Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Donnelly Exodus from Waddington

The mid-1870s were hard on the Donnellys.  They had been in the Potsdam/Waddington area since the late '20s, and the 9 kids were raised there.  Patrick (father) died in 1854; Michael headed for the California gold country in the 1850s; Edward left to fight in the War in 1861; James moved to nearby Vermont in the late '60s; and Margaret seems to have left as well, by 1870, though I don't know where.  Five children remained in Waddington, as did mother Nancy in the 1870s: Ann lived in town with her grocer husband, James Graham; Bridget was building her dream home with farmer husband, Thomas; Catherine was married to Christie Gorman, probably a cousin to Thomas, and lived on their farm; and John and Mary lived with their mother on the family farm.  Then 1873 happened.  Jim Graham got in a fight.  The following are excerpts taken from an article that appeared in the Potsdam, NY Courier Freeman in February 1874.:
Mr. Graham was indicted and arraigned in October last for manslaughter in the 3d degree. The killing occurred in the Blacksmith shop of Hughes & Rollin, in the village of Waddington, on the 28th day of August 1873. Mr. Hughes was a young man of limited means and his wife and small child, born since his death, were present in the court room the last day of the trial. Mr. Graham is a fine looking and appearing man, fifty years of age, with hair as white as the driven snow, and wears a care-worn and haggard look, caused we are told by those who are personally acquainted with him, by the anguish and grief which he has suffered since this sad misfortune befell him. Graham & Hughes had not been on friendly terms for several weeks before the encounter.  Their enmity arose from a difference in opinion in regard to a buggy waggon, which Hughes had made or ironed for Graham in the summer of 1873. Upon taking the wagon home, Mr. Graham was so dissatisfied with the looks of the dash, that he determined to have it fixed; instead of going to Hughes to get it fixed, he went to another man.
Henry Rollins sworn: Reside in Waddington; was a partner of John Hughes, deceased, in the blacksmith business; have known James Graham five or six years; was present at blacksmith shop, Aug. 28th, 1873, when Graham came into the shop and asked me if his oarlock was done; I told him no, but to sit down a few minutes and I would do it for him; Graham took a seat near the door; in a few minutes, Hughes, who was at work at another forge in the shop, spoke to Graham, and asked him if he'd seen Dalton's new buggy, that it was done and he'd better go down and look at it, and see if he couldn't find some fault with it, or with the dash; Graham replied that he had nothing to do with Dalton's business, but had all he could do to attend to his own; Hughes then called Graham a liar; Graham in reply called Hughes a liar; Hughes then called Graham a G-- d--n liar; Graham called Hughes a G-- d-- liar; Hughes called Graham a G-- d--m lying son of a bitch; Graham called Hughes a d-- lying son of a bitch; Hughes then called Graham a d--n lying thief; Graham got up then and said, Hughes, you must take that back. I am no thief; Hughes and Graham advanced towards each other; Hughes had his hammer drawn as if to strike; I stepped in between them, and tried to keep them from quarreling; Hughes said, keep the son of a bitch away, or I'll kill him. Graham pushed me aside and caught Hughes' hammer from his hand, and threw it under the desk; They then clinched, two or three times and let go; upon letting go the last time, Hughes picked up a buggy reach and struck Graham a full blow on the left hip; the blow staggered Graham, and turned him partly around; then Graham caught a sledge, standing near by and drew it up and threw it at Hughes, who was 9 or 10 feet distant; the sledge hit Hughes behind the left ear; Hughes fell unconscious; I went to Hughes, and said "Graham you have killed him;" he said I know it, and am sorry for it.
On the convening of the court Thursday morning, the case for the defence, was opened in a very able manner, by D. Magone Jr.  The defence was, that Graham when he threw the sledge had reasonable ground to fear that a felony would be committed upon him, or that great bodily injury would be inflicted upon him by Hughes, and that hence it was clearly a case of justifiable homicide, and Mr. Graham was legally justified in what he had done.

Thomas Myers sworn. Reside in Waddington; am a blacksmith; was at work for Rollin and Hughes in August last, was present during the affray... A few nights before the affray, Hughes and witness were passing Graham's store and Graham said "Good evening," after going by a little ways, Hughes said to me, "He need'nt say good evening to me, I'll fix him; I have been told to take a hammer, tongs or any thing else and beat his brains out."  James J. Myers sworn: Reside in Waddington; know John Hughes; had a conversation with him about Graham, in which Hughes said, "He wasn't afraid of Graham anywhere, and if ever he got into a row with him he would kill the d--m son of a bitch". This conversation was on the same day Hughes was killed.
Defence rests.
Leslie W. Russell then presented the case to the jury in behalf of the prisoner. His argument was able, complete and was attentively listened to by the jury, bar and the spectators who thronged the court room. At the reassembling of the court at 2 p. m. District Attorney Brinckerhoff presented the case to the jury in behalf of the people... It was of the best "jury efforts" we have ever had the pleasure of hearing in the St. Lawrence Circuit.
The jury took the case at 4 p. m. and went out. In thirty minutes they returned with a verdict of "not guilty," which was received with applause.
 So in August of 1873, Jim Graham killed John Hughes.  He was jailed until his trial in February of 1874, when he was acquitted.  In August of the following year, Nancy Donley (mom) passed away.  In October of that year, Jim Graham was back in court, being sued by the widow John Hughes for damages caused by killing her husband.  She was awarded $1,000, a huge some of money at that time.  The newspaper article reporting this civil trial recapped the original crime in a completely different light than the article above, painting Jim Graham as the irrational aggressor.  I would guess that many in the town had taken sides over the trial and the killing/murder.  In many ways similar to the the infamous OJ trial that most of us are familiar with.  It wouldn't surprise me if Jim Graham's grocery business was suffering by the time he was sued in 1875.  Shortly after the trial, Ann's closest sister, Bridget, passed away.  Around this time, Mary left the farm and moved to Chicago where Margaret was living.  John married, but within a couple of years sold the family farm and moved to Canada, where his wife was from.  Ann and Jim Graham left town, moving to Memphis, Michigan, where they took up farming.  All of a sudden, only Catherine Donnelly Gorman remained of the original Donnelly family.  Margaret and James did come back briefly to Waddington shortly before their deaths, and both passed away there in the 1900s.  And the Donnelly Gorman descendants remained, some of whom are there today.

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