Saturday, September 6, 2014

52 Ancestors: #31 Henry Strauss, jr. (1862 - 1881) Part 2 - "Justifiable Homicide"

Climbing My Family Tree: HEADLINE: "Justifiable Homicide"
HEADLINE: "Justifiable Homicide"
The Syracuse Morning Standard, June 18, 1881
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This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

This is the second of two posts this week on Henry Strauss, junior, my 1st cousin 3 times removed, born on June 11, 1862 to Rosa Henn Strauss and Henry B. Strauss. Everyone seems to run into some less than honorable black sheep ancestors in the course of their family history search. Henry is the first I’ve found in my tree (there are bound to be more, but he’s my first). Last week I wrote about Henry’s mother, my 2nd great-grand aunt, Generosa (later Rosa) Henn Strauss, who was declared insane within a few years of Henry’s death (she spent the last 21 years of her life in an asylum). In the article on his mother I promised that this week I would do two posts – part 1 & 2 - of transcriptions of the article reporting on the fight in which died, which he started, and of the article reporting on the inquest into his death.  

On Wednesday, I posted the first articles describing the fight. Unlike today’s news stories, there was no indication of from where or who the author had obtained his information, and as you’ll see in today’s post the initial article got quite a few details wrong (assuming that those testified to are more likely to be right). But, unlike today’s journalism, the article does not highlight the changed details, and makes no apology for the changes in the newspaper’s recounting of the story.

Today’s news articles describe the inquest into Henry’s death and the funeral. The inquest came about as a result of Henry’s father pressing charges against David McClure (identified in the first article as Joseph McClure) for murder; it included testimony from Henry ‘s father, the doctor who treated Henry and subsequently performed the autopsy, and two disinterested eyewitnesses to the fight (merchants whose places of business were in the area). The inquest itself does not seem that dissimilar to today’s inquests, and the reporting in this article seems more like modern reporting.  The article, in the main, appears to have a more balanced factual tone than the article I transcribed in Part 1. The final small article regarding the funeral just adds a note of the bizarre to the whole thing.

Climbing My Family Tree: "Justifiable Homicide" Strauss McClure fight The Syracuse Morning Standard, June 18, 1881
"Justifiable Homicide"
(Strauss McClure fight)
 The Syracuse Morning Standard, June 18, 1881
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The Syracuse Morning Standard, Saturday Morning, June 18, 1881


The Killing of Henry Strauss by David McClure Not Murder

Yesterday afternoon Coroner Knapp held an inquest in the case of Henry Strauss, who died early last Tuesday morning from the effects of the blow which David McClure, an imbecile, dealt him on the head with a stick of wood late last Saturday afternoon.

The first witness called was Henry Y. Strauss (sic), father of the deceased. He testified that he was at work in the garden when his son came home on Saturday evening between 6 and 7 o’clock. The boy staggered as he came into the yard. The father asked him what was the matter. The boy made no answer but said: “Help me take off my boots and my coat so that I can lay down on my mother’s bed.” The father did so and the lad lay down on the bed. A short time after Mrs. Strauss called her husband into the house, said the boy was restless and complaining of pain in his head. The father slept with the injured son during the night. The boy complained during the night and Mr. Strauss got him a drink of water. On feeling his son’s head, the father found it very hot. In the morning the boy was asleep when his father got up. Mrs. Strauss was ordered to keep the other children quiet in order that Henry might sleep. The boy lay that way until the doctor was called Sunday night, and finally died on Tuesday morning between 2 and 3 o’clock.

Dr. Van Duyn said that he cut through the scalp and found bruises over the left ear. The cranial cavity was opened and the left side of the skull was found to be broken in such a way that the middle meningeal artery was broken. From this break blood had poured out and formed a clot weighing four and three-fourth ounces. This compressed the brain so as to cause paralysis and death.

James Barry, who resides at No. 218 West Fayette Street and keeps a store at that location testified that the accident took place in front of his store. He heard a noise and on going out saw Henry Strauss and James Plunkett throwing David McClure’s wagon into the sewer hole. Strauss and Plunkett were both intoxicated and came over near Barry. McClure called to them and Strauss walked over toward him. McClure then picked up a stone. Plunkett followed Strauss. Strauss went up to McClure and said something to him the witness did not hear, McClure said: “Keep away from me, I want you to leave me alone.” McClure kept backing up and Strauss kept following him slowly. McClure said something about being “picked on” and about leaving his wagon alone. Strauss acted as though he wanted to clinch his opponent but dare not because McClure had the stone in his hand. Finally McClure got up against a building standing on the corner. McClure dropped the stone and picked up a stick which lay against the building. A blow aimed at Strauss with the stick failed to be effective. A second attempt resulted in the same manner. The third time McClure struck at the deceased, the latter was leaning down trying to pick up a stone. The blow did not take effect and Strauss ran into the road and picked up a stone and walked back towards McClure. McClure then struck Strauss and the latter fell to the ground. He struck partly on his head. Plunkett then helped Strauss home. The wagon of McClure had wood in it and part of the latter was strewn on the ground. The witness said that McClure seemed to be afraid of Strauss and Plunkett, but wanted his cart. After the deceased was struck McClure threw the stick away. McClure drew his cart into Barry’s yard after the accident. He told the witness that Strauss was in the habit of bothering him, and about a week before had torn his coat. The witness said he had seen Strauss intoxicated several times.

Jacob Sehl, who keeps a restaurant opposite Barry’s store, was called. He certified that he had seen the occurrence as elated by the last witness. Sehl was the last witness called and at the close of his testimony, the jury retired. After a short deliberation they brought a verdict that Henry Strauss “came to his death by a blow to the head struck by David McClure on June 11, 1881, between the hours of 4 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon, at the corner of Niagara and West Lafayette streets, in the city of Syracuse, and that said blow was provoked, and struck by McClure in self-defense. Death of said Strauss taking place from the effects of the injury induced by said blow at No, 314 West Lafayette Street.”

The father and mother of young Strauss feel very much grieved at the untimely death of their son, and yesterday while the inquest was in progress tears rolled down the cheeks of the bereaved couple. The dead boy was the oldest of five brothers. The four younger ones survive the deceased. The eldest is about sixteen years old. The parents acknowledge that Henry Strauss was inclined to be somewhat dissipated. It is rumored that some seven or eight months before his death the wayward son was married to a girl of his own age. The parents say that they never knew of the marriage, and although they heard the rumor, they did not believe it to be true.” 

[The Syracuse Morning Standard, Saturday Morning, June 18, 1881 (found at Syracuse NY Daily Standard 1881 Grayscale - 0546.pdf)]

And this is the last (very) small article I found in this matter, in the oddities section of the paper:

 The Oswego Palladium, Friday, June 17, 1881 

Things Which Don’t Happen Every Day

The young wife of Henry Strauss of Syracuse, who was killed in an affray, was not permitted to attend the funeral services by his parents, and followed the procession to the grave at the very rear.”

[The Oswego Palladium, Friday, June 17, 1881 (Found at, Newspaper Oswego Palladium Jan-June 1881-0836.pdf)]

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