Putnam County, Illinois History and Genealogy
Newspaper Articles


 1935 LaSalle County Bank Robbers Captured or Killed Near Magnolia -
Tragic Deaths of Marshall and LaSalle County Men

- Contributed by Terri Taylor

Finney and Waugh Administer Punishment to Thief (1847)
C. F. Weston's Horse Stolen (The Ottawa free trader. (Ottawa, Ill.), March 30, 1850)
The Murder of Thomas and Sophia Hopkins(July 25, 1867 - The Marshall County Republican
The trial of Aaron Sherman for the Murder of Samuel Dowhower (The Ottawa free trader. (Ottawa, Ill.), June 1868)
Attempted Jail Break and Shooting Death of Holbrook (August 26, 1869)
 The hanging of Joseph Ramsey near Granville (April 18, 1870)
Reward offered for Ramsey Murder (1870)
Magnolia House Robbed (1892)
W. T. Brann Inhumanly Punishes Children
John Shimkus Kills Self and Family (1952)
Bank President, Ben Hoyle Foils Holdup Try (1952)

 Finney and Waugh Administer Punishment to Thief
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, June 04, 1847
On last Saturday night, a man in the employ of Mr. Hugh Finney, ferryman, disappeared very mysteriously with the ferry skiff, a sum of money, and a large dog belonging to Mr. Waugh, of the Hennepin Hotel. The inference of course was drawn that he escaped down the river - and accordingly Mr. Finney and Mr. Waugh went in pursuit on Sunday morning. About six miles below Hennepin they caught the man on an island, with the skiff, dog and money in his possession. In order to save our county the cost of bringing this bold thief before Judge Caton, they administered such justice as they considered the case demanded. They gave him fifty lashes "well applied," as the sailors say and then let him run. He afterwards lounged around Caledonia and reported that he had been robbed by two men. - Hennepin Herald, May 28.
C. F. Weston's Horse Stolen
The Ottawa free trader. (Ottawa, Ill.), March 30, 1850
Horse Thieves
Mr. C.F. Weston, a farmer living in Putnam County, about seven miles south of Peru had a fine young gray mare stolen last week by a man who had been in his employ a few days. The thief got permission to ride the animal to Hennepin but instead of going to Hennepin he crossed the river at Enterprise ferry and passed through our town on Wednesday the 13th, stopping but a short time at the National Hotel, where he offered the animal for sale - since which time he has not been heard of. We learn also that a gentleman living in Bureau Co lost an animal about the same time resembling very nearly the above. - Peru Telegraph.

Taken From the Marshall County Republican, Henry, IL

July 25, 1867

The Murder at Hennepin
Further Particulars

From the Princeton Republican, which had a reporter at the investigation of the persons arrested for the murder of Thomas Hopkins and wife near Hennepin, we glean the following particulars as to the history of Hopkins, the appearance of the prisoners, how the murder was committed, etc.

Thomas Hopkins, the murdered man, was married to his wife, on the 6th day of June last.  His wife was a German girl, living with her father in the immediate vicinity of the scene of the tragedy up to the time of her marriage. Since then she has lived with her husband on a scow or boat.  he, it seemed, followed boating on the Illinois river and on Saturday, the 6th of July, just one month after their marriage, ther were last seen alive in their boat; late in the evening.  A Mr. Sherman, who was hauling wood to the boat, took supper with them about six o'clock, Saturday evening, and he is the last person in this neighborhood who saw them alive.

On Sunday evening, 7th inst., the body of Mr. Hopkins was found some two miles below where his boat lay, floating in the water, and on repairing to the boat to see Mrs. Hopkins, they found the boat deserted.  Everything about the boat seemed as if it was just as Mr. Sherman had left it on Saturday evening; there being no particular evidence of a scuffle or affray of any kind.  On Monday evening the dead body of Mrs. Hopkins, the bride of a month, was found about two miles below Hennepin in the river, and about ten or twelve miles from the locality of the boat.

Three men are now under arrest, charged with the murder - one of them named Smith or Murphy, and the other two Chapman and Turner.  Ther is a fourth still at large, suposed to be connected with the affair.  On Saturday morning, a German citizen of Hennepin, thought he heard from the river, three distinct screams, as of a woman's voice, the last one very faint, but thought no more of it till after the revelation of the facts of the murder.  There can be scarcely a doubt that the man Hopkins was murdered on the boat, and that the weapon was a sandbag, for such a weapon was found with them, and the indications on post mortom examination, show that such an instrument would product just such appearances. The wounds on both the bodies were about the head; no cuts or bruises as if made by a hard or sharp instrument, but the scalp loose and detached from the skull.  The theory of Maj. Stipp, who is prosecuting the case, was that the murder was produced with a sandbag, and on the arrival of the prisoners last Monday at Hennepin, the truth of his theory was demonstrated by the production of such a weapon, found in the skiff in which the murderers were supposed to be.

The prisoners either bought or stole a skiff at Peru, on Saturday evening, and going down the Illinois river theywere seen near Hennepin, Henry, Lacon and Pekin.  Turner was arrested in a harvest field, near Pekin.  Chapman, the youngest of the prisoners, was caught after a long chase some fifteen miles further, near Delavan's grove. The officers arresting, Crouse and Towers, Peoria detectives, started in pursuit of Chapman, and he appeared to avoid the highway, going through wheat and corn field avoiding all large houses; and whenever coming in sight of persons on the road, taking to the fields.  By this means he excited the observation of persons by whose aid he was tracked and finally arrested, as we have said.  The two prisoners, Turner and Chapman, have made several contradictory statements, but enough to condemn them.  They admit that the party were aboard of the flat boat.  Chapman says they went on the boat to steal a pair of oars.  He says also that he didn't go on the boat himself, but the others did, and that they were unsuccessful in their raid.  He admitted to hearing a splash in the water, and that the others of the party swore him to secrecy as to what he had seen and heard.  It seems that the man Smith or Murphy came ashore at Hennepin on Sunday morning for whisky, but not returning for a length of time, he was left.  He was first arrested, and was in jail.

As to the appearance of the prisoners, Turner, the older of the two prisoners, is of medium height, about 30 years of age, with a sinister cast of eyes, heavy black scraggy beard; with moustache and imperial - on the whole, is the impress of a desperado of the most daring kind.  Chapman, the younger, is 21 years of age, a Canadian by birth, and under more favorable training would not be a bad looking man, but with the undress and dirt upon him, there is a showing of the unmistakable vagabond.  His hands look as if they had not felt water and soap since he left Canada, three years ago.

The verdict of the coroner's jury of Putnam county, in the case of the Hopkins double murder, we give below, to wit:

Sate of Illinois, Putnam County - as, We, the undersigned, jurrors empaneled and sworn by the coroner of said county, on the 8th day of July, A.D. 1867, at said county, diligently to enquire and to the presentment make how, in what manner, and by whom the body of a woman, there lying dead, came to her death, and deliver to said coroner a true inquest thereof, according to such evidence as should be given us, and according to the best of our knowledge and belief, and we, the jurors, having enquired upon our said oathe, how, in what manner, by whom, and what the said body came to its death, so find that the said dead bady is the body of Sophia Hopkins, late of said conty, and that she came to her death on the night of the 6th day of July, A.D. 1867, at said county, by violent blows on the head, from some blunt or flat instrument, in the hands of one J.R. Turner (Wm. Smith or Simon Chapman) assisted by the other two, and that thereby the said Sophia Hopkins the said Turner, Smtih and Chapman, did then and there unlawfully, and of their malice kill and murder.

And the jurrors aforesaid do further say, that Thomas Hopkins, husband of said county, came to his death on the same night, shortly before said Sophia, in the same manner, by the same means, and by the same said Turner, Chapman and Smith, and this, our verdict, we, the said jurors, hereby present to the said coroner.

Witness our hands and seals, Joseph Holland, foreman, Madison Durley, Reuben Bishop, James Seaton, James M. Durley, Asa Cunningham, Righard W. Bowman, Wm. O. Curtis, Oscar Anderson, Morris Wood, Pierre V. Baramore, Isaac Cecil.

Taken from the Marshall County Republican - March 26, 1868

The trial of J. R. Turner, Simon Chapman, Jonathan Bradley and Joseph Hawley on the charge of murdering Mr. Hopkins and his wife, six miles below Hennepin on the Illinois river, took place in Hennepin two weeks since and lasted 3 days. The evidence for the most part was circumstancial and not being binding enough to convict. The accused were honorably discharged. A. I. Stevenson, states attorney and George W. Stipp of Princeton, prosecuted and Charles Forsyth of Chicago and John Allen of Hennepin defended. The case of Sherman who was charged with shooting a neighbor took change of venue to La Salle county and will probably be tried in June.

The trial of Aaron Sherman for the Murder of Samuel Dowhower

The Ottawa free trader. (Ottawa, Ill.), June 20, 1868
The Circuit Court has been engaged since Monday and promises to be engaged for another week, on the trial of Aaron Sherman for the murder of Samuel Dowhower - both of Putnam county, from which county the case comes here on change of venue. This is the case mentioned in the Free READER some three months ago, where three men rode home from Peru in a wagon, got in a quarrel on the way, and Dowhower having got out of the wagon and walked home, was pursued, as is supposed by Sherman and shot at his own door. We shall endeavor at the close of the trial, to give the facts as elicited. The case is being ably prosecuted by Chas. Blanchard, state's attorney, assisted by Hon. A. E. Stevenson, of Woodford county; and defended by Col. G. W. Stipp of Princeton and O. C. Gray of Ottawa.

The Ottawa free trader. (Ottawa, Ill.), June 27, 1868

The trial of Aaron Sherman for the murder of Samuel Dowhower, brought to this county by a change of venue from Putnam county, terminated on Monday evening in a verdict of guilty, the jury fixing the punishment at 25 years in the penitentiary. The prisoner was visibly affected on the announcement of the verdict, and said it was "hard for an innocent man to suffer such a punishment." He was prosecuted by Hon. A.E. Stevenson, state's attorney of the Putnam circuit, and Chas. Blanchard, state's attorney for this circuit, and very ably defended by Col. G. W. Stipp of Bureau, and O. C. Gray, Esq. of Ottawa.

The facts elicited on the trial do not differ materially from the published statement at the time of the occurrence. The prisoner, with Dowhower and another man had been in Peru, and after drinking some, started home in a wagon in the evening. As a feud had existed between them for some time, they naturally quarreled on the way and Sherman left the wagon and walked towards home. Before reaching home, however, he went to two places to borrow a gun, getting one at his brother's - a fowling piece - which he loaded with buckshot. Soon after this, as Dowhower had got home and stood in the middle of the room, the door leading into the room from the road standing ajar, he was shot from the road, a number of buckshot entering his body and killing him almost instantly. A track, which fitted Sherman's boots exactly, was traced from the brother's house to where "the shot was fired" and back again, and it was proved that Sherman, soon after leaving his brother's house with the gun loaded, returned to the house, with the gun discharged. A wad was also picked up at Dowhower's house, which had evidently covered the charge by which he was killed - the wad proving to be a piece of the Chicago Times, torn from a copy of the Times still on the brother's table, fitting exactly to the torn part, and which the brother admitted Aaron had torn off in loading his gun. Many other circumstances detailed in the evidence were equally strong, so that although Sherman was convicted on purely circumstantial evidence, the evidence in his case was unusually conclusive. His wife and two children attended him closely through the whole trial. Dowhower left a wife and five small children. A motion for a new trial in the case is pending.

The Ottawa free trader. (Ottawa, Ill.), July 25, 1868
Today has been set for arguing the motion made for a new trial in the case of Aaron Sherman, convicted of the murder of Dowhower, of Putnam county.

August 26, 1869

Taken From the Henry Republican

Putnam County News

The three men Holbrook, Watson and Norton, confined in the county jail for burglary, made an attempt to escape from prison on Saturday night, the 21st inst., which resulted in the death of Holbrook, the wounding and immediate surrender of Norton, and three recapture of Watson near Peru on Monday morning.

According to the statement of Norton, the one who is wounded, the preparations for breaking jail which so tragically culminated on Saturday night, had been going on for two or three weeks. They had succeeded in wrenching from the iron cage in which they were shackled, an confined during the night, two pieces of iron by means of which they opened the door of the cage, and then with but little effort succeeded in getting through the floor of the cell into the vault below, where they made an aperture through the brick wall at the surface of the ground, large enough to crawl through.

All three of them had got out into the jail yard and were making off, when the guards who were watching the jail, fired killing Holbrook instantly, and wounding Norton in the arm and hand. Holbrook fell about 12 paces from the jail pierced with 60 or 70 shot, which mostly struck him in the face and breast. Norton, on finding himself wounded, returned to the jail of his own accord, and begged to be let in, fearing another shot from the guards.

Watson escaped for the time being, but was captured early Monday morning at a bridge across the slough near Peru, by a squad of citizens who were waiting for him. According to his own story, which circumstances confirm as probably true, after being fired on in the jail yard, he ran to a barn belonging to Mr. Unthank two or three hundred yards from the jail, where he lay all day Sunday concealed in the hay mow, watching the movements of those who were searching for him. Leaving his place of concealment early after dark, he started for Peru, and was captured as above stated.

Holbrook’s friends were here early Monday morning and took him to Chicago for burial. Large numbers of people were in town Sunday to learn to particulars of the affair and see the slain burglar. The well known desperate character of these three men made the citizens apprehensive that they would attempt to escape, to prevent which the jail has been vigilantly guarded of nights.

Taken From the Henry News Republican
April 18, 1870 - Putnam County Items

Judge Lynch at Granville
The hanging of Joseph Ramsey near Granville on Saturday week, by a band of 60 or 70 men, is confirmed by several of our exchanges. Mr. Ramsey had lived in Putnam county some 35 or 40 years and was a lawless, bad man, being charged at sundry and divers times with larceny, poisoning his wife and causing her death two years ago, incest, whereof a daughter had had two children by him; arson, burning his house and barn, upon which he had a policy of insurance; etc. He had been before the courts time and time again, but he had always escaped justice, and conviction seemed impossible.

On the day in question, the neighbors brought to a crises what had been pending for some time, a determination that “justice should be done him: if not in the orderly way, by a more swift and reliable one. Complaint was made, and the Justice D. L. Child of Granville had him arrested, and a preliminary examination held, at which one of his daughters testified that she had been the mother of two children, and that he (Ramsey) was the father of both of them, and that one of them was put away and she never saw it. She also testified to other crimes of which she knew her father to be guilty, all of which proved sufficient for his being committed for trial.

On the way to jail at Hennepin, within a mile of Ramsey’s house, the band of disguised men rushed upon the officers, rescued the prisoner, and hung him up to a tree. he was cut down once by Justice Child, but as they could extort no confession from him he was strung up again. An aged father and several children survive this swift retribution. By this act a bad man has been got rid of, one who had been a terror to the neighborhood for years, and for whom none can mourn now that his place is vacant. Still we do not envy the feelings of those who participated in the killing. Likely the history of the case will be made public at a future time.

The Ottawa free trader., April 30, 1870
A case of lynching occurred in Putnam County last week. Joseph Ramsey residing near Granville, arrested on the charge of incest with his daughter, was being conveyed to Hennepin to jail, when four miles east of that town, he was seized by a number of men in disguise and hanged to a tree until he was dead.

Reward offered for Ramsey Murder
Nashville union and American. (Nashville, Tenn.), May 08, 1870, Image 1
Joseph C. Ramsey having been forcibly taken from the custody of a constable in Putnam county, Ill., April 16, by certain lawless persons and murdered by hanging, Gov. Palmer issued a proclamation yesterday calling upon all public officers and all good citizens to exert themselves to detect and bring to justice persons concerned in said act, and offering $1,000 reward for the apprehension and conviction of such persons.

The Ottawa free trader., October 05, 1878
Putnam County is greatly excited over a charge of bastardy preferred against Fred Robinson, a doctor of medicine and pastor of a church at Mount Palatine, by Clara Allen, a girl 15 years of age.
Shooting Between Riley Roberts and John Haws
The Henry Republican, Henry Illinois, June 7, 1883
A shooting affair took place at Magnolia the other day. A difficulty arose between Riley Roberts and John Haws, and while a war of expletives was in process of generation, a son of the latter came running out from the house with a revolver and was about to discharge it at Roberts, when Mr. Haws knocked the firearm up, the piece being discharged, slightly grazing the head of the son but doing no material damage. It was a narrow escape.
Magnolia House Robbed (1892)
The evening bulletin. (Maysville, Ky.), June 29, 1892, Image 1
Remarkable Robbery
Daring Deeds Done by Five Masked Men
Hennepin, Ills., June 29.
A remarkable and successful robbery was perpetrated at Magnolia, a village twenty miles from here, on the night of June 26, news of which has just reached here. About midnight five masked and armed men forced an entrance to the Magnolia House, in which were five guests.
After gagging and binding the landlord and his wife and the hired man, securing their valuables and frightening the woman servants into silence, the robbers aroused the guests, marched them out in line in the hall and while two desperadoes stood guard over them, the other robbers ramsacked the rooms, securing $1,200 worth of plunder.
The gang then made their escape, threatening their victims with death in case of pursuit. John Soboeski, Prohibition candidate for governor of Missouri, was one of the victims and the only one to recover his nerve. After failing in his endeavor to organize a posse for pursuit he finally mounted a horse and started in pursuit after the robbers alone, overtaking three of them camped in a ravine.
A skirmish followed in which Soboeski's horse was killed under him but neither he nor any of the robbers were seriously hurt. Soboeski being thrown to the ground, the robbers took the opportunity to escape and dashed away. He walked to Walkulaia, and after giving the authorities a description of the robbers, left for Cincinnati to attend the Prohibition convention.
W. T. Brann Inhumanly Punishes Children
Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, Ill.) January 23, 1905, Page 6, Image 6
Inhuman Father
Locked Two Children in Coal Shed Till Their Feet Were Frozen
Punishment For Misdeed
Wrath of Residents of Magnolia, Ill., Aroused and the Brute is Compelled to Flee.
The little village of Magnolia, near Henry, over on the Illinois river, is worked up over what appears to be an exhibition of horrible cruelty on the part of W. T. Brann, a prominent merchant of that place. Brann is now a fugitive from justice, while the following charges are made against him by his fellow townsmen:
Locking his two little daughters, aged 4 and 7 years, inside a coal shed until the smaller of the little girls had both her feet frozen; beating both little ones until they were black and blue; and then fleeing from the village and leaving them homeless in order to escape arrest at the hands of an angry populace.
Other Charges Against Him.
These are only a few of the charges made against Brann, but that of cruelty to his little ones is, in the minds of his fellow townsmen, the gravest and the one for which he would be dealt with not unharshly should he fall into their hands.
Brann, whose wife is dead, has entrusted the management of his home and the care of his children to a housekeeper, Mrs. Herman, who, it is also known by the neighbors, has been cruel to the children. It has been a method of punishment with Brann to lock his children out in the cold when they were guilty of what her termed a misdemeanor. Three weeks ago he returned home for dinner and upon being informed by his housekeeper that the little ones had misbehaved, he locked both of them in the coal shed. Here they remained all afternoon, it is said, until, when released, it was found that both feet of the smaller child, Gladys, were frozen. The other girl also suffered intensely from the cold and both of the children have been ill ever since.
Mob Gathered.
When the true facts of the case became known, Brann's neighbors immediately took steps to bring him to justice, and before 24 hours had passed a small-sized mob had gathered on the streets of the village. Brann, however, had anticipated this result and when an officer arrived the man was not to be found. He had left the town and has not been seen since. With him departed his housekeeper, and the children are now being sheltered by relatives, one of them being cared for by Brann's father and the other with his aunt.

John Shimkus Kills Self and Family
Dixon Evening Telegraph 21 Jan 1952
Putnam County War Veteran, Wife, Son Found Dead in Home
Granville, Ill.
The bullet-pierced bodies of a disabled war veteran, his wife and their infant son were found in their home yesterday. Coroner A. O. Birgerson of Putnam County said the shootings apparently occurred nearly a week ago. Birgerson said he believes John Shimkus, 41, killed himself after fatally shooting his wife, Katherine, 32 and their baby, John Shimkus Jr., 1 ½. The tragedy was discovered by Mrs. Shimkus' mother, Mrs. Anton Jelinck of Granville, when she went to her daughter's home to find out why the family had not been seen for several days. The coroner said Mrs. Shimkus' body, dressed in overcoat, boots and a babushka, was found in the kitchen. Tucked under the woman's arm were newspapers bearing the dates, Jan. 13 and 14, which she apparently had obtained while shopping a week ago. The bodies of Shimkus and the baby were in the living room. Near Shimkus' body was a .2 caliber rifle. The Shimkus house is near the edge of Granville, about six miles southwest of LaSalle. Shimbus, victim of a wartime head wound, had been a periodic patient at the Hines veterans' hospital. He was last treated there late in 19951.

Bank President, Ben Hoyle Foils Holdup Try
Dixon Evening Telegraph 1 Jul 1952
Banker Foils Holdup Try
The president of the Farmers State Bank at nearby McNabb foiled an apparent holdup attempt Monday. Police said a man entered the bank shortly before closing time, told President Ben Hoyle he wanted a loan, then drew a gun. The gun went off during a struggle between Hoyle and the visitor, police said, and the gunman fled. Three employees and one customer were present.

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