The Case Is Stated: the Trial of Pat Rickman

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Part 2 of 2

“The Case Is Stated”

Patrick Rickman was charged with 1st Degree Murder for the death of Thomas Williams on February 14, 1895.  On July 10, 1895, the Newton Daily Republican began coverage of the trial.

Newton Daily Republican, July 10, 1895.

The charged carried the possibility of the death penalty. The jury selection was completed at 3:50 pm on July 10, and consisted of Adam Kramer, E.D. Brown, A.D. Brubaker, W.J. Sloan, William Dalton, George H. Kline, Charles Barnard, E.R. Smith, Linsey Harlow, J.C. Matlack, J.S. Stone and F.M. Payne.

The Attorneys & Opening Statements

Charles E. Branine, HV County Attorney, Photo Courtesy Jullian Wall.

Harvey County Attorney, Charles E. Branine spoke for 16 minutes, describing the details of what happened the morning of February 14, 1895.  He concluded that the because of the “motive and spirit of the act committed by the defendant” jury would be “unable to return any other verdict than guilty as charged.”

 

Charles Bucher, Photo Courtesy Jullian Wall.

Attorney Charles Bucher gave the opening statement for the defense.

“We did not kill Tom Williams with malice aforethought, nor did we kill deliberately and in cold blood.  At yonder table sits a man for whose life a fight is now going on, Pat Rickman, one of the best men in Harvey County, even if his skin be black.”****

Bucher talked for 30 minutes, describing a family man that found evidence of his wife’s adultery. The resulting despair led him to become insane. Bucher concluded that “it would be proved that insanity was in the Rickman blood and that several of Pat’s relatives had died . . . with diseased minds.” The defense claimed Temporary Insanity.

Cornoner James McKee reported on his findings.  Williams had sustained 5 scalp wounds and a bullet wound. The bullet passing through the right lobe of the liver. McKee observed that  “the gunshot would would under any circumstances cause death in thirty minutes.”

Witnesses for the State

Several of the witnesses were family members that had observed the trouble the couple had been having in the last year and the role that Williams played.  A.B. Burdine, Amanda’s brother, noted that he had advised his brother-in-law to open his sister’s letters.  Mrs. J.A. Robinson, a sister,  recalled that she had met Williams at the Rickman home several times when Pat was not there. Several witnesses reported that Rickman said, “if ever a man should come between him and his wife, he would kill him.”

A friend of Amanda’s that lived southeast of Peabody admitted that she had invited Amanda to a concert on February 14. She claimed ignorance of letters she sent for Williams to Amanda.   Council then introduced and read several letters written by a “woman near Peabody.”  The letters contained “many allusions to a certain ‘T’ . . . he would furnish the money for her [Amanda]to come [to the dance/concert].”

Ed Slater noted that “Pat was always very careful about his money . . . heard him say there was nothing too good for his wife and children.”  Slater also recalled an incident where he spoke privately with Rickman.

 “He did not seem himself . . his face . . . assumed such a frightful look and he acted so queerly that I was afraid of him myself. I told him, ‘for God’s sake Pat, don’t do anything to lay yourself liable.”

In closing it was noted that no weapon was found on Williams’ body.

Witnesses for the Defense

The defense called a variety of witnesses including  family members, people that had worked with him,  and businessmen.

Dr. Miller, the Rickman family doctor, was the first witness for the defense. Miller explained a theory that “men may become insane over the loss of fortune and friend” and  in some cases insanity may be hereditary. Miller also noted that Pat “always showed a great deal of affection for his family.” Dr. Miller treated Rickman after the shooting, Rickman did not seem to recognize him. 

J.H. Anderson had known Rickman for “many years as a sober and industrious citizen and good neighbor.” Anderson went on to say that he had not seen Rickman in several years and only recently met him again.

“I noticed at the time that there was something very peculiar about his appearance.  In fact, his facial expression was that of an insane man.”

Anderson felt he was qualified to make such a statement due to his work as a superintendent of a farm at an insane asylum in Iowa.

David McBride, who had worked with Rickman in Oklahoma, noticed a change in Rickman after he received a letter from Newton.  Rickman was “unable to work, but merely wandered around.” The next day he left for Newton.  W.P. Walters hired Rickman for various jobs over the years. He observed  that in the days before the shooting that Rickman “was not right.”

A cousin, Wayman Anderson reported that he had heard Tom Williams bragging that “the Rickman’s are all cowards that he would go see their wives whenever he pleased.” Anderson observed that Rickman “looked like an insane man” and noted that several uncles had been insane.

Another cousin, Nate Anderson  also noted a change in Pat recently. He  “thought from his  general appearance that [Rickman]  was going the way other members of the family had gone. . . insane.” Nate Anderson also knew Williams and recalled a conversation where Williams had asked him “very suspicious questions about women and girls in Newton.”

Witness after witness took the stand and described Pat as a “peaceable” and of “good character.” They all noted a change in his behavior in the weeks before the shooting.

Testimony of Mrs. Amanda Rickman

On July 16, Amanda Rickman was called to testify. The Newton Daily Republican printed her testimony in the paper.

Newton Daily Republican, 16 July 1895. (click on photo to enlarge)

She and Pat had been married 12 years and had three children. She described her involvement with Thomas Williams.

“I had criminal relations with Williams beginning in August . . . he got me to become intoxicated by drinking wine.” 

She explained that she “was thinking of leaving my husband.  Williams first put the idea in my head . . . he could take better care of me than Pat.”  Williams directed her to pick a quarrel with her husband so that he would “strike” her,  giving her grounds for divorce. She admitted that despite  “behaving badly, Rickman would not strike me.”  The night before the 14th, she confessed all to her husband. She concluded, “I did not think he intended to kill Williams.”

Character of Thomas Williams

The defense also tried to paint Williams as less than upstanding man in the community.

Eb Hayn described an interaction with Williams when he first came to Newton. He rented Williams a room above his business and the “first night he [Williams] and two women occupied the room.” Hayn kicked him out the next day.

Several family members reported seeing Williams at the Rickman home at all hours. Cyndy Rickman, married to  cousin Joe, reported that Williams had tried to kiss her, which she did not allow.  Perhaps most alarming was the testimony of Edna Rickman, Pat’s 14 year old  half-sister. She testified that Williams had asked her to go riding alone. She had refused. When Pat found out about this encounter he cried out, “My God! now he has ruined my wife, he is going to destroy my sister?!?”  Joe Anderson also recalled that Williams had made threats to Rickman declaring that if Pat “wants to get in the game with me, he will find me loaded.”

The defense rested on Tuesday morning at  9:30.

County Attorney Branine called several more men who were eye-witnesses for additional questions.  J. B. Fugate reported that he knew both men and had been with them both the night before and had noticed nothing different. Herbert Wing, reporter for the Republican had visited Rickman in jail soon after the shooting.  During the conversation Rickman asked Wing, “what the general opinion was?” Wing replied that the “public belief was that he had killed Williams because he was too intimate with his wife. To which Rickman replied, ‘yes, yes that’s it’.”

“Arguments of the Attorneys”

In closing arguments for the State, Attorney Branine reminded the jury.

 “A young man . . going about his business . . . heard the sharp report of a gun and felt a bullet pass through his body.  He died in a few minutes.  The people of this community were shocked. Law and decency had been outraged. . . . In closing, I will simply remind you that are on oath to render a verdict in the case relying only on the law and the evidence.”

Hon S. R. Peters began arguments for the defense. He spoke for 3 hours and “made a most eloquent appeal for his client.”

Hon. Samuel R. Peters

Next, Attorney Bucher “with his lightning rapidity of delivery talked to the jury in all for three hours and twenty minutes.”  The Newton Daily Republican provided only “a bare summary of his argument.”

Bucher began with a personal story of the time Rickman saved his son from a horrible accident.

“A few years ago a boy was being carried to certain death by a maddened team of horses and this man, Pat Rickman, at the risk of him own life, saved him from a terrible fate.”

He then outlined the “indications that Rickman was insane at at the time of the affray and before.” 

The attorney reminded the jurors that they held the destiny of this man “within your grasp.”

 “His home destroyed, his wife the wreck of what was once a noble woman, his children dishonored who must yet live to know their mother’s shame and guilt.” 

He urged the jury not to “heap shame and ignominy upon this man and his helpless children by consigning him to a felon’s grave.”

Attorney Branine had one more chance to make the case for the State. He summed up the case with

“a most eloquent appeal for the upholding of the law . . . no matter what their sympathies might be in the case. They were there to do their duty as sworn officers of the law.” 

The jury went to deliberate at 3:48 in the afternoon.

“The Finish of a Great Fight”

At 5:10 pm, the jury returned with the verdict after an hour and 15 minutes.

Newton Daily Republican, 19 July 1895.

“When the clerk of the court Foltz read the words ‘not guilty’ such a shout went up from the court room that no doubt was left as to the popular feeling on the subject.  Pat Rickman is a free man.”

“Talk Around Town”

The next day, Newton Daily Republican noted “that there had been a decided reversal of opinion since the trial began in favor of the defendant.”

Newton Daily Republican, 20 July 1895

“Saved by the Insanity Plea”

Kansas City Gazette, Ottawa Daily Republic, Hutch News, Lawrence Daily Journal, and the Topeka Daily Capital  all ran  press releases about the trial on  July 20, 1895.

Kansas City Gazette, 20 July 1895

Patrick and Amanda Burdine Rickman divorced in 1899.

Pat married again in 1911, an Englishwoman named Mary Rhodes.  Rickman continued his work in construction and died in 1926.

Amanda Burdine Rickman moved to Arkansas City. She died in 1930.

Notes & Sources

  • ****This is  the only time in the newspaper reports of the trial that Rickman’s race is brought up.
  • The Attorneys involved were well-known men, not only in Newton, but throughout Kansas.
    • Hon. Samuel J. Peters  (1842-1910) had been elected to the Kansas State Senate, appointed Judge of the Ninth Judicial District, and elected as a Republican to the 48th Congress of the U.S. He practiced law in several Kansas communities at various point during his career.  In 1895, he was also a member of the board of managers of the State Reformatory.
    • Charles Bucher   (1855 – 1934) was a highly regarded attorney and involved in other several high profile cases in Harvey County in the 1890s.
    • Charles E. Branine  (1864-1939) was in the early years of his career.  He was admitted to the bar in November 1889.  Branine was elected as County Attorney and served  1894-1898.  His career included a term as a  state senator, and Judge of the Ninth Judicial District Court.  During his time as County Attorney he prosecuted  “one  of the hardest fought and most widely know criminal cases in central Kansas, . . . the case against G.Wash. Rogers for burning the county records.”

Sources

  • Newton Daily Republican: 10 July 1895, 11 July 1895, 12 July 1895, 15 July 1895, 16 July 1895, 18 July 1895, 19 July 1895, 20 July 1895.
  • Newton Kansan: 25 July 1895, 12 December 1939.
  • Harvey County Divorce Index: Rickman – Patrick v Amanda, 5866, September 8, 1899, Vol. X p. 244.

 

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.