Friday, March 18, 2011

A Murderous Assault!

The Marietta Register - Semi-Weekly, August 5, 1884

John B. Waters makes an unprovoked attack on Edward Meisenhelder with a hatchet - Cutting a fearful gash on the back of the skull and exposing the brain to view - Other licks on the arm - A mad pursuit for a fancied revenge which terminates in a wanton destruction of property.

Marietta never was charged up with a more unprovoked and wanton crime than that of John B. Waters, the grocer on Putnam street last Saturday morning on Edward Meisenhelder, the marble cutter who occupied the adjoining building.

The affair began without warning to any one that morning.  No words had passed between Waters and Meisenhelder.  Both had returned to business early and neither had knowledge that the sun had gone down on the wrath of the other the night before.  It was yet an early hour, about 7 o'clock, and only a few men had yet got to their places of business.

Meisenhelder had opened out and was at work cutting an inscription unconscious of danger.  His apprentice, a lad about 17 years makes this statement about the beginning of the assault:

"We had just opened the shop and Ed. was cutting some letters with his back toward the door, when John Waters ran in and cried out, "now I've got you, you s___ of ____," which was followed by two licks with the hatchet before Ed. could protect himself." 

One lick was lodged on the back of the head and took out a piece of the skull the size of a half dollar exposing the brain but not disturbing it and severing three small arteries.  The second lick was on the left arm above the elbow and though a gaping wound is not dangerous.

Meisenhelder ran out at the back door and Waters after throwing the hatchet at him went out the front door and met him at the corner of Putnam and Second, where he stood swearing, and as he met him coming around the corner he made at him again.  His blow was not effective and Meisenhelder ran slowly toward Dr. Walters to have his wounds dressed.

Waters soon went back to the store and wrapped the hatchet up in a cloth and started down to kill Charlie, Ed's brother, who is working on the ice harbor.  Waters went down to the harbor accompanied by "Chick" Buell.  When he got near Charlie Meisenhelder he raised the hatchet to strike when little "Chick" grabbed hold of his arm and yelled to Charlie to look out as John was going to kill him.  After flourishing his hatchet and bantering the whole harbor to come out John went back to the Marble shop on Putnam street, and commenced a work of destruction.  He broke every window pane out of the front, hacked the letters on the marble monuments, smashed the fine moulding on top of the tombstones and tipped monuments and slabs over.  He was interrupted by officer Latanner who wrenched the hatchet out of Waters' hand and hustled him off to jail, or rather to the city jug.  By this time there were a great many people around the scene of the tragedy.

A reporter of the Register making a trip to Dr. Walters found young Ed. Meisenhelder lying on the pavement with his head on a hassock,while the doctors were sewing up an ugly cut in his left arm below the elbow.  A pool of blood lay at his feet while his clothes and hands were smeared with gore.  A wagon was brought in and filled with hay; as soon as his wounds were cared for the wounded boy was lifted in and taken to his home on 5th street, where he now lies in a critical condition.  A talk with one of the doctors revealed the following:  The blow in the back of the head severed three small arteries all of which were tied; the doctors subsequently cut out a piece of the skull through the mastoid process, and the lining or covering of the brain was bare enough for them to see it pulsate.  The young man retained his consciousness all the time.

The facts prompting the deed are difficult to ascertain with certainty since Waters refused to talk after his arrest.

John B. Waters is a man 32 years of age, usually very agreeable in manner, industrious and anxious to do his part towards the support of his widowed mother and family.  His mother married for her second husband the late Judge C. F. Buell.  John was known to be drinking pretty hard but to be his own worst enemy.  He knew this well and frequently talked about it leaning on the lame excuse that he had inherited an appetite that was his master.  But this was not so strong but that he could swear off for a season which he frequently did though only to relapse into the old habit.

As to his condition at the time, the facts are hard to obtain.  The hatchet that was used belonged to Gus. Wagoner, a carpenter, who left it at the store the night before and by accident thus was unhappily too near when the murderous impulse took possession of him.

What It Was All About

What grievance, or supposed grievance, Waters had, if any, it would be hard to tell.  It is said by the apprentice that when Whithead went out of the business he owed Waters, and that Meisenhelders assumed the debt and were to make a tombstone for it.  This they did, but it did not please him and they sold it for him and were to pay him when the same was collected.  Waters recently demanded the money but was put off until the money came in.  Some angry words grew out of this transaction but still they were on apparently good terms and spoke to each other when they met that morning.

There had also been some little chaffing by the Meisenhelder boys over a little upset Waters had experienced with a young lady at Matamoras to whom he had been paying attentions.  It is possible that Waters was under the impression that they had been instrumental in prejudicing his case with her, but inquiry leads to the conclusion that this was not true.

But putting it all together, fancied and real, there was no cause why he should assault the Meisenhelder boys in any way, and much less with the murderous hatchet.  It must have been the impulse of a mad man driven to the extreme of jealousy by the maddening influences of drink.

The passion of a moment following angry words would not pursue the victim even to the destruction of property.

The Meisenhelder boys are not quarrelsome.  They have the reputation of fair dealing and would be considered the last persons to provoke an assault of this kind.

The sad feature of the case is that it brings sorrow to two quiet unoffending families.

As we write, Monday, young Meisenhelder is doing well and may recover.  Waters is in jail and will have a hearing Tuesday morning.

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