A Midnight Secret Session! article, partial transcription (Tonawanda News, 1895-10-09ish)

A Midnight Secret Session! (Tonawanda News, 1895-10-0).pdf

Dublin Core


A Midnight Secret Session! article, partial transcription (Tonawanda News, 1895-10-09ish).pdf


(Not sure of the date of this article, day or two after first inquest).

Only A Half Hour Before the Murders Are Committed the Boatmen Meet in Secret Session in Their Hall in the Post Office Buildings

Beginning to look like a conspiracy. Prominent local businessman and "one of the officials of the Boatmen's Union" William Goddard likely to be arrested. Evidence against "other prominent residents of the Twin Cities" also being mulled. From the article:

"The Secret Meeting. The most startling piece of evidence that is yet become thoroughly established was given to the public for the first time in THE NEWS. The canal men and at least one of the officers were in secret session in the Post-office block Sunday night at midnght, only a half hour before the murders were committed. They left the hall at midnight and by twos and threes gathered quietly at the Scribner docks where the boats of Capt. Phillips were lying. The murders that followed can be traced directly to the deliberations of that secret meeting."

Goddard spotted leaving the hall. He had maintained he knew nothing about the event until his wife told him the next morning, even though he was in the company of Reech until 1 a.m., and had been told of the attacks.

The article also reveals an earlier meeting of the boatmen:

"This was not the only meeting that was held, however. It is said that there was a secret meeting held on Thursday night last after Phillips landed in Tonawanda with his boats. The meeting was fully attended by the leading canal boatmen interested in maintaining the association of canal men with its strict rules. This meeting was called for the express purpose of arranging some plan to get Capt. Phillips out of Tonawanda. It was decided, it is said, to bribe him."

If that didn't work, threaten him. It was crucial that he not load, as it could "crush their association agreement." DA has proof that on Friday Phillips was offered $200 to cut his lines and walk away. According to this account, the captain listened patiently but firmly refused. The men returned. The captain still refused. 

At this point in the article, the inquest testimony is given again, beginning with Deputy Smearing. Different details / format than appears in the Buffalo News article:

"Where were you at the time when this started? I was standing on the boats.

And what time was this? I think was between 11 and 12 o'clock.

Where did you first see the gang of men? I saw some people come up the tow-path.

You saw them talking together ? Yes sir.

Where were the shots fired at? Towards the boat.

Did you see the captain? Yes sir.

Was there a pistol pointed at you? Yes sir.

Was there a pistol pointed at Mr. Phillips? Yes sir.

How far away from him was the man who pointed the pistol at this man Phillips? About three feet.

Did you see the man? Yes sir.

How was he dressed? He had on ordinary clothes and a slouch hat on his head.

After the pistol was put in your face, what did you say ? I did not say anything.

Did you hear auy remarks? Yes sir, but I could not tell you the exact words; the only person that I knew was Philip Perew who came up to me and said that I had better look out for this was a determined crowd.

What did you do? I told him to keep away or he might get hurt.

Wheree did he stand on? On a lumber pile. 

What else did you see? And what can you tell us about them? I saw two men talking together but did not understand what they were talking about.

How far apart were those two men? About two feet.

What happened next? The boats were cut loose and drifted down the river.

What did you find? I found Mr. Phillips lying on the boat and dead.

How was he lying? He was lying with his face on the boards and back up.

Was he dead? So the doctors said.

What did you do next? I went into the cabin.

What did you find? I found two men, the daughter and the boy.

Did you see that the boy's head was battered? Yes sir, he was bleeding.

How many men were there that came down onto the dock? I should judge about 50 or more.

Do you kuow any by sight? I know one by sight.

Have you met him since that time? No sir.

Did you recognize any of the other men there? No sir.

From the time that you were on the boat did you see any person there? Yes sir.

Who was he? I haven't any idea who he was.

What did the captain say when he saw the crew coming? He pulled off his coat and said, "My life is my own and I shall protect my property."

Murphy and Shover testify much the same (latter extra detail about boy trying to get up and being beaten again).

William Goddard's testimony, the NEWS says, shows a "surprising lack of memory." Says he does not think the boatmen's association has any officers, does not know who pays their hall rent. Association in existence for five weeks. No meetings. Contracts made by "Root the lawyer and myself." He does admit to trying to persuade Phillips to load his boats in turn, but clais he thought no violence would come. Was at Rech's saloon Sunday night. Knows Perew: "He was in company with me in the merry-go-round business."

Ira M. Rose gave testimony as printed in the previous day's NEWS.

Deposition of Flora Phillips

"Flora Phillips was not able to be put upon the witness stand, so her starment was read. It was in the main as printed in
THE NEWS on Monday. The girl told of her brother coming down into the cabin wounded and bleeding; how she dressed his wounds and cared for him unil she was prostrated and removed from the boat to Mr. Wattengels', and how the cabins of the boat were riddled with stones and pieces of boards. She told how her father had been approached by boatmen and requested to leave Tonawanda without taking a load from Scribner's, and said that neither her brother or her father carried revolvers, and that they had committed no act that called for their murder."

"Today's Proceedings

The inquest was resumed this morning at 11 o'clock. Officers Duffy and Kumro gave much more sensational testimony than on the first inquest. The following are the examinations in full. Officer Duffy was examined first."

Duffy says he was assigned to protect the boats, was there from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. When the gang arrived he was standing on "the boat," and the May was closest to the dock. He tried to talk to the men to slow them down but they paid no mind. Some standing on a pile of lumber called to others on the towpath to come on down and not be "coward."

Duffy heard the men say to "Kill the -----". Heard two shots. Saw only the marshal, the captain, the captain's son, and Philip Perew on the boat. Also saw Wheeler and Riley. Then the gang spread in all directions except Perew and Smearing. Duffy went in search of a doctor.

When he returns he finds captain on the May; in cabin, Flora nursing Charles.

According to Officer Kumro's testimony, he does not arrive until about 12:50 a.m. IDs Wheeler, Perew, Munger and Lowe. Quotes Phillips "My life is my own, and if any man touches these lines he will get shot." Sees Smearing talking with Perew. Tries to shove the men back, but they say "Let's kill the Dutch -----." 12 men jumped abpard. Saw by flash that the man who shot Phillips was about four feet away from him. The men cut all the lines. Kumro follows the boats. At the swingbridge he finds on the boat "Perew, the Marshal, [Doctor] Edmonds, the Captain and the girl. This was when the boat was tied up at the swing bridge."

"What else did you see being done to the boy? They had been kicking the boy with their feet."

"Could you tell the man that did the shooting? No sir, I could not tell, because it was too dark, while the moon was in the opposite direction of the boat, and a high lumber pile between the two, throwing a shadow on the boat."

Cause of son's death at this inquest given as "resulting from the blow of a pistol and some blunt instrument."

Why He Joined the Union

"Citizens generally have little idea of the methods that have been used to induce or compel some of the boatmen to join the union. As one of them stated to Mr. F. A. McCoy only two weeks ago,"he did not want to join the Union, but he knew that if he did not that his property would be in hourly danger. Either his boats would burned or his horses and mules would be poisoned. If he went into the Union he knew his "turn" would not come the balance of the season, but he did not dare refuse." Is this a civilized community, or is it ruled by an organized mob of cutthroats? If a Mafia is ruling matters
with such a high hand it is time for the people of the Twin Cities to arouse at once and crush it out."

District Attorney Penney laments the "surprising reluctance" of the citizenry to come forth with evidence.

Findings of the inquest, and names of suspect related.

A Sad Procession

"At 7 o'clock this morning the bodies of Captain Phillips and his son were started for Constantia. Mrs. Phillips, her brother Mr. Reynolds, and her daughter Flora accompanied the remains. Mr. and Mrs. Watteugel and a few other sympathizing friends accompanied the remains as far as Buffalo. Before departing Mrs. Phillips with tears in her eyes thanked Mrs. Wattengel for her kindness to her sick child, and the mother's heart went out in full to the kind Tonawanda mother who let her light and love buoy up a poor stricken child in affliction and distress. Others besides Mrs. Phillips accorded praise to Mrs. Wattengel for her splendid exhibition of motherhood.

Newspaper opinions:

Times calls policeman of Tonawanda "a weak set" and calls for their prosecution in their failure to protect Phillips.

Express calls it more of a lynching, in the barbaric style of the South.