Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, May 21, 2007

More About the "Mysterious Murder" in Pelham in 1870

On Thursday, May 17, 2007, I posted to the Historic Pelham Blog an item entitled "A Mysterious Murder in Pelham in 1870". The item described an incident in which the body of an unidentified murder victim washed ahore near City Island in the Town of Pelham. Today's posting provides further information about this incident based on an item published in the New York Herald on June 11, 1870. The item is transcribed below, followed by a citation to its source.



Excitement on City Island - The Corpse Exhumed and Identified - Probable Assassination on Board a Sound Steamer - Strange Conduct of a Relative.

Within the past few days the isolated inhabitants of City Island - forming one among the many verdant spots in Long Island Sound - have been diverted from their pastoral sports and fishing excursions by a degree of excitement seldom experienced in their midst. The washing ashore of a murdered man in their neighborhood, the farcical inquest on and unceremonious burial of the corpse, and subsequently the exhumation and identification of the assassinated stranger, form at present the topic of conversation among the residents of the island. As the particulars relating to the finding of the body alluded to were given in the HERALD of yesterday, together with the informal investigation as to the cause of death, it is unnecessary here to reiterate the tragic story.

On Thursday evening John Richards and Morris Keeze, of New York, accompanied by a boarding house keeper from Bridgeport, Conn., called on the poormaster at City Island, and produced a note from Captain Ward, of the Tenth police precinct, stating that the first named party believed the deceased to have been his brother, Christian G. Richards, late of East Bridgeport, and requesting that the body be exhumed for his inspection. They had in their possession a likeness of the missing man, which Poormaster Baxter at once recognized as that of the murdered stranger. Having first obtained a permit from Justice Sparks, who held the inquest, and after identifying the shoes, as well as other articles found on the deceased, the body was exhumed and fully identified by Richards as that of his brother, and also by the boarding house keeper, at whose place the deceased had been staying in Bridgeport.

It was ascertained from Poormaster Baxter, by a HERALD reporter, who visited City Island yesterday afternoon, that John Richards, who was about visiting Europe on important business, wrote to his brother, some three weeks ago, requesting him to come on to New York, as he wished to see him before sailing. He received no answer, and after a few days his letter was returned, unopened, from the Post Office at Bridgeport. Becoming alarmed, he proceeded to the latter city, and, on arriving at the boarding house of the deceased, learned that his brother had left for New York about a week previously. Inquiries regarding the missing man were at once set on foot in Bridgeport and vicinity, but no clue could be found as to his whereabouts. Baxter states that it is generally believed the deceased was murdered while on board the steamer Bridgeport, and that the body was thrown overboard into the Sound at a point east of Hart's Island, from whence it drifted with the east wind to the spot on the western shore where it was found. This theory, he states, is supported by the fact that two Hell Gate pilots, named Charles E. Adams and Alexander Banta, both living on City Island, state that while boarding the Bridgeport about daybreak of the morning supposed to succeed the night on which deceased left Bridgeport for New York, they saw a quantity of blood on the deck abaft the cabin and near the stern of the steamer. This, if true, would have formed a most important evidence before the jury of inquest.

Another strange feature of this mysterious case is observable in the circumstance that after the remains had been exhumed and identified, John Richards, who claims to be a brother of the deceased, requested the poormaster to reinter the body, as he was about sailing for Europe, where he would be absent two months at the expiration of which time he would have the body removed and properly interred. As a consequence the corspse was again committed to the earth. It appears that deceased was a German, about twenty-six years old, and had been employed as foreman in a machine shop at Bridgeport, Conn. His brother, while at City Island, stated that he frequently carried considerable money with him, and that he was rather partial to drinking lager beer."

Source: The Muder on the Sound, N. Y. Herald, Jun. 11, 1870, p. 5, col. 3.

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