1920: Cold Blooded Murder or Sad Accident?

Leaving church services at Patoka Grove, as you wind down the gravel lane through the cemetery where all of my Grandma Evan’s folks are buried, you will see a rather large grave marker off to your right in the old Sharp family plot.  Two young men with different last names buried together.

Shared Grave of the Sharp and Black boys.

The Winslow Dispatch, August 20, 1920.

Cold Blooded Murder or Sad Accident?

~Cecil Sharp and Victor Black run over by Extra East Bound Freight Saturday night~

    The remains of two stalwart young men buried in one grave, the victims of either a cold blooded murder or a sad accident, was the scene enacted at Williams Cemetery Wednesday afternoon, when Cecil Sharp and Victor Black were buried in one grave on the Sharp lot.

    The bodies of these young men were found by the engineer of an Extra Freight, lying on the track near the No. 7 switch below Ayrshire between eleven o’clock and midnight Sunday night.  When discovered by the engineer he was too near them to stop the heavy train and the bodies were passed over by the heavy locomotive.

The engineer said that when he first saw the dark spot lying lengthwise of the track he thought it was a dark spot in the track but when in about three rails length of the spot discovered that it was the body of a man.  He applied the brakes but could not stop the train until he had passed over the body but he ran to it as soon as he could get the heavy train stopped and discovered after reaching what he thought was the body of a man that there were two men.  He said that neither body moved nor did any flesh quiver nor was there any blood where the bodies were mangled.

  The trainman gathered the bodies together and took them to the blockhouse in Ayrshire and removed them later to Oakland City where they were prepared for burial and taken to the home of Lance Sharp, father of Cecil Sharp in Muren.

Cecil Sharp and Victor Black left Muren where both reside, Sunday afternoon, going to Ayrshire to attend church and see their sweethearts.  They are reported to have  been seen about the block office in the afternoon.  Later they went to church  at Ayrshire and accompanied some other young folks to the home of Ike Cox where a number of young men and women were having a good time.   The Sharp boy accompanied one of the girls home, the Black boy remaining at the Cox home for a short time, the boys meeting soon afterward when they started for their home in Muren. They were  not seen anymore until the engineer of the freight train found their lifeless bodies after the big locomotive had passed over them.

The suspicion of murder  was at once advanced by the members of the train crew as when they picked the bodies up, one of them was cold, they said, and the fact that there was practically  no blood even when one of the young man’s arms was cut off.

Their heads were badly crushed but could not be told whether this was done before the train struck them.

Cecil Sharp was 18 years old July 18th last and was a son of Lance Sharp and wife of Muren.   Four years ago last March an older brother was killed by a Southern train near the old Ayrshire store as he attempted to board it for a ride.

Victor Black was an orphan.   He made his home with his uncle, John Jackson of Muren.  He was 18 years old the 13th of February last.  His father and mother are both dead.

The funeral was held Wednesday afternoon from the Ayrshire church, Rev. Oda Drake, a former Winslow minister, conducted the service.  The remains were taken to Williams Cemetery where they were buried in one grave.   The funeral was largely attended and was one of the saddest that has taken place in this section in a long time.

There is little question in the minds of the people of the community that a cold blooded murder was committed.  The young men were known to have had some money.  The report is that the Sharp boy had a roll of bills aggregating something eighty to one hundred dollars besides some change.  A few cents was all the money that was found on the body and the fact that the body was cold  adds some to the mystery.

There seems to have been but about three quarters of an hour between the time the young men were seen with the young women at the Cox home until they were run over  by the train.  For what reason and under what circumstances would they lay down  on a railroad track can not be figured out by the people of the community.

How one man could have murdered the two young men and have dragged the bodies to the railroad track is some more of a mystery.  It is thought that more than one is connected with the murder and many stories have circulated.  One story is that a place has been discovered where the struggle took place but this has not been verified.

Coroner Joe Kinman has been on the scene and has held a preliminary inquest holding the matter open until a further investigation can be made.  Prosecutor Krieg and Sheriff Bryan have been on the scene making an effort to get some clue to the  mystery.

A story is going the rounds that earlier in the evening as Roy Burton who also lives in Muren, was returning home down the railroad track after having attended church at Ayrshire a man jumped out of the weeds and struck at him with a big knife, cutting his top shirt and his undershirt.  Burton is said to have ran away and made it double quick for home.

Victor Black was a member of the Red Men Lodge, holding membership at Hosmer.  They had charge of the funeral service and rendered valuable aid to the families and friends of both young men.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Winslow Dispatch  August 27, 1920

Coroner Joe Kinman has rendered his verdict in the case of the deaths of Cecil Sharp and Victor Black, whose bodies were found by the crew of a Southern Freight train a week ago Sunday night, that they came to their death by being run over by the train or words to that effect.  The people of this community do not believe, in the light of all the circumstances brought out, that the railroad train killed the young men.  And they further feel that in time the actual cause of their deaths will be brought to light.  Most people believe the young men were murdered and they also feel that a strong effort should be made by the state to clear the matter up.  The community does not feel safe with such men in its midst and would like to see them ferreted out.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Winslow Dispatch  January 18, 1924

A story has been going the round of the community which, if true, clears up a considerable mystery of a sad affair of several months ago.  More than a year ago two young men, Sharp and Black, were found by train men, west of town on the Southern railway, after the train had run over them and had mutilated their bodies.  It was thought at the time that they had been murdered and placed on the tracks.  The boys had been to Winslow in the afternoon and every possible clue was followed in an effort to clear up the mystery but nothing ever resulted.  The bodies were buried and the matter passed as one of those mysteries never to be brought to light.  This week a story is being circulated that Ezra Miller, now serving a life sentence in the Michigan City penitentiary for the murder of his father, George Miller in Marion Township, is alleged to have written a letter to a sister that he murdered the boys in self defense.  The story is that Miller is alleged to have to written that he was shooting craps with them on the railroad and after he had won their money they attacked him and that he killed them and placed their bodies on the railroad track.  Whether there is any truth in the story we have been unable to find out and merely give it as the street gossip traveling around.  Miller is said to have written that he knew he would never be free again so desired to clear up the mystery of the death of the young men.  Miller is serving a life sentence for the murder of his father at his home in Marion township by beating him to death with a club.

24 comments on “1920: Cold Blooded Murder or Sad Accident?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Rose, I really enjoyed this. You come up with some very interesting articles.

  2. dixie says:

    I have been told of this story …the young men were friends of my aunt , uncle and mom… they all attended Ayrshire church ..I did not know the details or where they were buried…I remember being told after church my aunt could hear them whistling as they walk toward the railroad tracks….anyway thanks for the full story……my family never forgot those two young men.. how sad….Did you know that someone confessed to the murder while on his own death bed after all those years..??? well thats what i heard??

    • rose says:

      Ah…there is always more to the story isn’t there? Thanks for sharing your memories of this tragedy.

  3. Excellent post Rose. Thanks for sharing these old dispatches. Wally

  4. allangieselman says:

    Wonderful. Did not live far from there. We need so follow up one this one…;o)

  5. I love reading your posts. I feel like we’re neighbors and wish we were!

  6. Such a gruesome event.

  7. Thanks, Rose. You are keeping local history alive.

  8. Anonymous says:

    That’s quite a tale!

  9. Tarissa says:

    Hi! I’m new to reading your blog. Great stuff here! I just love digging up a good ol’ murder story. This one really intrigues me. I can’t really believe that the coroner stated that the two men were killed by the train. I think the facts are quite obvious that they died before the train ran over them (there was no blood from the impact of the train, etc). Very interesting story. I’ll be sure to stop by again soon!

    • rose says:

      Thanks for reading. There are so many interesting murder stories from the past in our area. I am going to try to include one every now and then.

  10. K Walker says:

    I found this story in the Dispatch a few years back, and I believed it to be murder from the go. It always struck me as strange as to why it was declared an accident, when it obviously wasn’t. I wonder if someone was being covered for?

  11. […] writing my blogs about My Grandparents Schooling and 1920:  Cold Blooded Murder or Sad Accident?  I started getting emails that Jean Myers wanted to talk to me about my blogs and the history of […]

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