Kanawha County, WV
Crime Newspaper Gleanings
These are listed in alpha order by the surname of the first criminal
mentioned in the story.
If no criminal is mentioned, then it's sorted by the victim's name.
Charleston, W. Va, May 9 - A baby was found floating in the Kanawha river near Davis' Creek this Morning. [The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer.(Wheeling, W. Va.), May 10, 1888]
Shot a Doctor for Refusing to Call
Charleston, W.Va., Sept 4 - Blue Clendenin, charged with the murder of Dr. J.W. Davis, on Morris Creek, August 9, was Monday held for the grand jury. Witnesses testified that Clendenin told them he shot Davis because he would not attend his family. [Daily Public Ledger (Maysville, Ky.) September 04, 1894]
Sam Faris was murdered near Charleston, W. Va. He had just drawn a large sum of money, and it is supposed he was murdered for that. [Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio) 24 Sep 1889 - Submitted by Cathy Schultz]
Some scoundrel made an attempt to destroy by fire, the ties on the K.& M. Railroad, just above Malden, in Kanawha county, Tuesday night, by piling wood upon them and setting it on fire. Considerable damage to the road bed was done, and it would have been much worse, had not Judge C.W. Hall, coming along in a buggy, stopped and scattered the wood, and put out the fire. [The Weekly Register. (Point Pleasant, Va. [W. Va.]), 13 Oct. 1897]
DEATH PROBE IS OPENED
Two Brothers Arrested in City Police Investigation of Deathbed Confession to Eight-Year-Old Slaying
The city police Monday afternoon were questioning witnesses in an effort to determine the facts in the death on January 20, 1923, of Nick Shaffer 50 years old, declared, as the result of a death-bed confession last week, to have been slain. At the time, Shaffer was thought to have been killed accidentally by a B. & O. train at Coal Branch hollow.
George Harless, of Cherty Street, before he died last week, confessed to his wife and to a minister that he had killed a man by the name of Shaffer 11 or 12 years ago. Heading of the confession, Lawrence Rucker, 42 years old, of Coal blanch hollow, went to police headquarters Sunday and volunteered the Information that the man mentioned by Harless was Nick Shaffer, a resident of Coal Branch. Records revealed on Monday that the death was reported to have been an accidental one at the time and that an investigation of it was made. Lawrence Rucker and his brother Jack, at whose home Lawrence said Harless and Shaffer had been on a night in January of 1923, were questioned Monday afternoon by Chief of Police John Britton. Jack Rucker, 37 years old, was arrested early Monday and the arrest of Lawrence followed a half hour later. Both brothers were held for investigation, and were expected to be the principal witnesses at the hearing in the chief's office.
Switches Story on Poker Game -- After investigating the report of Lawrence Rucker, Chief Britton and Sergeant Wallace Bias asserted Monday that Nick Shaffer was the murdered man referred to the statement of Harless. Lawrence Rucker on Sunday informed Sergent Bias that Harless and Shaffer had been playing poker at the Rucker home in the hollow, which was shared by the families of the brothers, on the night of Shaffer's death. Following his arrest Monday for investigation, he gave a detailed statement in which he said, according to Detective Harvey Dunlap, that "there was no poker game but both Shaffer and Harless were out at the house that night." His brother Jack denied that a poker game had been held and told a story differing in many details from that given by Lawrence. He said that he did not even know Harless, but that he was well acquainted with Shaffer. Efforts were being made Monday by polite to locale Mrs. Shatter, who is understood to be living in the city. Another person reported to have been at the Rucker home the night of Shaffer's death, also was being sought, according to Sergeant Bias.
Tells of Finding Body -- Jack Rucker said Monday at the police station, in the presence of an officer, that he was uncertain about the time, but it was early in 1923 that Shaffers body was found on the B. and O. tracks that ran by his house, not far up the Elk River from the West Virginia Water Service company's plant. "Late that night," he said, "I was in bed in the back of the house. Lawrence was in bed In the front of the house. We heard a man coming up the tracks singing like he was drunk. It must have been Shaffer for I heard him call to Lawrence and heard Lawrence speak his name. He said something and then Lawrence called to him saving. "That's light, you go on home." I guess Shaffer said he was leaving. Then I went back to sleep. "About a half an hour later ---maybe it was an hour; I don't know because I went to sleep ---I woke up and heard Shaffer say , "Hey come out here and get this thing off me. " "I jumped out of bed and got mv cloths on. When I went outside, I found Shaffer dead beside the tracks. He was outside the tracks. " "Lawrence stood in the door like he was afraid. I asked him to come on and I went one way around the train, which had stopped and he went on the other side. We got up to the head of the train and I told the engineer that there was a man under the train. Then I went to the water company and called the police headquarters. I waited there until the offices came."
Captain Don M. Smith, who was a lieutenant of police at the time of Shaffer’s death, recalled his report on the case before Jack Rucker made his statement. The captain’s details as to the position of the body also varied from those given by Rucker, who said that Shaffer was found dead, not between the rails, but to the side of them. "I went out there about 3 o’clock in the morning," said Captain Smith, "when the call came in. It was in January 1923. They said a man was dead under a train, so I took Bryon Surbaugh, an ambulance driver for Barlow’s and we found the body under the wheels, between the tracks. I help pull the body out." "There was a crowd around there at the time. I don’t remember who told me, but everybody supposed that Shaffer had been stealing coal from the train while it had been stopped there on a siding and that he had fallen off when train stared up. He was cut all to pieces." Nobody, the captain added, indicated that anything had happened except an accident and "because of the position of the body between the rails and because of the way the body was man mangled."
Surbaugh, the ambulance driver, said Monday that as well as he could remember Shaffer’s body was not lying between the tracks, but across them. He and Captain Smith, he said, removed the body and were told by those who gathered about the scene, "that Shaffer apparently had been stealing coal and had fallen between the cars." There were several persons beside the police at the scene, he asserted.
Says There Was No Crowd - Jack Rucker, contradicting Surbaugh and Captain Smith, said there "was no crowd there and that those present were the captain, Surbaugh, his brother, himself and perhaps the engineer." It was the crowd, Captain Smith asserted, that informed him as to the supposed moment of Shaffer’s death. The -?- clerks records of coroner’s reports failed to show any record of Shaffer’s death.
The only existing record of the case so far as was known Monday, is at the Barlow’s Undertaking Company. It is a burial record and states that Mrs. Louise Shaffer, the widow, a resident of Coal Branch hollow, made arrangement for the funeral of her husband. Nick Shaffer, on January 29, 1923. City police had no record of the case, according to Chief Britton. Puzzled by the differences in the statements of Captain Smith and the brothers, police offered no theory Monday, except that "Shaffer was murdered by Harless." "We will go on that belief." said Chief Britton, "until something disproves it". There is nothing so far to indicate that Harless did not tell the truth on his death-bed." [Source: The Charleston Daily Mail, Charleston, W.Va., November 30, 1931 - Submitted by Michael Shaffer]
Jas. Henry, colored, was arrested at the White Sulphur Springs on Monday last, and taken to Charleston, where he is wanted to answer an indictment for stabbing a colored man, who has since died. Jim lived in Lewisburg until recently. [The Clarksburg Telegram. (Clarksburg, W. Va.), 19 May 1893]
Convicts Who have Received Executive Clemency
John Mallory, sentenced to four years, for housebreaking, Kanawha county. Convicted by an accomplice and grave doubts as to real guilt. He served two years. [Wheeling Register, March 16, 1882 - Transcribed by AFOFG]
Alex Messer, one of the notorious Hatfield murderers, was arrested and brought to Charleston, W. Va., by Detective Gibson. Messer was one of the gang who in August, 1882, tied the three McCoy boys to trees and shot them to death. He at once left the county, and had not been seen until two weeks ago. Messer is about fifty-two years of age, and has a wife and six children, who live in Lincoln country. He has killed twenty-seven men since the war, and was reorganized as one of the leaders of the Hatfield outlaws. [The Aitkin Age (Aitkin, MN), November 24, 1888, page 4]
MURDERED FOR MONEY
West Virginian's Brains Beaten Out with an Iron Bar.
Charleston, W. Va , Dec 4 - At Stonecliff, two miles above Thurmond, last night, Sam Miller and an accomplice murdered George Dane by beating out his brains with an iron bar. The two men then boarded a passing freight train and attempted to escape. Miller's accomplice was arrested and taken to jail at Hinton, but Miller is still at large. It is said the motive was robbery, Dane having a small sum, which the guilty pair coveted. [The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.), Dec. 5, 1904 - From Barb Ziegenmeyer]
George Williams, the Negro who is accused of criminal assault on Miss Laura Knode, near Harper's Ferry, W Va., June 27th, and confined in the Moundsville Penitentiary since to save being lynched, was taken to Charleston by Sheriff Billmyer, escorted by Companies K, Clarksburg, with Captain Lynne Osborne, and Company G of Glenwood, with Captain Carleton Pierce, for trial. It begins today, and popular feeling is against the prisoner. A mob of 500 men from Kanawha and adjoining counties in Maryland and Virginia attacked the Jail at 3 o'clock yesterday morning. The mob was driven back at the point of bayonet by guards without firing a shot. Nine men were captured and lodged in jail. A buggy load of dynamite was in the possession of the mob for blowing up the jail if captured. The driver jailed. Prominent citizens were among those who were captured. [Daily Public Ledger, (Maysville, Ky.) August 02, 1904 - Sub by K.T.]
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