Saturday, January 25, 2020

A Fearful Fratricide.

The Rogers family were early settlers in Blue Lick Springs, Kentucky, having fought a bloody battle with Indians to secure their homestead. They never lost their frontier zeal for violence as a tool for solving problems, even for family disputes which, apparently, were frequent and quite intense. In the 1880s, Willis Rogers had eight children, five boys and three girls. In the heat of an argument, Willis’s brother shot and killed one of the boys. To make amends, the brother willed his entire estate to Willis. He died soon after leaving Willis Rogers a very wealthy man.

When Willis died in 1883 he left the fortune to his sons Samuel and Robert, for some reason disinheriting his other two surviving sons, William and Thomas. William, who was an attorney in St. Louis, and Thomas, who was a farmer of “high standing,” had no intention of taking the matter lying down and made plans to contest the will. On September 27, they met at the old Rogers’s mansion on Indian Creek, with their brother Samuel, president of the Farmer’s Bank in Carlisle, and executor of the will, along with several other attorneys.

As they took depositions for the lawsuit, tempers were on edge and the tension in the room was palpable. During a wordy exchange, Samuel believed that one of his brothers had moved to draw a weapon, so he drew his own revolver and fired a shot. It was reported that William and Thomas then pulled out their pistols and began firing. As the lawyers hurriedly left the room, Samuel’s son entered with his gun drawn, and “… all blazed away until smoke made it impossible to do creditable work.”

When the smoke cleared, Samuel emerged unscathed but William and Thomas were fatally wounded—William shot in the right knee and abdomen, and Thomas in the left arm and right temple.  On his arrest, Samuel maintained that his brothers had drawn on him first, but the attorneys present claimed that Samuel, who had emptied his pistol, was the only man to fire. It is safe to say that Robert Rogers, the brother who had not attended the meeting, was the only man to benefit from this negotiation.

Originally posted on August 8, 2014.


"[Kentucky; Blue Lick Springs; Willis Rogert; Willis]." Springfield Republican 2 Oct 1883: 4.
"A Fearful Fratricidal Crime ." Jackson Citizen Patriot 28 Sep 1883: 1.
"Cold Lead as a Surragate." National Police Gazette 20 Oct 1883

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Murder in the Well.

This week we present a guest post from Shelley Dziedzic of Lizzie Borden: Warps & Wefts, a blog devoted to the Borden murders and the city of Fall River, Massachusetts—"News, articles and photos about The Lady, The Crime, The City and The Era.” Shelly is a member of the Muttoneaters, a group that investigates all things related to Lizzie Borden, and the Pear Essential Players who annually re-enact the Borden Murders at the house where they occurred (now a Fall River bed and breakfast.)

The post, “Murder in the Well”, tells the story of a gruesome murder/suicide from another branch of the Borden family tree.

Uncle Lawdwick  and Those  “Children Down the Well”

Photography and text by Shelley Dziedzic (all rights reserved)

For students of the Borden case, the tale of Lizzie’s great-uncle Lawdwick (also seen as Ludwig, Ladwig, Ladowick and other variations) has long been an interesting footnote to the saga of the Borden murders of 1892.  Lawdwick Borden was the son of Martha Patty Bowen and Richard Borden.  Lawdwick’s brother Abraham Bowen Borden was Andrew Jackson Borden’s father.  Uncle Lawdwick was Lizzie Borden’s great-uncle.  He will be referred to as Lawdwick hereafter as that is the spelling which is seen on his grave marker.

Abraham Bowen Borden (Lawdwick’s brother and Lizzie’s grandfather)

Lawdwick would enjoy the company of four wives over the span of his life, not an unusual occurrence in the days when women often died in childbirth or from complications following childbirth.  There are records of four marriages:  Maria Briggs, Eliza Darling, Eliza Chace (sometimes seen as Chase), and Ruhama Crocker.  Ruhama Crocker Borden is listed as Lawdwick’s widow in Fall River city directories after Lawdwick died in 1874. The spelling and handwriting in censuses of the period is often poor or illegible, thus creating a challenge for historians generations later to decipher.

It is the second wife, Eliza Darling Borden who has piqued the excitement of Borden case scholars today, for it is she who did the unthinkable- she killed two of her three children and then took her own life.  Today it might be chalked up to post partum depression. She had three children in rapid succession. Even the details of her suicide are clouded over time.  Most versions would have it that she went upstairs in the little Cape Cod style house next door south of the Charles Trafton house in 1848, (which would become the Andrew Borden house in 1872) when she was at the age of 37, and sliced her throat with Lawdwick’s straight razor after dropping her children in the cellar cistern. Another version has her committing self-destruction behind the cellar chimney.  As thrilling tales often go, they tend to improve and evolve with the retelling.

Paranormal investigators today who visit the Lizzie Borden home, take great pains to attempt to contact these ghostly children who died so tragically years before Abby and Andrew would be done to death by hatchet on August 4, 1892.  Guests who stay at the Borden home, now a popular bed and breakfast, leave toys for the “ghost children” in the guest rooms and declare they can hear childish laughter and sounds of play on the second and third floors.

This sad tale has endured for so long due primarily to Lizzie Borden herself- and her trial of 1893.  Lizzie was carefully examined to determine if she were mentally competent.  Questions were asked as to the sanity of the Borden clan in general.  Not surprisingly the topic of Eliza Borden and her unfortunate children was introduced as a possible source of inherited madness.  This was quickly shot down as Eliza Darling Borden was only a Borden by marriage, and not a blood relation to Lizzie Borden at all.  Mention was made that the sole survivor of the well incident, Maria Borden (Hinckley), was “alive and well and a mother herself still living in the city”.  It is a possibility Maria was named for Lawdwick’s first wife, Maria Briggs, as was a common custom in cases of the untimely death of a young spouse upon remarriage of the widower.

But first, the details on all of the family members.  Mother of Lawdwick:  Martha Patty Bowen Birth Jul 13 1775 in Freetown, Bristol, Massachusetts, USA ,  Death Nov 16, 1827

Father: Richard Borden Birth 1769 in Bristol Co., Massachusetts, USA , Death Apr 04 1824 * note that Richard’s mother was named Hope Cook.  Most likely Cook Borden was named for her family surname.

Lawdwick’s Siblings:

Abraham Bowen Borden  1798-1882

Thomas Borden 1800

Amy Borden       1802-1877

Hannah Borden 1803-1891

Richard Borden  1805-1872

Rowena Borden 1808-1836  (stone below)


Cook Borden  1810-1880

Lawdwick  1812-1874 (stone below)

Zephaniah 1814-1884 (stone below)

Lawdwick’s wives:

Maria Briggs  married Sept 8, 1833

b. 1811 – d. 1838 (stones below)

Eliza Darling  married March 16, 1843

b.1811 – d. 1848 suicide and mother who drowned two of her three children

(engraved Second Wife)

Baby Holder S. Borden- Drowned 

Eliza Ann, aged 2 Drowned

Born October 22, 1844  died 1909 buried under Maria Borden, no mention of husband Samuel B. Hinckley.

Maria Borden (Hinckley) (daughter and only living child)

Eliza T. Chace  married February 29, 1856 Third Wife

  • 1813-1864

Ruhama Crocker Borden shown living with Lawdwick in 1870 census with sister Lydia and Maria, Eliza’s daughter now 25 and married to Samuel B. Hinckley, a Civil War veteran on 2 Oct 1866. Ruhama is listed as Lawdwick’s “widow” in Fall River city directories after 1874.

Ruhama Crocker-  b.  1814-d. 1879 (in Providence in 1850, living with parents and siblings in 1860 in Attleboro

An interesting detail about Maria Borden and her husband Samuel B. Hinckley. Samuel had been a boarder in 1850 at the Lawdwick Borden house when Maria was a little girl of 5.  Samuel was 18.  The two would wed on October 3, 1866.  Samuel had served in the Civil war and was mustered out as a full captain in Washington D.C. on July 14, 1865. (click on image below for full size). In 1850 both Samuel and Lawdwick are listed as “Millers”, presumably in a lumber yard.

At least two more infants are buried in this plot, both near Maria Briggs Borden, which would make them half siblings of the Maria who survived the cistern. One was born the year after Lawdwick’s marriage to Maria Briggs, the other two years later. A name is barely readable on one stone, the other reads Matthew.

Census listing for 1860

Lawdwick is a Lumber man, second wife Eliza T. Chace Borden is keeping house and Maria is now 15. Whatever became of the marriage of Maria and Samuel is unclear. The newspaper article in 1893, during Lizzie Borden’s trial mentions the living child from “the cistern was a mother herself and living in the city”. Maria Borden Hinckley would have been 49 years old at the time of Lizzie’s trial in New Bedford.

My thanks to the groundsmen at Oak Grove Cemetery, Will Clawson, Len Rebello, and

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Fatal Family Feud.

The morning of December 18, 1889, Edward O’Connor, a San Francisco bartender, surrendered
himself to a group of police officers saying, “I hit a man with a stick last night, and I think he is dead.”

O’Connor was quite intoxicated and was reluctant to take the officers to see the body.  He finally led them to the home of his father-in-law, Henry Armstrong where they found Armstrong’s body laying on the floor of the front room. The floor was strewn with broken glass, clay pipes and cigarette butts and a number of half-empty whiskey and gin bottles stood on a table in another room. 

Armstrong’s wife lay passed out on a bed near the body. O’Connor’s wife Sarah, as drunk as her husband became excited at the approach of the officers. Apparently unaware of what Edward had told them, Sarah said that the shooting had been accidental then corrected herself saying Armstrong had dropped dead from heart disease.

O’Connor then exclaimed “No, no! I am the murderer! I killed him. He abused my wife and I shot him.”

Armstrong had begun throwing things at his wife, O’Connor explained, pointing to an alarm clock Armstrong had hurled. O’Connor hit him with a stick and Sarah ran to get his revolver. The gun went off accidentally as O’Connor tried to take it away from her. Examining the body, the officers discovered a bullet wound in Armstrong’s left side.

Sarah had married Edward O’Connor on November 7, and the four of them lived together in a four-room cottage—it was a disaster waiting to happen. Since the wedding, the household had been “on a protracted debauch” of drunken animosity. Henry Armstrong, who owned the cottage, was bitterly opposed to his stepdaughter’s marriage and had threatened to throw everyone out. He was a confirmed drunkard with a mean disposition and had been arrested two years earlier for feloniously assaulting Sarah. Edward O’Connor was also a drunkard. His first wife had recently secured a divorce on the grounds of cruelty and intemperance. That night all four had been drinking heavily.

Once everyone had sobered up, police managed to piece together the events of the night before. Armstrong had come home drunk at about 9:00 and everyone else had already gone to bed. Sarah got up and prepared supper for him, then took a bowl of soup to her husband and a drink of liquor to her mother. Armstrong became angry that Sarah had not brought him a drink. He verbally abused her saying the dinner was not fit for a dog. Becoming increasingly angry Armstrong began throwing things at her including a lamp chimney and an alarm clock.

The noise aroused O’Connor who grabbed his cane and rushed at Armstrong, intending to give him a clubbing. Armstrong evaded the stick, rushed into his room and shut the door. O’Connor turned to go back to bed and was surprised to see his wife approaching with his bulldog pistol in her hand. O’Connor grappled with her and managed to take it away after the gun went off. Thinking nothing was wrong the two went back to bed.

Two hours later, Mrs. Armstrong called out saying that her husband was hurt. They thought she was fooling and paid no attention. She insisted they come and when they did they found Armstrong on the floor very weak and faint. O’Connor went to get some whiskey and when he returned Armstrong was dead. Then he went for the police.

Sarah claimed that she had not intended to use the pistol; she wanted to hide it so her husband wouldn’t use it. Sarah was released and Edward O’Connor was held for murder. At his trial the following March, O’Connor was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to five years at San Quentin.

“The Day of Doom,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 22, 1890.
“Fatal Family Feud,” San Diego Union, December 26, 1889.
“Kicked out of the House,” San Francisco Bulletin, February 13, 1890.
“Mrs. Sarah O'Connor Kills Her Step-Father,” Evening News, December 18, 1889.
“Murder Most Foul!,” The National Police Gazette, January 11, 1890.
“On Trial for Murder,” San Francisco Bulletin, March 1, 1890.
“A San Francisco Tragedy,” Sacramento Bee, December 18, 1889.
“Who Shot Him?,” San Francisco Bulletin, December 18, 1889.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

An Insane Explorer.

Survivors of Jeannette expedition (James Bartlett, seated second from left)
On July 8, 1879, the U.S.S. Jeanette left San Francisco bound for the Bering Strait. Its mission, funded by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., publisher of the New York Herald, was to make the United States the first nation to reach the North Pole, on the theory that a warm Pacific current would provide a water route. After nearly two years sailing through ice-bound waters, the Jeanette was “nipped” in the ice on June 12, 1881 and sank the following day. The crew set off on foot, hoping to reach the coast of Siberia before winter set in. They struggled for 91 days, living on seal, walrus, polar bear, and sea birds, and covered nearly one thousand miles. Only thirteen of the original crew of thirty-three survived.

Among the survivors of the Jeanette expedition was James R. Bartlett, who, in 1892, was living in San Francisco with his wife and their niece. Mentally, Bartlett never recovered from his arctic hardship; and had previously been confined in an insane asylum.

Around 1:30, the morning of October 30, 1892, Bartlett went into his house and told his wife he was going to kill her. He drew his revolver and shot his wife in the shoulder. As she ran screaming from the room, their young niece, Lottie Carpenter, came in and tried to intercede. Bartlett shot her in the head and she died moments later. He then went to a back room and shot himself in the head.

The newspapers all agreed that the tragedy was a direct result of hardships Bartlett suffered as a crewman of the ill-fated Jeanette expedition. The Oregonian questioned the value of such ventures, “Neither science, humanity nor common sense warrants a man in putting so severe strain upon his physical and mental powers as to render his crippled existence a misfortune to himself and a constant menace to those about him. The Jeannette expedition was one of the most costly in life, hardship and money that has ever been sent out in quest of an “open Polar Sea,” while its profits are so meager that science takes no note of them.”

Originally posted on 11/26/2016.

“[San Francisco; Miss Lottie Carpenter; James R.,” Oregonian, November 1, 1892.
“An Insane Explorer.,” Plain Dealer, October 31, 1892.
“An Insane Murderer,” San Diego Union, October 31, 1892.
“Crazed By His Arctic Sufferings.,” New York Tribune, October 31, 1892.
National Geographic: The Hair-Raising Tale of the U.S.S. Jeannette's Ill-Fated 1879 Polar Voyage . “James R. Bartlett Dead,” Daily Register-Gazette, October 26, 1893.
USNI News: The Jeannette Expedition.
“News in Brief.,” Huntsville Gazette, November 5, 1892.