Murder in America

The following account contains scenes of violence and gore .. not suitable for frail old ladies, sensitive old gentlemen, children, or persons of a nervous disposition.
It is adapted from a melodramatic, gratuitously graphic and unnecessarily bloodthirsty article in the Chicago Times — making it even more melodramatic, gratuitously graphic and bloodthirsty ??


Incident at Lake Station, Indiana.  March 22nd 1866.

Robert Morley was a nasty man.
In one of the most terrible tragedies ever enacted in a civilized community, his wife Jane was to discover how nasty he really was.

Their story starts happily in Ockbrook, Derbyshire, in England, in December 1833 when the couple were married at the parish church in that village.
The bridegroom was a native of Radcliffe on Trent in neighbouring Nottinghamshire though he had been working as a miller in Ilkeston, Derbyshire when he met his bride. She was the eldest child of Thomas Bower, then the much respected landlord of the Bull’s Head Inn in the hamlet of Little Hallam close to Ilkeston — her mother was born Elizabeth Carline, and hence the daughter’s full name of Jane Carline Bower.

Shortly after the marriage Robert Morley left his wife and travelled to America, then returned to England before once more going to America, this time taking his wife with him. But already the ill-ease between them had begun.

They lived together in discord in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, where the husband worked firstly as a miller and later as hotel keeper, while the wife kept a millinery shop in  Madison Street. He had became addicted to the excessive use of intoxicating liquors and subjected his wife to sustained ill-treatment. He was in the habit of appropriating to himself all her little savings and squandering them.
Matters were brought to a crisis with her about four years ago when the drunken abuser disposed of the business and compelled his wife to leave the city. They moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where Morley traded once more as a miller. By now he appears to have grown jealous of his wife, although she had always conducted herself as a prudent, industrious woman, and was well respected by all her acquaintances. His quixotic and unpredictable nature, mixed with a slight touch of craziness, led the long-suffering wife to determine that she could no longer tolerate life together; she chose to leave the matrimonial home and flee to Lake Station, Indiana, on the Michigan Central Railroad, to her brother Thomas Bower who kept the only, highly respectable, hotel there.
Now she was determined never to return.
However the husband was equally determined to discover his wife, driven on by a festering hatred for his spouse which had now built up inside his heart. He would find her and either take her home again, or extract revenge.

And yesterday that ‘revenge’ was cruelly secured.

Lake Station is, in usual times, a peaceful little hamlet nearly 40 miles from Chicago — a barren, sandy, uninviting little settlement, surrounded by scrub oaks, and inhabited principally by employees of the railroad, and keepers of small stores who supply to them the modest wants of every day.

As the refugee lady was relaxing at her new abode, she noticed among the arrivals at her brother’s house the countenance of her husband. Dreading the sight of him. and apprehending an assault, she concealed herself in her room, Mr. Bower being absent at the time, Morley insisted upon being allowed to enter her room, but was refused admission. After several fruitless attempts to interview his wife, seething rage built up within him as he retired to the railway station to plot his next devious actions.

Morley then took the train to Chicago, about 36 miles hence, and spent the rest of that day loitering around the depot. A terrible thought had taken possession of him and fused all considerations in its executions. It was too restless to be thwarted by reason or humanity, and he racked his brain for a scheme by which he could secure an interview and consummate his terrible revenge.

Meanwhile Morley’s departure had lifted a terrible fear from his wife and she resumed her duties with a light heart.

About two weeks after her fight, the woman was lying peacefully on the lounge, and her niece was reading the bible to her. Hearing the quick, nervous strain and shuffle of a mysterious step that seemed approaching, she hushed the child ! With pale face and trembling lips she turned her eyes intently to the doorThe sound died away. Then her heart began to beat with more freedom. But soon again the stealthy tread was heard, and nearer than before.

Starting to her feet, — for the conviction flashed on her mind that it was the husband again, and that he came with murder in his breast — she looked wildly about for means of escape. She glanced at the windows; but the sound was on the sill. She turned again; but the fierce eye of the murderer burned in her very face, and the revolver pointed at her head. Paralyzed, she stood like a statue till the villainous wretch pulled the trigger !

But there was too much gloating anger in his murderous soul, for he had aimed too wildly to gratify his intention. The pistol ball whistled harmlessly past the spell-bound woman and penetrated the wall of the apartment. The child, alarmed at the report and frightened by the appearance of the man, screamed, and then cowered into a corner of the room, shivering with fear.

Seeing her uninjured, the infuriated murderer madly snatched a sheath-knife from his belt and rushed upon his defenceless wife ! He dashed the knife into her shoulder first. The poor victim struggled feebly. He then seized her by the hair, and, dragging her head back, pushed the knife into her throat, and afterwards jerked the sharp edge forward and backward until the wind-pipe and jugular veins were completely severed.

The crimson flow of life gushed out and covered the murderer with the blood of his wife. He rushed to the door, but the bleeding, gasping woman, by a superhuman exertion, rushing out before him, reached the bottom of the stairs, where a crowd of boarders, attracted by the report of the pistol, seized hold of the dying woman as she sank lifeless at the door of the bar-room. But the glaze of death shone on her fixed eyes, occasional deep-drawn breathings gurgled through the clotting blood, and, in twenty minutes after the fatal thrust, the unhappy woman died on the spot where she had fallen.

Brandishing his bloody weapon aloft in his hand and his garments besmeared with the blood of his victim, the murderer then rushed by the crowd, stabbing himself in the neck and bearing the blood-marks of his wife on his vest. The men were about to stop him, but once more he flourished the glittering and streaked blade before them, and swore that he would kill the first man that approached. As he ran by, some of those present heard the thug cry “Now I am revenged” before rushing down the main street and disappearing from view. A search party was immediately organised to scour the adjacent countryside, while other men, fired by indignation, travelled to neighbouring stations, east and west, to intercept the flight of the villain had he made his way there.

At this point Frank Reed, special detective of the Michigan Central railroad, was called in to take a lead in the investigation of the case — he arrived by the next inward train to organize the search in every direction.
And his ‘magic touch’ seems to have worked ! Early this morning the fugitive was discovered, behind a fence, concealed under two logs. His throat was stabbed and hacked and cut transversely from ear to ear. The uxoricidal bully must have died shortly after he ran from the house, for his body was stiff and cold, a pool of blood frozen beneath the lifeless body.


Jane Morley was buried in Lake Station.
She had been born at Little Hallam and baptised at St. Mary’s Church, Ilkeston on October 18th 1814, her name incorrectly recorded as Jane Caroline Bower.
Her cousin was Hannah Bower, eldest child of Gervis and Sarah, who married greengrocer John Robey in November 1844.

Robert Morley’s remains were returned to Chicago to be buried there.

And thinking of burial grounds, let’s return to South Street to visit the burial ground of the Baptist Chapel there