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The Coroner's Jury

         ORONER WALLACE ARMOUR was summoned.  He made a hasty examination of the body and surroundings.  He had recently been elected to the office and perhaps was not fully conversant with the duties of a coroner.  At any rate he did not then make a careful examination of all of the circumstances.   Before he made a second examination the bed had been taken down and the bedding taken out, and all of the evidences of the horrible crime had been removed (with the exception of the body).  Early on Sunday morning the coroner summoned a jury of  six and David Dubach was elected foreman.  The physicians were all examined. 

Dr. Joseph C. Hearne stated that he had left the party at Mr. Munger’s house at 12 o’clock (Mr. Munger was also on the coroner’s jury).  Dr. Hearne had gone to his office, which is on Broadway, between Fifth and Sixth streets, and near the Stillwell back yard.  He transacted some business there and then went to his home on Bird street.  He was then summoned to attend Mrs. Stillwell, who was too ill to be examined at that time.

Drs. Allen and Gleason were called upon to tell what they had seen and how the body was found partially out of bed.  They described the bloodstains in the bed, and the position the body must have occupied in relation to the stains before it was partially pulled out of bed or in the agony of death had thrown itself out. 

The servants gave their testimony.  The finding of the burnt matches, the unlocked doors, the scattered money and the bloody two-edged ax were all put on view.  The jury was compelled to adjourn until Mrs. Stillwell could appear and be examined.  “That lady,” Dr. Hearne said, “could not be examined.  Her mental condition would not permit it.”  Five days later Dr. Hearne, who had been constantly attending Mrs. Stillwell, announced that the coroner’s jury might examine her.  He stated that the lady was not well and was liable to faint at any time.  The jury assembled in the Stillwell mansion and with the greatest caution the questions were asked the widow.  She told the jury about seeing a man at her husband’s bed and how she heard that singular whirr of the ax, and how she fainted.  She told of the silverware on the mantel not being molested.  She swore that she found the front door wide open when she ran down stairs and across the street.  The lock on  the front door was of a variety that a most skillful expert could not open from the outside.  She was asked why she had placed pillows on the chairs beside the children’s bed.  She replied that they might not see the body of their father.  She gave but little information that was of any value.  She faltered when asked to sign the statement.  She wrote the first part of her name with a trembling hand and when she came to the word “Stillwell” she quivered and fell in a faint as she made the last letter.

The coroner’s jury found that Amos J. Stillwell came to his death at the hands of some person or persons unknown.  The coroner’s jury was so considerately conducted that some very important facts had been left undeveloped which the grand jury would liked to have had explained.

January 1, 1889.  

Details of the Coroner's Jury

 Coroner Wallace Armour, assisted by a jury, has examined a number of witnesses, but no new facts have been brought to light.

 Mrs. Stillwell's Statement

Mrs. Stillwell’s statement is, in substance that when first awakened she heard Mr. Stillwell say, “Fannie, is that you?  Is that you, Fannie?”  She partly arose and saw that Mr. Stillwell had raised up in bed and at the same time discovered the form of a man standing at the foot of Mr. Stillwell’s bed.  The man was in a crouching position, and springing forward, struck Mr. Stillwell what proved to be the fatal blow.  Horror-stricken at the awful sight, she fell back into the bed and covered her face and head with the bed clothing.  Recovering to some extent in a few moments, and realizing the desperate situation in which she was placed, she unlocked the door leading into the room of her absent daughter Mollie, and hurrying to the door of the servants’ room awakened the two negro girls; told what had happened and directed one of them to light the gas and the other to come with her.  Going back into her room, she took one of the children in her arms and telling the girl to do the same with the other, she led the way back to the servants’ room, where the two children were placed on a bed, both of them being, fortunately, still asleep.  After telling the  girls to lock the door, she then ran across the street and aroused the neighbors, including Dr. Allen and W. T. League, all of whom, as speedily as possible, responded to her call, and upon arriving at the scene of the murder found everything as has been described before.

When Mr. and Mrs. Stillwell went to the party Saturday evening they left the front door unlocked, Mr. Stillwell remarking that as the lock was hard to turn they would leave it as it was until they returned.  This, of course, strengthens the theory that the assassin entered the house during their absence.  Mrs. Stillwell is quite positive that Mr. Stillwell locked the door when they returned from the party.  One of the servant girls, Lizzie Julius, states that she locked the back door of the house at 7 o’clock Saturday evening.

This jury is composed of D. Dubach, W. A. Munger, Jas. A. Nelson[8], John T. Holme[9], W. R. Pitts[10] and S. A. Birch.  The jury will continue its investigation with closed doors.

January 4, 1889.  

Full Report of Evidence Taken by Coroner

Mrs. Stillwell

Mrs. A. J. Stillwell

 I am the wife of the deceased.  I was awakened by hearing Mr. Stillwell say, “Fannie, is that you?”  I was not fully, awake, and I heard him say, “Who is there?”  I raised up and saw a dark figure, as I thought, crouching at the foot of the bed.  The figure sprang and raised something in his hand as if to strike and I buried my head in the bed  clothes.  I only saw the figure’s back and could not tell who it was.  He then sprang and ran towards the top of my bed and I could not see him.  I do not know how long I laid there.  Two chairs were at the side of the bed to prevent the children from falling out, so that I could not see very well.  After awhile I felt as though I must get some one there.  I got up and saw Mr. Stillwell lying on the side of the bed.  When he spoke I only saw his head raise, as the pillows prevented me from seeing good.  When I discovered Mr. Stillwell’s condition, I ran to the  girls’ room; we had a candle in the room, but it gave only a small light.  I unlocked the door between my room and the next room.  The girls unlocked the door to their room.  I told them what had happened and they lighted the gas.  The smaller girl began screaming.  I did not lock the door of our room leading to the hall before we retired, as I was working with the baby, which was  coughing, and fell asleep, forgetting to lock the door as was the custom.  I think the man who struck the blow had a large hat drawn over his face.  He seemed to be a large man.  The  cook and I went into the room and took the children.  She carried one and I the other.  I told her  to stay in her room  with them and lock the door.  Then I came out and ran down stairs; both front doors were open.  When we went to the party we closed both doors.  They were closed but both were unlocked.  We returned a little after 11 o’clock.  I suppose Mr. Stillwell locked the front doors when he came in.  When I ran down stairs I crossed the street to Dr. Allen’s first; rang the bell and he was so long coming that I rang all the bells near there.  I did not hear the man leave the house.  When I first saw Mr. Stillwell he was lying on the  side of the bed.  Jacob Kornder came across the street with me.  We went up stairs and afterwards lighted the gas in the hall and sitting room  By that time Mr. Will League had arrived. He tried to telephone Richard Stillwell and Dr. Hearne, but could not raise them, so Jacob Kornder went after Dr. Hearne.  In the meantime Mrs. Dr. Allen had arrived.  The ladies took me upstairs and that was the last I knew.     --Fannie C. Stillwell  

Josie Brown

 I live at Mr. Stillwell’s.  Have been there four weeks.  Was there last night with the children.  Mr. and Mrs. Stillwell came home about 11:30.  Lizzie Julius was in the house also.  Lizzie went to bed first.  The kitchen door was locked when we went to bed.  I heard Mr. League say the door was wide open when he came over.  Mrs. Stillwell came and knocked on the door and called Lizzie, who got up, went to the door and answered.  Mrs. Stillwell asked her to open the door and light the gas.  Lizzie did so.  Mrs. Stillwell came in and said to Lizzie: “There is a burglar in the house; he has knocked Mr. Stillwell down and I believe he has killed him.”  She told Lizzie to come and get the children.  I then got up and started in, but Mrs. Stillwell told me to go back, as she was afraid I would make a noise.  Lizzie went in, got the children and brought them to our room.  This was a quarter of two o’clock.  We have a clock in our room.  Mrs. Stillwell said she would go across the street and get some one, but she did not say who.  She got Mr. League, who came in and lighted the gas in the lower part of the house.  I heard them say that Jule Sanders is the name of Lizzie’s beau.  He lives in Palmyra.  If he was in town last night I do not know it.  He was to go home on Friday night.  She was with him at Mrs. Jackson’s, on Palmyra avenue, to a party on Friday night.  We were in the servants’ room and the children in their room while Mr. and Mrs. Stillwell were at the party.  There was no noise, and I did not hear Mr. and Mrs. Stillwell come home, but Mrs. Stillwell came and told us we could go to bed.  Sanders accompanied Lizzie home from Jackson’s.  I have never seen him in the house at any time, but have seen him at the door.  When we go out Lizzie carries a key to the door on the south side of the house, but if we go down town simply, we hide the key.  After supper we were together all the evening in our room.  I was sleeping part of the time, but she was sitting up.  Lizzie locked the back door of the house.  I saw her when she came in with a load of wood and locked the door.  I have known Lizzie about a year.  She stands well with the colored people, so far as I know.   Matt Bell sawed wood there last week.  I think Mr. Stillwell locked the south door before he went to the party.  One night when I went to the Tabernacle I came in at the front door, which was unlocked.  Mrs. Stillwell did not scream, but trembled violently.  There is no help besides myself and Lizzie.  Matt Bell was there on Friday.  (Here the ax was shown the witness but she did not recognize it).  We used the ax to split kindling.  I was in the barn yesterday but did not go through.  I don’t think Lizzie went down stairs after she came up for the night.   --Josie Brown  

Lizzie Julius 

I live at Mr. Stillwell’s house and have been there about five months.  About 11:30 p. m. Mr. and Mrs. Stillwell came home from the party.  I did not hear them come in, but Mrs. Stillwell came and said: “Lizzie, I’ve come, you girls can go to bed.”  She told me to push the door to.  We then went to bed.  I went to bed first and Josie came in about ten minutes later.  About 1:45 a. m. Mrs. Stillwell knocked on the door and said, “Lizzie.”  I roused up and said, “What is the matter?”  She said, “Strike a match and light the gas.”  I lighted the gas and opened the door.  She said, “There is a burglar in the house; he struck Mr. Stillwell, and I believe he has killed him,” and then said, “Come in and get my little baby.”  I went in after the baby, and Mrs. Stillwell brought Harold.  Mrs. Stillwell went into the room first.  She said, “Don’t let Josie in; I am afraid she might scream.”  Mrs. Stillwell was in her night clothes and was barefooted.  She usually keeps a candle burning on the mantelpiece, but I don’t know whether it was burning or not last night.  She came back with Mr. League.  She was only gone a few moments.  When I went into Mrs. Stillwell’s room I did not see anything because I was so badly scared I did not look.  Harold did not sleep with Mr. Stillwell, but with Mrs. Stillwell.  I locked the door in the barn about 5 p. m.  I locked the back (kitchen) door about 7 p. m. after getting a load of wood.  Mr. Stillwell went into the kitchen and got some water after he came home from the party.  I am 22 years of age; my sweetheart, Jule Sanders, lives in Palmyra.   I was with him at Mrs. Jackson’s party on Palmyra avenue, on Friday night.  We came home about 11:30 p. m.  He did not come in the yard.  He left saying he was going home that night.  I have known him about a year.  (The witness identified the ax as being the property of Mr. Stillwell.)     --Lizzie Julius  

Jacob Kornder 

I am employed by W. T. League as a florist; I met the “Long Line” train on the night in question at 1:20 a. m. and I returned to the house at a quarter before 2 o’clock; I sat down in the  green-house to read, as I am compelled to sit up till 5 a. m. to keep up the fires; just after I heard the clock strike 2 o’clock, I heard Mrs. Stillwell and went around to see what was the matter.  When she told me, we went over to the house together; she told me to make a light; we went to Miss Mollie’s room and then into Mrs. Stillwell’s room.  Mrs. Stillwell said, “There he lies.”  There was no light in Mrs. Stillwell’s room; the candle was in Mollie’s room; the servant girls were standing in their door; I lighted the gas in the hall and sittingroom; I saw the body of Mr. Stillwell by means of a match, which I struck while in Mrs. Stillwell’s room.  The body was on the side of the bed next to the hall door.   -- Jacob Kornder  

W. T. League 

I reside immediately opposite the Stillwell residence.  Last night about ten minutes to two the bell rang.  My sister went to the window; I heard Mrs. Stillwell say: “Mr. Stillwell has been murdered and is lying in a pool of blood.”  My sister then called to me at once and repeated Mrs. Stillwell’s statement.  I told my mother to call Jacob Kornder, my florist; I went down the back stairs, around the house, crossed the street, found the gate at Stillwell’s open; went up stairs and found the door of Mr. and Mrs. Stillwell’s room open; I stepped into the room; found Mr. Stillwell lying in a kneeling position, with his head lying on the bed with the left side up, with a wound beginning at the temple and running four inches towards the neck.  There was a small candle or a taper in the room.  I stepped to the head of the bed and took hold of Mr. Stillwell’s hand, which was lying on the bolster; I felt it twitch; I went down stairs and crossed to Dr. Allen’s and found that Mrs. Stillwell had been there; I went to Dr. Gleason’s and J. F. Dakin’s also, and from there diagonally across to the  gate and met Dr. Allen at the door, who said, “Mr. Stillwell is dead.”  I asked him to go back up stairs, which he did.  The gas had been lighted in the hall and sitting-room.  I went into the sitting-room to telephone for the police.  Mrs. Stillwell, who was standing in the room, said, “Mr. League, telephone for Dick.”  Several neighbors came in and took charge of Mrs. Stillwell, who was in a terrible condition.  Officers Reiman and Connery arrived shortly afterwards; the house was open; each door back to the lattice work.   -- W. T. League

Dr. Allen

 I am a practicing physician in this city.  I live nearly opposite the Stillwell residence; I was aroused by the ring of my door-bell in a somewhat excited manner; answered the call; Mrs. Stillwell stood at the door in her night-dress wringing her hands; she said: “Oh, doctor, come over to the house, for God’s sake.  Mr. Stillwell has been murdered and is lying in a pool of blood.”  I replied that I would come as soon as possible; my wife and I went over; it was then about 2 o’clock; the front door was open and Mrs. Stillwell was standing at the foot of the steps in her night clothes.  She was then alone; we all went up stairs and my wife quieted Mrs. Stillwell as much as possible.  Mr. Stillwell was in a kneeling position across the edge of the bed, his feet barely touching the floor, with a horrible wound on the head; we wanted to light the gas, but there were no matches in the match safe.  Mr. Stillwell was pulseless and there was a pool of blood in the bed; the body had the  appearance of having been moved from the position in which the fatal blow was struck, and there was tallow on the bolster, as if some one had been examining the wound with a candle.  (The witness was here shown the ax.)  The wound has the appearance of having been made with this ax.     --A. L. Allen, M. D.  

Dr. Gleason

 I was called and went to Mr. Stillwell’s.  The body was lying a little to one side with the left hand on the pillow and the right hand under the head or body.  The limbs were on the floor and the left was over the right.  The lower portion of the body was just over the edge of the bed.  I examined the wound with a candle which I took from the mantelpiece; found the wound to be four and one-fourth inches in length, reaching from above the frontal bone through the temporal bone, severing the external carotid arteries and probably the jugular vein also.  The portion of the wound near the spine was very much deeper than the front.  By inserting the finger, the vertebrae of the spine could be felt.  I then went with others out into the alley, found a whole match on the kitchen floor, which was similar to those on the mantel.  Found in the alley four five-dollar bills done up smoothly together and a five-dollar bill four or five inches from the other money.  A few feet further towards Church street saw part of the handle of an ax sticking out from behind a plank which was leaning against the stable south of the Stillwell barn.  Took the ax up stairs and discovered blood stains on the blade, which were much deeper towards the handle,  corresponding with the wound, which was deeper towards the spine.  The pants were on the floor at the foot of Mr. Stillwell’s bed, while the other clothing was on a chair near the alcove.   -- J. L. Gleason, M. D.  

Dr. Hearne

 The testimony of Dr. Gleason having been read, I confirm the statement of Dr. Gleason as to the character and the location of the wound on the person of deceased, and further state that, in my opinion, the death of Amos J. Stillwell was produced by the infliction of said wound.  --  Dr. J. C. Hearne  

Verdict of Coroner's Jury

 “We, the Jury, find that Amos J. Stillwell  came to his death from the stroke of an ax in the hands of some person to us unknown.”

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