February 17, 1885
OSCEOLA. February 13, 1885—The bank of Morgan Seely was
broken open early this morning by thieves whose work shows that they were
professionals and understand their business. About $1,300 in cash
were taken from the bank and from the Post Office, which is in the same
building, a quantity of stamps and what money was in the drawer were taken.
Two or three hand bags were also taken from the store of the Postmaster
C. H. Bosworth.
The thieves evidently took possession of the school house the night before and stayed there until they were ready to begin operations at the bank. They used the coal scuttle as a spittoon and did no material damage at the school house. In preparing for their work they took some tools—sledge hammer, bits, brace, etc.—from the blacksmith shop of Sylvester Tinney.
The bank is in the back part of the building Mr. Bosworth’s store and Post office building being in the front. The burglars entered the store by the front door by boring through the door and slipping back the bolt of the lock. They then went to the little room in the rear of the vault and broke a hole through the wall of the vault. They blew the spherical safe open with a giant powder, the explosion blowing the door of the safe off with such force that it burst through the inner door of the vault completely shattering the time lock with which it was secured. The explosion was heard by some of the families near by, but it was thought to be nothing more than some woodshed door slammed by the wind.
The thieves left the building as late as four or five o’clock leaving their jimmy and other tools in the bank and went down the Corning, Cowanesque & Antrim railway track. At Elkland they stole a team from the barn of Landlord Case and drove off in the direction of Elmira. Pursuit was made in a very short time, and the thieves were traced to a piece of woods near Elmira. Help was procured, and the scamps were surrounded, and about noon one of them was captured with $200 on his person.
At four o’clock this afternoon a dispatch was received stating that four of the burglars had been captured and that the other was certain to be.
ANOTHER ACCOUNT OF THE ROBBERY
There are several conflicting stories afloat as to the manner in which the thieves operated, one of them being to the effect that the burglars stole Mr. Case’s team at Elkland and drove to Osceola before attacking the bank, that they were discovered at their work at about half past four in the morning by an early riser, and that several citizens saw them drive off with their booty without interfering with them. This story is hardly probable.
Another account in the Elmira Advertiser states that the explosion occurred at about 3:30 a.m., and that the wife of Quincy Cilley, who resides across the street from the bank, was awakened by it, and informed her husband. Mr. Cilley suspected that there was something wrong and went to the house of Mr. Morgan Seely to call him. Mr. Seely and his two sons, Edward M. Seely, the cashier, and F. J. Seely, the assistant, hurried to the bank. They found the front and rear doors of the vault open, and a ragged hole over two feet in diameter, in the rear wall of the vault. The doors were badly damaged, indicating that they had been forced open by explosives. Five hundred dollars in silver and $1,000 in bills were missing, and it was found that the perpetrators of the crime had affected an entrance to the building by an east window. The walls of the vault were of cut stone masonry, two feet thick, and the doors were of heavy iron.
The Seely’s lost no time in informing Constable Charles R. Taylor of what had happened, and all four, in three separate rigs, rigs started in pursuit. A light snow, which had fallen during the night, enabled them with the aid of lanterns, to discover the direction taken by the burglars. The fugitives had walked down the railroad a short distance, then cut across lots to the main road, heading for Elkland. They were all on foot, wearing new rubber over shoes, but reached Elkland ahead of their pursuers, who arrived at 4:00 a.m. Constable Taylor and his party found the door of T. D. Case’s livery stable open, and investigation proved that the robbers had stolen him omnibus team and two seated sleigh.
The pursuers then followed the gang toward Lawrenceville, where Constable Fenton joined in the chase. A dispatch was sent to the Constable at Wells, Bradford County, warning him to look out for the party. Dispatches were also sent to Chief of Police Little, at Elmira, and he sent officers and others to watch for the arrival of the expected thieves. The dispatch sent to Wells was delivered to Constable Charles Blanchard who lives about a mile and a quarter from Wells towards Bulk Head. He stationed himself at the junction of Lawrenceville road and the road east from Wells. He had not waited long, when driving at a good speed, the thieves hove in sight. Blanchard ordered them to stop, and caught the rear horse by the head, though the animal was rearing under the pain of the whip. The thieves said nothing but one of the number, later learned to be Harris, stepped out and fired twice at Blanchard. One ball passed through his left coat sleeve, and as Blanchard loosed his hand of the bridle, Harris jumped in the sleigh again, and all drove off at a break neck speed.
Blanchard followed them, and when in front of George Chamberlain’s they stopped, and four of them jumped out, the fifth turning the horses into the barnyard, and leaving with his companions. Three of the number carried satchels and the others carried bundles. They went across Ephraim Dalrymple’s farm towards Mount Zoar, crossing to Aaron F. Bennett’s land and going to Peter Rutan’s. Chief Little and Officer Batterson were on the look out. They were driving on the plank road, and espied some men in the woods.
One of the number came towards Elmira, catching a ride with George Comfort. The fellow’s evident anxiety aroused Comfort’s suspicions. He wanted Comfort to hurry, and as an inducement promised him a drink. They stopped at M. D. Miller’s store on South Main Street where Comfort told Miller his suspicions. Officer Dillon was advised, and search of his person revealed $200 in money. He said his name was William Harris, that he lived at Toronto and had been this side of Niagara but two weeks.
Pursuing the others, Chief Little and Office Batterson tied their horse to a tree and began the ascent of the steep hill. When part way up they heard some one talking, and presently Blanchard shouted to them that the fugitives were near. A rush followed through the woods and down the hill towards Peter Rutan’s house. The chase was a lively one, the four men having not more than twenty rods the lead. Ben Shays, who works for Mr. Rutan, had a team and sleigh standing in the road, their heads turned northward, and then men rushed up, tumbled him out, whipped up the horses and left the breathless officers behind. Off went the overcoats and onward pressed Fenton and the Chief. Batterson returning to look after the horse.
The horses were old and slow, but went pretty well for a while. On the road the thieves met Dr. Horace Darling with a fresh animal and single cutter. He turned around at their suggestion, when they pointed their revolvers at him and gave them his horse, to be sure rather reluctantly. The officers covered a mile of the highway on foot when they met George Weaver, a farmer, who hitched up and took them in a sleigh on the case. The robbers went to Hendy Hollow, finally leaving the horse and cutter and going up the steep bank on the west side into the woods.
The pursuers were increased by large numbers, the Chief spreading the news as he went along. Mr. Wolf shut down his saw mill and himself and ten men brought out their shot guns for business. Farmers and their sons joined the chase, the Chief warning them all along the road to Big Flats that the robbers were likely to come up and steal their horses. The hill was completely surrounded and escape was impossible. Officers Nagle and Rutan joined the pursuit and Kirwin’s shots were replied to by Rutan with his forty four caliber rifle, one of the balls going through Kirwin’s wrist. Kirwin was last seen by Mr. Wolf. The man bled freely, but resisted capture, running away with his companions. Officer Rutan arrested one of the men, James D. Wells, in a barn near the Glen Mountain House. Finally the wounded man was cornered, having fallen down a high bank on being shot and, picking himself up, crossed the river into the hands of the officers.
The fourth of the fugitives, McPherson, was first espied by a farmer named Rhodes, when he was crossing a field. Rhodes got out his gun and went after him, accompanied by Charles Smith. They drove him to Big Flats and captured him. While in the hotel there a gun was left standing against the wall and McPherson, seizing his chances, grabbed the gun and was about to clean out the crowd. He was defeated in that attempt, and was not given any chances again. Sheriff Stanley and Chief Little took him to Elmira.
The pursuit of the fifth man was practically given up at dark, but a few kept their eye out. W. R. Rutan and Office Dillon started at dusk and drove to Hendy Hollow, about seven miles, when they met a boy who said he had seen a man on his way towards Elmira, who offered him two dollars if he’d take him to the city. They whirled around and made the best time possible and when at Walnut Street inside the city limits, they saw two men on a hay rigging. They drove to the nearest street lamp and stopped their horse. When the farm wagon came up there was only one on the rigging and that was the owner John Brown. He said the man had hired him to bring him to the city and had just jumped off. They heard running footsteps and driving rapidly back stopped the man, jumped out and cornered him. He was very cool and gave his name as Harry Thorne, of Caton, said he knew people in the city and had just been in a house near by to see a lady friend, but when asked for names he could give none. When they told him to come with them, he showed fight, and they tumbled him into the sleigh by force and lodged him in the jail. On him was found a box of wax tapers, the same as those carried by everyone in the gang, and a curious little arrangement supposed to be a tool for his business. He had a silk skull cap, a knife, a silver watch, eye glasses, a gold pencil, and other articles ordinarily carried by a man, also $81.35 but nothing that would reveal his right name. None of the gang carried anything that would show their identity.
Dynamite is supposed to have been the explosive used by them in their work. While in the woods on Mount Zoar, the robbers threw away their satchels, and a fine black hand bag was found there Friday night. It contained a hand drill of fine construction, two dynamite cartridges, files, drills, fuse, etc. besides collars, cuffs, and stockings.
Each of the gang members had in his possession a high skull cap, which had holes for the eyes, to be used as masks; without arousing suspicion if found on them. On the whole party has been found about $700, which includes about all the currency stolen. The silver is supposed to be in the missing hand bags.
During the flight up Mount Zoar Harris, who was first caught, was seen to pass near a log near Bennett’s quarry and search being made there, two cloth cases were found. They contained four false keys with double ends, nippers to turn keys from the outside, sixteen bits, a little crank which must have fitted something not yet found.
The Advertiser says that the collection of articles in possession of Chief Little is rather interesting. Among them are a good sized compass, rings to screw to a floor in case they wished to bind anybody down, railroad guides, maps, and a banker’s directory, figures which have the appearance of being safe combinations, names and addresses. The streets mentioned and the men are evidently fresh from that city. A large, fine woolen handkerchief like cloth, used for wrapping fine tools in is marked “J. R. Branton”. Among the trinkets is a little embroidered and painted silk square with a bleeding heart with the words “Cease, the heart of Jesus is with you”.
Harris, the first man caught, was put down with the other prisoners in the jail at Elmira, his pals occupying other cells. When he went in he wore side whiskers and a moustache, but when Deputy Small went to look at him a second time, he didn’t know him, Harris having shaved off all his beard to conceal his identity. They all refused flatly to say anything about themselves, except to answer questions as to age and nativity. Among the cards found on the fifth man caught is one of T. B. Staley, Buffalo, a shoe dealer.
McPherson is a giant, aged thirty one years, being six feet and a half inches high. He had black eyes and hair, and says he was born in Alexandria, Virginia, is single, is a carpenter and has been arrested once before. He lost $70 in silver, he says, in sliding down the hill ahead of Chief Little. A revolver on him was loaded to the last barrel. James D. Wells said he was a painter. Harris was the toughest looking character.
Sheriff Baxter was in Elmira on Friday to see about bringing the thieves to jail here. McPherson was the only one of them who said he would not come without requisition. The Advertiser says several of the gang had been seen in Elmira, and McPherson attended a masquerade there last week Monday night. Since that time he had been stopping at Elkland under the pretense of being a United States detective looking for counterfeiters, and he is believed to be the one who planned the robbery.
February 17, 1885
It is thought that the Osceola bank robbers had intended to crack the Parkhurst bank at Elkland, but being frustrated, they fell back upon the one at Osceola. A man claiming to be a Mr. Smith and a detective hung around the Case House for a couple of weeks, visiting both banks on business. Mr. Case, the landlord, wanted a hostler, and the detective recommended one, who stayed about a week, or long enough to get the run of things and to know where to get a team when it was needed. The Elkland bank is kept open evenings to accommodate customers from up the river, and the night of the robbery, Mr. Jones was in the bank until very late, making up his balances. The theory is that the gang got sick of waiting for him to go home, and concluded to put in their time at the Osceola bank; and this same theory accounts for their being so late in the morning about getting started off.
March 3, 1885
Last Friday Sheriff Baxter brought to this borough the five men that robbed Morgan Seely’s bank, and lodged them securely in jail. It was announced that they would leave Elmira at 1:10 p.m., coming by way of Corning, but in order to avoid the gaping crowd Sheriff Baxter decided to come at 10:00 a.m. by the Tioga road to Lawrenceville. He was assisted by Sheriff Stanley and Chief Little, of Elmira, Constable Fenton, of Elkland, Constable Caton, of Lawrenceville, Officer Ryon, of Blossburg, Constable Flechler and Mr. O. G. Padgett, of this borough. The prisoners were heavily ironed, and the party were all locked up into the smoking car during the trip. Upon their arrival here a large crowd followed the criminals to the jail to get a glimpse of the celebrated strangers. The prisoners were assigned quarters, Lowrey and Love being placed in one cell, Thorne and McPherson in another, and Kirwin in a cell by himself. They are a slippery lot, and there is no doubt they will attempt to escape if the slightest opportunity presents itself. Sheriff Baxter evidently intends to keep them in his clutches, for two watchmen—Constable H. T. Caton, of Lawrenceville, and Mr. Joseph Williams, of this borough—have been engaged for day and night work.
March 10, 1885
An Elmira Sunday paper contains a very sensational item to the effect that the bank robbers in jail in this borough had made an attempt to escape, and when “they had picked the lock of the cell door and got into the corridor the guard pulled his gun and they retreated again to the cell”; also that, “there are now ten men in jail here for stealing freight at the scene of the recent powder explosion”. This is about as reliable as much of the stuff which finds a place in that sheet. There is no truth in the statements whatsoever. When the time comes that an “attack will be made on the jail, the guards overpowered, the turnkey gagged, the telegraph wires cut and the prisoners and their rescuers ride over the Pine Creek railway in an engine stolen from the round house,” there will be some fun in this region. The jail isn’t made of pasteboard, nor the guards of putty; but it looks as though the brains of some of the Sunday reporters might be composed of the latter material.
March 17, 1885
A rather prepossessing woman, handsome and well dressed, came to this borough last week and represented herself to be the wife of Charles Lowrey, alias Harris, one of the bank robbers, and as such gained admission to the jail and was allowed to converse with the prisoner in the presence of an officer. She was recognized at once by the Sheriff’s family as the same woman who came here about a year ago as the sister of Lewis, the man who shot himself in the leg while tussling with Officer Ryon at Blossburg about a year ago. At that time she paid all the costs and went away with Lewis.
March 17, 1885
The Bank Robbers
THEIR EXAMINATION LAST FRIDAY
—THEIR PERSONAL APPEARANCE
—SUBSTANCE OF THE TESTIMONY AGAINST THEM
—THEY ARE COMMITTED TO JAIL
On Friday afternoon of last week the preliminary hearing in the case of the Osceola bank robbers took place in the courtroom, before Justice of the Peace A. S. Brewster. The room was well filled with spectators, mostly men and boys—not over half a dozen ladies being present—all waiting eagerly to catch a glimpse of the noted cracksmen. About half past two o’clock Sheriff Baxter, and his deputies brought the prisoners in.
Charles Lowrey, alias Charles Harris, and Jack Love, alias Jack Wells, were handcuffed together and headed the procession up the aisle. Harry Thorne and McPherson followed next, similarly manacled, while Kirwin, alias Barney Oats, shackled to officer Caton, brought up the rear. They were seated in a row within the bar, back of their counsel—Major George W. Merrick and Charles Taylor, Esq., the latter gentleman from Elmira, NY. Lowrey and Love occupied the central positions with McPherson at the end next to the jury box and Kirwin at the other end. In dress and general appearance the prisoners were not a bad looking set.
Jack Love wears a light brown mustache, had a good-shaped, round head, with a rather high forehead. His countenance is pleasing, and during the hearing, at certain stages of the cross-examination, he seemed very much amused, and would place his hands to his face to suppress his laughter. Charles Lowrey is decidedly the brightest and best looking man in the gang. He has a smooth face, though when arrested he wore side whiskers. He has dark hair, a high, broad forehead, which slopes back considerably. His small and bright blue eyes, with little or no shading of eye brows, are set well back in his head. He has a small hand and foot, and from his self-contained manner and intelligent glance can readily be picked out as the leader of the party. Henry Thorne is not a nice looking fellow. He wears light side whiskers, has a light complexion and a rather long and wicked looking face. McPherson is his opposite in complexion and color of hair, being very dark, large framed, with a smooth face, high cheek bones, and with a rather low, deeply wrinkled forehead. He seemed quite talkative, and consulted with his counsel frequently. Kirwin is the youngest man in the party, and is quite bleached out from his recent confinement in the Erie County penitentiary. He makes himself quite friendly, and seems rather gratified by the marked attention which he receives because of the gunshot wound he sustained in the wrist at the time of his arrest.
The Commonwealth, represented by the District Attorney and by Messrs. Elliott & Watrous, began the examination by calling to the stand Mr. Edward Seely, of Osceola, the cashier of the bank that was robbed. He testified that being notified between four and five o’clock in the morning of the 13th of February that the bank had been entered by burglars, he then got up and went out upon the street. On arriving at the bank he did not at first date to enter, but walked down to the broad gauged depot, when he saw three men walking back and forth and a fourth man running toward them from the east end of the depot, with something rattling in his pocket like keys or silver. This man stopped and looked at him a few seconds, and then went away, and so did the others. Mr. Seely then went to the bank, entering by the side door, which he found unlocked. The vault doors were found shut, but the handles were turned up. On entering the vault the safe inside was found with the door blown off and the blown through the inner vault door. Upon the floor of the vault were found a sledge hammer, jimmy, punches, bits and a package of dynamite. The burglars had entered the bank by boring a hole through the door of the store front of the bank and shoving back the bolt. Then going to the back office, they made a hole through the back of the vault, which is two feet thick. Mr. Seely said that when he locked the safe and vault the night before it contained between thirteen and fourteen hundred dollars, and that in the morning he found but thirty five dollars in gold, which was found on the vault floor.
Mr. H. Q. Cilley, of Osceola, was next called. He lives near the bank, and said he was awakened by his wife about half past three on the morning of the robbery. She had heard the report of an explosion. He got up and saw a man come out of the bank. He then went and notified Mr. Seely that burglars were in his bank.
Capt. C. R. Taylor testified that he followed the tracks of four men from Osceola to Elkland, and thence to Mr. Case’s barn. He found Mr. Case’s team and sleigh were gone, and getting into his own sleigh, he followed the tracks of the team to Lawrenceville and then took the train for Elmira.
Mr. William Patten, of Elkland, testified that he was aroused by Capt. Taylor, and helped him look for the tracks around the barn and on the roads leading from Elkland.
Mr. L. Fenton, the officer from Elkland who followed the burglars with his horse till he overtook them near Bulkhead, not far from Elmira, was next called to the stand. He gave a detailed and graphic account of the closing portion of the chase and of his meeting with the men in the woods. He testified that Thorne, Kirwin and McPherson as the men he had met in the woods.
Charles Blanchard, of Pine City, testified to stopping the team near Pine City, when the five men got out of the sleigh, and he identified Charles Lowrey as the man who shot at him twice. He said that shortly after he was shot at his foot slipped on the ice, and he let go of the team, and the men got into the sleigh and got away from him.
Chief L. D. Little, of Elmira, was next called, and gave a detailed account of his part of the capture, and exhibited the skull cap and other things found by him, belonging to the prisoners.
The last man called was Officer Rutan, of Elmira, who told how he captured Jack Love in a barn near Elmira.
The defendants offered no evidence, and at the conclusion of the examination Justice Brewster stated that he would hold them in $2,000 bail each for their appearance at the next Court. None of them offered bail, and they were therefore committed to jail to await the action of the grand jury.
Trial of the Bank Robbers
April 14, 1885
[Portions of this article are damaged and unreadable. Unable to read the names of the Grand Jury members. The first readable section picks up as the first witness for the Commonwealth is called to the stand]
After the District Attorney had opened the case, Mr. H. Q. Cilley
was called as the first witness for the Commonwealth and testified as follows:
I live at Osceola. The bank that was robbed is about sixty feet from
our business. My attention was drawn to the bank at 3:00 in the morning.
I saw a light in the bank and men there. I then heard a report like
a gun. I went to Mr. Seely’s to arouse him. Mr. Seely lives
about 10 rods from the bank. When I got back to the bank I saw three
men coming toward us. As they saw us they ran toward the depot.
I then went in company of Mr. Seely to the bank and saw papers strewn on
the floor and a big hole in the rear of the vault. I then followed
the tracks of four men from the depot toward Elkland. At Elkland
we called Mr. Fenton. We were enabled to track the men on account
of the fresh snow that had fallen the night before. At Elkland we
awoke the people at Case’s hotel. We followed the tracks of the four
men toward the Case house barn. We then found cutter tracks leading
from the town down the river. There were tracks of two horses and
a cutter. We followed the tracks as far as Lawrenceville. It
was February 13th, Friday morning.
Cross Examined [Cilley]: I should say that the light I saw in the bank was a kerosene lamp. I could not see the man’s features nor how he was dressed. Mr. Taylor and I drove to Elkland. We first went to Mr. Fenton’s.
Morgan Seely testified: I live at Osceola. I am a farmer and banker. I was engaged in the banking business last February in a building that contained the Post Office and a store and the banking office in the back part. The ordinary entrance is from the front door of Bosworth’s store. No outside door leads into the banking office. There are two side doors leading into the store and one front entrance. I left the bank at 8 or 9 o’clock the night before the robbery. The vault door was not locked when I left. I was called between 3 and 4 o’clock the next morning. I called my oldest son Frank. We started for the bank. I opened the vault door. I found a hole in the inner vault door about six inches across. The back wall of the vault in the back office had a hole two feet in diameter made through it. We examined the safe and found the money gone. It was all gone except $80 in gold. We found a hole in the front outside door of the store and the bolt thrown back. With the exception of $20 all the money was mine. The little pocketbook was my grandson’s and was in a pigeon hole in the vault.
Cross Examined [Seely]: I have been banking for the past 15 years, and have occupied this building some 3 or 4 years. The customers of the bank pass through the store. There was a sleeping apartment back of the vault. My son kept the books. My two sons took in and paid out the money. I was in Wellsboro the day before the night of the burglary. When I was in the bank there were people in the store—Frank Stevens, a clerk, and others. My son was at church that night.
At the afternoon session Ed Seely was called and testified: Mr. Cilley came to the house and informed me about the bank being broken into. I got up and went down to the bank. I found the handles of the vault door turned up. The front door of the building would not open when I applied the key. I locked the vault door between 9 and 10 o’clock the night before the burglary. There were $1,300 in the vault and safe. About $30 in small change lay on the shelf in the vault. There were about $300 in silver. Witness identified a pocket book which had been in the vault on the night of the robbery. It had been in the bank about a year. A chisel and various tools found were exhibited, also a shawl which was pinned up at the window in the back room. I saw three men down near the railroad depot. They then passed off going in an easterly direction. They went down the river toward Elkland. The witness was shown for identification a greenback dollar bill which he recognized. He also recognized the bills by the way he patched them up. They were in the bank of the 12th of February.
Cross Examined [Ed. Seely]: Am the son of Morgan Seely and cashier of the bank. I made up the cash account.
C. R. Taylor sworn: I sent dispatches north announcing the robbery. I saw at first the tracks of two men and 110 yards from the bank I struck the trail of four men. The tracks led to Elkland. I got out of my cutter a number of times and looked for tracks. At Elkland I lost track of the men on foot on Main Street. I traced them to Case’s barn. I found the staple gone and the barn open. I know Mr. Case’s team and sleigh and found they were gone. I found the tracks of two horses. The foot tracks were made with rubbers, three pairs course on the bottom and one fine.
On cross examination the witness [Taylor] said he was the son-in-law of Mr. Seely.
Mrs. H. Q. Cilley testified that she saw four men come out of the bank and hear five explosions. She then heard another explosion. Then her husband dressed and went out and while he was gone she heard another explosion.
William Potter testified to following the tracks to Case’s barn where he found the team gone. He knew team was in the barn the night before.
L. W. Fenton, the Constable at Elkland, testified: I got down to Elkland about five minutes after six. I drove to Case’s hotel and there met Capt. Taylor. We found tracks going down the river. One was of a flat footed horse that strikes on his ball. I found this track and followed it until I met the team near the Bulkhead hotel. I saw Mr. Case’s team and these parties leaving it. I recognized the team and saw five men get out and go for the woods. They ran part of the way and part of the way they walked. I followed them over the fields to the top of the hill and came where Chief Little was. I came in ahead of Chief Little on their track. It was in sight of Elmira. They went to the woods. I cam up to four of the men in the woods. I was about ten feet from them. The four stood near together. They told me to halt. Three of them had revolvers. I stopped and one said, “You go back”, I said, “You might as well surrender”. One said, “You go back, or I’ll shoot”. I told them it would do no good to shoot me, as Chief Little had them surrounded. They asked who Chief Little was. Shortly after this I met Chief Little in the woods and he said, “Hands up”. I told him he had the wrong man. Kirwin, Thorne and McPherson were identified by the witness as the men who drew revolvers on him. The fourth man had on a scotch cap drawn down. The men faced witness. The four men ram down the hill and Blanchard and I followed. They got into a sleigh that had previously been driven by a boy. The team went as fast as it could. They met Dr. Darling, threw him out and took his team, leaving their old team. I followed them to the head of Hendy Hollow. There I lost the track but soon recovered it and going on found the doctor’s team by the side of the road. Down near the river I met Kirwin. We afterward got Love in a barn and followed the other man towards Big Flats. He turned out to be McPherson.
Cross Examined [Fenton]: They all had overcoats on. Kirwin was the man who asked me what I wanted.
Charles Blanchard testified: I reside in New York State and I am Constable. I heard of the bank robbery the 13th of February, got a dispatch. I went out of the house and saw a team of brown horses coming with five men in the sleigh. They were on the direct road toward Elmira. I went up 20 rods and met the team. I grabbed the horses’ heads. They all got out of the sleigh and one man fired at me twice. Shortly after I let loose and they all got into the sleigh and drove off. One shot went through my coat sleeve. The man who shot me was Lowrey. I recognize all of them. McPherson was driving. Mr. Graves followed the track of one man and I took after the four. One of the men wore a cap.
Frank Graves said: I live at Pine City. I am a merchant. I saw five men driving over the bridge. They were going at a round trot. I saw Mr. Blanchard halt these men. When he caught the horses the sleigh slowed around. I saw a small sized man fire two shots at Blanchard. Blanchard fell the second time the man fired and they got away. I went down and Charley wanted me to help follow them with him and I went. Four men went in one party and one went to the right toward Elmira. I followed the single track and found a pair of woolen mittens. This man had new rubbers on. The Diamond and Boston Rubber Company was stamped in the snow. I saw where he made tracks around a log. I lost him on his way to Elmira. I found under the log the full kit of burglar’s tools in cases. The witness identified McPherson as the driver.
F. Chamberlain, of Southport, testified that he saw some of the men have bundles and some satchels.
Jason Harris, of Southport, testified that he found the pocketbook by the side of the road near where the party got over the fence.
H. C. Bosworth testified: I know where this pocketbook was kept. It was in the vault. I kept the pocketbook in the building. There were pennies collected for four years. I am father of the boy who owns the pocketbook. Witness identified a silver dollar that was taken from a drawer in his store.
Thomas O’Neil, of Elmira, testified to finding a pocketbook with a quantity of pennies in it near the Bulkhead hotel.
James H. Callahan, city editor of the Elmira Sunday Times testified to going with an officer and being present when McPherson was captured in the hotel at Big Flats and to what McPherson said as they drove into the city. He also saw Lowrey searched.
Horace Batterson, Police Constable of Elmira, detailed how he left Elmira in company with Chief Little and struck the trail of the five men a little way out of the city. He went after the trail of the one man who went towards Big Flats. At the hotel at that place he found his man had been captured. The prisoner turned out to be McPherson. He took the prisoner in a sleigh and started for Elmira. McPherson in answer to a question as to what time he left Osceola, asked, “Where is Osceola?” He said that if he had only got to Elmira under cover of darkness he would have got away, that they would have stopped at some of the houses and they would have either purchased silence or demanded it. He said that they had made up their minds not to wing any of the officers for fear they, the officers, might string them up to the first lamp post. Witness corroborated the testimony of Mr. Callahan.
Cross Examined [Batterson]: McPherson said he did all the driving. On Thorne the officers found $64 in bills and $12.40 in silver.
Daniel Dillon, a police officer of Elmira, told how he arrested Lowrey on South Main Street in Elmira about 9 o’clock of the morning of the robbery. On searching his prisoner he found money in most of his pockets and a large bundle in an inside coat pocket. Witness also told the story of the arrest of Thorne that evening after he had come into the city on a hay rigging.
Benjamin Shays, of Southport, testified: I was coming out of a field drawing water with my team. Four men came out of the woods into the road and pointed revolvers at me and told me to get out of my sleigh. Then they took the sleigh and drove off. Witness identified all of the prisoners except Lowrey, who was not with the four.
Smith Rutan, an Elmira officer, testified that he came on to four of the defendants in a field some little distance out of Elmira. I told them to halt, and they started off on a run. My gun would not work at first, but as I got to the top of the hill got sight of a man and fired at him. It was Kirwin. He gave a cry. I then went down and tracked a man into a barn. I pulled my gun on him and told him to throw up his hands. He did so and said “Don’t shoot”. I told him to come down out of the barn and he did so, and I arrested him. His name is Love. I searched him and found $161 in bills upon him.
Michael Keagle, another Elmira policeman, said: I was present when Kirwin was arrested back of Hendy Hollow, near the river. I found money on his person to the amount of $157.40. In his hip pocket were found $48.48 in silver. On our way to Elmira the prisoner said he would make a divvy if I would let him go. He said he didn’t know how much money he had.
Chief L. D. Little, of Elmira, testified: I drove to Bulkhead with my officers. I saw a man in the woods and behind him. I saw four other men following. Presently one man took a different course from the other four. I followed the four men who were running towards Officer Rutan’s house where they took the boy’s team and went towards Elmira. I drove after them, and learned that McPherson had been arrested. I afterward saw the Sheriff taking him on a sleigh to Elmira. Afterward Lowrey and Kirwin were brought in. All five were brought in that evening. On searching Thorne I found $400 in the sole of his shoe and $45 in his undershirt. I asked each of the men if they had satchels when they went into the woods and they said no.
T. D. Case testified: I keep the hotel at Elkland. When I got up the morning of the robbery I found my horses and sleigh gone. I afterward found them at Pine City. The horses were not injured much, only a little tired.
S. M. Daily testified: I live at Osceola and keep hotel there. Two of the defendants stopped with me about six weeks before the robbery. The men were Lowrey and McPherson. They cam to my house at 4 p.m. of one day and remained there till about 9 o’clock the next day. I knew of these men visiting the store where the bank is located. McPherson asked many questions and seemed quite talkative.
F. J. Seely testified: I am a son of Morgan Seely, of Osceola. I made search in the afternoon of the day of the robbery near the Bulkhead hotel in the first woods near by. I followed the track over the hill. I found a satchel and gave it to Chief Little of Elmira. I found it three or four rods up the hill, in the woods some 15 or 20 feet from the tracks. The satchel contained a ratchet for using drills and a wooden screw, which were exhibited. It also contained a fuse, railroad time tables, etc. The tools were offered in evidence by the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth here rested and Mr. Taylor, counsel for the defendants state to the Court that it was not their purpose to make any fuss. No arguments were made to the jury. After the case had been briefly summed up by the Court and submitted to the jury a verdict was rendered without the jury leaving the box. The jury found the defendants guilty in manner and form indicted. The defendants also rendered a plea of guilty on the second indictment—the stealing of Mr. Case’s team.
Mr. Elliott, representing the Commonwealth, then stated to the Court that it was not their purpose to proceed with any of the remaining indictments against these defendants, and he requested that sentence be passed under the two indictments already disposed of.
The Court then requested Mr. Kirwin to stand up, and on account of his being the youngest man in the party, sentenced him as follows: That he restore, if not already restored, the stolen property; that he pay a fine of $1 to the Commonwealth and the costs of this prosecution; and that he undergo imprisonment in the Eastern Penitentiary, at separate and solitary confinement, at hard labor, for and during the period of nine years and six months.
McPherson was next sentenced similarly as to fine and costs and to nine years and seven months imprisonment. The sentence of each of the others was similar except as to the terms of imprisonment which were as follows:
Harry Thorn, nine years nine months; Jack Love, nine years eleven months; James Lowrey, ten years, sentence in each case to be computed from their arrival at the Eastern Penitentiary. The Judge told Lowrey that he considered him the leader of the party and responsible largely for the robbery and therefore gave him the longer term of imprisonment.
The Bank Robbers Story
THEIR DEPARTURE FOR THE PENITENTIARY
—WHAT THEY SAID TO AN AGITATOR REPORTER
THE NIGHT BEFORE THEY LEFT
The Osceola bank robbers were started on their way to the Eastern Penitentiary last Friday morning on the six o’clock train. The prisoners were handcuffed and shackled in pairs as they appeared when brought into court for trial. Kirwin was handcuffed to officer Joseph Williams. A long chain with rings at proper distances was run between the arms of each pair and the chains connecting the handcuffs passed through the rings in the large chains, thus binding the whole party together. Sheriff Baxter, Chief Little, f Elmira, Capt. Taylor, Constable Fenton and Officer Caton were the guards who accompanied the prisoners, together with Officer Williams before mentioned.
Just before leaving Harry Thorne and Mile Kirwin objected to going. The former stoutly insisted on delay stating that he wished to see his counsel and arrange for a new trial. They offered no serious resistance however, when the irons were placed upon them. The other three men were quiet and made no trouble.
During the evening previous to their removal a reporter of the Agitator called at the jail and held about an hour interview with the prisoners.
Mr. Lowrey, who was found alone in the old Traviss cell, seemed in very good spirits and was very polite and gentlemanly. In response to a question relating to the trail and sentence he said he thought they had done the best thing under the circumstance, in not making any defense and pleading guilty to the Case indictment. He said if they had gone to the jury regularly and made a fight the Commonwealth would have tried them on all the other nine indictments and that their sentence would have been cumulative and they might have got twenty years.
While this conversation was going on Mr. Love, who had been placed temporarily in another cell, was taken out and placed in his accustomed cell with Lowrey. The conversation then became general and the remark was made by one of them the if they had murdered a man they would have got off much easier. Love said he was forty two years old and he remarked that a fellow could not stand many such sentences in a life time.
The asked in a jocular manner if they were not to be taken to Williamsport and tried for taking a few stamps from Uncle Sam. Lowrey made the remark that he guessed by the time they had served the present sentence out that the crime would be outlawed.
On passing around to the right the cell of Kirwin was reached. He recognized his caller and came to the cell door and shook hands. In response to a remark that he had received the lightest sentence, he answered that he did not so understand but that McPherson had received nine years and two months while he received nine years and six months. On being told that he was mistaken he seemed surprised to know that McPherson had received nine years and seven months, one month more than his own sentence.
He then told the reporter his part in the transaction. He said he was never above Lawrenceville, that he had a few days previous to the robbery met Harry Thorne in Elmira, that he had know Thorne having worked for him once. Kirwin said he was dead broke and went to Thorne who let him have $20. He said that on Thursday afternoon, the day before the robbery, Thorne met him and sent him round to several livery stables to see about getting a suitable team for him. He said he did not succeed in this and that later in the same afternoon Thorne began to get somewhat confidential with him and stated that a friend of his was to be secretly married up in Pennsylvania and that he was going out of the city for that purpose and was to drive back that night with the party, that he desired him (Kirwin) to walk over the wagon road between Elmira and Lawrenceville so as to be thoroughly acquainted with the route and meet the party at that place and ride back with them.
He said he left Elmira between four and five o’clock that afternoon after having purchased a map and a pair of new over shoes. He arrived at Seely Creek about dark, and was directed as to the road leading to Lawrenceville. He arrived at Lawrenceville, about four o’clock in the morning and remained under some sheds, near the main road over in town till some time after six o’clock, when he saw the party coming. He said, he went back upon his track toward Elmira, and waving his hat at them gave them the direction, and got into the sleigh with the party just outside of town. Two of the men in the party he had never seen before he got into the sleigh with them that night.
He said it was understood that some one of the party was to make a statement just before sentence was pronounced, so as to “square up” his matter before the Court, but that the Court had been informed by Chief Little what an old offender he was, and for that reason the Judge sentenced him first, and thus there was no opportunity for a statement in his favor from one of the older men in the gang. He thought it very hard that he should have received such a severe sentence.
McPherson was the next man seen. He asked what the people outside thought about the sentence and when told that they considered it very light under the circumstances he said he thought it very severe, that there was but one real crime, that of breaking and entering that “old store” and committing larceny. He said that all the other charges lacked an intent to commit a crime, but were subordinate and necessary to accomplish their one object. He thought that seven years would have been long enough for all of them but Kirwin, and that he should not have had more than five years as he was not above Lawrenceville that night. He said he could not blame the Judge for being severe, because the case was strongly against them. He knew it was all up with them as soon as the burglar tools were shown to the jury that nothing but an earthquake or loss of reason by the jury could have got them clear. He said Cosgrove only got seventeen years for breaking into a National bank and going into a private house and gagging people while they get about ten years for going through an old store.
Harry Thorne, who was in the cell with McPherson, referring to the money found in the sole of his shoe, said he placed it there long before the robbery, that he originally had a $100 bill in his shoe, but his shoe becoming worn, he tore the bill and then took it out and mended it and got it exchanged for other bills which he placed back in the sole where it was found. He went to a shoemaker whom he knew and had the sole tacked back on over the money. He also said the $45 found in his shirt had been there a long time and that the $115 they took from him was not the bank’s money. He corroborated the statement made by Kirwin and stated that he had picked up Kirwin in Elmira to use him, that he had let him have $20 and that he sent him over the wagon road to meet them at Lawrenceville.
Thorne made the statement that his only living relative was his mother in England. He said he came to this country when about three years old and had been employed until the last three years in the telegraph business. His health failing him on account of sedentary occupation he left the office and not having any thing to do he began playing cards and got to gambling. Because of this occupation he fell into the company of desperate characters and was not about to pay the penalty. He spoke very affectionately of his mother, and tears stood in his eyes as he said he should never see her again. He said that his health was such that he did not expect to live to get out of the penitentiary.
Miscellaneous items regarding the bank robbers
--During their imprisonment in the county jail the bank robbers made several tempting propositions to the guards to assist them to escape and went so far as to lay out the details of a plan. It is very evident in this case that the rascals failed to size up their men, for Messrs. Williams and Caton are made of the stuff that it won’t do to handle carelessly.
--Sheriff Baxter turned over the Osceola bank robbers to the keepers of the Eastern Penitentiary last Friday evening. The Sheriff went on to New York to spend several days before returning home.
--Mr. Joseph Williams returned yesterday from his trip to Philadelphia where he went as one of the guards in charge of the bank robbers. On the trip a stranger told Mr. Williams that he knew “that man with side whiskers”. He saw him at Fort Wayne, Indiana, four years ago a fair where he appeared as a gambler, and he said his name was Thorne. The stranger hit it exactly. Mr. Williams saw Cosgrove (the stranger) in the penitentiary. Cosgrove had never heard of any of the Osceola gang except Love. He knew him by reputation as a crackman (safe cracker).
--The Osceola bank robbers all claim to be Democrats.
April 28, 1885
--The Franklin Citizen says that “Charles Lowrey, one of the burglars who robbed the Greenville express office two or three years since and afterwards escaped with his confederates from the Mercer jail, was recently sentenced at Wellsboro to ten years in the penitentiary for robbing the Osceola bank.
June 2, 1885
Constable L. W. Fenton, of Elkland, get $20 for chasing up the Osceola bank robbers, while it is stated that his expenses for liveries, etc. was about $50. The Elmira officers get the lion’s share of the $500, and all other claimants in this county are left out in the cold.
--PIKE MILLS, May 23, 1885—On Friday just after noon, as the men were returning to their work and crossing the floating acres of saw logs in Clinton’s mill-pond at this place, one of the workmen discovered the dead body of a man lying in the water among the logs. The attention of his fellows was at once called to it, and a boat was procured and pushed slowly among the logs to where the body floated. A small rope was passed around the body and it was lowed to the shore, where it was allowed to line in the water until authorities could be summoned. Upon the arrival of Justice Merrick, acting Coroner, a jury was impaneled, consisting of C. O. Brown, W. I. Field, R. L. Clark, Frank Hamilton, S. Duchess, and Robert Kelley. The body was taken from the water and placed upon a large “Lighter” that had been used for floating stone, and taken to the shore. Dr. J. S. Reynolds and A. Kibbe were called and made a very thorough post mortem examination of the body of the unknown man. The result of this showed to the jury that the deceased had come to his death by having had his throat cut from ear to ear, the cut partially severing the windpipe; that the body had been found placed in water after death and had probably been in the water all winter. The flesh from the lower part of the face had decayed, exposing the lower jaw; otherwise the body was well preserved, showing that it had not been exposed to a strong current in the water. The body was dressed in a full suit of rather coarse black or nearly black clothes and overalls of tan color, heavy stoga boots, nearly new. There were no other positive marks of violence upon the body except as above mentioned. The clothes were whole and fully buttoned; showing no marks of a struggle; but about the neck and cheat the clothing was thoroughly saturated with blood that the long immersion in the water had failed to soak away. In person the deceased was six feet high, twenty two inches across the shoulders and in life probably weighed about two hundred pounds. His hair was dark, straight and quite coarse, and he had a slight sandy mustache. Upon the left foot was found a peculiar deformity, the little tow growing directly crosswise of the others and crossing the next two toes at nearly right angles. Nothing was found on his person except two newspapers—the Evening Republic of October 17, 1884, and the Williamsport Grit, of October 19, 1884, a clay pipe, a small quantity of tobacco and a spool of thread. The verdict of the Coroner’s jury was “That the deceased unknown man came to his death by having his throat cut with some sharp instrument in the hands of some person or persons to the jury unknown.” Up to this writing the mystery had in no wise cleared. Many rumors are afloat, but nothing tangible. One, and the only one that seems to have any foundation, connects the man found with a man by the name of John Welle, a Swede who it is claimed had the same deformity of the left foot. A man here asserts that the boots found on the murdered man were a pair that he traded Welle for a pair of shoes. The man, John Welle, was last seen on the evening of November 6th or 7th, and then declared his intention of going to Williamsport on the stage the next morning. At this point all trace of Welle is lost. He claimed to have relatives at Williamsport. It has been positively shown that Welle had much money. His name is spelled on the books of the Tannery Company as above, but the Swedes pronounce it as if it was spelled Willey. It is certainly a most mysterious affair, and it has created quite a sensation here.
--PIKE MILLS, June 5, 1885.—I clip this paragraph from the Gazette of
“The body found in the mill pond at Pike Mills has been fully identified as that of John Weller, a former employee at Gale’s tannery of that place. Weller, it seems, was engaged in a brutal fight with several others last fall, and was badly disfigured about the face and otherwise injured. He kept in the house for some time, waiting for his bruises to heal, and shortly afterwards drew, his pay (about $200) and prepared to leave that section. He had not been heard of or seen since, until his body was found in the mill pond. There was no money found upon his person, and the theory seems clear that he was murdered for his money, by some one who knew he had it.”
The above item in the Gazette has about as much misinformation as could be well crowded into so short a space. In the first place, although the man was probably John Welle, he had not been positively identified. The fight in which he was engaged was nothing serious. He was not much disfigured or otherwise injured. The entire amount of money that he drew from W. & L. R. Gale was only $10.88. The County Commissioners have offered a reward of $500 for the arrest and conviction of the murderer.
April 6, 1886
-A Shooting Affray at Nelson.
JOHN COLE LYING AT THE POINT OF DEATH FROM A PISTOL SHOT FIRED BY WILLIAM EDWARD SMITH
Last Saturday evening a shooting affray occurred near Tompkins
Station about one half mile below Nelson by which Mr. John Cole, of Nelson,
may lose his life from a pistol shot wound inflicted by Mr. William Edward
The particulars of the unfortunate affair, as near as they can be ascertained, are about as follows. About 7:30 o’clock, Smith went down to the station to get an evening paper. After the train had gone he started towards home, and after going a few rods he met a woman names Mrs. Jones, with whom he talked a few moments. He then started on again, and before he had got out of hearing John Cole came up and inquired of Mrs. Jones who that man was. She told him it was John Ball. He said it wasn’t true, it was Ed Smith, and with an oath he ran over and grabbed Smith by the throat and struck him in the face twice and said, “What have you been lying about me for?” Smith then drew a revolver with his left hand from his trousers pocket. Cole saw it and struck Smith’s arm and the pistol was discharged in the air.
The two men then clenched, and as they came together Smith passed his left arm under Cole’s right arm, and with the self cocking revolver in that hand he pulled the trigger. The bullet entered Cole’s back just under the shoulder blade, penetrated the left lung and glanced downward from the breastbone and lodged.
Cole exclaimed, “Hold on, Ed!” He staggered and ran about thirty rods toward the railroad, into the darkness calling for help. He made his way to the house of Henry Ball, and Dr. Lincoln, of Nelson, was sent for. The physician says that Cole’s wound is a dangerous one and the chances are very much against his recovery.
Smith went home where he was arrested by Constable Goodrich about 2 o’clock Sunday morning. After a hearing Smith was brought to this borough and lodged in jail yesterday. Smith is about 32 years of age. He has been at work in the lumber woods at Trout Run this past winter, and returned home only a few weeks ago.
John Cole is a man of about thirty years. He has been at work in the acid factory near Harrison Valley, and he returned to Nelson on Saturday morning. His reputation is rather unsavory and he is said to be a bully. It is also said that he had been drinking on this particular evening. He has been in jail here several times on charges of assault and battery, and he now carries a bullet in his person which was put there by Constable Caton, of Lawrenceville, some years ago while attempting to arrest him.
It is stated by some men that there was a woman in the case, and that it was this that led to the shooting.
April 13, 1886
Mr. John Coles, who was shot last Saturday is still alive, but cannot speak aloud.
April 20, 1886
Last night Mr. John Cole, the man who was recently shot by Smith at Nelson, died from his wound.
April 26, 1886
After the death of John Cole, who was recently shot by William E. Smith at Nelson, the physicians held an autopsy, but the bullet was not found. The funeral was held at the Presbyterian Church in Nelson on Wednesday.
August 31, 1886
A Murder Trial.
WILLIAM M. SMITH ACQUITTED BY THE JURY-THE STORY OF THE HOMICIDE AS TOLD BY THE WITNESSES.
The case of the Commonwealth against William M. Smith, otherwise known as Ed Smith, charged with the murder of John Cole, was called for trial on Tuesday. The Commonwealth was represented by the District Attorney, assisted by Sherwood & Son and Foote & Channell. The defense was represented by Elliott & Watrous, John S. Ryon, and Norman H. Ryan.
By Tuesday evening, after exhausting the panel, the following jurymen were selected to try the case:
George Maynard, farmer, Elk
Ellis J. English, merchant, Charleston
Benjamin Jones, farmer, Sullivan
James Kniff, merchant, Covington borough
Lewis P. Hastings, farmer, Delmar
Thaddeus Mitchell, farmer, Jackson
David J. Davis, farmer, Covington
Moot P. Rose, merchant, Mainesburg
Fremont Rose, farmer, Sullivan
George Ludlam, farmer, Charleston
Zina Woodhouse, farmer, Lawrence
Ira H. Mowrey, farmer, Farmington
On Wednesday morning after a brief opening by the District Attorney, witnesses were called to testify.
Helen J. Jones was first called and stated that she lived at Tompkins’s switch in Lawrence Township and she testified as follows: I remember the night John Coles was shot. He was shot April 3rd last. I heard three shots fired, the first two much nearer together the last. I was standing on the railroad crossing at the time. It was not far from dark. I had been to Mrs. Eastman’s that evening and was on my way home, carrying a load of apples. I met Ed Smith, the defendant, near Ball’s barn, and shortly after I met John Cole at the railroad crossing. Ed Smith, when I met him, was in the road going towards home. I spoke to him and asked him about my Sunday paper. He said he had the paper and would take it home with him that night and read it and return it next day. When I met Cole at the crossing he asked me who I had just met. I said John Ball. As the last shot was fired I saw the forms of two men. Cole was coming down the road towards our house, calling for help and to Smith saying he had shot him bad and he wanted him to go and get a doctor. Smith made reply that he was so “damned mad”, that if he came down there where he was he would finish him. Cole came down opposite our house and hallooed for me and for Henry Ball. Cole called out to me, “Joe, Joe, come out and help me! I am shot!” I next saw Cole at Ball’s house on a bed. He was spitting blood. Dr. Lincoln came in after about two hours and examined him. Cole lived two weeks and two days, dying on the 19th of April, about 10:30 o’clock in the evening. I was at the house when he died.
On cross-examination, the witness said, “Mr. Cole was at my house, out in the yard, when I left. He was putting on his coat and vest, and started for home. I told Cole, down at the switch, that it was Ball that I had just met, because I knew there was hardness between the two men and I did not want them to get together.”
Charles B. Goodrich, sworn, I live at Nelson. I am a Justice of the Peace. Ed Smith was brought before me on Monday morning, April 5th. The charge was assault and battery with intent to kill. Smith pleaded guilty to the shooting, but not to intent to kill.
Mrs. Henry Ball sworn. I live at Tompkins’ station. The night of the shooting John Cole came to my house about 8:30 o’clock. I heard one report of a pistol it came from the northeast. About 15 minuets after the shooting Cole came to my house. He took off his coat and vest and sat in a chair, shortly after he asked to lie down, and did so. Dr. Lincoln came in about 9:30 p.m. Cole remained at my house till he died on the 19th of April.
Henry Ball, husband of the foregoing witness, testified substantially to the same facts as his wife.
Dr. Samuel W. Lincoln was the next witness. I live at Nelson. I was called upon to visit John Cole on April 3rd at the house of Henry Ball. I found Cole half-reclining on a bed. I examined him and found a gun shot wound in his back, just below the shoulder blade and about half an inch from the backbone. The wound was the cause of his death in my judgment. I visited him till April 11th, making eight visits, the last time I saw him was on the 18th of April.
Dr. W. R. Francis, of Knoxville, the Coroner of the county was then called, and he gave a minute and extended account of the post mortem examination. Dr. A. M. Loop, of Nelson, who was present at the time of the autopsy, was also examined and corroborated Dr. Francis’s testimony.
Constable H. D. Goodrich, who arrested the defendant, was sworn as to taking from him the bulldog revolver, which was exhibited in court.
Almon Morgan was sworn as to measurements and distance in controversy.
Sheriff J. H. Ferris was called and identified the revolver as the one given him by Constable Goodrich when Smith was placed in his custody.
Mrs. Martha Cole, mother of the deceased, testified that her son was 32 years of age when he was shot, and that he was naturally a healthy young man.
Almon Morgan testified as follows: I know the defendant. I have known him for six years. Last fall I had a conversation with Smith about Cole. Smith said he was not afraid of John Cole in no spot or place, that he had a little “bulldog” in his pocket that would take care of him. He further said if John Cole ever crossed his path he would put a bullet through him.
Henry E. Rice sworn. I live at Nelson. I am acquainted with the defendant. Last March, at Merritt’s store at Nelson, I heard him say that if John Cole crossed his path he would put a bullet through him and he furthered said, “Yes by-and I carry the tools to do it with”. G. F. Eaton and J. R. Eaton, who were in the store at the time, substantially corroborated Mr. Rice’s testimony.
William H. Briggs, a young boy, testified to hearing Smith say he had offered to fight Cole and could whip him if not one way he could another. The boy further said that in a conversation with John Cole’s sister, she had told him that there was a man in Nelson who said her brother ought to have been shot long before he was.
Francis Schoonover testified to being at the Ball residence and shortly after Cole was shot and he heard Dr. Lincoln tell Mr. Cole that could live but a short time.
Justice Goodrich then testified that he wrote out the following dying declaration of Mr. Cole, which was read to the jury.
State of Pennsylvania, Tioga County. Information of John Cole, of Lawrence Township, April 4th A. D. 1886. I overtook Ed Smith in the road, asked him what he had been telling about me. He said he would show me and pulled out a revolver and fired at me. I tried to take the revolver away from him, and hit him. He reached around me and fired again and missed me. Then I asked him to get a doctor for he had shot me and he had hurt me bad, and I tried to coax him. He replied, “I am so mad I shall kill you if I come near you.” Witness: Dr. S. W. Lincoln. Signed, John Cole (his mark with an X). Sworn and subscribed before me this 4th day of April, A. D. 1886. Signed O. R. Goodrich, J. P.
The defense opened on Thursday afternoon, J. S. Ryon making the opening address. The first important witness called was Hattie Jones, a little daughter of Helen Jones, who testified for the prosecution.
Hattie said John Cole was at our house all day the 3rd of April. In the evening I was milking down at our barn when Ed Smith came along and wanted to know if my mamma was in the house. I told him that John Cole was in the house, and that he had better not go in as John was going to lick him. Ed then went back and did not go into the house, but went on toward the railroad.
Isaac Smith testified. I am father of the defendant. I live about one half mile from Tompkins’s switch. My son had been living with me for about a year prior to April 3rd. My wife and wife’s mother were in the room when my son came in about 8 o’clock the night of the 3rd. He had several bruises upon his head, his left eye was black, and there were marks of fingers on his throat. Ed went to bed about the usual time. Sometime in the night about 2 o’clock, Constable Goodrich came to the house and arrested him.
Mrs. Isaac Smith, mother of the defendant, and Miss Ellie Smith, sister of the defendant, substantially corroborated the foregoing testimony regarding the appearance of the defendant when he came home that night, as to the marks upon his head and throat. Several other witnesses were called upon the same subject.
Ed Smith, the defendant, was then called and testified as follows: I was living at my father’s. I was at the barn of Mrs. Jones and saw Hattie Jones. She said John Cole was in the house, had been drinking, and would kill me if he met me that night. After this I went to Tompkins’s switch and met a number of acquaintances. I was there about fifteen minutes till after the train cam in. I then started home. On my way I met Mrs. Jones, close to the barn, in the public highway. I had a conversation with her and then started on home. I walked along till I saw that Cole was coming after me and was going to catch me, when I began to run. Cole caught me nearly opposite the Holton bars. He grabbed me by the throat with his left hand saying, “What lies have you been telling about me?” Before I could answer he had shut my wind off. He chocked me so I could not speak or breath. He then said, “I ought to hit you”, and he then hauled off and struck me twice on the head. I then drew my revolver. I had it in my front pants pocket, he struck my arm, and the revolver went off. Then he struck me again on the back of the head, my head being drawn down to his left breast, and in that position he was punching my head and was still holding me by the throat, taking my wind away. I then put my hand under his arm and placed my hand with the revolver in it around his back and pulled off the revolver. He then threw me from him and I landed back against the fence. When I got so I could do anything he was way down at the railroad crossing calling for Mrs. Jones. I made no effort to touch him till he took me by the throat. After he once took me by the throat he never let up till after he threw me back against the fence. Cole was six feet four inches in height and weighed 210 pounds. He was able to handle two such men as I am. He was a very strong man.
The defense then called to the stand several witnesses who testified to certain threats they heard John Cole make against Ed Smith shortly before the shooting. The commonwealth’s counsel sought to exclude this testimony on the ground that the threats had never been brought to the defendant’s knowledge, but the Court admitted the testimony on the ground that it threw light upon the question of who began or who sought the encounter.
The defense then called to the stand a long list of witnesses who testified as to the relative size and strength of the two men and as to the respective reputations of the men for being peaceable, law-abiding citizens. The witnesses all testified to the superior strength of John Cole over Ed Smith and that John Cole was a quarrelsome fighting character and that Ed Smith’s reputation was good. The following witnesses testified to the above viz: Constable Canton, Robert Stewart, Mr. Thomas, William Merritt, Prof. M. F. Cass, Charles Robinson, D. L. Power, G. T. Losey, Henry Harrison, S. O. Daggett, Fred Lindsley, Lafayette Bailey, Albert Gee, Hope Hazlett, Perry Dailey, and Alva Baxter.
The argument of the case was entered upon Friday afternoon. The opening was made by Hon. H. M. Foote on behalf of the Commonwealth. Hon. N. H. Ryon followed in behalf of the defendant. The two gentlemen occupied about three hours in the discussion of the case.
Saturday morning was occupied by further argument of the case. Hon M. F. Elliott leading in behalf of the defense, followed in the closing argument for the Commonwealth by Hon. Henry Sherwood.
At two o’clock in the afternoon Judge Williams charged the jury in his clear and forcible style. He began explaining the law relating to murder, defining and illustrating the several degrees and detailing the law relating to self-defense. He then went briefly over the evidence and theory of each side of the case, calling the jury’s attention specially to the encounter of the two men, and each man’s version of what transpired at that time. He said that if they jury believed the statement that had been made by the deceased, there were present in the case all the elements which constitute murder in the first degree. This was contrary to what the Commonwealth’s attorneys had claimed in this respect, they having opened their argument by announcing nothing upon which they could ask for a verdict of murder in the first degree. The Court further charged that if the jurors believed the testimony of the defendant they would be justified in acquitting him.
The jurors retired to their room about three o’clock, and at about eight o’clock that evening they returned a verdict of not guilty. Before discharging the prisoner the Court cautioned him as to the avail of carrying firearms and expressed the hope that this lesson would not soon be forgotten.