My Family Heritage
My family originated from the U.K. On my father's side of the family it is believed we are of Welsh and Scottish ancestry. On my mother's side of the family we are English. My dad's family have been in U.S. since the 1700's. My mom's parents came through Ellis Island in 1922. My dad's mother was born on a farm in southern Indiana in 1888 when travel by horse and buggy was the norm. By the time of her death in 1978 my grandmother had witnessed men walking on the moon.
No better heritage can a father bequeath to his children than a good name; nor is there in a family any richer heirloom than the memory of a noble ancestor.
These are just a few of the stories of my family that were passed along as I grew up which included murders, running off to the circus (really), and of course, numerous wars. One of those stories is detailed below.
The Crime of the Century
According to the account in Daviss County Indiana History by L. Rex Meyers, Elizabeth Wratten was the widow of a Civil War soldier and drew a pension after his death. According to Meyers, "She was known to be energetic and business minded. She was a money lender and was said to receive considerable income from this activity." The money is believed to have been the motive for the murders. The family lived in an old fashioned story and a half log structure which had been weather bordered and was known as the old Thomas Baldwin place.
Bud Stone, who was a first cousin, one generation removed, of Elizabeth Wratten (their common ancestor was Elias Stone) came to the Wratten household on the night of September 18, 1893 on the pretext of needing something to treat a toothache. Once inside the residence, he proceeded to attack the entire family with a corn knife. Though he searched through Elizabeth Wratten's belongings he never found the money hidden in a drawer in her bedroom. He did, however, leave lots of bloody foot and hand prints as he made his escape.
The murders made headlines in papers across the country from the New York Times to this article from the The Rocky Mountain News of Denver, Colorado which ran on September 20th, 1893:
Horrible Butchery. An Entire Family of Six Murdered in Cold Blood.
WASHINGTON, Ind., Sept. 19 - Last night in Harrison township, nine miles from this city, an entire family of six persons were butchered with hatchets. The family consisted of Denson Wratten, his mother, wife and three children. The eldest of the children, a girl of 12, is still living, although unconscious, and with her head cruelly gashed.
Denson Wratten was a farmer, 35 years old, a good citizen in moderate circumstances. His good mother lived with the family and drew a pension. She did not bank her money and was supposed to keep several hundred dollars about her. This money was doubtless the motive for the murders. The house is a log one, a story and a half high, and has a long kitchen annex. The murderers entered by a window, breaking in the sash, and there was evidence of a fierce struggle. Wratten was sick with typhoid fever and incapable of resistance. The old lady was found upon the floor, cut terribly about the head and both hands cut off at the wrists. All were found dead upon the floor except the baby, 3 years old, which was killed in bed.
Forensic science wasn't like it is today where a few finger prints and a DNA analysis would have made short work of the investigation. Instead, blood hounds were brought in to try and track the perpetrator(s). After getting a good scent of the blood, they bee lined it to Bud Stone, standing in the crowd. Twice they did this. Each time, the police and dog handlers thought the dogs were simply getting distracted, not realizing that the pooches knew who they were looking for. Eventually, they got the dogs to trace Stone's movements after the murder down to the river where the scent was lost. Although one daughter survived the initial attack, Bud Stone managed to finish her off later when he offered to sit with the unconscious girl.
Stone was eventually caught with the help of testimony from his wife who quickly suspected her husband. Initially, he concocted a story that there were several accomplices and that the plan had been to simply rob the family. He claimed he got there late and the others had already committed the murders. Eventually he recanted that version and confessed to being the sole perpetrator and to killing the surviving daughter to prevent her from waking up and identifying him as the murderer. His punishment was death by hanging.