"Black Sheep" of Fulton Co.


  Jonathan Berry Nehemiah Northup
  Jackson Bolen William Odell
  John Chesney James Ogden
  Ira Cobb Abraham Pelham
  John Cox William Phelps
  Oscar Craig George Potts
  John Curless Lemuel/Pitts Purdy
  Rebecca Dye Thomas Richardson
  Simon/John Hardy Henry Schroder
  Isaac Harris William Tait
  Richard Heather Robert/Catherine Todd
  William Jones Andy/Charles Warfeld
  Stephen Joy Eli Watkins
  Jackson/Daniel Louderback Jackson Welch
  Jacob Mabes Nancy Wilcoxen
  Joseph Mayall Thomas Wright
  Samuel Nicholson John Yarnell

Murder of J. H. Day
by C. O. Parkinson



William Phelps: Basis of Hod Putt in Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology
Buried in Oak Hill Cemetery Nov. 1, 1809 - Oct. 16, 1889

Hod Putt

Here I lie close to the grave
Of Old Bill Piersol,
Who grew rich trading with the Indians, and who
Afterwards took the bankrupt law
And emerged from it richer than ever.
Myself grown tired of toil and poverty
And beholding how Old Bill and others grew in wealth,
Robbed a traveler one night near Proctor’s Grove,
Killing him unwittingly while doing so,
For the which I was tried and hanged.
That was my way of going into bankruptcy.
Now we who took the bankrupt law in our respective ways
Sleep peacefully side by side.



(History of Fulton County, 1879, pages 307-317 , chapter transcribed by Carla Finley)



     The criminal record of Fulton county, as the dark contents of this chapter will clearly show, brings her to the front rank in this particular, as she stands in every noble one. Since the day wicked Cain slew his brother Abel in the very morning of the world’s history, the earth has been bathed in human blood shed by jealous, angry or infuriated human brothers. In Fulton county it seems that life has been held as of little value by many of our people. Men and women for slight pretenses have taken the life of their fellow creatures. The knife, pistol, gun, poison and other weapons have been used with a prodigal hand. For the most trivial offense the knife has been plunged to the vitals of the victim, the fatal bullet sent to his heart, or the deadly lotion dealt out. By the observant it will be noticed as a significant fact that in the following list of murders committed the offense to cause the deadly act to be done has been generally slight. Seldom justifiable, it seems to an impartial observer, yet it will be noticed that the punishment meted out to the criminal has invariably been light. Not one in the long list of murderers has been punished with the death penalty. We are not claiming that in any particular case such should have been done, but wish to record the facts impartially as we find them. As above mentioned, it would seem from this state of public sentiment that life is looked upon as not very sacred or valuable by many persons of this county. To illustrate further the slight value placed upon life by some, aside from the terrible facts recorded below, we will refer to a trial once brought before a justice of the peace of Liverpool township. Two neighbor women were brought to trial and prosecuted for the attempt upon the life of another neighbor woman. One of these, while making soap in the open air, had contracted with the other for a very small sum of money, only a few dollars, to kill the third woman referred to. The committal of the dark deed was thoroughly discussed, and plans laid to carry it into execution. The woman who for a few dollars had bargained to take the life of one of her neighbors intended committing the deed with a garden hoe. We do not wish to reflect upon the high moral standing of the citizens of Fulton county in general, but as faithful historians we must impartially record things as they exist.
     We have not attempted to give a list of the persons who were indicted for manslaughter. There is a very long list of these, many of whom are not murderers simply because they failed in aim, not because they did not intend to commit the deed. We give every case where a person was indicted and tried for murder.

James Ogden.

     In 1840 there was a house-raising at John Morris’, in Union township, near Troy Mills. Among those present was James Ogden. While at dinner Ogden thought he was insulted by another party, and being of an irritable temperament he became very cross, angry, abusive and profane. George Morris, a young man, became incensed at Ogden’s abusive manners, and made his feelings known. The two soon got into a fight. Ogden kicked Morris very hard during the tussle. When parted, Morris remarked that he was badly hurt. He was taken into the house and laid upon a bed, no one supposing that he was seriously hurt; but within fifteen minutes he died. After some time had elapsed Ogden gave himself up to Sheriff Lamaster, was tried, found guilty and sentenced to the penitentiary for one year. He served a portion of his time and was pardoned by Gov. Carlin. We are told that his treatment while at the penitentiary was very mild, he being permitted to drive a team through the streets of Alton and so general outside work.

Affidavit by John Morris on Nov. 20, 1839 submitted by Louie Griffey
click on thumbnail...


Nehemiah Northup.

     About noon one day in the summer of 1847 or ’48, Norman Beamas was married in Liverpool. In the evening of that day, Nehemiah Northup, a resident on the north side of Liverpool island, got to carousing around with women’s clothes on, and endeavoring to be a whole “shivaree” of himself. He was not known to have any particular charge against either Beamas or his new wife; but when it was about dusk he met Beamas on the common, passed a few words with him and started off with a gun on his shoulder, waving it up and down. At the distance of a few rods, walking with his back still turned toward Beamas, he fired off the gun, and lo! the shot struck the bridegroom on the neck and lower part of his face, shattering his lower jaw to pieces and killing him instantly. Northup was arrested and bound over to court under a moderate penalty, but he finally left the country and has since never been heard of. It is related that only a half-hour before the death of Mr. Beamas, the bride was dozing in a rocking-chair and had a very distinct dream of seeing her husband murdered!

Jackson Louderback, Daniel Louderback and John Curless.

     These parties were indicted March 6, 1849, for the murder of Abraham Littlejohn, of Woodland township. The history of the case, as we have been informed, is as follows: Some time previous to the murder two brothers by the name of Baldwin came into the neighborhood preaching a new religion. They were formerly fishermen, we are told, and came from Havana. Their education was limited, but what they lacked in knowledge they made up in zeal and earnestness, and consequently found many converts to their views. Among them were many of the best and most respected people of that portion of the county. In derision their followers were called Baldwinites, but Union Baptists was the name they claimed. They were infatuated with their new religion and held meetings very often. It was at one of these meetings that Littlejohn lost his life. It was held at a school-house, or church, and he was appointed to keep order. It seems that the Louderbacks and others came to this meeting expressly to create a disturbance; at any rate they did so, and while Littlejohn was putting one of their number out of the house Jackson Louderback reached in from without and cut him in the abdomen with a knife. From the wound made he soon died. Jackson made his escape and never has been captured. Daniel and John Curless were arrested and liberated on bail. Daniel’s case was postponed from time to time until the November term, 1851, when he came to trial. Julius Manning assisted the prosecution. Wead & Goudy and Lewis Ross defended. The case was a sharply contested one. He was acquitted. The other cases were then stricken from the docket.

Nancy Wilcoxen.

     Nancy Wilcoxen, a woman of questionable character, was indicted, March 17, 1852, for the killing of William Weston. She went from her home in Liverpool township to Liverpool on the day of the night of the murder, and purchased a knife for the avowed purpose of killing Weston. He was at her house, and it is said he bore but a little better reputation than the woman. That night she killed him. Her attorneys were Manning, Ross and Blackwell, while Wead & Goudy assisted the prosecution. She was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to the penitentiary for six years. She was pardoned, however, before her term of service was completed, came back to this county, and subsequently went to Sangamon county, where she died.

Rebecca Dye.

     This was a case brought from McDonough county on a change of venue, but it was the most exciting trial ever held in the county. It lasted nine days. The court room was crowded at every session, many ladies being constantly in attendance. On the evening of the 27th of May, 1854, Mrs. Dye killed her husband, James Dye, as it was alleged. David B. Burress was arrested as an accessory to the crime, but broke jail before trial. Mrs. Dye was tried at the April term of the Circuit Court, 1855. The prosecuting attorneys were Messrs. Goudy, of Fulton, Wheat, of Adams, and Schofield & Mack, of Hancock. For the defense, Messrs. Manning, of Peoria, Kellogg and Ross, of Fulton, and Cyrus Walker of McDonough. Probably a more able array of counsel could not have been procured in the entire State. William C. Goudy opened the case for the people and Cyrus Walker for the defense. Some eighty or ninety witnesses were examined. The case was given to the jury after able arguments on both sides. It remained out for fifteen hours and brought in a verdict of guilty, and fixed the punishment at confinement in the penitentiary for five years. She was pardoned long before the expiration of her term, returned to Macomb, and died in 1874.

William Tait.

     In November, 1857, Wm. Tait was indicted for the killing of Hamilton Brown at Astoria. One night while passing along the street Brown was struck upon the head with a stone or a piece of iron. From the wound inflicted he died. Tait was supposed to have thrown the stone and therefore was indicted for the murder. He was liberated upon bail fixed at $500. He was tried and acquitted. Cyrus Walker was his attorney.

Simon R. O. and John W. Hardy.

     A fracas occurred in the little village of Slabtown Wednesday, April 27, 1859, in which Daniel Richardson was instantly killed and John O. Hardy severely wounded. There had been a lawsuit that day in which Richardson was interested, and it not terminating to please him, and, it is said, he being somewhat intoxicated, became quarrelsome. He attacked, as it was claimed, John O. Hardy, an elderly gentleman, and struck him two or three times, when young Hardy approached; and as he attempted to draw a pistol Richardson threw a stone, which struck the weapon, causing it to discharge its contents into the young man’s thigh. The old man then drew a knife and stabbed Richardson to the heart, killing him instantly. The two Hardys were brought to trial at the June term, 1859, on the charge of murder. From 96 men a jury was chosen and the case given into their hands. They rendered a verdict of “not guilty.” *transcribers note: copied exactly as written. Initials are different in story.

Isaac Harris.

     A young man by the name of Vaughn was murdered at Vermont, Tuesday, July 15, 1860, by Isaac Harris, another young man. The weapon used was a club. The young men had always been warm friends. They were traversing a road near Vermont, and Vaughn became so helpless from excessive drinking that he fell upon the ground and could not get up. Harris tried to arouse him by pounding him with a stick, but without success. He then took a fence stake and literally pounded the prostrate man to death. Vaughn was taken home and died that same evening. It seems that there was no ill-feeling between the two men: they were only drunk. Harris was indicted for the murder and tried at the October term of the Circuit Court, found guilty of manslaughter and sent to the penitentiary for fifteen years.

Jackson Bolen.

     In Nov., 1862, Bolen killed James Mahary, of Vermont. This occurred during the war, and it seemed the latter had charged the former with being a Missouri jay-hawker and thief. Bolen hearing of the charges, went to Mahary for satisfaction, when a collision ensued, which resulted in Mahary being stabbed to death. Bolen was indicted Feb. 26, 1863, and tried at the March term of the Circuit Court and acquitted, the jury believing he committed the deed in self-defense.

Thomas Wright.

     was brought to trial at the March term of the Circuit Court, 1862, for the killing of a Mr. Helm. The case was dismissed during trial by the prosecution for want of evidence.

George W. Potts.

     Friday, Jan. 16, 1863, at Apple’s school-house, four and a half miles east of Lewistown, Zachariah Shaw, jr., met his death, by being stabbed with a bowie-knife in the hands of Geo. W. Potts. A spelling-school had been in session at the school-house, and immediately after its close an affray occurred between several persons, resulting in Shaw’s death. Potts made his escape. He was indicted Feb. 28, 1863, for manslaughter, but he could not be found. The case ran along from term to term until Dec. 14, 1869, when it was stricken from the docket.

Eli Watkins, Abraham Pelham, Henry Schroder and Jackson Welch.

     These parties, who resided in Menard county, killed an innocent and inoffensive boy near Havana, Mason county, and were brought here on a change of venue from that county. They were taking a drove of cattle through the county, and stopped at Havana and became intoxicated. They met their victim, who was a German boy of twelve or fifteen years of age, in the road, and ordered him off, and without further provocation shot him down. They were all acquitted.

Ira Cobb.

     This man killed a Mr. Baker, of Woodland township. Both parties were respected, and well-to-do citizens. They got into a fuss, however, over the difference of only fifty cents in making a settlement with each other, and Cobb shot Baker with a pistol. The ball entered the head of its victim and proved fatal immediately. Cobb was indicted for murder Sept. 29, 1864. He took a change of venue to Peoria county, was tried, found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced for ten years. A new trial was granted, and by agreement the case was returned to this county, here he broke jail and was gone four years. Shortly after his escape he was captured in Indiana. Sheriff Waggoner hurried forward to get his prisoner, but ere he arrived Cobb had again escaped. This time he evaded the authorities for about four years, when Sheriff Waggoner caught him in Kansas. When he returned he was brought to trial, but the prosecution was compelled to beg for a continuance, as every witness for the State had either died or left the State. He pleaded guilty, we believe, and was sent to the penitentiary for one year, but was soon pardoned.

Thomas Richardson.

     In June, 1865, the village of Marbletown was thrown into considerable excitement by the announcement of the murder of Daniel Lash. Lash was a farm-hand at the time in the employ of Hiram Marble. Richardson, a cripple, kept what was familiarly known as a “jug grocery,”---in other words, a saloon. Lash, who was a desperate fellow and regarded as an outlaw, came to this saloon using threatening language toward Richardson, and soon endeavored to strike him. Richardson in the mean time secured a hatchet, and when opportunity presented struck Lash a hard blow, which proved fatal. Lash exclaimed “He has killed me!” and after walking about seventy yards fell. Richardson was arrested for the murder, but the grand jury refused to indict him, and he was set at liberty.

Catherine Lewis, alias Catherine Todd, and Robert Todd.

     These parties were indicted April 20, 1865, for committing murder by poisoning; they were tried at the November term of the Circuit Court, 1865, and found not guilty. Robert, however, was not discharged until April 20, 1866. A further account will be given in the history of Pleasant township, where the murder was committed.

William A. Jones.

     The victim of this fracas, which occurred in Bryant, was Wesley Pittman. Jones was indicted April 21, 1866, found guilty of manslaughter April 18, 1867, and sent to the penitentiary for two years. He killed Pittman with a rock. Sheriff Waggoner took him to State’s prison, where he died.

John Yarnell.

     This man was indicted April 23, 1867, for killing City Marshall James P. Goodwin, of Lewistown. He took a change of venue to McDonough county and was sent to the penitentiary for fourteen years. He, however, only served about eighteen months, when he was pardoned.

Oscar Craig.

     Craig shot and killed Thomas Brown, in Otto, and seemingly without any provocation whatever. He was indicted for murder Aug. 25, 1870, took a change of venue to Tazewell county and was acquitted.

Lemuel Purdy, Pitts Lawrence Purdy and Samuel Nicholson.

     These parties were indicted Aug. 29, 1871, for the murder of a Swede. The fatal affair occurred on the night of the 4th of July, 1871, at a saloon called Shoo Fly, one mile east of Lewistown. A majority of the crowd at this place that night were intoxicated. The Swede had but recently come to this country and is said to have been a very quiet, inoffensive man. In a fracas that occurred he was struck down with a club, and he died from the effects of the injuries received. Nicholson was tried at the April term, 1873, and found “not guilty.” Pitts L. Purdy took a change of venue to Schuyler county, where he also was acquitted. Lemuel Purdy took a change to Macon county, tried, found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced for five years. He was pardoned at the end of three years. All of these parties were accounted good, respectable citizens.

John Marion Chesney.

     Chesney killed a negro at Abingdon, Knox county, in 1873. He was indicted for murder in the fall and a change of venue was taken to this county, where, at the December term, 1873, he was acquitted.

William Odell.

     Odell was indicted for murder Aug. 1, 1875. He was a constable and lived at Havana, Mason county. He levied upon a boat belonging to a man by the name of Patterson, who lived near the Copperas-creek dam. Patterson was a bad character and a desperate man, which fact was known to Odell. He attempted to retake the boat from Odell, and in the attempt Odell began shooting at him, and fired four times, killing him instantly. Odell was tried in this county and acquitted.

Jonathan B. Berry.

     About sundown July 10, 1876, Jonathan B. Berry shot and killed John J. Lalicker, of Pleasant township. Berry had married a widow lady named Maggie Shuman, and on the evening of the murder Berry was whipping one of her boys; and to help control him she sent one of her sons, Willie Shuman, a boy of a dozen summers, to Mr. Lalicker’s, who lived near, for assistance. Mr. L. hurried over according to the request, and as the two entered the yard Berry warned Lalicker not to enter the house. Berry fired at him through a window and again in the house, one of the shots proving fatal, killing Lalicker almost instantly. Berry was indicted at the August term of Circuit Court, 1876, and tried at the December term, found guilty and sent to the penitentiary for ten years. He is now confined there.

Richard B. Heather.

     In 1876, Oct. 26, Richard B. Heather killed S. Peter Johnson, at Abingdon, Knox county. His bail was fixed at $15,000, and he took a change of venue to this county, was tried at the April term and convicted of manslaughter and sent to the penitentiary, but the following November pardoned. This was one of the most exciting trials that eve occurred in the county.

Joseph Mayall.

     Mayall and Willis were both plasterers by occupation and resided in Ipava. It appeared that Wm. Collier had a job of plastering which both parties wanted to do. Finally Willis was awarded the work, which Mayall thought was obtained by defaming him as a workman. An altercation ensued between them. Willis had a hatchet in his hand and seemingly made some movement with it toward Mayall, when the latter said, “You are not going to hit me with the hatchet, are you?” Willis threw the hatchet down and they both walked toward the gate. Upon arriving at the gate Mayall pulled out a knife and cut Willis, from the wound of which he died. Mayall was tried at the December term of the Circuit Court, 1876, and acquitted.

Jacob Mabes.

     Mabes was indicted for murder Sept. 1, 1877, for the killing of Bryan Daily, in Orion township. Both men were intoxicated and were each driving a wagon along the road. Mabes tried to drive around Daily, which the latter prevented. He then struck him with a missile, the blow killing Daily. Mabes was admitted to bail Dec. 7, 1877, the amount of the bond being $3000. He was tried at the April term of the Circuit Court, 1878, and found “not guilty.”

Stephen Joy.

     At Bernadotte, about 5 o’clock P. M., Saturday, July 19, 1879, Dr. Sylvester O. Hall, the leading physician of the village, met his death at the hands of Stephen Joy, and old and respected citizen, and phenomenally zealous in his religion. The facts as gleaned from the evidence at the Coroner’s inquest, the trial of Joy not having yet occurred, were about as follows: On the morning of the murder Mr. Joy agreed with Dr. Hall that, if he would buy a pony offered for sale by Perry Jones, he would take the animal off his hands at $20 cash. The doctor accordingly made the trade, took the pony to Joy’s store and notified him that the animal was ready for him. Joy told him to hitch the animal and come in, which Hall did. Joy hesitated for a little while and then backed squarely out of the trade. This greatly enraged the doctor and some very bitter words passed, resulting in the doctor commencing a suit against Joy for damages. The trial was set for July 26, before ‘Squire Shipton. All this occurred before noon. The parties discussed the question publicly during the day, and the very air seemed impregnated with bad blood.
     Between four and five o’clock in the afternoon Hall sauntered around to Joy’s store, and sat down upon the sidewalk at the south-east corner of the building, while Joy occupied a bench near by. Hall sat several inches lower than Joy and they were not more than four feet apart. Some bitter words ensued, when Hall called Joy a hard name. Joy had been whittling with a large pocket knife, and at this moment reversed the knife quickly, blade downward, and saying, “This must be settled,” struck a quick blow at Hall’s bare neck, when a huge stream of blood spurted eight or ten feet away. Hall seized his neck as if to stay the blood, and said, “He’s killed me!” Within five minutes after the stab he died. The wound severed the left carotid artery and jugular vein. Quite a large number of persons were sitting around the two men when the tragedy occurred, and the blow could easily have been stayed had there been any suspicion that one would even strike the other. But it was all done in a flash---in the twinkling of an eye. The epithet uttered by Hall, the response by Joy, and the instant thrust with the knife,----all took place while the disputants were rising to a half-standing position.
     Stephen Joy was indicted for murder August 21, 1879, and his trial postponed. Friday, September 5, 1879, Joy was brought before Judge Shope, on a writ of habeas corpus, to have an examination with the object of securing his bail. After a very full hearing the Judge admitted him to bail in the sum of $25,000, which was given, and the trial set for the next term of Court.




(Fulton County Democrat, Wednesday, June 12, 1929, submitted by Sherry McCullough)


The trial of John Cox , of Vermont, charged with murder because of having sold wood alcohol which caused the death of Marshall Easley of Vermont and Lantz Hitz of Table Grove got under was Tuesday morning after practically all Monday had been spent in picking the jury; which is as follows:

John Hall, Alva Long, Charles Wasson, W. F. Flora, T. C. Richardson, Nicholas Avis, all of Canton; Gilford Maranville, Lewistown; Moses Danner, Pleasant Twp.; William Peak, Isabel; Charles Ellison, Vermont; Loy Tippey, Isabel and Carl McClelland , of Astoria.

The court appointed Joseph Martin of Canton to defend Cox, who was not able to hire an attorney, and who is being assisted by Ezra Clark, and State's Attorney Senift and Assistant Marshall U. Faw are appearing for the state.

In a brief opening statement Senift informed the jury that the grand jury brought indictments on ten counts in the case of Marshall Easley, eight for murder and two for manslaughter, and he also stated that Marshall Easley, Lantz Hitz, Benjamin Teel and Andrew Heaton had all died from the effects of wood alcohol secured from John Cox.

Atty. Martin waived his opening statement.

The state produced a long list of witness which included Keith Easley, son of the deceased; Delbert Onion, who testified he took Marshall Easley to Cox's home where he said he heard him ask for a half gallon of liquor, and saw him bring a package wrapped up from Cox home, which he later placed on his own porch. He stated he next saw the package in a drug store and wrote his name on the label in order to identify it.

The son of the deceased testified he had taken Easley to the Cox home many times where he had purchased liquor, and on Sunday night he had found his father lying on the floor unconscious, had called in a neighbor and put him to bed, where he died that night. He identified the jug later identified by youg Onion as the same as he found in the house the night of his father's death.

Several other witnesses testified seeing Easley near the Cox home on the night he was alleged to have purchased the liquor, and Mrs. Alice Easley, the widow substantiated the evidence of her son.

Mrs. Nettie Hitz, widow of Lantz Hitz, whose death is also being charged to wood alcohol sold by Cox, testified that she had frequently purchased liquor from Cox, and in the absence of the jury introduced a deathbed statement she said was made to her by her husband to the effect that he had purchased the liquor which caused his death from John Cox. The judge will later decide whether this evidence is admissible to the jury.

Attorney Martin brought out the fact in cross examination that Marshall Easley had taken a load of hogs to Peoria the Wednesday before..

Sheriff Rorer testified to attending the inquest of both Easley and Hitz and taking their stomachs to Bradley Polytechnic, to a chemistry expert for examination.

The expert was then called and testified he had made an analysis of both the stomachs and also the jug of liquor alleged to have been purchased by Easley at the Cox home. He stated that he found methyl, or what is commonly known as wood alcohol in both stomachs examined; and that the jug of liquor was found to be almost pure wood alcohol. On cross examination by attorney Martin he stated he knew little about the effects of wood alcohol poisoning but described the tests he used in determining the analysis.

Dr. C. K. Carey of Vermont , who attended Marshall Easley at his death testified as to the symptoms of the deceased and as to the effects of wood alcohol poisoning.

The last prosecution witness created a little merriment in the court room. After testifying he had frequently purchased liquor at the Cox home, Attorney Martin asked the witness, Bert Harm of Vermont, if he had not been smacked by Mrs. Cox, and after his admission to that fact, Martin continued, " That was because you threw a lighted cigarette down the neck of her dress wasn't it ?" Asked if he felt very kindly toward Mrs. Cox, he answered "Why should I ? "

After this witness the state's attorney rested his case, about 10:30 this morning.

The rest of the morning and this afternoon until going to press has been spent by the defense in attempting to impeach the testimony of Mrs. Easley, the son, Keith Easley and Mrs. Lantz Hitz. They attempted to bring in the testimony taken at the time of the corner's inquest in these cases but the court ruled this evidence was largely inadmissable because it had been taken in longhand at the time and since had been copied twice. Evidence to impeach Mrs. Hitz's statement on the stand that she had never bootlegged was admitted however, from records of information filed against both Lantz and Mrs. Hiltz charging them with selling and possessing intoxicating liquor on file in the county clerk's office and also records showing they had pled guilty to possession, and were fined.

The defense was fighting hard to get evidence admitted for impeachment and the prosecution was fighting just as hard to exclude it.

It is expected that the case will go to the jury some time tomorrow.


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