The Murder of James Irving [or was it Ervin?] Comstock
Written by Kay Haden, August 2009, please email email@example.com for permission to reproduce or use the following narrative in any way.
James Irving Comstock
was my great, great grandfather’s brother.
He was born about 1837, probably in Perry County, TN. Censuses show his eldest son as Harvey, born
about 1857 in Missouri; James likely married Mary Elizabeth Stamps a year or
two earlier. The Comstocks moved from
Found as "Irvin Comstock" in 1860 McDonald Co MO Census.
Irvin was age 23, b.
Harvey, age 3 and James F. age 1, b. MO
In Hewett's ROSTER OF CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS, vol. IV, there is James "E." Comstock enlisted in MO 3rd Cavalry, Company I, along with Warren and William D.
Records show Jas E. Comstock enlisted by Capt. Clanton on 27 Aug 1862 - the
same day as his brothers William and Warren - at McDonald Co MO for 3 years or
the War. He was age 26. He was issued a horse valued at $100 and $10
worth of horse equipment. All three brothers enlisted in Capt. W. C. Clanton's
Apparently James took
his family to Franklin Co
The 1870 Census: Franklin Co, KS, Harrison Twp, p.98, Household 182.
James Comstock, age
34, Farmer, b. TN; Elisabeth age 31, b. TN.
There is a note in Comstock
Family in America, "James Irving Comstock went north during the Civil
War." This is a strange comment,
since he fought for the Confederates and then went to
Here is the 1880 Census:
Hayes, Franklin Co KA, p.66A
James E. Comstock, age 52, b. TN, Farmer. Father b. KY; mother b. TN
Mary E. Comstock, wife, age 41, born TN as were both her parents
James F., son age 21, born MO
Alonzo O. son age 14, b. KS
Elizabeth, daughter, age 9, b. KS
I found a most
bizarre statement in the manuscript papers of John A. Comstock at NEGHS which
included correspondence from Samuel Willett Comstock who also had a number of
Comstock letters gathered in the late 1800's by Noah D. Comstock for use in the
Comstock books by Noah's brother-in-law Cyrus B. Comstock. In listing the children of Ephraim Comstock,
Samuel W. noted by James’s name "supposed poisoned to death by
stepson". This made little sense
at the time because only one marriage had been indicated for James. There were those extra Stamps children in the
household in 1870, but they had not been there in 1860 and
The above manuscript
collection was also the origin of the death date and place for James. Since he was living in
James is said to have died 1893 Cedar Co. MO and youngest son William Decatur had married there prior to 1910 when he appears with a wife in the Census. I looked for the Comstock widow, Mary or Mary Elizabeth, in Cedar Co, 1900. Instead I found a Margaret E. Comstock, b. Nov 1841 in KY; she was a weaver of carpets. Obviously this was not Mary Elizabeth Stamps.
Found in Death
Mrs. Wallace, of Jerico, died of drinking from a poisoned well and members of the Comstock family are low. Mrs. Wallace was a sister to Mrs. Comstock and Thomas Petty, Jr. The Comstocks reside 1 1/2 miles NW of Jerico on the Thos. Brasher farm. Sterling Brasher, a son to Mrs. Comstock, is accused of the crime. [Oct 13} Wife of J. B. Wallace 1856-1893, Silas Clark Cemetery, Cedar Co.
With the above death notice, I have been able to discover a bit more. It appears the deaths of both Comstock and Mrs. Comstock's sister occurred in the fall of 1893. The plot thickens.
Larkin T. Brasher, b.
about 1841 in
I found the following marriage which took place at Jerico, Cedar Co. J. H. Erving married M. E. Brasher, 8 Jun 1888. Eventually I found trial documents which identify this man as the second husband of Margaret E. Petty Brasher; he divorced her. The trial notes also gave the marriage date of Comstock to Margaret E. Petty Brasher Ewing as 2 Dec 1892. The trial notes always give Comstock's name as "J. E. Comstock".
enough, there is another marriage at Jerico.
On 6 Nov 1893, Lizzie Comstock married J. B. Wallace, possibly her sister's
widower. Presumably, Lizzie is Margaret
E. Petty Brasher Comstock and the middle initial was for
Is it possible that both Margaret E.'s husband [Comstock] and sister [Mrs. Wallace] were poisoned so she could marry Mr. Wallace? The newspaper article referred to Margaret E.’s sister as wife of J. B. Wallace – the marriage of Lizzie Comstock was to J. B. Wallace, yet the trial documents list his name as J. W. Wallace. Since I cannot find supporting evidence the question of whether this was the same man or not cannot yet be answered.
My dear friend Paul Barker, found the Circuit Court case concerning the above deaths of both J. E. Comstock and Manerva Petty Wallace, and sent me copies of the pages in the file. I have abstracted and condensed them. Parentheses denote my own comments.
Coroner’s Inquest for J. E. Comstock.
On 12 Oct 1893, a Coroner’s Jury of six men met at the home of J. E. Comstock to view the body and determine the cause of death. Mr. Comstock had died on the 11th. Dr. J. P. Brasher duly sworn, said that J. E. Comstock had died of corrosive poisoning and that the stomach was enlarged as expected from such a death. Dr. C. C. Brownlee and Dr. L. C. Gates were also sworn in and agreed to the cause of death.
[Dr. Joseph P. Brasher was “kin” – he was a nephew of Mag’s, the son of her sister Rosey and her husband Isham Brasher.]
The widow, M. E. Comstock [most often referred to in these documents as Mag – I will use that name subsequently for her] also testified. The man had taken ill on Monday night, 9 October, 1893, at supper, as had her sister Minerva Wallace and herself. She had seen her son Sterling Brasher & some women on the Grave Yard Hill about a fourth of a mile from her house on that day. She described supper as cabbage, biscuits, butter, molasses, coffee & milk, and pumpkin butter. She said they had no poison about the house. John Ferell, hired hand, also testified to getting sick while eating supper on that night; He had seen Sterling Brasher gathering grapes on the Grave Yard Hill.
testified. He lived 4 miles North of the Comstock place.
On the 9th of October he was first at C. W. Brusters were he had spent the previous night. [Bruster was his
The conclusion of the Coroner’s Jury was that he “came to his death by Arsenic Poison administered by unknown parties”. Filed 20 Jan 1894 [at the trial of D. S. Brasher].
J. W. Davis, Justice of the Peace, attested to the above as well as the documents from the second Inquest below.
Coroner’s Inquest for Minerva Wallace
Jury of six men met 16 Oct 1893 over the body of Minerva Wallace [nee Petty],
at the Isham Brasher Grave Yard,
Dr. J. P. Brasher testified that he did not see Minerva Wallace during her last sickness. After examining the body he could not say what was the cause of death but he supposes it was corrosive poisoning. Dr. L. C. Gates said he did attend Minerva Wallace during her last sickness and judging from her actions and condition she died from the effects of Corrosive Poisoning, and still concurred after the Post Mortem exam of the body.
Brasher testified [brother
of the deceased Larkin Brasher, 1st husband of Mag]. He live a mile north
of the Bruster grave yard and about one fourth mill
from J. E. Comstock. On the 9th
of October he was home until about 1 or 2 PM then went to Jerico and returned
home about sunset. He had not been
inside the Comstock home for two or three years. He did not see anybody about the Comstock
farm on the 9th of October.
Thomas had been acquainted with Comstock for about four years [this
suggests Comstock had moved there maybe 1889].
Comstock had been cultivating the Old Lark Brasher farm in 1893; when
not farming, he hauled stove wood to Jerico to sell. One time he took wood off of the Grave Yard
which was on his [Brasher’s] farm. The farms join. [It appears that the brothers
Thomas and Larkin had adjoining farms, quite possibly both off the original
place of their father who was also a Thomas Brasher. There is today a Brasher Graveyard in
S. Brasher testified. He lived 5 miles
north of the Bruster graveyard. He again stated where he was on the 9th. The testimony was similar to that given at
Comstock’s Inquest. He did they arrived
at the Thos. Brasher grave yard about 12 o’clock and after going to McCrary’s
for water, they went back and got more grapes.
They did not go near the Comstock house on that day. J. E. Comstock came about half way between
the grave yard and the house to cut wood.
D. S. Brasher testified. [
Lydia Bruster testified that she had gone with the Brashers to their home and then to pick grapes on the 9th of October. She did say that D. S. Brasher was “out of our sight just a few minutes”, but “he did not have time to go to anybody’s house”. She didn’t know if D. S. Brasher kept any poison. She did not know of any threats being made about the Comstocks.
Lucindy King testified. She states that she was at the sick bed of
Minerva Wallace a little while Tuesday night, Oct 10 ’93. She was present about three years ago when
Mag Comstock and her son had some trouble about some corn. Lucindy said that
J. W. VanAllen testified that he did not visit the sick bed of Minerva Wallace, but he was acquainted her and with J. E. Comstock. He didn’t know of anybody that kept Poison. About four years ago he and J. H. Ewing and D. S. Brasher and Thos. Brasher had some trouble about some corn. He heard it rumored among the neighbors that A. Brasher [Aquilla Brasher, another brother to Thomas & Larkin] made the following threats, “that no person could tend his Brother Lark Brasher’s farm and live”, but VanAllen could not tell who repeated this. He had heard D. S. Brasher’s mother say that she had given him about one half of what she had and it seemed as though he wanted it all.
of J. H. Ewing [The first page of testimony has him as “C. H.” but all other
references are “J. H.” including his signature.] He was once the husband of M. E. Comstock but
was now divorced; he brought suit for the divorce. They didn’t have much trouble but her son and
all her connections were not willing that he should live with her. Her son and herself were
fussing over some property. Ewing went
to work on her farm but
The conclusion of the Coroner’s Jury was that Minervy Wallace, whose body was found at J. E. Comstock’s on the 10th of October, 1893, came to her death by corrosive poisoning administered by unknown parties.
Filed 20 Jan 1894.
Hearing. J. W. Davis, Justice of the Peace
Moran filed the Complaint, 17 Jan 1894.
D. S. Brasher and Minnie Brasher (his wife) did on the 9th
day of Oct. 1843 in said
List of Witnesses listed on the back of the Complaint: Mrs. M. E. Comstuck, Mrs. O. D. Oldham, Mrs. Wm Yorb. Miss Mary Yorb, Harrie Manley, B. B. Manley, R. M. Manley, Dr. L. C. Gates, Dr. C. C. Brownlee, Dr. J. E. Grant, Lucinda King, Lucinda Houston, Mrs. Lydie Stokes, Mrs. Dora Sheppard, Ollie Oldham, Chas. Martin, John Farrell, Willie Comstock [J. E.’s youngest son], Jacob Deardorff, Joseph Maphis, John McCreary, Mrs. McCreary, Sam. Petty [23 in all]
Warrant was issued for the arrest of D. S. Brasher and Minnie Brasher on the same day. Jacob Moran signed the return stating he done so.
D. S. Brasher and Minnie Brasher were arrested and brought before J. W. Davis, JP for examination which could not take place due to the absence of the Prosecuting Attorney until the 24th day of January, 1894, at 10:00 AM. They were committed to the Jail of said County to reamin until discharged according to law.
Witnesses Subpoened on January 18th to appear for the Plaintiff on 24 January, 1894.
Lucindia Houston [Mag’s sister]. The back of the Supoena
has the Constable’s Return. The usual
response was “I have executed the within Writ by reading to and in the hearing
of the within named”. Return: 19 January.
E. Comstock, Mrs. O. D. Oldham, Mrs. Wm. Yorb, Mary Yorb, Harrie Manley, B. B.
Manley, R. M. Manley, Dr. L. C. Gates, Dr. C. C. Brownlee, Dr. J. E. Grant,
Mrs. Liddie Stokes, Mrs. Dora Sheppard, Ollie Oldham,
Chas. Martin, John Farrell, John Deardorff, Joseph Maphis, John McCreary, Mrs. McCreary and Sam Petty and Loucinda King. Return:
22nd January. Josiah
Supoena for Witness, dated 22 Jan 1894, to appear on the 24th, also for the Plaintiff.
G. W. Prewett, Mrs. G. W. Presett, Mrs. Eunice Powell, and John Welch. Returned on the 23rd by Josiah Six,
HEARING. 24 January 1894
The State of
Jacob Moran presented the case, restating the above complaint, that D. S. and Minnie Brasher did on the 9the of Oct 1893, feloniously, willfully, deliberately, premediatably and of their malice aforethought killed and murdered with a corrosive poison, J. E. Comstock and Minerva Wallace. Said poison was mixed and mingled into and with a certain quantity of food and drink.
His list of Witnesses was half as many: Mrs. Mag Comstock. Mrs. Oldham. Ollie Oldham. Harry Manley. B. B. Manley. Dr. Gates. Dr. Brownlee. Dr. Grant. Jacob Deordorff. John Ferrell. Joe Maphis.
Testimony for the Prosecution
The depositions are shown here in the order in which I received them. Some seem to perhaps not be in the order in which the testimony was actually made.
Deposition of M. E. Comstock. [each witness was sworn in and said to be of lawful age]
Stated name as Margaret E. Comstock, age 52 years. She was staying at Mr. John Wallace’s and had been for about 3 months [Is this her brother-in-law, husband of Minerva?]. Her husband was James Ervin; he died Oct 11 ’93. He took sick on the 9th of Oct. Those present at supper were herself, her husband, Minervia Wallace, John Farrell, and Willie Comstock. Minvervia was her sister; she died at Mag’s house on the 10th of Oct. Both had J. E. and Minerva had left the table and gone out separate doors, both vomiting and very ill. The boy Willie came back in the house and told Mag her husband needed her. Willie said his throat was burning. John Farrell came from the barn; he did not complain of being sick [his own testimony will state he was]. They got Mr. Comstock to bed but he said some wicked person had poisoned them and they would all be dead before morning. She gave him egg whites, warm sweet milk. She gave him ground mustard and salt water before the Dr. came. [interesting treatments for vomiting] She sent the hired hand [Farrell] to Mr. McCreary’s and he went after the Dr.
Dr. Gates came after midnight. Mag went out of the house and vomited. She was also sick and had taken some ground mustard. Some seemed to suffer more than others; her husband more intensely than any. My sister died the next morning about 5 in the morning on Tuesday the 10th. Her husband grew worse and she was present when he died on the 11th. Mag got better during the first night. Mrs. McCreary was there and fixed some breakfast on the morning of the 10th. Coffee and baked biscuit. Mrs. McCreary and Mag both took sick after breakfast. Mrs. McCreary went into hard fits and vomited.
On the morning of the 9th, Mag cooked breakfast tolerable early – butter, bread & coffee, some preserves. Her sister was not there, the other four were. Willie went to school. Mr. Comstock went to the clearing to work and away from the house all fore-noon; the hired hand was with him. They left the house together. I was weaving down at the barn. I got dinner that day for Mr. Comstock, John Ferrell, and myself about 12 o’clock – cornbread, coffee, butter & molasses, apple, also milk. She put the molasses in the molasses pitcher and in the safe; the soda on top of the safe. She put soda in the bread for dinner. The flour was kept upstairs in a barrel; she used flour out of the barrel that morning for biscuits. The same molasses pitcher went on the supper table.
After dinner Mag continued weaving at the barn. She pulled doors to before she left the house. The kitchen had two outside doors, east & west, and one middle door to the south. The barn is south a little west of the house. While weaving her face was east and the back yard to the west. She was under the shed of the barn. She would have had to turn her head to see the house. She wove until four o’clock and then went in; her sister came while she was weaving. She came from her house. She had not been to my house before she came to where I was weaving. [I assume she means on that day; surely her sister had been to her house before at some point.] I may have been up to the house once in the afternoon but cannot say if I was. The boy had not returned from school. The doors of the house were open when my sister and I went to the house.
Supper was cabbage, baked apples, coffee, milk, bread, butter, and molasses. The flour came from the same barrel as for breakfast and used the same molasses and soda. She couldn’t remember if anybody ate any apples. The cabbage was fried and came from the patch on Sunday morning. Mag drank milk for supper, so did the little boy & John Farrell. Manervia and J. E. Comstock drank coffee. [Seems to me that the coffee, made with water, seems to be a common element between supper & those who were the most ill, and breakfast – was the water poisoned? However, if the Ruff for Rats was used, the powder might have mixed better with the soda or flour. The molasses also seem to be a common factor and the strong taste might have covered up the taste of the poison.]
saw three persons on the graveyard hill on the evening of the 9th,
about 1 pm. My husband asked me if I
knew who they were. The Graveyard Hill
is about a quarter from my house; they wer 50 yds nearer the house than the graveyard and they were going
West. I could not tell if they had
anything in their hands. My husband did
not say if he knew them. I did not know
whether I knew them or not; I thought they were my daughter-in-law Minnie
Brasher and Mollie Brasher [Mollie was probably Mary, wife of Thomas who owned
the graveyard property – but it was Minnie’s mother instead] and did not know
the other one. I am the mother of D. S.
Brasher; he will be 25 on the 4th of March 1894. His father was my first husband. I have no other children by that
marriage. I have been married twice
since – Mr. Ewing and Comstock. I have
had no other children. Sterling Brasher
was born in the house where the poisonings took place. I married Comstock on the 2nd of
could not testify to the parties on the Graveyard Hill. She did not see Sterling Brasher that day
that she knows of. [Considering Minnie
She described her house as a story and a half with four doors, two on each side, two out of each room. One window in the north in the kitchen. Timber close to the house on the north & west. Graveyard is almost south. Timber on the north is very thick about as close as 50 yards.
didn’t know how far away
J. E. Comstock did not complain of being sick until after he ate supper. He said he had a strange feeling as if something was going to happen to him, just before eating. My sister was in poor health and had vomited before supper; she had not eaten dinner at my house that day. [I wonder if she had “tasted” anything prior to supper…]
[There are signatures on these documents. When Mag testified at J. E. Comstock’s Inquest [and was ill herself], her signature is scribbled and uneven. It was very clear on this deposition. Enough of the letters are made the same that it is definitely her handwriting.]
Deposition of Dr. L. C. Gates
Dr. Gates lived in Jerico. On the 9th of Oct about 2 in the morning he was called to see a family that was supposed to be poisoned at the home of Mr. Comstock. [If it was 2 am – it was already the 10th of Oct]. The following parties were sick: J. E. Comstock, M. E. Comstock, Minerva Wallace, and Willie Comstock. [He did not mention the hired hand, John Farrell. However, Mr. Farrell did not live on the Comstock place.]. Mr. Comstock and Mrs. Wallace were in a very dangerous condition. Mrs. Wallace died in about two hours after I got there. He treated them all for arsenical poison, which is a species of corrosive poison. Mrs. Died shortly after Dr. Gates left. In his judgment, she died of arsenical poison. He was there and back two or three times afterward and met Dr. Brasher and Dr. Brownlee there. He treated Mr. McCreary at the Comstocks on the morning of the 10th. He was not present when Mr. Comstock died; he was present at the inquest. He did not make any special examination of the contents of his stomach; he looked at it. Gates was present when the stomach was removed. Mineral poison leaves a high degree of congestion and there was evidence of congestion in the stomach of J. E. Comstock.
Deposition of Dr. C. C. Brownlee
Dr. Brownlee had lived at Jerico all his life. He was not acquainted with J. E. Comstock, but did know Minerva Wallace. He attended Mr. Comstock on Oct 10th between 9 and 10 o’clock, at the place called the Lark Brasher farm. Mr. Comstock was in a state of collapse. His extremities cold and heart beat very weak. He made three visits, but on the fourth he found Comstock dead. I concluded he came to his death by corrosive poison, possibly arsenic. He prescribed also for Mrs. Comstock and Mrs. McCreary. Other physicians there were Dr. Brasher and Dr. Gates. Mr. Comstock came to his death by the effects of the poison.
Brownlee was present at the inquest of Mr. Comstock, but not Mrs. Wallace. Dr. Brasher asked him if he would go to
Deposition of John Ferrell [his name spelled variously as Farell, Ferrell, Ferel, etc.]
John Ferell lived at McLeod. He knew Comstock about a year before his death. Ferell works by the day and was working for Comstock in October of ’93. He was not acquainted with Minerva Wallace. He was at J. E. Comstock’s when he died and knew when he took sick. They were eating at the table and the old lady asked him why he did not eat. We eat on and I began to feel sick too. I put my finger down my throat and vomited. The rest of them were pretty bad off too. The old Lady called me and we put him in bed. She told me to go to McCreary’s and get him to go after the doctor. I eat cabbage and biscuit, some apples, drank some coffee and am not sure but what I some milk. I got worse before morning.
He drank considerable water before breakfast – he was quite thirsty. He chopped cordwood before dinner and Mr. Comstock was with me; we were southeast of the house. Mr. Comstock and I went to dinner together. Mrs. Comstock was weaving in the shop. Me Comstock and I loaded up some wood and he took it to Jerico and I went to chopping wood. I went to the house about 6 pm; all the home folks were there including Mrs. Wallace.
I saw someone around the farm that day between 12 and 1 o’clock; I saw Sterling Brasher, his wife and mother-in-law on Graveyard hill. Mr. Comstock saw them also. This was before I went to work after dinner. The inquest of J. E. Comstock was on Wednesday. Sterling Brasher was there; I did have a conversation with him on the day of the Inquest.
Sterling Brasher told me they were suspicious of him doing this. He asked if I saw them up there and I said I did. He said he had a notion to holler at me. I told him I would swear that he was on the hill. He said they were hunting grapes. The last conversation he wanted me to go home with him. I had been up on that hill the Sunday before that happened; there wasn’t any grapes there that I could see.
Ferell was 34 years old. He had talked to the State Attorney and to
other before he came to town in the last month.
He had talked to the Detectives; he forgot their names. He didn’t know how much he would get for
coming here. He had lived here almost a
year; he came from
It is wrong to tell a lie. There is a place for men who tell lies. It is called Hell. They came after me, set the day for it and I came. They read a warrant or something to me and I came. I had to come I guess. I said I had talked to no one except the two State Attorneys since I came her. No one has promised to pay me for coming here. Yes sir, the old man told me who they were on the Graveyard Hill. Old man Comstock told me it was Sterling Brasher, his wife and mother-in-law.
[Mag had testified that she didn’t know for sure who was on the hill that day and she assumed Comstock didn’t either because he didn’t say.] I am not telling this because Mr. Younger and Mr. Ditty told me to. I am trying to tell the truth.
All I know about the people on the Graveyard Hill Mr. Comstock told me. The reason why I told Sterling Brasher I would swear it was him was because I heard it was him.
Deposition of Lucindy King
Lucindy King was acquainted with D. S. Brasher & Mrs. M. E. Comstock. She knew J. E. Comstock. She had known Mrs. Comstock about five years. She was at Mr. Comstock’s on Tuesday night after their poisoning on Monday night. She was present just after the inquest of Minervia Wallace at the Isham Brasher Graveyard; she was not present at the inquest of J. E. Comstock. She lived Mrs. Comstock about two years; it had been about a year since she lived with her. She had been with her since D. S. Brasher married; between the time of the separation of her from Mr. Ewing and her marriage to J. E. Comstock. I left in the Spring and she married Mr. Comstock in the winter following. I do not know of any violence of D. S. Brasher toward his mother only once he pushed his mother down. I told him to stop abusing his mother and he said he would kill her or have the corn. Another time he told his mother that he had just as soon kill her as to kill a snake, but I suppose he did not mean it; he was mad.I was there at the Inquest of Minerva Wallace, at the time of the taking the testimony. D. S. Brasher, his wife, and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Brewster were present. I did not here any conversation between D. S. Brasher & his wife at that tim. I heard him ask his wife if she was scared at the time she testified and she said no. I heard D. S. Brasher and his mother Mrs. Brewster [obviously should have been mother-in-law] talking that day. Mrs. Brewster asked Brasher what he would do if she should turn traitor on him and she said, No, I won’t do that. D. S. Brasher’s face turned pale.
Lucinday was 38 years old the last August. She was not married. She had a sister who she was living
with. She lived there about 8 years and
take opium sometimes when I have the New Ralgia
eye sight is not good. I could not be
mistaken in what Mrs. Brewster said to
I am 38 years old. I use opium and have about eight years. The Dr. recommended it to me and afterwards I got in a habit of it. I use it more when I have the new Ralgia.
Deposition of Sarah McCreary
knew D. S. & Minnie Brasher. She
knew J. E. Comstock and Minerva Wallace during their leftime. She lives ¾ of a mile from the Comstock
farm. She visited the family about 10 PM
on the night of 9 Oct 1893. Mrs. Wallace
and Mr. Comstock were very sick. Mrs.
Comstock was sick, but able to wait on the rest. Willie Comstock was vomiting. I stayed all night. I cooked breakfast the next morning and ate
there. I made biscuits, coffer, and had
butter and molasses. She part of a
biscuit and drank part of a cup of some and turned sick and begin
to vomit at the table. I was sick and it
left me and came again; I was sick about six days. I had conversations with D. S. Brasher and
his wife during the summer. I do not
remember what they said about the note, they were talking about it. I heard them speak about the law.
I have no remembrance as to what he called the medicine. That was in the year 1891, three years ago last Spring.
Deposition of Mary J. Welch
lived two miles south of Jerico; she was age 47. She was acquainted with Minerva Wallace, but
not J. E. Comstock. She had known
Sterling Brasher and his wife quite awhile.
Mary was at the Comstock home of the 10th of Oct. ’93,
arrived there about 9 or 10 am and left about 5 pm. Mrs. Wallace was dead when I got there and
the rest of the family sick. Sterling
Brasher came there that day about 2 pm.
Mary did not see Minnie Brasher that day. She went back to Comstock’s the next
morning. Mr. Comstock was dead; Mrs.
Comstock still sick. D. S. Brasher and
his wife were there on the 11th.
Mrs. Comstock was in bed.
left about 2 pm [earlier she said 5 pm] and told Minnie she should let the baby
go in and see its grandmamma. Minnie said
her Mag to keep her darn mouth shut.
was the wife of John O. Welsh.
Deposition of Sam Petty
was age 31 and lived in Jerico. He knew
D. S. Brasher. He knew Mrs. Comstock as
she was his aunt. He had worked for her
covering her barn on the Comstock farm about eight years ago. Her son
He thinks Brasher is about 24 years old – he was about 15 or 16 when the trouble took place. The board was an old fashion board made with a froe. There was about 4 inches of snow on the ground. The first time I saw the board, he had it in his hand. I did not interfere. He hit her kinder on the back or shoulder, not a very vicious lick. I didn’t interfere because I didn’t think it would amount to much. I don’t remember if he went to the dance or not. Mrs. Comstock has a very good temper, when she is not mad. I and Mrs. Comstock had a little trouble about some corn and I got away from there and let her have her own way about it. Signed: S. H. Petty
[Samuel H. Petty was the son of Mag’s brother Samuel P. Petty.]
Deposition of Joseph Maphis
was age 43. He knew M. E. Comstock and
D. S. Brasher. He was constable of
Deposition of G. W. Prewett
Mr. Prewitt said he was in Jerico on the 9th of Oct, ’93. He left home about 3 pm and got home between 4 and 5 pm. He knows D. S. Brasher when he sees him and he saw him that evening as he went towards his home. His wife and mother-in-law was with him in a wagon.
Prewitt is not sure as to the time of he left Jerico and the time he got home
Deposition of Dr. J. P. Brasher
He was a physician, acquainted with J. E. Comstock and Minerva Wallace during their lifetime. He was in attendance at the Comstock poisoning diagnosed as arsenical poising. Mr. Comstock died. From arsenical poisoning in my judgment.
He was familiar with the Comstock farm and judged it worth about $800-$1000.
He was in attendance at the Inquest of both Mr. Comstock and Mrs. Wallace. D. S. Brasher was present at the Inquest of Mr. Comstock. He did not examine Mrs. Comstock as to her condition to give testimony at the Inquest.
I did not hear D. S. Brasher tell his mother to be very careful as to what she testified to. Brasher lived about three miles from the Comstock farm.
Additional Subpoena issued to W. W. Moore and George Crosson. Dated 25 Jan 1894, and says they are to appear that day. Returned by Josiah Six, Constable, Chas. Six, Deputy. The following depositions taken on the 25th.
Deposition of George Crosson
Crosson was acquainted with Sterling Brasher but did not know Mr. Comstock. He was a juror at the Inquest held over the remains of J. E. Comstock. D. S. Brasher was present. The testimony of Mrs. Comstock was taken while she was in bed. Just prior to her testimony, I heard Sterling Brasher caution his mother about her testimony. He spoke in a loud whisper and told her to be very careful as to how she testified. He repeated this once or twice over. He said be very careful, or they will catch or bother you. Brasher gave his testimony at the Inquest also. I was about six feet from them and heard them very plainly.
Deposition of Jacob Moran
Jacob was 42 years old. He had been at the, 1 or 2 or 3 times, of J. E. Comstock’s. From the house to the foot of the Graveyard Hill is 200 steps. The Hill is Southeast from the house. The ground on which the House is situated is higher than the ground at the foot of the hill. The incline of the ground is to the southeast. The Graveyard appears to be on top of the Hill, surrounded by timber. The land East of the Comstock house is open. There is an orchard on the North of the house. There is timber on the north and west of the house, outside of the fence.
The timber on the west is about 15 yards from the house and extends towards the south as far as the Graveyard Hill. The parties on the Graveyard Hill could obtain a fair view of the house. The barn is 50-60 yards from the house. I made the affidavit in the case against the Defendant. I also served the Warrant on them about 10 o’clock on the 17th of Jan 1894.
He has lived in Lamar, about 21 years except for about 5 years. He became acquainted with the case about the 18-20th of last December. He has been acting as a private detective in connection with John Moran and Henry Baker. Henry Baker lives in Lamar; he is Deputy Constable. He is a man of a family, I am not. This is the first case as a Dectective.
He did not if Baker ever acted as Dectative before or not. He heard the case talked about and was idle at that time. He heard his brother John Moran and Mr. Baker talking about it. He judges it was about 70 yards from the foot of the Hill to the Graveyard on top of the Hill.
Deposition of W. W. Moore
The rest of the jury was in the room at the time he said this to his mother. I do not think he spoke in a whisper but rather low. George Crosson was present as a Juror.
The Attorneys for the State announced that “the State rests” after which it was moved by the Atty. For the defense that the Defendants be released for the reason that the State had not produced sufficient evidence to convict. After which the Justice dismissed the case as to Minnie Brasher and directed the case to proceed as to D. S. Brasher.
Testimony of the Defense
25th January 1894. Some of the depositions at the end appear to be re-direct testimony as they weren’t particularly beneficial to the defense.
Deposition of M. E. Comstock
Stated whe was the mother of Sterling Brasher. She was in bed when she testified at the Comstock Inquest; D. S. Brasher was present. She asked for him to stay in the room with me. He never spoke to her or cautioned her about her testimony. He may not have known she was going to testify, because she didn’t know it herself. Dooley Shumate, Lon Hall, Joseph Carrico, and Geo. Crosson were there. She said, “I am tolerably easily irritated, or my temper easily raised. I have had so much trouble in my life.”
She did not know what these men came in her room to say – she was pretty sick them. She didn’t know if she could remember everything that took place that day. She is tolerably high tempered, but not of a quarrelling disposition. Mothers generally have trouble in raising their children. She has had difficulty with her son as all mothers do. There was trouble over some corn; she remembered no trouble over a note. He came to her and wanted her to get the note and the Bank refused to give them up. She doesn’t know if he ever shoved her; he may have. He has pushed her, but never knocked her down. He has not ever whipped her. He has never threatened to kill her, or if he did she never heart of it. She had never accused her son of poisoning one of her horses. [This last statement is odd and seems to have come out of thin air. Of course, it’s possible not all of the testimony exists.]
Deposition of Dr. J. P. Brasher [dated 26 Jan 1894- they’ve gone into the 3rd day]
was present at the Comstock Inquest. In
regard to taking the testimony of Mrs. Comstock – he had gone in and requested
them all to go out, and they all did but
I do know the effects of opium on the human mind. He had sold Miss King opium. He doesn’t know how much she uses per week. He had treated her during her sickness. She takes about 20 grams per day; one gram is considered a full dose. Miss King suffers from mental aberration. She is at times more intoxicated from the opium than others. [obviously an attempt to discredit Lucinda King’s testimony]
Opium sells for about 40¢ an ouce – there are 480 grams in an ounce. Dr. Brasher had seen her when he did not notice any aberration at all.
Deposition of Alonzo Hall
Lon Hall stated his age as 33; he lived in Jerico. He was a member of the Jury at the Comstock Inquest. He remembered that the room was cleared before taking the testimony of Mrs. Comstock. He was not sure if he saw Sterling Brasher at the bed as we went in, but he thinks he did. He thinks he was one of the last getting into the room.
did not hear or see
Deposition of R. D. Shumate
Shumate was 39 and lived in Jerico; he was a member of the Jury at the Comstock
Inquest. The room was cleard before taking the testimony of Mrs. Comstock. Dr. Brasher came and asked if
Sterling Brasher was not at the bed as we went in – he was some 2 or 3 feet from the bed and was going out.
Deposition of J. S. Six
Mr. Six was 61. He went to Comstock’s residence as necessary after the poisoning. He knows John Farrell and had a conversation with him that day. He told me he was chopping on the Hill in the forenoon, and after noon, the old man had taken wood to Jerico and he chopped wood and that he did not see anyone about the farm on the day of the 9th of Oct 1893, but the family, except Mrs. Wallace and she came in the afternoon.
Dock Manley was present when the conversation took place; he began it. Nobody asked Farrell if saw anybody on the Graveyard Hill that day; it was simply if he saw anybody about the place.
Liddie Bruster was age 62 and the mother of Minnie Brasher. She was present at the Inquest of Mrs. Wallace and saw Lucindy King there. She did not have the conversation with her son that Miss King testified to that I had on that day. I did not say anything of the kind.
Oldham was at my house when Mrs. Wilcoxin brought the
Deposition of C. C. Brownleed, M. D.
Dr. Brownlee was age 23 and was a physician at Jerico. He assisted in the treatment of the Comstocks when they were sick. Dr. Gates forbid the use of everything but the water, except cleaning the vessels, and when Dr. Brasher came we thought it best not to us it at all, as the Poison might settle on the vessels. Dr. Brasher was present at noon when we gave instructions not to use the water.
Persons who are addicted to Opium in excessive doses, are subject to olluciveness [sic – hallucination?] and aberration of the mind.
Deposition of Mrs. M. A. Oldham
was age 54 and knows Mrs. Bruster, the mother-in-law
of D. S. Brasher. She had a conversation
with her on the 10th of Oct ’93 regarding the Comstock poisoning at
her gate. She was passing and she and
her daughter, Mrs. Wilcoxin, came out and were
crying. I asked them what was the matter. Mrs. Bruster said the Devil had turned loose on the Comstock
family, were all poisoned, and she also said that Minerva Wallace was dead and
that old man Comstock was not expected to live.
I said that was a terrible affair, it was a pity. She said that she hoped to God that they
would everyone die. I told her that I
did not hope no such a thing. She said that they were a mean set, that
there was nothing to mean for them to do.
She said she had rather that Mrs. Wallace and Mrs. McCreary had not got
the poison but they ought not to have been there. She said Malissie
[must be the daughter, Mrs. Wilcoxin] had come to let
her know that people were accusing
The Brusters have treated me cruelly and I do not like them very well. Moran told me that if I would tell him what I knew about the case, that he would not ever use me as a witness. I always got along with Sterling Brasher. It has been several years since I had the first difficulty with the Bruster family.
Bruster and myself are
members of the
Deposition of R. M. Manley
This remark was made by a woman as well as I could tell.
Deposition of Geo. Crosson
Bond of Prisoner
These were poor people. Brasher’s bond was set at $2000. It took a long list of people to guarantee this amount.
D. S. Brasher, as principal, and M. E. Comstock, Lucindy
Houston, C. W. Bruster, J. S. Six, J B. Carrico, Jr., C. W. Brownlee, W. R. Hall, W. T. Brasher, R.
D. Shumate, J. P. Brasher, W. F. Mitchell, F. M. Bruster,
C. W. Sheppard, S. P.Collins,
Sr., W. S. Pickett. T. L. Bickley and J. A. McNeal,
as sureties, acknowledge ourselves to owe and be indebted to the State of
Witness our hands and Seals, this the 26th day of January AD 1894.
Signatures: D. S. P. Brasher, Mag E. Comstock, Loucinda Houston, C. W. Bruster, J. S. Six, J. B. Carrico, Jr., C. W. Brownlee, W. R. Hall, W. T. Brasher, R. D. Shumate, J. P. Brasher, W. F. Mitchell, F. M. Bruster, C. W. Sheppard, S. P. Collins (Sen.), W. S. Pickett, T. L. Beckley, J. A. McNeil
Witness: J. M. Whitsell, ?Thos (x) Brasher
I hereby certify that the foregoing recognizance was taken and acknowledged before me this the 16th day of January 1894. J. W. Davis, Justice of the Peace
Bond of Witnesses
We, G. W. Pruitt, Henry Baker, John Moran, Mrs. John Welch, Jacob Moran, Mrs. M. E. Comstock, Mrs. O. J. Oldham, Mary York, Lucinda King, Mrs. Liddie Stokes, B. B. Manley, R. M. Manley, Dr. L. C. Gates, Mrs. Dora Shephard, John Ferell, Jos. Maphis, Mrs. Jno McQuery, Sam Petty, George Crosson, and W. W. Moore, severally acknowledge ourselves to owe and be indebted to the State of Missouri in the sum of One Hundred Dollars, each for himself alone. But to be void upon this condition. That the said …[same list of names] …shall each personally be and appear before the Circuit Court of the County of Cedar on the first day of the next term thereof then and there to give evidence and the truth to peak on behalf of the State in relation to a charge against D. S. Brasher for murder and not depart the Court without leave, then the this recognizance to be void; otherwise to be in force.
From our hands and seals, this 26th day of January 1894.
Signed: John Ferel,
I hereby certify that the foregoing Bond was taken and acknowledged before me this the 26th day of January 1894. J. W. Davis, Justice of the Peace
Summary from J. W. Davis, Justice of the Peace
J. W. Davis recapped his Docket.
17 Jan 1894 Jacob Moran filed his complaint against D. S. & Minnie Brasher for the murder of J. E. Comstock & Minervia Wallace
17 Jan 1894 Warrant issued for arrest of D. S. & Minnie Brasher. Deputized Jacob Moran to make the arrest.
Jan 1894 Jacob Moran arrested D. S.
& Minnie Brasher and brought them before
18 Jan 1894 Subpoenas issued for the plaintiff and delivered to the Constable of Benton Township and made returnable on the 24th of Jan 1894
22 Jan 1894 Issued additional subpoenas for the plaintiff and delivered to Josiah Six, Constable of Benton Township, returnable on the 24th of Jan 1894
25 Jan 1894 Issued subpoenas for the Plaintiff on W. W. Moore and Geo. Crosson and delivered to the Constable and made returnable forthwith.
24 Jan 1894 The Prosecuting Atty and Atty Ditty for the State and the Defendants and their atty, T. T. Zay, announced they were ready for trial. The Defendants waived the reading of the complaint. The witnesses for the State were sworn in, after which the Justice took the testimony and reduced it to writing and have it has been read and subscribed to by the said witnesses.
And the Justice having heard the evidence, finds that an offense has been committed as charged and there is probable cause to suspect and believe D. S. Brasher, one of the Defendants is guilty thereof. D. S. brasher requested to enter into bond in the sum of $2000 for his appearance before the Circuit Court of Cedat Co, on the first day of the next term to answer said charge. Brasher did enter Bond as well as the witnesses entered Bond for $100 each.
Minnie Brasher was released and acquitted and given leave to “go hence without delay”.
Signed 27 Jan 1894.
were enumerated. The amounts paid the
witnesses were for the number of days they attended Court and for the miles
traveled. A little math revealed each
witness was paid 50¢ a day and 5¢ a mile for travel. Thirty-three witnesses were paid, most of
them for the three days of court. Travel
was surely for the round trip each day and was paid only for those that were
present all three days – perhaps for some that came further they remained in
town throughout the hearing. Most were
paid for 4, 6, or 10 miles. Willie
Comstock was paid for 3 days and for 60 miles, although there was no testimony
given by Willie [Willie was about 11 years old at the time – he is so much
younger than his siblings, I’ve wondered if he was a grandson that J. E. was
raising, although J. E. had no deceased sons at this time. If Mary Elizabeth Stamps, first wife of J. E.
was his mother, she would have been about age 44 when he was born, so that is
feasible. It’s evident from the mileage
that Willie was not living with Mag Comstock, but must have gone to live with
one of his brothers or sisters after J. E. Comstock died.] Another witness that had to travel a greater
distance was Lucinda Houston, Mag’s sister who had married William Houston –
she traveled 130 miles – her subpoena had gone to
transcript of the entries in
March Term - 1894, Circuit Court,
Grand Jury Indictment
Grand Jurors were sworn and charged to inquire within and upon their oath present and charge D. S. Brasher with the poisoning and murders of J. E. Comstock and Minerva Wallace. The exact corrosive poison was unknown to the grand jury, as was the amount, or the food or drink into which it was placed. “A True Bill” was found. W. W. Younger was prosecuting Attorney, H. M. Williams, Foreman of the Grand Jury.
Indictment for Murder, filed 12 Mar 1893
Forty-two Witnesses were listed on the back of the Grand Jury Indictment, some had not previously testified; it did not specify for which side they would testify.
M. E. Comstock, John Ferrell, John McCreary, Samuel C. Myers, Sarah McCreary, Mary York, Dr. L. C. Gates, Dr. C. C. Brownlee, Dr. J. P. Brasher, Dr. J. E. Grant, A. E. Arnold, George Crosson, W. W. Moore, Jas. Ball, Lucinda King, B. M. Manley, B. B. Manley, Ollie Oldham, Mrs. O. J. Oldham, Lida Stokes, John Stokes, Joseph Maphis, J. H. Ewing, Maggie Ewing, Mrs. Wm. York, G. W. Prewit, Mrs. G. W. Prewit, Wm. Robinson, Harry Manley, Sam Petty, Mrs. Emma Powell, Jack Dale, W. R. Lakey, Mrs. M. J. Welch, H. S. Baker, John Moran, Jacob Moran, Jessie Herron, Willie Comstock, John Wallace, Lorenzy Buckley, W. W. Gaston
the case of the State of
Circuit Court, March Term, 1894
W. Younger, Prosecuting Attorney asked for a continuance. On that day, March 15, 1894, the indictment
had been found against the defendant and he entered his plea of not
guilty. No witnesses had yet been subpoened, and as they resided in Cedar, Barton,
On the 15th of March, a Subpoena was issued to A. M. Heifner & John McCreary to appear forthwith to the Circuit Court on the part of the plaintiff [the State]. R. S. Holman, Sheriff of Cedar Co. carried out the subpoena. There is no indication of the purpose.
To appear at the Court House in
Mrs. Lucinda Huston, for the Defendant. Issued 13 Sep 1894.
Note: Jasper Co attorney thinks she lives at
After diligent search she was found not to be in Jasper Co. [she must have returned to Cedar Co. – another subpoena issued on the 25th of September]
Subpoena to witnesses in Cedar Co. for the following on behalf of the Defendant. Dated 13 Sep 1894. C. C. Wheller, Farnk Brasher, Mrs. G. P. Higgins, Wm. Brownlee, Mrs. L. C. Bruster, Miss Laura Deardorff, Miss Emma McNeil, J. W. Ford, Jos. Maphis, John Six, Robert Nethery, Mrs. Robert Nethery, J. A. McNiel, Thos. Brasher, Jr., Thos. Brasher, Sr., F. M. Bruster, Alonzo Hall, J. B. Carrico, Jr., W. R. Hall, J. P. Brasher, Mrs. D. S. Brasher, C. W. Brownlee, Sr., Mrs. C. W. Brownlee, Mrs. M. E. Comstock, Thos. Amos, Mrs. Ida Hall.
Dated 13 Sep 1894. R. S. Holman, Shff of Cedar Co signed that he issued the subpoenas on the 17th & 18th of September to each of the parties.
Subpoena to witnesses in Cedar Co. for the following on behalf of the Plaintiff. Dated 14 Sep 1894. M. E. Comstock, John Ferrell, John McCreary, Samuel C. Meyers, Sarah McCreary, Mary York, Dr. L. C. Gates, Dr. C. C. Brownlee, Dr. J. P. Brasher, J. E. Grant, John Stokes, J. H. Ewing, Maggie Ewing, Wm. Robinson, Harry Manley, Mrs. Emma Powell, W. R. Lakey, John Wallace, W. W. Gaston, A. E. Arnold, George Crossen, W. W. Moore, Jas. Ball, Lucinda King, R. M. Manley, B. B. Manley, Ollie Oldham, Mrs. O. J. Oldham, Lida Stokes, Joseph Maphis, Mrs. Wm York, G. W. Pruitt, Mrs. Pruitt, Sam Petty, Jack Dale, Mrs. M. J. Welch, Lorenzy Beckley.
Sheriff R. S. Holman served the supoenas on the 17th & 18th of September.
could not find the following in his county:
John Ferrell, John McCreary, Sarah McCreary, Saml. C. Meyers, W.
Subpoena to Lamar, Barton Co, to witnesses dated 14 Sep 1894, on behalf of the Plaintiff. H. S. Baker, John Moran, and Jacob Moran. Return of the Barton Co Sheriff on 22 Sep 1894 said he did not find H. S. Baker in his county.
to Norris, Henry Co, MO. R. B. Smith,
Mrs. R. B. Smith, Miss Della Smith, dated 14 Sep 1894, on behalf of the
plaintiff. James E. Bennett, Sherrif of Henry Co, served the subpoena on the 28th
of September. He did not find Della
Smith. He did send a letter on his very
nice office letterhead which included a picture of the courthouse of Henry Co.,
explaining that Della Smith was visiting somewhere either at Holden or
to Nevada, Vernon Co, MO, dated 14 Sep 1894, to Jessie Herron and Willie
Comstock on behalf of the plaintiff. Pencilled in by Herron’s name is “
Subpoena to E. M. and Josie Brewer of Stottsberry, Vernon Co, MO, dated 21 Sep 1894 for the plaintiff. Served the 26th of Sept, E. M. Scroghan, Shff, by E. A. Ewing, Deputy.
Subpoena to R. D. Shumate, R. C. Ball Sr., & Lucinda Houston, dated 25 Sep 1894, on behalf of the defendant. Same was served on the 27th, by the Cedar Co Sheriff, R. S. Holman
Subpoena to J. W. D. Kirkpatrick & F. M. Hackleman, dated 27 Sep 1894, on behalf of the defendant Served by Sheriff Holman, Cedar Co on 1 October.
Subpeona issued to John McCreary, Sarah McCreary & Charles Mccreary, for the plaintiff, 27 Sep 1894. It went to Emmett in Dade Co, MO and was served on the 2nd of October.
Subpoena to W. T. Martin, Chas. Snow, Bettie Snow, Otis Odell, Minerva Welty, & Emma Powell, dated 19 Sep 1894, on behalf of the plaintiff. Served by the sheriff of Cedar Co on 1 October, except for Emma Powell who could not be found.
Subpoena issued on the 1st day of October, 1894 to the sheriff of Cedar Co, on the part of the defendant. He served all of them on the 2nd to Miss Ida Hall, C. W. Bruster, Mrs. C. W. Bruster, Willie Hall, Mrs. Robert Hall, J. F. Boston, E. R. Hightower, S. C. Collins Sr., Haden Collins, J. C. Sayler.
Application for Continuance
Circuit Court, October Term 1894
W. W. Younger, Prosecuting Attorney for Cedar Co, stated he could not safely proceed to trial of said cause on the absence of John Ferrell, Mrs. Sarah McCreary, Emma Powell, John McCreary and Sam Petty, who were material witnesses in the case for the State. Sarah & John McCreary reside at Emmett, Dade Co and he believes he can procure their testimony for trail at the next term.
Sarah McCreary knew personally J. E. Comstock, the deceased; she lived ¾ of a mile from the Comstock house. On the night of Oct 9th, 1893, the night of the poisoning whe was called to visit the family. She found the family very sick; she remained during the night and on the following morning cooked breakfast for those able to eat. She partook of said food and became violently ill. She placed no poison or drug in said food. She had a conversation with Sterling Brasher and his wife in the summer of 1893, in which the defendant spoke about getting possession of the land owned by his mother. She heard Sterling Brasher say he kept poison to give his horses and kept it locked in his trunk. The deceased Comstock was apparently afraid of defendant; that D. S. Brasher treated his mother harshly and had threatened to kill her, his mother. Younger is unable to produce such facts by any other witness. He had issued a subpoena directed ot the sheriff of Cedar Co, but after diligent search he ascertained that witnesses resided in Dade Co and on Sep 27th a subpoena issued to the sheriff of Dade Co, which has not yet been returned.
Younger believes he can prove by the witness Emma Powell the following. She was was at J. E. Comstock’s on the day following the poisoning where Mrs. M. E. Comstock lay sick, when defendant came in to give her medicine and took the glass containing the medicine out of the room and then came back and offered it to his mother who told him to set it down on the table. He mother then remarked to Mrs. Powell that she did not know why he always went out of the room when preparing the medicine and for her to throw it away and prepare some fresh. Younger is unable to prove such fact by any other witness. Subpoena was issued on Sep 14th to Cedar Co but she was not found. Subpoena was on the 24th of September directed to the Sheriff at See Co, OK, where witness now lives; no return has been made.
Younger believes he can proved by witness Charles McCreary that some time before the marriage of the defendant’s mother to the deceased, that the mother of the defendant called for him to stay with her that she was afraid Sterling [the defendant] and Minnie [the defendant’s wife] would kill her. The defendant’s mother was crying and told him she was glad he came. Younger is unable to prove these facts by any other witness. Subpoena was issued to the Sheriff of Dade Co on the 14th, but no return has been made.
believes he can procure the testimony of Sam Petty by the next term. He knows Mrs. Comstock, who was his
aunt. He knew about trouble between the
defendant and his mother over Sterling wanting to go to a dance and striking
his mother with a board. He cannot
procure this testimony by other means. A
subpoena was issued to the Sheriff of Cedar Co on Sept 14th but
Petty was not found. He has since learned
that the witness has removed to
Farrell was until recently a resident of Cedar Co but Younger has been informed
he removed to Northcott, Anderson Co,
This application for continuance is not made for vexation or delay, but to obtain substantive Justice on the trial of this cause. Singed: W. W. Younger, Prosecuting Attorney
There is no paper to indicate the continuance was allowed, but it’s obvious from the issuance of additional Subpoenas.
Subpoena for Elder Jefferson Beaman for the defendant. The subpoena requests his presence on Tuesday the 2nd of Oct, yet it is signed and dated on the 25th of Oct. Obviously one of these dates is an error – I believe it was signed on the 25th of Sep. It was directed to Ketterman, Vernon Co, MO. The sheriff of Vernon Co signed it on 29th Sep 1894, stating he could not find Jefferson Beaman.
for Thos. Comstock, Willie Comstock, Frank Comstock,
to appear on Tuesday, March 5th, 1895 for the Plaintiff. Signed 12 Feb 1895. The Deputy Constable from Anderson Co
issued for Wallis French, on the part of the State, 12 Feb 1895. The Constable of Cherokee Co,
Subpeona issued for Sam Petty on the part of the
plaintiff, dated 12 Feb 1895. J. B. Mapes, Detective in Bourbon Co,
issued for Tom Comstock on behalf of the plaintiff, 18 Feb 1895. The Return from Crawford Co,
A “group” subpoena was issued to the sheriff of Cedar Co – the actual subpoena has been filmed with the list of names covering it; the return dated 4 Mar 1895, indicates all were served.
Mrs. M. E. Comstock, Robt Nethery, Mrs. Robt Nethery, Thos. Amos, J. W. Ford, J. F. Boston, S. P. Collins, Sr., H. H. Collins, J. C. Saylor, Ed Sherron, F. M. Hackleman, J. W. D. Kirkpatrick, R. C. Ball, C. C. Wheeler, F. A. Brasher, Mrs. Higgins, L. C. Bruster, Laura Todd, Ermin McNeil, Jno A. McNiel, C. W. Brownlee, Mrs. C. W. Brownlee, Jos. Maphis, Jno Six, Thos. Brasher, Jr., J. B. Carrico, Jr., R. D. Shumate, and Alonzo Hall.
Subpoena issued 14 Feb 1895 for Elder Bearnerd Ketterman to appear for the defendant on 5 Mar 1895. It was served in Vernon Co on the 27th of February.
Subpoena for Mrs. Mollie Atchenson, R. B. Smith, and Mrs. R. B. Smith, dated 18 Feb 1895. For the plaintiff. This writ went to Henry Co – the Smiths were served on March 1st; Mrs. Mollie Atchison not found.
Subpoena for W. S. Baker, for the plaintiff. Issued 18 Feb 1895. Served in Barton Co on the 25th of February.
Subpoena for Emma Powell to appear for the plaintiff, dated 18 Feb 1895. Dan L. Taylor, Constable, probably Blaine Co, [no state given] could not find her.
Subpoena for C. W. Bruster, dated 23 Feb 1895 for the defendant, served in Jasper Co on the 18th of February.
Subpoena for W. S. Baker, dated 25 Feb 1895, for plaintiff. This also served in Barton Co on the 28th. Seems to be a duplication since he had been served 3 days earlier.
Subpoena for Jno. Filpott, dated 26 Feb 1895, for defendant, was served on the 27th in Cedar Co.
Subpoena for Jno. Ferrill, dated 26 Feb 1895, for defendant. Shows no return, possibly never knew where to send it. [He seems to have been something of a drifter.]
Subpoena for J. J. Hall and Chas. Forrest, for defendant, dated 4 Mar 1895, and served in Cedar Co by Sheriff R. S. Holman on March 6th.
for the Jury. Issued
to the sheriff of
The Sheriff’s Return on the back has a list of names in unbelievably tiny handwriting.
Another Subpoena issued on 7th Mar 1895 to Mrs. Lucinda Houston, for the defendant. It was served in Cedar Co on the same day.
Subpoena issued 7 Mar 1895 to Guy Norris, Sophia Norris, Tom Norris, Chas. Martin, W. T. Martin, and J. W. C. Bown to appear for the plaintiff in Court on Saturday, the 9th of March. R. S. Holman served in Cedar Co.
A list of 40 possible juries was selected on March 6th; certified on March 7th, 1895
This day comes W. W. Younger who prosecutes for the state and D. S. Brasher by his attorneys and in his own proper person… And comes the sheriff and makes return of the Writ of Summons for 75 qualified persons ….good and lawful men, Citizens of the State of Missouri and of Cedar County, each over the age of 21 years and not of kin to the accused.
Whereupon for the aforesaid list, after full examination of the said jurors in open court and in the presence of defendant and hearing and considering all objections by counsel for the state and on behalf of the defendant, the court does find ….are qualified to sit as jurors.
[not dated, but likely Mar 6th]
A second copy of the list shows jurors struck by the defendant and several others marked off with the designation “S” beside them, probably struck by the State.
Another subpoena issued on Friday the 8th of March, to appear forthwith for the Plaintiff was served in Cedar Co.
Subpoena issued on the 8th to appear on Saturday the 9th, for D. Briggs, Mrs. Craig Sailor, Chas. Maphis, Clarence Briggs, Fred Briggs, Sophia Morris, and J. W. Brown. Once again R. S. Holman of Cedar Co served all of them on the 8th.
Subpoena issued on the 8th to Amos S. Hackett, Clerk of the Court to produce on that day, on the part of the state, a Warranty Deed Record “R”; also Warranty Deed Record No. 42.
Subpoena issued on the 9th for Court appearance on Monday the 11th of Mar, ’95 for James VanAllen, Henry Tingley, and Wm Webb. Served on the 11th, Cedar Co.
Subpoena issued on March 11th to H. A. Hendricks, to appear that day for the Defendant, duly served, Cedar Co, R. S. Holman, Sheriff, by J. D. Hendricks, Deputy
INDICTMENT FOR MURDER
Now on this day comes W. W. Younger, prosecuting Attorney of Cedar County on behalf of the State and as well comes the defendant D. S. Brasher & appears in his own proper person and as well by his attorneys, H. C. T. and T. T. L. …they are ready to proceed with the trial. [undated]
Now again comes the Prosecuting Attorney ….and D. S. Brasher. The prosecuting attorney, having heretofore been furnished with a list of forty qualified jurors ….announces his challenges. The defendant ….announces his preempting challenges …remained the following named persons. [and in parenthesis: (Here copy the 12 selected)]
[The list of jurors found on a separate page: Em. Belcher, T. E. Smith, Towny Young, Thomas Keller, D. P. Pay, R. R. Thompson, J. H. O’Bryant, T. B. Rountree, E. W. Montgomery, A. L. Lamb, C. E. Shanks, S. T. Preston
There is also a list of the original 75 men included with those chosen marked.]
The cause not being able to conclude by the time of the adjournment the jury were permitted to retire under charge of the Sheriff of the County until 9 o’clock tomorrow morning.
Unfortunately there are no documents of the actual trial.
There is a list of 48 people, presumably the witnesses when compared to the subpoenas. Opposite the names are marks, plusses or a dash. In most cases 2 or 3 plusses. I suspect these were marked as the witnesses were presented, then marked when cross-examined. Certainly someone was keeping track of something. A few of the names were crossed out – some of these had either dashes or X’s. These also has N. S. beside them – could that have been for “Not Served”? Those people were Emma Powell, Miss Della Smith, Jessie Herron, Willie Comstock, John Ferrell, John & Sarah McCreary. Strangely enough the first name on the list is Sterling Brasher – there is a D.S. following his name and his name is struck out – apparently he did not testify.
notes: some of the witnesses who did not
seem to appear had key testimony concerning the case based on what they said at
the Inquests. Perhaps some were
subpoenaed but never called upon. There
were some notable names missing from the list.
Tom Comstock, living in
wonders about the stomach of J. E. Comstock and its contents that were taken to
There is a final document with two separate notes:
The court instructs the Jury that under the evidence they should find the defendant not guilty.
We the jury find the Defendant Not Guilty.
Signed: E. W. Montgomery, Foreman.
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