Covington, Indiana Courthouse; rebuilt in 1861 after fire

Murder of Elizabeth A. Jones; 12 Jun 1869; Covington, Indiana – Part 1.


 

Elizabeth A. Jones was the widow of Richard Cannon Jones. Both were born in Virginia, but relocated prior to 1830 to Covington, Indiana where their son Robinson Coke Jones (fourth great grandfather to our kids) was a printer, who founded and owned the Covington Friend newspaper along with his brothers.
A second part of this article will be posted in a day or two as I have more newspaper clippings offering more details to transcribe.
She was the fifth great-grandmother of our children.
I have been unable to identify her parentage, so I would appreciate hearing from anyone who may know.

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Murder of Elizabeth A. Jones; 8 Sep 1869; Indianapolis, Indiana

 

Murder of Elizabeth A. Jones; 8 Sep 1869; Indianapolis, Indiana

 

THE FOUNTAIN COUNTY MURDER

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TRIAL OF REMSTER, THE WOMAN-SLAYER

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His Conviction and Sentence — Feeling of the Community

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Special Correspondence Indianapolis Journal: Covington, September 4, 1869.

 

On the evening of the 12th day of June last, the citizens of this place were startled at the intelligence that Frederick Remster had shot and killed Mrs. Elizabeth A. Jones, a widow lady, seventy-two years old, and it was thought had mortally wounded Miss Clara Beckelheimer. The news spread like wild-fire, and persons came flocking in from the immediate neighborhood, greatly excited, and eagerly inquiring the particulars of the terrible tragedy. So perfectly taken by surprise, and so slow to think such a crime possible, were the citizens, that many were unwilling to believe the astounding news they had heard, until they went and beheld for themselves the lifeless body of Mrs. Jones and the terrible agony of Miss Beckleheimer. The multitude became filled with a strong thirst for the blood of the murderer, and as the terribleness of the crime passed from lip to lip, there became apparent a strong desire to wrest the wretch from the hands of the officers, and anticipate the slow and uncertain course of the law. For days the feeling remained at such a point that but a single word from a volunteer leader would have stirred a whirlwind that would have swept the guilty prisoner into the presence of his Maker. Good councils, however, prevailed, and the law was allowed to take its course.

INQUEST OF SANITY.

The Circuit Court, Judge John M. Cowan presiding, convened one week ago last Monday, and on the following Wednesday morning the Grand Jury returned a bill against Remster for murder in the first degree. The trial of the cas was set down for last Monday morning, and Remster being without counsel the Court appointed Hon. S. F. Wood to defend him, who was assisted by C. W. Stafford, County Attorney and George McWilliams, Esq., the State being represented by R. B. F. Pierce, of Crawfordsville, Prosecuting Attorney and T. F. Davison, of this place. Remster was brought into Court, and as he presented the appearance of an insane person, the Court ordered the empanneling of a jury to try the issue, whether Remster possessed sufficient mental capacity to conduct his defense in this preliminary proceeding, simply made profit of the prisoner. The counsel for the State, believing that the appearance of the man was not evidence enough to overcome the legal presumption of his sanity, declined to offer any evidence, and the jury, after retiring a few minutes, returned a verdict declaring that Remster had sufficient mental capacity to conduct his defense.

THE TRIAL.

Little difficulty was experienced to get a competent jury, and the evidence began at noon on Monday. The evidence for the State showed that Mrs. Jones, the deceased, owned a frame dwelling on Jefferson street, and had rented half of it to Remster, whose family consisted of himself and wife; that on the 12th day of June Remster came home to his supper, and was met at the gate by his wife. They were standing inside of the fence, in front of their door, talking somewhat excitedly, and both crying. Mrs. Jones appeared at the front door of her own room and told them they had better go into the house to settle their trouble. Remster turned toward the house, but, instead of going into his own room, walked into Mrs. Jones’, followed by his wife. They all disappeared in the house, and were in there but a few moments when Mrs. Jones came running to the front door, and giving a scream called to a neighbor, “Oh,, Mrs. McMahan!” At that instant Remster appeared behind her, caught her with his left hand, and presenting a revolver under her right ear, fired, the bullet passing through the neck and coming out upon the other side, near the shoulder. Mrs. Jones fell and expired in a few moments. Remster turned into the house and remained there a few moments, but returning to the front door, saw some ladies collected there, and at once ran after them, flourishing his revolver. Catching Mary Weber, she turned and looked at him, when he let her go, and took after Miss Beckleheimer, ran her across the street, around her house, through the yeard into the alley back of it, where he caught her and fired a shot, the ball entering her head. He then ran off toward the northeastern part of the place, followed by some men who heard of the murder, who soon captured him, not however, until he had snapped his revolver at John Fansler, in an attempt to shoot him. When captured he at once was crazy and told one of the men who was taking him to jail that he ad been crazy for six years. The whole defense being insanity, a large amount of evidence was introduced to show in his conduct previous to the murder, a predisposition to insanity, and made a case upon which two physicians testified that they believed him insane at the time the fatal act was committed. The State then contradicted much of the evidence brought forward, and also introduced very conclusive evidence that Remster, from the time of his being placed in jail, was merely simulating insanity. This was proved by the jailor, who testified that he frequently threw aside the mask to him; also, by a fellow prisoner, who gave a long and minute account of the ways resorted to by Remster to impress those who came to see him that he was sane. A physician visited him every day for two weeks to observe him, and learning that a crazy man’s pulse was quick he would strike his elbows against the cell to accelerate it on the approach of th doctor. When the doctor began his visits he ate very little food but hearing a casual remark of his dropped purposely, that crazy men always ate heartily, at the following meals he ate all that was given him and called for more. The jailor also remarked one day that Remster was a very quiet man; that insane people generally show fight; and on his next appearance in the cell, Remster to vindicate his character as a maniac of the first order, cocmmitted a most desperate assault upon him. This is but a sample of the evidence offered by the State to rebut the idea of insanity, and two physicians testified they were satisfied it was a clear case of simulated insanity.

The evidence and arguments were concluded about two o’clock yesterday, and, after the charge of the court, the jury retired to consider their verdict. After an hour’s deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the second degree, and confinement in the State’s Prison during life.

THE INTEREST

during the trial was intense, the court room, though large, being packed during the five days of the trial, to its utmost capacity. The ladies, particularly, were out every day in force, and, if a vote ad been taken, undoubtedly a majority would have been in favor of inflicting the death penalty.

THE PRISONER’S CONDUCT

during the trial was carefully observed, and of itself convinced many of his sanity. At times he would bounce around on his seat until the officers would bind him hand and foot, again he would play the simpleton by picking sticks upon the floor, and at other times, particularly when evidence was strong for or against him, he would watch the witnesses with the deepest interest, sitting quietly for hours. When the jury retired to their room he laid his head down upon a table and apparently went to sleep, and paid no attention whatever to the verdict when it was returned and read aloud by the clerk.

THE SENTENCE.

The prisoner was brought into court today, and as he still persisted in his apparent insanity, the court formally pronounced sentence upon the verdict of the jury, that he be confined in the State’s prison for life.

Remster is now twenty-seven years old, about five feet nine inches high, in perfect health, and possesses a very fine physical development, and yet he possesses the unmistakable features of a desperate character, and no one would doubt his frequent hints at dark deeds done by him while in the mining districts of the West. His wife, although she allowed him to remain in the jail two months before going to see him, was present with hiim upon the trial, and remained until the final sentence was passed.

MISS BECKLEHEIMER,

who was also shot by Remster, has partially recovered. The ball entered her head, where it still remains. Her shrieks and sufferings, after the fatal day, are described as most excruciating. Her left side was paralyzed, from which she is only now partially recovered. At times now her head pains her almost beyond endurance, and though she is now able to be around, and is gradually improving, yet, with the leaden ball still in her h[e]ad, beyond the reach of surgeon’s skill, who may say what will be the poor girl’s fate. She is now not quite sixteen years old, a very bright, sprightly girl, with more than ordinary intelligence, and with her future so dimmed, her case is a most melancholy one. She remembers seeing Remster place the pistol to Mrs. Jones’ head, and fire, but when and where, and all the other circumstances of the day, have passed from her mind like a forgotten dream. She remembers sitting with Miss Lillia Knight at a front window in her parlor, but how she got out on the street, was pursued, and finally shot by Remster, she cannot remember. It is all a dark and most terrible dream to her.

The community have not yet recovered from the terror inspired by the fearful scene enacted in its midst, and there are ladies and children who are even now unwilling to pass along the street where the deed was committed.

That he is convicted, has satisfied the community, and yet I hardly dare say what I believe would have been the consequence if the jury had not seen their way clearly before them, and possessed the courage to do their duty.

 

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News article about the murder of Elizabeth A. Jones, Fort Wayne Daily Gazette of 15 Jun 1868.

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Murder of Two Women by an Insane Man.

 

Murder of Elizabeth A. Jones

A shocking tragedy occurred at Covington, Fountain county, Ind., on Saturday evening. The following all are the particulars that have yet come, to hand :

Frederick Remster, formerly an auctioneer, boarding with an old widow named Mrs. Jones, on some supposed provocation shot and killed Mrs. Jones with a revolver, the ball entering her neck, causing a fatal wound. She was about seventy-five years of age. The insane murderer then fired upon a highly respected young lady, about seventeen years of age, the daughter of Mr. Beckleheim, who came out of her father’s house on the opposite side of the street when she heard the firing, the ball taking effect above the ear, making a wound from which her brain is oozing, and which she cannot survive but a few hours. After shooting Miss Beckleheim, Remster shouted for John Dodd, and rushed frantically down the street. When near the residence of James McMahon he fired at a man standing near, but the cap only snapped, thus saving the life of the intended third victim. He then passed on down the street hunting Dodd, when he ran across John Fauslet, and, rushing up to him, thrust the pistol into Fausler’s mouth, and again pulled the trigger. Again the cap exploded without discharging the load. Fausler being a powerful man, knocked Remster down, and held him until assistance arrived, when he was taken to jail and heavily ironed. The utmost excitement exists in the community over the affair. Remster had been married only about three weeks. He had been drinking and gambling hard for some days past, and this is the only cause now known for the commission of the act, though it is generally conceded that he was out of his mind.

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The preceding is the first of a two part series about newspaper coverage of the murder and trial.

Go to PART 2.