Two imprisoned for beating death
Continued from previous week
Less than 24 hours after the beating death of an elderly Civil War veteran on Sunday, July 16, 1901, a coroner’s jury convened in the Portage County Courthouse in Stevens Point on Monday, July 17, 1901.
The jury of six men was called to determine the cause and the possible perpetrators in the death of Thomas Davis, 67, a resident of McDill in the town of Plover, who was found badly beaten Sunday morning in an alley behind the Public Square.
Davis died later that day from internal injuries.
The jury called more than 60 witnesses before it completed its inquiry Tuesday, Aug. 6.
The testimony revealed several activities in various saloons and in the Public Square area that angered area residents and led to calls to curtail those activities in the future.
F.J. Carpenter testified he met with Davis between 11 a.m. and noon Saturday, July 15, when Davis came to his office to “perfect” his pension papers.
Carpenter, a notary public, said he didn’t see Davis again until the next evening when he was called to take Davis’ dying statement, which said he was beaten by three young men who took his money.
Witnesses said they saw Davis during the day, drinking in various saloons, playing cards and a slot machine, and even sleeping in one of the places.
Later at night, saloonkeepers and others said they saw Davis lying down on the ground in the back alley to the saloons, behind Main Street and in the “devil’s elbow” (the northwest corner of the Public Square.)
The witnesses said they asked Davis what was the matter, and Davis had responded that he was sick and had the cramps and refused their offers of assistance.
Bradley “Sam” Mills and Patrick Haley said they found Davis on the ground and put him on a two-wheel truck or cart and gave him a ride in the alley area.
When he complained, they said they stopped and placed Davis on the ground again as requested, then went on their way.
Witnesses traced Davis’ movements throughout the day, going from one saloon to another and to various stores.
Close to sunset, witnesses said they saw him leave Mike Stremkowski’s saloon through the back alley door, but that was the last many saw of him.
Several younger witnesses testified they were in the various saloons in the area throughout the night, going from saloon to saloon and visiting with friends and others.
They would buy a “tin pail” of beer and then go into the alleys to talk.
They would go down to the Green Bay & Western depot along the riverfront or the Clark Street bridge to meet with others, or venture north of the slough to buy beer in other saloons and then go to an ice house to drink it.
Some testified they didn’t even go home that night and wound up sleeping in a box car at the depot.
The Stevens Point Daily Journal of July 16, 1901, reported, “As to many of the witnesses examined, it was one continuous chase after the beer can. At one time a certain gang would be in one of the vacant spaces above alluded to, drinking beer from a can…
“And so it was, first here, then there, but almost always ‘rushing the growler,’ that is buying beer and drinking from a can – the can usually in use holding three quarts… Sunday, the rushing of the beer can was again resumed, according to the testimony of some of the witnesses, and kept up until late in the evening.”
The effort to find the perpetrators also led a “seer” to offer her services.
Madame Travillia, who claimed to be endowed with the gift of second sight, came to the Stevens Point Journal office on July 17 and said as soon as she heard of Davis’ murder she had visions of four men being involved and she could give a description of each.
She told the Journal she was visiting in Stevens Point and also claimed that “her powers have frequently been tested in criminal matters and that without any personal knowledge of the circumstances she has been able to give an account of the crime and descriptions of the person or persons who committed it.”
She said she would contact the district attorney, but there was no report of that ever occurring.
The July 18, 1901, Daily Journal contained a letter identified as written by a citizen and taxpayer expressing hope that the jury’s “investigation may have the effect of doing away with the headquarters of the crowd of young men so prominently mentioned in testimony by arousing those of the city officials who are responsible for present conditions to a proper sense of their duty.”
The letter also stated that “the licenses of at least two saloonkeepers should be at once revoked; and that slot machines, so openly admitted to be running in the city, be at once shut down by the mayor and police.”
The coroner’s jury concluded its inquiry on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 1901, and jury recommended that four young men be charged in connection with Davis’ death.
The Daily Journal reported Aug. 10, 1901, “based upon thee vidence produced at this inquest, they(member of the jury verily believe that Edward Kelp, Samuel Mills, Patrick Haley and Arthur Murphy are the persons who were instrumental and have knowledge of the unlawful and wrongful treatment so administered to the said Thomas Davis, thereby causing his death.”
The jury also recommended that the mayor and city council suspend and revoke the liquor license of Michael Stremkowski, the owner of the saloon where Davis had spent much of the Saturday afternoon before his death.
The jury said Stremkowski failed to provide aid to Davis when he talked to him Saturday evening and then Stremkowski’s tavern was open Sunday, July 14, 1901, in violation of state law.
The trial against Mills, Haley and Murphy began on Wednesday, Nov. 20, and the charge against Murphy was dismissed for lack of evidence against him on Friday, Nov. 22.
A charge against Kelp was never brought for lack of evidence connecting him to the crime.
The circuit court jury found Sam Mills, 26, and Patrick Haley, 27, guilty of manslaughter of the third degree, a lesser offense, on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 1901, carrying a penalty of two to four years in prison.
Judge Webb sentenced them Saturday, Nov. 30, 1901, to three years in prison, a sentence that would be reduced to two-and-a half years through good behavior.
After they were sentenced, Webb asked the pair if they had anything to say.
Haley said he was not guilty of the charge, while Mills said he had nothing to say.
Haley died unexpectedly Nov. 25, 1912, of tuberculosis which he apparently caught while in prison. A page No. 1 story in the Stevens Point Gazette on Nov. 27, 1912, said Haley “had suffered long and patiently, with a courage and hopefulness which only those who are afflicted with that dread disease, tuberculosis, seem to possess to the last.”
The story said Haley “worked in the mills and at other manual labor as long as his health would permit. For several years he had earned a living by selling pencils, matches, etc., while friends were also most kind to him, realizing his physical condition. He was honest and trustworthy at all times and the punishment he received several years ago was largely the result of others, he being found in bad company.”
Mills died May 15, 1963, at the age of 87 in Stevens Point, where he lived almost of his entire life. He was a laborer.
While the coroner’s jury recommended revoking the liquor license of Stremkowski, the council wound up taking no action.
Nor did the council act on the Citizens League request to close the saloons owned by M.J. Cauley, Joseph Conway, Charles Worzella and Stremkowski who were all mentioned in the inquest.