Murder in the Family?

23 Aug Murder in the Family?

Has murder played a part in your family’s history? I was amazed to discover that I have one relative who was murdered in the late 1800’s and one who was a murderer in the early 1900’s.

I found out the details of the murdered relative, Emmett Reed, in an online book. The library has thousands of free online books for genealogists in our Ancestry and HeritageQuest databases and on and The story is that Mr. Reed and a friend decided to go west from Iowa to work for a railroad. They sold all their possessions except what would be needed on their trip. Early in their journey, the friend took one of Mr. Reed’s chains, wrapped it around his neck, took his money, and drug him into a river where his body was discovered. The friend was sentenced to life in prison with hard labor. When the case was appealed, the friend’s sentence was reduced because the evidence was circumstantial.

The murderer was one of several neighbors of a man who liked to help himself to his neighbors’ possessions. The neighbors got together and decided to take the law into their own hands and kill this thief. My relative was somehow selected to be the shooter. So one day as the thief was floating down the White River near the boarder of Missouri and Arkansas in a boat, my relative shot and killed him. The thief’s body continued to float down the river in the boat where he was found by his relatives. No one ever reported what happened to authorities and the story remained a secret. However, many years later the story was revived when the weapon was found with the year of the murder on a yellowed slip of paper in it in a storage shed.

If you dig deep enough into your family’s history, you may find some stories even better than these! Make sure to start your search with our library’s resources.