Oldtime Area Newspaper Clippings
Relating to Ionia County
Part 2

A BIG Thank You to the Portland Observer, Teresa Sweet, Robert Wilfred Gierman (deceased) for collecting the Sebewa information, and the Sebewa Association for these Tidbits!!

McElroy Murder - March 11, 1879

A horrible and outrageous murder was perpetrated in Sebewa last Friday (March (7?) 1879) by a fiend in human shape named McElroy, upon an old man named Henry Snyder (65). Snyder wanted to get possession of his property on which McElroy was living after Snyder had purchased it at a mortgage foreclosure sale a year previously. Snyder went to the house with notice to quit the property accompanied by his son, Joseph Snyder, Dan Fender and J. H. Kimball. Before the last man had got to the door and before the notice had been read, McElroy stepped into another room, returned and fired a charge of buckshot into Snyder's groin.

McElroy was caught after a chase to Ionia.

March 18, 1879

On Sunday, before or after service at the church, a man named Elliot announced on the outside that all friends of Snyder, deceased, were requested to meet at Horn's Corners, the next morning. Early Monday morning, a large crowd was gathered at the place named, who chose the following committee to confer with Cook, McElroy's son-in-law, and tell him "to git" viz; Elliot, Josh Henry, James Chambers, James Layard and James Gray.

Horn's Corners is on the county line, at the corners of Barry and Eaton counties, and the McElroy house is about 60 rods north, on the Sebewa side of the road. This committee waited on Cook, told him he must leave and ask how much time he wanted to get his property away. He said three days. Committee said no. He asked for one day. They went back to consult, and returning said he could have just one hour and they would help remove the things. All hands commenced removing the contents of the house, and placing them in the field on the Odessa side of the road. In about half an hour the mob numbering 115 persons, besides several lookers on who took no active part, came on, after the manner, we suppose, of mobs in general, whoops ardor in the face of such foes as defenseless women and children could not be restrained even for the short interval promised. The house and farm were soon heaps of smoldering ashes, time not having been allowed to remove the contents. The family, who found shelter there, consisted of Mrs. McElroy and her 13-year-old daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Cook and their two little children. There were shouts of "Hang Cook" but no demonstrations of this kind, and he was shifted away and brought to Ionia. The women and children have found shelter at the Eagle Hotel kept by H. W. Jackson for the present.

Tuesday morning Constable Covert and Cook went to Sebewa. Covert was warned that it was not safe to keep Cook there, but replied that he proposed top stay and keep Cook with him until the property was secured. No one would give Cook shelter, those who would have been willing, not daring to do so, so both Covert and Cook slept out doors with the goods. The next day the goods were distributed among four of the neighbors, Samuel Swinehard's, Dan Martin's and J. Chamber's barns and Deibief's (?) store, no person daring to run the risk of having their buildings burned by storing all of the goods.

Covert and Cook started on Wednesday on their return, driving 13 head of cattle belonging to Cook which were left at James Humphrey's, about eight miles south (of Ionia) where they stayed all night, arriving here about noon yesterday. There have been some threats that the mob would take McElroy from the jail, and Mr. Covert was out told that a party would seize him when he was taken out for examination. Mr. Covert gave the people there some good advice, to the effect that no one who was not willing to be made cold meat of should consent to be one of the parties. There seems to be no general apprehension of any attempt of this kind. . The distance is too great, the roads are too muddy, and their sober second thoughts have had time to exert their beneficial influences.

McElroy's account of the shooting differs from the other side only in the somewhat essential feature that when Snyder's had backed nearly out of the room he suddenly sprang forward and grasped the gun, and that in the struggle for its possession it accidentally went off. We understand that this statement to corroborated by Alvin Cook; his son-in-law, with whom he lived and who claims to have witnessed the whole affair. It does not seem to receive general credence, however.

Ionia Standard March 25, 1879

The examination of McElroy, the Sebewa murderer, is in progress before Justice Spencer. Owing to the large crowd of excited neighbors present the first day, the court was adjourned to Fireman's hall, and extra precautions taken to prevent any violence, the prisoner being escorted to and from the hall by a strong guard of officers. No demonstration was make, however though if revengeful eyes were basilisks, he would have been struck dead a hundred times. The only witnesses sworn thus far have been for the people. The defense will open their side of the case today.

Portland Observer - March 22, 1879

Great indignation is felt here towards McElroy, the murderer of Henry Snyder, and hope is freely expressed that Ionia County will for once punish a murderer according to his deserts.

April 9, 1879

Friday afternoon witnessed another rather noisy demonstration from parties interested against McElroy and Co., but with driving around the square with a "threatening air", annoying the jailer and family, and disturbing quiet citizens who wanted to be about their own business, the mob vented their excitement and went off in fairly good order.

April 16, 1879

The Ionia Standard says that fourteen citizens of Sebewa who were arrested for complicity in the McElroy affair went to that city on the day appointed for their examination in a procession of about a dozen teams, and created considerable excitement for a little time by their braggadocio action in driving around the public square, and hooting at McElroy, who is confined in Ionia.

April 30, 1879

Jurors drawn for May Circuit Court, M. C. Wallace and Benjamin Probasco


May 15, 1879

The McElroy murder case was opened Tuesday morning with a large number of witnesses on each side, and will be a very interesting case. 60 extra jurors were called before a jury could be found ignorant enough to try the case.

May 21, 1879

McElroy jury could not agree-9 acquittal, 3 for conviction.

May 21, 1879

The jury in the McElroy case came out nine for acquittal and three for conviction. The fact that many of the most important witnesses had a hand in the mobbing affair after the murder has a strong influence against their testimony. It has been a lucky thing for the defense that the trial of the rioters did not come off first.

June 11, 1879
Ionia-We noticed Mr. McElroy a few days since "basking in the sunshine at the open door" of the Ionia county barn. Adjacent to said county's (so called) jail, instead of being in a cell with boarded windows, and of course he is so "awful 'fraid" now that he wouldn't run away if all the dogs in Ionia were at his heels, and he on the open street at "pitch dark midnight" with nobody in sight or hearing. Of course he won't "escape"; he cont anyway, but (supposing) if he should, wouldn't it be a good thing to save the county more expense.


Last update 1/5/2008