Muscatine County, Iowa
Muscatine Journal & News-Tribune
Centennial Edition
31 May 1940

Section 1 - Page 15, Submitted by Charlene Nichols Hixon, July 2, 2012

Mahin Wrote First Story For Paper on Nye Killing

John Mahin, who served The Journal as editor for more than half a century, had been an apprentice printer for the paper for less than five years before he was to demonstrate his ability as a writer. On good authority it is stated that the first news story from Mahin’s pen to be published in The Journal was an account of the killing of Benjamin Nye, pioneer Muscatine county settler and builder of mills along Pine creek, of which the present mill in Wildcat Den State park is one. Mr. Mahin at the time was a youth of 18.

Old Files Reveal Story.

Mr. Mahin’s account of the Nye death, as it appears in The Muscatine Journal (then a weekly) of March 6, 1852, under a heading ‘FATAL AFFRAY’ follows:

    “Scarcely has the sensitive heart ceased to thrill at the recital of the horrid murder of Jared Irwin and even before the bloodstained earth of the devoted sot had resumed its natural color, ere we are again called upon to record the particulars of a fatal affray which occurred within almost a stone’s throw of the same spot and nearly similar in many respects, with an equally lamentable result.

    “On Wednesday evening last, about sun-set, near the residence of Mr. Chambers, Sen., about 8 miles above this place, in this county, an altercation took place between Benjamin Nye and George M. M’Coy (his son in law) in which he former was almost instantly killed.

    “In order to give the reader a more correct and full understanding of the case, we here take the occasion to revert briefly to one or two occurrences of the past few years in the life of Mr. M’Coy whose career has been an eventful and somewhat romantic one. Some years since, he was employed by Mr. Nye as a day laborer when he became enamoured of his daughter and notwithstanding the opposition of her parents, the young couple believing that “the course of true love never did run smooth” resolved to marry at all hazards. They accordingly eloped, went over into Illinois and got married for which M’Coy incurred the implacable enmity of his bride’s father. M’Coy soon afterward removed to Cedar county where he lived many years in peace and prosperity and was once elevated to the office of Sheriff of that county. Having suffered a reverse of fortune in the spring of 1849, (we believe) he went to California from where he returned a few months since, having been fortunate enough to acquire a handsome little fortune. To his unutterable surprise, when he went to the residence of his wife she received him in a very cold and formal manner. His rage was almost uncontrollable when he learned from her own lips the melancholy story of her faithlessness and infidelity; and when in confirmation of her assertion, she pointed to one living witness of the fact, mentioning at the same time a judicial functionary of an adjoining county as her paramour.

    M’Coy Indignant.

    “Justly indignant at this shameful violation of their marriage vows he gave her to understand in plain terms that they were henceforth to be two; he was determined with his children to return to California and she might remain where she was, and do the best she could with hers. She continued unrelenting, evincing no sign of remorse or repentance when he left her. Repairing to the residence of one of her paramours for the avowed purpose of obtaining satisfaction he found that worthy dignitary seriously indisposed for which reason alone he agreed to postpone the contemplated settlement.

    “Wednesday last, in company with a friend who took his team, Mr. M’Coy went to the (sometimes called Montpelier, residence of his father in law, about 12 miles above this place on the river) where his wife resided to obtain his children. Mr. Nye being absent he experienced but little difficulty in getting the children (five in number) from their mother and grandmother. Soon after their departure Mr. Nye returned, who, on learning what had taken place furiously started in pursuit. His son-in-law (Mr. Patterson) accompanied him.

    Demanded Release of Children.

    From the testimony we learn that as Mr. M’Coy was returning from the Mouth of Pine, with his children in the wagon, he was overtaken, near Wm. Chambers’ by Mr. Nye and Mr. Patterson, who intercepted his path by driving around him. Mr. Nye jumped out of his wagon, and, while advancing demanded the instant release of the children. Mr. M’Coy told him to stand back – declaring that if he touched them he would be shot. Mr. Nye still insisted, however expressing a determination, to have them or die; he was again warned to stand back, several times, which he heeded not, but came up to the wagon and took hold of the oldest child by the arm, when Mr. M’Coy shot him. Mr. Nye then picked up a club and struck at Mr. M’Coy who shot him twice in succession. Mr. M’Coy was in the wagon at the time, standing over his children. Mr. Nye came at him again with his club and was shot a fourth time. Mr. Patterson then took hold of M’Coy, and Nye again came at him, striking him several times with his club. Having lost his pistol, M’Coy, after disengaging him, drew a bowie knife sprang toward Nye, and stabbed him in the breast – Nye still endeavoring to strike with his club. He was stabbed three times – the third took effect in the shoulder. When the knife was removed Mr. Nye fell to the earth and expired almost instantly.

    “Witnesses described the conflict a short, bloody, and decisive – each combatant seemed firmly resolved to conquer or die – and their movements were so rapid and in such quick succession as to preclude a possibility of successful interference by the spectators.

    McCoy, Patterson Injured.

    Messer s. M’Coy and Patterson both received slight injuries – the latter by receiving blows intended for the former. “This case is now undergoing an examination before Chief Justice Williams; D. C. Cloud, prosecuting attorney, and Stephen Whicher and J. Scott Richman, attorneys for the defendant.

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“To Contributors – We have received two articles for our paper through the post office ridiculing the prevailing fashions of ladies skirts. As we consider the subject rather threadbare and as the ladies have a right to “cut a swell” and make themselves as ridiculous as they please, we decline publishing the articles.” – Muscatine Journal, February 2, 1857.

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Falling - The river is now falling pretty fast, and in a few days we may expect to see it at its proper level. – June 21, 1851.

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Congratulations On Centennial Sent by Cooper

Photo of Kent Cooper ~ Hailing the centennial of The Muscatine Journal as a great milestone in a distinguished career of service to the community, The Associated Press, through Kent Cooper, general manager, has sent its congratulations to one of its “old and respected members.” Mr. Cooper’s letter follows:

    “The Muscatine Journal indeed is celebrating a great milestone in a distinguished career of service to your community – its 100th anniversary. The Associated Press takes more than usual pride in offering congratulations because The Journal is one of its old and respected members.

    “The first news report many years ago contained only a few hundred words daily, but when ii consider the thousands and thousands of words it now received, the comparison typifies to me the growth and development which you and your readers celebrate.

    “With cordial and fraternal regards and every good wish for the future,

                    “Sincerely yours, Kent Cooper.”

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Head of State AP Staff Sends Congratulations
Photo of T. M. Metzger

Good wishes for The Muscatine Journal are expressed by the Des Moines bureau of The Associated Press, through the bureau chief, T. M. Metzger, on The Journal’s centennial. The Des Moines bureau is the point through which the Associated Press dispatches which appear daily in The Journal are filed. Mr. Metzger’s letter follows:

    “It is indeed a pleasure to participate in your centennial in this small way.

    “The Journal and the Associated Press have rather grown up together in the Hawkeye state, and the stabilizing influence of such papers as The Journal, plus its cooperative, eminently fair attitude through the years has meant success for both. The Associated Press, therefore, is proud of its long association with The Journal and the Iowa bureau in Des Moines which wishes it all that is good in the future. From this end of the wire may I assure you we will always strive to be fair, to be accurate and impartial just as you have always been.

    “With heartiest good wishes to all, I am,

    “Sincerely yours, T. M. Metzger, Chief of Bureau

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