- Sat, Feb 21, 2009
Gazette & Courier - Monday, September 13, 1875
A man murdered in Coleraine
A man murdered in Coleraine - He is killed and robbed by two young ruffians - It is now 8 years since Simeon Peck killed Miss Cheney at Griswoldville, and Coleraine is again the scene of a tragedy, which in all its details has never had a parallel in the criminal annals of the County. The victim of this terrible crime is Joseph R. Farnsworth [i.e. Joseph Riley Farnsworth], known among his townsmen as "Riley", a quiet, inoffensive man, who dwelt with his wife and two children on his mother’s farm, on what is known as "Catamount Hill", some 2 miles and a half from Shelburne Falls.
The circumstances of the affair are these: On Tues. last Farnsworth, who served in the late war, went to Greenfield to be examined by a surgeon, as required, before making out an application for pension. He went back to Shelburne Falls on the train, and at the office of H.M. Puffer Esq., had his pension paper made out. When this business was finished, he started for home, getting a chance to ride with Levi Davenport, a neighbor.
They rode together until they came to the fork of two roads which led to the mountain. Farnsworth took the road up the ravine on the easterly side, while Davenport went the other way to his home. It had by this time begun to grow dark, and Farnsworth pushed along alone through a wood and came to a place where the road separates, a path leading up to Jack Woodard’s on the one hand and to his mother’s place on the other.
At this point someone steps suddenly from the cover of bushes by the roadside and, without a word of warning, strikes him a blow upon the forehead with a stick which prostrates him upon the ground. The blow is followed up with others or with kicks, until the man’s head is covered with ghastly wounds. He is then robbed of the few dollars which he had in his pocket book.
Farnsworth was not long wholly unconscious. Within half an hour he must have rallied sufficient strength to get upon his feet, and staggering and frequently falling, he made his way home, some one hundred rods distant, and which he reached by half past 7. He was able to tell his mother and a neighbor present a part of what had happened, and Dr. Canedy of Shelburne Falls was immediately sent for.
He arrived in the evening, but found the man so badly wounded there was little that could be done for him. Farnsworth could not tell who struck him, and becoming unconscious, he lingered until about 10 o’clock Wed. morning, when he died.
The news of the affair had by this time spread over the town, and efforts made to ascertain who were the perpetrators of the crime. Suspicion soon rested upon two young men who live in the vicinity, and who had not been seen since the murder. These were Daniel Dwight, a son of Josiah J. Dwight, and Herbert Davenport, a son of widow Roxana Davenport, and a nephew of the murdered man.
The former is 19 years of age and the latter 18, and both had borne a hard name among the people of the town. Going to the scene of the assault, a heavy print of a shoe was found, where the desperado stood when he gave the murderous blow, and a few feet in front was found the pool of blood which flowed from the wounds of his victim, and a bloody trail was made by Farnsworth as he rested and stumbled home.
Not far from his place a hickory stub was found where the stick, about an inch in diameter, had been cut; and in another direction the stick itself was discovered, which corresponded with the stub, and which had been thrown away after the assault. The stick, which is in the possession of one of the officers, was evidently cut by a left handed person. Dwight is known to be left handed.
It seems that the two boys had been to Farnsworth’s house the afternoon that he was away, borrowed fifty cents from his wife, all the money that she had - they agreeing to pay her back before the time of the county fair, when she wanted to spend it. They also took away a cheap watch which belonged to Farnsworth.
Before going to Greenfield Farnsworth had made known his errand to the neighbors, and the boys probably thought that he was going to bring home his pension money and so made their plans to waylay and rob him. But the money Farnsworth had on his person could not have exceeded 2 or 3 dollars. There had been ill feeling between the boys and Farnsworth before. He had not got along happily with his wife, being frequently jealous, it is thought by some, without cause, and the fellows had taken her part.
They have been heard to threaten him on her account. Dwight, who was married and lived with his wife in a house on his father’s farm, took away with him two suits of clothes, but young Davenport is not known to have carried away only such clothes as he happened to have on, and left behind a little money and a bank book.
Wed. aft. upwards of 50 men were out scouring the woods of Coleraine, Whitingham and Heath, under Officers Henry A. Howard of Coleraine and Deputy Sheriff [?] S. Frost of Shelburne Falls, and the search by some of the party was kept up all night, but was fruitless. Dwight and Davenport are both familiar with the woods for miles around, having hunted and roamed over them together.
It was thought that perhaps the fugitives had gone in the direction of North Adams, and an officer was sent there Thurs. morning, while the general search was partly abandoned. Though the young ruffians may evade their pursuers for a while, it is hardly possible to make a successful escape. Their photographs and descriptions will be sent broadcast. The Selectmen have offered a reward of $500 for their recovery, and mean to bring them to justice.
As there is no coroner in the vicinity, S.D. Bardwell Esq. of Shelburne Falls, as a Justice of the Peace, summoned a jury to view the remains. The jury consists of Hezekiah Smith, C.W. Shattuck, A.A. Smith, Thomas D. Purrington, H.C. Millington and Russell J. Smith. They visited the scene of the murder Wed. aft., and will meet again today, when probably a verdict in accordance with the facts we have related will be rendered.
Farnsworth’s funeral took place Thurs. morning and was largely attended by the people of the town. Rev. Mr. Cole, the Methodist clergyman of Coleraine, conducted the services. Farnsworth leaves a boy of 9 and a girl of 7. His age was about 35, and his mother, with whom he lived, is about 75. The family, though poor and ignorant, were considered of average respectability. The mother of the Davenport boy has always opposed his keeping company with Dwight, who is generally supposed to have been the leader in the matter, but the two were together a great deal, and had become hardened and desperate.
A note received by J.B. Clark, one of the Selectmen of the town on Sat., stated that there was no trace then of the murderers, but that the watch supposed to have been stolen by one of the boys, was found, and was in his possession.
Latest - Intelligence from Shelburne Falls yesterday, states that Dwight was caught about half past 10 Sat. eve. Half a dozen men were laying in wait for him around his house, and he came home at that time and fell into their clutches. The whereabouts of Davenport is not known. Dwight was put into the lock-up at Shelburne Falls yesterday morning.
[A followup to this murder can be found on p. 371 of Google Books "Publications of the American Statistical Association", 1892 - 1893. There is also mention of the sentence on p. 5 of Google Books "Public Documents of Massachusetts", 1876].
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