Murder and Mayhem in Jefferson County is the understated title of a respectable collection of true crime tales set in Jefferson County, New York. In the 19th century, Jefferson County was a rugged locale occupied by hardworking farmers, upstanding citizens and just a few vicious murderers. The depraved deeds of this criminal minority are related in this short but entertaining book.
Among the crimes covered are:
- “George Powell’s Problem with Women” (1876) – The mysterious drowning of Julia Powell, whose husband was suspiciously apathetic about her demise.
- “The Ax Murders of Slaughter Hill” (1828) – wherein a disgruntled renter takes violent issue with three men trying to evict him from the premises.
- “The Spineless Shooting of Mary Ward” (1893) – A woman’s greed makes her lover very, very angry.
- “The Mary Crouch-Mary Daly Double Homicide” (1897) – In which a bigamist finds himself with one woman too many and comes up with a brutal solution.
- “The Gruesome “Watertown Trunk Murder”” (1908) – A woman covets her neighbor’s property and hatches a cold-blooded scheme to gain possession of it.
Most of the tales are interesting and the gruesome nature of the crimes is leavened a bit by the author’s wry asides, such as “after the initial shock of being found out wore off and a smidgeon of reasoning (disturbed as it was) returned, Mrs. Farmer attempted to lay blame for the murder on her husband.”
The author also quotes generously from newspapers of the period, which are colorful in their descriptions of the perpetrators, “…a brute in the shape of a human being” and the crimes, “This is one of the most atrocious murders ever known, and we only regret that the cold-blooded villain still breathes but will not tell the truth about his horrible crime.”
This is a fine book for fans of historical true crime looking for a quick read.
Check the WRL catalog for Murder and Mayhem in Jefferson County.