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Quadruple Murder 1868


Posted By: IAGenWeb Volunteers
Date: 6/19/2004 at 18:47:10

The news articles were transcribed by S. Ferrall and Constance Diamond.

Quadruple Murder Trial in Iowa.

Andrew Thompson is on trial at West Union, Fayette county, Iowa, for murder. The trial is exciting great interest in Northwestern Iowa.

He is charged with the murder of a Mrs. Hagerty and her three children, a year ago last winter, in Clayton county. The trial takes place at West Union on a change of venue. Thompson is a man of liberal means, and his defence is under the management of some of the ablest lawyers in the Northwest.

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Terrible Record of Crime - Confession of Andrew Thompson, a Wealthy Farmer, Convicted of the Murder of the Hagerty Family - An Almost Incredible Narrative of Diabolism.

[From the Burlington (Iowa) Gazette, Sept. 30] - The confession of Andrew Thompson, charged and convicted in the northwestern (sic) part of the State of the murder of the Hagerty family, has appeared.

The murder was committed in December, 1868, was discovered in May, 1869, by the finding of the trunk and the bodies of the murdered family by fishermen, the former near Prairie du Chien, the latter between Cassville and Dubuque. Andrew Thompson, a wealthy farmer of Clayton county, first became acquainted with Maria Hagerty at the saloon of her husband, at Bull's Head, in 1858.

In 1861 he employed her to work for him. In 1864 he became criminally intimate with her, continuing his intimacy until 1866. In the latter year she gave birth to a child, the offspriung of this intimacy, having some time before separated from her husband. This child was murdered by the
mother, with the knowledge of Thompson and by him concealed. Thompson claims that he then sought to get rid of the woman, but she persisted in remaining near him, and by threats obtained complete control of him. His wife became alarmed and was also threatened with violence. Having in vain endeavored to purchase release from the woman, and in vain sought to induce her to leave him, Thompson, in December, 1868, consented, or appeared to consent, to her plan of deserting his family and removing with her to some distant place, where they should live together.

On the evening of December 8, 1868, he took Maria Hagerty, her two boys and daughter, into his sleigh, at McGregor, crossed to Wisconsin, and began the journey which ended in the murder of the mother and her children and his return to his home. He drove to Bridgeport, Patch Grove, Taiton, North Andover, Cassville, Beetown and Lancaster.

The girl was sick when they started, and appeared to become worse as they proceeded. At Lancaster Thompson wished to remain all night and save the girl from further exposure by camping out, as they had done from the time they had left McGregor. The mother objected and charged Thompson with being desirous of delay that his family might overtake him and give him an excuse for deserting her and returning home. They drove on, but had not gone far when one of the boys called out that his sister had fainted.

Thompson's Statement.

Thompson tells the story of the murder as follows: --

It was beginning to get a little dark when we left Lancaster. When we had gone along the Plattville road about a mile, I should judge,
we had to cross quite a deep ravine. Just as we got to the top of the hill, on the south side of the ravine, one of the boys said Anna had fainted. We stopped, and Mrs. Hagerty dashed some snow into her face and chafed her hands, and in a short time she felt as well as ever. Mrs. Hagerty then wanted her to drink some wine, but she wouldn't taste it. Mrs. Hagerty then drank about one-third of a pint of wine herself. I urged her strongly to go back to Lancaster and remain over night, and see if we could get something done for Anna, but she wouldn't hear to it. We then started on again and travelled two or three miles, when the boy said he thought Anna had fainted again. It was quite dark then, and there was timber on both sides of the road. I turned off to the left of the road into the edge of the timber, intending to stop there for the night. I stopped about five or six rods from the road. As soon as I stopped I handed Mrs. Hagerty a match and told her to light the lantern and see to Anna.

I unhitched the horses from the sled, and, just as I was in the act of fastening them to a tree, Mrs. Hagerty called out, "Boss, Anna is dead." Mrs. Hagerty generally called me boss when she spoke to me. I said, "Surely not." She said, "Yes, I am sure she is dead." I lifted the two trunks out of the front of the sled, and then got in and looked at the girl. I felt her pulse and put my ear to her mouth and listened. I chafed her hands for some time without effect. She was dead.

When fully satisfied that the girl was dead, I said to Mrs. Hagerty, "What are we to do now?" She said, "We must dig a grave and bury her." I said that wouldn't do; if we were to dig a grave and bury her there in the woods, without a coffin, and the grave be found and the body dug up, it would be thought that we had murdered her and we would be followed and arrested for murder.

She said the girl had died a natural death, and it was nobody's business how she was buried. I said that was all very true, but people would
make it their business if they found it out, and that the only way for us to do now was to go back to Lancaster and tell how the girl had died, have an inquest, if it should be thought necessary, and bury her decently.

I would here remark that Mrs. Hagerty had treated Anna very harsh and unfeelingly all through the trip, and I am sure some of the people where we stopped must have noticed it. When I told Mrs. Hagerty that we must go back to Lancaster she got into a terrible passion and said if we went back and had an inquest we would have to tell who we were and all about ourselves, and then my folks would know where I was and would come after me; that it would keep us two or three days at Lancaster, and by that time my folks would be there. She said she knew all I wanted to go back for was to leave her there and go back to my "d ----d lazy b------h of a wife." She then called my wife and myself and all my folks very bad and insulting names, everything she could lay her tongue to, and swore she would have all sorts of revenge. I was very angry at her and said to her, "There is no use of your storming and threatening; I am going back to Lancaster."

I turned to leave the sled; and just as I had got one foot out and had my hands on the endboard Mrs. Haggerty said, "I'll have your life first" She picked up a hammer that was hanging on the sleigh and jumped toward me and struck me on the neck. I think she intended to strike me on the head, but missed her aim, as I was raising my head at the moment. The hammer belonged to Mrs. Hagerty, and was used by me in the mornings, to knock the balls of snow from the horses' feet that had formed during the night.

The next blow that Mrs. Hagerty dealt me was on the point of the shoulder, right on the bone, and was very painful. She was striking me with all her might. She struck me several other blows on the arm, as I was in the act of raising up and bringing my foot back in the sleigh. As soon as I had got my foot in the sled and stood up I snatched the hammer out of her hand and struck her two or three times on the head with it. I was mad with passion at the time and scarcely knew what I was doing. All these scenes didn't occupy one minute. As soon as I realized what I was doing I dropped the hammer out of my hand.

Mrs. Hagerty stood a few seconds and then threw herself down on the bed, across the feet of the girl and between the girl and the boys -- the boys were lying a little lower down on the bed than the girl. Soon after Mrs. Hagerty threw herself down on the bed she commenced screaming at the top of her voice, and the boys screamed with her. I asked the boys to stop crying, but they paid no attention to me. They screamed a few minutes and then stopped.

As soon as they were all quiet I tried to apologize to Mrs. Hagerty for what I had done. I told her that I was sorry I had struck her; that the insulting language she had used and the blows she had dealt me made me lose control of my temper for the moment or I wouldn't have struck her. I asked her to let me see if I had hurt her much, and see if I could do anything for her. She didn't speak, and when I stooped over to look at her head she waived me off with her hand. As I stood looking at her in silence for a few minutes and wondering what I could do, I heard sleigh bells approaching from the direction of Plattsville, and almost at the same time I heard the voices of the people in the sleighs laughing and talking. I thought when I first heard them they were quite near, as it was a very still, frosty night, and they were farther off than I supposed they were. I think Mrs. Hagerty must have heard them at nearly the same time I did, for she commenced screaming again as loud as she could and the boys cried with her. I begged of them to stop, but they took no notice of me.

I was in a terrible dilemma; alone in the woods at night in a strange country, with the girl lying dead, the woman wounded and screaming, and the two boys crying out as if in mortal terror. I picked up the feather bed that was lying at my feet and threw it over Mrs. Haggerty and the boys to keep their cries from being heard till the approaching party were passed. Mrs. Haggerty threw the bed off with her hand, and seemed to scream louder than ever. I am sure the approaching party would have heard her if they had not been making so much noise themselves. After she had thrown the bed off I put the light out, and put the bed over her again and held it so she couldn't throw it off. She struggled terribly to get the bed off and to cry out; the first of the sleighing party were almost by us, when she ceased her cries and struggles. The boys had also stopped crying. I was afraid to remove the bed until the sleighs had passed, but did not hold it down after Mrs. Haggerty had ceased struggling.

As near as I could judge there were five or six
teams of the sleighing party. I didn't see them, as the hind end of my sled was towards the road and was closed up. I think there were three or four (I couldn't say which) sleighs pretty close together, driving leisurely along. I think they must have been some sort of a pleasure party. A short distance behind them was what appeared to be a loaded team, judging from the crunching noise the sled made in the snow, and about the same distance or a little further behind that again was another loaded team. As soon as the last sleigh had passed a short distance I removed the bed. There was no one spoke at this time or made any noise. I called one of the boys by name, but received no answer. I then lighted the lantern and looked at them.

The two boys laid on their backs, with their eyes open, and seemed to be looking straight at me. I spoke to them again, but could get no answer. I then shook them, but they never moved. I became alarmed then. I looked at the woman. She was lying partly on her face. I turned her over and spoke to her and shook her, but she showed no signs of life. She had on a hood with the strings tied around her neck. I run my fingers in between the strings and her neck and pulled them so as to loosen them about the throat. I took the boys' comforters off; then I got snow and dashed in their faces; I got the bottle of wine and poured some in the mouths of the woman and one of the boys, but could not open the other boy's mouth -- his jaws seemed to be locked and his tongue protruded. I continued to chafe their hands and dash snow in their faces.

I heard some more teams coming and put out my light. I worked with them a long time, probably an hour or more -- I do not know how long. I chafed their hands; called them all by name; raised them up and shook them by turns but all was of no avail, they were dead; I had smothered them."

Having committed the murder, Thompson says he was stupefied, and for three hours sat upon the trunks in semi-unconsciousness. It then occurred to him that he must conceal what he had done, and he started for Beetown, near which he had observed mineral holes, in which he thought he might hide the bodies. Through Lancaster he drove, lost his way, stopped to procure directions, and having wandered for hours with his freight of ghastly corpses, came to the mineral holes only to find them too shallow for his pupose. He then determined to go to Cassville and hide the evidence of his crime in the river. Again he had difficulty in finding his road, but at nearly daylight passed through Cassville, went to the river and there cast away the bodies.

In his confession Thompson gives the particulars of this night's ride with a particularity of detail which is appalling. The bodies have
been disposed of, he drove a short distance and burned his sleigh cover to destroy the identity of his outfit. He then drove rapidly towards Prairie du Chien, and near that place put the baggage of the murdered family into the river, and then made his way home.

~New York Herald, July 12, 1870 & October 4, 1870

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The murderer Andrew Thompson was sentenced by Judge McGlathery, on Thursday, to be hung by the neck until dead, on Friday, September 9th. The sentence had no more apparent effect on the man than did the verdict of the jury - his face being as placid as during the entire trial. If the Supreme Court sustains the verdict of the jury, Thompson will undoubtedly hang on that day. It is said that the Thompson trial will cost Clayton county not less than $10,000.

~The West Union Republican Gazette
West Union, Fayette co. Iowa, July 15, 1870

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Last Thursday while in West Union we called at the Sheriffs office and found Deputy Phillips looking over an old sheriff's calender which went back to the year 1869. Among the entries in 1870 were many of interests, among them one against Andrew Thompson for the murder of the Hagerty family, brought to Fayette County from Clayton county, where the crime was committed early in that year. Thompson was convicted and sentenced to be hung but the case was appealed to the Supreme Court and his sentence changed to life imprisonment.

He is now at Anamosa Penitentiary where he is the oldest convict in time service now in Iowa and next to the oldest ever confined in our states. Mr. Phillips often sees him when on business at the penitentiary and says he is not a bad looking man, between 75 and 80 years old and very fat.

~Elgin Echo, Elgin, Fayette Co., Iowa; 16 Aug 1894
Page 5 column 3

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Andrew Thompson, inmate #2065, age 66, died October 3, 1901.

~Anamosa State Penitentiary website (asphistory.com)
~Note: Thompson's age at death is given as 76 in other accountings.

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Romance of a Lifer - Thirty-One Years in Penitentiaries and Died Rich

If the correct, complete and connected life of the late Andrew Thompson, No. 2065, Anamosa, is ever written, it will form one of the romantic and interesting chapters in the larger history of the state of Iowa, for convict, though he was, Andrew Thompson was one whose life was varied to a remarkable degree. He had served longer than any other convict in an Iowa penitentiary; he had made a good prison record, but being a lifer couldn't get any "good time credit;" he was rich and prosperous, but his body, like that of a pauper's went to the dissecting table and not to the hillside, where he had fondly hoped to rest at last.

The correct story of his crime is now so old that it is fresh to the public. He had come from Indiana to Ohio and settled in Clayton county in the beautiful Turkey River valley, where he owned a farm of 280 acres. He had a wife and family and ought to have been content with his lot. But he became entangled with a grass-widow named Maria Hagerty, who lived not far away, and in a rash moment he thought he could end his troubles brought upon himself by his own wrong acts by placing her out of the way.

In December, 1869, Thompson induced the widow to go with him in a sled for a ride. Her three children accompanied her - two boys and a young girl. Thompson was desperate and determined that all should perish. He either killed them in the sled or smothered them in some way, and drove on toward the Mississippi river. The river was frozen over and he crossed a short distance below Cassville, Wis., where he found an air hole in the ice. He cast the bodies of his victims into this hole under the ice, then burned the bows of his sled and the straw and blankets, and returned home. It was an all-night job, but he was not detected directly at his nefarious task.

The family was missed from the neighborhood and great was the wonder, but not until the bodies were found in the spring and recovered was it known that a murder had been committed. Suspicion fastened upon Thompson because of his known intimacy with Mrs. Hagerty. Circumstantial evidence accumulated and Thompson was indicted for murder.

His trial was in West Union, the case having been transferred from Clayton county on the ground of prejudice against the defendant. It commenced June 27 and lasted nine days. Thompson was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. He was taken to Dubuque. Appeal was had and a defect in the trial found. But there was also some talk of taking the case over into Wisconsin, inasmuch as the bodies were sunk in the river near the Wisconsin shore. At any rate, Thompson preferred, rather than to have another trial, to accept imprisonment for life. He dreaded hanging and escaped it narrowly.

The case was a notable one in the law annals of northwest (sic) Iowa. The trial judge was Milo McGlatherty. Charles T. Granger, late chief justice of Iowa, was the district attorney and prosecuted the case. He was assisted by Judge Murdock and John T. Stoneman. The defense was by ex-Congressman Tom Updegraff, Judge Noble, E. Odell and L.L. Ainsworth. Thompson finally admitted the crime and gave the details. He was sent to Fort Madison penitentiary late in 1879, about thirty-one years ago.

Thompson's family continued to live on his farm and his children grew to maturity. He had a small bank account which he kept in his own name when he was at Fort Madison. When the new penitentiary was opened at Anamosa sixteen years ago, Thompson was removed to that place. He had $300 in the bank and he wanted it taken to Anamosa and placed in a bank there.
Business transactions were usually attended by the clerk to the prison. The money went into the bank of Niles & Waters, on certificate of deposit for $300. This is the money over which a controversy was had which was finally carried to the supreme court. Clerk Gilbrath had drawn the money out on his own endorsement, in accordance with custom, and had failed to account for it to the prisoner. Thompson sued the bank for the money, claiming that the clerk was not his agent, and had drawn the money without his authority. The bank resisted and in the lower court won the case. But Thompson was persistent and took the case to the supreme court. At the term just closed, his case was finally disposed of, and the supreme courth took his side and reversed Judge Remley. The supreme court held that the convict has the same right to his private property as the free man; that the bank should no more pay out money belonging to a convict without the express order of the convict than it should deed away land without his signature; that the clerk, having no right to the money the bank will have to pay again. The rule laid down by the supreme court was sweeping and final. Thompson has won his case.

But less than two weeks before this happened, old Andrew Thompson had ceased to be pointed out as the oldest prisoner and the wealthiest life convict in the Iowa penitentiary. He had died at the ripe age of 76. He was fully resigned to his life and had never caused any trouble. In his later years, so it is said, he had shown signs of mental weakness.

The story does not end here, however, for its most pathetic chapter followed death. The body was claimed by the medical department of the state university for the dissecting table, and there being no protest from the relatives, the body was sent to the doctors. Then the will was opened and read. He had made a request in the will, which was to the effect that his body should be sent to his own farm in Clayton county and be buried there, and that the expense of such removal and burial should be paid by the estate before any money should be paid to the heirs. But the body had not been claimed and was already in the medical school.

The property left consisted of 280 acres of land, some government bonds and other securities, the whole valued at about $20,000. He was, in fact, one of the richest life prisoners on record.

The recollection of his crime is vivid among the residents of Clayton and Fayette counties. The wife survived him, and the estate was all left to her.

~Des Moines Leader - Sun, November 3, 1901, pg 11

Andrew Thompson obituaryl

Clayton Documents maintained by Sharyl Ferrall.
WebBBS 4.33 Genealogy Modification Package by WebJourneymen


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