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Police Chief Fenner of Troy Killed on the Job
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Troy’s Mysterious Murder

Chief of Police Killed in June, 1905

"In response to popular request" as show business says, we re-print below the story of the killing of Edward W. Fenner, written by Frank E. Van Keuren, editor of the Gazette-Register that day and father of the present editor.

Proud of physical prowess which though sometimes assailed did not shrink in the face of death; exuberant as a school boy over the new home with cow and chickens and growing things to which he moved a few weeks since, Chief of Police Edward W. Fenner took up his nightly vigil last Friday evening little thinking that it was to be his last on earth.

Shortly after 12 he put an inebriated prowler to bed.

At 1 he chatted characteristically of the night’s events with George Gilmore and his painter’s helper, Joe Lysle, at the southwest corner of Main and Canton streets.

At 6:20 his lifeless remains were found by Thomas Gatens where he had fallen in deadly combat, facing the enemy.

He lay on his back with one leg drawn up and still clasping in his left hand (he was left handed) his 32 caliber hammerless Smith & Wesson revolver. Four of the five chambers had been fired. Two bullet holes in his body told all too plainly the cause of death.

A few paces away in the corner of Dr. Kendall’s barn was a bullet, 32 caliber, imbedded in the pine corner board; in the side of Smith & Conklin’s blacksmith shop was a 38 bullet and further along toward Snedeker & Mitchell’s barn the mark of a third, which struck sidewise and did not enter the wood.

Around the corner at the north entrance of the shop lay a twisted padlock wrenched from hasp and staple and with it on the ground a large rasp which had held up a window. Mutely all told of the night’s tragedy, and yet just how it came about possibly never will be known.

Scores, hundreds, hurried to the scene of the shooting. None could tell unless it be that the murderer or murderers themselves were there. Silent in death lay the principal actor, the others, their dastardly work done, had escaped while the town slept.

Several heard shots. A freight train was passing twenty rods away and some who heard thought them reports of signal caps upon the rails. Others recognized the crack of revolvers but recalling the approach of Independence day, attached little importance to the shooting and drowsily dropped off again into sound sleep.

Justice B. A. Long was early advised of the tragedy and after viewing the remains authorized their removal to Bloom’s undertaking rooms where Dr. Barker traced the course of the deadly bullets. One had passed through the heart and lodged in the ninth dorsal vertebra, the other made but a slight wound, and after flattening on the hip bone had lodged, strange to relate in the hip pocket. One was necessarily and instantly fatal, the other might or might not have caused the wounded man to fall. There was neither powder marks nor smell to indicate close contact of the revolver with the body. Both bullets were of larger caliber than the officer’s revolver. Nothing had been taken from the body – keys, policeman’s billy of leather stuffed with sand, handcuffs, watch still running, pocketbook and all other belongings were there, save a ring with single ruby setting which it was thought for a time might furnish a clue to the murderers but which later was found at a jewelry shop, where it had been left for repairs.

John Mosher, who rooms in Main street, a few rods from where the shooting took place, testified at the inquest to having been awake, reading, as late as 1 or 1:30 Saturday morning. He heard four or five shots when the freight train went through at 3, but no talking or anyone pass.

Thomas Gatens swore to finding the body, and John Walton to having heard loud talk between Officer Fenner and another man near Costello’s livery barn, Centre Street, shortly after 12, Friday night. This man upon investigation proved to be G. W. Smith of Elmira, whose whereabouts the rest of the night was subsequently explained satisfactorily.

Thomas Lewis was one of the after dinner witnesses. Said he had not seen Officer Fenner in some time. Was about the Williams House with others Friday evening but retired at 10 or 10:30. Seba Wood, George Gilmour and Joseph Lysle were also called. The two first named told of having seen deceased at 1 o’clock as stated above and Mr. Gilmour testified to having heard four or five shots which he at first thought to be railroad torpedoes. Mr. Wood swore to threats by Smith against Fenner and the bartender of the Williams, but attached little importance to them as Smith was intoxicated. Said he had known Smith for a number of years and regarded him as a peaceable man. Smith had no revolver.

Charles Goldman told of drinking beer with others in the alley leading to the scene of the murder as late as 12 o’clock Friday night.

A wayfarer picked up by Officer Linderman was brought before the jury twice during the day and the second time satisfied the authorities that he was not mixed up in the sad affair.

Chief Cassada and Northern Central Detective Fennel arrived at 10:48 from Elmira and did their utmost to assist Burgess Charles E. Stanton and the other local authorities in unearthing clues to the perpetrators of the crime. The former aided in the examination of witnesses. He spoke highly of the deceased whom he had known for some years. He inclined to the belief that there were at least two assailants and possibly three. Professional burglars he said were not apt to visit blacksmith shops for tools, though they some times did so. He urged following up all clues however trivial at first thought, and the prompt offer of a reward.

After conference, the county and village authorities had hand-bills printed offering a reward of $1,00 for the arrest and conviction of the guilty party or parties. Should the reward be claimed, Troy Boro will pay $300, Bradford County $700.

Mrs. Burke of Canton passed Friday night here with her sisters, Mrs. Shaw and Mrs. Pierce in Elmira Street. She was awake about 3 o’clock, heard pistol shots and a little later footsteps which sounded to her like two men carrying something between them down the walk toward Dillon’s mill. She heard only, did not see anyone. Right here it may be said that early reports to the daily papers were erroneous in saying that Officer Fenner’s keys were gone and that someone had been let out of the lockup. Investigation dispelled this belief. Nor did Mrs. Stuart see two men carrying a wounded companion. Or was money taken from the person of the deceased.

An incident worth relating in this connection is told by Comfort Smith, a farmer of Columbia Cross Roads, of a dream he had Friday night in which his friend Fenner was fighting a pistol duel in the moonlight with a gang of young fellows. One of whom was wounded in the arm. Smith, of course, knew nothing of the shooting until the next morning. The shot which killed the officer, he said, was fired by a man wearing a light shirt.

Two suspects taken from freight trains are being held in Williamsport. While evidence against them is not convincing, it is sufficient to warrant their detention for a time.

A suspect was locked up at Port Jervis, 185 miles east of Elmira, on the Erie, Saturday night. He had nitroglycerine, caps and fuses in his possession, and refused to give his name or any other information concerning himself. About 23 years old and 5 feet 5 inches tall.

The Elmira police picked up several suspects one of whom had passed through Troy from Berwick and was offering blacksmith tools for sale.

It is sincerely to be hoped that from among all the suspects now in custody or hereafter to be taken, may be found the right man or men, the one or two upon whom rests the shadow of this shocking crime.

The Coroner’s jury, Messrs. H. M. Spalding, J. R. Willour, H. C. Carpenter, O. B. Ballard, George Beardsley and Albert Joralemon accompanied their verdict of death by shooting by some unknown person or persons with a strong recommendation that no reasonable effort or expense be spared in bringing the guilty ones to justice.

The remains were taken to Officer Fenner’s home Saturday afternoon and the funeral was held from the house at 2 Monday afternoon. It was one of ………[missing]

A year ago last Sunday morning, June 17th, 1905, Officer Edward Fenner was found murdered near the Snedeker & Mitchell horse barn, not twenty rods from the business centre of Troy. Although a reward was offered within twenty-four hours of $1,000 for the murderer, no clue has yet been unearthed to place the responsibility for the crime. The widow of the murdered man was seen by a Troy gentleman on the eve of the first anniversary of her great sorrow. Like many others Mrs. Fenner adheres to the belief that the fatal shots were fired not by a stranger seeking tools in the blacksmith shop for a burglary, but by a resident of the village or vicinity. Five days after her husband's death Mrs. Fenner received a postal card which is now in the hands of Chief Cassada of Elmira, which she thinks may yet lead to the detection of the guilty man.
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 22 MAR 2006 
By Joyce M. Tice
Email: Joyce M. Tice

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