From Our Archive, 100 Years Ago

Discussion in 'Grandpa's Basement' started by Georg Schoenerer, Dec 5, 2016.

  1. Georg Schoenerer Der Judenkenner

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    Closing arguments began in the trial of Miss Edith Colby – and the prosecutor hinted Colby might have been merely a tool in a bitter political feud in Sanders County, Montana.


    She was charged with murdering A.C. Thomas, the chairman of the county Republican Party, after he insulted her by calling her a “red-light woman.”

    The prosecutor referred to the possibility of a shadowy “master hand” behind a larger plot to kill Thomas.

    “It is improbable that he ever insulted that woman,” the prosecutor said. “No life is safe in Sanders County, if a woman can be brought in from Spokane to kill on this pretext. Always the ‘master hand.’ She was going to get Thomas under its guidance.”

    From the demographics beat: A Spokane Daily Chronicle headline touted an astonishing statistic: “Death Rate Here Lowest in the World, Figures May Show.”

    The word “may” was crucial. The paper’s estimate of the 1916 death rate of “approximately 6.43” (apparently, per thousand) was based on several guesses, including an estimate of the city’s population. Those estimates varied widely. Also, the year wasn’t over yet.

    The average death rate in the U.S. at the time was about 13

    Aspiring journalist Edith Colby came to Thompson Falls from Spokane in 1916 and took a job with the democratic Independent-Enterprise. Edith and others wrote some personal attacks on A. C. Thomas, chairman of the Republican County Central Committee, published in the paper. She and Thomas traded verbal insults and Thomas accused Edith of loose morals. Edith was enraged and stole a loaded revolver, which she showed to her boss, attorney A. S. Ainsworth, and her editor, John Manire. Manire showed her how to use the weapon and suggested that shooting Thomas would be good for the newspaper. The two men later testified that they had no idea Edith would actually pull the trigger.

    But she did.

    Edith met Thomas on the street and shot him three times. The coroner’s inquest found that both Ainsworth and Manire shared the blame with Edith. All three were arrested. Burton K. Wheeler of Butte, later a well-known political figure, was the relentless special prosecutor. However, the court dropped all charges against Ainsworth, and the judge directed the jury to find Manire not guilty. Edith pled not guilty by reason of insanity, and her mother testified that mental illness ran in the family.

    Newspapers across the Northwest covered the spectacular murder trial. Edith’s dramatic lapses into unconsciousness earned her no sympathy. Found guilty, she received 10-12 years at Deer Lodge. Edith’s attorneys appealed, claiming that Wheeler maligned Edith Colby’s character during the trial and made public remarks that affected the verdict. The Supreme Court of Montana denied a new trial. Edith Colby served only two years at Deer Lodge, returned to newspaper work, and died in California in 1942.

    Also on this date:

    1791: Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died in Vienna, Austria, at age 35.

    Published: Dec. 5, 2016, midnight
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