Monday, July 31, 2017

A Shooting in 19th Century Christiana Hundred

I'm thrilled and proud to present another fantastic guest post, this time from a first-time contributor, Don Prather. Don is a Delaware native (and current Arizonan) and a descendant of the Woodward family (among many others). He presents here a fascinating story that I personally was unfamiliar with prior to reading this well-researched and written article. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, and many thanks to Don for this wonderful contribution.


One thing I’ve learned from my ancestry research over the years is the fact that most of those who have come before me have lived lives as ordinary as mine. Over the centuries and through the generations, their lives were filled with many of the same joys and pains experienced by people living today. Given the chance to describe the important events in their own lives, our ancestors would likely highlight the same sorts of events as we would: finding true love, the birth of a child, the loss of a family member, an increase (or loss) of property, a close friendship. These are things that, for the individual, are extraordinary within the context of their own life but in a broader sense are an ordinary part of the human condition.

Still, finding a new and undiscovered detail about the life of an ancestor or someone who lived long ago in the community, no matter how “ordinary” that detail may be in the larger scheme of things, gives the ardent researcher a real sense of satisfaction. Once in a great while, I come across something in my research that is completely unexpected and makes me say, “Wow! That’s surprising”.  It could be a fact from a vital document, a news article, a property record, or a picture of person or location from a different angle that helps me understand the time or place more deeply and richly than before.

Recently, I was paging through old newspaper articles researching my Woodward ancestors and I stumbled across a story that caught my attention in this way. The story involves Aaron Klair Woodward, a son (one of a long list of sons and daughters) of Joseph Woodward and Mary Klair, both of Delaware.  Aaron, who was the brother of my third great-grandmother Hannah Woodward Armstrong, lived his entire life in rural New Castle County from his birth in 1836 until his passing in 1904, most of it in Christiana Hundred. The event in question occurred in October, 1874 and surely had a profound impact on Aaron and his family’s life, the lives of six young men from Wilmington, and especially the family of one William Lukens, a teenage boy whose family lived in Wilmington. At the time of the incident, Aaron Woodward and his wife, Mary Ann Woodward, nee Stidham (daughter of Gilpin Stidham) were parents of an eight year old boy and a fourteen week old baby boy. Their family lived on a farm of about 100 acres a few miles outside the city boundary along today’s Faulkland Road. As a result of this tragic event, a young man barely 18 years of age would lose his life and an ordinary farmer with a young family would somehow find himself on trial, fighting for his own life.

Some Background

In 1874, there was little in the way of transition from urban areas to rural and for the most part, where the city ended, the “country” began. Small towns such as Stanton, Newport, and Hockessin were speckled here and there across the map but not much existed between them other than farmland. In those days, the “country” was pretty much anywhere outside of the borders of the towns and New Castle County was still about a decade away from the very early incarnations of what we, in modern times, call the suburbs. Places we may consider close to Wilmington today such as Brandywine Springs, which is less than 3.5 miles from the city as the crow flies, were considered in the 19th century to be out in the country and people would travel from all over to get away from the stresses of city life.

When we analyze and contrast the culture, needs, and values of the populations of centralized cities with smaller rural areas in the U.S., we see many differences. One general example of this is the way cities tend to lean more towards liberal ideals and rural areas tend to lean more towards conservative ideals. In any society, when individuals of different backgrounds and needs brought up in different environments eventually cross paths, there are bound to be occasional instances of disharmony. One man’s need is another’s annoyance. This was as true in the past as it is today. It is easy to imagine 19th century farm life in rural New Castle County as bucolic and pastoral and the modern man or woman might be forgiven for romanticizing the lives of our farming ancestors in such terms, given the modern stresses of life and the not uncommon yearning to get away from it all.  In the mid to late 19th century, there was a growing tension that existed between farmers and some members of the “town people” of Wilmington, particularly groups of teenagers and young adults from the city who routinely took advantage of the fact that it was impossible to protect such large plots of land. Vandals, thieves, and trespassers were a constant annoyance and the farmers often found themselves simply unable to protect their property while they worked the farm, traveled to town to sell their goods at market, or attended Sunday services. Outside of mere trespassing on their land, farmers often found themselves victims of theft of whatever passers-by could get their hands on including portions of their crops, their animals (particularly chickens, turkeys, and smaller livestock), and their equipment. Farmers would often walk their fields and pastures only to find livestock of all kinds shot dead.  Farmers found themselves constantly chasing trespassers off their property and those with wooded acreage, often hearing gunshots coming from their woods, had to make the decision to leave it alone or trek into a dangerous area to chase off hunters.

Most of their losses simply went without recompense, retribution, or even the identity of the perpetrator. If a farmer was lucky enough to catch the intruder in action, the police at the time required the farmer to either bring the suspect to town hall himself or to identify the person by name and address before a warrant would be issued. In most circumstances, this was simply impossible. Some of the boys from town even seemed to make a game of it, allowing the farmer to get within earshot before cursing at them and running away. For many years, the feeling of helplessness among New Castle County’s farmers against these intrusions had been growing. An 1874 letter to the editor of The News Journal illustrated the extent of the issue, stating, in part: 
I have been fourteen years upon my farm. I have chestnut, walnut, and wild cherry trees, and during those fourteen years I have not had fourteen of any kind of fruit or nut mentioned. They have all been stolen by trespassers. Not only has my fruit been taken but everything wearing a feather or a hair has been shot, even the turkeys and cows.
The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) · Sat, Oct 10, 1874 · Page 4
This problem was especially pronounced for farmers living close to the towns, within walking distance of the homes of teenagers. With hundreds of acres to protect, much of it covered in tall crops, trees, or otherwise obscured by the rolling terrain of the northern New Castle County landscape, there was little farmers could do to stop it. Split-rail fences provided little in the way of protection and served more as a visual indicator of property lines. They were easily and often taken apart by vandals and their rails used for climbing trees or knocking down fruit or nuts (often by hitting at the trunk or branches directly), a practice which damaged the trees and left them vulnerable to disease and rot.  “No trespassing” signs were routinely ignored or torn down, needing to be replaced on a regular basis. In the minds of the farmers, all of this amounted to a very real danger to their livelihoods. Their families subsisted on their crops and livestock and on the money earned by selling their products at market. Many farms required the help of paid farmhands. Those farmers who did not own their land generally paid a sum to the landowners for use of the land. Add in the cost of equipment and maintenance and the living made by these men and women was, at best, modest.

The Incident at Woodward’s Farm

On the morning of October 6 1874, this growing tension came to a boiling point on the Aaron K Woodward farm just outside Wilmington. On that cool Tuesday morning a group of six teenage boys from Wilmington decided to go out “chestnutting” rather than go to school. They set out on foot from their homes in the vicinity of Maryland Avenue near where it crosses under I-95 today out the Lancaster Pike and past the edge of town, turned left down the road toward “the Springs” (today’s DuPont Road to Faulkland Road toward Brandywine Springs). Outside of town and just past the tracks of the Wilmington and Reading Railroad, one of the boys spotted a large chestnut tree in a field of tall grass that looked like a good place to stop. The presence of (or lack thereof) a “No Trespassing” sign on the tree was to be hotly disputed; the boys stated there was no sign, Mr. Woodward stated there were signs on the property line and on the tree. Either way, what exactly happened next is lost forever to history but the following facts are known and largely agreed to by the testimony of the boys, by Mr. Woodward, and by those present during or after the incident.

Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910). Chestnutting, 1870. 
Wood engraving, Sheet: 11 3/4 x 8 3/4 in. (29.8 x 22.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum

At about 10:00 a.m., Mr. Woodward, having returned from bringing a cow to Centerville about an hour earlier and now busy working on his farm, spotted a group of boys climbing a large chestnut tree on his property a few hundred yards away. He went into his house, grabbed a loaded shotgun, and proceeded towards the tree but before he reached them, one of the boys spotted him and alerted the others who began to scatter into the woods or up the road. The boys on the ground made it furthest away while those way up in the tree attempted a hasty, panicked descent. At least two of the boys, William Lukens and John Skelley, were still in the tree when Mr. Woodward reached the shade of the tree. He yelled something up to the boys to get them to leave and the boys responded that they would leave peacefully if Mr. Woodward promised not to shoot. In their haste to get down from the tree, the boys nearly landed on each other and turned to run away. The boys made it only a few dozen feet away when the gun fired one time, hitting William in the back and John in the arm. Taking the brunt of the shot with over 70 pellets in his body, William fell to the ground. John, struck in the back of his arm ran towards the woods. Mr. Woodward approached William and attempted to pick him up from the ground but he again fell, unable to support his own weight.  Mr. Woodward turned and headed for the house but returned a short while later to the boy and, finding him still on the ground and still conscious, picked William up and carried him into his home. Once inside, he and his wife as well as his sister-in-law, Sallie Stidham, who was visiting her sister that morning, tended to William. Laying him on a setee, Mr. Woodward made a bath of balsam to dress the boy’s wounds and the ladies prepared warm compresses.  Mr. Woodward summoned a farmhand into the house and sent him on horseback to find a doctor. After waiting a short time without a doctor arriving, Mr. and Mrs. Woodward placed William in a milk cart with some hay, blankets, and pillows and had his farmhand take William home to Wilmington. Arriving a short while later, doctors at William’s home attempted to save the boy but throughout the evening, he became weaker and weaker and, the next morning, died from his injuries. John Skelley escaped with injuries to his arm but survived the ordeal. The other boys escaped with without injury but had lost a friend.

The Media Reports and the Community Responds

The case immediately made the Wilmington newspapers and by the afternoon of the shooting it had been reported in both the second and third editions of The New Journal. The reporters immediately labelled the incident a murder, called Mr. Woodward a brute, and labelled the boys as “victims of unnatural brutality” left to “welter in their own blood” [1]. Some details were printed as facts which were later disputed such as Mr. Woodward threatening to “blow the boys brains out” if they didn’t get down from the tree or the claim that Mr. Woodward had grabbed a stick (first called a club in the newspaper) striking William in the head just before shooting the boys. Reporters also printed that Mr. Woodward picked William up and, upon seeing that he couldn’t stand, threw him to the ground. Anyone reading the papers of the day could be excused for concluding that this was a clear-cut case of murder by an enraged, unfeeling, unthinking man.
This is not the time or the place to speculate as to the degree of his guilt, but that he is guilty of felonious homicide in some degree is scarcely a question of doubt... This is the code of barbarism which finds no place in the law of any civilized community.
The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) · THU, Oct 8, 1874 · Page 2
 Regardless of what had actually happened on the farm that day, a young man was dead, another injured, and many residents of the city were incensed. The boys’ fathers pressed the police and late in the evening of the shooting, they arrested Mr. Woodward peacefully at his home on charges of assault and battery with intent to kill. Travelling along Front Street on its way to City Hall, the police wagon carrying the two officers and Mr. Woodward reached Madison Street when a large angry crowd from the boys’ neighborhood appeared blocking the road. There, they attempted to abduct Mr. Woodward with the likely intent of lynching him. The officers cocked and pointed their weapons at the crowd and threatened to shoot the first person to step forward. The participants held their position for a moment but soon backed down and Mr. Woodward was brought to the jail cells.

The next morning, the angry crowd had re-gathered at the City Hall and when a judge ordered Mr. Woodward held over for trial, the officers attempted to move him across the street to the cells. Before they could reach the building, the infuriated crowd intercepted the group and again attempted to grab Mr. Woodward who broke free from the group. He ran, screaming in fear of his life, into the building where he was locked up safely away from the angry crowd. Later, when transferring him from Wilmington City Hall to the jail in New Castle to stand trial, the angry mob waiting along Market Street forced police to sneak him out of the back (King St.) entrance of the building into a waiting carriage.

With Mr. Woodward in the New Castle jail awaiting trial, the incident exposed a deeply divided set of opinions in New Castle County. The farming community expressed the event as the inevitable consequence of years of unrepentant victimization through unmitigated trespassing, theft, vandalism, arson, and hooliganism. Residents of the neighborhood decried the act as unjustified, heavy-handed, and a clear case of murder punishable by hanging (either through the legal process or by their own hands). When the indictment was handed down by the grand jury on November 17, it was for first-degree murder, a crime that would send Mr. Woodward to the gallows if convicted.

The Trial

Mr. Woodward hired Wilmington attorneys Thomas F. Bayard (a United States Senator) and William C. Spruance for his defense. The trial began at the county courthouse in New Castle on Friday, November 27th. Jury selection was said to be difficult and the final group included residents of Wilmington and Christiana Hundred, as well as Pencader and New Castle Hundreds. A quick, incomplete, and admittedly imperfect search of the jurors (using 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses as well as city directories available on shows a variety of professions represented including grocers, laborers, farm workers, farmers, a manufacturer, and a butcher.

During the trial, the prosecution painted the shooting as a deliberate and intentional act of retribution for the boys climbing the tree, a tree which they would not have known was off limits to them given the lack of a No Trespassing sign. They called each of the five living boys to the stand and each told a similar, frightening story of an extremely angry and agitated Mr. Woodward assaulting the boys both verbally and physically before pointing a shotgun at the backs of two boys and shooting them intentionally. They stated that after the shooting, Mr. Woodward would not only refuse to help an injured, dying William from the ground but that he actually picked him up and, seeing that he couldn’t walk, threw him back down. The boys also stated that Mr. Woodward refused to let them borrow his cart to take William back to his home in the city and made them leave with William lying alone in the grass. The doctors testified that William had been hit between the shoulders with some of the shot spreading above the shoulder blades. The examiner stated that pellets had penetrated both the left lung and stomach making the wounds essentially fatal for any person.

After the prosecution rested its case, the defense began to present theirs. In their opening statement, defense attorneys painted the incident as an accidental shooting by a man with little to no firearms experience, a man of peace and temperance who, while perhaps agitated at the boys for trespassing, had no intention of harming the boys, even bringing William into his home after the shooting to soothe and dress his wounds. Mr. Woodward’s attorneys called Sallie Stidham and area farmer Thomas Brown to the stand, both of whom had been present in the house after Mr. Woodward had brought William inside. Mr. Woodward’s intentions and temperament were evident, they presented, by the fact that he tried to comfort the boy after the shooting. Sallie Stidham testified of the many times her brother-in law had to run trespassers and vandals off the property.
I have known [Mr. Woodward] to spend all day Sunday driving off boys, coming in at night so tired that he could not enjoy the comforts of the home table.
-Testimony of Sallie C. StidhamThe News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) · MON, Nov 30, 1874 · Page 1
 The defense also challenged the prosecution’s characterization of the boys as innocent explorers simply out gathering chestnuts. They called to the stand a police officer from Wilmington as well as a Market Street storekeeper to testify that one of the boys had been arrested multiple times for stealing and that many of the shopkeepers in Wilmington knew the boy (and his character) well. They called Edward Woodward, Aaron’s brother, to the stand to testify that Aaron had little experience with a gun and, as far as he was aware, had never shot it before. Edward also testified that he had inspected the chestnut tree himself a few days after the shooting and found pellets embedded in the trunk that would indicate that the tree was between Mr. Woodward and the boys when the gun went off. This showed, he stated, that the gun was not pointed directly at the boys and probably went off accidentally. [Author’s note: It would seem to me that a simple investigation by the police would have cleared up much of the confusion around what actually happened that day. I’ve found no evidence that the police ever came out to the Woodward farm except to arrest Mr. Woodward on the night of the shooting. In fact, Edward Woodward testified that the police never even asked to see the gun.]

To underscore their insistence that Mr. Woodward was a man of integrity, the prosecution called no fewer than eighteen character witnesses who attested to the exceptional reputation and peaceful nature of Mr. Woodward. The list of character witnesses included many area farmers with well-known (in Christiana and Mill Creek Hundred, at least) names such as Derrickson, Brown, Armstrong, Robinson, Lynam, Hollingsworth, Duncan, and Price. Henry DuPont, who had leased land to Mr. Woodward years prior to the shooting, also attested to his character. (Though I can’t be sure it was “the” Henry A. DuPont of Winterthur, it seems like a possibility considering that Mr. DuPont was likely one of the largest landowners in Christiana Hundred).

Newspaper reports state that by the end of the trial almost no one in the courtroom expected the jury to convict Mr. Woodward. On Wednesday, December 2nd, they returned a “not guilty” verdict. After the verdict, the case, at least in the local newspapers, seems to fade from memory very quickly. What started as an angry roar had diminished to barely a whisper. In the end, a young man in the prime of his life was dead, another scarred for life, a young family nearly uprooted and left without a father, and two communities left without answers. 

A Possible Link to a Positive Outcome?

When I wrote the first draft of this research report, I realized upon proofreading it that the ending, in fact the entire report, was quite a downer. It seemed as if nothing good had come from the incident and that life simply returned to “normal”. I decided to do a bit more digging to see if there was any mention of the incident in the months after the trial had ended.

I found one follow-up article published in The News Journal on January 5, 1875 (shown below), slightly over a month after the acquittal, in which the author urged legislators to do something to protect farmers from intruders so they didn’t feel as if their only recourse was to shoot them [3]. It proposed either an armed “rural” police force or giving the farmers a constable authority to arrest trespassers and thieves. It also proposed a place, other than an adult jail, to send juvenile offenders so they could be rehabilitated and taught how to be functional, working members of the community, including learning how to read and write. The article, in which the author was not revealed, called this proposed facility a “House of Refuge” for troubled boys. Interestingly, seven years later in 1882, Wilmington resident John Ferris Jr., upon his death, designated a sizable portion of his estate “for the benefit of any of the necessary portion of the human family that may come to his knowledge.” In his last will and testament, he recommended a “house of refuge” for troubled or unruly boys [4]. From this request, John Ferris’ cousin, Dr. Caleb Harlan, formed a committee in Wilmington which purchased a large plot of land less than half a mile from the Woodward Farm and created the school that would later be known as the Ferris School for Boys [5]. I have no way of knowing if the shooting on Woodward’s farm was, in whole or in part, an impetus upon which the Ferris school was formed, but I’d like to believe that something positive came out of the tragedy.

As far as the idea of a rural police force, the New Castle County police force was not chartered until 1911, 37 years after the incident.  Incidentally, it was initially called the “Rural Police Force” and its two officers patrolled Christiana and Brandywine Hundreds.

Conclusion and Later Years

The last update published of the incident itself (other than a couple or retrospectives published in later years)  that I could locate was May 13, 1875 when Aaron Woodward pled guilty to assault and battery for the shooting of John Skelley and paid a fine of $300. This closed the case on the events of October 6, 1874.

Unfortunately for the farmers around Wilmington, the incursions did not stop after 1874. Upon scouring the newspapers published over the twenty years following the event, one still finds countless reports of theft, arson, trespassing, and other crimes against farmers in New Castle County. In fact, I was able to find at least two additional reported events in which Aaron Woodward caught people stealing from his property and turned them into the police for arrest. Apparently, though, he had learned his lesson and never again took to shooting at them. One must wonder how many more times Aaron and his family had property stolen or destroyed in which the perpetrator was not caught.

Post-Report Notes:

List of the Boys Involved in the Shooting Incident
Including their approximate age at the time of the incident:
  • ·         William T. Lukens, Age 18 (killed), 408 Maryland Avenue. Wilmington.
  • ·         John Skelley, Age 17 (injured), 925 Chestnut Street. Wilmington.
  • ·         Edward Speakman, Age 17 (uninjured), 7 Jackson St. Wilmington.
  • ·         William T. Green, Age 15 (uninjured), Wilmington
  • ·         James P. Coyle, Age 16 (uninjured), “West Wilmington”.
  • ·         Walter McElvay, Age 17 (uninjured), 108 Logan St. Wilmington (address doesn’t exist. Could  be Linden St?)

Location of the Wooward Farm:
I’ve tried to determine exactly which property Aaron K Woodward’s was farming in 1874. I haven’t found an exact answer as none of the maps I’ve seen call it out directly. I believe I’ve got the general area given the many clues presented in the articles and in testimony during the trial. The annotated map (from 1868) shows some clues I’ve used. It comes from the David Rumsey Map Collection referenced in [6] below. Here are the color codes:

Blue = the road on which Aaron Woodward’s farm was located, at the time known as the road from Wilmington to Brandywine Springs. Today, this is DuPont Road which turns into Faulkland Road as DuPont Road heads off towards Elsmere.  Remember that DE-2 from Wilmington to the Greenbank area was not constructed until 1881 so getting from Wilmington to Brandywine Springs was not as easy as today’s drive down Kirkwood Highway.

Green = A rough path of the segment of the train tracks near where they cross Faulkland Rd.  (Wilmington and Reading in 1874, later the Wilmington and Northern. Today, a branch of the East Penn Railroad). The Woodward farm either bordered the tracks, straddled them, or was very close to them.

Red Circles: location of the properties of each of the individuals below who I could locate on the map.  These help provide a general location only.

White Outline: My best guess as to the location of the Woodward Farm in 1874.

Here are the clues I have:
  •  Mr. Woodward lives “just beyond the Wilmington and Reading Railroad on the public road between this city (Wilmington) and Brandywine Springs”. (reported in The News Journal , 07 Oct 1874, Wed, Page 3)
  •  Ezra C. Lukens stated that the farm was “three quarter of a mile from where the Reading road crosses the old springs road”. (I believe this may be an error as this puts the farm at almost exactly the corner of Centre Road and Faulkland Rd. If the farm were at this intersection, I would expect it to be noted in respect to its distance from Centre Rd, rather than its distance from the railroad. But every reference of the farm’s location either references the property by its distance from Wilmington or its distance from the railroad crossing with no mention of Centre Rd that I can find)
  • Sallie Stidham stated in her testimony that she lived on Lancaster Pike only ½ mile from her sister (Aaron’s wife Mary Ann Woodward) and walked to her house every day. I’m not 100% sure of where she lived along the Lancaster Pike but if you start on the Lancaster Pike and follow it up DuPont Rd / Faulkland Rd ½ mile towards Brandywine Springs, it puts you almost exactly where the railroad crosses Faulkland Road.
  •  Farmer John R. Tatum (see red circle) testified that his farm adjoined Woodward’s. On the 1868 map, there is a John “B.” Tatum set back from Lancaster Pike and east of DuPont Road. I’m assuming this is the same John Tatum.?
  •  Farmer Henry White (see red circle) testified that his farm was ½ mile from Woodward.
  •  Farmer James Brown (see red circle) stated that “Mr. Woodward lives a mile from me”.
  •  Thomas Brown stated that he lives “3/4 of a mile from Woodward”.
  •   David M. Price (Assume this is the DM Price shown at Price’s corner in the 1868 map of Christiana Hundred?.. see red circle) stated that he lives “about a mile from Woodward”.
  •   James H. Hoffecker (see red circle) stated that he lived “one half mile from Woodward”.
  •  The many mentions of the railroad tracks (Wilmington and Reading) in testimony and in newspaper articles lead me to believe that the Woodward farm bordered (or straddled?) the tracks or was very close to them.

My best guess is that Aaron and family were living on, and farming, the property labeled in the 1868 Beers Map as “G.P. Stidham”. Gilpin Penrose Stidham was Mary Ann’s father and Aaron’s father-in-law. While I’ve not found a property record conveying the property to Aaron and/or Mary Ann, it makes sense that they would reside on or near this property. In fact, this property, also shown on the map as “Hedge Grove” is Mary Ann’s birthplace (see [2]). Whether it was this actual farm, a portion of the farm, or a nearby property, I’ve not been able to determine. In both the 1870 and 1880 census, Mr. Stidham lived with his wife Edith and daughter Sallie, who we know lived along Lancaster Pike so Gilpin apparently lived somewhere other than the Hedge Grove farm. Unfortunately, the censuses do not give actual addresses in rural areas other than the name of the hundred and sometimes the post office. The Hedge Grove farm appears to have been located on the land occupied by the Oak Hill subdivision today.

This 1937 aerial photo of the area shows a farm in the same location as the one marked “Hedge Grove” in the 1868 map. Of course, this aerial map was almost 70 years later than the incident and the chestnut tree in question and its descendants were probably already dead from chestnut blight.

1937 view of the area in question. Silverbrook Cemetery can be seen with the railroad tracks wrapping around the west and north of the property.

A little more about Aaron Klair Woodward:

Aaron Klair Woodward served on the 2nd DE Cavalry, also known as Milligan’s Independent Cavalry in July 1864. He brought his own horse and served a 30-day tour. This is the same company in which Josiah G. Hulett served, mentioned at As mentioned in the same Mill Creek History Blog post, the company saw no combat, but did patrol a wide area, ranging from Wilmington, to Baltimore, to Westminster, MD.

Jury List from the Aaron K. Woodward Trial

I have attempted to locate the members of the jury, their addresses, and occupations around the trial timeframe of 1874. I did this because I found an article stating that the jury had been stacked with farmers, making the “not guilty” verdict a foregone conclusion. I have not found that to be the case. As you can see, I didn’t locate everyone and some of the information may be inaccurate as of 1874 or completely inaccurate (if I got the wrong George White, for example). But here’s my best effort given the time I had.
  • ·         Grubb Talley. 12th St. Wilmington
  • ·         John M. Appleton – 919 Lovering Ave. Wilmington
  • ·         Jackson Whiteman (not located)
  • ·         Peter Massey (not located)
  • ·         Isaac Frazer – Pencader Hundred - Farmer
  • ·         William Wilson – E third street. Wilmington - Grocer
  • ·         James C. Morrison - Laborer
  • ·         Isaac Fred - Butcher
  • ·         J. Poulsen Chandler (not located)
  • ·         Joseph S. Forman.. Christiana Hundred.. manufacturer
  • ·         George White – New Castle Hundred…Farm Laborer
  • ·         Jonathan E. George - Wilmington

[1] The News Journal, Wilmington, Delaware, 07 Oct 1874, Wed (Second and Third editions) • Page 3
[2] Alpheus H. (Alpheus Hibben) Harlan. History and genealogy of the Harlan family, and particularly of the descendants of George and Michael Harlan, who settled in Chester County, Pa., 1687. Online at Retrieved July 24, 2017.
Mary A. Stidham, b. 12, 24, 1844, at "Hedge Grove," near that place [Wilmington]; a dau. of Gilpin P. Stidham  (farmer), b. there, and Elizabeth Grove, b. in Mill Creek Hundred : both in New Castle Co.
[3] The News Journal, Wilmington, Delaware, 05 Jan 1875, Tue • Page 2, A Matter in which City and Country are Both Interested
[4] “Ferris School for Boys,” by Raymond L. Townsend, 1949, p. 9.
[6] D.G. Beers Map of Christiana Hundred, 1868. Courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection. Referenced at;q:delaware;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=8&trs=46 on 7/24/2017.

Listing of all (known) Articles About the Incident
“The Shooting Case”, The News Journal, Tue, Oct 6, 1874 – Page 4
“Yesterday’s Murder!”, The News Journal, Wed, Oct 7, 1874 – Page 3
“The Homicide in Christiana Hundred”, The News Journal, Thu, Oct 8, 1874 – Page 2
“The Boy Murder”, The News Journal, Thu, Oct 8, 1874 – Page 3
Untitled Article, The News Journal, Fri, Oct 16, 1874 – Page 4, column 2
“The Recent Shooting Case”, The News Journal, Sat, Oct 10, 1874 – Page 4
Untitled Article, The News Journal, Mon, Oct 19, 1874 – Page 3, column 5
“Indicted for Murder”, The News Journal, Tue, Nov 17, 1874 – Page 4
“Woodward and Taylor”, The News Journal, Wed, Nov 18, 1874 – Page 3
“The Woodward Trial”, The News Journal, Fri, Nov 27, 1874 – Page 3
“Woodward’s Trial”, The News Journal, Sat, Nov 28, 1874 – Page 3
“The Woodward Trial”, The News Journal, Mon, Nov 30, 1874 – Page 1
Untitled Article, The News Journal, Mon, Nov 30, 1874 – Page 3, column 5
“The Woodward Trial”, The News Journal, Tue, Dec 1, 1874 – Page 3
“The Woodward Trial”, The News Journal, Wed, Dec 2, 1874 – Page 1
“The Acquittal of Woodward”, The News Journal, Thu, Dec 3, 1874 – Page 4
“A Matter in Which City and Country are Both Interested”, The News Journal, Tue, Jan 5, 1875 – Page 2
Untitled Article, The News Journal, Thu, May 13, 1875 – Page 3


  1. Thanks for publishing this, Scott! I hope the readers find it as interesting as I did when i first came across the story. When I found the initial News Journal article about the incident, it was about 9:00 p.m. on Saturday evening (yes.. this is what I do on Saturday evenings) and I found it so engrossing that it was well after midnight when I finally got to the article showing the verdict. On another note, if anyone is interested in seeing any of the clippings about the incident (or if you come across any yourselves which I haven't listed), feel free to contact me and I'd be happy to share them with you.

  2. Well done! I'm your Springer cousin.

  3. Excellently written and great detective work. I would almost assume you had a law degree. Not only are these facts fascinating and disturbing in how innocent facts can be misconstrued but also that people look to the wrong conclusion and not the real problem at hand. You have mentioned many of my ancestors in this article along with comments from my Springer cousin, mercur81 and Mr. Palmer (a possible cousin as well). The fact that I worked at the DuPont Chestnut Run site and walked the very grounds you mention in this article and driven the very roads to and from make the story even more interesting about those past ancestors whose presence was there before mine. Thank you. I really enjoyed your input.

  4. Extraordinary research. Thanks.

    Seems like the N-J hasn't changed much in 143 years, sensationalism sells papers. This seems to be a bright spot for our citizen justice.