Saturday, May 27, 2023

With a Butcher’s Keen Blade.

The night of April 30, 1892, Policeman McGrath of the Prince Street Station, New York City, heard cries of pain coming from Grand Street, two blocks away from where he was patrolling. He ran to the source of the screams and found a man unconscious on the ground in a pool of blood and another bleeding man walking around as if in a daze. The policeman saw a third man throw a knife into a butcher shop and take off down the street. McGrath ran after him and subdued the man after a brief struggle and arrested him.

McGrath summoned an ambulance for the wounded men. Adam Kane, the man on the ground, was not expected to live. A policeman found the other bleeding man, Henry Kane, wandering near the corner of Charlton and Varick Streets. He led Kane back to the scene. Both men had been stabbed with a long butcher knife, and an ambulance took them to St. Vincent’s Hospital.

The police took the fugitive to the Prince Street Station. He said he was Thomas Kelly, a 28-year-old telegraph lineman. He gave his address but refused to make any other statement after his arrest. 

Adam Kane was a new police officer, still on probation. Henry Kane—described variously as brother of, cousin of, or completely unrelated to Adam Kane—was also a policeman from the same precinct. There were quite a few witnesses on the street that night, but most of the early information on the crime came from Henry Kane. 

The Kanes and three other men were walking down Grand Street when Kelly came along. Adam accidentally got in Kelly’s way, and Kelly punched him. The two men clinched, and the other men pulled them apart. 

As Kelly left, he shook his fist at Adam and said, “I’ll get even with you.”

Kelly ran into the butcher shop and grabbed an 18-inch butcher knife from the counter. Five minutes later he ran toward the men brandishing the knife and “yelling like an Indian.” Kelly plunged the knife into Adam’s abdomen and twisted it. Henry tried to intervene, striking Kelly in the face.

Kelly said to him, “I’ll stab you, too.”

He made good on the remark, stabbing Henry in the side. Henry ran away, and Kelly followed him, stabbing him twice more. Then he threw the knife back into the butcher shop and ran away. Adam Kane died on May 2; Henry Kane survived.

The police soon learned that Thomas Kelly was not who he pretended to be. He had given them a false address. They first thought he was an ex-convict named Flaherty, who had recently finished a five-year term at Sing Sing for burglary. But by the time of his arraignment, he was known to be Thomas Pallister, of 30 Carmine Street, and had previously served 11 years in prison.

Pallister was housed in the Tombs Prison while he awaited trial for the murder of Adam Kane. The night of June 12, 1892, a guard noticed that the floor under Pallister’s cot was wet. When he shined his lantern in the cell, he saw Pallister’s left arm hanging down and a stream of blood running out of a gash in his wrist. He had attempted suicide by cutting himself with a piece of broken glass from a medicine bottle left in the cell by a former inmate. When he regained consciousness, he said he wanted to die. He was afraid there was enough evidence to convict him, and he wanted to avoid a long trial and the shame to his family of execution in the electric chair. 

Pallister pleaded not guilty at his trial. In his opening statement, Pallister’s attorney said his client should have been commended for bravery rather than indicted for murder. He risked his life to save that of his friend John Hammot that night on Grand Street.

Hammot testified that Adam Kane and his companions knocked him down and kicked him. Pallister interfered to save his life, and the five men attacked and beat him. He saw Pallister running away, pursued by the whole party. Two other witnesses testified to the same effect. Pallister testified that Kane and his party attacked him and his friends. He went into the store and got a butcher knife to defend himself. He struck with the knife after they knocked him down.

But the police and other witnesses corroborated Henry Kane’s story and the evidence against Pallister was too strong. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair the week of December 12, 1892. Pallister was taken to Sing Sing Prison along with three other convicted murderers—Frank Rohle, Michael Sliney, and John Osmand.

Pallister received a temporary stay of execution while his attorney appealed for a new trial. In April 1893, the Court of Appeals in Albany rejected the appeal and upheld the original verdict.

With no hope of avoiding the electric chair, Pallister plotted with fellow death-house inmate Frank Rohle to escape from Sing Sing.

Continue: Escape from the Death-House.

Sources: “Arraigned for Murder,” Evening Post, May 27, 1892.
“Attempts at Suicide,” Evening Post, June 11, 1892.
“Carved Two Men with a Butcher's Keen Blade,” The New York Herald, May 1, 1892.
“Doomed to the Electrical Chair,” MUSKEGON DAILY CHRONICLE., April 13, 1893.
“Guilty of Murder, First Degree,” Kingston Daily Freeman., October 27, 1892.
“He Will Soon Know HIs Fate,” evening world., October 26, 1892.
“KIlled With a Cheese Knife,” evening world., May 2, 1892.
“Pallister Has Hope,” evening world., October 27, 1892.
“Pallister Murder Trial,” evening world., October 20, 1892.
“Pallister Senteneced to Death,” New York Herald, November 5, 1892.
“The Prisoner's Story Of The Killing,” New-York Tribune., October 26, 1892.
“Saw Him Commit Murder,” New York Herald, October 25, 1892.
“Says He Was Protecting A Friend,” sun., October 26, 1892.
“Tried to Follow Woffel,” New York Herald, June 11, 1892.
“Will Soon Know His Fate,” New York Herald, October 26, 1892.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Murderer Quickly Caught.

In 1892, Frank Paulsen was a 55-year-old retired carpenter living off his Union Army pension. He lived alone in a rented room on Hester Street, New York City. Paulsen was a man of frugal habits, leading some to believe he had a large sum of money hidden in his room.

The night of September 29, 1892, Paulson’s landlord, William S. Byrnes, saw a man enter Paulsen’s room. Twenty minutes later, he heard a door slam. Then, he and his wife saw a man run out of the house. Byrnes went to Paulsen’s room and found him sitting in a chair with his skull crushed. Paulsen had at least eight deep gashes in his head—blows from an axe.

Byrnes’s wife, Anna, believed the man who ran was Charles Knoch, a former associate of Paulson who frequently visited him. The police arrested Knoch on suspicion of murder.

Meanwhile, in another precinct, Policeman Emanuel Meyers and Detective Sargent Lyman encountered a man trying to sell a watch and chain in front of a liquor store. When Meyers asked him where he got the watch, the man threw it into the street and started to run. Meyers chased the man and was about to catch him when he turned around and tried to strike Meyers with a hatchet. Meyers was able to deflect the blow with his billy club. When assistance arrived, the police disarmed the man and took him to the Fifth Street Police Station. 

The prisoner was Frank W. Rohle, a Hoboken, New Jersey, marble polisher. He had two more gold watches in his pocket, along with a ring and some trinkets. When the police learned of the axe murder of Frank Paulsen, they knew they had the killer. The next morning, Captains Cross and Dougherty took Rohle to headquarters. As they climbed the stairs, Captain Cross waved the bloody axe at the waiting reporters to signal they had captured Paulsen’s murderer.

Rohle was examined in Justice Hogan’s private room at the Essex Market Police Court. William Byrnes testified to finding the body and positively identified Rohle as the man he had seen going into Paulsen’s room. Anna Byrnes corroborated her husband’s story and now identified Rohle as the man who ran from the building. When she pointed him out as the man who entered Paulsen’s room, Rohle shouted:

“That’s a lie! You never saw me before in your life.”

Frederick Mehrlbert, a barkeeper, identified Rohle as the man who was in his saloon shortly after the murder, exhibiting the gold chain and watches that the court showed him. Philip Kerker, proprietor of the Emblem Saloon, identified the chain he had sold Paulson. Joseph Katain, Rohle’s landlord in Hoboken, testified that he had known Rohle for three years and had never seen him with the watches and chain. Katain said the ring was his own; Rohle had taken it from his bureau drawer. He also said an axe had been stolen from him, which matched the description of the murder weapon.

Frank Rohle was tried in December 1892 for the murder of Frank Paulsen. He was found guilty and sentenced to die in the electric chair on the week beginning February 6, 1893. The police transported him to Sing Sing Prison to await execution.

Rohle’s attorney requested a new trial on the ground that the District Attorney had made “undue use of the fact that the murdered man was a war veteran.” The request was granted, and Rohle was given a stay of execution pending the outcome of his appeal.

The new trial was never held. On April 20, 1893, Frank Rohle and Thomas Pallister escaped from Sing Sing Prison.

Continue: Escape from the Death-House.

“Forging Frank Rohle's Chain,” The Evening World, December 13, 1892.
“Gotham by 'Phone,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 24, 1892.
“The Murderer of Paulsen Caught,” New-York Tribune, October 1, 1892.
“Murderer Quickly Caught,” Jersey City news., September 30, 1892.
“The New York Murder,” Evening Bulletin, September 30, 1892.
“A New York Murder Mystery,” Evening journal., September 30, 1892.
“Paulsen's Slayer,” The evening world, September 30, 1892.
“Roehl, The Murdrerer Sentenced,” New York Tribune, December 24, 1892.
“Rohle May Die Monday,” The evening world, February 1, 1893.
“Sentenced to Die,” The Daily Times, January 20, 1893.
“Stay for Murderer Rohle,” The New York Times, February 2, 1893.
“Sure it Was Rohle,” The evening world, October 1, 1892.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Annie Harman and Ephraim Snyder.


Annie Harman (sometimes spelled "Herman") of York County, Pennsylvania attended a singing party in December 1878. The next morning her body was found by the side of the road, her skull was crushed, her jaw was broken, her face was badly cut and bruised, and she was shot through the eye. The prime suspect was Ephriam Snyder who allegedly seduced Annie and refused to marry her. But the facts did not match the narrative and the evidence against Snyder was purely circumstantial.

Read the full story here: The Snyder-Harman Murder.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

The Moody-Tolliver Feud.

I am pleased to introduce this week’s guest blogger, Bob Moody, author of The Terror of Indiana: Brent Jones & The Moody-Tolliver Feud. Bob is the great-great-grandnephew of Tom Moody, who was murdered during the Moody-Tolliver Feud.  He is a retired radio personality, programmer, and corporate VP.  Bob served on the board of directors of both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.  He was inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame in 2007.  Bob and his wife, Karen, live in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.

The second edition of The Terror of Indiana: Bent Jones & The Moody-Tolliver Feud is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

For more information:



Date:  March 2, 1875

Location:  Orleans, Indiana

Victim:  Thomas Moody

Cause:  Shotgun blasts with poisoned buckshot

Accused:  Alonzo “Bent” Jones; Lee Jones; Parks Toliver; Tom Toliver; Eli Lowry

In 1868 the Moody and Toliver families owned adjoining farms in Lawrence County, Indiana, just north of the Orange County line.  William Toliver (some family members and most newspapers preferred “Tolliver”) was the father of thirteen children, three of whom were living at home when his wife died that year at the age of 53.  The Moody farmhouse was shared by four elderly bachelor brothers and their 51-year-old never-married sister, Mary Ann, known as “Polly.”  The Toliver family was shocked when William unexpectedly married Polly and put her in charge of his household.  Matters got considerably worse when he was killed in a wagon accident eighteen months later.  William Toliver did not leave a will, meaning that Polly – who quickly moved back in with her brothers to avoid the hostility— was entitled to at least one-third of his property.

At the subsequent estate sale one of the Toliver boys shouted, “The black-hearted sons-of-bitches have stolen more than they ever brought here!”  That resulted in a brawl, with Tom Moody being attacked and seriously injured by four Toliver sons and son-in-law Alonzo “Bent” Jones.  Each of the assailants was at least twenty years younger than their victim.  This led to a series of lawsuits that only increased the anger as the Moodys prevailed in court and annexed sixty acres of the Toliver family farm.

Shortly after midnight on Sunday morning, June 25, 1871, as the family was sleeping, the Moody farmhouse was firebombed with jugs of burning benzine.  A group of unknown assassins surrounded the house and fired at those attempting to escape the flames.  Polly suffered severe burns and a hired man was seriously wounded.  Tom Moody was climbing a fence to run for help when he was hit with a load of buckshot.  The next day’s edition of the New Albany Ledger called it a “Dastardly Attempt to Assassinate a Whole Family.”  The attack generated headlines across the U.S. and Great Britain, including a front-page story in the New York Times.  It was reported that there was “no possible chance” that Tom would survive his gunshot wounds – but he did.

The Moody family hired private detectives to find those guilty of the attempted murders and there were more trials and hearings that served only to build frustration on both sides.  Meanwhile, the Moody brothers and Polly sensibly relocated to a two-story house in nearby Orleans.  It was claimed that they rarely left home after dark and turned their dwelling into a virtual fortress.  After more than three years of threats but no additional violence, Tom Moody decided to participate in a card game at a shop in the Orleans business district on the night of March 2, 1875.  After walking home, he stopped to open the gate and someone hiding behind a hedge across the street shot him in the back with both barrels of a double-barreled shotgun.  After hours of excruciating pain, he died the next morning.

The Moody family offered a $3000 reward, while the Indiana governor and local officials added another $1600, resulting in a bounty amounting to a total of more than $125,000 in 1923 dollars.  That enticed additional self-styled private detectives to arrive in the area.  Local citizens were outraged and there were rumors that they might call upon the euphemistic “Judge Lynch.”    

The following year a grand jury indicted five men for the murder of Thomas Moody.  They were: Toliver son-in-law Bent Jones, his younger brother Lee (also married to a Toliver daughter), a young employee of Bent’s woodworking factory named Eli Lowry, local pharmacist Parks Toliver, and his younger brother, self-described “sporting man” Tom Toliver.  Lowry, the only member of that group not related to the Toliver family by blood or marriage, initially tried to escape but soon realized that he had been selected as the “fall guy” and confessed with the hope of a lighter sentence.  He provided explicit details about the plot, including the allegation that Parks had pre-soaked the buckshot used in the murder weapon in a poisonous solution.  According to Lowry’s testimony, Lee Jones had fired the fatal shots (in the company of Parks Toliver), while he, Bent Jones, and Tom Toliver waited outside of town.  When the two killers returned Bent asked if they were sure Tom Moody had been killed.  Parks replied, “Yes, he hollered willfully.”  Eli also implicated some Toliver family members and friends in the 1871 firebomb attack on the Moody farmhouse.  Lowry was spared the death penalty for his cooperation but was sentenced to life at the Indiana State Prison South in Jeffersonville. 

While the remaining prisoners were confined in a common cell in the Orange County jail in Paoli, an apparent lynch mob held the sheriff at gunpoint at midnight and took control of the jail.  As the mob approached the cell, the prisoners fired out at them from behind bars with a pistol smuggled to them by friends of the well-connected Bent Jones, dispersing the crowd.  That episode resulted in a change of venue to Bloomington, where the murder trials began in 1877.  The press reported that nearly five hundred people had been subpoenaed to testify and rooms were so difficult to find that some potential witnesses were provided free accommodations in the Monroe County jail.  It was an event characterized by elaborate Gilded Age legal orations, with some closing statements reportedly exceeding eight continuous hours.  Daily trial updates appeared in major newspapers across the nation.

Bent Jones and his brother, Lee, were quickly convicted of murder in separate trials and were both sentenced to life terms at the Indiana State Prison South, where Eli Lowry was already an inmate.  Parks and Tom Toliver were tried jointly in Bloomington the following year, but the jury was deadlocked, and the judge declared a mistrial.  Their second trial was held in 1879.  Jury deliberations were underway when Parks Toliver was allowed to return to his wife’s rooming house to change clothes, accompanied by a deputy.  While his beautiful wife and her sister distracted the guard, the defendant walked out the back door, mounted a horse waiting in the alley – and rode off into the sunset.  A posse was quickly summoned to conduct what became a fruitless search.  If Parks had waited for a verdict, he would have learned that this jury, too, had been unable to agree, with seven reportedly in favor of conviction and five voting “not guilty”.  The judge dismissed the jury on the grounds that one of the defendants could not be present for the verdict.  Two years later, amidst complaints about the amount of time and public money already spent on the previous trials, all charges were dropped against Parks and Tom Toliver.

It was later revealed that Parks had made his way to Arkansas, where he was a fugitive until it was safe for him to return home.  Now styling himself as Dr. Milton Parks Tolliver, he established a medical practice in Elnora, Indiana, although there is no evidence that he ever graduated from medical school.  He outlived three of his four wives and was arrested for selling illegal drugs and operating a phony diploma mill for medical students before his death in 1926.  Tom Toliver was shot and killed in 1900 following a dispute over allegedly loaded dice in Washington, Indiana.  Eli Lowry worked in the prison office and was on duty when a telegram arrived on Christmas Day of 1890 informing him that he had been pardoned by the governor.  Lowry went from prison to a job with the Vigo County sheriff’s office in Terre Haute.  That ended when he was accused of being involved in a plot to rob inmates.  Lowry died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1895, less than five years after his pardon.

Lee Jones, who fired the shots that killed Tom Moody, was pardoned in 1893 after serving sixteen years.  He returned to Mitchell, Indiana, and was killed in a gruesome accident at the city new electrical plant less than four years later.  His older brother, Bent Jones, who was regarded as the kingpin behind the murder, was also paroled in 1893.  He joined his brother in Mitchell and bought a saloon.  Called “The Terror of Indiana” by the Louisville Courier-Journal, Bent was constantly in trouble and was finally ordered to leave Indiana permanently in 1898 to avoid prosecution after an innocent young farmer was killed by someone who had mistaken him for Jones.  After a short stay in Louisiana, he used his service in the Union Army during the Civil War to enter the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers outside Los Angeles, where he died in 1918.  His personal effects were valued at thirty-five cents.  Alonzo “Bent” Jones is buried in the Los Angeles National Cemetery.