Monday, April 1, 2013

Distressing Murder/Suicide in Memphis, 1869

A Well-known Citizen Kills His
Room-mate and Attacks a 
Man in the Next Room.
Terrible Suicide of the Murderer-
His Farewell to the World.
Full Particulars of the Melancholy and Thrilling Event.
This morning that portion of the population astir on the streets was startled by the rumor that Mr. Jack Walt had killed a man, and then leaped from a three-story window, killing himself instantly.  The awful report was too soon confirmed, and we lay before our readers the most tragic and distressing instance of homocide (sic) and suicide that has, perhaps, ever occurred in Memphis. 

We hastened to the Bradley Block, on the levee at the foot of Adams street, and found a large crowd already collected.  The man who was slain before he awoke from his sleep proved to be a well known cotton speculator, Mr. Newberry Gibson, who has lived in Memphis perhaps over twenty years; at least, he was a clerk that long ago in the employ of Colonel Titus, and for full twenty-five years had been an intimate and confidential associate of Mr. Andrew Jackson Walt, who, killed him.

The two men occupied a front room together in the northeast corner of the third floor, and the windows command a view up the river and of Front street.  In that room lay the ghastly remains of Mr. Newberry Gibson.  He had been struck apparently three times with a hatchet.  The first blow split his head open across the forehead, the next went deep into his left temple--either of them would have been instantly fatal.  A third blow, of less force, had been made just below the mouth, diagonally across the chin.

lay on his back, and it was evident had not been moved since he was struck the first time; and the bed-clothes, which were pushed down, disclosing half his body, were clotted with pools of blood.  The general opinion was the he never awoke.  He certainly did not make any resistance.  he had slept by himself, and at a late hour last evening remarked to Mr. Nelson, who occupied the next room, that he was afraid Walt had thrown himself into the river, for he was crazy as a loon, or words to that effect.

It is not known certainly where Mr. Jack Walt slept last night, if he slept at all.  But he came into Mr. George Nelson's room before sunrise this morning and told him that he had slept out in a lumber yard, and made many strange remarks, like a man who was out of his mind.  Mr. Nelson told him to come and get in bed, but he declined, and went out, carefully pulling the door to after him and a table which fastened it.  Mr. Nelson turned over in bed and was composing himself for a morning nap when Walt suddenly dashed open the door, and with gleaming eyes and a bloody hatchet in his hand made at Mr. N. like an infuriated madman, striking at him with the hatchet with insane fury.  Nelson partly raised up and sprang back, at the same time throwing up his right hand, which was split wide open, between the middle and fore fingers, almost to the wrist.  After striking at Nelson several more times without effect, Walt dropped the hatchet and ran out toward his own room.  It is clear that he had murdered Gibson before attacking Nelson, for the bloody hatchet was picked up in the latter's room.  Mr. Nelson ran out in his hight clothes and made his escape to the Worsham House.

Walt next appeared at the window of his room, fronting north on Adams street, and by his shouting and wild movements attracted the attention of two policemen who were coming around the corner.  Mr. Nelson met them and told them that an attempt had been made to kill him by the man in the window.  The alarm was promptly given on the street, and several persons, comprehending the situation, started toward the building, but it was too late.  Two minutes later Walt reappeared at the window, and, standing up in it, shouted frantically: "Farewell to the world!" Then he lowered himself, still shouting "farewell to the world," making incoherent expressions, until he swung off by his hands from the windowsill, and at this instant he may have realized his terrible situation, for he held on with great tenacity a minute or so--though it seemed hours to the terrified beholders--and shouted aloud, it is said, for help; but none could reach him--he was beyond human aid.  First one hand gave way, and in a few seconds the other slipped, and the man shot to the brick pavement, forty feet below, with terrific force and velocity.  He fell almost upon his right shoulder, and when reached by the horror-stricken spectators, was lying on his back.  He breathed for nearly an hour, but never spoke or was conscious.  The body was conveyed into Captain Montgomery's cotton press establishment, but life was already extinct.

Mr. Andrew Jackson Walt was about fifty-five years old, and was never married.  He has been known in Memphis for full twenty-five years.  He remarked to a friend yesterday that he first came down the river as a cook on a flatboat.  By energy and perseverance he accumulated a handsome fortune, and before the war was worth probably one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.  But during the war he lost heavily, and a fire that occurred in the Bradley Block (which he owned) eighteen months ago, was a heavy blow, from which he never recovered.  His financial troubles weighed him down, and for some months past his friends have observed that his mind was somewhat impaired.  Among business men he was noted for fair dealing and liberality.  Of late he had been drinking some, though not to an extent that would excite any special notice or apprehension.  He was on the best of terms with Mr. Gibson, the man he killed, and the act could only have been committed when he was out of his mind.  His father, a native of Virginia, but for many years a citizen of Ohio, lives in the city, and is eighty-four years old. The four brothers of the deceased are well known in the business community as men of strict integrity and big enterprise; and the blow which has fallen upon the family excites wide-spread sympathy.  The deceased had evidently been thinking of suicide for some time.  Only yesterday he remarked that he had never wronged a man in his life, and he was ready to die at any time.  Mr. Gibson was, perhaps, younger than Walt, probably was forty-five, and like him had never been married.  He waited on Walt when he had yellow fever and small-pox, and they were at all times together on the most intimate and confidential terms.

An inquest was held by Coroner Samuelson at an early hour over both bodies, and verdicts were rendered in accordance with the foregoing facts.  The funeral of both will take place, we understand, to-morrow.  At a late hour this forenoon no steps had been taken to-ward removing the body of Gibson or preparing it for interment.  The policeman at the door, however, stated courteously, that suitable arrangements had been made.  We have thus give the minute particulars of this terrible affair as gathered on the ground, not to gratify any morbid taste for sensation, but as a duty to the public, and to the many acquaintances and friends of the two men deceased.

This gentleman, who escaped so narrowly, is at the Worsham House.  His severe wound was dressed by Dr. Nutall, and he is not in any danger, though suffering greatly.  A main artery was severed and the doctor found it very difficult to stop the hemorrhage.  The patient is consequently very weak.
Posted in the Public Ledger, April 6 1869.

The brothers of  Mr. Andrew Jackson Walt held a double funeral at their home for Mr. Newberry Gibson and their brother Jack.  The two men were interred at Elmwood Cemetery in lot 623, Chapel Hill, on April 7, 1869. Elmwood records list their ages as 50 for Walt and 51 for Gibson, which differs from the report above.

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