Monday, June 21, 2010

Chenango Darkness: the Prequel

June 7th, 1879, in the New York Times:
In the previous entry in this blog, writer Frederick Busch drew a parallel between his almost-murder in Nigger Hollow, Chenango County, NY, to a completed one in the previous century in the same place. He wrote of the murderer, "He used his rifle, this man who is a small notation in history, and he shot through an open window, and he killed the man whose chickens scratched among the onions and the beans."

Busch got it backwards.

The killer in question killed because the damn' neighbor had killed two of his pet chickens, intentionally, and had lured them to their demise to boot. That's a shooting that I, a chicken-keeper, can understand.

And, besides, a thoroughly unpleasant person played a key role in the chicken-entrapment:

The whole story is recounted in this anonymous article from the New York Times of June 7th, 1879, and is at least as good reading as is Busch's tale from almost a century later. (Beware: the PDF file linked from that page is a little odd: you have to scroll halfway down the image to get to the start of the article in the left column.)

(So, I guess I have to thank my quarrelsome neighbors here in Creepy Hollow, California, for keeping the neighborhood from stagnating. Whoda thunk it.)

A plus in this well-written and engaging article from 131 years ago is that it doesn't take a gratuitous swipe at its then-current Presidential administration, something that caused consternation in comments about Busch's article linked in the previous blogpost. I'm happy to reassure the politically squeamish that the NYT did no such thing to the Hayes administration in this article (although there are some striking similarities between that administration and some controversies about the second Bush administration.) Dann, you can read the original article linked in this post without fear that your delicate sensitivities will be trod upon.

As a more serious side-note, the murderer -- who comes across very sympathetically in the article -- has a couple of interesting connections to "SherWords" and its readers: he was an immigrant from County Monaghan to County Chenango, and he was almost stony deaf. The latter makes some of the later parts of the article even more poignant, given the significant percentage of readers of this blog who are intimately familiar with that condition.

(One little correction: the reporter says that Chenango County is North of Utica; it is actually South of Utica, and by somewhat more than 11 miles.)

Sugar is a Ft. Harrington chicken. Mess with her at your own risk. Significant risk.

Once again, here's where to go for the original 1879 New York Times article about the hanging of Felix McCann. Happy reading!



Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Holy moly, what a story! The reporter doesn't even sentimentalize the cuckolded husband who got the shot meant for his wife, and by the time this writer is finished with it, i kind of feel like the only true innocent victims are the chickens.

And i really wish papers used words like "vituperation" these days.

Brian Fies said...

I wish I could write like that. I mean, I wish I were allowed to.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Just to show how dense I can be, it took me about a week to notice the real parallel between the McCann murder of the 1870s and the plotted Busch murder a century later:

Enticed pets.

McCann's chickens were lured with corn to their buckshot. Busch's Labs were enticed with land-chum to their imprisonment as bait.

If I lived on Pleasant Valley Road in Chenango County now, I'd have big fences around my property, you bet, to keep my animals away from temptation. No sense messing with a centuries-old tradition.

Xtreme English said...

nice to know the newspapers have ALWAYS been awful.

Sugar really does look incendiary.

ronnie said...

Appreciated your comments regarding the shooter's deafness... it can be a confusing place to be. Imagine being on trial for your life and nobody making the slightest effort to make sure you knew what was going on!

An incredible story all around.