The Murder of
Mrs. Stilwell Hendershot
The Cannelton Enquirer And Reporter
Saturday, October 11, 1884
On Wednesday evening last news was sent here of the finding of the body of a woman in the vicinity of Troy, about seven miles below here on the Ohio river, and that no one could identify the body. On Thursday morning the Coroner made an examination of the body, and parties arrived who identified the corpse as that of a woman named Hendershot who resided about 12 miles from Troy in this county. The family consisted of Stilwell Hendershot, his wife and two sons named Marion and Thomas and their ages about 26 and 30, the husband being between 50 and 60 and the wife about 50. The woman was of good proportion, well preserved, and dark hair, a little above medium height. The father is a large solid built man, weight about 180, and muscular every way, with a thick heavy head of iron gray hair. The elder son, Marion, is above the medium height, but not quite as stout built as his father, and has lost one of his eyes. The younger son, Thomas, is fully as tall as his brother, but more slender and is not at all repulsive in his appearance. They have been residents of this county for a number of years and have always borne a fair reputation heretofore, and had acquired some property, but it seems that the real estate was deeded to the wife in her individual name. About a year ago they removed to Illinois and it appears that the men wanted the land sold but the wife objected, and a short time since they returned here again, except Marion, who remained in Illinois.
The farm of Peter Backer of Troy, lies on the hill back of town on the Leopold road; is not occupied by a tenant but has a large hay barn upon the place, and a cistern attached to furnish water for stock. The barn stands some distance from the road, and the nearest dwelling is about a half mile from it in each direction. The farmer living in one of these dwelling sent a couple of boys over to the other home Wednesday to get some trace chains and when near Mr. Backer's barn being thirsty they started for the cistern to get a drink. Upon looking into the cistern they were horrified to see a dead body in the cistern and immediately ran home and gave the alarm. A number of persons soon gathered at this place and discovered the dead body of a woman entirely divested of clothing, and the head had been severed from the shoulders. After the body had been removed from the cistern, search was made for the head and it was found several hundred feet away lying upon the ground. Considerable blood in the vicinity and upon the hay showed that the atrocious deed had been done but a short time and the body was removed to Troy, and an investigation begun.
No one in the vicinity had any idea of what led to the awful crime, or who where (sic) the perpetrators until late Thursday when the body was identified and some parties in Tell City remembered seeing two of the Hendershots in town that day and that they left a valise on the wharfboat to be shipped to some point in Illinois. Upon the arrival of the boat at Troy, the valise was replevined and was found to contain most of the dead woman's clothing. A detail of men under a special constable was sent out to arrest the three men, who took the old man in custody and ordered the sons to come also. The younger son came willingly but the elder refused to come and as the force was not large enough and not prepared for determined resistance he was left behind. Upon bringing them before the corpse they admitted that Marion had left home in company with his mother the night before but they did not know what had become of her. Another party was sent back for the other son and succeeded in arresting him, and bringing him to Troy about daylight on Friday morning. Marion Hendershot give a description of how he did the murder and claimed that it was purely accidental as far as the shooting was concerned but that the cutting off the head and stripping the body was for the purpose of preventing detection.
From his testimony it appears that he lured his mother from home with the idea that a party in Grandview would pay her six hundred dollars for a piece of land and that it was necessary to travel in the night on account of the light affecting his eyes. On the way they stopped at the barn of Mr. Backer's to rest and there the deed was committed. His testimony was too sickening to publish in detail, but showed a depravity and hardness that disgusted the entire assemblage. He denied most emphatically having any accomplice and said that he alone was guilty of the crime. The old man and younger son denied knowing anything about it, but the majority of the people believed them equally guilty. After the examination, upon the recommendation of Prosecuting Attorney W. A. Land the parties were all ordered committed to jail without bail until next term of court. As they left the hall where they were examined an attempt was made to lynch Marion but failed for want of organizing effort, but the case was postponed only for a few hours. During yesterday afternoon the old man and younger son were brought to Cannelton and lodged in jail but the crowd which had now become a mob refused to allow Marion to be removed from Troy. He was asked again if he had any help and replied that his father did the shooting but that he did the rest. He afterward denied this and said he had help but that it was neither his father nor brother.
We are a simple minded folk in this section but there is such a thing as a limit to human endurance, and after a number of murderers have gone unwhipt of justice through the technicalities of the law, the people themselves have concluded to administer a little justice on their own account. The mob which had been gaining strength and determination all day made an assault upon the building in which Marion Hendershot was confined about 7 o'clock last evening and taking him out adjusted a rope about his neck and marching him over to the barn where he committed the hellish murder, threw the rope over a beam and quickly put a quietus upon his making any more real estate transactions where the deeds were signed in blood.