52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Education

It was not an education I had anticipated. It fell into my lap unexpectedly. When discovered, it called out to me to stare at it straight in the face and determine what I could learn from it. It was an education in the anatomy of a murder.

What sparked the education was a death certificate found…cause of death as fracture of the first vertebrae as induced by execution. I sought more information on this case. Newspaper clippings, obituaries, YouTube videos were reviewed. How had this all exploded? Why did he have an implosion inside his brain and emotions?

A year before the murder, Bill and Sadie lived in the mountains near Mont Alto, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. It was 1910. Bill worked for various farmers in the area. Sadie kept house. They lived without benefit of marriage as she was married to a Mr. Mathna who had deserted her and moved west. Bill insisted that Sadie seek a divorce…no, she would not. Finally, the two separated. Sadie moved back to the Forest Academy in Mont Alto where she previously worked in the kitchen. Bill moved back to nearby Waynesboro where he was a laborer at various jobs. As time passed, the two exchanged love letters and pictures. He went every Saturday and Sunday to visit her. Then, the last straw…he discovered she was seeing other men.

Days before that Tuesday morning when he took the train to Mont Alto, Bill purchased a new suit, shirt, tie, and hat. He also slipped something into his jacket pocket. He was going to have his showdown with Sadie. He would ask her for the pictures and letters back. One picture precious to him was his military photo taken at the time of the Spanish American War. He was going to break it off with the unfaithful woman.

As he arrived at the dining hall kitchen where Sadie worked, he noticed that only she was present. She sat grinding coffee. He told her the reason for his visit…he wanted his letters and pictures back. She related that she would go to her room to get them. When she returned to hand them over, Bill noticed that some were missing including his military picture. Again she went to her room to retrieve them. When she entered the room, she threw one of the letters and a picture in the fire of the stove…she picked up the coffee grinder to throw at him. He pulled a gun from his jacket pocket, and she declared that he was too scared to shoot her. Firing and hitting her three times, he proved her to be wrong. She staggered across the kitchen, walked into the dining room, and fell. Bill left…”I have fixed her good” he was heard to say.

Later that day, Bill appeared at the magistrate’s office. While smoking a cigar, he calmly stated that he was the one who shot Sadie. It as not an accident he declared. He meant to hurt her.

At his trial in the spring of 1912, his defense was insanity. He snapped when she made him angry. Throwing his picture into the fire had made him snap. Witnesses came forward who testified that he had threatened to kill her when she was known to have cheated. Jailers testified that he was calm and repentant while incarcerated. Then the case went to the jury…guilty…the sentence would be death by hanging.

William F. Reed was the last man hung in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, on 30 April 1912. Until his death, he asserted that he had no intention to kill nor had he made any such threats to do so. So what about the testimonies of his accusers? Or was Bill delusional?

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Out of Place

There they sit…abandoned…forsaken…tossed away. They wait with hope that someone will recognize them and bring them home to their proper places…to be treasured, remembered, and embraced. Why were they left here to await their final fates?

Some of them rest behind stately glass and are enshrined in golden filigree. Some reside in ornate frames. Some are simply tossed into piles or boxes. Some have been regally placed in photo albums. Who will come and claim them for whatever reasons they choose?

As I gaze upon their faces, I wish I could save them all. I wish I could give them the prominent places they deserved. They had been, perhaps, Civil War soldiers who proudly had their pictures taken to send home while they were away. Some are school pictures of children with toothless grins. Some are family groupings of people dressed in their Sunday best. Some are blushing brides and beaming grooms, united to begin new families. At one time, they all belonged to someone who loved them.

Now they sit in antique malls for sale. Customers are invited to claim “instant relatives”. They are now nameless. Who will want them? They seem so out of place these old photos…for sale..forgotten. Waiting for a miracle for them…that someone will recognize them and bring them home.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Favorite Photo

My forever favorite photo of the two of us…with the first man I ever loved. My dad. My father, Edward Joseph Slabik.

I remember that…he would come home from work and play with me. He would give me piggyback rides. He would squirt me with the garden hose and make me squeal with laughter. He would take me to the library. He would take me in the car to see the Christmas lights while my mom stayed home and wrapped my packages. He would introduce me to the Smithsonian. He got me my first dog, Taffy. The saying goes that “a picture tells a thousand stories”. For me, it is a “picture cultivates a thousand memories”.

Together we spend 58 years. From him, I inherited a love of reading, music, mysteries, letter writing, history. My mom once said, “You grew up from being daddy’s little girl to your father’s daughter.” I think she meant I was a chip off the old block.

It is amazing, wonderful, spectacular how one picture from long ago can bring back so many beautiful memories…never forgotten, always just there to grab onto.

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: I’d Like To Meet You

You have always held a certain mystique about you all. You seem far away…not just in the distance of time, but in knowing who you truly are and were. I cannot even picture your faces and demeanor. I long to meet you.

Joseph Boultinghouse and Rachel Buckston, you are my 4th great grandparents. Joseph, I am confused about your military service during the Revolutionary War. You were enlisted in the New Jersey Militia…deserted…joined up with the Virginia Militia. I realize that soldiers went from group to group depending on many circumstances. After the war, you located to western Pennsylvania and ended up in White County, Illinois. Rachel, you are a complete mystery to me. In reading about women’s lives on the plains, I understand it was very harsh and almost unforgiving. How did you both survive all this?

Daniel Boultinghouse and Rhoda Howell, you are my 3rd great grandparents. Daniel, you went from place to place from Pennsylvania, to the Ohio Valley, and finally to Illinois. Like your father, you are a veteran of a war, the War of 1812. You married three times and had 13 children. One of your sons was killed in an Indian attack, and you vowed revenge. What were you really like…who were you? Rhoda, you were Daniel’s third wife. Together you raised many children along with two of your own. Was this a marriage of convenience? After Daniel’s death, you can be found in the probate records as appearing at the White County courthouse and settling Daniel’s debts. After that, you completely disappear. What happened to you?

In meeting you all, I would have many questions for all of you. I would listen to your stories and memories. I would acknowledge your times and places in history. One day, we will be reunited and meet for the first time.