Life and Crimes of Francis Dick.
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The Life and Crimes of Francis Dick:
Embracing all his Confessions, with a Sketch of his Trial and Execution
Francis Dick was born in the year 1817, being 37 years old at the time of his execution. He was a native of Bavaria, and at the age of 14 came to the United States with his mother, two other sons and two daughters. The aged mother, one of the sons and one of the daughters are all that remain of the six who crossed the water together. The family settled in Toy, Miami county, in the year 1834. Francis – called “Frank” in the family and among his acquaintances – worked with Peter, an older brother, at shoemaking, until the year 1839 when the latter died suddenly. Frank took charge of the shop but soon gave it up and concluded to turn his head to butchering – working for his board at this “bloody business” with his brother in law. He tired of this, however, and in connection with his mother, rented and kept a public house. It was not a hotel exactly, being according to the measurement of one who knew the premises, “a one horse tavern.” Dick soon lost confidence in his gifts as a landlord, and at the end of a few months abdicated, accepting employment as a hostler for one of the “principal hotels” of the town. In this position he remained one or two years; after which in 1848, he went to live in Hamilton, where he again hired himself in the capacity of hostler. An anecdote is told by one of his employers, illustrative of his fidelity, and showing, at he same time, that he was not to be crossed with impunity.
It was a rule of the house where he was employed, that no horse should be taken from the stable without being first brought round to the office by the hostler. The reason of this rule was that otherwise the patron of the house might mount at the stable and ride away without settling their bills – especially bills for stabling and food. Dick was instructed accordingly, and no subordinate ever more willingly obeyed orders. One day a customer whose horse had been “standing up to the rack,” came to Dick and called for the animal. Dick brought it out and the man mounted as if intending to ride away. Dick stopped him and requested him to “come down,” but the request was not complied with, whereupon the contumacious individual found himself seized by the throat and brought to the ground as if in the jaws of a bull dog. He cried murder lustily, and the landlord running to his relief, took off the infuriated hostler not however until the victim’s natural faculties for respiration had been very materially circumscribed.
At the end of a year or 18 months, Dick returned to Troy, made his home with his brother-in-law, and assisted in butchering, occasionally visiting Dayton.
Courtship and Marriage.
It was during one of these visits that he met Kathrina Young, who afterwards became his wife, and as he protested to the last, the author of all his misfortune. It was in the spring of 1851 – when the birds were making melody in the same woods which afterwards became the scene of a horrid murder – that Dick wooed, in his blunt way, the not unwilling Kathrina. – The place is about a mile south east of town, away from any public road, and among the hills. The girl was young, and not destitute of personal charms for a man like Dick. He went out to see her one Saturday, and “liked her,” but did not propose. On Monday he went home to Troy and told his folks that he was going to marry. They advised him first to inquire about the Young family and not marry unless he ascertained that his intended bore a good character. Taking this advice, he went to two friends who knew the Youngs – and telling his object, desired to know their opinion of the family. He was plainly told that if he married the girl his home would be too hot for him – “a perfect hell.” He could not, however, break away from “the charmer,” and concluded to tell her what he had heard, hoping that she might explain away the bad opinion in which she was held by his informants. Accordingly, he visited her, intimidates his doubts, and was but too willing to be deceived. She had only to say that the persons he had consulted were her enemies, and he was satisfied. In his own language, “I looked at her, liked her, and took a notion to marry her. I told my folks and they didn’t like it but I thought I’d marry her any how.”
Dick’s Domestic Life.
Frank and Kathrina were “married in haste”, and it was not long till they commenced devoting their leisure to the repentance which proverbially succeeds such folly. They undertook the difficult task of living with the parents and family of the bride. Three months after the marriage, Frank came to the city, intending to take the packet for Troy, where a matter of business demanded his presence. He “succeeded” however, in missing the boat, and returned home in the evening just after dark. – The family, all but his wife, were away. Upon entering the house Frank saw that there was a light within – a phenomenon quite as there as June bugs in winter. A suspicion crossed his mind that the frail Kathrina, not expecting him home, had taken measures against the fear of becoming lonely. He walked lightly to the window, looked in and saw—no matter what. – When he entered, the opposite door closed after a retreating pair of corduroys, and the faithless Kathrina was alone. What followed may be imagined, but need not be described. There was jealousy and recriminations. Dick went to bed a wiser but not a happier man. When the morning came and waked him, his wife was gone. Self reproach persuaded him to follow her. He came to the city, and discovered her at the market house in close conversation with the same pair of corduroys of which he had caught a glimpse the night before, but he did not show himself at once to the parties, and they started off together. He kept an eye on them, however, and following a short distance behind, finally overtook them. “Where are you going?” said he to the truant better half. “We’re going round here,” was her reply. Frank, according to his way of describing the scene, “could stand it no longer” and taking Kathrina by the shoulder, he proceeded to lead her back to the market house, quickening her steps all the way with a light stimulant in the shape of a switch. For this assault and battery he was arrested and fined $20. The satisfaction, however, this rendered to the law, did not satisfy the outraged feelings of his wife. She resolved no longer to live with him, and seeking legal advice, had a petition filed asking the Court to release her from the “hated bond.” Ere the petition came on to be heard, however, the parties were reconciled and living together – the past forgiven, and the immediate present free from clouds. During this comparative calm, on the 3rd of January, 1852, their first and only child was born. It is a girl, and has been placed in a situation to be respectably raised – in ignorance, if possible, of its mother’s shame and its father’s crimes.
Again after a few months, Frank’s home at his mother-in-law’s became unendurable to him. Strifes and contentions filled the house, and he determined to leave it, believing that he and his wife could get along more happily alone. Accordingly they rented a small tenement in Slidertown, a suburb of the city, and moved into it. Kathrina, however, grew gay under the influences of city associations, and one night committed the levity of attending a dance in a room of the house they occupied somewhat in common with another family, for the partition was no impediment to conversation between Dick in a bed in his own room, and his wife waltzing in the room adjoining. After taking a nap, he called for her to “come home;” but she could not appreciate the economy of paying for music to sleep by, and replied that she wouldn’t come. To a second request, she made an answer unfit for polite ears. Dick’s “Dutch got up,” and then he got up himself. Putting on his clothes, he made his appearance amid “the gay assemblage.” The last note of “Carry me back,” died in a spasm and “Change partners” was executed by no one but Mrs. Dick, whose rightful lord led her from the room, refreshing her recollection of the way mothers punish ungrown offenders. For this second stretch of marital authority, she had him arrested, put in jail, and fined $10.
Now the mother-in-law took sides in favor of the husband and against the wife. Other members of the family did the same. Dick, his child, and goods were taken to the old woman’s house, and there he lived for about a week – Kathrina meantime staying in town, forbidden to come home. But the mother relented upon hearing the daughter’s story, - Kathrina was invited home, and Dick was turned away.
This was the second week of August, 1853. Dick went to Steffin’s, nearby, to work, and made his bed under the roof of his employer’s stable. He was not allowed to enter his mother-in-law’s house at night, though his wife and child were there. Others, who had less right, did enter and stay. Dick knew why. – The little chopping mill was short of water, but little grinding could be done there, and the old lady, loving money intensely, could not endure to see her business and her revenues decline. For this reason, as Dick honestly believed, his wife was taken from him. Though the door was closed against him, he was not ignorant of what was going on within. He haunted the home at night like an unhappy ghost, listening at one time in the cellar, and peering through the windows at another. He loved his wife, in spite of the cause she had given him to loathe her. He believed, from evidence which he could not resist, that the mother of his child – who ought to be his wife – was being retailed out to lust: not so much because she was wholly bad, as because she was influenced to it by her mother. Taking this idea to his sleepless bed of straw night after night, he indulged it till it became his master. He saw no method of relief but by removing the cause, and with that object in view, he committed
On the morning of Saturday, August 13th, 1853, just at the dawn of light, old Mrs. Young and her son James, a boy sixteen years old, started to market, in a one-horse huckstering wagon. Two hours afterwards their bodies were found in the woods a short distance from the house, dead, and horribly mangled. The head of the old woman, especially the face, was beaten into a shapeless mass, the skull mashed through in several places, the jaws broken and the teeth knocked out. Suspicion falling upon Dick at once, he was arrested and lodged in jail.
The Condemned in Jail – Dick had now just a month to prepare for death – but he could not be convinced, wither by his legal council or by his spiritual adviser, that he would be executed. His confidence in quibbles was immovable, and while he indulged it no serious impression could be made to take root in his mind. An anecdote is told of him, the levity of which is partially atoned for by its wit. Having been brought up a Catholic, he had very little faith in any other religion, tho’ he was visited occasionally in jail by Protestant ministers. About a week before his execution, one of these gentlemen – a worth and talented clergyman – called on him, and after conversing awhile on serious subjects, asked the question – “Have you any objection to my praying with you?” “I guess not,” said Dick, “every little bit helps.”
The General Confession.
It was not until the beginning of his last week in prison, that Dick realized the vanity of all expectations looking to a commutation of his sentence. The jury that convicted him had been appealed to, and had refused to petition the Executive in his behalf. He now admitted that his hours on earth were numbered and began to listen with a new interest to priestly council. On Wednesday he confessed to Sheriff Henderson the general fact that he was guilty of the murder for which he was about to suffer. This much the Priest desired him to say, that the officer might be sure he was not executing an innocent man.
Confession in Detail.
On Thursday morning, Dick was visited by his brother – who is esteemed a very worthy man. Both were much affected, Frank weeping as he talked. It had been suspected that he murdered a pedlar at Troy but this, as a dying man, he pronounced untrue. His brother Peter he said, was supposed to have died in a fit. He did not so die; he was poisoned. A boy about Dick’s own age, who worked with him in the shoe-shop, disliked Peter, and putting “some stuff” in liquor, gave it to him to drink, and it killed him.
When Dick married, his wife’s father was living – an intemperate, worthless old man. One afternoon he and Dick were in Dayton together; after dark they started home, but the old man never got there. He was found in the canal the next day, with his skull broken.
Dick was suspected of killing him at the time, and in the conversation with his brother on Thursday he confessed it. The old woman, he said, was troubled by the old man, and thought he ought to be out of the way. Dick thought so too, but did not make up his mind to the deed until the day it was done. The old man that morning had injured him deeply, and in a tender point. To resent this injury, and take a bond against its repetition, Dick planned the visit to town, knowing his victim would get drunk, and might be easily shoved out of the world, with little room for suspicion of foul play. “I couldn’t help it,” was Dick’s only apology for the dead.
In regard to the murder of his mother-in-law and “little Jimmy”, he stated to his brother that he made up his mind to kill the old a day before he carried the resolution into effect. His reasons stated in this interview were the same already detailed. Toward the boy he had no ill-will. He struck the old woman in the wagon, and she tumbled out. Thereupon Jimmy jumped out and ran, calling at the top of his voice for his brother Augustus. Dick followed and caught him. “I didn’t want to kill him,” said Dick, “I only wanted to tell him not to holler; but he fought me, and I struck him, not intending to kill him.” He then returned to the old woman and finished her.
In conclusion, he said: “I have brought disgrace upon myself and you. Mother is old, and will not live long. Only two of you will be left. I am sorry for what happened. I wish I hadn’t killed Jimmy, but I couldn’t help it. I hope you will forgive me.”
The evening preceding the day of execution, Dick stated positively to one of the Sheriff’s deputies, that the implement used by him in murdering the old lady and boy, was Steffin’s spade – the same which appeared against him on the trial.
(Although this is thought to be the complete text of the pamphlet, no mention of the execution itself is made, so some doubt as to the completeness of the text exists. - Editor of Dayton History Books Online)