Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Thriller Thursday - Wrapping Up the Villers Trial, Part 12

In this installment of Thriller Thursday I'll continue with the articles on the Villers trial. Some drama (or should I say melodrama) takes place in Mrs. Tromer's testimony and some disjointed testimony given that will hopefully be clarified in other clippings.

Jamestown Weekly Alert - 20JAN1898, pg2
"On opening court Saturday morning the attendance was considerably less, not as many ladies being present as heretofore. Mrs. Tromer was carried in and answered questions through the interpreter on cross examination for a short time, when she began to cry out in a loud and wavering tone of voice uttering mournful cries sounding something like the wailings, or half singing of an insane person. She was at once removed to a waiting room and after a short time her cries were stopped and she again relapsed into quiet."

Ok...already starting out here I'm annoyed. I think the real drama is this woman. Seriously. Were the stays on her corset too tight? Did they still wear corsets? And am I the only one thinking that maybe she was finally silenced with a punch to the face? I get it. Horrible stuff happened to her and her husband, but there were quite literally years in between all this. It's normal to get a bit emotional, but I'd be pissed not hysterical. If someone killed my husband I'd be trying to rip his throat out not sobbing like a nub. Yeah. I'm a modern woman. Anyway...

Jamestown Weekly Alert - 20JAN1898, pg2
"On cross-examination

She said about the first time she met Villers was while living on the Kennison place when one day during threshing time Villers being at the house he attempted to put his hand on her breast. He had always tried to be familiar with her; her husband objected and was angry when she told him of these occasion (sic), as she always did. They incensed her greatly. These attempts were made before Tromer left; not every time she saw Villers, but often. (Here witness was removed from room.)

Little Hilda Tromer was called and stated she saw Villers pull her mother into his lap and attempt to kiss her; was not asked at LaMoure as to this. Her mother did housework alone for the family.

Otis Frazer recalled to testify to plowing for Villers about a month and a half in 1894.

Albert Eitell, also recalled, said he hand (sic) worked with Villers in fall of '94. Villers cropped the northwest quarter, near the house, that year. Louis Villers, he thought, worked it in '95; he threshed with him before Tromer left.

Mrs. Jos. Comber of Montpelier was the next witness. She had not been on the stand before and her testimony was anxiously hatened (sic) to by the audience. She said she knew Villers well in 1894; Villers and Tromer coming from Jno. Comber's place on day in fall of '94 and when they left her house went in direction of Villers' place. It was about 3 p.m. Villers came in to light a pipe and she asked him who was out in the buggy and he said Tromer."

Jamestown Weekly Alert - 20JAN1898, pg2
I understand they were trying to cram so much into these article, but the terrible grammar was really getting to me. It is unfortunate that there wasn't more detail as to the reason these questions were asked of the witnesses. While I'm sure those following the case intently in 1898 were familiar with the details, the lack of clarification as to why which fields were farmed isn't as clear to someone looking back more than 100 years.

"John Kenoskie of Adrian was next called. Witness' testmony (sic) objected to by defense as not having been included in information. States attorney on oath said evidence of witness was not known to him until after proceedings had been begun. Objections over-ruled, and witness statement received.

He said he had met Villers once, before Tromer disappeared; had with neighbors joined in search for the body. In company with Wm. Benjamin of Adrian, they had searched the grounds on the Villers place. Remembered seeing two straw stacks burning near there on the Sunday following Villers arrest. In searching for some clue of Tromer, he found a hammer lying in road by side of buggy track leading to Villers house; kept hammer at his own hause (sic) every (sic) since; it had been used some by himself and boy.

(Hammer here introduced in evidence and witness recognized it as same.) He said hammer was in same condition as when he had it and was found about a half mile from the culvert.

In interrogatories the defense here asked if the hammer might have been useful on a mowing or threshing machine. Witness excused."

So in this post we see some testimony reported, but nothing linked together. Nothing put into a nice package for consumption. I can only assume that they're building up to something, but only time will tell. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Amanuensis Monday - The Story of the Seven from PA Union L1

Lebanon Semi-Weekly, Lebanon, PA
21JAN1924, pg1
In a Memorial Monday post back in April I shared names from a panel of the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial in Colorado Springs. Seven fire fighters from Union L1 in Pennsylvania died in one event in 1924. That was a large number and it made me want to find out where Union L1 was from and what happened. Please be warned that this article can be a bit graphic.

"Firemen Had Horrible Death in Blazing Oil

Pittsburgh, Pa., Today - Seven firemen were killed in fighting an oil fire at the plant of the Atlantic Refining Company in Lawrenceville today. Many suffered from the intense cold. Scores of others were reported injured.

The firemen were killed when they fell into a tank of blazing fuel.

The fire was still burning fiercely. Starting in a 10,000 barrel tank of oil, it threatened to spread to adjoining tanks.

All available firemen in the city were called out.

Company officials refused to allow newspapermen near the scene of the blaze, claiming there had been too much 'publicity' in the million dollar fire at the same plant a year ago.

The dead are:

Hoseman Patrick Abbott and Captain Edward Jones, both of No. 26 Engine Company.

Fire Captain Rudolph Bliske and Hoseman John Markham.

Three unidentified firemen.**

The seven men were thrown head-long into the burning tank when a ladder on which they were standing crumpled beneath them.

The tank let go with an explosion shaking the Lawrenceville district for blocks around.

Bob Smith Sam Bolin, Captain Frazier.

Buck Lowrie. Fireman of No. 9 Company was saved from death in the boiling tank when pulled safely by Fireman Jenkins. Loire was badly burned and taken to a hospital where it was believed he will recover.

Jesse Mercer and Al Stewart, firemen, were both seriously injured when a roof upon which they were standing gave way, throwing them 30 feet to the ground.

The firemen, aided by scores of volunteers, were keeping the blaze confined to the one tank. It was not believed at 10 A.M. that there was serious danger of the fire spreading.

Seven blackened, charred bodies of firemen were removed from the burning tank of crude oil at 10:30 A.M.

While several hundred firemen and volunteers fought to keep the blaze from spreading to other tanks and building inside the great yards, a group of heroic men rescued the bodies from a manhole at the bottom of the tank.

Their faces and hands blackened and cracked by the intense heat, the rescuers worked grimly until all the bodies had been removed.

The fire started with an explosion early today that rocked the Lawrenceville district for blocks.

Great clouds of dense black smoke poured from the tank and settled in a pall over that part of Pittsburgh.

Heroic rescues, spectacular and dramatic, marked the work of the fire fighters. It was a scene of ghastly impression as the men battled against the flaming oil, endeavoring to save 0 surrounding tanks from catching fire.

The blazing tank was lcoated (sic) in the midst of 10 other tanks, all of 10,000 barrel capacity, and was joined to a sister tank standing only a few yards away.

A runway connected the two tanks and upon this runway the firemen were forced to stand and fight the heat and flames.

Several women, wives of the firemen appeared at the gates of the oil yards after it was learned some of the firemen had been killed, many of them weeping and screaming.

The oil company guards denied them admission along with newspapermen and others who sought to go inside.

Hospital ambulances, police patrols and scores of nurses hastened to the scene of the fire. First aid was rendered to firemen. hot coffee was supplied the men in wash tubs.

The fire spread to a three story brick building in the yards and added new danger to adjoining plants where the distilleries are kept. Machinery crumpled, windows cracked with the intense heat and telephone and electric lines were rendered useless as the fire raged.

Streams of water were played upon all buildings and tanks in the yards. Coatings of ice formed immediately presenting an odd contrast with the melting pot of the fire shooting out flame and smoke.

The firemen had great difficulty in getting close enough to the tank to do effective work. Barricades were constructed and a dozen streams of water poured upon the other tanks to cool them. Little effort was made to extinguish the tank afire. Firemen said it would have to burn itself out while they did their best to prevent the other tanks from engulfing."

As I was transcribing this I kept wondering about them using water on an oil fire. We know that doesn't work. Water spreads oil fires and they really need to be smothered to be put out. We've got chemicals nowadays that can do that, but they apparently did not. My curiosity was satisfied when it got to the last paragraph. They knew they couldn't put it out. They just tried to contain it.

Another curiosity was that the company wouldn't let the newspapermen near the action. While it can easily have been said that they were trying to protect them that doesn't appear to be the case. In the fifth paragraph we see that the Atlantic Refining Company refused to let the newsmen near the fire because of a fire a year ago where the company seemed to have received some negative publicity. Curiouser and curiouser. Sounds like there was a story there!

**The article mentions unknown firemen that were killed. As mention in my previous post the seven men who perished were:

Patrick Abbott
Rudolph Bliske
Samuel Bollinger
Henry Frazier
Edward Jones
John Markham
Robert Smith

IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Panel 1923-1924