Posts Tagged ‘1893’

Brutal Murder on the Water Front

June 20, 2011

Image of Irish Hill – San Francisco in the 1890s from the PIER 70 San Francisco website.


Brutal Murder on the Water Front.


The Supposed Murderer Is Safely in Custody.


But the Police Believe They Have Without Doubt Captured the Guilty Man.

A horrible murder was committed in the rear of the Grizzly Bear Saloon, 11 East street, last night.

A woman about 30 years of age, whose name is unknown, was stabbed to death and left dying in the little apartment by a man who is supposed to be Martin O’Neil, chief of the galvanizing department of the Union Iron Works.

O’Neil entered the saloon with the woman about 9 o’clock in the evening and called for drinks. They retired to the room in the rear and remained there for several hours.

About midnight one of the proprietors. whose suspicion was aroused, went into the room, and as he entered heard a door leading to an alley close.

The woman was lying unconscious upon the floor. A pool of blood flowing from wounds in her abdomen and thighs surrounded her.

The patrol wagon was summoned and she was sent to the Receiving Hospital, but died upon the way.

The owner of the saloon and several of his friends pursued the man who had left the dying woman on the floor.

They captured him and turned him over to the police.

He said his name was Martin O’Neil ; that he lived at the Potrero, and that he is employed in the Union Iron Works.

He is a short rather corpulent man.with a bloated face, reddened by intoxication.

He declared that he met the woman and took her into the place to drink, but could not recollect what had taken place between them there. O’Neil’s shirt sleeves were covered with blood and there were gory stains upon his coat and vest.

No weapons were found upon him and he was thrown into the tanks of the City Prison.

He will probably be charged with murder to-day.

When O’Neil was searched in the prison papers were found upon him showing that he had lived in Oakland, and that his wife had been divorced from him on account of his cruelty.

O’Neil’s face was scratched in several places and blood was found under the finger nails of the woman.

An examination of the body at the morgue failed to disclose the name of the victim.

The only clew was furnished by a ring, on the interior of which were engraved the letters “K. J.”

The proprietor of the saloon says the woman was a frequenter of his place and was there known as “Kitty.”

Some small change, a key, a breastpin and a return ticket to Oakland were the only articles found upon her.

This ticket would seem to indicate that she had come from Oakland with O’Neil.

The saloon-keeper also said that he had heard that the woman was the daughter of some Judge, but he had forgotten the name and could only recall that it began with the letter “P..”

The Morning Call (San Francisco, California) Jun 28, 1893

Image of the Union Iron Works docks – 1890s from the Found sf website.



The Wife of a Newspaper Man Enticed Into a Saloon and Murdered by Her Drunken Companion. — The Fiend Arrested.

SAN FRANCISCO, Cal., June 29. — One of the most atrocious murders ever committed in this city occurred at an early hour Wednesday morning. The full details of the crime did not become known until late last night and are too revolting to admit of extended mention. The victim was Mrs. Kate Griffes, wife of a reporter employed on one of the local papers, and her murderer was Martin O’Neill, foreman of the galvanizing department at the Union Iron Works. The woman was found in a dying condition in a private room of a saloon on the harbor front early yesterday morning and died while being removed to the hospital.

It was known that O’Neill had been in the saloon with her, and he was accordingly arrested, though it was believed for some time that the woman had died from natural causes, as no marks of violence were found upon her. An autopsy was held later in the day and it was discovered then that the wooden handle attached to a bouquet of flowers, had been thrust into her body and bent and twisted until a great gash had been torn in the flesh and her internal organs mutilated in a most horrible manner. Parts of the bouquet were found embedded in her stomach. The fiendish work of the murderer had induced internal hemorrhage, which resulted in death in a short time.

Mrs. Griffes formerly lived in Philadelphia, but came here some years ago and had been living in Alameda, across the bay, with her husband and 6-year-old daughter. She was a young woman of very attractive appearance. Recently she had become addicted to the use of intoxicating liquors and had been in the habit of visiting the saloon in which she met her death.

While coming to San Francisco on the ferryboat Tuesday evening she met O’Neill, with whom she had a slight acquaintance. He is 50 years of age and has a family. He invited Mrs. Griffes to the saloon and they remained there together several hours, during which time they drank a great deal and became very much intoxicated. It is not known definitely just how the crime occurred, but there is every reason to believe that O’Neill, frenzied by liquor, attempted an assault. O’Neill was in a drunken stupor when arrested and claims he remembers nothing of the tragedy.

The Davenport Tribune (Davenport, Iowa) Jun 30, 1893


Martin O’Neil Accused of the Crime.


Two of the Victim’s Female Friends Doing Their Best to Avoid Unnecessary Publicity.

A charge of murder was entered on the books at the City Prison yesterday morning against Martin O’Neil for the killing of Mrs. Kate Griffes.

He positively refuses to talk, always giving the same answer that he is acting under the advice of his attorney. He looks sullen and dejected and appears to fully realize the gravity of the position in which he is placed.

The police are diligently hunting up his record and every little detail in connection with his meeting with Mrs. Griffes and what took place subsequently.

EEK! Sound the alarms!

O’Neil’s wife has been the mother of sixteen children to him, only three of whom are now alive, and yet he treated her harshly and cruelly. It is known that he had many intrigues with other women, and old as he was he considered himself something of a rake.

Every effort has been made by the police to find the instrument with which the fatal blow was dealt, but without “success. There is a growing impression that the terrible wound was caused by the stem end of the bouquet which Mrs. Griffes carried in her hand when she entered the Grizzly Bear saloon with O’Neil.

Detective Bohen in Breaking of this theory yesterday said: “I believe he inflicted the fatal blow with the bouquet, which contained many large stems, and may have been made around a small stick for a handle. The shock. I think, killed her instantly, and when he saw the blood on his hand and that she was apparently dead he fled from the room. There had been no struggle, I think, for the woman’s clothing was not torn. Her body must have been exposed when the fatal blow was struck, for her clothing was not penetrated, and this is further supported by the condition of her clothing as she lay on the floor after falling from the chair.

“It is, of course, difficult to say exactly what was used to inflict the wound, but it looks to me as if nothing but the stems of the bouquet did it. The blow that made the wound drove flower-stems and leaves into it,and they were found there when the autopsy was made. It would have been almost impossible to have stabbed her first and then thrust the flowers into the wound, for the external cut was too small for that. If O’Neill had any weapon it was held in his hand with the bouquet when the blow was struck.”‘

As partly bearing out this theory, when the woman’s clothing was carefully examined at the Morgue yesterday, no sign of a tear or cut could be found, but there was a broken twig nearly as large as an ordinary lead pencil and about five inches long sticking in the clotted blood on the clothing that covered the wound.

There is one thing that puzzles the police. When it was first told O’Neill after he had been arrested that the woman was murdered, he said, “Well, somebody will be glad of it.” From that remark the police, infer that O’Neill must have met her before Tuesday night, and they are making diligent inquiries to find out what O’Neill really meant by bis remark.

Mrs. Griffes has quite a number of intimate friends in this city who became acquainted with her about eighteen months ago, when she lived at 803  Golden Gate avenue.

Mr. and Mrs. B.F. Bates and Mr. and Mrs L.H.” (Laura) Bricker were in ‘this house at the time, and the three women became very close friends and were together a great deal. After leaving the Golden Gate avenue house Mr. and Mrs. Griffes moved to Alameda, and Mr. and Mrs. Bricker soon followed them. The three women k«pt up their friendly connections until a few months ago,” when Mrs. Bricker and Mrs. Griffes had a falling out and have not been on speaking terms since. Mrs. Bricker was in the city early yesterday morning and called on Mr. Bates at his office, but she returned to Alameda and was not to be found again. She informed Mr. Bates that she never heard of O’Neil before, and did not think Mrs. Griffes knew him.

A CALL reporter called at Mrs. Bates’ residence, 299 Hyde street, yesterday afternoon and was told by both the landlady and Mr. Bates that Mrs. Bates had crone to Alameda to get; some clothing for Mrs. Griffes.

There must have been a misunderstanding on the part of the landlady and Mr. Bates, for when the reporter called in the evening on Mrs. Dr. Burns at 1223 Market street it was learned that Mrs. Bates had been there all day. Mrs. Burns is Mrs. Bates’ mother, and was greatly distressed to think that her daughter’s name has been drawn into the affair. Mrs. Bates could not be seen, but her mother, who knew the murdered woman well, stated that Mrs. Bates never heard of O’Neil until the name appeared in the newspapers.

It is probable that O’Neil and Mrs. Griffes met some time before their last and horrible spree.

While there is no direct evidence to that effect, it is believed that O’Neil went to Oakland Tuesday evening for the purpose of meeting some woman. One of the drivers on the Fifth-street line, with whom O’Neil rode to the city from the Union Iron Works that evening, told a man at the works yesterday that O’Neil said he was going to Oakland to meet his “trash.” It may have been Mrs. Griffes or it may have been some other woman. If, however, O’Neil and Mrs. Griffes returned to the Grizzly Bear Saloon at the hour mentioned by the bartender it is almost certain that he did not go all the way to Alameda to meet Mrs. Grilles.

Mrs. Beggs denies the published statement that her daughter told  the police she saw O’Neil, as she thought, with a tall blond woman entering the waiting-room at the foot of Market street to go to Oakland on the 12:15 p. m. boat on Tuesday. She states that neither she or her daughter ever knew O’Neil.

The inquest will be held to-morrow at 10:30 o’clock.

The Morning Call (San Francisco, California) Jun 30, 1893

The Griffes Inquest.
Special to GAZETTE.]

SAN FRANCISCO, July 1. At 11 o’clock this morning Coroner Hughes commenced an inquest into the death of Mrs. Kate Griffes, who was killed in the Grizzly Bear Saloon by Martin O’Neil. A large crowd was in attendance, many being attracted by the desire to see O’Neil and hear his story of the crime. He appeared in his shirt sleeves, attended by Robert Ferral, his counsel. After the jury had viewed the body the remainder of the day was spent in examining witnesses.

Weekly Gazette Stockman (Reno, Nevada) Jul 6, 1893

The Morning Call (San Francisco, California) Jul 4, 1893

Charged with Murder.
Special to the JOURNAL]

SAN FRANCISCO, July 3. — After an investigation of the circumstances attending the brutal murder of Mrs. Kate Griffes in a water front saloon last Tuesday night, the coroner’s jury this evening brought a verdict charging Martin O’Neil with murder.

Daily Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada) Jul 4, 1893

O’Neil’s Trial Commenced.
Special to the GAZETTE.]

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 20. — The trial of Martin O’Neil, the man who is charged with the revolting murder of Kate Greffes in a private room of a water front saloon on Jun 28th last, was commenced before Judge Wallace this morning. The work of empaneling a jury was commenced.

Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) Nov 20, 1893

Again Postponed.

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov, 22. — The jury-bribing cases of Frank McManus and W.J. Dunn were again continued yesterday morning until Thursday noon by consent, the court and District-Attorney Barnes being engaged in the trial of Martin O’Neil, charged with the murder of Mrs. Kate Griffes last June.

Decatur Daily Republican (Decatur, Illinois) Nov 22, 1893


A Jury Not Yet Selected for O’Neil.


Not Easy to Get Men Who Are Unbiased.


Forty Citizens Examined Yesterday – The Dead Woman’s Husband in Court.

Meanwhile the defendant sat throughout the proceedings, his wife beside him, with the old restless downcast stare, and the same nervous twitching of the hands. Once or twice he looked up, and once or twice he spoke, but it was not until the weary day’s work was over that the unhappy man was seen to smile feebly at some cheery remark made by his counsel, Carroll Cook. And the gaping crowd have stood, wondering to themselves, if “that feeble-looking spectacled old wreck” can be the diabolical villain they had read of.

The Morning Call (San Francisco, California) Nov 22, 1893


A Jury Secured in Martin O’Neil’s Case.


The Testimony That Has Been Offered Thus Far.


From the “Ladies’ Entrance” to the Wineroom— The Dead Body on the Floor— The Arrest.

After three days spent in securing eleven jurors in the case of Martin O’Neil, who is charged with the murder of Mrs. Kate Griffes, the twelfth man was accepted yesterday in less than an hour after court was called, and the jury finally empaneled consists of S. W. Dixon, the last one chosen, and David Keil, Charles Ashton, Arthur Patterson, Lawrence Felvey, Manfred H.Heyneman, W. F. Muller. Charles Benjamin, W. T. V. Scbenck, W. B. Isaacs, Monroe Greenwood and Julius Steinberger.

As soon as the work of securing the jury was:completed Assistant District Attorney Black opened the case for the prosecution by relating the story of the crime and all the attendant circumstances. He stated that the prosecution would introduce evidence to prove that O’Neil and Mrs.Griffes went to the Grizzly Bear saloon on East street together on the night of June 28 last, and that they occupied a private room there from about 10 p. m. until after midnight; that during that time they were frequently served with liquor; that about 1 o’clock O’Neil suddenly left the saloon alone, while at the same time Mrs. Griffes was found dead in the wineroom from wounds, which the circumstances would show had been inflicted by O’Neil.

J.H. Griffes, the husband of the deceased, was the first witness called by the prosecution. He testified that the last time he saw his wife alive, was at their home in Alameda on the morning previous to the day of her death. He said that the deceased was at times fond of liquor, and that periodically the appetite was almost uncontrollable. Her absence from home on the  fatal night had not caused any alarm, as he supposed she was with friends in this city.

William H. Davies, the proprietor of the Grizzly Bear saloon, occupied the afternoon with his testimony.

“I was standing at the end of the hallway which forms the ladies’ entrance to the saloon, about 10 o’clock in the evening, when O’Neil and the woman whom I afterward knew as Mrs. Griffes came in together,” said he.. “They took a wineroom, and I took their order, and at first each ordered lager, but as I started toward the bar O’Neil said to make his a whisky. and after I left the room he followed me and said, ‘Make it two whiskies.’

“I served the drinks, and from that time up to midnight I served them with five more. When I brought in t:he first order Mrs. Griffes said to me, “I guess you don’t know me. I’m Mrs. Bates, friend, Kittie.’  and I then remembered that I had seen her there before.”

“At this time, as indeed all during the evening, the conversation was of a pleasant nature, and  I heard nothing which would indicate a quarrel of any kind.

The wineroom is so situated that any unusual noise could be heard in the barroom, or in next door, which is separated only by a door, which is now nailed up.

“About half past 11 I was serving them with an order, and I asked them if they were going back to Oakland or Alameda that night. Mrs. Griffes replies that she was going to stay with Mrs. Bates’ mother that night. I took in another round of drinks about midnight, in which I had asked them to join me, and then I went out for my supper. When 1came back, a .half hour later, I was busy making up my cash, and at other work about the saloon, until a man named Ferris who frequents my place, mentioned to that the man was leaving the wineroom alone, and   I at once went to the door, but could not push it back more than six inches, but I stuck my head in far enough to see that the woman was lying on the floor with her head on a chair and her feet against the door, and that there was blood on the floor.

“I at once called to Ferris and said, ‘For God’s sake, don’t let that man get away, for I think he has murdered this woman.’ I followed out a moment later and overtook Ferris and O’Neil at the corner of Clay and East streets, where some officers had also arrived by this time. When O’Neil was told that Mrs.Griffes was dead he said: ‘Oh, that’s all right. It will all come out in the wash.’

“We then returned to the saloon and found the floor covered with blood, while the loose bouquet of flowers which had been carried by Mrs.Griffes was scattered,  part of it being on the table, but much of it strewn on the floor and mingled with  blood.”

“If there had been any outcry of any kind or any unusual noise I would certainly have heard it, for even the moving of the chairs in the wineroom can be heard at the bar, but I heard nothing at all which attracted my attention.”

At the close of Davies’ testimony the court took an adjournment until Monday at 10 a. m.

The Morning Call (San Francisco, California) Nov 24, 1893


Martin O’Neil Receives the Full Limit.


Judge Wallace Speaks His Mind Freely.


Absurd That One Who Committed Such a Deed Should Get Off With a Few Years in Prison.

Martin O’Neil was sentenced by Judge Wallace yesterday to ten years’ imprisonment for the killing of Mrs. Kate Griffes.

The occasion afforded Judge Wallace an opportunity to express his views upon the present system of criminal procedure. Wearied and disgusted by numerous futile attempts to see that each offender receives an amount of punishment proportionate to his crime, the Judge in addressing O’Neil yesterday, and using the case at bar for an example, commented strongly upon the manner in which the hands of justice were tied by the constitution as it at present stands. He also took occasion to remark that in his opinion the verdict of manslaughter was hardly borne out by evidence at the trial, in that such evidence pointed, at least, to a verdict of murder in the second degree.

The prisoner sat quietly in the courtroom, apparently unconcerned, but betrayingly the restless twitching of his hands that he feared the ordeal before him. His wife sat beside him as before and sought by her loving presence to do what she could to help him bear his fate.

As soon as Judge Wallace had taken his seat the case was called and O’Neil ordered to stand up. Judge Wallace then laid some manuscript before him, adjusted bis spectacles, and proceeded as follows:

“Martin O’Neil; you were accused of the murder of Kate Griffes; to this accusation when read to you here you pleaded not guilty; upon trial, and after an elaborate and able defense, the jury found you guilty of the crime of manslaughter; have you any legal cause to show why judgment should not be passed upon you upon the verdict.”

Carroll Cook, on behalf of the prisoner, called attention to the fact that his client was drunk at the time and oblivious to what was going on. He insisted that the punishment should be light.

Judge Wallace then resumed: “The necessary import of the verdict, is that you did in fact feloniously take the life of the deceased woman, and by the disgusting and brutal means shown in the evidence; you were, therefore, plainly guilty of murder; that yon were drunk when you did the act afforded no defense as against the charge of murder in the second degree, and as the entire jury appear to have been satisfied that you committed the act charged, you should at least have been convicted of that offense —the offense of murder in the second degree; it is understood that some eleven of the gentlemen of the jury were of that opinion, too. Among the twelve, however, one was found who, while he, like the others, was convinced that you feloniously took the life of the woman, nevertheless refused to concur in a verdict of murder, and so the others of the jury were forced either to adopt the views of their one dissenting associate or find no verdict at all.

“It is provided by the constitution that in civil cases three-fourths of the jury may render a verdict, but in criminal cases absolute unanimity is still required by our law. The conspicuous failure of substantial justice which has thus resulted in your case may possibly suggest to thoughtful men the advisability of changing the constitution, so as to permit a number of juror*less than the whole to render a verdict in criminal as well as in civil cases.

“The verdict here, as already observed, is a verdict of manslaughter; the extreme measure of punishment mentioned in our statute for that offense is imprisonment in the State Prison for a term not exceeding ten years in duration. And then, under the law of this State, even should this extreme penalty be now adjudged against you, the term of your actual imprisonment is subject to material reduction, for a sentence of ten years’ imprisonment formally imposed here will probably turn out by mere operation of statutory law to be an imprisonment of no more than six years and six mouths in actual duration, to say nothing of the interposition of the executive authority to still further reduce the term or to pardon the offense outright. For wantonly and feloniously taking the life of a defenseless woman six years’ and six months’ imprisonment! In fact, the system of criminal administration at this time established by our constitution and laws would appear wholly inadequate to deal properly with crimes such as yours.

“The jury having found you guilty of the crime of manslaughter, the sentence of the court is that you be imprisoned in the State Prison for a term of ten years.”

The unhappy man’s wife on hearing the sentence burst into tears, while O’Neil sat with his hands closed together and his eyes bent on the ground, while his mind doubtless traveled back through circumstances and events in the past which, through his own fault alone, led to the utter ruin and desolation of his home. He was quickly led from the room and the court proceeded with the regular business of the day.

The Morning Call (San Francisco, California) Dec 19, 1893


What’s that old saying? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?

Young Martin O’Neil.

Martin O’Neil Jr., the son of the man now incarcerated in the San Francisco prison charged with the murder of Mrs. Kate Griffes in a water-front saloon, was tried before Judge Allen yesterday and convicted by the jury after a few minutes’ deliberation on a charge of battery, committed on an old man named George Creverling on May 14 last.

O’Neil,  Jr. was drunk at the time of the beating and kicking. He pleaded his own case, claiming that what he aid was done in self-defense. His old mother sat by him yesterday in court.

Young O’Neil is a hard enough working fellow when sober, but he has been in trouble before through his drinking, and always heretofore his mother has been able to get him out of trouble. He will be sentenced to-day.

The Morning Call (San Francisco, California) Aug 24, 1893

Left My Bed and Board

March 9, 2011

Perplexing Case.

Hon. James H. Knowlton, one of our most eminent Western advocates, met with the following perplexing adventure in his early practice in Wisconsin:

A stranger came into his office and abruptly informed his that his wife had deserted him, and wished to have her replevined at once. Knowlton told him that that remedy would not meet his case exactly, and went on to inform him that if he would be patient until the desertion had continued one year, he could obtain a divorce. —

The stranger said he did not know that he wanted a divorce. What he mostly feared was that his wife would run him in debt all over the country.

“In that case,” said Knowlton, “you had better post her.”

What his client understood him to mean by posting, remains a mystery to this day. He said, in a meditative way the he didn’t know where she had gone, and beside, that she was fully as strong as he was, and he didn’t believe he could post her, even if he knew where to find her.

Knowlton hastened to inform him that by posting his wife he meant puting a notice in a newspaper, saying:

“Whereas my wife Helen has left my bed and board without any just -”

“But that ain’t true,” interrupted the client — “that ain’t true. she didn’t leave my bed — she took it away with her.”

The Adams Sentinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Sep 25, 1861


WHEREAS my wife Anne, late widow of David Risher, had left my bed and board without just cause, on the 26th inst. — This is therefore to caution all persons, from trusting or harboring her on my account, as I am determined to pay no debts of her contracting after this date.

Bethlehem tp. July 27.

The Ohio Repository (Canton, Ohio) Aug 19, 1824

NOTICE. — WHEREAS MY WIFE, Anna Rolland, has left my bed and board I shall pay no more bills of her contracting from this date.

LEVI (his X mark) ROLLAND,
Fitchburg, Jan. 23, 1874.

The Fitchburg Sentinel (Fitchburg, Massachusetts) Jan 29, 1874


NOTICE is hereby given to all persons, that my wife Hannah Fosdick has left my bed and board, and has taken one of my children with her, John H. Fosdick. I hereby forbid all persons harboring or trusting her on my account, or in behalf of the child, as I will pay no debts of her contracting after this date; as I will support the child when returned to me at Norwalk.

Norwalk, Sept. 4, 1844

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Sep 24, 1844


I, the undersigned, caution the Public against trusting my Wife LYDIA M’WHIRTER — she having left my bed and board last October, without any provocation and against my consent. I will not pay any debts of her contracting from this date.

Baltimore July 17, 1841.

The Adams Sentinel (Gettsyburg, Pennsylvania) Aug 2, 1841


WHEREAS my wife Elvira Bridges, without any good cause or reasonable excuse there for, has left my bed and board and absconded with my two children this is to caution all persons from harboring her or them and to give notice that I shall pay no debts of her contracting or pay any expense for their or either of their support having suitably provided for them at my house in Bucksport.

Bucksport Oct 12 1841

Bangor Daily Whig and Courier (Bangor, Maine) Oct 26, 1841


MY wife, REBECCA, left my bed and board, and refuses to live with me under any consideration whatever, after intercessions and propositions of every kind, that an affectionate husband could make. I, therefore, hereby warn all persons not to harbor or trust her on my account, as I have arrangements made for her board, and by calling on me, or on Messrs. Wareing & Benson, or C. & J. Culp, she can have information, and be conducted to the house.

Plymouth, Huron County, Nov. 16, 1842.

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Nov 29, 1842

Pass Him Round. — Mrs. Elizabeth Peterman, of Rochester, Fulton county, Indiana, thus notices her absconding husband: “Left my bed and board, last August, thereby making my expenses lighter, my dearly beloved companion, David Peterman, without any just cause or provocation. All the old maids and young girls are hereby forewarned against harboring or trusting him on my account, as I am determined not to be accountable for his debts, or, more especially, for his conduct. Papers will please copy, and oblige a female who is rejoicing at her happy riddance.” — Indiana Blade.

The Adams Sentinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Apr 13, 1846

Dennis O’Shanessy advertises as follows in the Columbus Republican: “I hereby give notice that my wife Bridget has left my bed and board and that I will not pay her debts, as we are not married.”

The Ohio Democrat (New Philadelphia, Ohio) Apr 12, 1872

Poetry Against Prose.

The following notices appear as advertisements in the Ticonderoga Sentinal of recent date:


Whereas my wife Josephine has left my bed and board without just cause or provocation, all persons are hereby forbidden to trust or harbor her on my account, as I shall pay no debts of her contracting hereafter.


No bed or board as yet we’ve had
From William O. or William’s dad.
Since last September, when we were wed,
Have furnished him both board and bed;
And for just cause and provocation
Have sent him home to his relation.


Josie has the best of it in wit if nothing else.

The Ohio Democrat (New Philadelphia, Ohio) Oct 5, 1893


To whom it may concern: All persons are hereby notified that Joseph Leipert has left my bed and board without any cause or reason therefor, and that hereafter I will not be responsible for any board, lodging, clothing, food, expenses, or other article furnished him.

Dated at Corning, Iowa, February 26, 1898.


Adams County Free Press (Corning, Iowa) Mar 10, 1898


My husband, John S. Sanders, having left my bed and board, notice is hereby given the public not to sell him anything in my name as I will not be responsible for debts or bills contracted by him.

New Oxford, Pa.

New Oxford Item (New Oxford, Pennsylvania) Sep 5, 1918

To all Whom it may Concern.

My wife, Francis Catching, having separated from me, and having left my bed and board without any just cause or provocation, I hereby notify all persons not to trust or give her credit on my account, as I will pay no bills, debts, or obligations contracted by her from and after this date, of any nature or kind whatever.

Missoula, M.T., Feb. 23, 1883.

The Daily Miner (Butte, Montana) Mar 4, 1883

MY WIFE, Mrs. I.H. Tupen, having left my bed and board, I will not be responsible for any debts contracted by her after this date, December 11, 1919. Irving H. Tupen.

P.S. — Her name formerly was Miss Avy Alice Cutlip.

Woodland Daily Democrat (Woodland, California) Dec 19, 1919

Acrostics for the Dead

February 15, 2011

An Acrostic.
[To The News.]

An old veteran submits the following double acrostic blending the name of Geo. Ball and the High school, as they will ever be inseparably connected:

Grand was the man whom, while God gave the breatH,
Enthron’d with wisdom and strength to replI;
Opened the doors — a temple of learninG;
Riches to the mind, and joy to the heartH,
God grant his bounteous gift may ever blesS
Each pupil — grades to the scientifiC;
Blending in harmony Art’s highest brancH.
Ages after ages will come and gO
Loving hearts revere the name of one whO
Left this token of affection to alL.


Galveeston, September 25, 1885

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Sep 27, 1885

An Excellent Programme to the Memory of George Ball, Galveston’s Philanthropist.

The recitations given by each were as follows:


Gone! Is that man gone
Whose influence is upon his kind?
He lives in glory, and his speaking dust
Has more of life than half its breathing maids.

Each hero’s name
Shall shine untarnished on the roll of fame,
And stand the example of each distant age,
And add new luster to the historic page.

On Fame’s eternal camping ground
His great, good name is read.
and glory guards with solemn round
The last home of the dead.

Rugged strength and radiant beauty —
These were one in nature’s plan;
Humble toil and heavenward duty —
These will form the perfect man.

Great men by their lives remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

Earth may not claim them. Nothing here
Could be for them a mear reward;
Theirs is a treasure for more dear —
Eye hath not seen it, nor the ear
Of dying mortal heard
The joys prepared, the promised bliss above —
The holy presence of Eternal Love.

By fairy hands their knell is rung,
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
There Honor comes, a pilgrim gray,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay;
And Freedom shall awhile repair,
To dwell, a weeping hermit, there.

A city’s gratitude in thee,
Meet tribute to thy honored memory,
A time-enduring monument shall raise
And garland it with glory’s brightest rays.
They noble deed with each returning year
Shall make thee over to us ?? more dear.

Lo, there is no death; the stars go down
To rise upon some fairer shore.
And bright in heaven’s jeweled crown
They shine forevermore.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) May 10, 1885

Edmund Jackson Davis:

An Elegaic Acrostic.

Erewhile a form of manliness and grace
Did tread our thoroughfares, and we could trace
Much in the man to win our reverence!
Unto all so courteous, without pretense.
None this denied, how else their verdict ran,
Despite all doubt, he is a gentleman.

Justice, perchance, demands no judgment hard;
Defects like his, our Hancock might have marred,
A captive had he been, as once the dead.
Vilest of dooms impending o’er his head —
It may be, here, injustice scarred his brow,
Supreme the wisdom that doth judge him now.

AUSTIN, Feb. 12, 1883. CARITAD.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Feb 16, 1883

Image by Jill.

To Our Child.

The following acrostic, the work of our townsman James Tyson, was handed to us to publish, as aside from the fact of possessing literary merit is has a local application in forming the name of one dear to many of us, now passed to the home beyond the river:

Florence, tis not wrong to cherish fond memory,
Link it with the past in pleasant, happy dreams.
Oh, no! we think of sunny days that
Recollection calls back, of times that were
Ever full with privileged joys agone,
N‘er to return in earth’s abiding place,
Can we contemplate without sorrowing,
Ever recollecting days of childhood?

No, never! never!! ‘Tis not right we should.

Well, then, let it be our greatest pleasure,
Recollecting the pleasant incidents
Ever an anon strewn in Life’s walks —
Ne’er to weary in contemplation —
Ne’er to forget these many happy hours.

The Mountain Democrat (Placerville, California) Jul 1, 1893

A Poser for Pa

December 15, 2010

A Poser for Pa.

“Paw,” said little Tommy Figg. “I heard Mr. Watts say that great men’s sons never did any good. I ain’t a great man’s son, am I?”

Up to a late hour Mr. Figg’s mind had not found a sufficiently diplomatic answer.

The Evening News (Lincoln, Nebraska) Sep 2, 1893

The Horse Objected

December 8, 2010

The Horse Objected.

Luther Springer, of Hancock, Me., owns a horse, whose days of usefulness being over, he hired a man to kill.

The man taking an axe started to lead the horse into the woods, but after going some distance the animal suddenly attacked the would be slayer and throwing him down trampled upon him and injured him so badly that it is feared he will not recover.

At last accounts the horse’s prospects of living were much better than the man’s.

— Philadelphia Ledger.

The Evening News (Lincoln, Nebraska) Jan 6, 1893

Rhyming Decapitations

December 5, 2010

No.230. — Rhyming Decapitations.

In front we see a railroad _____,
Near by a farmer, team and _____.

A quarter of an hour _____
The train was due, yet on they _____.

The train, though late, yet still was _____;
Its sound soon fell upon his _____.

His eye beheld a smoky _____;
He heard the whistle sounding _____.

His horses stopped, o’ercome with _____,
And moved to neither left nor _____.

The engineer shut off the _____
And saved collision with the _____.

The farmer had a fearful ____,
And he henceforth will use more _____.

The Evening News (Lincoln, Nebraska) Sep 2, 1893

American Thanksgiving: Faith – Hope – Love and Squirrel Potpie

November 24, 2010

The New Era (Humeston, Iowa) Nov 22, 1893

Here is another Thanksgiving Day menu, this time from Newark, Ohio — 1888:

The most interesting thing on this menu has to be the Squirrel Potpie! Hm, “hunter’s style” — I wonder what that means? Fur and all?

The following quotes, unattributed, were also on the same page of the paper:

The richest and most envied man unshorn of his wealth of money, but deprived of all the common benefits which his poorest brother man enjoys as an in alienable right, would be poorer than the poorest pauper.

To express adequate thanks for all the blessings the average American citizen enjoys would require a whole week of steady gratitude.

All may give thanks who are stirred by thoughts of the betterment of the world and can rejoice at its continuous and increasing fulfillment. God reigns and God wills, and he neither reigns nor wills for naught.

Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Nov 28, 1888

Humeston Gobblers

November 24, 2010


“THIS vulgar old farmyard! It must be that I,
With my talents and beauty, was born to live high.
I’m tired to death of the meaningless clack
Of these ignorant fowls, with their ‘cluck’ and their ‘quack.'”
Thus mused a lone gobbler, the last of the brood,
As he eyed his companions in quarrelsome mood,
“I long for the cultured surroundings of town
And a share of the world’s goodly praise and renown.
I’m not a mere turkey, I’m almost a bird” —
And, suiting the action at once to the word,
He flopped his great wings in excitement and flew
Just a few feet in air when he lit in a slough.
“I’m almost a peacock,” undaunted he cried,
And down went his broad double-chin in its pride.
And then, with the rustle and stir of high birth,
He spread out his feathers for all they were worth,
And strutted and trilled in his voluble way
Till the awe-stricken poultry-tribe fled in dismay.

“Look, ma, that there turkey,” quoth old Farmer Brown,
Who appeared at this moment, “I’ll take right to town;
He’ll go like a hot-cake on Thanksgivin’ Day.
Come, git on yer fixin’s, and don’t yer delay,
I’ll give yer the proceeds to git a new hat —
A snug leetle mite, fur her’s oncommon fat.”
Such low, boorish jargon of course was not clear
To this elegant bird’s most fasidious ear;
So they trotted him off the the great distant town
Where a fashionable family gobbled him down, Admired and praised as the tenderest meat
It ever had been their good fortune to eat.
‘Mid “cultured surroundings” he melted away,
His dreams more than realized — King for a day!


The New Era (Humeston, Iowa) Nov 28, 1888

Now for Turkey Jokes.

“Arn’t you afraid that you are living rather too well for your health?” asked the chicken.

“I ain’t in this for my health,” answered the turkey between the pecks. “I’m out for the stuff, so to speak.”

The New Era (Humeston, Iowa) Nov 25, 1891

The New Era (Humeston, Iowa) Nov 22, 1893


Thanksgiving day draws on apace and already the turkey is stretching his joints to make them tough against the festival day. A few suggestions from one of experience in carving may prove beneficial to those who are more accustomed to the easy surgical work employed in carving a round steak, than in the physical dissection of gobblers. When the fowl is placed before you, assume a pleasing smile and a confident manner. It will inspire confidence in those about you.

Keep the turkey on the platter. It is not now considered in good taste to carve it on the table cloth, or to hold it firm with one knee. Should it slip from the platter into your lap, restore it to its place before continuing to hunt for the lost joint. As before suggested, however, it is best to keep the turkey on the platter while carving. The carving fork should be inserted firmly in the breast and it is considered preferable to steady the corpse with the forth rather than by grasping its neck. In the mean time, keep the turkey on the platter. The leg is fastened to the body by a joint. Hunt for it patiently.

Don’t try to cut the bone in two. Should the joint be refractory, quietly ask the hostess for a saw. Watch the fowl suspiciously, for in such a moment as ye think not, it will take unto itself wings and fly into your fair neighbor’s lap. At this point a humorous story, told in your most facetious vein, will help matters amazingly and leave the waiting guests in good spirits, especially if you keep the turkey on the platter. Dismember a wing or two. Bear down on the joint. If the thing slips and shoves the dressing over the edge of the platter, make light of hte incident as a common place matter, and tell about how you used to carve ducks years ago. Then go for the wish bone. Promise the young miss that she shall have the straddling thing to hang over the door. Keep on cutting; the wish bone is there somewhere. Gain time by discovering a side bone or two. But keep the wishbone in your mind’s eye.

If you should find it necessary to use your fingers to secure the bone, it is considered more polite we believe, to wipe them on the table cloth rather than to suck off the grease. It is, we understand, now considered decidedly proper to transfer the dismembered gobbler to the guests’ plates with a long fork rather than to use your fingers. But this is a mere matter of taste, a simple freak of fashion, as it were. By following this simple advise, it will be easy for anyone to carve the turkey, and we have only one parting suggestion, which is that in carving a turkey,it is now considered decidedly more dignified to allow the fowl to remain on the platter.


The New Era (Humeston, Iowa) Nov 22, 1893

Family on Porch in Humeston, Iowa (Image from

This family (unknown name) looks like they could have posed for this picture on Thanksgiving day.  Deadfred states this was taken in Humeston, Iowa, which, evidently, is pronounced Hum – es -ton, according to their rather impressive website. They have a nice promotional video for their town at the link. Looks like a quaint little town with beautiful scenery.

The Scarecrow: Occupation, Crime and Complaint

October 25, 2010

Image from (by Kristina Layton)


In yonder field he stands erect,
No matter what the weather,
And keeps a watch so circumspect
On foes of every feather.
So faithful is he to the trust
Committed to his keeping
That all the birds suspect he must
Dispense with any sleeping.

Sometimes his hat tips down so low
It seems a cause for censure,
For then some old courageous crow
Believes it safe to venture;
But catching sight of either arm
Outstretched in solemn warning,
The crow decides to leave this farm
Until another morning.

Although his dress is incomplete,
It really does not matter;
Perchance the truest heart may beat
Beneath a patch or tatter.
And it is wrong to base our love
On wealth and name and station,
For he who will may rise above
His daily occupation.

We should not look with eyes of scorn,
And find in him no beauty,
Who stands and guards our fields of corn,
And does the whole world duty.
But honor him for native worth,
For rustic independence,
And send a hearty greeting forth
For him and his descendants.

Martha Caverno Cook, in Harper’s Young People.

The Hazel Green Herald (Hazel Green, Kentucky) Oct 14, 1885

This was also published in The Wellsboro Agitator (Wellsboro, Pennsylvania) on Feb 4, 1890.  One word had been changed in the last line: “To” was used instead of “For.”

The Scarecrow’s Complaint.

The farmer’s daughter fixed me up —
‘Twas really quite a sin;
My hat is down clear o’er my eyes —
I haven’t any chin.

My arms are sticking right out straight —
I scorn this ragged coat;
My trousers — this is worst of all —
Are fastened round my throat.

Alas — that cruel farmer’s girl —
Her heart is hard and bad;
She brings her beaux to look at me —
And giggles just like mad.

— Chicago Record-Herald.

New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania) Jun 17, 1901



The Trial of the Scarecrow.

“The prisoner, your honor,
As the court well knows,
Is accused of the crime
Of alarming the crows.”

Then the jury retired
Till they call could agree
To punish the rascal
Or let him go free.
They found a true bill,
With a great many caws,
“That the scarecrow with malice
Had broken the laws.”

Then up rose the judge,
And he solemnly said,
“I sentence the prisoner
To swing till he’s dead!”

The Daily News (Frederick, Maryland) Sep 30, 1893

A White Cap Swings…but Lives

October 18, 2010

Will Purvis was mentioned in my Colonel Jones Stewart Hamilton: The Train and the Tragedies post, although the finer details were a bit mixed up. The victim was Will Buckley, not someone named McDonald.

A White Cap to Hang.

Jackson, Miss., January 1. — (Special.) — the supreme court today affirmed the death sentence of the circuit court of Marion count vs. Will Purvis, the young white man convicted of murdering Buckley. Purvis, it will be remembered, was a white cap and killed Buckley, who had been a witness before the grand jury against the outlaws. He belongs to a large family. Every effort has been made to save him. The execution has been ordered for February 2d.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Jan 2, 1894


Purvis Drops, the Rope Breaks, but His Neck Does Not.


Sheriff Magee Is Begged to Spare the Condemned Man.


They Shout That  They Will Stand by the Sheriff, Who Takes His Prisoner Back to Jail.

New Orleans, February 7. — (Special.) — Will Purvis’s neck was saved today at Columbus, Miss., not by executive clemency, but as Rev. J.G. Sibley, a Methodist minister, explained it, by a divine intervention of providence. As soon as the trap fell Purvis, instead of being hurled into eternity, was precipitated to the ground. The noose had let loose and Purvis’s neck instead of being broken was only slightly abrazed by the rope.

He fell on his back and remained perfectly still for a few moments. The Constitution’s correspondent was the first to reach him, and leaning over to discover if he had been frightened to death, called to Purvis, “Are you hurt?”

From beneath his black cap Purvis replied:
“For God’s sake get me out of this.”

Others came up and Sheriff Magee made ready to conduct Purvis back to the scaffold for a second attempt. There were four of the board of supervisors present and they called the sheriff into the courthouse for a conference. They advised that in the face of Purvis having so stoutly protested his innocence and of his having made a partial confession of what he had known of the Buckley murder, that all these facts be laid before the governor and that further proceedings be postponed to await orders from the governor.

Sheriff Magee said that he would willingly accede to such a proposition, but his orders were imperative. He recognized the authority of the supervisors but they had no jurisdiction over a matter of this nature. Purvis’s statement contained this admission of his belonging to the white cap organization and the iron-clad oaths that  each member was compelled to take and the severe punishment by death if the orders of the organization were not observed.

Clergymen Crowd Around.

It also contained the names of a large number of the active members who have terrorized this county for some time past. These parties will be arrested and brought to trial. It was on the importance that would be attached to such a statement that the sheriff would be excusable for disobeying the mandate of the supreme court that Purvis must hang. Prominent citizens and clergymen crowded around the sheriff and sought to interfere with or blink his merciful promptings.

It was a most awful moment for Mr. Magee. Finally he agreed to a proposition made by one of the pleaders — Rev. Mr. Sibley, of the Columbia Methodist church. Gathered around the scene of the expected execution were over 1000 spectators from every section of Marion county. They made up the community that had been outraged by the murder of young Buckley. He went out and laid before them everything in connection with the unfortunate man’s last moments from the time that the party left Lumberton on Tuesday morning, where all telegraphic communication had been cut off; told the people of hte confession that Purvis had made and informed them of his persistence in denying that he took Buckley’s lfe and his maintenance of he same in his last moments.

Polling the Crowd.

The minister then called out for a popular verdict to decide whether further proceedings be delayed until Governor Stone could be heard from. The party again repaired to the gallows and in a most pathetic and soul-stirring address, Rev. Mr. Sibley laid the above case before the populace. In the immense assemblage, black and white, not one dissenting voice was raised. There was lusty cheering for the miraculous interposition that had saved the life of the boy whom every one in that great gathering now evidently believed to be guiltless.

A most unheard-of and unprecedented proceeding had become a matter of record.

Dr. Sibley then informed the crowd that for his action Sheriff Magee had rendered himself liable to indictment and impeachment. He would, therefore, ask if the people would stand by him should action be taken against him.

Pledging Support to the Sheriff.

“We will, we will, to our last dollar. He has saved the life of an innocent boy,” were the answers shouted back to him.

The guards and those on the platform crowded around Purvis to embrace and congratulate him. The lad sat in stupified amazement as if trying to make out all that was going on. When he was fiannly made to realize what had been done, he sobbed convulsively and said:

“I asked a merciful God to spare me, an innocent boy, and He did. May He be praised.”

His cousins, who had remained in the background, came forward and with him wept for joy. Sheriff Magee said that he would keep Purvis under a guard at the courthouse tonight and would set out for Lumberton with the prisoner in the morning. He would then wire Governor Stone of the proceedings. Thence h will take Purvis back to Meridian, Miss., there place him in jail again, subject to the governor’s orders. He felt confident that when the matter was placed before Governor Stone fully and properly, that he would approve of the course that he had pursued.

The Journey to the Gallows.

Purvis was taken from his cell at Meridian on Tuesday morning. He was placed aboard a New Orleans and Northeastern train and taken over one hundred miles south to Lumbertown. There the sheriff and party, among whom was The Constitution’s correspondent, disembarked and were met by an armed body of about sixty deputies. This guard was deemed necessary for there had been whisperings about some probable attempt to rescue Purvis by the white caps on the road to Columbia, the point of destination. To reach this place thirty-two miles of pine forest road had to be traveled, either on stage or on horseback, and the journey was made without incident or accident. Purvis was placed in the courthouse under guard. He passed a sleepless night, praying and singing with the clergymen who came to visit him. But he steadfastly professed his innocence of the Buckley murder. He acknowledged, however, being a white cap, and gave the names of parties prominently connected with them. He was shaved and furnished a new suit of clothes, and after being bidden farewell by a few of his cousins, who had come to visit him, he was led to the gallows. There he maintained his innocence up the the very last. Teh drop fell at 12:37 o’clock.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Feb 8, 1894


His Parents Receive Him as One Risen from the Dead.

Purvis, Miss., February 9. — M.J. McLelland, deputy sheriff, passed through here this evening with Will Purvis, the young white cap. Various opinions are expressed as to Purvis’s escape from death, the story of which was published by no paper east of the Mississippi river except The Constitution. In New Orleans The Picayne was the only paper which published the story, all the other papers announcing that Purvis was hanged.

Some think that the rope was left untied on purpose for him to escape death; others think that is was a clear case of carelessness on the part of the sheriff; others, still more superstitious, think it a special act of providence to save his life in order that more facts in the case might be developed in the future.

Believed to Be Innocent.

Purvis was being carried to Hattiesburg for safe keeping until the sheriff could obtain official information in regard to his disposal. There has been a radical change in the minds of the people in regard to his guilt since the attempt at his execution on last Wednesday. It is believed now by nearly every one that he is an innocent man and that the real murderer of Will Buckley is still at large. When the deputy sheriff arrived here with him this evening the people, in order to get a glimpse of the young man who had escaped death so miraculously, crowded the waiting room almost to suffocation. He was brought from Columbia, a distance of thirty-two miles, today, and allowed to stop at his father’s house, which is on the road. His parents received him almost as one who had arisen from the dead. The prisoner was in fine spirits, looked fat and fine and was well dressed, having on the same suit in which he was dressed when he mounted the scaffold expecting to die.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Feb 10, 1894


His Son Went to the Scaffold Rather Than Tell.

Jackson, Miss., February 17. — (Special) — Reports from Marion county tend to confirm the suggestion that Ike Purvis, father of Will Purvis, fired the shot that killed Will Buckley and that Will Purvis, while denying that he committed the crime, refuses to tell who did it in order to shield his father. It is said the conduct of Ike Purvis is highly suspicious.


He Concedes That Will Purvis May Not Be the Assassin.

Meridian, Miss., February 17. — (Special.) — Since the terrible ordeal through which Will Purvis passed last Wednesday, February 14th, Jim Buckley, the brother of Will Buckley, who was shot from ambush, has been heard to say: “That he possibly was mistaken in saying that Will Purvis was the murderer.” Buckley was present when the shooting was done.

This rumor reached the ears of the district attorney, James H. Neville, this afternoon, for the first time, and he immediately wrote to Jim Buckley to know if the assertion was true. If Buckley claims that he was mistaken in recognizing Will Purvis as the slayer of his brother, then Purvis will be given a new trial at least.

Purvis is at present incarcerated in the new jail at Hattiesburg.

He talks freely about his narrow and miraculous escape from hanging. Hundreds of people from a distance have been to see the “boy wonder” through mere curiosity.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Feb 18, 1894


The Supreme Court Has No Jurisdiction in the Purvis Case.

Jackson, Miss., February 19. — (Special.) — The supreme court has denied the motion of the attorney general to resentence Will Purvis the whitecap, who escaped the death noose by the bungling job of Sheriff Magee in Marion county. The supreme court stated that it had nothing whatever to do with the case, and that it was a matter of the circuit court. Purvis cannot be resentenced until the June term of the circuit court at Columbia unless Judge Terrell shall sooner call a special term of court for that purpose.

The impression grows stronger every day that while Will Purvis was present when Buckley was assassinated, his father, Ike Purvis, did the killing, and that the whitecaps cast lots as to who should do the bloody work. It is reported that Will Purvis has made a fuller confession than has been published and that a great many more people are implicated as whitecaps in Marion county than the public had supposed. Will Purvis is in jail at Hattiesburg.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Feb 20, 1894


Will Purvis Must Go Before the Court Again for Sentence.

Meridian, Miss., March 1. — (Special.) — District Attorney James H. Neville made application today to Judge Terrell, asking for a writ of habeas corpus returnable in June next to have the body of Will Purvis produced in the next term of the circuit court of Marion county, there to again receive the sentence of death. A writ of habeas corpus will be sued out by Colonel Hopgood, the train burglar and murderer lawyer, before Chancellor Houston at Purvis tomorrow. Hopgood has a number of friends in Marion county who are quite wealthy and will sign his bond for any amount.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Mar 2, 1894


Will Purvis Thinks Some One Else Will Be Convicted.

Meridian, Miss., April 12. — (Special.) — Just an hour before the unsuccessful attempt to execute Will Purvis at Columbus, Miss., on the 7th of last February, a confession was made by him of a conspiracy to kill Will Buckley, but he (Purvis) denied having anything to do with the killing, and gave your correspondent the names of the conspirators.

The sheriff yesterday arrested six of the band, two of whom were in Texas. A requisition was furnished by Governor Hogg and the men were immediately brought to Purvis station, where they will be tried Monday next. It is claimed that the lawless element of Marion county will be considerably shaken up at this trial of white caps. The leader, Houston Bourin, is a well-known man, in good circumstances, while the rest of the outlaws are tenants on his large plantation. The Constitution’s correspondent was in Hattiesburg, Perry county, yesterday, and called at the jail to interview Will Purvis. Purvis says that he has not doubt that at the trial of the other white caps enough edivence will be adduced to show him to be innocent of the assassination of Will Buckley.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Apr 13, 1894


He Described a Midnight Murder and Defends Purvis.

Hattiesburg, Miss., April 24. — (Special.) — Deputy Sheriff McLelland, of Purvis, came here last night with J.D. Watts, whom he arrested a few days ago in Marion county. Watts is charged with killing Jessie Pittman about two years ago in Marion county, which cause the disturbances among the white caps and finally led up the the killing of Will Buckley, with which Purvis is charged.

In an interview today with Watts, who nothing more than an ignorant boy, he said:

“I joined the white caps about two years ago, or just before Pittman was killed. I was persuaded to join by Dr. Joel Goss, of Columbia. The doctor is a minister of the gospel. He told me I ought to belong to the white caps, that it was a benevolent organization and the object and principles were to help each other in sickness or distress. I finally consented to become a member and the doctor administered the white cap’s oath. The oath was that I would obey my orders issued by my leader and if I should ever fail to do so or divulge any of the secrets, signs, passwords or grips my life should pay the penalty.

His First Meeting.

“A few nights after I joined there was a meeting of the white caps to make arrangements to kill Jessie Pittman, colored, and the following members were present: Sam and Bill Moore, Authur Ball, Will Barnes, Babe Cook, Calvin Jones, Cassey Bass, Walter Goss, John McDonald and myself. Old man Baker was to be there to make an address but failed to show up. This was the first time I understood the full meaning of whitecapism. Some of the boys suggested that we take Pittman out and whip him and let him go. So this was agreed upon and we surrounded the house. Babe Cook and Calvin Jones were to enter the house and bring him out, but the moment the door was burst open I heard gunshots in the house and was informed that Pittman was shot. Which one of he boys did the shooting  I never knew, but it was either Cook or Jones, for there was no shooting outside of the house. This was the first and only time I ever had anything to do with whitecapism.”

In answer to a question in regard to the killing of Buckley, he said:

Purvis Had a Double.

“I don’t think Will Purvis did it. I think John Rogers is the one that killed him. He and Will Purvis look very much alike and at the time Buckley was killed they wore the same kind of hats and it would be very difficult for any one to distinguish one from the other unless in close contact.”

The above statement throws more light on the white cap outrages in Marion county and will very likely result in valuable evidence in ferreting out the crimes that have been committed from time to time. It will be remembered that one Dr. Goss figured very extensively in the murder case of Dr. Varnado at Osyka, Miss., several years ago and it is the supposition of many that he is the same man who administered the white cap oath to young Watts. Excitement is at fever heat in Marion county and startling developments are looked for at any moment.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Apr 25, 1894


Marion County White Caps Escape Conviction.

Meridian, Miss., June 15 — The court at Columbia, Marion county, adjourned today after a two weeks’ special session that was called to indict and try the white caps that infest the county. Only one man, James Newman, was sentenced. He was sentenced to serve one year in the penitentiary on a charge of white capping.

Dr. J.J. Goss, the alleged leader of the organization, was not indicted and was discharged from custody. There was a bitter sentiment against the doctor when he was arrested, but positive evidence could not be produced against him. Will Purvis was not resentenced to death, but was held to go before the next grand jury in December. Public sentiment is strongly in favor of Purvis through this section and the opinion is that he will never again be brought to face the gallows, but will eventually go free.

Colonel E.S. Haygood, ex-train robber and three times a murderer, was also released. He was put under a $2,000 bond to answer a charge of train robbing at Amite City, La.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Jun 16, 1894


Columbia, Miss., Jun 19. — Will Purvis, whitecap, who was convicted of the murder of Will Buckley in August, 1893, and who was put on the scaffold in February, 1894, and failed to hang through the slipping of the noose, was to-day re-sentenced to be hanged July 31.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Jun 20, 1895


July 31st Fixed as the Date of His Execution.

Jackson, Miss., June 20. — Will Purvis, the Marion county whitecapper, has been resentenced to hang, and hat ends an interesting chapter of Mississippi history. Two years ago the life of the average negro farm laborer in south Mississippi was made miserable, if not uncertain, by outrages of murderous whitecap organizations in the country. These midnight riders vented their spite on Jews who owned farms by whipping and driving off the negroes and in many instances burning their cabins and corn cribs. In Lincoln county they became so bold that when a score of their associates were jailed they rode into Brookhaven, two hundred strong and demanded their release while Judge Chrisman was holding court, and the National Guard was called out to disperse them. The men under arrest were sent to state prison. In Marion county numerous crimes had been charged to the whitecaps, and a young man who had become offended at one of their acts of villainy, severed his connection with the band and turned state’s evidence. On his way home from the courthouse he was killed from ambush.

Circumstantial evidence was very strong that Will Purvis was the man. He was tried and convicted and sentenced to hang.

The day for the execution came and thousands assembled at Purvis to witness the hanging. But the sheriff was not equal to the emergency, or he had been bribed to let Purvis live. The rope was tied so that when the drop fell the noose slipped and Purvis went to the ground like a chunk of lead, instead of dangling in midair. The sheriff made as if he would try it again, but the crowd sured around him ad prevented, so that the condemned man was taken back to jail, where he has since remained. He still protests his innocence and his lawyer got the case before the supreme court again and argued that Purvis had been hanged one and the law vindicated. The court held otherwise and ordered him resentenced, which was done yesterday by Judge Terrell, July 31st being fixed as the date. Meanwhile whitecapping is one of the lost arts in Mississippi. The courts have been so prompt in bringing offenders to justice that what was two years ago a frightful menace to people of the state is now extinct or will be when Purvis has paid the penalty.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Jun 21, 1895


Will Purvis, of Broken Rope Notoriety, Has Secured Another Respite.

Jackson, Miss., July 17. — (Special.) — Will Purvis, the Marion county whitecap whose miraculous escape from the hangman’s noose when the sentence was being executed, and who was resentenced to hang next Wednesday, will not hang then. He has taken an appeal to the supreme court, which acts as a supersedeas without action on the part of the governor. The supreme court meets next October.

It will be remembered that when the trap was sprung the first time the rope broke. The sheriff then took a vote of the crowd and no second attempt at hanging was made.

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Jul 28, 1895


It Is Thought the Governor Will Commute His Sentence.

Jackson, Miss., March 7. — (Special.) — The first information that Governor McLaurin had of the surrender of Will Purvis, the noted Marion county whitecap who so mysteriously escaped the death noose at the hands of the sheriff, was conveyed to him by your correspondent. Purvis was recaptured, resentenced and broke jail several months ago, since which time he has been a fugitive. The governor declined to state what action he would take until officially notified of the surrender. The consensus of opinion is that any man would break jail when his neck was in peril, and no man could blame him for such escape. The sentiment of Marion county in this case is such that it would do no good to inflict capital punishment against Purvis. There is no doubt that the governor will take this view and it is safe to say that he will commute Purvis’s sentence to life imprisonment. It is believed that Purvis has not been out of that vicinity since his escape.

From reliable information it is ascertained that not a dozen men perhaps in Marion county believe that Purvis killed Buckley or was in the blind when Buckley was assassinated; that the head and front of his offending in this matter is, as now popularly and reliably understood, that he was at a whitecap meeting at which it was agree that it was necessary that Buckley should be killed, but disagreed as to the time. Before the assassination there was a second meeting of the whitecaps, which Purvis did not attend, and at which the agents of the assassination were designated. Of those selected at the second meeting and the time and place fixed for the assassination, Purvis was ignorant. Hon. N.C. Hathorn, representative from Marion county, when told of the surrender, said: “I believe that 95 per cent of the people of Marion county will sign a petition for his absolute pardon, believing him innocent of the charge, which he denied both before and after the trap door fell, when grewsome preparations were being made for his rehanging. Purvis was only nineteen years old when this killing occurred three and a half years ago.”

The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Mar 8, 1896




Sentenced to Death, He Declares His Innocense and Is Saved by Slipping of a Hangman’s Noose.

After Long Defying Arrest He Voluntarily Gives Up Under a Promise of Commutation.

[excerpt from lengthy article]


Will Purvis is a young man not more than 23 years of age. He is small of stature, not over 5 feet 8 inches tall, and weighs about 130 pounds. Like the people of the country in which he as been reared, far from civilization influences of the current world, he has grown up impregnated with all the superstitions of a people who live within the narrow confines of self. The result is that he is a fatalist to an advanced degree.

The story of Purvis’ life is stranger than the strangest fiction. Marion county, Mississippi, where he was raised, is forty miles from a railroad. Columbia, the county seat, was once the capital of Mississippi, but is now a little hamlet of not more than 300 people. It was here that whitecapism ran riot several years ago. The merchants would advance money to the white farmers wherewith to raise their crops. The crops would fail and the merchants would foreclose mortgages on the farms of the white people and rent them to negroes as tenants. The result was that a fierce hatred of the negro sprang up in the breast of the simple people, who had been dispossessed of their homes. They could not understand the justice of negroes supplanting them by the simple hearthstones which they constructed.

Then came the organization of the white caps. These people banded themselves together and were bound by oaths written in blood squeezed from a wound pricked in the thumb of the left hand. They used all the incantations of their peculiar witchcraft and were carried away with their fanaticisms. Leaders sprang up among them, who fired their passions by appealing to their prejudices. The secret order spread throughout southeast Mississippi and threatened destruction to the civic government of the country. At first the white cappers confined their acts to midnight raids, in which negroes were taken out and scourged and warned to leave the country. The negroes fled, leaving their homes behind them. The whole country was in a state of unrest. The local officers were powerless to stay the current of popular passion. Governor Stone was then chief executive of Mississippi. He understood that such a condition meant the ruin of the fair name of the state. He made every effort to suppress the lawless bands,. But the sympathies of the people were with the white caps. Those who did not feel this sympathy feigned it, as the torch was applied to the homes of those who dared to criticise the midnight raids of the marauders.

Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) Mar 8, 1896


Slayer Clears Innocent Man Nearly Hanged Many Years Ago.

Columbia, Miss., March 10. – It was revealed by the sheriff’s office here today that Joseph Beard, who died of pneumonia last Sunday, aged 60, on his farm near this city, confessed on his deathbed, that 25 years ago he and two other men murdered William Buckley, in this section, for which crime Will Purvis, who now resides in Lamar county, Miss., escaped death by hanging only because the noose about he neck slipped after the trap had been sprung. According to the story, Buckley and a brother revealed to the authorities information concerning a secret band of “white cappers” that operated in this section more than a quarter of a century ago, and William Buckley, shortly afterward was shot to death from ambush. This was in 1892.

Purvis was convicted of the murder and sentenced to be hanged. The execution was to be public and hundreds were present to witness it. But after the trap was sprung, the noose slipped and Purvis fell from the scaffold unharmed. Many of the spectators, superstitious over the twarted execution, induced the authorities to place Purvis in jail and an appeal to the governor resulted in the commutation of  his death sentence to life imprisonment. Several years afterward, Purvis was pardoned.

Washington Post ( Washington, D.C.) Mar 11, 1917


The breaking of a noose which had been slipped around his neck by the sheriff saved Will Purvis, a Mississippi farmer, from death at the hands of the law, and the legislature of his state has just voted him $5,000 as “salve.” An astute attorney fighting for Purvis’ life, contended that the drop from the gallows was punishment within the eyes of the law ans that a second attempt could not legally be made. The court took the same view of the incident and the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Two years later a neighbor of Pulvis confessed on his death bed that he was guilty of he crime for which Pulvis had been convicted.

Circumstantial evidence, it seems, sent Pulvis to prison  and but for a flaw in the rope would have sent him to his death. It is one more indication that even in law, things are not always what they seem.

Adams County Free Press (Corning, Iowa) Mar 20, 1920


HATTIESBURG, Miss., Oct. 13. — (AP) — Will Purvis, 66, who cheated the gallows in 1894 by a slip of the noose and later proved his innocence of crime, died today at the Lamberton hospital. Death was attributed to a heart ailment.

Purvis was convicted of slaying Will Buckley and sent to the gallows. As he went through the trap at a public hanging in Columbia, Miss., the rope slipped and he was dropped to the ground unhurt.

Several years later Joe Beard confessed to the slaying in a statement made to District Attorney Toxie Hall, who is now United States attorney in Mississippi, and exonerated Purvis.

Purvis later was given $5000 by the state legislature.

Since the case was cleared up Purvis had resided in Lamar country about seven miles north of Purvis. He is survived by his widow and 11 children.

San Antonio Light (San Antonio, Texas) Oct 13, 1938