In 1892, 64-year-old farmer Jonathan Glass disappeared. A few days later, his body was found a short distance from his home. The death quickly became a question of
SUICIDE OR MURDER?
A SENSATION WHICH IS PUZZLING A NEW HAMPSHIRE TOWN.
Citizens are Unwilling to Believe That Jonathan Glass Took His Own Life and Present Theories of Foul Play.
CHESTER. N. H., June 9. The Rockingham county officials have another mystery to look into which bids fair to prove one of the most sensational murders that blacken the record of that county. Jonathan Glass, a farmer, aged 64 years, residing in the eastern part of the town, on a farm with his two daughters, disappeared last Wednesday, and on Friday forenoon his body was found standing against a tree in a thicket, not a quarter of a mile from his house, with a noose of rope about his neck.
At first it was generally thought to be a case of suicide, and the coroner’s jury refused to return such a verdict, ordered an autopsy, and will not report till Saturday. The suicide theory is thus officially doubted, and the townspeople are rapidly forming a well outlined theory of foul play.
No alarm at the old man’s disappearance was given in the town until Thursday, when some of the nearest neighbors were notified. Among these was George Dolber, who had considerable faith in Dr. Elisha Richardson of Hampstead, who has a county reputation as a seer and an adept at second sight.
On Thursday Dolber visited Dr. Richardson, and was told by him that Glass was still alive and would be found in the woods northwest from the house, standing under a pine tree; that near the place were two small ponds and a big pile of sawdust. This general description fitted the locality known as Pollard’s mill.
Friday morning the selectmen of the town organized a searching party and commenced scouring the woods. Shortly after 10 o’clock Austin J. Lane came upon the body. It was in the center of a thicket, about a quarter of a mile from the house, and was standing with the feet on the ground and the body resting against a sapling pine.
Around the neck was a noose, and the other end of the rope was tied about the tree fully three feet above the head. There were two small ponds near the spot, and a pile of sawdust, while the place was directly northwest from the house, all as Dr. Richardson had described. These facts comprise no small part of the mystery surrounding the case.
The body was taken down, and Dr. Gould of Raymond, the coroner, was summoned, and Warren F. Paige, James W. Towle and Charles Stevens impanelled as a coroner’s jury. The inquest was held Saturday, and the jury refused to declare the cause of death hanging, but stated that the body had been dead only about twenty-four hours.
Dr. Gould stated yesterday that there were strong indications of foul play, but just what report the jury would make he did not care to say at present.
There were a few bruises on the dead man’s person. These would not have caused death, but might have been made by the man being dragged through the thicket to be placed where he was found.
A relative of the deceased from Greenland has authorized the selectmen to use every means for discovering the truth of the affair and they have already gone to work on the case.
There are several things which the townspeople mention as against the idea of suicide. The victim of the tragedy had had many family troubles, and it is believed by many that these may be found to have a bearing on the case. He lived on the farm with his two daughters, one of whom is married to Henry Hoyt, who has just finished a term of imprisonment. When Hoyt was arrested his father-in-law refused to furnish bail, and since then there has been trouble in the family, the old man saying that Hoyt should never come to the farm again and the daughters siding with Hoyt.
Hoyt states that the girls (daughters of Glass) had sent a letter to a brother in Portsmouth that may perhaps give a clew to the case, but the letter was never received. The farm had been sold by Glass a few days before the tragedy, for $1600, and the money was to have been paid and the bargain closed in a few days. This fact is said to have been mentioned in the letter of the daughters to their brother, and the destination of this letter if it was intercepted, may show a great deal about the case
North Troy [VT] Palladium 30 June 1892: p. 2
Who was this mysterious Elisha Richardson, the reputed adept at second-sight? A correspondent from the Boston Globe went Dr Richardson’s remote country residence to interview him and try to discover his secrets.
Wonderful Clairvoyant of Hampstead.
Farmer Glass Seen Hanging from a Tree by the Man of Second Sight.
Believer in Spiritualism but Not a Medium – Some of His Deeds.
Jonathan Glass was last seen alive on the 22d of June.
He owned a farm in Chester, N.H., where he lived with his two daughters and son-in-law.
Members of the family say that he left the house early Wednesday evening, but did not return that night.
The neighbors suspected foul play, and Thursday they began a search, but could not find the missing man.
Friday one of the searching party consulted Dr. Elisha Richardson of Hampstead, famous m all that section for his clairvoyant powers, and was informed by him that the body would be found suspended from a tree in a swamp situated in a northeasterly direction from Glass’ house. That day the party succeeded in reaching the swamp, and suddenly found the body, hanging, as the seer bad said it would be. from a tree. Whether the victim was murdered or had committed suicide was an open question, and may forever remain so, but of the marvelous exactitude with which the clairvoyant had described the scene that met the searchers’ eyes, there was no question whatever.
Here seemed to be a rare opportunity for psychical research, and an interview with this wonderful man was sought yesterday by a Globe reporter.
Ten minutes walk from Hampstead depot brought the reporter to his residence, a typical country home, large and old-fashioned, with ample barns near by, set on a knoll a few rods back from the street.
The roadway winds up a somewhat steep hillside, and is lined with raspberry bushes and wild strawberry and blackberry vines, laden with an abundance of fruit.
Beyond the stonewalls on either side are fertile acres of farming land and orchards full of promise, and in the distance are stretches of woodland from which the winters supply of fuel is obtained.
Across the fields was waited the fragrance of new-mown hay. mingled with the odor of wild flowers. The eyes found richness of color and beauty of outline in the surrounding landscape, as the rising ground was reached, and the pastoral silence of the surroundings was broken only by the hum of insects and the songs of birds.
A light rap on the door was quickly answered by the doctor, as he is familiarly known, who came with a hearty greeting to admit his visitor. “Walk right in, was his cordial bidding, and the reporter was ushered into a large room, comfortably furnished, but with no pretensions to what city folks would call “style.”
The doctor had callers. They were three women, who had come all the way from Manchester to consult with him, for, as he afterward explained, he cures many persons by the laying on of hands, and has been demonstrating his healing powers for upwards of a quarter of a century.
One of the women walked with extreme difficulty when she left the carriage to enter the house, but the reporter noticed as she took her departure that her lameness was gone, and she needed no assistance while getting into the vehicle.
At first glance the doctor appeared to be a man in the neighborhood of 70 years old, although age has bent his form somewhat and left many of the furrows of time on his face.
He is short of stature, has a pleasant face, with mild blue eyes, and is modest in manner, appearing like a farmer whose working days are over, and who has decided to get the fullest amount of satisfaction possible out of his remaining years, rather than the man of overflowing magnetism, eager to use his powers for the benefit of others.
“Can you explain to me, said the reporter, “how you were able to point the way to the body of Jonathan Glass?
“Thousands of people who have read The Globe’s story of the finding of the body would like to have you tell them how you knew where it was. “Why, I don’t know as I can explain it, as you say, replied the doctor. “It was just as easy for me to do it as it would be for you to follow that man with your natural eyesight,” said he, pointing to a man going down the hill.
“The man who came here to find out about him told me when they missed him and gave me his description, and it wasn’t long before I seemed to get track of him.
“Were you in a trance when this took place? said the reporter.
“Oh. bless you, no! It’s just sort of second sight–that’s a gift, you know. I’ve had it for years.
“Why, I’ve found horses that were lost–told people where they’d gone to, what road they took and where to find ’em.
“I remember a man was lost once before, and folks came to me to find out about him. They thought he was over Haverhill way.
“After they’d told me all they could I says: ‘He ain’t anywhere near Haverhill.’ You see he appeared to me going in another direction. I followed him–you understand,” said the doctor, shutting his eyes and tapping his forehead, to indicate that the following was done with the occult eye “and, says I: “He’s gone down into East Kingston and across a pond, and he has a staff. He had some mittens, but he’s lost the mittens. He’s over at the south end of the pond.’
“And they went and hunted for him there, and that’s where they found him. He was dead, though, before they got there.”
“Did they find this other man last week just where you said he was?” “Just exactly as I told ’em. Says I: ‘He came out of the house and went down the road and then he got into a wet place, swampy and down in a sort of hollow, and then I see him hanging to a tree near a lot of sawdust.’
“That’s just where he was–near a heap of sawdust, out in the swamp.” Further inquiry elicited the information that the old man was a firm believer in Spiritualism, although he had stated that he did not go into a trance when exercising his powers.
“1 couldn’t do these things, said he devoutly, “unless I had power given to me. I have to pray every day for myself and my patients that God will give me help to continue my work.
“For the past 12 years, ever since I passed my three-score-and-ten, I’ve been a-praying daily for him to continue my healing power.
“It’s no use talking. I have something to keep me up. I couldn’t keep a-going if I didn’t.”
The simplicity of this faith was, to say the least, very impressive. Here was a man, remote from the busy modem world, but in close touch, as it seemed to him, with the source of infinite power.
One could readily understand, looking out from the open window by which he sat, that the silence of the place, its altitude, the pure atmosphere and the peacefulness of the surroundings were an inspiration to this man of prayer, communing with nature and looking up to nature’s God.
When questioned again regarding his faith in Spiritualism, the doctor said most emphatically:
“I wouldn’t dare to deny my belief in it. I’ve had too many proofs and too much help in my work from the unseen world. Why, all the wealth in this world wouldn’t tempt me to deny it.”
Many curious instances were related by him of cases wherein his powers of clairvoyance had been effectual, especially in the line of recovering animals and articles lost.
He was born in Methuen 82 years ago, and in his early years was a shoemaker. In middle life he became a farmer, but long ago gave over the management of the place to his sons, of whom there are four. His wife is still living, although only a year younger than himself, but as the doctor express it, “She’s smartern’ a whip.”
Some of Dr. Richardson’s neighbors don’t take much stock in Spiritualism, but they all agree that his powers of second sight are little short of the supernatural.
Among the visitors to Hampstead yesterday was Mr. W[illiam].O. Noyes of Derry, [candidate for Governor of New Hampshire. September 1892] how has known of many wonderful experiences of people who have consulted “the wizard,” as he terms him.
He corroborated much of the current talk concerning the doctor, and Station Agent Little at the Hampstead depot said that many people came to the village from remote places to see him and avail themselves of his powers.
Not all of these consultations result to the complete satisfaction of the parties concerned, of course, but strange stories of wonderful cures are told, and his latest feat in the locating of the missing farmer of Chester is the talk of the entire country.
The Boston [MA] Globe 7 July 1892: p. 4
The inquest did not exactly shed much light on the mystery.
THE DEATH OF JONATHAN GLASS.
Result of the Coroner’s Inquest Held at Raymond, N.H. , Saturday.
Haverhiill, Mass., July 3. The inquest on the death of Jonathan Glass of Chester N.H., was held at Odd Fellows ball, Raymond, Saturday, July 2, Dr. T.M. Gould presiding. J.T. Bartlett, Sheriff Coffin and Lawyer Cuptill of Portsmouth appeared for the county. The hearing opened at 10 a.m. The first witness ewas Charles Knowles. The substance of his testimony was that the body was found Friday morning after the disappearance of Glass. It was hanging from a pine tree by a loose rope with his hands on a limb and the feet on the ground, or nearly so. Witness also gave a description of the Glass homestead.
Henry Hoyt, son-in-law of Glass, was the next witness. He was subjected to a rigid examination by Attorney Guptill. Hoyt testified to his coming home from the jail one week ago Tuesday, to meeting his wife, and inquiring about his father-in-law, and stated that he was told by his wife that her father was sick; and that he was the first one to go to bed. He also testified in regard to his being sent to jail, but said he had never had any hard feelings towards his father-in-law, because the latter refused to furnish bail for witness.
Hoyt further testified that he never had any trouble with his father-in-law and that he always considered the latter his friend.
At a later hour the jury returned a verdict that Jonathan D. Glass came to his death by strangulation by means of a rope and a handkerchief, in the hands of some person unknown. This leaves the question of suicide or foul play an open one. The general impression about the court room on Saturday was, that while the actions of his son-in-law were the means of much worriment to Glass, there was no evidence connecting Hoyt with the death of his father-in-law. At the same time, the impression prevailed that the last witnesses did not tell all they knew about it.
Burlington [VT] Weekly Free Press 4 July 1892: p. 1 and Burlington [VT] Weekly Free Press 7 July 1892: p. 11
Hoyt’s testimony painted a different picture than this earlier report:
THE CASE OF JOHNATHAN [sic] GLASS.
Authorities Investigating the Cause of his Death.
Portsmouth, N.H., June 28. The county authorities are at work investigating the death of Johnathan Glass, of Chester, who disappeared on Thursday last, and was found hanging on a tree on Saturday. By some it is thought to be a case of suicide, and, although there are no marks on the body, there are some circumstances that gives the officers to think a murder has been committed. During the past winter a son-in-law of Glass has been confined in jail for stealing. During that time he sent a letter threatening Glass’ life, which is in possession of Sheriff Coffin. On the Monday previous to Glass’s disappearance, the son-in-law was released from custody and at present his whereabouts are unknown. The officers think that this person could shed some light on the case if he chooses to do so.
Bangor [ME] Daily Whig and Courier 29 June 1892: p. 1
Still another version was given in a Boston paper:
The latter [Hoyt] returned from his imprisonment Tuesday night. His story is given here as it was told to one of the villagers this morning.
Hoyt says he had not seen the old man since his return, but believed it to be a case of suicide, as he claims Glass had tried to end his life in the very same spot before. A razor found in the dead man’s pocket Hoyt claims to have shaved himself with on Wednesday morning. Hoyt states that he left a door open Wednesday night for his father-in-law’s return, and that Glass came in from his hiding, took the razor, some liniment and some doughnuts [!!] from the house, and the next morning hanged himself.
He also states that the girls (daughters of Glass) had sent a letter to the brother in Portsmouth that may perhaps give a clew to the case, but that latter was never received….
The two daughters know absolutely nothing about the affair, except that their father disappeared early Wednesday morning, and was brought back dead.
Boston [MA] Herald 29 June 1892: p. 5
The wizards, wise women, and cunning men of England often specialized in a particular type of healing or folk magic. Thus Richardson had a reputation for being particularly good at healing and at finding lost people and objects, rather than, say, doctoring cows or removing curses.
The reporter, rhapsodizing about the bucolic setting of Richardson’s house, seems to imply that it is the purity of his surroundings that allows his gifts to flower. It is interesting that Richardson’s skeptical neighbors made a distinction between Spiritualism and “second sight”–a very fine line one would think, although Richardson himself shrank from the notion that he did his work in a trance. Was second sight deemed more natural, more “organic,” and hence more palatable to New Hampshire farmers than the phosphorescent cheese-cloth of the seance room?
If the accounts are accurate, it appears that Dr Richardson was remarkably precise in his description of the location where Glass was found, although it could be argued that a systematic search of the area would have uncovered a body less than a mile away from Glass’s house. But what do we make of his statement that Glass was still alive when he first saw him? Was he just trying to give hope to the family? It seems that even second sight could not pierce the veil enough to prove suicide or murder.
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.