Fact or Fiction: A Mostly-True Crime History Podcast

The Murder of Amos Snell and the Tragic Decline of His Family

April 19, 2021 MaxMin Labs, LLC Season 2 Episode 7
The Murder of Amos Snell and the Tragic Decline of His Family
Fact or Fiction: A Mostly-True Crime History Podcast
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Fact or Fiction: A Mostly-True Crime History Podcast
The Murder of Amos Snell and the Tragic Decline of His Family
Apr 19, 2021 Season 2 Episode 7
MaxMin Labs, LLC

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Amos J. Snell, a wealthy real estate owner in Chicago, was murdered in his home in 1888.  The identity of the murderer remains unknown to this day.  Listen to learn what we do know about Amos J. Snell, his murder, and the aftershocks of his death that affected his family for generations.  Is it Fact or Fiction?  You be the judge!

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Images and resources used in this episode can be found at factorfictionpodcast.com. If you enjoyed this show, please support the pod by giving it a five star rating, writing a complimentary review, or joining the Fact or Fiction Fan Club. Thanks for listening!

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Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Amos J. Snell, a wealthy real estate owner in Chicago, was murdered in his home in 1888.  The identity of the murderer remains unknown to this day.  Listen to learn what we do know about Amos J. Snell, his murder, and the aftershocks of his death that affected his family for generations.  Is it Fact or Fiction?  You be the judge!

Support the Show.

Images and resources used in this episode can be found at factorfictionpodcast.com. If you enjoyed this show, please support the pod by giving it a five star rating, writing a complimentary review, or joining the Fact or Fiction Fan Club. Thanks for listening!

[00:00:00] Laura: Rosa Bookstallen and Ida Bjornstad, servants in the Chicago mansion of Amos Snell were wakened at two o'clock on the morning of February 8th, 1888, by the sound of a gunshot from the floor below. They heard someone shout get out, get out of here, followed by more gunshots, and then silence thinking that all was well, or more likely too frightened to do anything else.

[00:00:25] The servant girls went back to sleep. Five hours later, Mr. Snell's Coachman, Henry Winklehook entered the house to attend the furnace fires. Winklehook found evidence of a break-in Snell's basement office. The office was strewn with scattered papers. His safe was open and a broken strong box laid on the floor. Winklehook hurried upstairs to inform his employer and found his lifeless body lying in a pool of blood in the hallway.

[00:00:51] Today, we'll be discussing the wealthy Amos J. Snell, his murder at the age of 64, the hunt for his killer, and the sad fate of his family. I'm your host, Laura. listen carefully because it's tough to know if what I say is fact or fiction or ready to play?

[00:01:09] Hi everybody.

[00:01:09] This is Laura and I'm so excited to introduce today's guest fellow St. Louis Murderino, Renee Haman. Yay!

[00:01:16] Renee: Hi, how are you?

[00:01:17] Laura: Great. It's a beautiful sunny day today. The only problem is all the pollen here in St. Louis…

[00:01:23] Renee: Oh yes, terrible.

[00:01:25] Laura: So, Renee and I met through an interest in true crime podcasts. Do you want to share a few of your favorites with our listeners?

[00:01:30] Renee: Well, I'm a huge fan of the Exactly Right Network. I tried not to stray too far from there cause that's where the podcasting all began for me. So, obviously my, My Favorite Murder is one of my favorites, but do like I do like Kate Winkler Dawson, she's amazing. She's a great storyteller. And then the Murder Squad is also a favorite.

[00:01:52] Laura: Tenfold More Wicked. That's my favorite

[00:01:55] Murder Squad’s good too. Yeah. 

[00:01:57] I like to learn about the more current I like listening and learning about those, but I'm afraid to tell stories about that because it's all so real. And, that's why I've gravitated towards the older, like most of these people are dead and their families are dead.

[00:02:13] So it's a little easier to tell that as a story. Do you know what I mean? 

[00:02:17] Renee: Yes exactly. One of my hometown's is, somewhat fresh and recent. I would say within, you know, 30 years, and it's just a very sensitive subject 

[00:02:27] Laura: Yeah…well, like I just said, I like to tell the old stories similar to today's story, which the first, the introduction I quoted almost entirely from murderbygaslight.com and today's story took place in early 1888. So long time ago.

[00:02:43] Renee: Yes.

[00:02:44] Laura: And I know, you know how to play fact or fiction.

[00:02:45] I'm going to tell you a mostly true crime story that I've inserted a little fiction into it. Basically, a lie. And at the end of the story, you have a chance to guess what it is I've made up. So, let's play! Yeah. All right. So, Amos J. Snell our murder victim, was a wealthy real estate man, which we gathered from the intro, and an important member of Chicago's high society.

[00:03:09] So I want to give you an idea of how prominent and wealthy the Snell family was. I found this description of Amos's daughter, a daughter, I think it was Mary's wedding and the Chicago Tribune from 18 and 1875. It was entitled brilliant society wedding last evening. The table was loaded with delicacies and profusely ornamented in the center study pine tree, several feet in height with gorgeously plumage, birds of paradise, perched on the branches, all of woven sugar and with clusters of Malaga grapes, which I think it's from Spain.

[00:03:46] I looked it up besides there were figures of swans and statues of ice cream mingled with a wilderness of Charlotte Glazes, Diskette, Glazes. Wedding favors salads, cakes, oysters, et cetera. So just, kind of fancy little extravagant kind of show off. So, the whole account includes a list of all the important guests, a list of the gifts, the newly weds received, which one of those was a marble front house.

[00:04:15] And lot on number four, 442 West Randolph street, I know. Yeah. It's like downtown, like a major area of Chicago. And basically these people were the Richie riches of Chicago and they weren't afraid to let people know it. So, I'm sure you're curious. And our listeners are to you as to how Snell made these, this, all the money.

[00:04:35] It's quite a story. I found this description of Snell’s past from a genealogy website. It said that Amos Snell was a native of Manheim, New York who arrived in Chicago in 1841 with a young wife and a $22 in his pocket. He was a shrewd tight-fisted Yankee, and he channeled his energy into real estate in Chicago.

[00:04:55] He became a man with considerable capital and he built the Northwest plank road from Chicago city limits to Jefferson eight miles out. So, it was just on the edges of Chicago and it was a trade route almost to the farms in that, in the suburbs. he sounds impressive industrious and almost all the articles I read about him said that he earned his money through being real estate or through real estate and being thrifty.

[00:05:22] Although I have to say, I don't think that wedding. Right. Yeah, exactly. So, I found this though on an illinoiscourts.gov site Amos Snell was a wealthy Chicago landlord with thousands of tenants in 1870. He purchased the Northwest plank road toll road. The road was built by the Northwest plank road company under a 1849 grant by the state of Illinois.

[00:05:52] The state authorized a company to finance the road with toll gates. Toll roads could not operate in Chicago in the city of Chicago, but the beginning of the toll road at Fullerton and Milwaukee was not in the city limits. At that time, the toll portion of the road ran all the way to the boundary of Lake and cook counties near welling, which I'm not that familiar with Chicago.

[00:06:12] I looked it up on a map and it, now that's Dead smack in the city of Chicago, but at the time, right. So, when Snell bought the road, he improved it with gravel, but he also erected more toll Gates, much to the public's anger. So right now, fascinating.

[00:06:29] I've driven on lots of gravel roads. . Have you, are you from you're from St. Louis, right?

[00:06:34] Renee: Yep. Born and raised.

[00:06:35] Laura: Okay. So you're mostly a city girl. I would assume.

[00:06:39] Renee: Yeah, but my dad lives in a rural part of the state. So, there's lots of gravel roads

[00:06:45] Okay. Yeah, . I actually grew up on a gravel road, so I've driven on lots of gravel roads and even brick roads. 

[00:06:51] But I didn't know that they had made roads of wooden boards have you ever heard of these? Okay. I'm going to, I'm going to send you a picture sure. 

[00:07:00] Yep. I got it pulled up right here.

[00:07:01] Laura: Okay. Why is this not copying? And then. Super professional on my end. Sorry about that. Uh, let's see

[00:07:16] Renee: See,

[00:07:18] Laura: Alright, here you go.

[00:07:24] Renee: Oh my goodness.

[00:07:26] Laura: So yeah. Do you Renee, do you want to describe what you're looking at? The plank road?

[00:07:31] Renee: That's exactly what it looks like. Or just a bunch of wooden planks, almost like a bunch of pallets put together. It doesn’t look very safe to be driving on.

[00:07:41] Laura: Really does it.

[00:07:43] Renee: it doesn't look like you would hold the weight of a car?

[00:07:45] Laura: Right. And then that wagon that they've got, actually, they've got several wagons. One's got wood on it, I think. And the other one's loaded down with hay.

[00:07:54] Renee: yeah, it looks like a horse

[00:07:56] Laura: Uh huh.

[00:07:57] Renee: is pulling the wagon. That's covered with hay. That seems like a pretty heavy load and very uneven.

[00:08:05] Laura: Yes, very uneven. I guess it's probably better. It was probably better than a rutted dirt road, you know?

[00:08:15] Renee: Yeah, I can see cause even with a gravel road you get divots even from inclement weather and like heavy traffic. So I, it just doesn't, it seems very worn.

[00:08:28] Laura: Yes. Exactly. Yeah. It doesn't look like my favorite thing and I guess, people were forced to use this. And, you can imagine people didn't like having to pay the tolls

[00:08:39] Renee: Yeah, I probably wouldn't want to pay to drive on that.

[00:08:41] Laura: , so, Snell made his money off of highway robbery. Ah, I love stupid jokes anyway. 

[00:08:53] ,

[00:08:53] Laura: so, you described the roads and then they actually, at the time they call them corduroy roads

[00:08:59] Renee: okay.

[00:09:00] Laura: cause they were so bumpy you know, like corduroy.

[00:09:02] I was actually really. Surprised to learn that corduroy is a pretty old word. The first recorded use of it. What, according to the Oxford English dictionary was in 1774.

[00:09:13] Renee: Oh, wow.

[00:09:14] Laura: I know, I always thought it was something newer, like from the seventies,

[00:09:19] Renee: Right? Yeah. Seventies and eighties.

[00:09:22] Laura: Alright. So back to the history of Amos Snell’s wealth and does plank roads.

[00:09:26] I found this description of smell from findagrave.com. So the murdered man anus J Snell was a native of little falls, New York. And he was 65 years old.

[00:09:35] So there's information on these old articles. It's so contradictory. You know, like the earlier ones said he was 64. This one says he's 65. This one was interesting. They said that he had accumulated a fortune of at least $3 million in

[00:09:49] Renee: Oh my gosh.

[00:09:50] Laura: I know. And it went on to say he was the owner of not less than 400 substantial residences.

[00:09:56] So I guess giving his daughter, one of those was. You know, no biggie and business houses on the West side of Chicago, it's many of the, many of them were handsomely designed and exceptionally expensive. As the city grew, he improved his property. And nearly all of his property consists of marble stone, France of which I know of which he's thought to about at least 350 and his own residence on the corner of Washington Boulevard and Ada street, where he was murdered is one of the handsomest on the drive.

[00:10:28] He's known, he's been known to say that he did not know exactly how much he was worth, but he thought it was more than 3 million. So yeah, just kind of guesstimating that. And that's about, I looked it up that's about 8.8 million today.

[00:10:42] Renee: Oh my gosh.

[00:10:44] Laura: Yeah. So, then they go on to say he was a close businessman, which that's the thrifty thing.

[00:10:49] And although in his later years he became worth millions. He looked after his sense as carefully as when he was worth, but a few a hundred. This is what they mean meant by he was thrifty. It mattered not how small the debt one owed to him. If only a dollar, he made it a practice to collect it when it was due. So he wanted people to pay up. He wasn't, very generous

[00:11:15] Renee: Yeah, it doesn't sound like thrifty per se, but, um, kind of stingy,

[00:11:21] Laura:  That's exactly the right word. , so now we kind of get an idea of the kind of man he runs. So I'm going to look at his family a little bit. So we do know he was married to Henrietta Snell.

[00:11:32] In Edgar County, Illinois on December 21st, 1846. So that one article that said that he traveled with his bride and $22 from Pennsylvania is just that's hooey. And they appear to have been fairly happy together. At least I didn't find any examples of problems that they had and they had either three or four children.

[00:11:55] Now I'll

[00:11:56] Renee: Okay.

[00:11:57] Laura: I know I will. That is, yes. It's a crazy part of the story. Now I am sure they had a son Albert Jerome Snell, and this is the questionable heart, the number of daughters. There was Mary Snell Stone, Mrs. Gray Snell, Coffin, Coffin, Walker, Coffin, Layman, Love.

[00:12:17] Renee: I'm sorry.

[00:12:20] Laura: These I'm reading all their married names.

[00:12:22] So. Miss Mary Snell stone was the oldest. And then the next one was Mrs. Grace Snell, Coffin, Coffin Walker, coffin, Layman, Love.

[00:12:33] Renee: And so those are all married names. Did she marry the same person? Multiple times or

[00:12:38] Laura: married. No, no, no, that's fine. No, it was the same man. She married him at least three times and divorced him and divorced 10, three times also.

[00:12:49] Renee: Well, if it didn't work the first time, would it work the other two times? I don't understand

[00:12:54] Laura: I don't know, these ladies are that this family actually pretty nuts. And then the third potential batter is Alice Snell and Cray Green. Okay.

[00:13:06] Renee: So, married multiple times. It sounds like.

[00:13:09] Laura: from Mary Snell stone, the first one, she was married and remained married her whole life to this. She's the one who had that fancy wedding.

[00:13:16] So maybe those birds of paradise really paid off.

[00:13:20] Renee: Yeah, that woven sugar. I tell you,

[00:13:23] Laura: it's

[00:13:23] Renee: of a lasting marriage.

[00:13:25] Laura: it's a secret, it's a secret to a happy marriage. So in 1888 when Amos was murdered the children were grown and living on their own. Mary and Albert Stone, they had several children and actually they lived kind of close.

[00:13:39] I'm not sure exactly where, but I think across the street or maybe a block over, so it wasn't far. And at the time of the murder, two of the children were apparently staying with their grandfather Snell and I didn't read any reports of them, like waking up from the noise of the gunshots.

[00:13:56] Oh, and then Mrs. Henrietta Snell that's the wife, the widow. She was visiting someone in Milwaukee on the night of the murder, possibly their daughter, Alice. Who was, I think the youngest one. So, our victim must have been quite a character. Apparently he'd been robbed in 1867 and ever since that time, he'd taken to keeping a pistol at his bedside which he would grab and carry about the house to investigate strange noises in the night.

[00:14:25] Renee: Okay, that sounds safe.

[00:14:27] Laura: Yeah, he's a little paranoid, I think. So I got this from Adam Seltzers, mysterious Chicago blog or mysterious Chicago tourist blog. The day before the murder, Amos Snell had told friends in a saloon that he was going to have to be careful. One of the 1867 robbers had threatened to get revenge on him and had just been released from prison.

[00:14:49] It was said same trouble that day and seemed to have premonition that he was going to die that night. I didn't see a mention of the premonition in any of the articles. But I did find that in March of 1867, four men had been indicted for burglary and breaking into his house so that he really was burglarized that in 1867.

[00:15:10] And so the day after the crime. The Chicago Tribune. Reported this description of the murder. The murder was committed shortly after two o'clock in the morning but, was not discovered until nearly seven in the morning. When the Coachman entered the house from his quarters over the stables and stumbled over his masters dead body.

[00:15:31] The only clue to the murderers is a box of burglar's tools, which they left behind. About an hour before the murder occurred. Sergeant Hartnett arrested two suspicious characters who are hanging about the premises.

[00:15:43] These are believed to be outside Confederates of the burglars who robbed the safe in the office. And the basement floor and murdered its owners. I'm gonna read that again. These are believed to be the outside Confederates of the burglars who robbed the safe in the office and the basement floor and murdered its owner.

[00:15:59] The booty is valueless to them as it consists of $1,600 worth of County warrants and $5,000 in checks. So endorsed that it has been possible to stop payment on them. Now, many jewelry or plate was taken.

[00:16:15] Renee: Okay.

[00:16:16] Laura: So a completely pointless robbery. And so I did not find any more information about the suspicious man that Sergeant Hartnett, arrested.

[00:16:26] That this article alleges were part of the plot, but there were plenty of potential culprits arrested and questioned. So Adam Seltzer, his blog States that that they arrested over 40 suspects and police eventually settled on a primary suspect William Taskett, who is a son.

[00:16:44] , sign up the wealthy, highly respected owner of the JB Taskett manufacturing company, which was nationally known for their production of paint. So they're basically, they said it's like this murder happened by this guy or because the murderer was this young, wealthy nerdy, well son, and this is how they describe William Taskett in the New York World.

[00:17:11] William had every care lavished upon hand, but he was a wild boy from his youngest days. He was in cordial. By the time he was seven years old, he had a natural taste for low associates and total depravity or depravity. His father denied him nothing, but when he was 16, he ran away and was not heard from for several years.

[00:17:30] He had deliberately chosen to be a professional thief. It was a sort of mania with him. He traveled about the country under assumed names, living by stealing in various cities. After he had gone three years, he was arrested for a burglary in Louisville and sentenced to two years in the Kentucky state prison.

[00:17:46] When he was released, he came back to Chicago, William professed penitence, and for a while, seems to have led an honest life. I don't know. They seem to really think he was the one. And there was some, there's some reason to think that

[00:18:03] Renee: I guess a professional thief would be able to tell whether the booty is worth anything. So that would make sense. You know, I could see where it would steer them in that direction.

[00:18:16] Laura: well, well, yeah, right. You said, you're saying he's not professional. That's why he

[00:18:23] Renee: well, I'm just saying that he's, he broke into his house and realized that what he was looking at wasn't worth anything. So that's why it was left behind. So a professional thief would be able to identify whether something is lucrative

[00:18:42] Laura: right?

[00:18:42] Renee: or not. So,

[00:18:43] Laura: Well, actually, no, they did steal all that stuff.

[00:18:46] Renee: Oh, they did.

[00:18:47] Laura: They did? No, no. What he left behind? No, I'm sorry. They, he left behind he took all that stuff that was actually worthless because they could stop payment on the checks. So it'd be like stealing somebody's checkbook or a credit card, now, cause we've got credit fraud protection, so we can just stop payment on it.

[00:19:04] So it be kind of like that, but he did leave behind his tools, his burglary tools.

[00:19:09] Renee: Oh, gotcha. Okay.

[00:19:11] Laura: So that's what he left behind. That that's actually important, um, that burglary tools. So the article goes on to say that Taskett became involved with a gang of burglars.

[00:19:20] Once he moved back to Chicago and he also rented a room where he would stash is still gun. So he lived with his wealthy father and their mansion. But he had this room that he rented like a safe house, I guess for, I don't know.

[00:19:36] Renee: To keep his collectibles on the down low,

[00:19:39] Laura: Yes. I love it. Yes.

[00:19:40] Renee: Like a stash house.

[00:19:41] Laura: Yeah. Stash has so the landlady, the stash house would go in and clean for

[00:19:46] Renee: Okay.

[00:19:46] Laura: And so she went in to clean and she found a closet that was filled with, and this is a quote, a heap of silverware of different patterns. And she told the police about it.

[00:19:56] And the police identify the silverwares items stolen from the neighborhood where test Scott's father lived

[00:20:03] Renee: Oh, so he's pooping where he sleeps

[00:20:08] Laura: Yes,

[00:20:09] Renee: for lack of better

[00:20:10] Laura: no, that's perfect. So Snell's murderer had left. This is where that had left that mahogany box filled with burglar's tools, which I would think that would be heavy, but. 

[00:20:24] Renee: What seems strange if he was really a professional, what, and he not need added tools to help enter someone's home and announce.

[00:20:35] Laura: , and I'm picturing like a big, old heavy tool chest, right?

[00:20:38] Renee: Yeah. That's what I'm imagining.

[00:20:40] Laura: So the police were out of luck finding task at though because remember he's wealthy. So he just skipped town

[00:20:48] Renee: Okay.

[00:20:48] Laura: and never found again, like there were reports the widow Mrs. Snell offered a substantial reward for his capture. Many claim to have seen him, but he was never actually found. And the New York world's speculated that he had run off to Europe, but who knows?

[00:21:05] So the murder happened in 1889, but then in 1889, earthquake, the murder happened in 1888, but then in 1889, uh, thief and another ex-convict James Gillan actually confessed on his deathbed.

[00:21:19] Renee: Okay. Hm.

[00:21:20] Laura: the police were pretty sure there were two. At least two men and Gillen refused to give up the name of his accomplice.

[00:21:30] But for some reason, police seem to think he was actually telling the truth when he was involved in it or when he admitted to it. It's really unclear. So, I think this guy's murderer is pretty much unsolved. I don't know that we can say Taskett did it or Gillan or anybody.

[00:21:47] Which is very sad.

[00:21:49] Renee: Yeah,

[00:21:51] a self-made man like that.

[00:21:54] Laura: exactly. Now actually what's even sad or though is what happened to the family afterwards. So the family became entangled in a variety of lawsuits. One of which rolled in 1894. That those toll booths on the plank roads that they were no longer illegal. He couldn't, they couldn't collect money on those because the city had expanded its boundaries. So that's obviously put a serious dent in the family's financial resources. And then Mary and Albert Stone, the only, the only daughter who was, seemed happily married, they continued to live their upper-crust life in Chicago. And I'm not sure what the son Albert did. I could not find information about academic or business pursuits.

[00:22:42] I do know he married Celia Kerr in 1878 but I don’t believe they had children and I don't think the marriage was a successful one. And I'll get into that a little later. But then there was Alice, so she married at 16 and she and her husband had a boy and a girl and she was a lot it as one of Chicago's great beauties.

[00:23:02] And, and I found a picture of her. I'll put it on the website, but she really was truly beautiful. And then she also had a talent for acting, singing, and painting now after her father's death. So each of the kids and I found different accounts, but when Amos Snell was murdered, each of the kids got a large portion of their inheritance immediately.

[00:23:21] And so she received, I think, $500,000.

[00:23:25] Renee: Oh, wow. That was a lot of money back then.

[00:23:27] Laura: It was. And so she decided to take that money, divorced her husband and traveled to New York to try her luck on the stage as a, as an actress. And I found this article about her called new theatrical star was title of the article and she says she doesn't know which place she will perform.

[00:23:46] She says even that is unsettled. Probably a play will be written for me. Several playwrights have been discussed, but no definite action has been taken. So I'm thinking Paris Hilton here. I don't know. What do you

[00:23:59] Renee: a little self-confidence.

[00:24:02] Laura: daddy's money to get her star on Broadway? She didn't make it big on Broadway, although she did cause quite a sensation because, okay, so she divorced this guy in Chicago, went to New York while she was there.

[00:24:16] She met this married guy named Douglas Green and they ran off together and they had a sham wedding. So, the newspaper said they eloped, but he was still married. So, it was bigamous. So of course, Douglas Green's wife later divorced him the real one. And then he and Alice did marry legally, but there was still a big scandal! Greene lost his job.

[00:24:39] I think he'd been a stockbroker and the couple were ostracized from polite society until Alice's death in 1898 when she was only 31 years old. So she. I, she really did. It's tragic actually hurt her, I think. And then just to show you like what polite society thought of her and what she'd done, and basically women in that time period, I found this article it's kind of a little memoir of her passing from the Fredericksburg news on December 15th, 1898.

[00:25:11] And I'm just going to read it because the language is. Interesting. Oh the article is titled is “the wages of sin”. And then there's a drawing of a gravestone with the caption. “The wages of sin is death,” which

[00:25:27] Renee: Wow. That seems a little.

[00:25:30] Laura: harsh. Yeah. Okay. The writer Delia Demolette ran. into her a year or two before her death. she explains that she knew Alice as a young girl full of beauty and promise. But after the sinful girl divorced her first husband and then ran off with a married man, she grew thin and pale. She was always slight, but .

[00:25:51] Now she was emaciated. She goes on to say she was always slight, but not then. And now she was emaciated. Her Brown eyes were eager, wistful, infinitely, sad. The cosmetics on her face emphasize the hollowness of cheeks and the weariness of her soul.

[00:26:06] So then Deomolette ends with these wise words that I found infuriating. I don't know, this little woman paid her penalty. She has expiated her folly by suffering and her pathetic death. 

[00:26:20] Renee: That has to print scarlet letters

[00:26:23] Laura: yes, exactly. Yeah. And then you think almost by almost 1900, you'd think that we'd be a little more progressive, but I guess not.

[00:26:33] Okay, so. Mary's married, happily. Albert's doing whatever he did. Alice sadly ran off and then died. And then there's Grace. The one who has married a bunch of times. So, she continued marrying and divorcing and marrying again.

[00:26:49] And there was actually a 1906 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about her that was entitled six husbands five divorces is her record. They write that she is quote, believed to hold the world's record for marriages and divorces. Her list of former husbands includes, the names of two hotel clerks from whom she was divorced and the name of Frank Nixon, Coffin of Chicago, whom she thrice married and thrice divorced.

[00:27:19] So I don't. So, in 1906, she was apparently married to Hugh Love who was a reporter and they lived in California. And actually I found reports of she would go to the newspapers or she would file for divorce against Hugh Love, and then they would make up and then she'd filed for divorce. Again, like it happened at least two different times.

[00:27:39] I think they finally ended up being divorced, but I gave up,

[00:27:43] Renee: It's like today's Ross Geller.

[00:27:51] Laura: So later in her life Grace said this about her upbringing. I have been a society. This woman, I have been a society woman. I traveled like furiously in Europe and luxuriously in Europe and kept a fine stable of horses. My mother gloried in my social position, I probably would not have been divorced and had all these romances.

[00:28:12] If I had not been spoiled, my parents got me into the habit of spending mother taught me to be extravagant. So, you know, it's always the mom's fault.

[00:28:22] Renee: Yeah, but it sounds a bit contradictory since her father seemed very miserly.

[00:28:29] Laura: Right. Well, except maybe where his daughters were concerned. Right. 

[00:28:33] Renee: Yeah. I guess that's true.

[00:28:35] Laura: I don't know. It's hard to guess other than , I think all these kids had, I'm just calling the affluenza. I mean, . , the Snell’s could not be described as a loving, supportive family by any stretch of the imagination.

[00:28:49] Which of course caused even more problems. And now I'm going to get to that part about how many daughters they did or didn't have. After the widow Snell died in 1900, her children, the three remaining ones fought bitterly over the wealth that was left in widow Snell's will she divided her fortune between Albert and daughter Grace?

[00:29:12] Cutting Mary out completely. Now. Uh huh. . So why didn't you leave anything to Mary? There are conflicting accounts and Albert actually did not get along with Mary or her husband, Albert Stone. And after the mother's death, Albert smell claimed that Mary was not even a legal daughter of his parents and had no claim to the inheritance.

[00:29:41] Renee: Oh, interesting.

[00:29:42] Laura: Huh. Now , I did not find anywhere that Grace was involved in this. I think she was busy with her own drama, you know, marrying and divorcing and whatever owning horses, traveling Europe. I don't know. But Albert actually brought witnesses in to court who claimed that his parents had adopted a girl named Mary who had previously been known as Mary Hughes,

[00:30:05] Renee: Oh, interesting.

[00:30:07] Laura: So they said that she'd been named Mary Hughes and that the adoption had not been legal since there was actually no record of it

[00:30:18] Renee: Noted.

[00:30:20] Laura: And so therefore she did not deserve a share of estate. And he also said that his mother, the reason why she cut her out in addition, the fact that she wasn't even really her daughter was that Mary's husband, Albert Stone had actually been the gunmen who killed their father, Amos Jace Snell, cause remember that wasn't ever solved.

[00:30:42] They did live close by. So I don't know. The stone family's attorney, this is Mary's attorney. He had said that Albert Snell, the son had issued threats and intimidations to his mother and that he had forced money. He had forced her to cut Mary out of the will and that he had forced money from her by threats of writing her up in the newspapers or burning the family barn.

[00:31:07] and the maid testified that Albert Snell did not want his mother to give Mrs. Stone anything. And she went on to say that his threats were mostly contained in letters. He seldom bothered to actually visit in person to ask for money. And so the maid would actually hide some of the worst letters.

[00:31:25] She just didn't even tell the mom about

[00:31:28] Renee: Terrible.

[00:31:29] Laura: It's really sad. Yeah. . She said that Albert Snell had actually written to his mom that she couldn't die soon enough to suit him. So pretty harsh. Right.

[00:31:40] Renee: Yeah.

[00:31:40] Laura: And then the stones. In their defense of themselves.

[00:31:46] They tried to introduce evidence that Albert Snell had, in fact, even tried to hire someone to kill his sister. And unfortunately they were out of luck when this witness, the potential hired assassin was found murdered two days before the trial. So, there's so much drama going on here. 

[00:32:05] Renee: Like it.

[00:32:06] Laura: And the jury also was shown a birth book.

[00:32:10] So I think it's like the family Bible, they wrote the family history, births, and deaths in it. So, they found in the family birth book that Mary Snell's name had been erased and then reentered. Now the stone family said that it was not the widow's handwriting and that someone else had altered it after her death.

[00:32:30] However, the jury must have found it convincing, or maybe Albert paid them to find it convincing because they actually ruled that Mary Snell stone was not a legal descendant of Amos and Henrietta Snell or Amos. And that therefore she didn't deserve any of the inheritance. Or her children either.

[00:32:50] I found that she was still contesting this ruling as late as 1926. And she died in 1928 at the age of 76. So it's really sad. In addition to the money, the fact that your siblings hated you that much, that they wanted to say you weren't even part of the family. That's

[00:33:08] Renee: Sounds like Albert has some anger issues.

[00:33:11] Laura: Albert does so he burned through all of his inherited money and he died in 1910 and I found this  obituary in the salt Lake telegram on May 23rd, 1910 from Chicago, Albert J Snell was found dead in bed, in a rooming house here today. He was 50 years of age. He inherited a fortune from his father for a considerable time though.

[00:33:33] He had made a hand to mouth living, running errands on the docks. So he just blew it all. And I don't think I wrote it in here, but I did find a report that he had actually burned the barn down. So, he really didn't like that barn. Okay. So after I divorced Mrs. Gray Snell, Coffin, Coffin Walker, Coffin, Layman, Love. I just love to, that was one of. What's one of Amos and Henry and his children. He's the only one left. And nobody ever said she wasn't part of the family. I don't know. 

[00:34:09] So most of the land was left in a trust.

[00:34:12] Renee: Okay.

[00:34:13] Laura: And they just issued an allowance basically out of the trust for the heirs. And so, Mrs. Coffin, Coffin Walker, Coffin Layman, Love monthly income was $400, which I looked at out and. At that point. Was $7,500 today.

[00:34:36] So she's like a 70 year old woman. So, I would think $7,500 would be enough for a single woman to live comfortably on. I'm assuming she didn't have any mortgages or anything to pay off. 

[00:34:49] Renee: Yeah,

[00:34:51] Laura: I would think so , especially in the thirties, Right. , Mrs. Love contended. She was entitled to enjoy a large income. She objected to the trust, being operated with a view to conserving it for her daughters, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. So as a result of the ruling, the court said much of the property in the trust should be sold. So, they said that her present monthly income of $400 representing one third of the annual estate will be greatly increased. 

[00:35:18] So as to provide Mrs. Love with the cash sheet desperately needed. 

[00:35:22] Renee: Okay.

[00:35:23] Laura: they increased her monthly salary from $400 to a thousand dollars, which now a thousand dollars is bout $20,000 today.

[00:35:35] Renee: Oh, my goodness.

[00:35:36] Laura: So, it sounds like a lot, I mean, I'm sure it would be a challenge for someone used to spending freely to live on the equivalent of 120 grand, right?

[00:35:47] Her daughter didn't agree. I think that's sufficient, but her daughter didn't agree. Her daughter said that her mother was incompetent. A spendthrift the cruelest mother in the world, and a woman who often drank the excess during her married life. 

[00:36:02] there's not a lot of love among this family. I don't think.

[00:36:05] Renee: right. It sounds very dysfunctional.

[00:36:07] Laura: Dysfunctional. Yes.

[00:36:08] In 1938 though, the court reversed its ruling for grace. So she was forced to live on that measly $400 a month.

[00:36:16] And then she died four years later in 1941. So, I didn't research the lives of the grandchildren. So, I can't tell you what eventually happens to that to Amos Snell’s, fortune so all in all, I think it's a really sad story of a senseless murder, that was never solved and the demise of a once prominent family.

[00:36:35] Renee: Sounds like they had more of a business relationship than a family relationship.

[00:36:40] Laura: families have issues when it comes to inheritance when. The patriarch or matriarch of the family passes away, but this is really extreme.

[00:36:51] Renee: Yes. Sounds like it.

[00:36:53] Laura: So, I wrote you'll like this, the moral is stay sexy and don't spoil your children.

[00:37:01] Renee: I'm guilty of that one.

[00:37:04] Laura: We all do. But not to that extent. I don't think your daughter is going to say my mom told me that I get to have horses and travel Europe. So, that concludes what I've uncovered about the murder of Amos Snell. Do you have any questions Renee or

[00:37:19] Renee: Where did you say Mrs. Snell was at the time of the murder?

[00:37:25] Laura: she was in Milwaukee. I was visiting someone and I think it was Alice. The daughter who passed away. When she was young, I think Alice had had some health problems. Actually. She died from complications from some kind of an operation she had. 

[00:37:41] Renee: Very interesting. Uh, think I'm going to take some time to dive a little deeper into this myself.

[00:37:47] Laura: Yeah. . Let me know what you uncover. Cause I would love to do a follow-up I only have so much time to research it, but I would love to learn more. So now we are going to take a brief break and hear from our sponsor bell tophi, and then we'll be back to find out Renee, if you can tell if what I said was fact or fiction.

[00:38:05] Welcome back. All right, Renee. You're ready. Right?

[00:38:08] Renee: Yes, I'm ready.

[00:38:10] Laura: I'm going to give you four choices. Three of them. I found in websites, books, or newspaper articles, but one I made up and you can guess if you can guess my fiction from the facts.

[00:38:19] Okay. Here are your choices. Number one. According to the Oxford English dictionary. The first recorded use of the word corduroy was in the late 18th century. Corduroy was in fact invented much more recently. Choice number two, after the landlady, the house where task at rented a room found, quote, “a heap of silverware, different patterns” the police identified it as having been stolen from the same neighborhood where a task his father lived.

[00:38:52] Renee: Okay. Okay.

[00:38:54] Laura: . Number three, during the trial about Mary smell stone, suppose it adopted status. The stones tried to introduce evidence that Albert Snell had in fact, hired someone to kill his sister. Their witness was found murdered two days before the trial and choice number four, Albert Snell, the son claimed in court that his mother knew.

[00:39:18] That Mary's husband Albert Snell had in fact been the gunman who'd killed Amos, Jay Snell. So, there you have it.

[00:39:28] Renee: Okay. Okay. So corduroy, I feel like it was probably let's see, how do I want to word this? Okay. corduroy, it doesn't seem like the obvious answer as far as fiction. I feel like it was probably a sustainable material used earlier than recent decades, I should say. the second.

[00:40:14] Laura: The second one was the silverware.

[00:40:18] Renee: For some reason that one stuck out to me. As far as burglarizing houses in the neighborhood where he lived, I feel like if he was a professional thief, he would, and it was known that he was a professional thief, that he wouldn't hit the houses. Cause that would make him the prime suspect almost instantly. The third was the

[00:40:49] Laura: The assassin that Albert had tried to kill his sister or his adopted sister.

[00:40:59] Renee: find a little strange. Um, then he tried to kill his adopted sister.

[00:41:10] Laura: That he'd hired him, this assassin to do it.

[00:41:15] Renee: that seems too risky, especially when the balance of the trust is hanging.

[00:41:22] Laura: Okay.

[00:41:23] Renee: And then the last one, um, 

[00:41:27] Laura: the last one is that Albert said that Mary's husband had actually killed their father.

[00:41:40] Renee: I feel like there's a lot of revenge and spite in this family. So it's, it seems that the third and the fourth option are contradictory.

[00:41:49] Laura: Oh, okay.

[00:41:50] Renee: So, I feel like. The second option is the fiction that he burglarized houses in his neighborhood. And that's where all the silverware was found.

[00:42:03] Laura: You're going with number two. Okay, . I thought you had it. actually that one is true.

[00:42:10] Renee: Okay.

[00:42:11] Laura: I don't know that it's true. I found that in an article also the corduroy I was in fact invented in the 18th century. And it was invented in England from what I read and then yes, Albert did say that he thought Mary's husband had killed. Their father, but the one I made up, which I thought for sure you were going to guess was the hired assassin one but now that was the one I made up that Mary Snell had found evidence that her brother had hired an assassin, the killer. 

[00:42:44] Renee: Okay, well, sneaky.

[00:42:47] Laura: But I think that just goes to show how crazy some of the stuff is and maybe it really was true that the silverware was stolen from. But the police said that or maybe that was something that the newspapers just put in there to embellish it, but it's tough to know.

[00:43:03] Renee: It is really tough, especially when the available resources for research doesn't seem highly as likely today, just because things get lost in translation.

[00:43:15] Laura: Absolutely. They definitely do, , well, Renee, that is all I have. Any last minute comments you want to add or anything.

[00:43:26] Renee: That was a really awesome job. Thank you for having me.

[00:43:29] Laura: thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it as awesome. 

[00:43:31] Renee: Okay.

[00:43:32] Laura: But it's been fun. I've learned a lot, . Well, cool. Thank you Renee. And you did a great job. Thank

[00:43:36] Renee: Thank you. Have a great day.

[00:43:38] Laura: too. Bye

[00:43:39] Renee: Bye.