Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower



Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Aug 07

Murder of Earl McDufford

Posted on August 7, 2020 at 9:12 AM by Melissa Dalton

A couple weeks ago we told you the story of Albert McDufford and his many struggles. While doing the research for that blog, we learned a great deal about his family, and realized we have quite a story. From the murder of his brother, attempted murder of another brother, and freak death of another, this family witnessed great tragedy throughout their lives. However, it seemed to really begin with the murder of Earl.

Earl Layton McDufford was born around 1894 in Adams County, Ohio, and was the youngest of five children (Fig 1). Although it is unknown when Earl ended up in Greene County, he had made his way here by the early 1910s. Earl married Nellie Jane Cummins on November 12, 1912 in Greene County, Ohio when Nellie was 16 years old (Fig 2). But here is an interesting twist. Nellie is the daughter of Sallie Radish (or Reddish),, the future wife of Albert (married in 1914)! One would assume that Albert likely met Sallie because of his sister-in-law.

Fig 1. 1900 US Census for Adams County, Ohio with McDufford family outlined in red (JPG)
Fig 1. 1900 Census with McDufford family outlined in red (FamilySearch.org)

Fig 2. Marriage record of Earl McDufford and Nellie Cummins (JPG)
Fig 2. Marriage Record of Earl McDufford and Nellie Cummins (Greene County Archives)

Earl and Nellie had their first child, Walter, on July 11, 1915. Earl was working as a horse trader, and the young family seemed to be doing well. Sadly, that would change within a few months.
On December 7, 1916, Earl McDufford was murdered. According to the newspaper accounts, a group of men was traveling home from a party. One of the men threw a stone at a wagon on the property of Henry McDufford, Earl’s brother. Henry Cummins (we believe it is Nellie McDufford’s father) and his wife were sleeping in the wagon, and when awoken, fired a shot in the air to scare the men away. This action apparently had the opposite effect; it actually angered the men, and they went back to the home of one of the men and got a gun. The group returned to argue with Henry Cummins. Henry and Earl McDufford were both in the house, and went to break up the argument. Henry addressed the men and told them to move along. They started to leave, and Henry went back into the house. Earl stepped out the door to see what was going on, and after seeing everyone walking away, turned to walk back in the house without speaking a word to anyone. Frank Curl was still angry and turned his gun on Earl. With Earl’s back to him, Frank shot him. Earl died shortly after of his wounds (Fig 3).

Fig 3. Article from Xenia Daily Gazette dated 08 December 1916 (JPG)
Fig 3. Article from Xenia Daily Gazette dated December 8, 1916 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Frank Curl and his three companions – Luther Curl, Walter Stoffer, and Samuel Johnson – were all charged with murder in the first degree. Each admitted to drinking too much and that things got out of control. Frank and Luther Curl both pleaded guilty to the charges and were sentenced to life in prison at the Ohio Penitentiary. Samuel Johnson was sentenced to not more than 20 years in the Mansfield Reformatory. Walter Stoffer was all but exonerated by the testimony of the other three, and was released from custody (Fig 4).

Fig 4. Article from Xenia Daily Gazette dated 10 March 1917 (JPG)
Fig 4. Article from Xenia Daily Gazette dated March 10, 1917 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

This story is sad on many levels. Earl was an innocent bystander. He did not provoke the men. He did not even utter a word to them. What makes it even more heartbreaking is that Earl’s wife was pregnant with their second son and he would not live to see him born. Additionally, four young men, all in their early 20s, made a horrendous mistake that altered the course of their lives and the lives of so many others. If everyone would have just walked away from the altercation, how different could this situation have ended…

UNTIL NEXT TIME.

Sources:
Greene County Archives
FamilySearch.org
NewspaperARCHIVE.com

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