No. 643
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
February 29, 2024

Eloped on a Spotted Steer.

How a loving West Virginia couple escaped from an obdurate father and were married.
January 30, 2017
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Via Newspapers.comPhantom stagecoaches are always fun (especially when they generate manic headlines.)  The “San Bernardino News,” December 7, 1914:Have you seen the phantom coach that dashes madly, silently, down the steep, rugged mountain trail near Pilot Rock? It is a weird story, this. It deals with the apparently supernatural. Possibly it isn't that at all, maybe it is simply some
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Strange Company - 2/28/2024
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HE DUEL IN ELLEN'S HONOR. Soapy Smith’s grandmotherOn Wednesday, August 9, 1820, an argument between 17-year-old, James Bowe Boisseau (1802-1820) and Robert C. Adams (unknown-1820) vying for the attention of 18-year-old Ellen Stimpson Peniston (1802-1860), took a terrible turn. The happy party in her honor took a tragic turn when the competition for Ellen’s affections ended in a deadly duel,
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 1/10/2024
There’s nothing wrong with the MTA’s usual subway signage: the directions are clear, the design is simple. But when a contemporary sign happens to be stuck underneath original signage made with decorative tile and an unusual typeface—as it is inside the Sixth Avenue F and M station at 14th Street—the old-school sign wins hands-down. Subway.org […]
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Ephemeral New York - 2/26/2024
An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
 Alice Hoyle last saw her sister, Lillie, the night of September 1, 1887, in the room they shared in Webster, Massachusetts. Lillie left to use the outhouse, and Alice fell asleep. Lillie never returned. The next morning, Alice went out, thinking Lillie had already left for work. That is the story Alice told the police— as the investigation progressed, she would change it several times.Read
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Murder By Gaslight - 2/24/2024
Included in yesterday’s trip to Fall River was a stop at Miss Lizzie’s Coffee shop and a visit to the cellar to see the scene of the tragic demise of the second Mrs. Lawdwick Borden and two of the three little children in 1848. I have been writing about this sad tale since 2010 and had made a previous trip to the cellar some years ago but was unable to get to the spot where the incident occured to get a clear photograph.  The tale of Eliza Borden is a very sad, but not uncommon story of post partum depression with a heartrending end. You feel this as you stand in the dark space behind the chimney where Eliza ended her life with a straight razor after dropping 6 month old Holder and his 3 year old sister Eliza Ann into the cellar cistern. Over the years I have found other similar cases, often involving wells and cisterns, and drownings of children followed by suicides of the mothers. These photos show the chimney, cistern pipe, back wall, dirt and brick floor, original floorboards forming the cellar ceiling and what appears to be an original door. To be in the place where this happened is a sobering experience. My thanks to Joe Pereira for allowing us to see and record the place where this sad occurrence unfolded in 1848. R.I.P. Holder, Eliza and Eliza Ann Borden. Visit our Articles section above for more on this story. The coffee shop has won its suit to retain its name and has plans to expand into the shop next door and extend its menu in the near future.
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 2/12/2024
Youth With Executioner by Nuremberg native Albrecht Dürer … although it’s dated to 1493, which was during a period of several years when Dürer worked abroad. November 13 [1617]. Burnt alive here a miller of Manberna, who however was lately … Continue reading
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020
Freaks of Fashion. | Thrown from a Balcony.

Eloped on a Spotted Steer.

Eloped on a spotted steer

How a loving West Virginia couple escaped from an obdurate father and were married. [more]

On last Thursday morning a young couple appeared in Welch, McDowell County, W. Va. They were Miss Carrie Coats, a pretty, peachy-cheeked country damsel of 17, and Sandy Johnson, a tall, stalwart, good-looking mountaineer, of 22 years. They had travelled all night from the bride’s home on Ground Hog Cree, in order to elude the obdurate father of the girl. The girl was riding on the back of a dignified spotted steer, and sandy was walking by her side. The unusual sight soon drew a crowd of people, and as everybody loves a lover, half a dozen hurried off after a magistrate or a preacher. Unluckily for the lovers, no official could be found who would marry them on account of the girl’s age. When the couple learned of this they broke down and cried, the girl sobbing as if nearly heartbroken.

The tears of the pretty young girl brought about a determination on the part of the spectators to see them through in some way, and one suggested that thy take the train, then nearly due, for Bristol, Tenn. Where they would find no difficulty in getting married. The proposition changed the tears of the bride into smiles of joy and Sandy’s less apparent grief into open-mouthed delight for a moment, until he thought about a license. Someone in the crowed, however, anticipated the young man, and proposed that the crowd pay all expenses, and in less time than ti takes to write it pocketbooks were out and enough money was contributed to carry the couple through, with a souvenir left over for the bride.

The spotted steer was stalled in front of a pile of oats and corn to ruminate in peace and plenty until the return of the couple and the procession headed for the platform. Neither of the couple had ever seen a train before, and when it pulled in they got on the platform between the engine and the baggage care. Their sponsors soon remedied this mistake and had them conducted into a ladies’ car, where the conductor was expressly charged to see them safely through. The last seen of Carrie and Sandy as the train was wheeling out of sight, they were folded in each other’s arms laughing and straining their eyes as they looked out of the window.


Reprinted from National Police Gazette, October 14, 1893