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The Killing of Dennis Murphy, 1881


Posted By: Reid R. Johnson (email)
Date: 12/3/2016 at 18:50:34

Elkader Register, Fri., 7 Oct. 1881. Elkport Locals column.

The calm of last Sabbath at this place, was rudely broken by one of those terrible affairs, which, though occurring so frequently of late, cause a thrill of horror to pass over us, when they happen in our immediate vicinity - the cutting off of a human life, and sending its soul into the presence of its maker with scarcely an instants warning - the occurrence of last Sabbath being the almost instant killing of Dennis Murphy, by Con. Meehan.

The fatal affray, according to the evidence before the coroner's jury, originated in a quarrel over a game of cards.

The evidence was to the effect that Meehan and John Sullivan were in P. Flaherty's saloon at East Elkport, having a game of cards; that Murphy came in and sitting down at the table began counting for both sides. Soon Meehan accused him of scoring more points for Sullivan than was right, and told him that if he could not count correctly, they would do the counting for themselves, and asked the deceased for the chalk.

Murphy replied that if anybody who said that he cheated, was a liar. At this Meehan struck him, and both got up, several more blows being passed between them, but finally Constable Flaherty quieted the row, and everything seemed to have been peacefully settled, until the deceased went to the counter, where he picked up an empty beer glass and threw it at Meehan.

Constable Flaherty again quieted them, and shortly after Murphy went out and stood on the porch in front of the building. He had been gone but a short time, when Meehan picked up a cross-cut hand saw, and said let's go home. As he passed out he said, "boys the excitement was not as great as you thought it was", to which remark Murphy replied, "you can make it bigger if you want too. Come down and fight it out like a man".

Meehan started on towards C. Schnepf's hardware store, passing words with Murphy, who followed after him, and caught up to him near Schnepf's. Meehan then turned around and said, "I won't run another step", and asked the deceased if he came for a fight, to which no reply was made, and Meehan then struck him with the saw, cutting a gash in the side of his neck about five inches long, severing the jugular vein and cutting the spinal column.

Medical aid was at once summoned, but he was beyond the reach of all human skill, dying from the effects of his wound in about thirty minutes. He never spoke after being struck.

Coroner Penfield was summoned by telegraph, and came down on the morning train, and empanelled a jury, who after hearing the evidence, returned a verdict in accordance with the facts as above stated.

Dennis Murphy was a stranger at Elkport, having come to this place about six weeks ago, to work on the bridge at East Elkport, he being in the employ of the Clinton Bridge Co. During his stay at this place he always conducted himself in a quiet, gentleman like manner. His parents, who reside at De Witt, Iowa, were notified of the affair, and in accordance with their wishes, his body was sent to that place for burial, it being accompanied by Michael Flaherty.

The preliminary examination took place before his honor, J. W. Stahl, on Tuesday and Wednesday, and after a careful review of the testimony, he was bound over to await the action of the grand jury, on charge of manslaughter, and bail was fixed at $3,000, which he furnished.


Elkader Register, Fri., 7 Sept. 1883. District Court.

Judge L. O. Hatch, on the bench.

On Tuesday morning the case of State of Iowa vs. Con Mahan, for murder was called and the following jury empaneled: Henry Turner, Monona; George Cooper, Cass; John Larson, Wagner; John Naescher, Jefferson; Wm. H. Leonard, Boardman; Carl Knodt, Grand Meadow; D. T. Welton, Wagner; Peter Mork, Marion; John J. Scheidt, Jefferson; John Koch, Giard; A. Wandell, Sperry; Nic Adams, Read

Witnesses giving testimony were: Edward Jennings for the state; O. D. Taft, physician, for the state; Peter Flaherty, for the defense; Con Mahan, in his own behalf.

(The article gives the witnesses testimony.)

At the close of the defendant testimony the case was given to the jury, who retired at about 9 o'clock and at 1:30 p.m. brought a verdict of guilty of manslaughter. The prisoner will be sentenced next week. The extreme penalty of the law for this crime is 10 years at hard labor in the penitentiary.

District Attorney Cyrus Wellington appeared for the state, and Hon. R. Noble, Hon. M. Garber, Judge S. Murdock, John Larkin and J. B. Corlett, for the defense.


Elkader Register, Fri., 21 Sept. 1883. District Court.

Judge L. O. Hatch, on the bench.

On Wednesday afternoon, Cornelius Mahan, who was convicted of killing Dennis Murphy, was sentenced to two years in the penitentiary by Judge Hatch. His light sentence is due to the fact that his friends circulated a petition, certifying to his previous good character and asking for the mercy of the court, which was signed by nearly every resident of Elkport, and presented to the Judge.


Elkader Register, Wed., 17 Dec. 1884.

The Iowa Supreme Court has granted a re-hearing in the case of the state vs. Con Mahan. John Larkin is Mr. Mahan's attorney.


Submitters notes: No further information could be found on this case & it is unknown if Meehan served any time. He died in 1924:


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