1892: Sensational Disclosures

A Prominent Connecticut Man Charged with Forgery and Highway Robbery.

Middletown, Conn., May 21.–The Herald prints a story to the following effect: The residents of Tylerville and vicinity are greatly stirred up over charges brought against Postmaster William S. Tyler by his nephew, Irving Shaler, aged 24. Tyler, besides being postmaster, is a director in the Middlesex bank and a prominent church man. Young Shaler accuses him of having forged his (Shaler’s) mother’s name to a $1000 check and also of highway robbery. Last fall Mrs. Shaler went away on a visit, and while she was gone Tyler claimed a check for $1000 was missing. He accused Shaler of the theft, but the latter denied it.

Recently Shaler instituted an investigation in order to vindicate himself, with the result that he discovered that some of his mother’s securities had been […]ed in Boston by Tyler. When the check for $1000 was received Shaler claims that Tyler signed his mother’s name to it and deposited it for collection. Shaler claimed that he has forced Tyler to admit that he had forged the check. About three weeks ago Shaler notified the police that he had been held up on the road and robbed of $300. He now claims that his uncle was the highwayman and that the latter admitted it and returned the $300. Parties interested say there will be no prosecution, as matters have been satisfactorily arranged.

From The Fitchburg Sentinel (Fitchburg, Massachusetts), Saturday, May 21, 1892.

1958: House Hits Car

Middletown, Conn.–(UP)–Mrs. Laura C. Santostefano told friends her car got a crumpled fender when it was hit by a house. The house was being moved and she encountered it on a narrow bridge.

From Simpson’s Leader-Times (Kittanning, Pennsylvania), Tuesday, May 20, 1958.

May 18 – Middletown 366


Nathan Starr and the 2,000 Cutlasses

Nathan Starr of Middletown became the nation’s first sword manufacturer when he entered a contract with the United States government on May 18, 1808. The contract was negotiated by Navy Agent John Hull of New London and Nathan Starr provided 2,000 cutlasses. With the War of 1812 on the horizon, soldiers were in need of weaponry.

The contract required Starr to produce a regulation Navy cutlass for $2.50 and a pike for $0.75 in a four month period. The cutlass was a straight single-edged 30-inch bad and was perfectly designed for the small, crowded vessels where soldiers were stationed.

Starr provided another 1,000 cutlasses at $3.00 each for another contract signed on January 15, 1816. The blade on these cutlasses were 25-inches long rather than 30.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.


Seventeen-Year Locust

For the Constitution.

Mr. Editor.–It has probably occurred to many of your readers that this is the year for the appearance of that strange insect, the seventeen-year locust (Cicada Septendeeim) in our vicinity. Their last appearance was in 1843; and their several appearances before that were in the years 1826, 1809 and 1792, the exact period of 17 years returning each time. I cannot find that there is any record of their having been seen here at an earlier period than the date last mentioned, nor any reliable tradition of such an occurrence, but there can be no doubt of the fact! Going back 17 year from 1792 brings us of course to 1776 as the period of their return. Probably they came above ground that year about the time of the battle of Bunker Hill!

They may be expected about the middle of next month on the rocky ledge of land mostly occupied for pastures a little this side of the village of Westfield. Should the season prove specially favorable they may be looked for very early in June.

It will be recollected by many, that, at the time of their last appearance they were very abundant; and on pleasant evenings their perpetual din could be heard in the city, especially in High street, though they must have been three miles distant in a straight line!

Though their usual period is 17 years, it seems that circumstances may sometimes hasten or retard their appearance. Thus, in Morton’s memorial, they are said to have appeared at Plymouth, Mass., in the Spring of 1633, but it is known that several appearances at that place in later times have been in the years 1804, 1821, &c.; consequently a year must have been lost in the period between 1633 and 1804. It is of course possible that Morton may have made a mistake of one year, as he did not write until thirty or more years after 1633.

The times of their appearing in other parts of the country do not correspond with their times here; but the period of their absence is the same. Thus in Maryland, S. Carolina, Georgia, a part of Massachusetts and a part of Ohio, they appeared in 1831 and 1851; but in Western Pennsylvania, a part of Ohio, and other places their appearance was in 1829 and 1846, while in this State and in a part of New Jersey, their last appearance was in 1843, and they are expected again the present year. In other places their periods of return are still different; and probably every year witnesses their return in some locality of our richly extended country.


From The Constitution (Middletown, Conn.), May 18, 1860.


Francesco Lentini born, “The Three-Legged Wonder”

On May 18, 1889 Francesco A. Lentini was born in Rosolini, Sicily as one of thirteen children. However, unlike his twelve siblings, Francesco Lentini was born with three legs and an extra foot. The extra leg and appendage were part of two siblings who had never fully developed in the womb.

As a young man, Lentini joined the Barnum and Bailey Circus and was known as the “Three-Legged Wonder.” He also toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and other circuses and carnivals. He eventually settled in Middletown, Connecticut.

Lentini never saw his extra leg and foot as disability. He went on to marry and have four children who did not inherit his condition.

Story contributed by Kimberly Singh.

May 17 – Middletown 366


Who Killed Mrs. Murphy?

Middletown, Conn., May 17.–“It is rumored that the defense in the case of Clarence Murphy, charged with murder of his mother, expects to show at the hearing Wednesday, that another man left the house at midnight. They claim he may have murdered Mrs. Murphy while attempting an assault. The person they suspect is an old man who has always been considered harmless.”– From the Boston Post, May 18, 1896.


Apparition at St. Sebastian Church

St. Sebastian ChurchOn this date an occurrence at Saint Sebastian’s Church attracted a “crowd of several thousand” spectators.[1] The Blessed Virgin Mary was said to have appeared outside as a “white shadowy figure standing forth prominently in the middle arch of the belfry at Saint Sebastian’s Catholic Church.”  The report in The Hartford Courant continued,

Some of the spectators said it was a shadow caused by a reflection of the street light but the greater part of the crowd was apparently content to believe it was an apparition and not a mere shadow. Cars lined Washington Street for a considerable distance and even after midnight there were new arrivals of persons curious to see the figure. Women came and saw and returned home to bring their children back to view the figure and the crowd seemed unwilling to depart.

The following day, The Hartford Courant reported that the Connecticut Power Company turned off two street lights in front of the church causing both the apparition and the crowd of several thousand people to depart.[3]

[1] “New of Apparition at St. Sebastian’s Stirs Middletown,” Hartford Courant, May 17, 1935, 1

[3] “Apparition’ Disappears In Middletown When Lights Are Turned Off, “Hartford Courant, May 18, 1935.

Story contributed by Jennifer Schloat.


May 16 – Middletown 366



It appears by various papers from the southern and eastern states, that they felt the shock of the Earthquake we experienced here, the 16th ult. The eastern papers suppose its course run from West to East.

In Albany, the shock was smart for a few seconds, at 23 minutes past 10 o’clock–and but one shock.

In the East, it appears, they felt two distinct shocks.

Among all the phenomena in nature, this and the attraction of the needle, has puzzled philosophers the most; the cause remains as yet buried beyond the reach of human scan. Priestl[e]y attempts to familiarize the cause of earthquakes; but his experiments only serve to convince the world, that he was out of his depth. Franklin indeed found means to rob the clouds of their thunder and avert its effects. Some suppose earthquakes precede hot weather.

From the Middlesex Gazette (Middletown, Conn.), Thursday, June 18, 1818.


Fiasco Fights at Middletown

Bouts at the Sampson A. C. Prove a Failure.

Middletown, Conn., May 16.–The boxing bouts before the Sampson Athletic Club last night proved a complete fizzle. Patsy Corrigan of Brooklyn refused to go on for his twenty round match with Billy Moore of St. Louis and Kid Lamar of Chicago was substituted. Lamar lasted but two rounds.

In the preliminary Billy Trueman of Brooklyn failed to appear for a go with Chick Tucker of New York, and Jack Fitzgerald of New Britain went in. The police stopped the bout in the third to prevent the latter from a knockout.

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York), Thursday, May 16, 1901.

1844: A Strange Request

A gentleman who visited and conversed freely with Hall, the murderer of Mrs. Bacon, in the Middletown (Conn.) jail, a few days since, informs the Hartford Times, that he declares it to be his intention to petition the Legislature for the privilege of being hung in public. He does not like the idea of being put out of existence in a back yard, away from his fellow beings, save perhaps a surgeon and sheriff. He says that he prefers to be executed, rather than have his punishment commuted to imprisonment for life, and intimates that he will remonstrate against any petition of his friends for commutation of punishment. Hall is a man who is said to be naturally intelligent, but without any education whatever, being unable to read.

From The Sun (Baltimore, MD), May 15, 1844.

May 14 – Middletown 366


A Woman Commands a Coal Barge

Middletown, Conn., May 14.–The barge Edith McDermott is at the dock here and is discharging a cargo of coal. This barge does not differ from the others that ply between this city and the coal ports, only that it is owned and captained by a woman, whose husband died about six years ago and left her with two children. Her husband formerly commanded the barge, and when he died she continued in the trade, and has managed her business affairs with great success. Besides the barge of which she takes charge, she owns three others that are engaged in the same trade. Her two children are with her. She is as full of business as any man engaged in the same vocation. She carries two mules aboard the boat for furnishing power to hoist the coal out of the hold.

From The Sun (New York, N.Y.), May 15, 1892.


Moves for Indictment of Mrs. Johanna Tell

Middletown, Conn., May 14–By order of Judge A. F. Ells, a Grand Jury has been summoned in the Superior Court here tomorrow to consider indictment of Mrs. Johanna Tell, who confessed the murder of her employer, Charles Blair, at Killingworth and was later extradited from New York City. Should a true bill be returned State’s Attorney Ernest A. Inglis said trial of Mrs. Tell would begin in the Superior Court May 20.

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, N. Y.), Wednesday, May 14, 1924.


1957: Weather Remarks Top Elevator Topic

But Discussion Follows Same Old Line

Middletown, Conn. (UP)–What do people talk about in elevators?

The weather, and it gets pretty boring, says Harry Scionti, Municipal Building elevator operator.

Nobody is original in their discourses on weather, he says. So yesterday he produced this chart of things people said in his elevator one day and how many times it was said:

Comments Listed

“Boy, it’s hot.”–14 times.

“Pretty warm”–11 times.

“We’re sweating it out today.”–2 times.

“Good day for the beach.”–22 times.

“We sure need rain.”–13 times.

“Hottest day of the year.”–6 times.

“It’s the humidity.”–5 times.

“I can hardly breathe.”–2 times.

From the Lubbock Evening Journal (Lubbock, Texas), Monday, May 13, 1957.

1910: Prompt Surgery of a Chauffeur Saves Child

Middletown, Conn., May 12.–Little Minnie LaChowsky, aged seven years, sat on the steps of a district school on the outskirts of Higganum today, eating her lunch, when she suddenly choked after swallowing a big piece of mince pie. Little Minnie was pounded on the back and various other means were used to relieve her without result.

The teacher examined the child’s throat and found a piece of wire nearly an inch long lodged in the trachea. She could find nothing with which to remove it and was about to start for home with the suffering child when a big automobile came in sight.

The chauffeur formed a hook of a bit of metal and after several attempts managed to pull out the wire. The child was saved, but suffered greatly from shock. She was taken home and put to bed.

From the Santa Cruz Evening News (Santa Cruz, California), Thursday, May 12, 1910.