A Christmas Murder in Tuscarawas County

This is a series on the 1890 Christmas Day murder of James Booth.


The Christmas Murder, Part One

While researching the life of New Philadelphia lawyer, judge and politician Abraham W. Patrick, a previous occupant of my home, I came across newspaper accounts about a murder on Christmas Day 1890. Abraham W. Patrick served with the prosecution during the murderer’s trial. It is a story worth telling. Our modern conception of the celebration…

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The Christmas Murder, Part Two

Henry Wehrli, William Gribble, and James Booth spent most of Christmas Eve 1890 drinking copious amounts of rye whiskey, eating oysters and arguing amongst themselves. By the time they all decided to go to their separate rooms, Henry and James were threatening one another with death while William attempted to stay out of the fray.…

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The Christmas Murder, Part Three: The Capture

Henry Wehrli headed off into the woods on Christmas morning 1890 after fatally shooting James Booth. He took with him the murder weapon, some cash and a bottle of his beloved whiskey. He would not make it far before word got out about the murder and his effort to flee would be short-lived. “Good bye…

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The Christmas Murder, Part Four: Testimony of William Gribble

As Henry Wehrli stood in the Tuscarawas County courtroom for his preliminary hearing in front of the Mayor of New Philadelphia, the prosecution brought forth several witnesses who offered their testimony as to what happened the morning of Christmas 1890. What follows is William Gribble’s testimony based on contemporary press accounts. The first witness to…

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The Christmas Murder, Part Five: Testimony of Mary Hart

Henry Wehrli stood in the Tuscarawas County courtroom for his preliminary hearing in front of the Mayor of New Philadelphia as the prosecution brought forth witnesses who offered their testimony as to what happened the morning of Christmas 1890. What follows is the testimony of murder victim James Booth’s aunt, Mary Hart, based on contemporary…

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The Christmas Murder, Part Six: Final Testimony and Charges

Henry Wehrli’s preliminary hearing continued on Tuesday, January 6, 1891 with the testimony of a few more minor witnesses. When the hearing concluded, Henry would learn what charges he would face when the trial began. What follows is the testimony of the other witnesses based on contemporary press accounts. Four more witnesses, none of whom…

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The Christmas Murder, Part Seven: For the Defense

The lawyers charged with defending Henry Wehrli were well-known local attorneys with roots and connections in Tuscarawas County. The task in front of them was to somehow defend a client who, according to preliminary testimony, had frequently spoken of, and threatened to, shoot the victim. Henry Wehrli’s defense team consisted of two attorneys, Philip S.…

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The Christmas Murder, Part Eight: For the Prosecution

The men tasked with prosecuting Henry Wehrli were led by a member of one of Tuscarawas County’s most prominent legal families, James Graham Patrick. However had it not been for the participation of one man in the assisting the effort, Abraham W. Patrick, I may never have stumbled upon the odd case of the ‘Christmas…

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The Christmas Murder, Part Nine: The Jury

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…

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The Christmas Murder, Conclusion: The Verdict

The evidence and testimony had been presented and heard by the jury. Judge Pearce provided his instructions to the jury and Henry Wehrli’s fate was in their hands. It would not take them long to decide his guilt or innocence. It was at 2 pm on Wednesday, May 27, 1891 that the jury in Henry…

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2023.

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