Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Thriller Thursday - Wrapping Up the Villers Trial, Part 9

Mrs. Tromer and her children from The Jamestown
Weekly Alert, 20JAN1898, pg1
I wonder if I'll get up to "part 100" by the time this is all over? This is going to be a slightly longer post in an attempt to wrap up the first page of the newspaper.

I can't say that I feel better after transcribing the speculation presented here either. Even as this section of the newspaper wraps up we are told that feeling was so strong against Villers that they didn't think it was safe for him to be acquitted. Could he have even gotten a fair trial?

What was even curiouser was the belief that Mrs. Tromer changing her story multiple times somehow showed that she was telling the truth and that it is more suspicious that Villers did not change his story over the years, therefore it was rehearsed. You can't win, can you? Those, of course, were assertions of the defense so they're lines of argument that would be expected.

Living in a time of women's liberation I was particularly annoyed at Mrs. Tromer's constant melodrama and fainting. I was even more irked at the defense saying that if a woman had presented her story in a bold manner like a man that it would have been more questionable. Lucky for that attorney that I didn't live back then. Even as a child I wasn't meek.

The Jamestown
Weekly Alert, 20JAN1898, pg1
"Speaking of the motive of the crime he said it was not cupidity. It was a delicate subject and he did not like to speak of it but the jury understood. He pictured the prisoner stealing up to a window early in the evening just after the sun had gone to rest in the country where she thought her husband was; stealing there after the light had gone out of the heavens and while the wife was seated by the light of chips upon the stove listening to the children lifting their prayers and saying 'forgive us our trespasses and deliver us from evil' while he, with murder in his soul, looked on and then say he would not kill a man for $48 or any other sum.' Here the audience applauded and the judge had to rap sharply for order and state that no such demonstration would be allowed again. She had confessed and the weight had been lifted from her mind she went out of the court room singing psalms and for hours after was singing hymns. She believed herself to be in heaven beside her old husband to whom she held up her hand and swore never to divulge her secret. For the first time in three long years she was free from this oath. You say she didn't tell the truth? The truth was that before Villers ever entered into this scheme he made a criminal of this poor family.

The Jamestown
Weekly Alert, 20JAN1898, pg1
I know that Mrs. Tromer's story is not the best of most connected. It is strange that she was ever here to tell the story at all. But it required those inconsistencies to prove the truth of her utterances. She has testified differently at other times and said things which were contradictory. But because she did that we know she told the truth. I had rather believe one who would tell such a story than a woman who would bare her face to the audience and tell in a brazen and manly way a story so straight that you could not find a flaw in it anywhere. These are the kind of stories that bear on their face the impression of having been doctored. 'And that is the matter with your story, Joe,' said the attorney turning to the prisoner suddenly. 'Three long years in the pen, time enough to study over this matter and think it all out.' The turning to the jury: 'Who ever expected he would testify other than he did?

But Mrs. Tomer's story was different. Portions of it she had forgotten, but God Almighty saved her to tell what she did tell, as God Almighty put the badgers down to say where Tromer was buried. An all-wise providence and God saved to use Mrs. Tromer, and her little children, to tell the story.

The reason why the story she told is true is because she never left the direct point of issue.  No power on earth can ever remove from her the idea that she received three letters through the hands of this defendant.

Why would Villers be concerned about the disappearance of Tromer? He was concerned and worried about him. He talked to the neighbors and to other people. Told them he knew August Tromer was alive, he had received letters from him. He didn't because Tromer was dead. His object and motive was to conceal the fact that he had killed him. Then he would kill Mrs. Tromer to conceal the evidence that she would hold in her breast against him that would tend convict him of this crime.

The Jamestown
Weekly Alert, 20JAN1898, pg1
Why did Villers get Mrs. Tromer to write that placard that she had left the country? He had all their property and he could not accomplish anything with her alive. He wanted her out of the way also.

There is nothing perplexing about his case. There is no question in the world as to who killed this man. I know it is an awful thing for you to say by any act of yourselves that Joseph Villers should hang. A poor helpless individual whose wife I have not seen by his side during this trial. And I would not by act or word detract one thing from his daughter, who has been here, however. She could not have done otherwise and I do not see why she didn't make her story stronger; could as well as not.

How Mrs. Tromer Received the News

Shortly after the verdict had been announced the news was carried to the Farmers' Home where Mrs. Tromer is staying. She either misunderstood the verdict or the news was too much for her enfeebled condition for upon its announcement she made some exclamation, I, or he, is not known, is free, and fell a swoon. Her heart stopped beating and her condition for a time was extremely serious.

It was feared that she would not survive but after extreme exertions she revived and asked what the finding of the jury was. She was completely prostrated and unnerved and unable to leave for La Moure today as she expected.

The Jamestown
Weekly Alert, 20JAN1898, pg1

Mrs. Tromer is still very weak. Her nerves are completely shattered and it is by an effort that she is up and about. Her children are her greatest anxiety. The little boy, Hedo, has been adopted by Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Peterson of Barnes county, near Clark City, and Mr. and Mrs. Bonnet of Sunburn have taken little Rosa with a view of adoption. The necessary papers will be made out shortly. Little Hilda, who says she is 'going to be eleven years old', will probably remain in the city several families being desirous of caring for and educating her.

Mrs. Tromer reluctantly gives them up, she knows she is unable to provide an education and care for them as she would and it is a great effort for her to see them go. They were the pride of her husband.

The son Edward, returned today to Dickey and Mr. Orderer's where he is staying this winter. The two oldest boys are now young men.

While little has been said about it in the press, it has been known that so strong was the feeling against Villers with many, that an acquittal might have been risky for his personal safety. The conviction of his guilt is too strong in this and LaMoure counties, where the details of the case are known, to make a second trial of the case in either county a probable event - if a new trial should be granted by the court.

The Jamestown
Weekly Alert, 20JAN1898, pg1
The trial of the case was a rapid one and without any unnecessary expense. The only delays were from sickness of the chief witness.

In terest in the proceeedings (sic), both in and outside of Jamestown, was great. The Alert sold out its extra issues here each night, and booked new subscribers from every town in this county and from several towns in LaMoure, Barnes and Foster counties, knowing they could get the full reports in the Alert.

The photograph of Mrs. Tromer and her three little children, from which the picture published in this issue is engraved, was taken after her arrival here as a witness in the trial."

Well that was certainly more excitement and dramatic than in previous editions of this series. We've finally gotten past most of the boring stuff and seem to be getting into the information presented...or at least the information the newspaper and courts shared with the public. Next week we hit page two and I can promise you that it doesn't get boring again. At least not at first glance. This next page appears to have testimony given on behalf of the defense by the accused's children. For me that will be of great genealogical importance. I look forward to jumping into it and I hope you are enjoying the posts as they get more exciting!

The Jamestown
Weekly Alert, 20JAN1898, pg8


  1. You have an incredible amount of information on this trial! The details and the pictures are really amazing.