Oldtime Area Newspaper Clippings
Relating to Ionia County
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!!
FROM THE PORTLAND OBSERVER
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.