Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

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Richland County Murder Mysteries

by A.J. Baughman

  Semi-Weekly News (Mansfield): 15 November 1898, Vol. 14, No. 94  

Submitted by Amy


Among the unsolved criminal mysteries of Richland County, that of the murder of Mrs. Mary Jane Lunsford, was the most appalling, for the victim was a woman and mutilation was added to murder.  

On that fateful night of March 12, 1870, Olive Street, Mansfield, was the scene of one of those horribly bloody deeds that stain pages in the criminal calendar of the county.

The city was startled by the report that a murder had been committed, and when the people beheld the scene and saw the evidence of the struggle that had ensued in the poor woman's tragic efforts to save her life, many turned away sickened by the awfully bloody spectacle.

Mrs. Lunsford, the murdered woman, was a seamstress, was young and good-looking, and while upon her life there rested the blot of the social sin, she was popular among her few acquaintances, and it was not known that she had an enemy -- surely not one of sufficient deadly hate to take her life, and as it was apparent that robbery had not even been attempted, the authorities were at a loss for a theory to account for and to ascertain the actuating motive that led to the commission of the murder.

Mrs. Lunsford had been a resident of Mansfield less than a year, having come from Cincinnati at the instance of Ansel L. Robinson, then superintendent of the Blymyer, Day & Co. works.  About a month before the murder, Mrs. Lunsford became engaged to a Mr. Ebersole, and the wedding was to take place the next week.  Robinson, it was said, was opposed to her marriage.  At the time of the murder Ebersole was taking care of a sick man at Shelby.  Upon searching the murdered woman's trunk, letters were found from Robinson which betrayed the relations that had existed between them and led to his arrest.  A long imprisonment followed, but at the final trial -- one of the most memorable in the criminal history of the county -- he was acquitted.  

Soon after his acquittal Robinson removed to the northwest, accompanied by his wife, and children, who had faithfully stood by him through all his troubles.

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Early Sunday morning, Sept. 18, 1881, the community was thrown into a high state of excitement by a report that a dead body had been found in Sherman's Woods -- now a part of the Sherman-Heineman park -- a few rods south of Park Avenue West.

The marshal, coroner, and a large number of citizens were soon on the ground, and the body was recognized as that of Charles Leonard, brother of W.L. Leonard.  Charles had been employed as a clerk in Finfrock's Drug Store and had mysteriously disappeared on the evening of the 9th.  He had left the store between 8 and 9 o'clock and had been seen a little later on Third Street, going west.  When found the body was lying in the edge of the woods with the head against a tree.  In his pockets were found the store key and some change.  Upon examination of the body it was found that he had been stabbed in the back and it was evident that the deed had not occurred where the body was found.

Charley was a young man of the most exemplary character and was universally popular and the motive for his death, and by whom the deed was committed remain in the list of the unsolved criminal mysteries of the county, although the offer of $1,000 reward for the apprehension and conviction of his murderer is still open and held good by W.L. Leonard.

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The cowardly and premeditated assassination of John Fox occurred Thursday evening, March 8, 1883, about two miles south of Bellville, on the road leading east from Honey Creek school house.

John Fox was about 40 years old, was a prosperous farmer, and lived within a half-mile of the place where he was killed.

John and Daniel Fox were brothers.  On the morning of the day of the fatal tragedy, they had come to Mansfield together in a two-horse wagon, and at the City Mills exchanged wheat for flour and bran.  They left Mansfield about 5 o'clock for their home, 14 miles distant, and at about 8:30 o'clock, when in a slight hollow a half-mile east of the Honey Creek school house, an assassin fired two shots, killing John instantly.  Dan claimed that he jumped from the wagon when John was attacked, and that as he essayed to run he was shot in the leg.  The postmortem examination of John's body showed from the course the bullets had taken, it was evident the assassin either stood on the back end of the wagon or in it, the shots having been fired from the rear, and as the hair on the back of John's head was singed, the latter seemed the more plausible theory.  John was sitting in front driving the team when attacked.  Dan reached the house of a neighbor by going across fields, where he gave the alarm and was given attention as he was suffering from loss of blood.  

A searching party found the wagon standing at the cross-roads, distant about midway between the scene of the tragedy and the Fox residence, the horses having become frightened at the shooting, ran that distance when the pin of the doubletree jumped out and the team became detached from the wagon and ran to the barn.  John was found lying as he had fallen, with his face upward and his head in a pool of blood.

The people for miles around were aroused over this cowardly murder, but no evidence was ever obtained sufficient to justify an arrest.  Dan Fox is now dead.

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On Sunday, Sept. 20, 1885, Clara Hough was murdered at the western outskirts of the city, in a ravine a short distance south of the B.&O. railroad.  her body was not discovered for several days.  She had been a domestic in the family of J.W. Dougal, of West Fourth Street.  The theory that she was murdered by a tramp was generally accepted.  Recent developments however, may throw some light upon the mystery of this in the near future.

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Samuel Chew was assaulted and robbed on the night of Aug. 25, 1837, and died without regaining consciousness.  He and his wife were alone at the time, and she claimed the deed was committed by masked men, but there was not sufficient evidence to fasten guilt upon anyone.  Mrs. Chew died within the past year.  She was Mr. Chew's second wife.

Samuel Chew lived at the top of the Mohawk Hill, on the road leading from Lucas to Perrysville, on the farm now owned by the Rev. Mr. Grau.  Samuel Chew was well advanced in his years;  was an exemplary man, and his tragic death cast a gloom over that whole community.  It is now generally conceded that this mystery will never be revealed upon earth.

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Frederick Boebel was killed and robbed while coming on a freight train from Crestline to Mansfield, on the night of April 28, 1895, and his murderers, supposed to have been tramps, were never apprehended.  Boebel was a contractor and lived in Mansfield.

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William Kern left Mansfield, July 30, 1895, on 11:15 a.m. train for Perrysville, to buy stock.  He walked from Perrysville back to Lucas, arriving at the latter place between 4 and 5 o'clock in the afternoon.  Upon learning that he would have to walk about three hours for a train to Mansfield, he concluded to walk home and was last seen alive near Chew's crossing at about 5:30 o'clock.  His dead body was found the next morning by a freight crew going east.  It was evident there had been foul play, as his pockets had been rifled of over $100, which he was known to have had with him at the time.  Mr. Kern was a highly respected citizen of Mansfield, and one of our most prosperous business men.

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J. Albert Hine was assaulted and shot the evening of Nov. 23, 1897, while going from his grocery on Sturges Avenue to his home on Ritter Street, and he died from the effect of the wounds, then inflicted, Sept. 11, 1898.  Although Mr. Hine saw his assailant he did not recognize him, and the assassin and the motive for the assassination remain among the unsolved criminal mysteries of the county.

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