Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Murderous Barker Brothers.

The Baker Brothers of Bloomingdale, Michigan, suspected Harvey Keith of having adulterous relations with both of their wives. When they caught him in bed with Marshal Baker's wife, they brutally murdered Keith and dumped his body in Max Lake.

Read the full story: Murder at Bloomingdale.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Henry G. Green.

Henry G. Green was infatuated with Mary Ann Wyatt, leading lady of a troupe of temperance players who performed in Berlin, New York in 1844. When the troupe left Berlin, Henry followed and was soon courting Mary Ann. On February 10, 1845, they were married. Eight days after that Mary Ann Wyatt Green was dead from arsenic poisoning.  

There is little doubt Henry Green murdered his wife but his motive in doing so is an enduring mystery.

Read the full story: The Murdered Wife.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Erring Wives and Jealous Husbands.

One afternoon in the Autumn of 1855, two young men were drinking coffee at Vinton’s, a Boston confectionary saloon. Both were bright and respectable, with promising futures. William Sumner, age 19, was a cousin of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner and had recently completed a course of mercantile studies, preparing to enter his brother’s ship chandlery business. His friend, Josiah Porter, was a Harvard graduate and a lieutenant in the City Guards.

A pair of attractive young ladies sat down at the table next to them. Nelly Dalton and Fanny Coburn were sisters, the daughters of John Gove, who owned a clothing store in Boston. Fanny recognized Mr. Porter and reminded him they had been introduced at a ball for the City Guards the previous February. The four struck up a conversation, and although both ladies were married, they became quite flirtatious. Before they left, they told the men that they often came to Vinton’s and hoped they would see them there again.

When they met again, all four sat at the table, and the flirting continued. Nelly Dalton secretly passed a note under the table to Charles Sumner. He later read the message  to Porter. The note was very flattering; she expressed a strong liking for Sumner. He answered her in a letter, and this began a regular correspondence. They sent each other amorous letters, including some romantic poetry Sumner sent her. Fanny Coburn tried the same thing with Josiah Porter, but he did not respond to her letters.

That November, Nelly began to worry about getting caught and asked Sumner to return her letters. He did so, but she did not destroy the letters he sent to her. Nelly’s husband, Benjamin Dalton, found them and confronted her. Nelly tried to shift the blame to Josiah Parker, but that only enflamed Fanny’s husband, Edward Coburn.

The Dalton and Coburn compelled their wives to write to Sumner and Porter, inviting them to Coburn’s house on Shawmut Avenue. Porter received the letter on November 17; the message seemed urgent, so he hurried to the house. As soon as he arrived, Dalton and Coburn seized him and began whipping him with cowhides. Porter freed himself and ran from the house before sustaining any serious injury.

Charles Sumner had not responded to the letter, so the men went looking for him. They found him in a saloon on West Street. Sumner had never met Dalton or Coburn, so he did not know who they were. They told him that Mrs. Dalton was very anxious to see him, and they would drive them there in a carriage. Sumner declined, saying he had to catch a train to his home in Milton. The men said they would take him home. The men persisted, and Sumner reluctantly agreed to go with them.

They entered the house and went to the parlor, where he found the two sisters. The men revealed themselves as their husbands. An argument ensued, and Dalton asked Sumner if he had ever taken any improper liberties with his wife or had placed his hand upon her bosom. Sumner denied doing anything of the kind. 

Dalton said his wife had made such a charge, to which she replied, “I placed his hand upon my bosom; he did not. He never took any improper familiarities with me.”

This made Dalton even more furious. He and Coburn dragged Sumner to the basement, where they began pounding him with their fists. They beat him until they were satisfied and kicked him out the back door. 

Josiah Porter filed charges against Dalton and Coburn, and they were free on bail, awaiting trial. Sumner did not go to the police and wanted to keep quiet about the beating. But Sumner was still in pain from the attack, and his health was deteriorating. On December 11, Sumner died. Dalton and Coburn were re-arrested, this time for murder.

Benjamin Dalton and Edward Coburn were charged with manslaughter; their trial began on January 24, 1856. Sumner’s doctor testified that the cause of his death was inflammation of the throat and air vessels caused by his external injuries and aggravated by exposure to the cold. The defense argued that it could not be proven that the beating caused the inflammation. Sumner would have died anyway.

They also argued that the beating was not planned. The women sent for Sumner and Porter on their own initiative. The defendants planned to confront their wives and demand an explanation of their conduct, then let the men go. But when Sumner arrived, they saw he was wearing a ring that Dalton had given his wife at their wedding. This so enraged Dalton that he began beating Sumner.

The jury was deadlocked for five hours, with half for conviction for manslaughter and half for assault and battery. The jury finally agreed on the lesser charge. Coburn was sentenced to ten months in the jail and a fine of $250; Dalton was sentenced to five months in jail and a fine of $200. The discrepancy was probably because Coburn was much older than Dalton and believed to be the instigator.

The defendants were pleased with the verdict. As their attorney, R.H. Dana, expressed it, his clients were “delivered from blood-guiltiness.”

“Boston in 1855,” The Daily Free Press, December 15, 1855.
“Committal of Coburn and Dalton on Charge of Murder,” New York Daily Herald, December 14, 1855.
Complete Report of the Trial of Edward O. Coburn and Benjamin F. Dalton (Boston: Federhen, 1856.

“Errings Wives and Jealous Husbands,” Evening Star, September 28, 1855.
“Fatal Rsult of the Shawmut Avenue Cowhiding Affair,” Boston Evening Transcript, December 11, 1855.
“The Merry Wives of Boston,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 12, 1855.
“Sentence of Coburn and DAlton,” Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, March 8, 1856.
“The Shawmut Avenue Outrage,” Kennebec Journal, December 21, 1855.
“The Sumner Case in Boston,” New York Daily Herald, December 21, 1855.
“The Sumner Tragedy,” New England Farmer, December 22, 1855.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Murdered at Prayer.

A.E. Ambrose was working in his yard in South Byfield, Massachusetts, the morning of January 3, 1879, when he was surprised by two of his neighbors, Mrs. Caldwell and her sister Miss Brown, excitedly running toward him. Mrs. Lucy Caldwell was known for her erratic behavior and always seemed somewhat excited, but he had never seen Miss Brown looking so terrified.

Mrs. Caldwell exclaimed, “Go up and take care of him; he threatened to kill me, and I hit him with an axe, and I don’t know, but I have killed him.”

Ambrose hurried to the neighbor’s house. In the kitchen, he found the warm but lifeless body of her husband, John Caldwell, lying on the floor, surrounded by a dark pool of clotted blood. His skull had been split open; the frightful wound was eight inches long and five inches deep. A large axe was leaning on a chair. Ambrose took his wagon into town to notify the deputy sheriff.

Miss Brown told the deputy that Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell had been arguing loudly that morning before coming downstairs to breakfast. It was their custom to eat breakfast at about 8:00 and have family prayers afterward. Mr. Caldwell read a chapter from the Bible, then knelt on the floor to pray. Miss Brown joined him, but Mrs. Caldwell did not. He was almost finished praying when Miss Brown was startled by the sound of a violent blow. She sprang to her feet and was horrified by the sight of her brother-in-law lying on the floor with his skull split open and his wife holding the fatal axe. Miss Brown fled from the house, followed by her sister, and both ran to the home of Mr. Ambrose. Mrs. Caldwell did not attempt to escape as the deputy placed her under arrest.

The Caldwells were well-known and widely respected in South Byfield, but Lucy Caldwell was viewed as “partially deranged.” She sometimes needed supervision, which was why her sister was staying with them. Some believed that her insanity stemmed from her disappointment that her husband’s prominence in the community had not led to financial success. The family physician, Dr. Huse, confirmed that Mrs. Caldwell had, for some time, suffered from “morbid excitement.” Mr. Caldwell had contacted the doctor on the previous Monday to consult him about having her confined and to get an opiate to help her sleep.

At her arraignment, Lucy Caldwell pleaded not guilty, saying she was justified in killing her husband because of his ill-treatment of her. She claimed he had threatened to kill her. The case never went to trial; Lucy Caldwell was judged insane and committed to the asylum in Danvers, Massachusetts.

“Arraigned for Murder,” The Boston Globe, January 2, 1879.
“Arraignment of the Byfield Murderess,” Boston Evening Journal, January 2, 1879.
“The Byfield Murder,” The Boston Globe, January 1, 1879.
“The Byfield Murderess,” Boston Evening Transcript, January 14, 1879.
“The Byfield Murderess Seat to the Insane Asylum,” Boston Evening Transcript, February 5, 1879.
“The Byfield Tragedy,” The Boston Globe, January 1, 1879.
“The Byfield Tragedy,” Boston Post, January 2, 1879.
“Eastern Massachusetts,” Springfield Daily Republican, January 1, 1879.
“Murdered at Prayer,” Illustrated Police News, January 11, 1879.
“A Shocking Tragedy,” Boston Post, January 1, 1879.
“Suburban Short Notes,” Boston Post, February 4, 1879.
“Terriible Deed of an Insane Wife,” Evening Post, January 3, 1879.