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Another Murder at Woodburn


Posted By: Karen Brewer (email)
Date: 9/21/2016 at 10:25:40

The Osceola Sentinel, Osceola, Iowa
June 08, 1899, Page 1


Mrs. Nick Crosby Shoots Her Husband to
Death Friday Morning.

Judge Towner Fixes Bail Bonds at $10,000

Another terrible crime has darkened the fair little city of Woodburn and vicinity, making the second murder within the past year. It is a case of the awful results of a brief but unhappy and stormy married life of only four months. The body of the husband now lies cold in death, and the wife by her own confession is a murderess. The facts are about as follows.

Nick Crosby and his wife, Julia Crosby, had parted, after a brief term of married life that was sadly uncongenial. Her friends say that Crosby was a drinking man and of reckless character. Mrs. Crosby inherited a good size farm from her former husband, lying about two miles southeast of Woodburn. She had repeatedly forbidden her husband from coming on her place. On last Friday morning Mrs. Crosby, her father, Richard Cronin, and John Bruffey were hauling rock for a new barn being built on her farm of 240 acres. her husband who had previously been seen on the place at night a good deal, even frightening Mrs. Crosby and father (who lived together) away, was seen that morning fixing fence. Mrs. Crosby got a revolver she had previously borrowed because of Crosby's night prowling, and her and the two men drove to where Crosby was working. She requested him to stop working and leave the place but he made no answer and kept working. A second request was made but still no response. The third time she said: "In the name of God, Nick stop." He was on one knee, driving a staple in a lower wire. She leveled the revolver and said, "Nick, I've got you." She shot just as he looked up at her, the ball entering the left breast just over the heart. He jumped and fell, exclaiming, "My God, I'm shot." Mr. Bruffey went to his assistance, but he died in four or five minutes.

The woman was placed under arrest by Marshal John H. Cochran. Message was sent to Coroner James M. Beard and he in company with County Attorney Touet went down at 12 o'clock. A jury consisted of W. F. Walker W. H. Duke and Lafe Hood was called together and heard the two witnesses, Richard Cronin and John Bruffey. Their stories of the crime were similar and coincided with the confession Mrs. Crosby made to Coroner Beard and County Attorney Touet. They brought in the following verdict.


An inquisition holden in Woodburn, Clarke county, Iowa on the second day of June, 1899, before James Beard, coroner of Clarke county, Iowa upon the dead body of Nicholas Crosby, there lying dead, by the jurors whose names are hereto subscribed. The said jurors find that the said Nicholas Crosby came to his death by means of a gunshot wound from a revolver fired by Julia Crosby in Clarke Co., Iowa, and done feloniously.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand the date and year last above written.

Lafe Hood
W. H. Duke
W. F. Walker

Dep'y Sheriff Meredith brought her to Osceola 6 o'clock Friday evening and put her in jail.

The examination of witnesses for the preliminary trial was held in the school house at Woodburn, Tuesday, beginning at 11 a. m.

James Penick, of Chariton, Joe Mitchell, of Ottumwa; and George Reeside, of Lucas, appeared for defendant. County Attorney Touet appeared for the state.

testified for the state as follows.
Live about 253 steps from defendant: know defendant and her father, they moved in this community three weeks ago, they came to my house May 19th, said he was going to town to get a warrant for arrest of Nick Crosby; that Crosby was making trouble and Mrs. Crosby was afraid, she rushed in without knocking, he got a revolver from me and took it way with him, he kept it till May 27th, I told him not to use it, but to protect himself in the house, Saturday, May 27th, they came a-running to my house; had seen Nick Crosby going there a half hour before, they said all night, she run in as if she was frightened, about 9 o'clock, the woman slept in house, a little later I saw a man going west away from the Crosby house, they got the revolver again the next morning, it was loaded at time I gave it to them, four cartridges and an empty shell, she said simply that her pa wanted the revolver.

Cross examination. My house is west and little north of the Crosby house; shooting occurred June 2nd, was two weeks from time they borrowed revolver, he went on to town, leaving Mrs. Crosby at my house, said he was coming to town to get warrant to keep Nick Crosby away from the house, said they were afraid that the deceased would kill one of them, as he had been around the house at nights, had the little boy with them the first time they came, didn't notice whether he was dressed; is nearly a mile and a half to Woodburn, went horseback and was gone an hour and a half, May 27th, at 9:30, was the next time they came to my house. Mrs. Crosby run right in the house that night, a storm came up and I got up about 1 o'clock; my light was burning; I went by this defendant as she was sleeping, she became frightened and screamed, jumping up, and her father also jumped up, alarmed, she asked who was there and was much alarmed, dogs barked a good deal that night; she only had her dress on, was bare footed and bare headed, the child wore nothing but night clothes, the father stopped with me on outside of house, but went in soon, it was about fifteen minutes or half hour after the folks came that I saw the man going away from the Cronin house. Mr. Cronin and defendant went home at sunrise without breakfast: they left the revolver, the revolver was taken again Sunday of Monday following: were not back at my house any more, was not acquainted with Nick Crosby, but knew him by sight, and saw him hanging around the property, he would sit at the school house and wait until dark and then go to the Cronin house.

Re-direct Saw a man going west at their second visit but didn't know who it was, when the revolver was borrowed the first time only one load was in it. I never saw defendant and her husband quarreling: Crosby did not work anywhere, Mr. Cronin had not been drinking when he made those visits in my house.


Live south of Woodburn am carpenter by trade; I was building a new barn for Mrs. Crosby at time Nick Crosby was killed that morning we were hauling rock; defendant and Mr. Cronin were assisting me; I saw Nick Crosby when returning with rock; was 60 rods southeast of barn when we met Nick Crosby, was coming to meet us when he turned off at a distance of 30 rods from us. Mrs. Crosby said, "There's Nick:" nothing else was said on way to barn, when we got to barn Mrs. Crosby helped to unload the rock, Mr. Cronin helped me, while I was at work Mrs. Crosby went to the house didn't say what she was going for, she said she would go down and notify him not to work on fence, we started for another load of rock, on going down I said, Julia, all you want to do is to notify Nick to stop and not have a brawl, told her to talk like a lady, drove down to within ten feet, we were in field on east side, nick was on road on west side, he had a wire stretcher, Richard Cronin did not say anything; defendant said, "Nick, what are you doing here, the fence don't need any fixing; I want you to go away, I'll get some one else to fix it if it needs anything," Crosby didn't say anything, but went to next post, I wanted to go on, but horses went on a little further and stopped, she said again, "I want you to go way and stop," she then jumped off the wagon, she went two or three steps toward him, he was on his knee driving a steeple in lower wire; defendant went within eight feet of Nick; the first I saw she had the revolver out when she said, "In the name of God stop, Nick, I've got you." He jumped and said, My God I'm killed, I got over the fence and held Mr. Crosby's head Richard Cronin sat on the wagon and saw the whole thing, no saying anything. I went to Jerry Cronin's house. I also went to Richard's, Julia and Richard staid there with the body. I saw the revolver before we left the barn, she wanted Mr. Cronin to take it, but he said he had no pocket; I had told them I didn't want to see a shooting scrape, but she said she was afraid, after I came from neighbors I told them I would see Mr. Cochran and see what should be done, saw the wound; it was directly over the heart; a little below the left nipple; saw Mr. Crosby about the house when I was working; he would come when on one but myself was there; seemingly trying to avoid the other folks, except one time he came up and said, "Where is she?" I said who, and he said my wife; never saw him intoxicated of making any threats; never spoke about building the house. Mr Cronin made contract for building the house.

Cross Examination. She had a very vicious look when she looked at her husband.

Redirect-Examination. He looked up each time she spoke, last time she was pointing revolver before he looked up, he kept on pounding, harrow tooth was lying on the ground.


Am father of the defendant, was present­ at the time of the shooting, first saw Mr Crosby a half hour before, we were hauling stone, we drove up to barn, were there eight or ten minutes. Julia went to house, she had told me Nick was working on the fence, I told her to go and stop him, Mr Bruffey, Julia and I got in wagon going to get more rock; saw Julia was carrying revolver, she asked me to carry it and I told her I wouldn't; on arrival she told Crosby to stop working on the fence; he moved to a second post; Julia jumped off the wagon and told him to stop a second time, he looked up and didn't say any­thing; she had a revolver; I think she told him if he didn't stop she would shoot him, Crosby was in stooping position­, he raised a hammer as if to strike or throw it, don't know whether Julia was pointing revolver at him or not, don't know whether she had revolver in her hand or pocket on way down, I staid on wagon all the time, after while I got off the wagon and saw that he was dead didn't do anything to prevent the shooting.

Cross-examination Julia and myself had been living in the house three weeks, I remember the trouble at Lucas, May 11th, I had been living with Julia and her husband in Lucas county, she has one child, a boy two years six months old, she and her husband didn't get along well together, she was afraid of him, Julia and him went to a dance one night; I was told he whipped her, he wouldn't make threats, I caught him three times about my house, I once asked him, "What in the devil are you doing here,'' but he walked off and didn't say a word, I spoke to him a sec­ time and he never said a word, but walked off. Crosby had a bad look when his wife approached, he raised hammer higher than necessary, he had struck me with a rake three or four days be­fore they parted, and again he struck at me with an axe, but he never made threats.

Re-direct Our trouble was about some cattle some men were trying to buy of Julia, he wanted to charge $75 for $35 worth of cattle, Julia told me she couldn't live with Crosby, and I told her it served her right, because she had married him against my wishes, I consulted an attorney about divorce, no woman on earth could have lived with that man, and I would have given $1,000 to get rid of him in a peaceable way, had said he and I couldn't get along together; at the death of her first husband, at the wake, I did not have trouble with Crosby; I think Crosby was drunk, but was not intoxicated myself; Nick Crosby had me arrested for ordering him out of the house; I had told him to get out of the house or I would strike him, I got a butcher knife, this was at his house, I lived at Lucas a year and a half; I lived with Julia and Nick ever since they were married, I went to get revolver but I didn't say why I got it. I went down there because I was tormented with Crosby, don't know why Crosby was around house never saw him mistreat his wife. on the settlement of the case at Lucas Nick said he would live with his wife if I would go away, but she came with me. I never saw Crosby and wife quarreling.


Was called to make arrest of defendant, saw deceased in Jackson township, Clarke county, Iowa was present when body was examined wound was a little to right of and below left nipple. I arrested her, and she told me that was the gun she did the work with, pointing to the gun, which I took, no weapons found on body of deceased.


Am coroner, was called to view dead body of Nick Crosby found body about two miles southeast of Woodburn found the wound, had conversation with defendant same day, she said they had been having trouble, that he had been bothering around there and she shot him because he would not leave.

Cross-Examination She claimed she was afraid of him

The defense did not introduce any witnesses.

Justice O'Neall, on hearing the testimony, refused to let Mrs. Crosby out on bail Her attorneys then appealed to Judge Towner, who was holding a special session in Corning Attorney Touet and the defendant's attorneys in company with Mr Hyland, the reporter, went to Corning Wednesday. Mr. Hyland read his shorthand notes of the evidence to the judge and her ordered that she be given her freedom until court, which sets September 18th, on giving $10,000 bail.

The woman is about twenty-four years of age and has a child by former marriage. Is of medium size of slender figure, has a good personal appearance, having grey eyes and light hair She had applied for a divorce before Attorney Mitchell & Reeside in Lucas county, May 15th She married the uncle of the man she killed over three years ago. He died at the age of seventy in December 1898. Nick Crosby had been making his home with them, and he married the defendant in February, 1899, two months after death of first husband

Mrs.. Crosby's mother died when she was about four months old. Her older sisters had all married and when she grew up became housekeeper for her father in a cabin on his farm Her youth was thus spent away from the refining and tender care of a mother. Her life has been along hard lines and full of bitterness. Nicholas Crosby was a native of Ireland. Was thirty-two years of age, of short stature and weighed about 133 pounds. He came to Woodburn directly from Ireland six years ago. He worked on the section for a while.


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