by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator
After the shooting of Deputy Sheriff Carlos B. King in the fall of 1871, the violence in Newton calmed. Most of the businesses associated with the earlier violence had moved on with the cattle trade. With incorporation of the city and the creation of Harvey County, came order and laws. However, the community would be shocked once again in November 1872 with “one of the most bloody affrays.”
Just before closing, the editor of the Newton Kansan received news of a violent morning on Newton’s Main street.
“Before closing for press this morning one of the most bloody affrays, within the limits and before the eyes of an enlightened community took place in this city. . . We have to chronicle the murdering of Geo. Halliday, Esq, well know and highly esteemed and prominent citizen of this city.”
The man accused of the murder “one of the most murderous and wicked men in the country, especially when under the influence of . . . liquor” was Mike (M.J.) Fitzpatrick.
“Ordinarily Good Friends”
On the morning in question, George Halliday was at James Gregory’s Gold Rooms Saloon, 515 Main, Newton. Even at the early hour of 10 am, he was reportedly intoxicated.
At the same time M. J. Fitzpatrick “had been upon a drunk for perhaps two weeks” and as a result “that wicked nature of his had began to overcome his senses.” The previous evening, he had “hunted several parties of his associates with pistol in hand to kill them” with no success. This was his mood when he entered the Gold Room Saloon at 10 am and saw his friend, George Halliday.
Some comment passed between the two men that “were ordinarily good friends.” Whatever was said caused Fitzpatrick to strike Halliday on the head with the revolver “at the same time he pulled it down to his breast and miss fired once, pulling it again and it was discharged, killing Mr. Halliday almost instantly.”
“Put an End to his Existence”
Following the shooting, Fitzpatrick “walked into the street defying any person to attempt to touch him. Crowds of men immediately rushed to satisfy themselves as to the affair and in two minutes fifty men ran for firearms and swore him to death.”
The City Marshall, Jack Johnson, did attempt to arrest Fitzpatrick, “who immediately drew the revolver on him.” At which time, Johnson “calmly surveying the situation . . . crossed the street, borrowed a Henry rifle and in another minute put an end to his existence . . . in front of Hamill & Co store.”
“Ordered to Leave Town and Never Come Back”
Within fifteen minutes of the shooting, a committee was formed to search out “several hard cases . . . and ordered them to leave town and never come back.”
“There Lying Dead”
At the same time a Coroner’s Inquest was convened with John Reid, Justice of the Peace of Newton Township, Harvey County, Ks as the acting coroner. Twelve men, six for each case, were called as jurors. In the case of Fitzpatrick, the jurors included D. Hamill, who owned Hamill & Co located “first door north of the depot” where Fitzpatrick lay dead. Seven witnesses were called. After hearing the statements the jurors, “at the body of M.J. Fitzpatrick, there lying dead” decreed that Fitzpatrick “came to death from a gun shot wound, in the hand of a lawful officer whose attempts to arrest him” failed.
The cost of the Inquisition was $16.15.
Testimonies and statements were also taken related to the death of George Halliday for the consideration of the six jurors. Five witnesses were called to describe the events of the morning.
It was ruled that his death was caused by the actions of M.J. Fitzpatrick. The cost for the Halliday Inquisition was $14.65.
George Halliday, Attorney at Law
The same paper that reported his death included a small notice advertising his services as an Attorney at Law and real estate agent.
Active in the public since his arrival in Newton in 1871, George Halliday was well known in Newton and his former home, Topeka. Shortly after his arrival in Newton, Halliday was appointed justice of the peace following the resignation of Judge C.S. Bowman on August 31, 1871. On February 29, 1872, he, along with R. M. Spivey, was instrumental in the organization of Harvey County, introducing bill H.B. 504 which created the new county. Just seven days prior to the fatal encounter, Halliday was listed as a Republican delegate from Newton.
Born in Scotland in 1837, he married Jennie Roe on November 5, 1871 in Kansas. Halliday was held “high in the esteem of his neighbors.”
Mike “M.J.” Fitzpatrick
Although newspapers from the time do not reveal a great deal about M.J. Fitzpatrick, it is apparent that he was known in Newton. The August 22, 1872 Newton Kansan lists M.J. Fitzpatrick among men gathered to form a “Grant & Wilson Club.”
The November 7, 1872 newspaper that detailed the shooting also announced the formation of the Newton Hook & Ladder Fire Co the previous evening; among those elected to positions, M.J. Fitzpatrick, foreman.
What happened to cause M.J. Fitzpatrick to go on a drunken rampage on a week day morning and shoot a friend dead remains a mystery.
“One of the Best Days . . “
The editor of the Newton Kansan concluded:
“While we lament the death of Mr. Halliday, we believe this has been one of the best days our thriving young city has ever seen. Our respectable and law-abiding citizens have taken the matter into their own hands, and will see that hereafter Newton shall give no shelter to men who live by murdering and robbing good people, but shall win that reputation near and far that shall be to it an honor not a disgrace.”
- Harvey County Coroner’s Reports, Box File Folder 01.04 HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks.
- Newton Kansan: 22 August 1872, 5 September 1872, 31 October 1872, 7 November 1872, 14 November 1872,21 November 1872, 27 March 1873, 7 April 1873.
- The Weekly Newton Democrat: 15 November 1872.
- Daily Commonwealth: 25 February 1871, 31 August 1871, 5 November 1871, 29 February 1872.
- Daily Beacon: 7 November 1872.
- Wichita Eagle: 14 November 1872, 28 November 1872.
- Topeka Weekly Times: 18 January 1872, 25 January 1872, 1 February 1872, 7 March 1872, 14 March 1872, 30 May 1872, 2 June 1872, 14 November 1872.
- Weekly Commonwealth: 13 November 1872.