Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Reason for Murder

The day I discovered my great, great grandmother's brother, Ephraim Bennett (abt 1841-?), had been convicted of 2nd degree murder, I hoped it was for a 'good' reason. I had recently watched two episodes of "Who Do You Think You Are?" Cynthia Nixon had discovered her female ancestor had killed her abusive husband after he told her she wouldn't see another sunset. Maybe she could have ran away with her two young children or gotten to safety in some other way, but this was better than Jesse Taylor's discovery that his ancestor probably killed his aunt over an inheritance!

About a week ago I received his penitentiary record from the Missouri State Archives (who only charge $1!) Now that I knew when he was imprisoned, I had a pretty good idea of when the murder took place. So, I tried to find a newspaper record, and I was successful! I almost cried when I found it, because it was a pretty 'good' reason for murder if the article was true. And, although I believe murder is wrong and there was probably a better way to handle things, I had a respect for this brother who evidently loved his sister to the point he was willing to commit murder and spend time imprisoned for it.

Ephraim P Bennett trial for 1st degree murder - killed sister's abusive husband
Taken to Marshfield, The Springfield Leader, Springfiled, Missouri, 20 Mar 1894, page 1, column 1;
digital image accessed 28 Aug 2014)
Taken to Mansfield
E. P. Bennett Charged with Murder in the First Degree

Deputy Sheriff R. P. Winningham of Webster county took E. P. Bennett to Marshfield today to appear for trial for murder in the first degree. Bennett was brought from Webster county and lodged in the Greene county jail on June 5, 1893, to escape the vengeance of a mob which was supposed to be organized for the purpose of lynching him.

A short time prior to Bennett's arrest N. L. Buchannan was murdered at his home on Guy creek, in Webster county, and Bennett is charged with the crime. It is said that the motive for taking the life of Buchannan was the abuse of his wife, who is a sister of Bennett.

Attorney Dickey, of Marshfield, is Bennett's lawyer and will make a strong fight for his client. The officers here speak in high terms of Bennett's good behavior during his imprisonment. 

[The date of the article is 20 March 1894, so Bennett has been imprisoned for about 9 1/2 months waiting for his trial.]

I have recently started exchanging emails with a Bennett cousin (Chris Powell) and he had been told of this murder through older family members! Here's what he told me: "Nathan Buchanan, husband of Louisa Jane Bennett, was abusive and at one point he hit Louisa Jane in the head with a piece of stove wood, causing a brain injury that left her debilitated. In retaliation, Ephraim killed Nathan Buchanan and was sentenced to prison. Ephraim, called 'Eph' with the long E sound according to Uncle Henry, was divorced by his first wife. He remarried after he got out of prison and went to Colorado."

As far as the threat of a lynch mob, our best guess is that this mob was Nathan's family members. I have spent hours looking for additional newspaper accounts of the murder and/or trial. I would also like to get a copy of the court records for this case.

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What a story! I love the title of your blog by the way.


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