Saturday, March 26, 2022

Salvation Army Tragedy.


In November 1891, The Northwestern Division of the Salvation Army held a muster in Omaha, Nebraska, to honor "La Marechale" Catherine Booth-Clibborn, leader of the Salvation Army in France. When the afternoon session ended on November 14, Captain Hattie Smith from Oskaloosa, Iowa, walked down the sidewalk conversing with Captain Wallace of Marshalltown, Iowa. Nettie Biedler, a private in the Army, rushed up to them and, without speaking, drew a revolver from the folds of her dress and fired at Captain Smith. Smith let out a shriek and fled down the sidewalk with Wallace. Biedler followed and fired again. The first shot had wounded Smith and she fell to the ground after running less than a block. Biedler then put the revolver to her own head and fired. She died instantly.

Captain Smith had been stationed at Council Bluffs, Iowa before being transferred to Oskaloosa about a month before. Nettie Biedler was also from Council Bluffs and the press first believed jealousy was the motive for the shooting. Hattie Smith was engaged to Lieutenant Berry, of Boone, Iowa, and it was believed that Nettie Biedler was trying to steal him from her.

On her deathbed, Captain Smith explained that the motive was jealousy of another kind. Severely wounded, Smith was carried from the sidewalk to a drug store, then to her temporary boarding place. A physician examined her but pronounced the wound to be fatal. While still able to speak, Smith explained that she had known Nettie Biedler in Council Bluffs and induced her to join the Salvation Army. When they met again in Omaha, Biedler greeted her with a great show of affection and on several occasions sought to occupy the attention of Captain Smith to the exclusion of all others.

"It was a case of jealousy,” said Smith, “She was jealous because I didn’t talk to her more."

Lieutenant Mary Bannister said she carried a message from Biedler to Smith saying Biedler wanted to talk. Smith replied that she was too busy. After lunch, the two did meet for an extended talk but what was said is unknown. Lieutenant Bannister heard Smith say several times that she must go, and Biedler tried to stop her. Biedler said if Smith went out and left her there, she would be sorry for it.

A reporter went to Nettie Biedler’s home in Council Bluffs and spoke with her younger sister. She said that Nettie and Hattie had been fast friends and she knew of no trouble between the girls which might account for Nettie’s actions. She also had no idea that her sister owned a revolver.

Captain Hattie Smith died later that day. The motive for the murder was never fully explained. The Chicago Tribune summed it up as “…a queer combination of jealousy and semi-religious frenzy.”

“Bloody Deed at Omaha,” Chicago Tribune, November 16, 1891.
“The Motive Was Jealousy,” National Police Gazette, December 5, 1891.
“Salvation Army Tragedy,” Sioux City Journal, November 16, 1891.
“Shot by a Salvationist,” Saint Paul Globe, November 16, 1891.
“Was it Jealousy?,” Champaign Daily Gazette, November 16, 1891.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Inhumanly Murdered.


The morning of October 27, 1845, the body of Maria Bickford, a beautiful young prostitute, was found murdered in her room in Boston’s Beacon Hill. Her throat had been cut from ear to ear and her bed had been set on fire. The prime suspect was Albert Tirrell who had been keeping Maria and who was seen arguing with her the day before. 

Tirrell was represented in court by prominent attorney and former US Senator, Rufus Choate, who won an acquittal with the first successful use of the sleepwalking defense.

Read the full story here:

Saturday, March 12, 2022

A Deathbed Marriage.

Frank and Charles Zabel lived with their widowed mother in Reading, Pennsylvania. Though in modest circumstances, the family lived happily together. Everything changed on June 5, 1886, when 18-year-old Frank Zabel, for reasons never made clear, fired three shots into his brother’s chest then attempted suicide by desperately wounding himself.

Both brothers were in critical condition, but it was soon apparent that Charles would not survive. Charles was engaged to Salome Reeser; the marriage was to occur a few weeks later. As Charles lay on his deathbed, the couple decided to marry immediately. Rev. Dr. J.J. Kuendig, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, came to the house, and as Salome stood sobbing by the bed, he performed the service. Charles died the following afternoon, leaving both his mother and his bride prostrate with grief so severe that they both required the care of a physician.

The coroner’s inquest charged Frank Zabel with the murder of his brother Charles. Frank was still bedridden, so the police put the house under surveillance until he was well enough for prison. The only explanation the family could provide for Frank’s behavior was that, on the day of the murder, Frank had taken an overdose of a drug used for dyspepsia, which affected his mind, causing him to commit murder and attempt suicide.

The district attorney sent the drug to be analyzed by a chemist to see if the claim was justified. The result of the analysis was not strong enough for him to drop the murder charge against Frank Zabel, but when the case went before a jury the following March, Zabel was acquitted on the grounds of insanity.

“Berks County Murder Cases,” Patriot, December 11, 1886.
“Current Events,” Daily Gazette, June 7, 1886.
“In General,” Delaware gazette and state journal, March 31, 1887.
“Married and Died,” Plain Dealer, June 7, 1886.
“Married on his Death Bed,” National Police Gazette, June 26, 1886.
“News Summary,” Delaware Republican, June 8, 1886.
“The Zabel Tragedy,” Patriot, June 8, 1886.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

The Shooting of Albert Richardson.

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 Sage McFarland. 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?

Read the full story here: The Richardson-McFarland Tragedy.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Free Thrillers and Killers!


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Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Free Historical Mysteries!


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