Top 10 Unsolved Murders of the 19th Century

Numerous notorious murders took place during the 19th Century, most of them remain unsolved due to lack of evidence and other reasons.

Out of all the unsolved murders, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln is taken as the most famous unsolved mystery murder of the 19th Century.

It is considered so as a renowned actor assassinated Lincoln at the Ford’s Theater in Washington.

Other famous murders are the Gatton Murders, where three siblings from the Murphy family is killed. Two of the sisters are raped and beaten brutally, while the brother is shot in his head.

There are various other murder mysteries with very tragic ends which deserve some justice, including the murder of William Poole, Lizzie Borden Murder Case, the killing of Benjamin Nathan, and many more.

Here is the list of top 10 unsolved murders of the 19th Century.

10. The Murder of William Poole 

The Murder of William Poole

William Poole, famously known as Bill Poole (Bill the Butcher), was born on July 24, 1821, and was the leader of the Bowery Boys Gang – the Washington Street Gang. He also was the local leader and an enforcer of the Know-Nothing Party which was a potent secret political party of New York City.

During his time in the Know-Nothing Party, Bill had acquired numerous enemies including a few Irish gangsters and Irish boxer turned Congressman, John Morrissey. 

Once when Bill and Morrissey were to fight against each other in the rough-and-tumble fight, Morrissey was beaten very badly by some people right before the start of the battle. After Morrissey recovered, he tried to attack Bill by firing at him, but his pistol did not work at that very moment.

One night when Bill was at the Broadway Saloon, he was shot by an unknown person, and the bullet lodged next to the heart. He was able to leave for about 14 days after he was wounded.

The Know-Nothing Party organized a massive funeral at the Broadway where he was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and had the most extensive public gathering of that time.

The murder of William – Bill Poole remains a mystery till today.

9. The Lizzie Borden Murder Case

The Lizzie Borden Murder Case

Lizzie Andrew Borden ( 1860 – 1972 ) was an American Woman living with his father and stepmother until the age of 32. She is considered to be the main suspects of the double murders that took place in the year 1893.

Andrew Jackson Borden, the father of Lizzie and Abby Borden, stepmother of Lizzie, were murdered in their own with numerous strikes made by the axe. When the incident occurred Lizzie’s sister, Emma, was not at home, so Lizzie called her neighbour to comfort her for the death of her parents.

When the police came in to interrogate, she told that they were having some issues with the property and her father had recently killed her pet pigeons, which made her angry and her relation with her stepmother was also not so good.

After about a week of the incident, the police arrested Lizzie for the murders and taken to court for the trial. But, Lizzie was acquitted due to lack of clear evidence. The homicide remains a mystery till today with the debate on the evidence.

Though the murder case is unsolved, a nursery rhyme after Lizzie Borden is still in use mostly by the Americans – ‘ Lizzie Borden took an axe And gave her mother forty whacks When she saw what she had done She gave her father forty-one.’

8. The Murder of Libero Badaro

The Murder of Libero Badaro

Libero Badaro ( 1798 -1830 ), born in Liguria studied medicine at the University of Torino and Pavia and was an Italian Brazilian physician, journalist, botanist, and politician.

In the year 1830, while he was returning to his house, he was stopped and questioned by 4 Germans. They tricked him by handing a gurnard which injured him brutally. He died by pronouncing a phrase that symbolizes the defence of the freedom of the press – I die defending freedom.

To honour Badaro, a constitutional observer dedicated his issue of November 26 to his death, and around 5,000 people with more than 800 lit torches attended the funeral to show respect towards him.

It is considered that the main culprit, Henry Stock of Germany was hiding in the house of ombudsman and the public demanded the arrest of both. Later, Henry was arrested and convicted for his murder.

Libero Badaro is honoured in Sao Paulo with a street named after him – Libero Badaro Street.

7. The Murder of Benjamin Nathan 

The Murder of Benjamin Nathan

Benjamin Nathan ( 1813 – 1870 ) was an American philanthropist, a wealthy stockbroker and an investor who wore diamond studs on his shirts and used to support various charities.

He was elected as a member and later became the president of the New York Stock Exchange in 1851 and also served as the director in Ninth Avenue Street Railway and Chicago- Northwestern Railroad.

In the year 1870, when Benjamin was at his Manhattan mansion, someone bludgeoned him to death. He was hit on his skull with an iron bar which left him bleeding. The tragic murder took place on the night of July 28 – 29 and the news created chaos amongst the public.

The body of Nathan was first found by his 22-year-old son, Washington Nathan and 26-year-old son, Federick Nathan while other members of the family were out to their New Jersey estate.

Though several suspects were identified and put under trials including Washinton, his profligate son, none of the suspects was indicted, and the notorious incident remains an unsolved murder till today, even after 150 years.  

6. The Murder of John Henry Blake

The Murder of John Henry Blake

John Henry Blake ( 1802 – 1882 ), son of Lieutenant- Colonel of Furbo – County Galway, Jon Blake was a member of the Tribe of Galway. He started working as a bailiff ( peace office ) in Furbo and later moved to Kitullagh to work as a land agent.

Later, he became an agent to the worst landlord who was infamous for eviction of tenants in all Ireland – Clanricarde. He targeted Blake while he was in London.

When Blake, along with his wife, was on their way to attend a mass in Loughrea, they were attacked by someone(shot). Blake and Thady Ruane, his driver, could not survive the incident, but his wife was able to escape the attack and was alive.

The incident grasped a lot of attention as it happened during the time of the Land War, where numerous other deaths and aggravations were taking place at that time.

The investigation went on for many months, and about 7people were under suspicion, but none of them appears for the trial. The mystery murders remain unsolved until today.

5. The Gatton Murders

The Gatton Murders

The Gatton Murders is about the triple homicide that took place in the town of Gatton, Queensland – Australia.

In the Blackfellows Creek lived Murphy family, they had a total of 12 members including parents and 10 children. Out of all 10, 3 siblings, namely Michael, Norah, and Theresa, were murdered.

Michael, Norah, and Theresa went for a Christmas party being held in the hall of Gatton, but when they reached there, the party was over, and everyone had left already so, the trio decided on returning home.

Next morning, the Murphy family realized that the trio had not returned from the party and started looking for them. They found the trio about 2 miles away from Gatton lying down dead on the grass. Their bodies were on a bloody rug, hands of two sisters were tied with handkerchiefs.

The investigation had a rough start as there were no notes taken in the first visit to the crime scene. Later their bodies were made for postmortem, and it revealed that Norah and Theresa had been raped and beaten brutally and Michael had been shot in the head.

Despite a series of investigation and a few suspicions, the tragic triple homicide remains an unsolved murder mystery till today.

4.  The Murder of Sharon Tyndale

19th century murder of Sharon Tyndale

Sharon Tyndale ( 1816 – 1871 ), a secretary of State of Illinois – United States, redesigned the Great Seal of the State of Illinois.

In the year 1867, he put on a request to redesign the seal with a modified motto from State-Sovereignty-National Union to National Union- State Sovereignty, and it got authorized by the legislature.

Though Tyndale redesigned the Great Seal, he made it look like it was done to show the legislature’s intent. He made the twisted banner with the word Sovereignty turning upside down and remains till today there with a minor change.

In the year 1871, after almost 2 years of leaving the office, he was shot dead after being robbed by someone while he was walking towards the railway station, near his house in Springfield.

Despite numerous investigations and trials on finding the culprit, the tragic murder was never solved. It remains the most famous unsolved murders to date.

3. Juan Prim’s murder 

19th century murder Juan Prim’s

Juan Prim ( 1814 – 1870 ), born in Reus, Spain was a political figure and a military leader with the impactful role during the Revolution of 1868 which led to the dethronement of the Bourbon Spanish Queen Isabella II.

In the year 1843, Prim was elected to the Cortes and then took part in a rebellion which was against the Espartero with a title of military governor of Madrid. He even planned a conspiracy against the government of Ramon Maria Narvaez and was captured for some time.

In the year 1870, just before the arrival of Amadeus ( King of Spain ) in Spain, Prim was on his carriage, and several unknown attackers shot him from the window of the carriage. He was able to survive the shot for about 48 hours and died on the 3rd day.

The death of Prim deprived Amadeus of a staunch supporter who led to the contribution of the instability of a reign that ended after 2 years.

The autopsy done in 2012 revealed that he might have been strangled in his deathbed, though it is not confirmed till date and the tragic end of Juna Prim remains a mystery until today despite the active investigation.

2. Helen Jewett’s Murder

Helen Jewett’s Murder

Helen Jewett ( 1813 – 1836 ), born in Temple, Maine was the daughter of an alcoholic father. She started working as a servant from the age of 12.

At the age of 18, Helen developed herself as a sexually assertive woman and later became one of the most famous American prostitutes in New York City and worked under fake names.

On April 10, 1836, she was found dead by Rosina Townsend, the matron of a brothel. She had been hit on her head several times by a sharp object, probably a hatchet. It is considered that there was no sign of any struggle, and her bed was put on fire after her death.

The police investigation brought 19-year old Richard Robinson under a trial based on the testimony given by the woman living in the same brothel. Robinson was a regular customer of Helen but denied the killing and showed no response even after he was shown the corpse.

After numerous trials and hearings, Robinson has let free due to lack of evidence and the murder remains unsolved till today.

1.  Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination

Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination

Abraham Lincoln ( 1809 – 1865 ), born in a low-income family became an American statesman and a lawyer who served the United States as 16th President from 1861 to 1865.

In the year 1865, Abraham Lincoln had gone to the Ford Theatre in Washington to attend the play – Our American Cousin and he was assassinated by a famous actor John Wikes Booth.

The news about the assassination travelled all around through telegraph, and the Americans came to know about it through the newspapers. The article had images related to the killing of Lincoln and the narration of the tragic incident.

Before his last breath, Lincoln asked Booth to convey a message to his mother, saying he gave his life for his country and to raise his hands above his face so that he could see them.

There was a search for Booth and other conspirators with the reward of $100,000. It is considered to be the most massive manhunt with about 10,000 federal troops, police, and detectives tracking them.

Conclusion:

All the murder stories travelled quickly since the invention of the telegraph and news when everyone came to know about every detail of it.

Some of the murders had the convicts but could not arrest them due to the lack of evidence, and unknowns did some crimes.

There are various other unsolved murders besides the ones mentioned above namely Murder of Mary Rogers, Murder of Sakamoto Ryoma, Assassination of Thomas C. Hindman, and Murder of Alexander Boyd.

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Cite this article as: Richard Marrison, "Top 10 Unsolved Murders of the 19th Century," in HistoryTen, January 22, 2020, https://historyten.com/19th-century/top-unsolved-murders-19th-century/.
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