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Murder of Moundsville Town Sergeant J. P. Thatcher


Wheeling Daily Intelligencer
June 23, 1886

Rev. J. P. Thatcher, Sergeant

Of the Town of Moundsville and Pastor of the “Holiness” Church is Instantly Killed by a Lawless Character While in the Discharge of his Duty.

A cold-blooded and deliberate murder was committed at Moundsville last evening about 7 o’clock, the victim being Rev. J. P. Thatcher, a well-known minister and Town Sergeant of Moundsville, and murderer Eugene Johnson, a coal digger, well-known for his lawless and worthless life. Last Friday evening Johnson and James Porter had a fight, and Johnson struck Porter over the head, hurting him considerably. A warrant was issued for Johnson, but he was not found by the officers till last evening, when Mr. Thatcher learned that Johnson was at his home, and armed with the warrant, went to arrest him. He found the house locked up, and Mrs. Johnson standing outside. She refused to let him enter the house, and when he insisted, threw a hatchet at him.

THE FATAL SHOT.

Mr. Thatcher turned his attention from Johnson to Mrs. Johnson, and arrested her, and was starting to take her away. He had just reached the gate with her when Johnson appeared with a rifle, and leveled it at the officer, who, seeing his danger, called to him, but too late. Johnson fired, the ball striking him in the left shoulder and penetrating his lungs, killing him almost instantly.

He breathed for a few moments, but did not speak again.

The news flew like wildfire. Although the town is scattered out about two miles in length, it was but a few moments until people at the farthest point of the town from the scene of the tragedy were hastening that way.

Johnson’s house is in the east end of town, on the b[r]anch of the B. & O. that runs to the camp ground station.

After firing the fatal shot Johnson started down the railroad in the direction of the Ohio river, and many think he would attempt to cross into Ohio. Large parties of enraged citizens, as well as the Sheriff and posse, were soon in pursuit, and no doubt the murderer will soon be in their clutches.

THE PEOPLE ENRAGED.

The indignation was very great. The streets were alive with people last night, the inhabitants all being out, men, women and children. Nothing was talked or thought about but the murder. If the wretch were to have been brought into town while the feeling was at its height there could have been but one result – he would have been lynched. Men who were never excited before, were busy suggesting that mode of disposing of the matter. It is doubtful if one voice in all the multitude would have been raised in his behalf. The body was conveyed to the Mayor’s office and an inquest commenced. The following named doctors examined the wound before the body was removed: E. C. Thomas, R. W. Hall, G. W. Bruce, S. M. Steele, T. R. Rogers, J. R. Davis.

A reward of $300 was offered for the arrest of Johnson, $200 by Mayor Purdy and $100 by Prosecuting Attorney Meighen. The following jury was empanelled by Justice Edwards for the coroner’s inquest: L. B. Purdy, A. Bryson, John M. Booth, Thomas J. Patton, John Brooks, James P. Ferrell, Joseph Whittingham, William Brooks, Thomas J. Dorsey, Henry Thompson, William Harris, W. Connor.

At a late hour last night the jury adjourned till 9 o’clock this morning, without having arrived at a verdict.

JOHNSON’S WHEREABOUTS

Johnson when last seen was on Cockayne’s farm, coming toward Wheeling. Two officers from Benwood walked down the railroad track, however, and saw nothing of him.

Johnson is a man about 35 years old, weighs something like 185 pounds and is about 5 feet 7 inches tall; he is slender and stands and walks very straight; his complexion is dark and he has a dark mustache; his face and neck are both long and the former is freckled; he has a rather prominent Roman nose. When he left he was barefooted and wore no coat.

Johnson’s wife and father were committed to jail without bail, to be detained as witnesses.

THE MURDERED MAN.

Sergeant Thatcher is better known as the Evangelist, Rev. J. P. Thatcher, and has been at Moundsville about six years. He was the founder of a new sect, and built a substantial frame edifice there in which to worship. He leaves a family of a wife and eleven children. He was elected Sergeant at the last municipal election on the Republican ticket, and was a splendid officer. In that respect he cannot be spoken too highly of. In his church he taught entire sanctification in the flesh. He was at one time pastor of Zane Street M. E. Church, in this city, and went from here to the M. E. Church at Moundsville. While stationed there his advanced teachings in regard to sanctification attracted attention, and he was expelled from the conference. He then established his independent “Holiness” church, and started a monthly paper called The Gospel Herald. This did not live long. At first he preached in a canvass tent. He was highly regarded by his former fellow ministers as a man of pure life and lofty character, an able preacher, and a power for good in spite of his unauthorized doctrinal teaching.


Wheeling Register
June 23, 1886

The Chief of Police of Moundsville Murdered

The Murderer in flight, with an Armed Posse on His Trail

A Lynching Very Probable

One of the most deliberate murders ever committed in West Virginia was perpetrated at Moundsville about half-past six o’clock last evening, the victim being Rev. J. T. thatcher, Chief of Police of the town and a respected citizen. The tragedy created the most intense excitement in the usually quiet town, and if information at hand at this writing is to be depended upon, the indignant citizens will mete out swift punishment for the crime, as soon as they can get their clutches upon the murderer.

The particulars of the murder, with its immediate causes, are as follows: On Monday evening “Gene” Johnson, a generally worthless citizen of the town, a coal miner by occupation, made an assault upon James Porter, for which he was fined K$20 and costs by Justice W. L. Edwards. Johnson not appearing, an order of arrest was issued yesterday and placed in the hands of Marshall Thatcher, who, last evening, proceeded to secure his man. Calling at the house of Johnson, near the coal works, at the upper end of town, the officer was met by Mrs. Johnson, who, in response to an inquiry for her husband, seized a hatchet and threw it at the Chief’s head. The officer evaded the blow with some difficulty, and then seized the woman, placed her under arrest and started to take her to jail. She resisted, tooth and toe-nail, and while the Marshal was struggling with her, her husband appeared on the scene, armed with a double barreled shotgun. He ordered Thatcher to release his wife, and upon th officer refusing to do so, Johnson raised his weapon and leveling it at Thatcher’s breast, fired one barrel, the heavy charge striking the victim in the left breast immediately over the heart, the wound causing instant death.

Without pausing a moment, Johnson threw his gun to the ground, and passing into the house, made his escape by the rear entrance. The shooting had been witnessed by several persons, and the alarm was at once given, a large crowd starting in a few moments in pursuit of the murderer. Sheriff W. H. Shawacre at once offered a reward of $100 for the apprehension of Johnson, to which the town authorities added $200, and spurred on by hope of this reward, as well as by a deep desire to see the murderer captured and brought to justice, a large number of determined men were soon on the lookout for the fugitive and guarding every avenue of escape. The excitement throughout the town and neighborhood, as the news of the terrible tragedy spread, was soon at fever heart, and it seems probable that Johnson will be swung up to the nearest tree in the event of his capture.

The murderer is thus described: Age about 25 years, height 5 feet 11 inches, weight about 155 pounds, slender and straight in build, dark complexion, with dark hair and moustache, Roman nose and freckled face. He is a son of that Johnson who, some ten years ago, killed James Greathouse, at the B. & O. depot, in Moundsville, for which crime he was tried and acquitted. Last night the elder Johnson and the wife of the murderer were arrested and committed to jail without bail as accessories to the crime, amid the most intense excitement.

The body of the murdered Marshal was removed to his home, where Justice Edwards impaneled the following jury of inquest: L. B. Purdy, A. Bryson, John Brooks, Thomas J. Patton, J. M. Booth, James P. Farrell, James Whittingham, M. Brooke, T. J. Dorsey, M. Harris and W. S. Hamacker. After viewing the remains the jury adjourned until this morning, when the inquiry into the cause and manner of the murdered man’s death will be resumed.

Rev. Thatcher, the victim, was a man universally respected in Moundsville, and had many warm personal friends. He was a minister of the Holy Evangelical Church, and stood high in the community in which he resided. He leaves a wife and eleven children to mourn his untimely death.


Wheeling Daily Intelligencer
June 24, 1886

JOHNSON’S CRIME.

THE MURDERER OF MR. THATCHER

Believed to have Crossed into Ohio Yesterday Morning below Benwood – The Coroner’s Jury Implicates Johnson’s Wife and Father – The Public Feeling.

Public feeling at Moundsville yesterday when a reporter stepped from the early Baltimore & Ohio train upon the platform there was still running high, and nothing was talked of but the cruel murder the evening before of the Town Sergeant, Rev. J. P. Thatcher, by Eugene Johnson, a coal digger. Johnson was and is still at large, and the people of Moundsville, officers and all, are entirely at sea as to his whereabouts or the course he took. Contradictory reports were numerous, concerning both the crime and the murderer’s flight. Johnson was reported to have been seen in many places, but none of the rumors bore the light of careful investigation. Several such rumors were run down by searching parties yesterday, but without result.

Divers[e] as were the rumors, there was a singular unanimity of feeling and sentiment concerning the murder, its perpetrator and its victim. Nobody had anything but the highest praise for Mr. Thatcher as an officer, a minister and a man. If anybody felt compassion for Johnson, or entertained a doubt of the unprovoked and heinous nature of his deed, he was careful not to express so unpopular an idea.

THE CORONER’S INQUEST.

The inquest by the jury impaneled by Squire Edwards, whose names were printed in the INTELLIGENCER yesterday, was continued in the forenoon, a large number of witnesses being examined. The evidence showed that Mr. Thatcher went to the house of Johnson to arrest him on a warrant issued by the Mayor for assault and battery. Mrs. Johnson forbade the officer to enter the house, and when he insisted, threw a hatchet at him. Mr. Thatcher then arrested her, when she jumped from the porch to escape. Thatcher jumped also, and again seized Mrs. Johnson, who fell. He attempted to induce her to go with him, and when she refused dragged her a short distance.

At this time Johnson came out of the house and called out, “You let her go, you G--- d-------!” Thatcher made some reply indicating his intention not to let her go, and proceeded to place a pair of nippers on one of her wrists. At the same time, according to several witnesses, he placed his hand in his hip pocket and drew out something, when Johnson raised his gun – a single-barreled shot gun – and fired, the slugs with which the gun was loaded taking effect in his left breast.

Mr. Thatcher turned toward the house, where Alex Johnson, the father of Eugene, was standing close by his son, and placing his hand over the holes made by the slugs, said, “Look there, Alex.”

Alex went to him and assisted him to a bank near, where he sat down and almost immediately breathed his last. When taken up his pistol was in his pocket.

THE VERDICT.

There was evidence that the elder Johnson was at a distance from home when he saw Thatcher going in that direction. Johnson went home at once by a round-about way, through an alley, and reached the house before Thatcher. When Eugene raised his gun the father stepped back so as to be out of range.

Alex Johnson told a colored man on Tuesday morning that Eugene was going to the country to get money to pay his fine for the assault on Parker, and then give himself up; that he did not want to lie in jail several months.

After hearing all the evidence, the jury retired, and after very careful deliberation, returned a verdict that “J. P. Thatcher came to his death by a gunshot wound from a gun in the hands of Eugene Johnson, and that said Eugene Johnson was aided and abetted in his act by Minnie Johnson, his wife, and Alex Johnson, his father.” They further found “that said Thatcher, when he received the wound which caused his death, was in the discharge of his duties as Town Sergeant of the town of Moundsville.”

Upon the receipt of this verdict the town council in special session unanimously approved the action of the Mayor in offering a reward of $200 for the arrest of the murderer in addition to the $100 offered by Prosecuting Attorney Meighen, and appointed a committee to wait upon the Sheriff and urge him to greater efforts to arrest the criminal and to organize a posse to bring him to justice.

The Mayor was also authorized to use every means in his power to aid the county authorities in arresting the murderer.

The committee appointed by Council waited upon the Sheriff and he increased the amount of the reward to $300 on behalf of the county, making the whole amount now offered for the arrest of Johnson $500. The description of Johnson printed yesterday is not quite exact. He is about 25 years of age; height, 5 feet 11 inches; weight, about 155 pounds; slender and straight in build; Roman nose and freckled face.

JOHNSON’S WHEREABOUTS.

As stated before, there were many conflicting rumors yesterday of the course Johnson had taken, one report, however, seemed to be worthy of credence. This was to the effect that yesterday morning a man who closely answered Johnson’s description came to the river bank at the old McMechen place, below Benwood, and hailing a skiff, was rowed across to the Ohio shore. He had on a coat and hat. When Johnson left home he wore no coat nor hat, and but one shoe, the other shoe being carried in his hand. He has relatives living on the South Side, in this city, and it is conjectured that he might have procured a hat and coat there.

Johnson is well known here. He spent some time in jail here when W. H. Davis was jailer, being transferred here from Moundsville for safe keeping after a wholesale jail-break there, he having been recaptured. His offense at that time was stoning a Baltimore & Ohio train. He is well known as a quarrelsome, rough character, and the family shares his reputation. About ten years ago Alex Johnson, the father, got into a fight with a notorious character named James Greathouse, at the Moundsville depot, and threw him down upon an iron-bound truck with such force that the concussion caused Greathouse’s death. Johnson would have pounded Greathouse severely had he not been pulled off. He was tried for murder, but acquitted. Eugene has two sisters who were formerly well known members of the Wheeling demi monde, and a third sister is the wife of a colored steamboatman living at Bellaire.

THE MURDERED MAN.

The funeral of Mr. Thatcher will take place from his late residence in Moundsville at 10 o’clock this forenoon, the interment being at Mount Rose Cemetery, near the camp ground. Rev. George E. Hite, Presiding Elder of this district, says the statement that Mr. Thatcher was expelled from the West Virginia M. E. Conference for heretical teaching is not exactly correct. He was expelled for refusal to submit himself to the rules of discipline of the church. He was pastor of the church at Dallas, not at Moundsville, at that time.

At a meeting of the Town Council of Moundsville, held last night, the following resolutions of condolence were unanimously adopted:

Resolved, That the members of the Council of the town of Moundsville have heard with profound sorrow the announcement of the cowardly murder of the Rev. J. P. Thatcher, Sergeant of the said town.

Resolved, That in his death the Council has lost an honest, fearless and efficient officer, and the town a good Christian citizen, who sacrificed his life in the conscientious discharge of a public duty.

Resolved, That it is the unanimous sentiment of this body that no means no effort should be spared to bring the murderer to justice.

Resolved, That we sympathize deeply with, and tender to his afflicted and bereaved


Wheeling Register
June 25, 1886

ON JOHNSON’S TRAIL

THE MURDERER SEEN NOT FAR FROM BRIDGEPORT

Marshal Thatcher in Hot Pursuit Along the Old Cadix Pike—A clue Which May end in Capture

At last there seems to be some reason to hope for the speedy capture of Eugene Johnson, the murderer of Marshal Thatcher, of Moundsville. Marshal Joe McConnaughey of Bridgeport is hot upon the trail of a man who answers in every detail the published description of the murderer, and it is expected by those familiar with McConnaughey’s energy and shrewdness in such matters, that before to-night he will have overhauled the chase and brought him back to face an inquiry as to his identity.

The facts which led the Bridgeport officer to join in the quest for Johnson, are as follows: between 5 and 6 o’clock Wednesday evening John Young, a farmer who lives on the old Cadiz road, a thoroughfare much traveled a generation or more ago, but which has not been used by the general public for twenty-five years past, received a call from a stranger, who asked if he could get work. Mr. Young said he had no work at present, but asked what short of work he preferred to do, to which the stranger replied that he was not particular about anything at present, but would like a job at harvest time. Mr. young asked the stranger his name and where he was from and in reply the man said he was from Moundsville, but gave no name. Mr. young said:

“Moundsville! Whey, that’s where the murder was committed,” at which exclamation the stranger became visibly excited. He said he knew all about the crime, however, and in answer to an inquiry from Young as to whether the murderer had been captured or not, said he was positive he was still at liberty. The stranger was familiar with the Johnson family, and related the killing of Greathouse by Alex Johnson ten years ago. All during the conversation he seemed nervous and excited, and after staying about fifteen minutes departed, continuing north along the old road toward the residence of Mr. Albert Brown.

Mr. Young thought little about the visit until yesterday morning, when he saw the description of the murderer in the papers, and then mentioned the matter to a young man who works for him, and the two came to the conclusion that their visitor of the night before was the murderer. Mr. Young came to Bridgeport during the day and, relating the adventure of the evening before, was induced to call up Sheriff Showacre, at Moundsville by telephone. The Sheriff and Marshall McConnaughy, who had also been notified of the matter, agreed that the stranger answered the description of Johnson, and the Marshall determined to start on his trail. Before leaving, however, Mr. Albert Brown, toward whose house the stranger went after leaving Young’s, came into Bridgeport and stated that the same man, answering the description of Johnson, had passed his house about dusk on Wednesday evening. Both young and Brown describe the man as closely resembling Johnson, and say he had on an old coat, the sleeves of which were three or four inches too short for him, while Johnson had no coat when he left Moundsville after the murder.

Last evening Marshal McConnaughy determined to look the stranger up, and about half-past seven o’clock started on his trial. From the general direction the stranger was taking, he is thought to be heading between Portland and Mt. Pleasant, keeping away from the towns to avoid capture. Belmont county people say this stranger, should he prove to be Johnson, could very easily have reached the locality in which he was seen without attracting attention. Crossing the river at Pultney Bottom he could have gone back in the country, and crossing McMechen’s creek about three miles back of Bellaire, and followed a run which would have brought him out on Indian Wheeling creek, near the Wheeling Coal Works. Crossing the National road there, he would naturally have taken the old Cadiz road to avoid being seen and kept on north, parallel with the river, thus passing the residences of Messrs. Brown & Young, as stated. Whether this stranger is Johnson or not, will probably be made known when Marshal McConnaughy next reports.

News of another man, supposed to be Johnson, was brought to Bridgeport and Martin’s Ferry last night. Harry Wetehrel and several companions were fishing about sixteen miles back of Bellaire, and on Wednesday, Wetherel, being in campal one at the time, had his attention attracted to a barefooted and mud-stained man, without shoes or coat, sitting on a fence. The name at the camp had not heard of the murder, and the stranger maintained his position until Wetherel chanced to blow a bicycle whistle which he had with him to call his companions to camp. No sooner had the whistle sounded, however, that the man jumped from the fence and ran at breakneck speed into the woods, disappearing from sight. The description of this man also tallies closely with that of Johnson.


Wheeling Register
June 27, 1886

He is Caught About Four Miles from Moundsville, Early Friday Evening, but the Fact Kept a Secret

Eugene Johnson, the murderer of Rev. J. P. Thatcher from Moundsville, has been captured and is now safe within the walls of the Moundsville penitentiary, where he will remain until his examination before Justice Edwards, at 9 o’clock to-morrow morning. The capture was made about half-past eight o’clock Friday evening, by Samuel Dorsey and Hanson Riggs, two Marshal county farmers, through information given by Mrs. John M. Flanagan, who lives about a mile off the Waynesburg road and four and one-half miles from Moundsville. The murderer, who had who had never crossed the river into Ohio, despite the persistently circulated and universally believed rumors to that effect, called at Mrs. Johnson’s house about half past seven o’clock and asked for something to eat. The woman told him she had nothing to give him and in a few moments later, when her husband came home, told him of the visitor she had had and pointed out the way the murderer had gone. This information Mr. Flanagan conveyed to Mr. Dorsey, the two men having had a previous understanding about keeping a lookout for the murderer, and Dorsey got Mr. Riggs and started on Johnson’s trail, posting Flanagan and his two boys along the road to keep watch. Messrs. Dorsey and Riggs came up with Johnson on the road near Mr. John Garrett Jones’ house, and Dorsey ordered Johnson to throw up his hand. Johnson said he was unarmed, and gave up without resistance. He complained of being hungry and Mr. Dorsey gave him his supper, after which Messrs. Dorsey, Riggs and Flanagan took a wagon and drove him to Moundsville and placed him in jail, the vehicle being driven rapidly through town to prevent the prisoner being seen and recognized. About midnight, to prevent any possible attempt upon the life of Johnson, he was removed from the jail to the penitentiary building, where he will remain for the present at least.

A Register reporter, through the kindness of Colonel W. E. Wilkinson, had an interview with the prisoner, shortly after he had had a consultation with Messrs. Dovener and Criswell, his attorneys. In answer to questions he detailed with some minuteness his flight and experiences up to the time of his capture. After firing the shot which killed the Marshal, Johnson said he went into the house, picked up his coat and hat and put them on, and then taking his shoes in his hand, he went down the railroad from the campground and over to the river. Making for the fringe of willows along the shore, he proceeded along the river bank northward for half a mile. Every once in a while he would peep over the edge of the bank and could see people running in all directions. When opposite the Cockayne farm he saw four men enter the willows behind him, and at the same time saw three or four horsemen riding rapidly along the county road. Thinking he had been discovered, and that the horsemen were endeavoring to enter the willows above him to cut off his further advance, Johnson said he took a favorable opportunity and crawled into a field of oats, through which he proceeded on his stomach till he reached about 2 o’clock on Wednesday morning. Here he hid in the hay, remaining in concealment until 9 o’clock Thursday night, the building being in the meantime, searched by a number of men, two of whom, Kinsey Hughes and James Dorsey, walked on the hay over his body one of them stepping on his foot.

When he left the barn, on Thursday evening, he took the main road, with the idea of walking to Wellsburg by a round-about way, but only proceeded as far as the residence of a man named Griffiths, reaching that point soon after midnight Friday morning. He hid in the barn, and three men, George and Wylie Griffith and George Jones, worked near him until 4 o’clock in the evening. When the men left, Johnson crawled out of the straw in which he lay, and went to the house of Jacob Henshaw, where he got some food, it being the first he had eaten since the fatal shot was fired. He then continued along the road until he reached Mr. Flanagan’s house, where the facts narrated at the outset of this article transpired.

Johnson seemed to be perfectly cool and collected, and answered questions directly, save when they came in conflict with advice given by his counsel. He said he did not consider it dangerous to be confined in jail, and only came to the penitentiary at the suggestion of the Sheriff and Detective Hagerty. When asked why he shot Thatcher, he said:

“A man has a right to protect himself.”

Mr. Alex Johnson, father of Gene, was also interviewed, but nothing of importance was gained only that Mr. Thatcher when shot by Gene exclaimed, “Johnson, catch me! Lay me down and go for a doctor as quick as you can.” He claimed that he knew nothing about what was going on, when he went to Gene’s house. He is not in jail and will have his examination to-morrow with Eugene and his wife.

Johnson claimed to know nothing about the nature of Mr. Thatcher’s wound until he was taken by Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Riggs. He then inquired as to the nature of the wound.


Wheeling Daily Intelligencer
June 28, 1886

THATCHER TRAGEDY.

EUGENE JOHNSON SURRENDERS,

Having been Forced from his Hiding Place by the Pangs of Hunger – Lodged in the Penitentiary for Safe Keeping – His Whereabouts since the Crime.

Eugene Johnson, who shot Rev. J. P. Thatcher, Town Sergeant of Moundsville, last Tuesday evening, was arrested Friday evening at a late hour.

On that evening, between 8 and 9 o’clock, within four miles of Moundsville, Samuel Dorsey, Jack Flanagan and Hanson Riggs captured Johnson. Since his escape on Tuesday evening he lingered most of the time in sight of Moundsville, hiding in the woods and out-buildings. Several times the pursuers were within a few feet of him. Being hungry he came out at last for something to eat, and called at Flanagan’s. Mr. Flanagan was not at home, but came home soon after Johnson had left. Mrs. Flanagan told her husband Johnson had been there, and Flanagan went out and called to his assistance Dorsey and Riggs.

The three pursued and captured their man on the road, and brought him to Moundsville about midnight Friday night, where he was committed to jail. Subsequently Sheriff Showacre removed his prisoner to the Penitentiary, fearing he would be taken from the jail and lynched. He was lodged in the first cell of the lower tier, and takes his meals with the convicts.

JOHNSON’S WHEREABOUTS.

Johnson is said to have revisited his home twice after his escape at the time of the murder. That this is true is proven by the fact that when arrested he had on his coat and hat, while he had neither with him when he fled. His family deny it, however. He spent the time in the vicinity where he was captured. At one time he was covered with straw in a barn when his pursuers walked over him but did not discover him. At the poor farm he was in the coal house and they came on the outside and struck a match on it. From a neighboring hill he witnessed Sergeant Thatcher’s funeral procession. He did not know whose funeral it was, however, not knowing that Mr. Thatcher was dead. When arrested his first utterance was an inquiry as to how badly Thatcher was hurt. Most of the time he spent in two barns, between which is a piece of woods. He hid beneath the straw, going from one farm to the other occasionally. He had had nothing to eat from Tuesday evening till Friday night, and was forced by hunger to come from his hiding place.

AN EASY CAPTURE.

He surrendered at once when Dorsey shouted to him to hold up his hands. Dorsey took him to his house, gave him a good supper, which he ate ravenously, and he then submitted quietly to be tied and placed in the wagon in which he was taken to town. He had nothing on his person but a small pocket knife, but he told his captors where a sum of money was hid, which they got for him.

Johnson said that he was forced to kill Mr. Thatcher in self defense and to protect his wife, and that he was sorry he was obliged to do it. His aim was to disable Thatcher’s arm and so release his wife.

About 10 o’clock his sisters, Irene and Melissa, came to the jail, bringing him a new suit of clothes and some other things, but they were neither permitted to see him nor to deliver the articles. They were greatly disappointed and sorrowfully turned homeward. Alex Johnson, the father of Eugene, and the latter’s wife, who were in jail for “aiding and abetting” the murderer, were to have a hearing Friday, but Alexander being unwell, Monday morning was set for a hearing, at which time, it is now understood, Eugene will also be given a preliminary hearing. It is stated that at the same time a move will be made to have the Court draw a special grand jury in order that a speedy trial may be had.

ECHOES OF THE CRIME.

It is said that early Tuesday morning Alexander Johnson was standing on Market street talking to a gentleman when Mr. Thatcher passed. “I wonder where Mr. Thatcher is going,” remarked the gentleman. Alex. Replied, “He is going to arrest ‘Gene’ Johnson, I suppose; if he don’t be careful he will get a hole put through him, too.” This is probably untrue, as the rumor was in circulation before the coroner’s verdict was reached, but no evidence was produced to substantiate it.

Johnson’s family say that when Sergeant Thatcher went to Gene’s house early Tuesday morning he broke the door open and “Gene” was in the dining room, which is on the second floor. When the officer entered Johnson stepped through the window upon the roof of the portico and lay down close to the side of the house until the Sergeant left, when he stepped in again. It is about twenty inches from the roof to the window sill.

Prosecuting Attorney B. F. Meighan will be assisted in conducting the Johnson case by J. A. Ewing, and Capt. Dovener, of this city, and Hon. Hans Criswell, of Moundsville, will have charge of the defense. It is said at Moundsville that an effort will be made to have the trial removed to Wheeling.

The Steubenville Gazette says: Johnson, who murdered Rev. J. P. Thatcher at Moundsville Tuesday evening by shooting him through the heart, and who escaped after the crime was committed, formerly resided in Steubenville, and was employed as a coal miner in different collieries here. Rev. Mr. Thatcher, the murdered man, is also well known in this city, and will be remembered as the evangelist who carried on tent meetings in Cemetery hollow five or six years ago with considerable success. Thatcher was formerly a Methodist local preacher, but afterwards became a member of the Evangelical church and held meetings in different places. He came to Steubenville, where he remained several months laboring in the cause of Christianity.


Wheeling Register
June 28, 1886

CAPTURED

ARRESTED, THE MURDERER, SAFE IN THE PENETENTIARY

Eugene Johnson, the murderer of Rev. J. P. Thatcher, has been captured and is now safe within the walls of the Moundsville penitentiary, where he will remain until his examination before Justice Edwards, at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning. The capture was made about half-past eight o’clock Friday evening, by Samuel Dorsey and Hanson Riggs, two Marshal county farmers, through information given by Mrs. John M. Flanagan, who lives about a mile off the Waynesburg road and four and one-half miles from Moundsville. The murderer, who had never crossed the river into Ohio, despite the persistently circulated and universally believed rumors to that effect, called at Mrs. Johnson’s house about half-past seven o’clock and asked for something to eat. The woman told him she had nothing to give him, and a few moments later, when her husband came home, told him of the visitor she had had, and pointed out the way the murderer had gone. This information Mr. Flanagan conveyed to Mr. Dorsey, the two men having had a previous understanding about keeping a lookout for the murderer, and Dorsey got Mr. Riggs and started on Johnson’s trail, posting Flanagan and his two boys along the road to keep watch. Messrs. Dorsey and Riggs came up with Johnson on the road near Mr. John Garrett Jones’s house, and Dorsey ordered Johnson to throw up his hands. Johnson said he was unarmed, and gave up without resistance. He complained of being hungry and Mr. Dorsey gave him his supper, after which Messrs. Dorsey, Riggs and Flanagan took a wagon and drove him to Moundsville and placed him in jail, the vehicle being driven rapidly through town to prevent the prisoner being seen and recognized. About midnight, to prevent any possible attempt jupon the life of Johnson, he was removed from the jail to the penitentiary building, where he will remain for the present at least.

A REGISTER reporter, through the kindness of Colonel W. E. Wilkinson, had an interview with the prisoner, shortly after he had had a consultation with Messrs. Dovener and Criswell, his attorneys. In answer to questions he detailed with some minuteness his flight and experiences up to the time of his capture. After firing the shot which killed the Marshal, Johnson said he went into the house, picked up his coat and hat and put them on, and then, taking his shoes in his hand, he went down the railroad from the campground and over to the river. Making for the fringe of willows along the shore, he proceeded along the river bank northward for half a mile. Every once in a while he would peep over the edge of the bank and could see people running in all directions. When opposite the Cockayne farm he saw four men enter the willows behind him, and at the same time saw three or four horsemen riding rapidly along the county road. Thinking he had been discovered, and that the horsemen were endeavoring to enter the willows above him to cut off his further advance, Johnson said he took a favorable opportunity and crawled into a field of oats, through which he proceeded on his stomach till he reached the county road. The road was deserted when he reached it, and he dashed across it and made his way up the hill to the woods. He then proceeded directly to the poor house farm, which he reached about 2 o’clock on Wednesday morning. Here he hid in the hay, remaining in concealment until 9 o’clock Thursday night, the building being in the meantime searched by a number of men, two of whom, Kinsey Hughes and James Dorsey, walked on the hay over his body, one of them stepping on his foot.

When he left the barn, on Thursday evening, he took the main road, with the idea of walking to Wellsburg by a round-about way, but only proceeded as far as the residence of a man named Griffiths, reaching that point soon after midnight Friday morning. He hid in the barn, and three men, George Jones, worked near him until 4 o’clock in the evening. When the men left, Johnson crawled out of the straw in which he lay, and went to the house of Jacob Henshaw, where he got some food, it being the first he had eaten since the fatal shot was fired. He then continued along the road until he reached Mr. Flanagan’s house, where the facts narrated at the outset of this article transpired.

Johnson seemed to be perfectly cool and collected, and answered questions directly, save when they came in conflict with advice given by his counsel. He said he did not consider it dangerous to be confined in jail, and only came to the penitentiary at the suggestion of the Sheriff and Detective Hagerty. When asked why he shot Thatcher, he said:

“A man has a right to protect himself.” Mr. Alex Johnson, father of Gene, was also interviewed, but nothing of importance was gained only that Mr. Thatcher when shot by Gene exclaimed, “Johnson, catch me! Hold me! Lay me down and go for a doctor as quick as you can.”He claimed that he knew nothing about what was going on when he went to Gene’s house. He is now in jail and will have his examination to-morrow with Eugene and his wife.

Johnson claimed to know nothing about the nature of Mr. Thatcher’s wound until he was taken by Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Riggs. He then inquired as to the nature of the wound.


Wheeling Daily Intelligencer
June 29, 1886

JOHNSON’S HEARING

COMMENCED AT MOUNDSVILLE

Yesterday, but not Yet Concluded – The Testimony not Materially Different from that Formerly Held – Feeling Much Subdued – The Outcome To-day.

The preliminary examination of Eugene Johnson, his father and wife, commenced at Moundsville yesterday, but was not finished at the time of adjournment last night. Johnson is charged with murder, in shooting Rev. J. P. Thatcher, Town Sergeant of Moundsville, last Tuesday evening, and his father, Alex. Johnson, and his wife are held as accessories before the act. The testimony before the Justice yesterday was about the same as that taken before the Coroner’s jury, the only difference being due to the close cross examination of Capt. Dovener, of counsel for the defense.

Mrs. Martin, who lives in a part of the same house with Johnson, testified that Mr. Thatcher came to Johnson’s door and demanded admission, which was refused by Mrs. Johnson, and when he attempted to enter she threw a hatchet at him. The Sergeant then arrested her. She sprang from the porch to escape, but he followed her and again seized her, when she fell, and refused to go. Mr. Thatcher then dragged her a short distance, when her husband appeared with a gun and called to the officer to let her go. The latter proceeded to place a pair of nippers on her wrists, and according to some witnesses, put his hand to his hip pocket, at which Johnson fired. The other testimony corroborated this.

The result as to Johnson cannot be doubted. Of course he will be held, the law only requiring that the evidence shall establish probable cause to hold him. There is a growing impression that the father and wife are not guilty of aiding and abetting in a legal sense.

In fact, there is quite a revulsion of feeling in Moundsville and the vincinity [sic] concerning the man and his crime. The bitter feeling is not preceptible [sic], and the disposition seems to be to let the law take its course.


Crime and Punishment

West Virginia Archives and History