Saturday, October 24, 2015

Murder in McDowell.

Little Murders

Stephen Effler
On January 6, 1881, a traveler named Sowers stopped at the home of Stephen Effler and his wife and was invited to stay for supper. The Efflers lived near McDowell, North Carolina, in a wild gorge in the Blue Ridge Mountains, so remote that no wheeled vehicle could pass within a mile. During the meal, Effler and his wife, got into a terrible argument and she told him she planned to leave him and return to her mother the following day. By the time Sowers left, the fighting had ceased, and Mrs. Effler seemed to be in good health.

Some time later Effler went to his grandfather’s house and told him that his wife was very ill. His grandfather alerted the neighbors, and they went to see how Mrs. Effler was doing. “Very ill” was an understatement, they found Mrs. Effler lying dead with her three-month-old baby sleeping on her breast. Her neck had been broken, her right shoulder dislocated, and she had wounds and bruises all over her body. Effler was arrested, and a coroner’s jury summoned. Their conclusion was “that the deceased came to her from wounds inflicted by some weapon in the hands of her husband.”

The neighbors were not surprised; Eiffler was an uneducated man, “with all the rudeness of a savage.” He had a reputation for cruelty, and even as a young boy had had invented modes of torturing animals. His wife had been devoted to him, but he treated her brutally and abused her in public. Eiffler had a mean, vengeful disposition and was hated and shunned by those who lived near him.

Stephen Effler was tried in the fall court term and found guilty of murder. He then filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court, claiming to be insane. While the matter was pending, Effler began acting strangely, and for months complained of a constant pain in his head. When the Supreme Court declared that Effler was sane, he admitted that he had been feigning insanity and vowed to live better in the little time he had left. In the spring term, the Superior Court sentenced him to hang on May 19, 1882.

The one person exempt from Stephen Effler’s cruelty was his little child. It was remarked that his love for the child was great, and he always treated it with kindness. Effler dictated his confession and had it printed up to be sold to the crowd at his execution to raise money for the orphan he would be leaving behind. He must have been successful in this venture, because, 8000 people came to witness the hanging.

Following prayers, Effler, standing on the gallows, delivered an hour-long harangue to the crowd. Although he had confessed to the murder, he contested the handling of the crime and accused the witnesses against him of perjury. Then he declared that he was ready to die. At 1:50 pm, the Deputy Sheriff cut the rope, and the trap fell. Six minutes later Stephen Effler was dead.


"Marion N. C." Indianapolis Sentinel 20 May 1882.
"Murder in McDowell." The Lenoir Topic 20 Jan 1881.
"Stephen Effler." National Police Gazette 22 Oct 1881.
"Stephen G. Effler Hanged." New York Herald 20 May 1882.


Tessa says:
April 26, 2016 at 4:21 AM

I guess he at least tried to help his child in the end.

Anita says:
March 5, 2017 at 7:18 PM
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anita says:
March 5, 2017 at 7:19 PM

OK gaslight. How do you know what you printed is true? How do you know. Some of this, I've never heard of, and I am his G-Granddaughter. Where do you get that his confession was dictated? Where do you get that he raised money for his child? That was not true. The child went to live with his mother's parents. As he grew older, he lived with the Efflers. His name when he lived with his mother's parents, the Grindstaff's, was Joseph William Effler. The Effler's changed it to Alfred Effler.
You need to get your facts right, before you put out a story that, for the most part, is not true. AND, where did you get that photo. That is not Stephen Effler.

Robert Wilhelm says:
March 11, 2017 at 9:06 AM

Everything in the post comes from the four newspaper articles listed above. I cannot guarantee that the facts are true, but they were printed in the newspaper. The picture comes from the National Police Gazette and was labeled Stephen Effler. They usually had an artist copy a photograph.

If you can document your information I will consider making changes. In the meantime I will stick with what was printed in the newspapers.

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