Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Bangor Mystery.

A severely wounded man was found wrapped in a blanket by the side of the road, about two miles outside of Bangor, Maine, at 8:00 p.m. on February 5, 1879. Surgeons at the police station in Bangor examined the man and declared that he was mangled beyond their ability to heal him. His skull had been fractured by four or five blows from an axe; he died at around 11:30 that night. 

The man was identified as William B. Elliot, a constable and tax collector for the town of Glenburn, Maine. Elliot was last seen in his sleigh going past Merrill’s store with another man standing in the back of the sleigh holding on to a stake. He was returning home after having a meal at Merrill’s and was attacked before he had gone a quarter mile.

His sleigh and team of horses were found at the E. & N. A. railroad depot. The watchman there said a man came in about 7:00 and asked if he could leave the horses there while he went over the bridge to the Maine Central depot. He never returned.

The police in Bangor investigated as well as they could but uncovered nothing significant. After a week with no new information, they concluded that Elliot had been murdered by a tramp who had left town the night of the murder.

Nine years later, in July 1888, the Boston Globe declared the mystery was solved and the killer identified. Globe reporter Henry G. Trickey working with Tom Allen, a private detective who had been on the Bangor police force at the time of the Elliot murder, spoke with a man who claimed he could supply important missing information regarding the murder on condition that his name not be used in print.

The police knew that on the evening of the murder, William Elliot stopped at a liquor store and saloon in Bangor run by John Lyons. The informant said that about three weeks after the murder he had gone ice fishing with John Lyons and Lyons had been uneasy as if something was worrying him. After some coaxing, Lyons agreed to tell what was troubling him if the man would promise to keep it secret as long as Lyons lived. The man agreed.

Lyons said that Samuel D. Haynes had murdered old man Elliot. At the time, Haynes was a young tough with a bad reputation. He had done time for horse stealing and was running a brothel outside of Rockland, Maine, known as “the farm.” 

Lyons and Haynes had been drinking and talking together when Elliot came in. He said he was cold and thought a drink might keep him warm on his ride home. Lyons poured him a drink then went back to Haynes and said quietly, “That is the tax collector of Glenburn: how would you like to have his snap?”

When Elliot took out his pocketbook to pay for his drink, they could see it was filled with bills and Haynes said, “The old bloke has got a boodle, hasn’t he?”

Elliot finished his drink and left the saloon; thirty seconds later Haynes went out after him. When Lyons learned of Elliot’s murder, he was sure that Haynes had robbed and killed him. He felt bad that he had indirectly instigated the crime, but he was afraid to come forward with the information.

From that point on Lyons was on a downhill course. He began drinking heavily; eventually, he lost his business and became a wanderer. After a brief stay in Boston, Lyons returned to Bangor worse off than when he left. Finally, he killed himself with an overdose of morphine. With Lyons dead, the informant was free to tell the reporter that Haynes murdered Elliot.

Sometime after the Elliot murder, Sam Haynes was arrested for a minor, unrelated crime. While awaiting some temporary adjustment to his case, he was held in guardroom in the Rockland police station. As evening approached, it was evident that Haynes would have to remain there until the next day. Before leaving, the marshal told Deputy Robbins to lock him in a cell. Robbins fell asleep in an armchair before locking up Haynes, and Haynes managed to escape after crushing Robbins’s skull with an andiron. Haynes was at large for about a week before a fisherman spotted him on the beach outside Rockland. He was captured by a group of armed men and barely escaped a lynching. He was tried and convicted for the murder of Deputy Robbins. 

In 1888, when the Boston Globe went to press with the story accusing Samuel Haynes of murdering William Elliot, Haynes was serving a life sentence in Thomaston Prison. The authorities did not act on the new information. With Lyons dead, any evidence against Haynes would be hearsay, besides there was no chance Haynes would ever get out of prison.

Several other newspapers took the Globe’s story as fact and declared the Bangor mystery solved. But not everyone accepted it. The New York Sun said the information was unsubstantiated and called the story nothing but sensationalism. 

Henry G. Trickey
There is a reason to believe that the Sun was right. The Globe reporter, Henry Trickey would go on to build a reputation that matched his name.  During the investigation of the 1891 murder of Mrs. Josephine Barnaby, Trickey was accused of sending a false telegram to Kitty Graves, wife of T. Thatcher Graves, a prime suspect (ultimately convicted of the murder). The telegram, purportedly from her husband, directed her to meet him at her brother’s house in Connecticut. When Graves arrived in Providence, Rhode Island, and found his wife gone, Trickey was there to record his angry reaction. Graves would later say of the resulting article in the Globe, “I must have been betrayed into saying some rash statements—but I never uttered ninety percent of the things they claim.”

A year later, while covering the Lizzie Borden case, Henry Trickey and private detective Edwin McHenry fabricated a story that Lizzie Borden had taken a lover, become pregnant and had been disowned by her father, giving her motive for the murders. The Boston Globe published the story but soon realized it was untrue and retracted it. Under a false name, Trickey fled to Canada where he fell to his death while trying to catch a moving train. By that point, even reports of Trickey’s death were treated with skepticism.

“The Bangor Murder,” Portland Daily Press, February 11, 1879.
Conrad, Barnaby, A Revolting Transaction (New York: Arbor House, 1983.)
 CRJ251: Criminology (Mayhew): The Trickey-McHenry Affair, BCC Libraries.
“Hunted Down,” Boston Daily Globe, July 30, 1888.
“A Maine Murder Mystery Solved,” Springfield Republican, July 31, 1888.
“Haynes and His Crime,” Sun and New York Press, September 19, 1888.
“A Nine Year Mystery,” Bridgeton Evening News, July 30, 1888.
Spotlight on Henry G. Trickey, Reporter, The Hatchet.
“Terrible Crime,” Portland Daily Press, February 6, 1879.


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