Note: Copies of newspaper articles, regarding these two men where sent me by Marti Martin of the Woodford Co., KY Historical Society, and usually I would post those, but one set of articles are very long and detailed and the other quite short, so I decided to write the stories, paraphrasing and sometimes using a newspaper article when detail is required for more emphasis.
The amazing fact is that this is the story of only one man and his deed, which was wrongly reported as the killing of his mother, rather than his father.
“MATRICIDE IN SOUTH JERSEY.”
In a little town call Longacoming not far from Camden, NJ, John C. Ware, about 24 years of age, shot and killed his mother on a Tuesday with the pistol he was in the habit of carrying. The newspaper article described him as having a reputation for being “somewhat wild.” Though the shot was heard, the body wasn’t discovered until later in the evening when some neighbors went to pay Mrs. Ware a visit. An alarm was given and parties set out in all direction in order to find the murderer. John was the last person seen leaving the house in the late afternoon and by this fact he was ascertained as the assassin. Police in New Jersey and as far away as Philadelphia were notified. Rumors abounded about the character of John Ware; his abuse of his mother was well-known. More speculation about the motive centered around the fact that Mrs. Ware had a little property and had refused to continue to support her son’s idleness. It was suspected that he fled to either Philadelphia or Baltimore.
Apparently he was never caught, as there is no further information.
Sources: The New York Herald-Times, Aug. 18, 1870 and the New-Hampshire Patriot, Aug. 24, 1870.
“The Murder in South Jersey.
The murder of John A. Ware by his son John C. Ware, on Tuesday, occurred in the woods near Turnersville, about three miles from Longacoming.” (1)
The murderer was arrested by an officer who observed the young man acting suspiciously as he was walking through town to board a ferry. When he was taken to the mayor’s office and questioned, he openly confessed to the murder of his father on the basis of his father’s continued abuse of his mother. He said he father had threatened his mother that morning with an axe. When he was searched it was discovered he had a $163 on his person.
Further investigation proved that the young man had shot his father with a shotgun square in the chest at only a few paces. The old man died instantly and his son rolled the body over to retrieve his purse containing $180. He fled into the woods. Some of the story was based on the later testimony of a boarder living in the Ware house, Mrs. Mary White. Though she did not see the shooting, she maintained that she had seen the gun leaning on the fence, heard the shot and seen the smoke. She further stated she saw John roll over the body of old Mr. Ware and take his purse and run off down the road.
John sent a few days locked in the Mayor’s office undergoing questioning. Further attempts to extract a true confession from him were futile.
“The following, developed by Mr. Justice Bennett, who held the inquest, puts another face upon the story. The evidence set forth that the son demanded of his father some money, and the father refused to give him any. The son then threatened to shoot him, and taking hold of gun near at hand, placed himself in a threatening attitude.
‘Are you going to shoot your old father?’ the old man said. ‘Yes, d–n you,’ replied the son, ‘if you don’t give me some money.’
The story that the father of the young man was drunk and beating his mother in an unmerciful manner, and that the gun was used in save her life, is best answered by stating the important fact that she was not present at the terrible shocking tragedy. From all that we could learn in regard to the domestic relations of the family, the father was not in the habit of getting drunk, nor of beating his wife, but lived in peace with each other.
The prisoner will be tried at the coming term of the Court of Oyer and Terminer of Camden county. Of course his plea of guilty cannot be taken by the court; he must enter a negative response, and be placed on trial before a jury.” (2)
Mrs. White was arrested and taken into custody as a material witness.
John was interviewed while in jail by a reporter:
“Q. You say you quarreled with your father. Did you often do so?
A. Yes, I did; many a time. He was always picking at me. He appeared to take a liking to torment me. Every time I would say money to him he would get mad…
Q. Did he ever give you any money?
A. Yes, he did, but not much–a dollar or two, or so, that’s about all.
Q. Who did you work for in the cedar swamps?
A. Oh, a whole loads of people–two, three or more; more’n that; sometimes for the old man.
Q. Did you live at home?
A. Most of the time. When I worked out I would keep away sometimes a whole week. I always got along with everybody but the old man and one of my sisters-in-law. Sometimes I could not (?) it with my brothers; that is when they talked about money. They were trying to gouge the old man, I think, and I didn’t want ’em to get the best of me, you know.
Q. Did they get the best of you?
A. Let me see–no, not exactly–yes, they did–that sister-in-law got the black purse, and I had a better right to it than she had.
Q. They say that you shot at them the morning your father was killed?
A. Me shot at them?–well, may be I did. I recollect loading up the old rifle and firing as they left the house. They were a good ways off, you know, and them buck-shot scattered and didn’t hit them…
Q. What did you want to shoot them for?
A. Well, I will tell you. I don’t want to kill them, but I did mean to warn them, that’s all. But then, you see, the dared things are getting all the old man’s money.
Q. Then that was all the trouble you had with your father?
A. Not exactly. He abused me. He was so hard-hearted, and then he treated the old lady so bad. I told you about the ax and the knife didn’t I?…
Q. What did you do with the gun?
A. I dunno; I guess I chucked it in the (?)
Q. They say you waited after killing you father for you mother to come home?
A. Yes, and they say I wanted to shoot her, but I didn’t, for I would not think of killing her. I saw her coming home by the cow path when I went to the swamp, and had I wanted to shoot her I could done so easy.
Q. You say you were in the army.
A. Yes; and I had two brothers who were killed, too.
Q. Have you brothers and sisters living?
A. Yes, three or four… They don’t come about much when I was home.
Q. Did you learn a trade?
A. No, nobody ever talked to me about it; I always worked in the swamp or on a farm or went gunning.
Q. Did you ever go to school?
A. A little; I learned to read and write some, that is all; I ain’t much of a scholar.” (3)
John was tried and convicted, but the conviction was over-turned on appeal, because his lawyer tried to prove insanity. He brought in witnesses to attest to the type of insanity which John might have had based on years of living with an abusive and neglectful parent, the estranged and unloving manner of parents towards each other, his lack of proper education, his lack of real employment and his own estrangement from his wife and child.
On the first day of the retrial, ” Patience Williamson, sister of the prisoner, testified the same as before, giving a full statement of the occurrences at the house of John A. Ware, on the Tuesday morning on which he was killed; a violent quarrel and altercation took place early in the morning between herself and mother about a milk pan; John Ware, the defendant, took sides with his mother, and struck Mrs. Williamson: Mr. Williamson then went to his wife’s assistance, and John Ware assaulted him; her husband threw John down; Williamson and his wife then left the house, and started for Mr. Pierson’s; John threw brickbats at them, and afterwards fired a gun after them.
George Williamson corroborated the above statement of his wife; he said that John was not drunk at the time; he was not in the habit of getting drunk.” (4)
The prosecution brought witnesses to attest to John’s (the son) casual manner when they worked with him. He often spoke of money and killing the ‘ole man.’ However, John’s mother-in-law, spoke of John’s violent nature towards her daughter and child. Her daughter was fearful of John and had come to live with her while John returned to live in the home of his parents.
“Louisa Ware, mother of the defendant, was subjected to a long and rigid examination, but with some slight discrepancies, her testimony was about the same as that given on the former trial… She said that the reputation of Mary White for truth and veracity was bad generally; her son, the defendant, was an inoffensive boy, stupid and moody; sometimes he would sit for an hour and have nothing to say; … her son cannot read or write.” (5)
“The Verdict.– At ten o’clock last evening the jury came into court with a verdict of murder in the first degree… The prisoner was then remanded to his cell. He exhibited no emotions… This is the first conviction for that offense that has ever occurred in Camden county.” (6)
“Yesterday, just before the adjournment of the court, John Ware, twice convicted for the willful and premeditated murder of his father, John A. Ware, on the 16th of August 1870, was called up for sentence. Judge Woodhull addressing the doomed man said:–‘John Ware, you have been convicted of the willful, deliberate and premeditated murder of your father John A. Ware, for which, by the law of the land, you must suffer death. What have you to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon you?’ (The prisoner had nothing to say). The judge continued:–‘You have been twice tried for this fearful and most unnatural crime… you must surely see how unlikely it is that you can much longer escape this dreadful penalty. To hold out to you any hope of pardon or commutation of sentence, would be worse than cruel. The best advice that we can give you… is that you prepare without delay, and with all possible earnestness, for the swiftly approaching hour which shall close your early life, and reveal to you the mysteries of the life to come.
…John Ware, return to the prison from whence you came from thence you must be led, on Friday, the 15th day of December next, to the place of execution, and when you come there you must, between the hour of ten o’clock in the forenoon, and the hour of two o’clock in the afternoon of the same day, be hanged by the neck until you are dead. And may God have mercy on your soul.” (7)
The scaffold, once erected after the first trial and taken down, was erected again in the prison yard at Camden, behind a fence thirty feet high and seventy feet square. Every hole was stopped up against on-lookers and guards were posted.
In an iron cage twelve feet square, eight feet in height, floors and ceilings of boiler plate, John Ware had spent twenty-one weeks awaiting his punishment. In one corner was a dirty mattress and coverlet; the other corner a sanitary utensil. Caged like a wild animal with keepers ever vigilant, but kind to him. (8)
“On Tuesday the wife and child of John Ware, the Camden murderer, visited him for the last time… The wife begged the doomed man to prepare himself for the coming event and hoped to meet him in heaven. John would not make any promise, but still maintained the same indifference as to his fate… Sheriff Fredericks and one or two friend entered the cage and engaged in conversation with the doomed man, during which he inquired whether he had increased in weight, or whether he was a s tall as somebody else. After this interview John made the remark that he knew what the sheriff anted; it was to make arrangements for the gallows, and he might have spoken plainly…” (9)
John’s wife, Prudence wrote a letter pleading with him to make his confession to God and repent his sins. I was reprinted in the newspaper. (10)
John dictated this letter to the newspaper and it was printed after the execution.
“Before I die, I wish most solemnly to assert, in behalf of my poor mother, that the attempt of Mary Ann Champion” (a witness, who appeared at trial) “to fasten on Louisa Ware (my mother) the suspicion of being connected with the taking of my father’s life was only a wicked invention of Mary Champion herself.
I never saw my mother after the fatal shot was fired; never met he in the woods; never gave her any of the money I took from John A. Ware’s person to get away with; never saw her till she came to the Camden jail with my counsel after the hour my father drove her out of the house on that day, after saying she had given Mrs. Pierson money to buy poison to poison him.
Mary Ann Thompson again told a falsehood when she says I rested the gun on a post and deliberately shot my father; Mary Champion did not see the gun fired; she is a bad woman, brought into the house by John A. Ware, after she came there my mother had no peace; but my mother knew no more about the killing of Ware than my little child did. Mary Ann Champion and George Williamson seem to have thirsted for my blood from the first, and they have been anxious to drag my poor mother in, when God knows she has had a hard lot enough without this. Mr. Scovel had often asked me if Thomas Sands spoke the truth in saying by the roadside that I meant to kill the old man some time. I never talked to Sands. I never said any such words or anything like it. Sands is married to Mary Champion’s niece, while his first wife, still living, is in a poor house in Camden county. Sands and Mary Champion have been against me all through.
The boy Harper did not tell the truth but I do not blame him so much as Patience (my sister), for Harper said at the first trial that Patience told him if he (Harper) would tell the story he did tell, he (Harper) should always have a home there. Knowing that I am about to die, I again say that I never told Harper in the meadow or anywhere else, that I would kill the old man, and get his money–nothing like it. My father treated mother for many years, cruelly and unjustly, and that day drove her out of the house. He then said he could skin me in a minute, turned back, and called me a son of a —-, and all the vile named he could think of, and as he came facing me threatening, I fired the gun and killed him. It was a fit of passion, and in the presence of death I again say I never premeditated the killing of my father.
I thank all the people who have been kind to me, even the little children have brought me presents. I thank them all. I am not afraid to die. My wife and child are alone in the world, and I hope some of the friends who have expressed their sympathy with my hard lot may feel like doing something to aid my poor boy, my mother, and my wife when I am gone, and educate my son better than his father was. Mr. Scovel has promised to look after this. I thank him for all he has done for me, and I thank Sheriff Fredericks and his good wife for their kindness to me; and Mr. Garrett and Mr. Hollingshead, who have never deserted me. I die without ill-will toward anybody in the world, blaming nobody, but believing little mercy has been shown me.
This is the only confession I shall ever make in this world or the next. Persecuted and hunted as I have been, I do not fear to die.
his mark.” (11)
(For one so uneducated and illiterate, I am sure however, his thoughts and words must have been interpreted and written by his lawyer, Mr. Scovel.)
John was hanged at the appropriate time and his body given to his relatives for burial. He never repented, while others begged, pleaded and prayed for his soul in the herefater.
1. The Trenton State Gazette, August 19, 1870.
2. The Trenton State Gazette, August 22, 1870.
3. Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, September 1, 1870.
4. Philadelphia Inquirer, October 10, 1871.
5. Philadelphia Inquirer, October 12, 1871.
6. Philadelphia Inquirer, February 1, 1871.
7. Philadelphia Inquirer, November 2, 1871.
8. New York Herald, November 2, 1871.
9. Trenton State Gazette, December 14, 1871.
10. Philadelphia Inquirer, December 15, 1871.
11. Trenton State Gazette, December 18, 1871.