Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Death of Young John Cullen - Investigation

Brown County Courthouse

The query of this investigation: what happened to George Fleener after he killed Cullen?
The case: The State of Indiana vs. George Fleener, Joseph McClung, and Nathan Fritch.
(Please read the last post of this name if you haven't already to catch up on details.)

In researching any topic thoroughly one must look at every aspect involved. The area that this event, the death of John Cullen, took place in was hilly country. Farms spotted the hills and valleys. Travel might have taken a day to get to the gathering places such as the country store, the church gathering, or the country school, but all in all it was a community. Looking in the 1870 and 1880 census during this time of Cullen's death in 1873 tells a lot. Cullens, Robertsons, Fleeners, Fritchs, and McClungs were relatively close neighbors. The area was situated in Jackson township which is in the northwest corner of the county close to Monroe County. A lot of families went to Monroe County to do business so both counties needed to be checked.

The two main characters in this event were John Cullen and George Fleener. It might be good to check on their family lines. John Cullen was born abt. 1851 in Noble County, Ohio, the son of James Cullen and Rosanna Haeffer. His father born in Ireland and mother born in Pennsylvania. He had brothers and sisters: Peter Wilson, Mary A., Harriet, Samuel, Elizabeth, Hester A., Catherine, Rhoda Dora, Susan M., James H., and Rosea. All of this was taken from census records and family histories.

The accused, George Fleener, was born abt. 1854 and his parents were Abraham Fleener and Sarah Jane Alexander. His siblings were: Nancy Jane, James A., Alexander, William Thomas, Mary Eliz., Sarah Ann Marie, Andrew Jackson, Fleming Valandingham, Catherine, and Martha Ellen.

To begin with we tried to find any other information on George so all of his siblings and his parents were researched. None of the obituaries that we were able to obtain from the brothers or married sisters mentioned George as a brother or his whereabouts. We hit a dead end here. Next we needed to look at family histories so a trip to the library was the next destination.

In the book, "History and Families - Brown County, Indiana" under a family history of the Fleener family one line at the bottom on this family read, "George married Gabriella Robertson and moved west early in life." So this gave us another clue, at least he lived to marry and moved away. Looking for a marriage record for George and Gabriella proved fruitless in both Brown and Monroe Counties. It was decided then to do some more checking on Gabriella Robertson's family. Digging further in another family history on the Claiborn Robertson family Gabriella was listed as a daughter. Her mother was Mary Stephens and she had 8 other siblings: Jacob, George Winfield, Lazarus, Agnes, James H., Della Jane, Amanda, and Louisa Robertson.

At the bottom of their family group sheet was a few lines on Gabriella.
"There is a mystery about what happend to Gabriella. Her name was never mentioned in the family. It was as if she had never lived. Her sister, Amanda, wrote: Gabriella did not go west with that man, Fleener, involved in the stabbing of John Cullen. It seems that Gabriella was considered his girlfriend. The last time anyone seen her was when she was leaving for Taintor, Iowa. It is believed she went west in the year 1873."

The previous quote suggests they did go west together. Looks like some of the family still denied it and others just preferred not to talk about it.
John Cullen's death was in 1873, so why would Gabriella go west in 1873 except to go with Fleener. But we can't determine this for certain not just yet.

As best could be done the obituaries of her siblings were checked for a mention of their sister, Gabriella. None gave any more clues. The Criminal Court books still need to be checked to see if a verdict was given in the case. Since I didn't get to go last week now it is definitely on my to do list for this coming week. Stay tuned for Part 3.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Death of Young John Cullen

Old Log Jail in Nashville, Indiana

I've been going through our collection of old newspapers in the Historical Society Archives trying to pick out items of interest for our genealogy newsletter. Recently transcribing one of our oldest newspaper, the Jacksonian, of Brown county in 1873 I ran across something interesting on the back page. It was an account of the days testimony in a court case on the death of a young man, John Cullen. The case was the State of Indiana vs. George Fleener, Joseph McClung, and Nathan Fritch.

In the account several witnesses testified about a fight that had occurred between these three young men with another young man, John Cullen. The testimonies all seemed to agree for the most part on the happenings in the fight. Allegedly John Cullen and George Fleener had been having a disagreement for some time. On this day all these young men had been traveling down the road on horses when they came upon Mr. Cullen and his riding companion, Oscar Warford. Cullen and Fleener started exchanging words again and all jumped from their horses and started pushing the two to come to a fight. Cullen and Fleener started coming to blows when Fleener pulled a knife and young Mr. Cullen was cut several times. He fell back against Joseph McClung and according to the testimonies it was unsure if McClung had pushed Cullen off of him or if he had pushed him back into the fight with Fleener. By the time it was all over Cullen was bleeding badly and Fritch told him to get to a doctor.

One of the doctors gave testimony of Cullen's condition and also had him give an affidavit of what had happened to him on the day of the fight, April 12, 1873. Several other witnesses testified to various happenings that had been going on before and after the death of Cullen. There were some witness accounts that contradicted what the boys had testified to. It was a most interesting article. Newspaper articles of today don't do coverage in their newspapers in this much detail anymore. And this was most unusual coming from an 1873 newspaper.

So reading all this made me want to find out what happened in the case. I know there are no longer any newspapers that remain from this period. Where could I go next to find out more about it? Our Historical Society Archives houses the court document packets from all the Civil and Criminal Court cases. So my next step was to look for this case: State vs. Fleener, McClung, & Fritch. Going through the file I found a lot of slips of papers: warrants for witnesses to appear, a dissertation on the differences of the various degrees of Murder that can be charged.

Most of the remaining documents pertained to Joseph McClung as an accessory in the fight. McClung was eventually charged with Manslaughter and sentenced to 25 years. There was also another slip of paper saying he had taken his case to the Supreme Court and his sentence was thrown out after 10 years. But that's all that was in the packet. There was nothing more on Fritch even though he seemed to play a small part in the fight. And what was even more surprising there was nothing on George Fleener, one of the principals in the fight. So what happened? Surely Fleener must have been charged in the death of Cullen if McClung was charged with Manslaughter for just being involved? Where should I go next? This is going to require some digging. I think my next trip should be to the courthouse to check out the Criminal court books. If anyone has any other suggestions, let me know. The investigation continues! I'll let you know what I find.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Mabe Family of Brown County

I'm featuring a family from my area in Brown County. I like to look at other family genealogies in my township to help me get to know the people and the community. For our featured family I picked a photo from our Archives of three children: Mary, Harriet, and Lemmon Mabe. The photo of the children is above. There is some family history that has been done on this family. So I was able to find out a little more information on the family. I went on Heritage Quest and found the family in the 1860 census in Van Buren township, Brown County, Indiana. There on page 31 was the family: William, wife Elizabeth, Mary, Harriet, and Lemmon Mabe. Lemmon/Leamon being an unusual name as well as Mabe it was easy to find the family.

From our known family histories I found William Franklin Mabe was born Dec. 8, 1825 in Stokes Co., NC. He died July 25, 1911. His wife was Elizabeth M. Clark, born Aug. 19, 1825 in Ohio. She died July 25, 1904. They're both buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery. They were married Aug. 10, 1848 in Brown County. Their children were: Mary, James Herod, Harriet Jane, and Leamon Martin Mabe.

About twice a month I'm asked to help contribute a photo from the Archives for our local newspaper. Another member does the write up for the article. Our newspaper, the Brown County Democrat, has given us about a 1/4 page to devote to Historical Society news. We have a great little local newspaper - lots of community news. Since I'm a member also of our Genealogical Society this month I'm trying to promote our subscription to Heritage Quest that we provide for our community through our local library. We've compared usage information from 2007 to last year and found that the numbers are almost half what they used to be. I don't know if the economy has made people cut back on doing their genealogy, but I want them to know that this is a free resource that they can use. As long as our Genealogical Society can afford to keep providing this to our community we want our county residents to know that it is there for them to use at no charge.

Whenever you use a free resource consider all the volunteers or organizations that have donated their time to provide these free resources for your use. If it is a local organization please thank them. Better yet, get involved and help out.