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Colonial Cases


Otsego Herald, 27 December 1819

Vincennes, Ind. Nov. 13


   Three men were traveling on foot from St. Louis to Vincennes.  Their names were Squires, Morris and Wagner, they passed Lewis's Tavern, about four miles, and encamped in a thicket on Friday night last.  In the dark of the night, Wagner rose and with a large knife cut the throat of Squires, who was an old man, and expired without a struggle.  The wretch then  attempted the  same act on Morris,  but fortunately the first stab awakened him, and in the struggle the murderer seized the old man's cane, and beat Morris until he suppose him to be dead.  He then robbed, and left them. Morris revived, and was discovered by some travelers on Saturday, as he was strolling about the prairie in a deranged situation, who humanely conveyed him to Lewis's, where he soon recovered so as to tell the shocking story.  A party immediately started in search of Squires, and found him in the thicket, dead, with his neck dreadfully mangled and bathed in blood.  He was buried as decently as circumstances would permit.  Travellers, who have seen Morris, affirm that he cannot long survive.


CATAWBA JOURNAL (Charlotte, N.C.), 7 August 1827

A Horrid Murder. - The Repository, published at Brookville, Indiana, gives the details of a horrid murder committed in that neighborhood.  It appears that a Mr. John Points had conceived an attachment for a daughter of John Young, a man of character in Rush County, and their affection being mutual a matrimonial engagement had been agreed upon.  But the father of the young lady having refused to give his consent to the union, the lovers, accompanied by several friends, were proceeding, on a moon-light night, to the proper authority to procure the legal sanction to their wishes, when they were waylaid by Young, who shot Points through the head in the midst of his laughing companions, and whilst his intended bride was mounted behind him on the same horse.  On the fall of his victim, Young dragged his daughter to his dwelling, and, in a few hours, he who hoped to have been hailed as a happy husband was enshrined in the gloom of death - on the following day Young delivered himself up to the proper authority, who admitted him to bail, on the plea that he had demanded his daughter of Points before he shot him.  The daughter was aged 18 years, and marriageable by the laws of the state without the consent of parents. Niles' Register.


Verey Times, 9 May 1840

DROWNED. - The body of a drowned man was taken from the river a few miles below this place on the 3d instant.  An inquest was held over the body and the opinion of the Jury was that he came to his death by accidental drowning.  Nothing was found about his person that would lead to the discovery of his name. [See also Advertisement, giving a description; signed "David Cain, J.P. Who acted as Coroner.]


Indiana State Sentinel, 26 February 1843


   We understand that the dead body of an infant was found in Dr. Stipp's lot, on Sunday last. We know not whether an inquest was held by the coroner.  It is stated that the head and one foot were partly eaten, probably by hogs.  The transaction has given rise to many surmises as to the child's parents, and we sincerely trust that both may be brought to justice.


Indiana State Sentinel, 7 March 1843


   Why has no inquiry been made about the dead child lately found?  . .  . 


Indiana State Sentinel, 28 March 1843

MURDER WILL OUT. - We understand that application was made to the Coroner in reference to that child found dead, but that, being sick, he was unable to attend.  .  .  . 


Indiana State Sentinel, 5 February 1846

SUICIDE. -On the 29th January, Andrew Smith, the coroner of Marion county, was called upon to hold an inquest, over the body of Nelson R. Ellis, in Washington township. A jury was impannelled and returned a verdict that the deceased "came to his death by deliberately placing the muzzle of a rifle gun against his breast, and pulling a cord fastened to the trigger, and firing it off, so that the ball passed through his body and came out a little below, to the right of the left shoulder blade, and within one and a quarter inch of his back-bone." Mr. Ellis, the deceased, was a highly moral and religious man, and a preacher of the Christian denomination.  He preached on the Sunday preceding his death to a large audience.  All who know him speak well of his character.  Nor is there any known cause for the act which terminated his life.  His pecuniary circumstances were good, and so far as is known he was involved in no difficulty whatever.  Nothing remarkable was observed in his conduct immediately or remotely preceding his death, calculated to lead to the slightest suspicion that he meditated the fatal act.


Indiana State Sentinel, 14 May 1846

   The dead body of Jonathan Rogers was recently found in the woods, a mile and a half from his house, in Elkhart county.  Verdict of coroner's Jury, Delirium tremens.


Indiana State Sentinel, 28 May 1846


   On Tuesday Morning, the body of a full grown infant, in a state of nudity, was drawn from a well, on the corner of Delaware and Washington streets.  It was afloat; but how long it had been there, was a matter of conjecture; some contending that it must have been there on Monday night, and others, that it must have been there some days.  At all events, it was a fine looking boy, and looked remarkably fresh.  An inquest is being held, but the jury had not returned their verdict when our paper went to press.

   DEPLORABLE ACCIDENT. - Master John Carter, a fine promising youth, some twelve years of age, son of Mr. Harlin Carter, of Washington township, Hendricks county, was drowned in a mill pond, on Big White Lick, about twelve miles west of Indianapolis, on Saturday evening last.  He had left his father's house for the purpose of fishing, and it is supposed he went in to bathe, as his clothes, together with some fish he had caught, were found a short distance above his body.  He had been gone some two or three hours, and when found, life was totally extinct. .  .  . 


Indiana State Sentinel, 4 June 1846

CORONER'S INQUEST - We are informed by Coroner SMITH, that the verdict of the inquest on the dead body of a male infant found in the well on the premises of Charles Youngerman, noticed in our last, was as follows: That in the opinion of the jury, said infant  came to its death by violence or neglect on the part of the mother; and that in the opinion of the jurors, so far as they could determine, from the evidence before them, Leonora Bowman is the mother of said child. [Editorial comment.]


Indiana State Sentinel, 24 September 1846

SUICIDE. - The Versailles Intelligencer records a dreadful case of suicide.  On the 3th inst., Mrs. Henrietta Beck, living in Brown township, in this county, sprang from her bed very early and conducted herself in such a manner as surprised her husband, declaring that she was going to drown herself.  Mr. Beck succeeded in quieting her and she returned to her bed again, but in a short time seemed to be struggling in a fit.  The Intelligencer says: Mr. Beck being considerably alarmed, ran to a neighbour's house, some quarter of a mile distant, for assistance, and on his return found her lying on the floor with her throat cut from ear to ear, and a butcher's knife lying by her side.

   The coroner was immediately called and summoned a jury to investigate the affair, who returned a verdict that the deceased came to her death by cutting her own throat with a common butcher's knife.

   The deceased, it is said, has been subject to occasional fits for about two years past, caused, it is believed, by a fit of sickness she then had.

   We cannot see the reason why Mr. Beck ran a quarter of a mile when his wife was in the situation related.

            ACCIDENT. - The Vernon Experiment records the death of Richard [Rchart], which occurred on Monday night last, on the Six Mile road, about seven miles from Vernon, under circumstances of the most distressing nature.  It appears that the deceased was returning from Decatur county, riding one horse and leading another.  The horse he was riding threw him, and in falling his foot caught in the stirrup, and he was carried in this manner5 for more than half a mile.  His head and shoulders were dreadfully mangled, and when he was found, life was entirely extinct.


Indiana State Sentinel, 30 September 1846

SUICIDE. - On Monday morning, the body of Mrs. Swank was found floating in the canal, near Carlisle's saw-mill.  A jury of inquest was called by Mr. Coroner Smith, who found that she came to her death by deliberate suicide by drowning.

   It is said that Mr. Swank, a cooper by trade, and of intemperate habits, deserted her some time last week.  Ms. S. left her house very early on Friday morning, and was found as above stated.  Can we not charge the above as "Rum's Doings!"


Indiana State Sentinel, 21 February 1847

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Indiana State Sentinel, 21 March 1849

STABBED TO DEATH. - On Monday night last, between 9 and 10 o'clock an affray took place in this city, in front of Ray's Hotel (formerly Drake's) between two young men, Isaac Phillips, a tinner, and Merrit Young, a tailor, in which Phillips received a stab from Young in the heart, of which he died in ten minutes.  We are not acquainted with the particulars of the fight, not the nature of the difficulty which led to it, but understand there was an old grudge between them.  Young was committed for examination, which we suppose will take place to-day.

CHARGE OF MURDER . - On yesterday was commenced before the Court of Examination, the case of Mrs. Mary Smithers, charged in the verdict of the Coroner's Inquest, with having, on the 3d of March instant, administered poison (sulphuric acid) to her husband, James Smithers, whereof he died on the 9th.  A post mortem examination was had, which led to the verdict in question.  We shall probably report the examination in full.  Verily, we have a city here!


Indiana State Sentinel, 27 December 1849

SUICIDE. - David Park, who lived about five miles south of Franklin, Johnson county, committed suicide on Tuesday week by shooting himself.  It is supposed that he was prompted to the deed while under the influence of a temporary fit of insanity.  The Examiner says: Mr. Park had exhibited manifest signs of mental aberration the night preceding the melancholy event, and there is no doubt the deed was committed under the influence of temporary insanity; for which we have heard no reason assigned.  He leaves a wife and several children.


Indiana State Sentinel, 31 January 1850

DEATH BY SUPPOSED VIOLENCE. - An Irishman, whose name we are told, was McDonald, died on Monday morning, in a room in the row of wooden frames, owned by Joshua Stevens, (on Maryland street, east of Delaware,) and occupied by one Ramsay.  The deceased we are told arrived here, via railroad, early last week, and had in his possession some $150.  It is said that he expended his money pretty freely at a doggery kept by one Herron, several other persons accompanying him in the orgies.  On Wednesday or Thursday they got into a fight in which McDonald is said to have been badly beaten by one Shannon, another Irishman.  On Friday McD. became sick, and was taken to Ramsay's room by Shannon.  Ramsay told us that on Saturday and Sunday, he and his wife, had repeatedly applied to different physicians for advice, but that all refused to attend, unless they were paid in advance.  The man therefore died without medical assistance.  On Monday forenoon a coroner's jury held a secret inquest upon the case at the Court House.  The coroner told us that he had tried to obtain a post mortem examination of the body, and had addressed nearly every physician in town for that purpose, but al positively refused to attend.  The reason of this refusal is understood to be, the refusal of the County Commissioners to allow sufficient fees for former similar services.  So it seems, that for the sake of a few paltry dollars, the supposed perpetrators of the blackest crimes are to be permitted to escape unscathed and unexamined.


WINONA DAILY REPUBLICAN, Monday 27 February 1865 (4)


The community of Crawfordsville, Ind., are much excited in regard to a double murder committed in the southwest part of Montgomery county, on Friday afternoon.  A son of Mr. Wineland, living at Toloni Illinois, came to see his father, a farmer living near Waveland, to obtain some money of him.  The old men refused to give him what he desired, when the son in a fit of rage and jealousy, it it supposed, towards a cousin named Van Cleve, to whom he believed his father had willed his property, took a gun, and followed the two, father and cousin, into a cornfield, where they were at work, shot and killed them both. - He then came to Crawfordsville, and it is believed, took the evening train north.  One thousand dollars reward is offered for his arrest.


WINONA DAILY REPUBLICAN, MN., Thursday 15 December 1870 (2)

The dispatch a day or two since announcing the re-opening of the CLEM murder case at Indianapolis, through a new trial granted by the Supreme Court, was well calculated to create surprise. ... But Mrs. CLEM will now no doubt be acquitted, and will carry with her to the grave the secret of the motives underlying the terrible crime.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School