Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No, There's More...

Just when I thought I had all the information about this chapter of my family history, Noel from The Skagit River Journal sent me two more newspaper clippings. It's interesting that while there is repetition, each clipping adds a little more detail. The email I received yesterday was a pdf file of the actual newspaper page, and off to the side the there was a little note about Judge Houser, who would have normally presided over the superior court, being admitted to a Port Townsend sanitarium, for tuberculosis, I'm guessing. Another thought I've had while reading these accounts is the emphasis on local color and the visual description of the proceedings. I imagine there were fewer photographs than in modern newspapers. Finally, I was struck by how quickly the entire process was completed, from the killing of Grandpa Adams in May, to the verdict at the end of June. It's hard to imagine such speed in the courts today.

The Mount Vernon Argus
, June 26, 1914 VOL.XXII


Before a crowded courtroom Matt Snyder was placed on trial Wednesday night in the superior court charged with the murder of L.E. Adams at Hamilton on the morning of May 24. Judge Pemberton of Whatcom county is one the bench in the absence of Judge Houser, who is ill. The case promises to be a hard fought one. People who attended the trial Thursday believe that the attempt to clear Snyder will be based on self defense.

Considerable delay was experienced before a jury was selected. Late Wednesday afternoon a special venire was made and the last member of the jury was selected early during the Wednesday evening session. Those serving on the jury are: Mrs. E.A. Griffin, Sedro-Woolley; Wm. Borland, Mount Vernon; Thomas Fortin, Mt. Vernon; Charles Johnson, Burlington; F.L. Hemingway, Sedro-Woolley; A.M. Pierson, Mt. Vernon; W.D. Gladwin, La Conner; D.M. Flaherty, Sedro-Woolley; James Dunlap, Mt. Vernon; Charles Wessen, LaConner; James Eagle, LaConner; Gorge L. Stendring, Mt. Vernon.

The Mount Vernon law firm of Shrauger & Henderson, and W.H. Morris, well known criminal lawyer of Seattle, are defending Snyder. Prosecuting attorney C.D. Beagle and Deputy Lester Whitmore, are representing the state.

A particularly large crowd of witnesses were on the stand Thursday, all of them called by the defense. The court room has been crowded to the doors since the beginning of the case. Many of those in attendance are friends and neighbors of the accused man. Snyder’s wife and child were in the court room yesterday.

Friends of both Snyder and Adams who were in town Thursday discussed the case at length in the corridors of the court house. Many think that Snyder, if he did kill Adams as alleged, was justified. Others differ with them, and in addition point out that his past record, said to be a bad one, will go hard with him.

The shooting which resulted in the death of Adams occurred May 24 in Hamilton following the return of Snyder and Adams from a circus in Sedro-Woolley. It is expected that Snyder, when he is placed on the stand, will say that Adams attacked him with brass knuckles, and that he called to his wife to bring him a gun that he might protect himself.

Mount Vernon Argus
, Tuesday June 30, 1914, page 1


Hamilton Man on Trial in Superior Court Liberated by "Not Guilty" Verdict Late Saturday Afternoon -- Sensational Murder Case Occupies Four Day Session-- Crowds of Up Valley and Local People Attended

"Not Guilty" was the verdict of the jury in the case of the State vs. Matt Snyder, who was placed on trial last Wednesday in the superior court, charged with the murder of L.E. Adams on the night of May 24 at Hamilton. Following the reading of the verdict by the clerk at 5:15 Saturday afternoon came some fo the most touching scenes ever enacted in a Skagit county court.

The attorneys in the case finished their arguments shortly after twelve o'clock Saturday, and at 12:15 the jury retired. They arrived at a verdict at 5:05, and as they filed into the court room, the crowds in the halls and in the nearby streets hurried into the court room to hear Snyder's fate.

Snyder sat at a table directly in front of the judge, his face downcast and his fists clenched. Stillness reigned in the court room as the bailiff conveyed the sealed verdict to the clerk, who upon instructions from the judge, read the findings that set Snyder free.

Snyder was upon his feet in an instant, making his way to the jury box, shook hands with every member of the body that acquitted him. The freed man was instantly surrounded by friends and neighbors who were jubilant over the verdict. There was hardly a dry eye in the group around Snyder.

It was some moments before Snyder could make his way to his wife who was waiting outside the railing. A moment after he reached her, his little son came running up. Clasping his wife with one hand and his little boy with the other Snyder exclaimed: "Come on, let's go home," and filed out of the court room surrounded by friends.

The Snyder case was tried with great dispatch. The securing of a jury began Wednesday morning, and completed at a session that night, when the trial itself opened. A large number of witnesses were examined, most of them called by the defense. Thursday and Friday were devoted to the examination of witnesses, and Saturday morning to argument by the attorneys.

Shrauger & Henderson and W.H. Morris, of Seattle, appeared for the defendant, while the state was represented by Prosecuting Attorney C.D. Beagle and Deputy Lester Whitmore.

The most damaging testimony in the trial was given by Bert Medford who claimed he was near Snyder and Adams when the fatal shot was fired. Another witness stated that he saw a gun in Snyder's pocket on the night of the crime as he lay asleep in the caboose on his way home from Sedro-Woolley. Attorney Morris exhibited a fountain pen and holder which he claimed might have been mistaken for a gun.

When Snyder was placed on the stand he testified that Adams had struck at him in a Sedro-Wooley saloon earlier in the evening. Snyder said that Adams claimed he had taken his job away from him which the former denied. Snyder said that he tried to get Adams to come back home that night, but that he refused. He did not see him again, he said, until he overtook him on the track near Hamilton.

Snyder stated that Adams attacked him in front of his home, and that when he was down, called to his wife to bring him a gun. He then fired the shot which killed Adams. Snyder says that at that point he lost consciousness. Snyder's face was in bad condition after his struggle with Adams. When Adams' body was found there were brass knuckles on his hands.

The case attracted great deal of attention. The court room was crowded daily.

Added 2011 - I found a bit more about Matt Snyder from Find-a-Grave. Matthew Daniel Snider (spelled this way on his grave stone) was born in North Carolina in 1879, and died in Skagit County in 1966.  Apparently he shot another man by accident in 1902, a fact that somehow never was mentioned in the papers.  His wife, who handed him the gun with which he shot Ed Adams, was his second wife, a woman named Anna Lee Moore.  The baby mentioned in the newspaper articles was Willard David "Bo" Snider, born April 1915, and who died in 2000.

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