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True Crime in 1832 - Death And Cider

Here is the story of the murder case that was brought before the Court during Lino's trial while they were waiting for witnesses to arrive. I am relating this tale, not only because of the timing, but also because it occurred in Yardleyville (Yardley), where I grew up, but also because of the trial itself, especially, in comparison to Lino's where the major players were the same (the judges, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney).

On Saturday, March 17 1832, a number of boatmen were on their way up the Delaware River. The day was wet and stormy and, suffering under the inclemency of the weather, they brought their boats to anchor and repaired to the public house of Mr. Vanhorn in Yardleyville (now Yardley), Pennsylvania. They called for cider. One of their number, Jeremiah Myers, was in a state of intoxication and became very abusive to his comrades. Tunis Cole, a captain of one of the boats and bore the reputation of a good citizen, remonstrated him on the impropriety of this conduct, telling him that he ought to be ashamed of himself. They had been exposed all day to the cold, and as they were now under a comfortable roof, they ought to behave themselves better. On this, Myers drew a large knife and stabbed Cole in the left side.

Myers made his escape, fleeing across the river. Cole died Sunday evening, leaving a wife and several children. Myers was pursued and taken in New Jersey and imprisoned at Belvidere. He was a newlywed, having married Clarissa Pearce on 15 January. She was pregnant with their first child. Myers was brought to Doylestown for trial by John T. Brown, the Constable of Bristol, who had been deputed for that purpose by Governor Wolf.

On Tuesday, 24 April 1832, when awaiting witnesses for Lino's trial, he Court moved to the next case pending. It was the trial of Jeremiah Myers for the murder of Tunis Cole. The 25 year old Myers was placed at the bar. On entering the court room, he seemed to feel keenly the peril in which he was placed. It was reported that his agitation was, however, such as a brave and good man might feel--such as might be felt by a man who was fully aware that his life was at stake, but who was resolved to abide the result with firmness. Myers bore a countenance which was, in its expression, so frank, and so free from malice, that unless all the science of physiognomy be an idle fable, he could not be ruled by a mind capable of devising deeds of blood. Clearly, the newspapers found him to be a more sympathetic subject than Lino.

On his arraignment, he, in a solemn, but audible voice, pleaded not guilty. His counsel, Mr. Eleazar T. McDowell, presented a motion to the court, that the trial should be postponed to the next term. He grounded his motion on the affidavit of the prisoner, which stated that some witnesses for whom subpoenas had been issued, could not be found. McDowell also thought it extraordinary that the case should be pressed forward so quickly, as the true bill was only found against him the day before (Monday), the prisoner had been confined in the Bucks County prison only since the 15th and he had only been engaged in the case since Friday. He, therefore, had no idea that the trial would be called up before that of another individual (Lino), although he had since used all possible diligence to procure the witnesses named to him. Deputy Attorney General Thomas Ross replied that the gentleman on the other side (McDowell) had no right to form an opinion as to what day the trial was to take place. He showed also that at least one of the absent witnesses could not be material to Myer's defense. The Court decided that the trial should proceed on Saturday, giving the period to that date to the prisoner's counsel to procure his witnesses. The Court then adjourned until two o'clock, P.M. when it resumed Lino's trial.

When his trial resumed, Myers was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years imprisonment. It was determined to be an instance of the awful effect of ardent spirits.

After he was released from prison, he returned to his wife and son in Warren County, NJ and began working as a blacksmith. He would have at least six more sons and two daughters. Myers would spend his final years living quietly with his wife and working as a church janitor. He died 26 February 1885 at the age of 78.


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