The Christmas Murder, Part Nine: The Jury

19th century jury trial

I had initially planned to look at the trial itself in this post, but instead thought I would present a little bit of information on the twelve men from Tuscarawas County who were selected to sit on the jury that would hear the murder trial of Henry Wehrli. These men represented a cross-section of the county’s population and would ultimately determine Henry’s fate.


James Roland Kurtz, the Foreman of the jury, was born in 1844 in Tuscarawas County and was recorded as a farmer in census records preceding the 1890s. He was the son of prominent local Doctor Isaac Kurtz and had worked on his father’s farm before serving with Company B of the 129th Ohio Volunteer Infantry regiment during the Civil War. Previously a widower, he had only recently married his second wife, Olive Mozena. Their marriage was front-page news in the local paper where Kurtz was referred to as “a very worthy gentleman.”

Image of the Kurtz farm from the 1875 Atlas of Tuscarawas County, Ohio.

James McCoy Donahey was born in 1842 and spent his life leading up to the trial as a farmer in Perry Township. He married Martha Gowen in 1868 and the couple had three children.

William S. Palmer was born in 1843, the son of Harrison County farmer Adam and Catherine Palmer. He served as a musician in Company D of the 83rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War before eventually settling in Tuscarawas County to farm.

Samuel Dunlap, born in 1856, was the son of Perry Township farmer Adam Dunlap. The Dunlap farm bordered on the property of fellow juror James McCoy Donahey’s property. He married Maria Miller in 1878 and had six children by the time of Henry Wehrli’s trial.

List of jurors in the trial of Henry Wehrli, New Philadelphia Times, 28 May 1891.

Sherrod Rickets was born in 1833, the seventh of sixteen children of Philemon Ricketts and Mary Shields. He was a lifelong farmer and a resident of Goshen Township. Ricketts had recently lost his wife of thirty years as a result of complications from childbirth.

David McCullough was the thirty-five year old son of Mill Township’s Alexander McCullough and had worked on his father’s, and neighboring, diary farms. He had only recently married Sarah Belle Harney and settled down to start his own family.

James Edie was born in 1822 and his father, also named James, had served on the jury for the county’s first murder trial in 1825. He was a farmer from Mill Township and one of the oldest members of the Wehrli jury.

William Logan was a Pennsylvania born carpenter who lived in Uhrichsville with his wife Isabella, several children, and his unwed sister. He had worked his way from Pennsylvania to Ohio over a period of 30 years.

E.R. Parmellee was the son of Oliver and Athalea Parmellee of New Philadelphia. He operated a shoe store on the 100 block of North Broadway in New Philadelphia at the end of the 19th century.

Advertisement for E.R. Parmelee’s shoe store, 1888, New Philadelphia Democrat.

James Rankin, born in 1835, was a general laborer and teamster who moved between Dover and New Philadelphia during the latter quarter of the 1800s.

Samuel Hurst, a carpenter by trade, was the son of an English immigrant who had settled in Ohio. A veteran, he served in the 51st Ohio Infantry Regiment for three years during the Civil War. Samuel, along with his family, resided on the 200 block of West Ray Street in New Philadelphia in the years preceding the trial.

Henry Harstine, a native of Coshocton County, had served an apprenticeship with Newcomerstown blacksmith Theodore Pocode in the early 1880s. 32 years old, recently married, he resided in New Philadelphia at the time of the trial.

These twelve men, aged 32 to 69, would determine Henry Wehrli’s fate after hearing the evidence presented by the defense and prosecution.

The trial of Henry Wehrli will be the focus of the next post.

© Noel B. Poirier, 2020.

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