Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Murder Most Foul and Unnatural - Breaking News

Last fall, I reported in a two part blog entry (November 4 and 8, 2009) about what appeared to be Bovina's first murder. John McDonald died in 1819 under suspicious circumstances. Two years later, his son and daughter were arrested for murdering their father, though the daughter was later released and the son ultimately was never convicted of murder because of lack of evidence.

This update concerns a question I had as to whether or not the death of John McDonald really happened within the boundaries of present day Bovina. The death happened a year before Bovina's creation, but when it was prosecuted as murder a year after Bovina was created, the coroner's inquest took place in Bovina. I took that as a key clue about where the McDonald farm and the site of the death were located. It was about the only clue - the location of the McDonald farm was never made clear in the coroner's records.

A very interesting little piece of crucial evidence has shown up, thanks to the 'I Love Delhi, NY' group on Facebook, that points to the McDonald farm being in Andes, though barely. In going over the many images posted on the site, I saw a few news clippings and was startled to find one about a sheriff's sale for the property of Christina McDonald. This Christina very likely is John's widow (the court records from the inquest list her as Christina or Christian).

The notice, dated May 23, 1820, stated that by "virtue of two executions against the goods and chattels lands and tenements of Christina McDonald, I [Sheriff Isaac Burr] shall expose to sale at public vendue [auction] on the 29th day of July next, at 1 o'clock P.M. at the house of G.H. Edgerton in Delhi, all the right & title of said Christina to Lot number 78 in the town of Delhi." The lot referred to in the sale was in Great Lot 39 of the Hardenburgh Patent. That actually doesn't put it in Bovina nor Delhi, but Andes. It does put it close to Bovina, however.

Beyond the name of the owner, another clue that points to this being John McDonald's widow is the mention of two of the neighbors in the description of the lot - Alexander More and Archibald McKnought (McNaught). These are key names. Alexander More provided testimony during the inquest and the first neighbor to come to the McDonald house after John McDonald died was Mrs. McNaught, brought there by John's son Cornelius after (he claimed) he found his father dead.

So I think there is a case to be made for this murder happening in Andes, not Bovina. The coroner's inquest took place in Bovina in what I think was the Lake Delaware area, not far from Lot 78, so the fact of the inquest taking place in Bovina may simply have been a matter of convenience. Since part of the inquest involved exhuming the body, they simply may not have wanted to haul it all the way to the village of Andes for the inquest and used Bovina instead.

I've got a bit more digging to do, checking deeds at the Delaware County Clerk's office. There's the confusion about the ad saying the land was in Delhi, but I cannot find any lot 78 in Great Lot 39 that is in Delhi. There are two lots in the two distinct tracts of the Great Lot 39 that go by number 78 and both are in Andes.

So I suppose I should be happy that this murder took place beyond Bovina's borders, but it was a colorful story about my home town. I'm sorry to have to let it go! But the historian wants to seek the truth. And the story still has a Bovina connection with the site of the coroner's inquest and the fact that at least some of the neighbors likely were from Bovina.

And my heartiest thanks to Ed Roche, the site coordinator and creator of 'I Love Delhi, N.Y.!' for posting this critical bit of evidence.

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