Saturday, December 28, 2013

Scenes from the Burdell Murder.

The 1857 murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell, with its colorful cast of characters and upscale urban setting, was the kind of story that sold papers for the penny press and the nascent illustrated newspapers of the day. In fact, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper was on the verge of bankruptcy when they sent an artist to the Burdell crime scene. The coverage sold enough copies to keep the paper afloat and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper became a national institution publishing for another sixty-two years.

This post summarizes the Burdell murder using engravings from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and other contemporary sources. The details of the Burdell murder can be found here: The Bond Street Tragedy.

The murder took place in a boarding house at No. 31 Bond Street in Manhattan, owned by Dr. Burdell and managed by his paramour, Mrs. Emma Cunningham. All of the murder suspects boarded there.

The Residents of 31 Bond Street.

Dr. Harvey Burdell
Dr. Harvey Burdell was a prominent and successful New York City dentist and real estate speculator. He was also a sporting man and a libertine, known to frequent gambling halls and borthels. In 1857 his affair with Emma Cunningham was turning sour and he was planning to evict her from the house.
Mrs. Emma Cunningham
Emma Cunningham was a widow with five children when she set her sights on Harvey Burdell and won his affection. She knew her position with him was tenuous and she was jealous of the other women she knew Burdell was seeing. After Burdell’s death she produced a marriage certificate showing that the two were married; at his request they had kept the marriage a secret.
John Eckel
John Eckel was tanner who had a room on the third floor of 31 Bond Street. His room shared a door with Mrs. Cunningham’s bedroom and maids at the boardinghouse testified that the two were sleeping together.
Augusta Cunningham
Augusta Cunningham was Emma Cunningham’s twenty-two year old daughter. August was implicated in the murder because a business associates of Dr. Burdell testified that Burdell feared violence from Augusta and her mother, along with John Eckel and George Snodgrass.
George Snodgrass
George Snodgrass was a poet and a banjo player with a room on the third floor of the boardinghouse. He was going out with Mrs. Cunningham’s daughter Helen and when his room was searched the police found some of Helen’s undergarments. It was implied that he was sleeping with Augusta as well.
Helen (Ella) Cunningham
Helen Cunningham, Mrs. Cunningham’s fifteen year old daughter had a room on the same floor as George Snodgrass.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Murder on Christmas Morning.

Little Murders
(From New York Tribune New York, New York, December 26, 1899)

Murder on Christmas Morning.
A Motorman Falls Asleep in a Barroom and Shoots the Saloonkeeper When the Latter Attempts to Eject Him.

Christmas was unfortunately marked in Jersey City by a tragedy. Nicholas Schmitt, fifty-three years old, a saloonkeeper at No. 1,134 Summit ave., was shot and instantly killed by Theodore Brunnert, twenty-three years old, of Homestead. The police acted promptly, and Brunnert is in custody on a charge of murder.

Brunnert, who has been employed as a motorman by the Jersey City, Hoboken and Rutherford Traction Company, quit work about 9 o’clock on Sunday night and visited his stepfatner Christian Schopp, who keeps a saloon at New-York-ave. and Hutton-st., Jersey City. He had several glasses of beer while there, and left there at midnight. He stepped into Schmitt’s saloon, drank two glasses of beer and fell asleep. About 3 o’clock Schmitt started to arouse him, and the fatal quarrel began. The stories are contradictory as to whether the pistol was used in self-defense or whether the mortal wound was inflicted without provocation.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Notorious Patty Cannon.

Patty Cannon was, by all accounts, among the most barbarous and amoral women in American history. In antebellum Delaware, Patty Cannon led a gang who kidnapped free blacks and sold them into slavery further south. She would indiscriminately murder any man, woman or child—including her own husband and baby— who stood in her way. An1841 murder pamphlet sums it up, “And we can truly say, that we have never seen recorded, a greater instance of moral depravity, so perfectly regardless of every feeling, which should inhabit the human breast.”

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Victorian Murderess.

The ideal woman in Victorian (and pre-Victorian) America was modest, prim and respectable, but when a woman deviated from the ideal she did it with gusto. When a Victorian woman turned to murder she was ruthless, efficient and often brutal. Poisoning was the traditional method for women; it required no strength and allowed for dispassionate murder at a distance. But when the murder was driven by passion, Victorian women proved equally adept at shooting, stabbing, slashing, strangling and chopping. Here in chronological order are Murder by Gaslight’s female killers:

Lucretia Chapman - 1831

Lucretia Chapman conspired with her young Cuban lover, Carolino Amalia Espos y Mina, to poison her husband William Chapman. Lucretia went free; Carolino went the gallows.

Frankie Silver - 1831

After enduring years of physical abuse from her husband, Charles, Frankie Silver could take no more. She chopped him up with an axe and burned the pieces in the fireplace.

Henrietta Robinson - 1853

Henrietta Robinson wore a black veil over her face throughout her trial for poisoning her neighbors, Timothy Lanagan and Catherine Lubee. The motive for the murder was as mysterious as the murderess herself.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Guilty of Murder.

Little Murders
(From Huntsville GazetteHuntsville, Alabama, August 9, 1884)

Guilty of Murder.
A Verdict of Murder in the First Degree Found Against "Big Bill" Kinney at Wheeling, West Virginia—Lynching Talked of.
Wheeling, W. VA., August 7.
The jury in the trial of “Big Bill” Kinney returned a verdict at four o’clock last evening, of murder in the first degree. Imprisonment of life was fixed as the penalty. The murder being a particularly shocking one, there is very general satisfaction over the verdict. Two cousins, known as Big and Little Bill Kinney entered the house of Barney Doyle, struck him on back of the head with an axe and killed him. The Kinneys then beat out the brains of Doyle’s youngest daughter, aged eight, and attempted to kill the second girl, aged thirteen, but who recovered, and on her testimony the Kinneys were convicted. Little Bill was sentenced last week to seventeen years in the Penitentiary. Lynching of Big Bill is freely talked of. The community is a wild one. Nine murders have occurred in the county in thirteen months and no hanging yet.

"Guilty of Murder." Huntsville Gazette 9 Aug 1884: 1.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Raven Stream Crime.

Rose Clark Ambler
Rose Ambler said goodnight to her fiancé at the Raven Stream Bridge, the night of September 2, 1883, and started walking home alone as she usually did. She was never again seen alive. Her body was found the next day, beaten and stabbed, and the perpetrator was never captured. Rose Ambler joined Mary Stannard and Jennie Cramer in the growing list of unpunished Connecticut murders.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Theodore Baker.

Little Murders:
From Defenders and Offenders:

Theodore Baker.

"Theodore Baker was hanged at Los Vegas, N.M., for killing of Frank Unruh, a wealthy ranchman, in December 1885. Baker worked on the ranch for Unruh and became infatuated with the latter’s wife, and it is supposed his love was returned. Mrs. Unruh engaged the highest legal talent to defend Baker. At one time he was taken from jail by a mob and hanged to a tree, but was rescued in the nick of time, and reserved later for the legal hangman."

Defenders and offenders. New York: D. Buchner & Co., 1888.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Did it Mean Murder?

Little Murders
(From Kansas City Times, Kansas City, Missouri, October 17, 1885)

Did it Mean Murder
Two Sisters Quarrel and Separate, and the Younger Visits the House of the Elder at Night.

Discovered, and Being Unknown, She is Pursued and Shot, and Two Revolvers are Found on Her Person.

A Probable Tragedy Averted.
(Special to the Kansas City Times.) 
Seneca, Kan., Oct. 16.—Capioma is a small trading point about sixteen miles southeast of this city, and is surrounded by one of the richest agricultural districts in the state, all the farmers being well-to-do, and some quite wealthy.  A highly sensational occurrence has just leaked out, which has thrown this unusually quiet neighborhood into a fever of excitement. The facts are as follows:

Walker Downs, one of the must substantial farmers in that section, was married to a Miss McCarty, who had a younger sister, Nellie, who lived with them prior to about three years ago. It seems that Nellie and Mrs. Downs had some difficulty which resulted in very bad feelings between the sisters and Miss Nellie left for Iowa to visit other relatives. A short time ago some one was seen to look into the windows of the Downs residence late at night, but on inspection no one could be found. The next night there was as a repetition of the occurrence of the night before, and the dog kept up an incessant barking until about 3 o’clock in the morning, but Mr. Downs and his hired hand, on going outside could see no one. The next evening about 10 o‘clock the dog began to bark but stopped in about an hour, and when the family awoke in the morning they found him dead on the doorstep. That night Mr. Downs and his hired man armed themselves and took their positions on the outside to watch for their tormentor. About 10:30 they saw what they supposed to be a man with an overcoat on approaching and demanded the person halt. No attention was paid to the command, and the party started to run, and the hired man followed calling several times to the fugitive to halt, with no better results, and he finally fired three shots, the past of which took effect and the wounded intruder exclaimed, “My God, you have killed me!” He and Mr. Downs hastened to the spot when they were horrified to find that they had shot Miss Nellie McCarty, sister of Mrs. Downs. She was taken to the house and it was found that the ball entered the fleshy part of the leg and was not dangerous. They also found on the young lady two 38-caliber revolvers and a large bottle of strychnine. Many stories are float as to what the young lady’s intentions were, some claiming that she intended to poison the stock, others that she intended to shoot her sister then poison herself. She is still at Mr. Downs’ and no prosecution will follow. She expresses herself deeply regretting her actions. She is about 25 years old, a school teacher and very pretty.


Kansas City Times, Kansas City, Missouri, October 17, 1885

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Marlow Murder.

William Bachmann came to Jamestown, New York, from Toledo, Ohio, in August 1871, intent on purchasing some property and he told everyone he met that he was carrying $6,000 in cash. This was a mistake. Bachmann was last seen alive at a brewery owned by Charles Marlow and Marlow was quickly arrested for Bachmann’s murder. But prosecuting Marlow would prove difficult because there were no eye-witnesses to the crime, there was no identifiable body, and Marlow’s mother-in-law, under oath, confessed to murdering Bachmann.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Brooklyn Wife Murder.

Little Murders
(From The National Police Gazette, November 10, 1883)

The Brooklyn Wife Murder.  
A Saloon Keeper, Prompted by the Green-Eyed Monster,
Kills his Better Half.
The shooting of Mrs. Thomas Young by her husband formerly a clerk in the Internal Revenue Department, and latterly a saloon keeper and politician, has created much excitement in the city of Brooklyn. The affair occurred on Tuesday, Oct. 23. Husband and wife had quarreled for some days, and on the 20th ult. Mrs. Young, who was a woman of great personal beauty, left the conjugal roof and went to live with her mother, Mrs. Mary Cole, at No. 95 Tompkins avenue. On the 23d Young called at this place and asked his wife to return to live with him. She refused emphatically. To his further entreaties she said,

“You have often threatened to kill me, and I know you intend to do it now. You have a pistol in your pocket, and you have come here to kill me.”

Young said he had no such intention, and denied that he had a pistol. He then appealed to his mother-in-law, and asked if he could not go into a private room with his wife, so that they could talk the matter over. If he could see her alone, Young said, he could induce her to return to his home. Both mother and daughter objected. Young again denied that he had any murderous intention, but even while he was speaking his wife saw him draw a pistol from his pocket. She ran from a back room on the first floor, where they had been talking, toward a front room, but before she could escape Young fired directly at her, the ball entering her abdomen.

James McCabe, who lives in the upper part of the house, ran down stairs when he heard the shot. Seeing Young with a pistol in his hand and Mrs. Young lying on the floor. McCabe knocked the husband down and took the pistol from his hand, and held him until the arrival of Roundsman O’Reilly, of the Thirteenth Precinct. After the pistol had been taken from his hand, Young got down on his knees and begged his wife to say that he had not intended to shoot her. Mrs. Young could not speak, but her mother said that no such statement could be made truthfully, because she had seen Young take deliberate aim at her daughter. On the following day the latter died and Young was held to await the action of the grand jury. Jealousy was the cause of his trouble with his wife.

Reprinted from "The Brooklyn Wife Murder." National Police Gazette 10 Nov 1883.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mabel Smith.

Little Murders:
From Defenders and Offenders:

Mabel Smith.

"This big mulatto is a wicked creature, who severed her grandmother’s head from her body with an axe, in order to effect her elopement with her white paramour, who called himself Thomas B. Hayward. After the deed, they skipped off together in a buggy. The old woman was opposed to the connection, and it was supposed the deed was done in a fit of anger while quarreling over the man. They were both captured a few hours after the deed."

Defenders and offenders. New York: D. Buchner & Co., 1888.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Another "Bender Family."

In the 1870s the people of Kansas were outraged by the crimes of the Benders, a family of four who welcomed weary travelers then murdered and robbed them. The Benders managed to escape before their crimes were discovered and, by most accounts, they were never captured. When another family in Kansas, the Kellys, duplicated the Benders’ crimes in 1887, the people of Kansas were determined to make them pay.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Murderous Clergy.

In the nineteenth century men of the cloth were often looked upon with as much suspicion as respect. When a minister was accused of murder it would turn the community against him, especially if a woman was involved. Though often condemned in the court of public opinion, clergymen fared much better in a court of law. All of the religious leaders in in our list were acquitted (though one Sunday school superintendent was hanged.)

Rev. Ephraim Kingsbury Avery - 1832

Rev. Ephraim Kingsbury Avery was accused of seducing and murdering Sarah Maria Cornell, but the two had a long, contentious history and the jury was convinced that Sarah killed herself and framed Rev. Avery.

The Prophet Matthias - 1834

Robert Mathiews, aka the Prophet Matthias, was the leader of a religious cult and controlled all aspects of his followers’ lives. When co-founder Elija Pierson was found dead, the Prophet Mathias was accused of going too far. The jury disagreed.

Rev. Henry Budge - 1859

When the wife of Rev. Henry Budge was found with her throat cut, suicide was suspected, but soon suspicion fell on the Reverend. Despite compelling evidence against him, Reverend Budge was acquitted.

Rev. John S. Glendenning - 1874

Church organist Mary Pomeroy was seduced and abandoned by her pastor, Rev. John Glendenning. She died soon after giving birth to his child. Though not technically a murderer, Glendenning was tried by the Presbyterian Church who found him innocent of all charges.

Rev. Herbert H. Hayden- 1886

Rev. Herbert Hayden was accused of stabbing and poisoning Mary Stannard, a young housekeeper employed by his wife. Many  believed that he had seduced and impregnated her. He denied it all and was released after a hung jury.

Theo Durrant - 1895

Mild-mannered Theo Durrant was the superintendent of Sunday school at Emmanuel Baptist Church in San Francisco. But Theo had a dark side—he murdered and mutilated two young women, leaving their remains in the church. "The Demon of the Belfry" was convicted. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Crime and Criminals.

Little Murders
(A bad weekend in the Midwest -
From Daily Inter Ocean , Chicago, Illinois, January 30, 1877)

Crime and Criminals.

Another Horrible Chapter of Murder and Murderous Affrays.

Another Whisky Murder—Fatal Stabbing.
Special Telegram to the Inter Ocean.

Decatur, Ill. Jan. 29.—On Saturday night Joab Wilkinson took from Decatur to Niantic a jug of whisky, which he distributed to some of his friends. A riot grew out of it, in which three Connihan brothers attacked a Mr. Carson, one of them striking him with a grubbing hoe, breaking his skull. The doctors have trepanned it, and he may recover. Today the parties were committed to await the result.

Last night Mr. McCall got into an altercation with Douglas Morris, at the house of the latter, in Decatur, and stabbed him twice, it is feared, fatally. McCall was at once arrested and lodged in jail.

Still Another Terrible Example

Special Telegram to the Inter Ocean.
Huntington, Ind., Jan. 29.—A house of Ill-fame at this place on Sunday afternoon was the scene of a bloody and fatal fight. Thomas E. Billings, the keeper, attempted to eject Delatus Shaffer, the clerk of the Hubbell House. Shaffer was intoxicated, and was very noisy, and was abusing the inmates. Finally Billings drew a revolver and shot his assailant, the ball entering the right side and inflicting a wound which will probably prove fatal. Billings was arrested a short time after and taken to Fort Wayne for safe keeping. He has kept a house of ill-fame at that place for several years.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Manheim Tragedy.

Richards & Anderson
On a sunny December morning in 1857, Mrs. Anna Garber and Mrs. Elizabeth Ream were raped and murdered in Mrs. Garber’s home in Manheim, Pennsylvania. Evidence overwhelmingly pointed to Alexander Anderson and Henry Richards, two African American workmen seen in the neighborhood. Though there was little doubt as to who committed the murders, a question still remained: would they be tried by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or would the case would be handled by "Judge Lynch."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Husband Murder.

Little Murders
(From Daily Inter Ocean , Chicago, Illinois, December 19, 1877)

Husband Murder.

Cincinnati, Ohio, Dec. 18—The trial of Mrs. Creighton for the murder of her husband, which has been progressing at Lancaster (Ohio) for several days, was given to the jury at 10 o’clock yesterday. The jury has been out over twenty-four hours. It is thought they will disagree.

Cincinnati, Ohio, Dec. 18—The jury in the Creighton murder case, after a deliberation of twenty-six hours., returned a verdict of manslaughter at 12 o’clock to-day, which is considered a compromise verdict. The first vote stood four for murder in the first and eight for the second degree, which was finally changed to ten for acquittal and two for conviction, the latter two holding out to the end. The particulars of the murder are substantially these: On the 2d of last January Henry Creighton was found dead in his house by neighbors aroused by his wife, who confessed to having killed him in self-defense. There were no witnesses to the murder but Eddie Garland, her 12-year-old son by a former husband. His wife is believed, according to the testimony to have married his property rather than the man, with whom she lived in continuous warfare. On the morning of his death she says he had chased her about the house, shooting at her, and finally, with a broad-ax, drove her to defend herself, when she killed him by throwing an iron mortar and a nail-puller. A motion for a new trial by her counsel is now being entertained by Judge Wright.

"Husband Murder." Daily Inter Ocean 19 Dec 1877: 5.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Samuel Moore Williams.

Little Murders:
From Defenders and Offenders:

Samuel Moore Williams.

"Samuel Moore Williams in 1879 committed a cold blooded murder in Garrard County, Ky. He fled to California, but was followed by detectives. He was then twenty-five years old, 5ft. 11in. He is something of a musician, playing the violin and guitar, and is fond of frequenting saloons. Is in the habit of boasting of being a Southerner and a confederate."

Defenders and offenders. New York: D. Buchner & Co., 1888.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Who Killed Benjamin Nathan?

Benjamin Nathan, a wealthy stockbroker and philanthropist, was found brutally beaten to death in his Manhattan home the morning of July 29, 1870. Some jewelry and a small amount of cash were stolen and the police were quick to rule the incident a burglary gone bad. But if so, how and when did the burglars enter? And how could four others staying in the house sleep through the violent attack? In fact, the Nathan murder looked more like a classic “locked-room” mystery—a mystery that remains unsolved.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Murder Will Out.

Little Murders
(From Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 27, 1880)

Murder Will Out.

Startling Developments of a Dying Man in Indiana.

After Sleeping Twelve Years in the Wilds of Brown County, the Spirit of Jamison Arises to Confront his Slayer.

Special Dispatch to the Cincinnati Gazette.
Columbus, Ind., April 26.—A few days ago a man by the name of Wm. J. Gillaspy died in Johnson County, and on his deathbed told of a murder that he was a party to that has been a mystery in the vicinity where it happened to the present time. About twelve years ago a prominent farmer and stock trader, of Johnson County, named Jas. Jamison, was missing, and no clew could be found of his whereabouts, and nothing has been heard of him except that his horse, saddle, and bridle were found a short time after the disappearance in the possession of a man by the name of Elias Curry, who lived in Hamblen Township, Brown County. Curry claimed days before that he bought the horse of Jamison a few days before he disappeared and suspicion rested on him at the time, but no steps were taken against him at the time. The man Gillaspy, when he found he was about to die, told that he and Curry, and a son of Curry’s and one of the most prominent citizens of Brown County, shot and killed Jamison on Hurricane Ridge, in Hamblen Township, Brown County, three-fourths of a mile from Curry’s house, and buried his body in a dense thicket by the road. They got $1,665 in cash and $3,000 in notes as the fruits of the foul deed, but the notes were destroyed as nothing was ever heard of them.

Curry, Gillaspy said, took the horse, saddle, and bridle in at $100, in the division of the spoils, which accounts for his being in possession of it. Curry has had an unenviable reputation as a suspicious character, and at one time narrowly escaped being lynched by his neighbors. The revelation of Gillaspy has created great excitement in the community and the matter will be probed to the bottom. John Jamison, son of the murdered man, resided in this place for several years, and lives at the present time in Jonesville, in this county. He left this mooring for Gillaspy’s former home to get all the information he could of the diabolical deed. It hardly seems possible that the man named in the confessions of Gillaspy can be guilty, as he has the respect of all who know him. Nothing has transpired in this part of Indiana for years that has created such widespread amazement, and further developments are looked for with the deepest interest.

Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 27, 1880

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Murder! Murder! Murder!!

Little Murders
(From Flake's Bulletin, Galveston, Texas, January 15, 1870)

Murder! Murder! Murder!! 
 Last night, about half-past eight o’clock, the residents of Penn street were aroused by hearing the cries of “murder, murder, help, for God’s sake, help!” Visions of cut-throats, robbers and foot-pads arose in the minds of those who heard the terrible cries of distress. For five minutes the cries continued, until the whole vicinity was awakened and had lit their lanters, armed themselves in case of danger, and went forth to relieve the distressed

In a few more moments Messrs. J. L. Cravens, Tomlinson and Bishop, and a few others arrived at the spot where the cries were heard. The scene that they beheld was truly horrible. Two men named Shannessy and Brown, were facing each other, one with a pitchfork and the other with a butcher’s knife. They were both literally covered with blood. Shannessy had stabbed Brown severely with the pitchfork in the shoulder, and Brown had cut his opponent in the face.

The men both boarded with Mr. Chas. Dwyer, and the difficulty had started in the house. How they came to be so far away from their home bare-footed, bare-headed, and without coats on, we are unable to tell. After separating them, the crowd dispersed.

The difficulty occurred in front of the residence of J. K Cravens, Esq, on Penn street. What became of them after that we have yet to learn.—[Kansas City, Mo., News. Jan 3.


"Murder ! Murder ! Murder!!" Flake's Bulletin, Galveston, TX,  15 Jan 1870: 1.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Scenes from the Fisk Assassination

Illustrations from the 1872 book Life, Adventures, Strange Career and Assassination of Col. James Fisk, Jr. provide a good graphic presentation of events surrounding the murder of Jim Fisk:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Boston Belfry Tragedy.

In the early 1870s, the city of Boston experienced a rash of gruesome murders. In October 1871, 18-year-old Kate Leehan was raped and murdered. A year later the dismembered body of Abijah Ellis was found floating in the Charles River. In 1874, Jesse Pomeroy killed two children and tortured several others. And, perhaps most disturbing to the people of Boston, a series of violent sexual assaults committed between 1871 and 1875 resulted in the deaths of two young women. These crimes remained unsolved until a Sunday in May 1875 when the body of five-year-old Mabel Young was found in the bell tower of the Warren Avenue Baptist church shortly after Thomas W. Piper, was seen leaping from the belfry.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Horrible Murder in Division Street.

 An editorial on ruffianism from the New York HeraldJune 11, 1872:

The Horrible Murder in Division Street.
We are becoming so used to the reign of ruffianism that it requires some outrage of unusual barbarity to thoroughly arouse our indignation. But even the meekest citizen will be of opinion that the murder of Augustus Brown, on Saturday night, ought to be followed by vigorous action looking towards the suppression of rowdyism.It will not do to allow gangs of loafing ruffians to assemble at street corners and insult peaceable passers-by. As we have before pointed out, these assemblages are constantly leading to murder and robbery. The judicial authorities are as much to blame in this matter as are the police, for the cure for this crying evil is very simple. Instead of allowing members of gang to come into court and swear an alibi, every man known to have been present at the time of a murder ought to  be held as an accessory, unless he give such information as will aid the cause of justice. So long as ruffians can find immunity from the law by swearing for each other the respectable classes of the community will always be at the mercy of the scum of our population. Murder succeeds murder with alarming rapidity in our midst and unless the law can afford the citizen better protection than it does at present the citizen will be forced in self-defense to take action independent of the authorities.

We have constantly urged the suppression of the corner loafer gangs, and this last murder, by its cold-blooded atrocity, must bring home to every man the necessity which exists for the course we have strenuously recommended. The best was of striking terror into the gangs of rowdies by whom we are beset is by making every individual responsible for the crimes of his companions. There can be no just objection to such a course; it is followed in all cases of crime against property, and ought to be enforced with double stringency incases of crime against the person. If one of a gang rob a house the whole gang may be punished, and if one of a gang commit murder his companions and encouragers ought also to be exposed to the action of the law. If the judges and juries would act on this principle for six months and  decline to be influence by representations of politicians, the violence and aggressiveness of our rowdy population would soon cease.


"The Horrible Murder in Division Street." New York Herald 11 Jun 1872: 7.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Scenes from Smuttynose.

Haley Dock and Homestead. The murder occurred in the third house from the left.
An article in the October 1874 issue of Harper’s Magazine describes a trip to the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. Though it discusses the current inhabitants and the long history of the islands, the article and its illustrations center on the memory of the brutal murders of Anethe and Karen Christensen, just a year and a half earlier.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Savage Ruffian!

James Fennimore Cooper recalled a day in June 1806 when he joined the population of Cooperstown, New York, to witness an eclipse of the sun. The eclipse was not the only memorable sight he saw that day, a prisoner had been brought up from his windowless dungeon to view the event. The man “with haggard face and fettered arms…the very picture of utter misery,” was Stephen Arnold, convicted of beating to death his six-year-old adopted daughter Betsey Van Amburgh for mispronouncing a word.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Clement Arthur Day.

Little Murders:
From Defenders and Offenders:

Clement Arthur Day.

"Clement Arthur Day, who murdered Josie Rosa on the morning of June 9th, 1887, was hanged at Utica, Feb’y 9th 1888. Day killed the woman, who was living with him, by stabbing her twelve or fifteen times, because she was going to leave him and go home to her sick mother. He felt no concern on account of his crime on the morning of his execution, ate a hearty meal, then sang several songs, danced a jig, &c. He twanged a guitar, laughed and joked, and altogether entertained his keepers, and at the gallows even assisted in putting the noose around his neck."

Defenders and offenders. New York: D. Buchner & Co., 1888.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Arthur Spring Jr. vs. Arthur Spring Sr.

On the morning of March 11, 1853, the bodies of  Mrs. Honora Shaw and her sister Mrs. Ellen Lynch were found brutally stabbed and beaten in the front room of their home on Federal Street in Philadelphia. Circumstantial evidence pointed to Arthur Spring, a frequent guest of Mrs. Shaw’s, as the murderer. But the most damning evidence against Spring was the testimony of his nineteen-year-old son, Arthur Jr. who directly accused his father of the murders.  Arthur Spring vehemently denied the charge and countered by pinning the murders on his son.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Deserved Double Lynching.

Little Murders
(From The Wheeling Register, Wheeling, West Virginia, June 6, 1885)

Deserved Double Lynching.
Two Brothers Swing for Murder – Wholesale Murder Plot Revealed
Marshalltown, Iowa, June5. – Fin and Mans Rainsbarger were taken from jail at Eldora, Hardin county, at 1 o’clock this morning, by a mob of seventy-five masked men and riddled with bullets, so as to be unrecognizable. They are brothers of the two Rainsbargers now in the Marshal county jail here, for the murder of Enoch Johnson, and were arrested yesterday for an alleged attack on Doctor Underwood, who is prominent in the Rainsbarger prosecution.

Results of a Feud

The lynching of Rainsbarger at Eldora, last night, is the result of an old feud that has be brewing in Harden county for many years. It originated in a family quarrel a great many years ago and culminated last year in the murder of Johnson. For this crime the two Rainsbarers, Nathaniel and Frank, are now in jail at Marshalltown, charged with murder. Accusation was made by the wife of Nathanial, who is a daughter of Johnson. Among the most prominent men in the county , who testified at the preliminary examination was Dr. Underwood, of Eldora. His life was threatened by the gang a few days ago. Suspicious movements were discovered by a party upon whom a watch was set. It was discovered in a secret communication with the Rainsbagers. It was finally found that a plot was being concocted

To Murder a Number of Leading Citizens

of the county. These facts developed only a day or two ago. Night before last Dr. Underwood and Dr. Riedenour, a dentist, were shot as they were driving along in the country. The former was wounded and hit once. Only though a number of shots were fired, this attempt drove the citizens to desperation, and Rainsbargers having  been arrested  last evening, were, during the night, taken out and lynched as stated. The brothers lynched were known as Fin and Mans. Fin was a pardoned convict charged with murder. The family and their followers are hard characters and have given peaceable a great deal of trouble. Great excitement prevails. Public sentiment, however, generally approves of the lynching. It is doubtful if any prosecutions are made.


The Wheeling Register, Wheeling, West Virginia, June 6, 1885

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Vanderpool-Field Tragedy.

Though he was only twenty-one years old in 1869, Herbert Field had already faced death numerous times in a variety of exotic locations. Field had lived an adventurous life and seemed to attract danger, but he never encountered a danger he could not overcome until he settled down in Michigan to become a banker.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

James H. Jacobs.

Little Murders:
From Defenders and Offenders:

James H. Jacobs.

“On the night of 11th of December 1886, Jacobs stabbed Elmer E. Quigley in the stomach with a butcher knife. The affair occurred near Jacobs house, at Lancaster, Pa. Jacobs was abusing his children, who were outside the house. Quigley came along and remonstrated with Jacobs for abusing his children, who were crying. After some words, Jacobs went into the house, got a knife, came out and plunged it into Quigley, killing him.”

Defenders and offenders. New York: D. Buchner & Co., 1888.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Visit to the Tombs.

Reprinted from New York Herald, December 22, 1868.

A Visit to the Tombs.

An Interview with the Prisoners Committed for murder—What They Say and Think—Drink and Bad Company the Pathway to the Gallows—Pistol, Knife and Stiletto Freely Used.

The Tombs (NYPL)
The Tombs of New York has become as familiar to the people of America s the Bastille of Paris to the people of France. There the contrast ends. Once in the living tomb of the Bastile the victim might exclaim with Sterne’s Starling, “I can’t get out, I can’t get out;” for the grave was the only release to the poor victim of some petty tyrant’s hate whom a lettre de cachet swept from his path.

How different in the Tombs! Though human laws and the good society demand the punishment of criminals, it is divine to temper justice with mercy and kindness, and this, it is believed, is done there. The prisoners are treated kindly, allowed to partake of the sympathy of their friends, and even more substantial favors.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Walworth Patricide.

The name Walworth was an old and venerable one in the state of New York. William Walworth arrived there from London in 1689; during the American Revolution, Benjamin Walworth fought in the Battle of White Plains; Reuben Hyde Walworth, in 1828, was named Chancellor of New York, the state’s highest judicial office. But in 1873 the name Walworth was forever tarnished when Frank Walworth murdered his father Mansfield Walworth.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mrs. Sarah Rhodes.

Little Murders:
From Defenders and Offenders:

Mrs. Sarah Rhodes.

“This remarkable woman, who sports a moustache, is accused of murdering Farmer Blizzard, a married man, and who seemed to be infatuated with this woman.  He called upon her at Greenville, Va., where she resided on the evening of January 28, and took her riding in his buggy. At a lonely spot while crossing a bridge, the woman first shot the farmer and then hacked his body with an axe. She then dragged him from the wagon and threw his body over the bridge to the river below.”

Defenders and offenders. New York: D. Buchner & Co., 1888.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Guest Blogger: recently celebrated its 2,000th consecutive day posting execution stories from all times and places—that’s every day since October 31, 2007. You’d think they would run out of material but there is no end in sight.
This is the second guest post from and once again it is an honor to include one of their gallows tales on Murder by Gaslight. This one is a hanging in Nebraska for a murder that was never committed.

1887: William Jackson Marion, who’d be pardoned 100 years later

Originally posted on March 25th, 2011 by Headsman
On this date in 1887, William Jackson Marion was executed in Nebraska for the murder of his best
friend, John Cameron.

Jackson had always upheld his innocence and his ignorance of Cameron’s fate; he was the picture of “utmost coolness” on the scaffold, declaring only “that I am a sinner, the same as other men. I have made no confession and have none to make. Go to the court dockets and see where men have been tried and acquitted and compare my case with them.”

And then, as given by the Gage County Democrat, the first, last, and only man hanged in Beatrice “stood erect upon the trap-door while his hands and feet were bound, the black cap drawn over his face, and the noose adjusted,” the trap sprung, and after a thousand-plus people had taken the opportunity to view this infamous corpse, it was buried in the potter’s field.

It was then 15 years since young “Jack” Marion and John Cameron had hauled out from Grasshopper Falls, Kansas, looking for work on a railroad.

Somewhere in the wilderness, John Cameron disappeared, and Marion returned to his mother-in-law’s saying his buddy had left. Marion’s whereabouts fade; he’s supposed to have drifted in Indian country: was it flight? It sure looked that way a year later, when a body turned up with clothes that matched Cameron’s … and bullet wounds in the head.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Settling an Old Feud.

Little Murders
(From New York Herald, New York, New York, October 20, 1885)

Settling an Old Feud.

A serious stabbing affray occurred in a lonely portion of South Orange, N. J., on Sunday night, which will probably result in a murder. About eleven o’clock on Sunday night Morris Foran, of South Orange, entered the tavern kept by Mrs. Mary Briarton on the Ridgewood road. James Tanzey, of Milburn; William P. Brown and Ira Smith, of South Orange, entered the barroom a little later, and, having drunk some whiskey, were about to leave, when Tanzey saw Foran and scowled. His companions left the saloon, but he stood in the doorway until Mrs. Briarton went into a back room. He then walked over to Foran, and inquired in a surly tone, “Are you Morris Foran?”

Mrs. Briarton could not hear the answer, but in a minute she heard a scuffle and heard Foran exclaim, “I am stabbed!”

Rushing into the room, she saw Tanzey and Foran struggling on the floor. Tanzey had a large clasp-knife in his hand and Foran was making desperate efforts to wrest it from him. He was covered with blood, and after shaking off his antagonist by a desperate effort, he fainted. Fanzey was about to rush upon him again when Brown and Smith seized him and dragged him from the saloon.

Dr. Chandler was summoned, and when he arrived he found that Foran was terribly wounded. There was a gash in his stomach five inches long, from which the entrails protruded. He was moved to Memorial Hospital in Orange, where he lingers in a critical condition.

Justice of the Peace O’Reilly arrested Tanzey, whom he found on the Valley road. On being asked the cause of the stabbing, Tanzey, who bore two slight cuts on his face, replied that it was a woman affair. Becoming excited, he waved his fist in the air and exclaimed:--

“I’ve been waiting two years for this chance.”

“For what chance?” asked the Justice, “To stab Foran or go to jail?”

“Go to jail,” replied Taney quickly.

The prisoner formerly kept a saloon in Millburn, but lately he was employed as a mason in Short Hills. It is rumored that two years ago he and Foran quarreled about a woman. Foran is a contractor and has a wife and three children.


New York Herald, New York, New York, October 20, 1885

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Woman in Black.

A prominent California legislator was sitting with his wife and son on board the Oakland-San Francisco ferryboat El Capitain the evening of November 3, 1870. They did not notice the woman, dressed entirely in black, wearing a broad brimmed black hat with a black veil covering her face, as she approached them. From the folds of her dress the woman pulled a derringer and shot the man in the chest. The family recognized the woman in black then; it was Laura Fair and she was finally ending her tumultuous affair with Alexander P. Crittenden.