Friday, October 30, 2009

Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt # 43: Go Directly To Jail

Amy Coffin at We Tree has another genealogy blog prompt: # 43 : Go directly to jail and talk about your ancestors in the slammer.

The first thing I did when I heard about this prompt was search my
database's Notes field to see who might have a note that mentioned 'jail' or 'prison'. I was not disappointed.

My paternal 7
th-great grandfather, Ulrich SCHURCH, spent some time in jail before coming to America in 1728. Ulrich was born March 9, 1663 in Sumiswald, Canton Basel, Switzerland and died circa 1739 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Ulrich was married to Barbara GRUNDBACHER. Before Ulrich came to America, on July 10, 1710 he was among the Mennonite Brethren being held in the Bern jail. In 1711 he was deported from Switzerland, and was sent to Holland via the Rhine River in the ship Emmenthaler.

Searching Google books, I found mention of my ancestor,
Ulli Schurch, on page 170 of "Historic background and annals of the Swiss and German pioneers of Southeastern Pennsylvania..." by H. Frank Eshleman, 1917. The struggle for religious freedom that these Anabaptists overcame makes me proud and want to learn more about these family lines.

Another member of my family was in jail for charge of murder! Henry ALDERMAN, my 4
th-great granduncle, and his wife, Hannah, were arrested and charged with murder in Kansas Territory. My note in the family file came from "The History of Anderson County, Kansas, From Its First Settlement to the Fourth of July, 1876" by W.A. Johnson.

        In the years 1859 and 1860 there lived a family on the
North Pottowatomie named Alderman, consisting of Alderman
and his wife. In the winter of 1859 and 1860 a young woman
named Sarah Potter came to live with Alderman's family.
She was a large, healthy, fine-looking lady. There lived,
also, in the neighborhood a young man, by the name of
Leon Phillips. He was an industrious young man, of good
character, and had considerable property. During the
winter, through the influence of Alderman and wife, a
marriage was effected between Phillips and Sarah Potter.

Phillips and his young wife lived within a half mile of
Alderman's, after their marriage, the families visiting
back and forth, and to all appearances the newly married
couple were enjoying a high degree of marital happiness.
Scarcely six weeks had elapsed until Phillips was taken
severely sick, and some days afterward doctors were
called, but Phillips lingered only a few days and died,
but before his death the conduct of his wife was such as
to create suspicion against her. A few hours before his
death she insisted that he should make a will, which he
did, willing one-half of his property to his brother in
Europe and the other half to his wife. The morning after
the death of Phillips, and before he had been deposited in
his grave, his wife sent Alderman to consult with counsel
to know whether or not the will could be set aside. In
about three days after his burial her conduct had been so
suspicious that the entire neighborhood believed that
Phillips had come to his death by foul means; and a
complaint was made before M.G. Carr, J.P., who thereupon
empaneled a coroner's jury, and had the body taken up and
examined by Drs. Blunt and Lindsay, who gave it as their
opinion that Phillips came to his death by arsenic poison.

The coroner's jury returned a verdict in
accordance with the opinion of the physicians, and that
Sarah Phillips, Henry Alderman and Hannah Alderman were
guilty of the murder of Phillips. They were arrested and
brought before Justice Hidden for examination on the
charge. The State was represented by W.A. Johnson, county
attorney, assisted by W. Spriggs and D.W. Houston, and the
defense by J.B. Stitt, S.J. Crawford, T.A. Shinn, R.B.
Mitchell and Byron P. Ayres. On the preliminary
examination Aldeman and wife were discharged, but Sarah
Phillips was committed to answer the charge of murder in
the first degree. There being no jail in the county, and
none in this part of the Territory, she was kept in charge
of the sheriff, under orders of the county commissioners,
at the Garnett House. For two or three months she was
allowed to receive and entertain her friends at the hotel;
but one evening after supper, when all was quiet, a buggy
was driven into town, and about 11 o'clock at night it was
discovered that the prisoner had made her escape, and no
trace of her could be found. the grand jury that met the
next term of court found an indictment against her for the
murder of Phillips.

In 1862 she returned to Kansas, but in the meantime she
had been in Cincinnati, Ohio, and had married again. She
was again arrested, and made a second escape, but was
retaken before she got out of the county. At the September
term of the court she had employed Wilson Shannon and G.W.
Smith to defend her; and at their instance the case
removed to Douglas county for trial. She was tried in
Lawrence in the fall of 1862. The jury failed to agree,
there being nine for conviction and three for acquittal.
She was never again brought to trial; being admitted to
bail, she fled the country.

The cost of this trial to the county was over three
thousand dollars. There was no doubt of the guilt of the
prisoner, but owing to many of the witnesses being absent,
in the army, she escaped the deserved punishment of the

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