The Fateful Life of Harry Taylor: Murder on the Sparks Farm

B Co. Seventh Dist. p44-45

Alfred Sparks’s farm lies on the road which follows the ridge from Hereford. Here you can see it is to the West of Hereford close by the Schoolhouse where Alfred taught. Atlas of Baltimore County, Maryland. Seventh  District, G. M. Hopkins, Philadelphia, p44-45, 1877.

There were warnings. They knew the illegitimate child had slaughtered two dogs, perhaps when his employer had angered him, as would be the case in the 1898 murder. They knew he killed some calves of Micheal Armacost because they would not go into the stable. He had been hired after he had left the House of Refuge. The African-American community knew there was something in Harry Taylor and it was best to avoid him. Sarah Lee had lunch with Taylor and Morris two days before. And even then she could tell Taylor held alot of rage within. The lunch was completely silent.

At around seven in the morning on the 16th of June 1898, the men headed into the thick woods to fell and load timber to make ties for the nearby railroad. Despite the hour, Taylor cracked jokes and appeared ready for the long day. They were going to load the wagon and drive it North to a sawmill in Parkton from the farm of Alfred Sparks on Mt. Carmel Road near Evna Road. Lemuel Morris hired Harry or Henry Taylor, 22; George Wills, 19; and John Talbott, 14. And in the early morning light a load of logs waited for them. George and John hopped into the wagon and began grabbing logs from Lemuel and Harry.

The murder

Exact details differ of the murder. A log slipped and fell to the ground. The young boys called, “Look Out!” And Taylor took offense, yelling up at them. Morris tried to placate Taylor and ended up heightening the tension. Morris turned his back to continue with the job, when Taylor, in a fit of uncontrolled rage, grabbed an ax and cracked Morris’s skull with two blows, felling the older man.

OR “Taylor said to Morris, “You’re a fool,” and Morris replied that if he were not still, he would strike him a blow, and when Morris had bowed down to the log, Taylor had hit him with the ax.” (Der Deutsche Correspondent. [Baltimore, Md.], 26 Oct. 1898.)

OR “Mr. Morris remonstrated with Taylor for allowing the end of a log to fly up. Taylor made a surly reply, Mr. Morris then said in a jocular manner. / ‘Don’t fly off the handle so quick or I’ll take my fists to you.’ …he killed Mr. Morris in self-defense. He said that they quarreled and both grabbed for the ax, which lay between them.” (Baltimore American. 17 June 1898.)

OR “Morris, he held his fist under [Taylor’s] nose and seemed to have the intention of attacking him.” (Der Deutsche correspondent. [Baltimore, Md.], 18 June 1898.)

In any case after Morris fell, Talbott and Wills moved toward Taylor and may have struggled with him:

“…the two boys made a start to interfere, Taylor turned savagely on them and they ran. He then threw the axe at them, but failed to strike them. He then picked up the axe, and, saying “Well, I’ll finish this one any way,” returned to where Morris almost lifeless body was lying and dealt the prostrated man three more terrific blows with the back of the axe, crushing in the skull.” (The Democratic Advocate. [Westminster, Md.], 18 June 1898.)

“Talbott and Mill then grappled with the young murderer, who fought like a madman and succeeded in breaking away from them.” (Baltimore American. 17 June 1898.)

The boys ran to alert as many people as possible in Parkton, including Lemuel’s father Nicholas and the local doctor, Dr. A. R. Mitchell. The doctor later testified Morris lived some 15-20 minutes after he arrived. The doomed man lay unconscious and breathed out whatever he had left in him. One account reports that blood and brains stained the forest floor. A grand jury quickly held conference over the body and charged Taylor with the murder. After the inquest, Morris’s mother and brother arrived to kneel over him and plead for him to speak.

Taylor fled toward the nearby Pennsylvania border. He lived with his mother in Rayville not far from the border. Once the community found out about the murder they began hunting Taylor along the roads. Feelmeyer and Whittle arrived at the scene and set out in pursuit. Lemuel Carr saw Taylor on foot and, ignorant of the murder, gave him a ride in his wagon, which is where Constable Grant Hare, riding, overcame Taylor and pointed his pistol at the murderer. Taylor offered no further resistance but instead later pleaded for Hare to kill him instead of turning him over to the lynch mob. “Constable Hare says that when he arrived at Parkton with his prisoner he was surrounded by an angry crowd of men, who expressed bitter feeling against Taylor, and he therefore boarded the first train for Baltimore.” (Baltimore American. 17 June 1898.)

The trial

“The trial was before Judges Fowler and Burke. Taylor appeared unconcerned, even careless. He was neatly dressed in a dark coat and rough gray trousers. His brother was in the courtroom. He was represented by Emanuel W. Herman, with whom was associated Frank I. Duncan. State’s Attorney John S. Ensor, in his opening statement to the court, gave an outline of the crime. Mr. Duncan, for the defense, filed a plea of insanity, and on that theory the defense relied almost absolutely. […]

Taylor was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to the penitentiary for 18 years.” (The Democratic advocate. [Westminster, Md.], 05 Nov. 1898.)

The life before and after

Born around August 1875, Henry’s father abandoned the family or the mother never knew the father. Illegitimacy tainted the young boy. To the farming community he was “weak and wayward temperament, morose and eccentric, without any softening influence of home life, he grew up moody, morbid, with an almost total lack of moral sensibility” (The Democratic Advocate. [Westminster, Md.], 05 Nov. 1898).  He moved in and out of charity houses. In 1880 Henry lives with the elderly Robert Eareckson and his wife Julia with the United Brethren preacher, J. T. Knapp. Able to read and write, perhaps the preacher taught him some. At his trial the Baltimore American describes him thus: “both in manner and appearance is a typical farm hand. When taken to jail he wore a large hickory hat, blue-checkered shirt, overalls, and clod-hopper’ shoes. He was very nervous and appeared to realize his position.”(Baltimore American. 17 June 1898.)

From the Penitentiary in Baltimore City, where he resided in 1900, he was moved to the State Hospital for the Insane. Despite the 18 year sentence, Taylor went on to live the rest of his life institutionalized. As late as 1940, Taylor resided at the Spring Grove State Hospital in Catonsville, Maryland.

Lemuel

Lemuel left four children to be cared for by his father and mother-in-law. “One year ago his wife died [from an operation] and shortly afterwards his home was swept away by fire. One month ago his youngest child died. He was well-known and very popular among his neighbors.” (Baltimore American. 17 June 1898.)

 

SOURCES

Baltimore American. 17 June 1898.

The Democratic Advocate. (Westminster, Md.), 18 June 1898. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038292/1898-06-18/ed-1/seq-3/>

The Democratic Advocate. (Westminster, Md.), 05 Nov. 1898. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038292/1898-11-05/ed-1/seq-2/>

Der Deutsche Correspondent. (Baltimore, Md.), 17 June 1898. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045081/1898-06-17/ed-1/seq-6/> translation by Google Translate.

Der Deutsche Correspondent. (Baltimore, Md.), 18 June 1898. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045081/1898-06-18/ed-1/seq-6/> translation by Google Translate.

Der Deutsche Correspondent. (Baltimore, Md.), 26 Oct. 1898. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045081/1898-10-26/ed-1/seq-7/> translation by Google Translate.

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