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The News
Frederick, Maryland, U.S.A.
20 November 1888

It is Austin, Tex. - A Most Remarkable Series of Crimes

Among them is the following from Austin, Tex: The horrible series of murders which occurred about this town during the year 1885 are still mysteries. They were considered the most shocking in the annals of this country's crimes, and were the more so considering the advanced state of civilization of the region in which they occurred. The first victim of the Austin was Mollie Smith, a colored servant, whose body was found Dec.25,1884. Her body had been hacked and gashed from head to foot with an ax, and so cut to pieces that it would not hold together when it was put into a coffin. Her remains were found about one hundred yards away from her home, whither they had been dragged.

On the night of May 7, 1885, Lizzie Shelley, another colored domestic, was butchered in the same horrible manner. She was dragged from her bed into the open air. Both women had been killed on bright moonlight nights. The people of Austin were shocked, but attributed the murders to freaks of jealousy of disappointed lovers. But more was to follow.

One day in the next June another colored servant, Irene Cross, was found cut to pieces. This crime was different from the two preceding, in that the body was not removed from the woman's room. There were evidences to show that the villain or maniac who did the deed had become frightened and fled hastily.

The colored population of Austin became frantic. They said the murders were the work of witches. Rebecca Ramey and her 12 year old daughter Masy, both colored servants of Mr. V.O. Weed, were the next to suffer.

Every citizen now joined in a cry for a searching investigation. Bloodhounds were put on the scent and two negroes were thus trailed and captured, but were able to prove their innocence.

On the night of Sept. 29 Orange Washington and Mrs. Gracie Vance, colored, who lived together as man and wife, were killed, the former in his room, while the latter's brains were beaten out not far from the house. The woman was assaulted.

On the same night Lucinda Boddy and Patsey Gibson, mulatto girls, who lived a short distance from Washington's cabin, were beaten with sandbags and were assaulted. No ax was used this time.

Soon after Alice Davis was cut up. She was of the same class, and her death struck terror to the hearts of everyone, which was increased still more when, on Christmas night, 1885, two white women were dragged from their beds and killed with the deadly ax, one of them having been taken from the side of her husband, who was hit in the head. It was a bright moonlight night, and there was no clew left. No outcry was raised, and the same cunning was shown in this midnight assassination as in all the others.

Bloodhounds were again brought into service, and every available means was quickly utilized to find the murderer, but with no satisfactory results.

Every theory active and imaginative minds could devise was well ventilated and discussed. The one generally believed and the most probable was that a maniac was at large - a maniac with the cunning of a devil and the cruelty of a hundred of them.

Men were arrested and charged with the crimes, but they were always able to clear themselves.

Related pages:
  Austin Axe Murders
       Dissertations: Dear Diary 
       Dissertations: Rediscovering Austin's Jack the Ripper 
       Press Reports: Atchison Daily Globe - 19 November 1888 
       Press Reports: Atchison Daily Globe - 30 September 1885 
       Press Reports: Austin Statesman - 05 September 1888 
       Press Reports: Austin Statesman - 10 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Chester Times - 29 September 1885 
       Press Reports: Daily News - 2 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Evening News - 2 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Frederick News - 20 November 1888 
       Press Reports: North Eastern Daily Gazette - 3 October 1888 
       Press Reports: People - 7 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Star - 12 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Star - 2 October 1888 
       Press Reports: Waukesha Freeman - 1 October 1885 
       Press Reports: Woodford Times - 12 October 1888