The Galveston Daily News, March 24, 1884

An Illinois Wife-Killer
Last night Charles Houlden, a farmer, living some miles south, quarreled with his wife and knocked her down with an ax, cut her throat from ear to ear, and inflicted numerous stabs in the breast, also severely to the hand, of a son, aged twelve years, who attempted to interfere. He went to a neighboring straw stack, where he gashed his own throat, though not fatally, and where he was found and arrested by a posse this morning. There are threats of lynching.

The Milwaukee Sentinel, March 24, 1884

A Farmer's Shocking Assault Upon His Wife and Attempted Suicide

Petersburg, Ill., March 23-Charles Houlden, a farmer living about five miles south of here, butchered his wife in the most brutal manner last night. He and his family, consisting of five persons, were sitting at the supper table, when a few unpleasant words passed between him and his wife. Suddenly the former arose from the table and began smashing the chairs and breaking other things in his reach. Mrs. Houlden arose from the table and saying that she had stood his abuse as long as she intended to, and called to the children, and began to make preparations to quit the house. Seeing this, Houlden stepped into a hallway, seized an ax, returned to the room, and struck Mrs. Houlden on the side of the head, knocking her down. Then drawing his knife from his pocket, he drew it across her throat, from ear to ear, and, thinking she was dead, started to leave the room. As he got to the door, Mrs. Houlden raised up on her elbows and begged that her life might be spared until she could say a few words. Her husband again returned, and cut another mortal wound into the side of her neck, and stabbed her in several places about the breast and shoulders. Not satisfied with his hellish work, he returned once more to the dying woman and threw his weight on her, mortally injuring her internally. The murderer was found in a hay stack, about a quarter of a mile from the scene of the murder, with an ugly gash in his throat and the knife still grasped in his hand. It seems to be the opinion of a great many here that he had premeditated the deed and was only awaiting the action of the jury in the Carpenter case. He probably thought if a jury would acquit Carpenter he might be acquitted also is he should commit the murder.

St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 26, 1884

A Murderer's Lynching Feared
Springfield, Ill., March 25-In response to the request of the Sheriff of Menard County, the Governor has notified the Captain of the Petersburg Guards to hold himself and troops in readiness to respond to the call of the Sheriff. No intimation has been received here that any attempt has yet been made to lynch Houlden, the wife murderer now in Petersburg Jail.

Milwaukee Daily Journal, March 26, 1884

A mob has been organized at Petersburg, Ill., to hang Houlden, who murdered his wife there last Saturday.

Milwaukee Sentinel, March 26, 1884

Petersburg, Ill, March 25-The state militia, who were on duty around the jail to prevent the lynching of the wife-murderer, Houlden, have been relieved and the jail is without a guard. The sheriff anticipates trouble if the weather is not stormy to-night and will be on the alert. Public feeling against Houlden is running very high.

March 29, 1884, Decatur Review

Charles Houlden, a farmer near Petersburg, Illinois, learned from a neighbor, Saturday evening, that O.A. Carpenter had been acquitted for the murder of Zura Burns. Within ten minutes he felled his wife to the floor with an ax, and with a dull pocket knife nearly severed her head from the trunk, in presence of his step-children. He then took to the fields, where he sat on a fence and cut his throat in a horrible manner. His wounds were stitched together, and he was taken to jail on a mattress.

St. Louis Globe-Dispatch, May 28, 1884

On Trial for Wife Murder
Petersburg, Ill., May 27-Chas. Houlden, who murdered his wife near this city, hitting her on the head with an ax and then cutting her throat in the most brutal manner, on the 22d of March last, the same day that Orrin A. Carpenter was acquitted, was given a preliminary trial to-day. Oscar Hind, a 15-year-old son of the murdered woman, gave a straight-forward account of the tragedy. He told how Houlden had knocked his mother down by hitting her on the head with the ax and jumped upon her prostrate form and cut her throat with a pocket-knife. Witness identified the ax and knife, which were produced by the sheriff, and offered in evidence.

Luella Hind, aged 13 years, a sister of the first witness, testified to seeing Houlden rushing upon her mother with the ax drawn, but did not see him strike her, as she fled to a neighbor's in search of her oldest brother when the trouble began. On returning soon after, she saw her mother lying dead in the door with her throat cut and her body covered with blood.

Dr. J.I. Myers testified that he made a postmortem examination, on the body of Mrs. Houlden; that he found seven wounds, two of which were mortal and one very serious, which might have produced death. Sheriff Hargreave testified in regard to the knife and ax, which had been in his custody since the morning after the murder.

It will be remembered that Houlden attempted to end his own life by cutting his throat the night of the murder. He has now entirely recovered from his injuries. During the examination he sat stolidly and seemed to take but little interest in the proceedings. He is a man of middle age, blue eyes, sharp features and a grizzly beard. At the close of the preliminary he was remanded to jail, and the case will come up at the July term of the Menard Circuit Court.

March 24, 1885, Decatur Review

It is said that efforts will be made to have Governor Oglesby interfere in the case of Charles Houlden, the Petersburg wife murderer, who is to be hanged next May. Better leave the law take its course. Houlden murdered his wife in a most brutal manner, and is deserving of nothing short of the death sentence. Any interference on the part of the governor would only precipitate mob violence and endanger other lives and property.

May 16, 1885, Decatur Review

The Brutal Wife Murderer Executed at Petersburg

Petersburg, Ill., May 15-The execution of Charles W. Houlden, the Menard county wife murderer, took place here to day in the corridor of the county jail, in the presence of the required number fixed by law. The condemned man passed the night very well, and arose, eat a hearty breakfast, and began preparations for the hanging, which took place at 12:15, the trap being sprung by Deputy Sheriff Stevens. The fall broke his neck. The condemned man was attended on the scaffold by Sheriff Hargrave, Deputy Stevens, Sheriff Harbell of Mason county, Rev. R.S. Miller, Rev. J.C. McFarland, Dr. E. J. Myers, Dr. P. Antle, and Dr. Conway. The accused was asked if he had anything to say after ascending the gallows, and he replied, "No." The noose was adjusted and the trap sprung as above stated. The doomed man was cool and collected during the entire proceeding, and did not break down as many expected. The body was taken in charge of by the undertaker and the funeral will take place tomorrow afternoon.

The Crime
The crime for which Houlden was hanged was the murder of his wife, which occurred on the evening of March 22, 1884. Because she would not sign certain papers that he had been wanting for some time, he cut her throat and then crushed her head with an ax. After this he tried to cut his own throat but failed. The town was crowded with people who expected to get a glimpse of the murderer.

May 22, 1885, Wisconsin State Journal

Wife Murderer Hanged
Springfield, Ill., May 15-At 12:10 this afternoon Charles Houlden was hanged at Petersburg for the murder of his wife last March.

May 22, 1885, Wisconsin State Journal

. and Charles Houlden was swung off at Petersburg, Ill.

[Transcribers note: Nowhere in any of these articles is the name of Charles Houlden's wife given. Her name was Rebecca Hind Houlden, aged 48 years and born in Indiana according to her death certificate. She is buried in Hickory Grove Cemetery, in Menard County]

Contributed by Kristin Vaughn