- Mon, Dec 29, 2008
Gazette & Courier - Monday, August 9, 1875
A mystery cleared up
Discovery of the mutilated remains of a missing man - The people of the quiet farming village of Petersham were greatly excited Sat., by the discovery that a most horrible murder had been committed in their midst by a farmer named Frost, a recent settler in the neighborhood, the victim being his own brother-in-law, named Frank Towne. The particulars of the bloody affair are as follows:
About 3 years ago the man Frost settled on a farm in the south part of the village, his family consisting of himself, wife, 4 children and the above named Towne, who was employed as hired man. This Towne, after laboring about a year, went off, it being generally understood that he had been unable to collect of Frost the amount of $300 due him for work. Last spring Towne reappeared, and made arrangements with Frost to hire the farm and work it himself. He restocked it, adding considerably to its value. Under the new arrangement matters went on until the 4th of July last, upon which morning both men went to the barn to milk the cows.
Returning alone shortly thereafter, Frost said Towne had gone on the hill to salt the cattle. As days passed and Towne did not appear the surprise of the neighbors was aroused, but Frost allayed temporarily all suspicion by saying that Towne had gone to Worcester where he, Frost, was to meet him to settle with him. Several incidents, however, together with Towne’s non-appearance, and the bad terms which were known to exist between the two men, led to suspicion and finally to quiet examinations and inquiries.
Frost in the meantime conducted himself in a rather strange manner not calculated to allay the suspicion of his neighbors. He was often mysteriously employed at the barn nights, never giving satisfactory accounts of the nature of his work there. This state of affairs continued up to last Friday when Frost was seen mysteriously engaged in digging a cornfield. A colored man seeing him thus at work went up to the place the next night, Sat., and found a fresh mound of earth and a piece of sack sticking out of it. Remembering the reports concerning Frost, and suspecting at once he had clue to the mystery, he gave alarm and in a short time 30 or 40 neighbors were assembled in the cornfield.
Examination was made, the sack dragged out and in it was discovered the ghastly, worm-eaten remains of a human body, or part of it, consisting of the trunk and upper part of the legs. The horrified searchers made further examination and found, several feet distant, the head of the unfortunate man, badly worm-eaten, and having behind one ear the marks of a terrible wound. The mystery was unraveled. The remains were at once identified as those of Frank Towne, and no doubt existed in any mind as to the identity of the murderer.
Sheriff Bothwell [most probably Sylvander Bothwell] of Barre was notified. On his arrival search was at once began for Frost who had disappeared. His wife was, or pretended to be, ignorant of his whereabouts, but after diligent search the murderer was discovered early Sun. morning, concealed in rubbish in the garret of his house. He took his arrest coolly, refusing to give any account of himself, and insisting that Towne had gone from Worcester to Washington. He was taken to Barre and safely confined.
Putting circumstances together the evidence seems clear that the fateful deed was committed on that July morning in the barn, when a quarrel is supposed to have taken place between the two, Frost finally knocking down Towne with a single blow from a sledge hammer, the wound at the back of the head showing it came from such an instrument. Frost’s frequent night labors in the barn is now accounted for by the supposition that he was then engaged in cutting up and burying his victim.
Becoming alarmed at the suspicion of the neighbors he is supposed to have removed part of the body to the cornfield. He refuses to tell where the rest of the body is concealed. In the cellar of the house a pocket book belonging to Towne was found, and within it a note against Frost for the amount of $300. Closer examination in the barn disclosed clots of dried blood, tufts of hair, and other unmistakable evidences that the dread crime had been committed there. (Athol Transcript).
[Whew! This one was tough to identify. But I finally found an article about it in the Aug. 6, 1875 New York Times online index, under the title "Shocking murder at Petersham Mass." The murdered man is named Frederick P. Towne, and the murderer S.J. Frost or Samuel J. Frost. Frost was the last man executed in Worcester in May of 1876].
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