Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Supposed Murder

American Friend & Marietta Gazette, November 21, 1827

On Sabbath day, the 11th of November, 1827, Messrs. Samuel Williamson and Charles Talbot, of Grandview, in Washington County, Ohio, were passing down the bank of the Ohio to attend a meeting in the adjoining township of Newport, when they discovered in the narrows in Newport, a little below the foot of bat and grape islands, a dead body floating on the water, and stayed against some drift wood in the willows, near the shore, on the Ohio side of the river.  They alarmed several families on both sides, and seeing them preparing to attend to the body they passed on.  When the people had assembled they found the body in a state of decay, and so offensive that some of them concluded to bury it immediately on the bank.  Notice of the circumstances having been given to Griffin Greene, Coroner of the County, he caused a jury of inquest on the body to be assembled on the 16th, when the body was disinterred, and examined, and testimony heard as to the original finding and burial.

The deceased appeared to have been a man, probably, rising forty years of age, rather muscular, about five feet four inches in height.  The skull was bare - the nose and ears were gone.  The teeth were remarkably perfect.  The under fore teeth at first view, had some appearance of double ones.  The upper fore tooth, next the eye tooth on the left side, was partly turned in, forming a notch.  From what could be discovered of the small portion of hair remaining, it seemed to have been of light complexion.  It appeared that the face was rather broad - the cheek bones prominent.  Under the left cheek bone, one of the whiskers remained.  The neck was short.  Under the right ear was the appearance of a considerable tumour, or swelling of some kind.

There was no outside garment on the body when found.  The persons principally concerned in the first taking up and burying of the body, were Isaac and Edmund Riggs and John Bailey of Virginia, but a considerable number of other persons were present.  When the body had been carried to the place of burying on the bank, a silver watch was discovered hanging by the seal from the clothes.  It was taken by Isaac Riggs and afterwards, at the inquest, delivered to the Jury and now remains in the hands of the Coroner.  It is a plain English watch, with a silver cap, inscribed Richard Ascall, No. 200, both on the cap and plate, and stamped T. G. on the bottom of the case.  Had a copper chain - the gilding much worn - doubled at the lower end; a gilt seal with a glass set, resembling Topaz, without initials or device; a patent chrystal and golden hands.  It appeared in evidence that this watch was the only article taken from the body previous to its being buried.

On the day after the body was buried a young Mr. Decker, living near the place, found on the spot where the body was taken out of the water, a small key, and a large buck handle pocket knife with a screw driver in the handle, and places probably designed for carrying a lancet, on one side and a toothpick and tweezers on the other, which also remain with the Coroner.

The clothing which remained on the body, when before the Jury, consisted of a broadcloth waistcoat - the color something like London Brown - the lining and back some kind of woollen fabric - the forepart with the pockets and buttons gone; a black silkneck handkerchief, a muslin shirt; & underneath a red flannelshirt with long sleeves, a pair of fine blue broadcloth pantaloons, neatly made, with suspenders of striped webbing - the pockets gone, a pair of flannel drawers; long stockings of a lightish grey, tolerably fine, seamed at the top, fastened below the knee with tape strings; and a pair of substantial calf or kip skin, high laced Monroe shoes, which had been half soled.  They were made in a substantial manner, bound and lined.

It was testified that previous to the burial there was on the breast a quantity of ashes, from half a gallon to a gallon; and on the outside of the clothing a mixture of something like flour or paste.  There were similar appearances before the Jury.  The substance, or mixture, supposed to be ashes, was found under the remaining parts of the waistcoat, and under the pantaloons; particularly, under and below the back part of the waistband.  There appeared to be small pieces of charcoal in it, but it was whiter than the usual appearance of leached ashes and by some thought to resemble plaister of Paris, ground but not calcined.  On the breast, just below the throat, was a large dark spot.  There was a cracked and crispy appearance of the skin beneath the chin.

The verdict of the Jury was, that in their opinion the deceased was murdered by some persons unknown.

The body was placed in a coffin, and conveyed for interment to the burial place in the upper settlement of Newport.  It was there again examined by Dr. Joseph Waterman; who observed that the appearances were different from those of any animal substance, in a state of decay, which he had ever before witnessed; and that the supposition of the body having been boiled or scalded in water, previous to its being put in the river, would, in his view, best account for those appearances.

The shoes and some parts of the garments found on the body, have been preserved.

Griffin Greene, Coroner.

Editors, generally, are requested to publish the above, for the sake of humanity.

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