“The Most Bloody Affrays”

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.

500 Block, Main Street, Newton, Ks in 1879, Showing the location of the Gold Room Saloon. This photo was taken 7 years after the Halliday shooting.

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.

Newton Kansan, 7 November 1872

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.

Gravestone in Greenwood Cemetery, Newton Ks.

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.” 

Newton Kansan, 7 November 1872.

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.”

Sources:

  • 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.

It Was the Same Old Story: Murder on Main

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Part 1 of 2 posts.

Shortly before 10:00 on Thursday morning, February 14, 1895, Thomas Williams, the head cook for the Clark Hotel,  stepped out of P. Byer’s Store at 421 Main after placing an order.  He walked south toward the Clark Hotel and had reached Fred Brandt’s place when Patrick Rickman rushed out.

Some eyewitnesses said that Rickman shouted, “Now I’ve got you!” before shooting his No. 44 Colt Navy Revolver at Williams. Williams ran and Rickman fired again hitting Williams in the back. Rickman then chased Williams.  The two continued to fight. Rickman threw Williams down the stairway to a basement on the south side of the Clark Hotel.  He continued to beat Williams with the gun handle. One observer described Rickman as “insane with rage” and Williams “powerless to help himself.”

Marshall Ainsworth came to the scene and tried to disarm Rickman with little success. Two men, W.C. Conrad and Mart Covert, tried to help.  Finally, Covert gave two blows to the head and was able to daze Rickman enough that Ainsworth was able to get the gun away. By the time they were able to separate the two men six shots had been fired. Williams had a gun shot wound and was severely beaten.

Williams was carried to Dr. O.W. Roff, where he was pronounced dead.

Newton Daily Republican, 14 February 1895, p. 4.

Rickman was taken  to a nearby drug store where Dr. Miller tried to take care of his wounds, but found that Rickman was “still in a frenzied condition.”  The doctor recalled that Rickman “had the appearance of a maniac and it was with difficulty that he was approached.”

Hutchinson News, February 14, 1895. One of several area papers that ran this release.

In the Coroner’s Inquisition later that day, it was noted that Rickman shot and killed a man on Main street and “more than hundred men saw the brutal act.” 

Thomas Williams, a Black man, was roughly 30 years of age, described as “quiet, industrious, quite a flashy dresser.” He had worked for Van Duyn, manager at the Clark Hotel, for 4-5 years.  The initial newspaper reports note that he had a wife and child.  The report also noted that this “was not the first experience of this sort” involving Williams. However, “for a good number of years he has borne a good reputation.” 

Patrick Rickman was well-known in Newton and described as “a powerfully built negro of large mold and fine physical build, about 35 years . . . one-eighth Indian and has always been a steady and industrious man.” A builder by trade and he had even served for a time on the police force.

Patrick Rickman. Photo Courtesy Julian Wall.

The reporter for the Newton Daily Republican noted that the cause of the fight “was the same old story. A man came between husband and wife and paid his life as a forfeit.”

“Fatal Shooting Affray”

The difficulties started in spring 1894,  when Rickman returned to Newton from Oklahoma or “the Strip” with the suspicion that Williams was “being too free with his wife,” Amanda Burdine Rickman.  He had received an anonymous letter telling him, “he had better come home and look after his wife.” Initially, he did not believe there was any truth to the claim and  things calmed down.

Amanda Burdine Rickman. Photo courtesy Julian Wall.

Then,  in February 1895, he received several suspicious letters for his wife from a  Florence woman with reference to another man. According to friends,  Rickman was “beside himself about the matter.”  A letter he received  the morning of February 14, contained proof of his wife’s infidelity.  On that Thursday morning in February 1895, he snapped, with tragic results.

Later that day, a reporter for the Newton Daily Republican  visited Rickman in jail and observed that “the fire of passion which this morning resulted in Tom Williams’ death had burned itself out” and Rickman appeared “dazed and in pitiful condition.”

Corner’s Inquisition

A Corner’s Inquisition was held in the afternoon following the shooting. The jury consisted of James W. Hurst, David E. Scott, C. Kirlin, H.C Smith, C.L. Schafer, J.J. Risdon and James McKee, Harvey County Corner.

Cover Page of Coroner’s Inquistition

Several eye-witnesses were interviewed, as well as the doctors that attended the dying man and Rickman.

Of the men interviewed, most knew Rickman.  Only  three knew Williams, but not very well. Only one of those interviewed did not know either man.

E. E. Pollard recalled an earlier conversation he had with Rickman. At that time Rickman told him that “no man could come between him and his wife and still live.” Pollard advised him “to do nothing rash, but to wait.”

Fred Brandt, a restaurant owner  at 413 Main, recounted what he observed that morning.

“I and  Rickman stood in the door . . . I asked Rickman what he was doing this spring, if he was going to the Strip.  He answered, ‘Fred I can not tell you what I am going to do this spring’ at that time Tom Williams passed . . . Rickman pushed me and ran out and drawed his pistol – shot one shot – at Tom Williams, then fired another one – Williams went into Frank Tyson’s . . went up to Mr. Tyson’s place and seen that Rickman had Williams down on the stairway and pounding him with his gun – then the wressled awhile and Williams got away from him and run up to the Clark House tried to open the front door, Rickman catched him. . . wressled awhile . . . Mr. Ainsworth – City Marshall- went on the South side of Clark House – Rickman and Williams were down there, Rickman was hammering Williams with that pistol – Weir Conrad and Mart Covert went down in the stairway and assisted the City Marshall.”   

Another witness, George W. Geary, noted that by the time the two men were by the Clark House “quite a crowd had arrived – good many cried for Pat to let him alone” while the Marshall and two other men tried to get the gun away.

A.R. Ainsworth, Newton City Marshall,  described  efforts to separate the men.

“The parties were in the basement – south of the Clark House – I told Rickman to give me his revolver that he had killed him any way – I grabbed  hold of the gun with both hands and told him to let me have it – he resisted and I tried to take it from him but could not.  W. C. Conrad came and took hold of the gun -we both tried to take it from him. He held on to it. Then,  someone came and struck Rickman over the head – he let go – Conrad took the gun and I took Pat – brought him to Newton Drug Co. and had his head dressed and took him to the County Jail.”

“With Felonious Intent”

The Jurors came to their conclusion on Friday, February 15.

Thomas Williams Coroner’s Inquisition, February 14 & 15, 1895.

“Thomas Williams (Colored) a resident of Newton, Harvey County Kansas, came to his death as the result of a Gun shot wound from a Revolver in the hand of Patrick Rickman (Colored) on Main Street City of Newton, Harvey County, Kansas on the 14th day of February 1895 about the hour of 10 o’clock a.m. upon the above named Thomas Williams (Colored) and that his death was caused by said wound, and that we do find that the said Thomas Williams (Colored) death was caused by the said Patrick Rickman (Colored) with Felonious Intent.”

The editor of the paper expressed frustration that it took two days for the jury to reach a verdict.

“It seems queer that it should require nearly two days for the Corner’s Inquest to find that Thomas Williams was dead, that a gun shot wound was the cause, and that Patrick Rickman did the shooting . . . more than 100 men saw the brutal act committed.”

Beyond the initial newspaper report of a wife and child, the family of Williams was never mentioned. Thomas Williams was buried by the county in Greenwood Cemetery in an unmarked grave, the location in the Original addition, Block 1, Lot 7, Space 10.

Sources:

  • Newton Daily Republican: 14 February 1895,  16 February 1895, 1 March 1895.
  • Hutchinson News, February 14, 1895.
  • “Corner’s Inquisition: Thomas Williams.” HCHM Archives Box 7A, File 05.06.
  • newton.harvey.ks.govern.com/cmquery
Part 2 will be published next week and will focus on the trial.
Follow this link for  the happier story of  Patrick Rickman   and his second wife, Mary Ruth Martinsdale Rickman.