This was printed in the Almonte Gazette-January 1963- and it is also available at-
THE FOOTMARK BY LANGFORD’S BED
from Memoirs of a great detective:
incidents in the life of John Wilson Murray (1904)
compiled by Victor Speer click here.
Old Dick Langford was a miser, and the pride of his life was a fine bay horse with a white spot on his nose. Old Dick was eighty years old and the horse was eight. They lived on Old Dick’s farm in the county of Carleton, six miles from the town of Carp, ten miles from Stittsville, and thirty miles from Ottawa. Many a time the shrivelled old man and the spirited bay horse had done the distance to Ottawa in less than four hours. Old Dick’s wife had left him twenty years before he got the bay horse. She had said Old Dick was a skinflint and a torturer, and she would not live in the same county with him. He chuckled and showed his solitary front tooth, and transferred his farm so that she could not claim a part of it. After his wife was gone, Old Dick tried to regain title to his farm, but the man to whom he had transferred it disappeared, so Old Dick bought the farm near Carp and settled down alone, with his bay horse with the white spot on his nose, and a few farm horses, cows, chickens, dogs, and four books.
“Old Dick’s bay horse was stolen in 1889,” says Murray, ” and the old man raised a tremendous hullabaloo. About three months later the horse was recovered in Ottawa and Old Dick was happy. In the fall of 1890 the horse was stolen again. Old Dick declared he knew the thief, and the adjoining counties were placarded with the following:
|‘STOP HORSE THIEF!|
|‘Stolen from Richard Langford, Lot 13, Concession 8, Township of Huntley, County Carleton, on Friday night, October 3rd, 1890, A DARK BROWN HORSE; age 8; height 16 to 17 hands; weight about 14 cwt.; black points, except white spot on nose and white hind feet. May have traded since. Arrest|
|‘alias St. George, alias Brennan; height, about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches; age, about 24; fair complexion, small sandy moustache, sandy hair, slim build and sharp features; grey clothes, and wore a cap when last seen. Take charge of any horse he may have and wire|
|‘R. McGREGOR, ‘County Constable, ‘Almonte, Ont.’|
“Old Dick spent his time driving about with other horses searching for his bay horse, and declaring that the thief would go to prison this time. In December Old
Dick ceased driving about and locked himself up in his house and devoted himself anew to his library of four books. The favourite was a ‘History of the Siege of Londonderry and Defence of Inniskillen.’ The other books were ‘Meditations and Contemplations,’ by the Rev. James Hervey; ‘A Short Defence of Old Religion against Certain Novelties, Recommended to the People of Ireland’; and a big family Bible. Old Dick would open the ‘History of the Siege,’ and lay it on the table. Then he would shout passages from it at the top of his voice and toddle up and down the room in the throes of great excitement over the deeds of the lads of Londonderry.
“On Saturday afternoon, December 6th, 1890, three weeks after Birchall was hanged, neighbours passing to and from the town of Carp could hear Old Dick, the miser, roaring away over the ‘Siege of Londonderry.’ His door was locked and his windows were barred, but his voice could be heard while he thumped with his cane and trod the kitchen floor, as if leading a gallant charge. Robert Clark, a neighbour, whose house was in plain sight of the home of Old Dick, saw a light in the house in the early evening and at nine o’clock, when he looked out, Old Dick’s house was dark, the light was out and the old miser, as was his custom, was supposed by Clark to have gone to bed. About half-past ten that night, as Clark was locking up for the night, he looked out and saw Old Dick’s house brightly lighted, something Old Dick never did, because he deemed it extravagance. It was so unusual, that Clark was on the verge of going over to see if all was well with the old man, but it was snowing and blowing, so he concluded to wait until the next morning. On Sunday Clark went over to Old Dick’s. The house was locked. It was blowing heavily. Clark beat on the door, and when no answer came he went to the barn. Lying on the floor of the barn was Old Dick, sprawled out senseless, his head a mass of frozen blood. Clark shouted over to his own house and his family came and they bore the old miser to his house, forced in the door and endeavoured to revive him. The doctors were called and they worked over Old Dick, but he died, declaiming a passage from the ‘History of the Siege of Londonderry,’ and speaking no word as to the identity of his murderer.
“I arrived before the old man breathed his last. His head had been beaten by a blunt, heavy instrument. I searched the barn and found an iron pin, thirty-seven inches long and weighing ten pounds. Old Dick had used it as a pin to fasten the barn door, but white hairs and blood on it showed the murderer had used it as a club to beat Old Dick’s head almost to a pulp. The doctors, who examined the wounds on Sunday, said that Old Dick had been beaten on Saturday, and had lain all night in the barn. I searched the house. I found the ‘Siege of Londonderry’ open on the table, as the old man had left it. I found his bed had been disturbed and that some one had slept in it; a man, judging from the footmark, which was not Old Dick’s. The footmark showed no shoe, but seemingly a thick, wet sock. The murderer, whoever he was, called Old Dick out from his house to the barn on Saturday evening, either by hailing him or threatening to steal a horse, and as Old Dick entered the barn the murderer smote him with the iron pin and left him for dead, then quietly went to the house and lighted the light seen at half-past ten by Clark, who had thought at once that something was wrong, or Old Dick would not waste candles or oil. After warming himself at the fire, the murderer calmly went to rest in Old Dick’s bed, and
slept serenely while Old Dick lay dying in the barn with his wounds freezing. On Sunday morning the murderer had gone his way in the blinding snowstorm that covered his tracks.
“I began the usual house-to-house questioning of everybody in that part of the county, and at the very outset I was reminded of Old Dick’s stolen horse and his belief that he knew the thief. At every house I asked if they had seen George Goodwin recently. Goodwin was known in that locality as a loose character. He chopped wood and did odd jobs for farmers. I found a farmer who had seen him early on Saturday evening about a mile from Old Dick’s. Goodwin at that time was walking toward the Langford farm. I found another farmer who saw him still nearer Old Dick’s house. Later I found another who saw him on Sunday bound in the opposite direction, away from Old Dick’s. I got a good description of Goodwin. He was twenty-four years old, five feet eight inches tall, weighed one hundred and forty-five pounds, and had sandy hair and a light sandy moustache. He was bow-legged, had watery eyes, was near-sighted, and a silent fellow, who seldom spoke unless spoken to. But what satisfied me was the description of his clothing given by the farmers who saw him. He wore a blue suit, a short, striped overcoat, an imitation of lambskin cap, and beef-skin moccasins. The moccasins settled it. They accounted for the footmark in Old Dick’s bedroom as of a thick, wet, stained sock. I billed Goodwin for Old Dick’s murder. He was known also as Brennan, St. George, Wilkins, and used other names. He had relatives living near Ottawa, and I expected him to go to them before jumping to the United States. He had not robbed Old Dick, for I found his money.
“Goodwin did precisely as I expected. He sent money to his relatives for money, while he hid near Ottawa. I had hunted him through December 1890, and January and February 1891, and in March I located him near Ottawa. His trial was set for the Spring Assizes. His relatives retained Dalton McCarthy to defend him. Justice McMahon presided, and the trial was postponed until the Fall Assizes at the request of the defence. In the interval, Goodwin got out on bail. He skipped the country and never came back. It was good riddance of bad rubbish.
“I wondered often whether the murderer enjoyed pleasant dreams when he lay down and slept in his victim’s bed. The prosecution’s theory was, that Goodwin had killed Old Dick, not for robbery necessarily, but because Goodwin had stolen Old Dick’s horse and Old Dick knew he did it, and was waiting to locate him in order to have him arrested and sent to prison. If our theory as to the murderer had been wrong, Goodwin would not have been apt to run away.
“I had good luck in the Goodwin case, as indeed I have had in almost all cases. But about this same time I had a case where luck seemed wholly against me — in fact, I laid it away as a hard luck case. It was toward the close of 1890. John Brothers was the man in the case. He manufactured agricultural implements in the town of Milton, in the county of Halton, about twenty miles west of Toronto. He took farmers’ notes in part payment for implements. He became hard up, placed his genuine notes in the bank and added some forged notes to them. In due time the
manager of the bank told him to take up the notes. Brothers went to his brother-in-law, Amos Darling, an honest farmer who had a nice home earned by hard work. He dumped the notes on to Darling, telling him they were a good thing, paying seven and eight per cent. interest. Darling went to the bank and took up the notes, giving the bank his own note for $5,000, or almost the value of his farm. Brothers promptly disappeared, and the bank induced Darling to exchange his note for a mortgage on his farm, and in the end he lost his farm. I billed Brothers all over the country.
“Through a letter he wrote from San Francisco, I located him there. He was working as a moulder in the Risdon foundry. I prepared extradition papers and started for San Francisco. While I was on my way west and before I arrived there, a friend of Brothers in Canada notified him of extradition papers having been issued, and Brothers disappeared the day before I alighted from a train in Frisco. I notified the police all over the country, and after waiting some days and hearing nothing, I returned to Toronto. My train was several hours late. I learned that Brothers had been arrested by the chief of police at El Paso, Texas, on the Mexican border. The chief had wired me to Toronto and the telegram had been repeated to San Francisco and I was on my way back, so it missed me. I telegraphed immediately to El Paso, and the chief replied he had held Brothers as long as he could and had been compelled to release him a few hours before my telegram arrived, and Brothers had just left the town. If my train had not been late I could have reached the chief in El Paso in time. But luck was against me clear through in this case.
“Brothers crossed into Mexico and stayed there. I have heard he is dead. I felt very sorry for his brother-in-law, Amos Darling, whose home paid the forgeries of Brothers. Such Brothers as this one are not desirable even as brothers-in-law.”