door and looked in. When Kenney was through with the customer, he went outside, and the argument started up again on the sidewalk. A scuffle ensued, they clinched and fell to the ground. O’Keefe pulled a jackknife from his pocket and stabbed Kenney in the neck. Kenney exclaimed, “I am killed.” O’Keefe took off down the alley. 

Kenney managed to raise himself from the sidewalk and staggered into the store with blood streaming from his neck. Medical aid was summoned, but O’Keefe had severed Kenney’s jugular vein and he died before the doctors arrived. His wife bent over him, frantically imploring him to speak to her. “Who did this?” she asked, “What did Peter do that they should kill him.” She continued to lament over her husband’s body until someone removed her to a neighboring house.

O’Keefe entered the house through the backdoor, ran upstairs, and changed his clothes. He went back out through the barroom door where officers Dudley and Johnson were waiting for him. At the police station, O’Keefe confessed to the stabbing. The police searched his room and found the knife in his pants pocket. It was just a small penknife with a 3-inch blade, but it was long enough to kill.

Richard O’Keefe was indicted for manslaughter. 

“Affairs About Home,” Boston Herald, May 11, 1872.
“Committed for Trial,” Fall River Daily Evening News, May 3, 1872.
“Murder of Peter Kenny by Richard O'Keefe,” Illustrated Police News, May 9, 1872.
“The South Boston Murder,” Boston Evening Transcript, May 6, 1872.
“Terrible Murder in South Boston,” Boston Herald, May 3, 1872.