Shenandoah Herald, Volume 84, Number 46, 15 November 1901.
The trial of Solon Linthicum charged with the murder of Bruce Lonas on the 18th of December 1900, when Lonas’ mill was burned, began on last Tuesday morning. The prosecution was represented by W. W. Logan, Esq. Commonwealth’s Attorney and Hon. M. L. Walton, and the defense by Messrs. Meredith Stickley of this place and Rust, Williams of New Market. Below will be found an abstract of the evidence.
The following is the jury: H. H. Wisman, Foreman; Dan’l Lichliter, Milton Ridenour, A. B. Lichliter, J. W. Fisher, H. E. Bailey, L. J. Funkhouser, P. S. Rhodes, J. Z. Fravel, S. J. E. Golladay, J. W. Sweney and D. E. Copp.
The first witness for the Commonwealth was Sam’l H. Lonas, father of Bruce T. Lonas, who testified that when he was first notified that his mill was on fire by his brother J. C. Lonas about 11 o’clock on the night of Dec. 18, 1900 that the mill was a roaring mass of flames. It was a one and a half story mill, 32×32 feet and made everything in the milling line but flour but kept flour constantly on hand to exchange for wheat. His son, Bruce, 20 years old, slept in a room in the mill where there was $40 or $50 in cash some of which was silver, after the fire there was a search made for the money in the ruins but no trace of it could be found, when he left home about 8 or 9 o’clock he told his mother that he was going to the mill.
On cross examination Mr. Lonas stated that the engine in the mill had been run all the day of the fire but was shut down before dark and that his son slept 10 feet from the engine.
J. C. Lonas, postmaster at Belgrade was the next witness. He stated that Bruce Lonas was his nephew and that he was with him at the store at Belgrade on the night of Dec. 18, Bruce left the store at about 8 o’clock and went towards his home. My mother woke me that night at 15 minutes of 12 o’clock and told me the mill was on fire. The north end of the mill where the remains of Bruce were found was almost burnt out. I helped gather the bones of Bruce the next morning and recognized them by his lower jaw by a tooth that he had pulled out a few weeks before.
J. W. Wilkerson was next called to the stand. He stated that he lived about 1 mile from the mill and that he had helped to take the remains of Bruce from the ruins the next morning. Wilkerson stated that he was making fence with Solon Linthicum last April when West Craig passed them and he asked Solon how these people made their living (meaning the Craigs) and Solon said, “They steal it.” I told him that “I believed the Craigs were in Sam Lonas’ mill.” He said “your children went to school with a man’s children that carries a scar from Bruce today.”
Thos. Silvious was next and was a bery important witness for the Commonwealth. Mr. Silvious lived about 3 miles north of S. H. Lonas’ mill, and was at the mill about 8 o’clock the day after the burning. Mr. Silvious stated that he knew Solon Linthicum, the prisoner, and had a conversation with him last January, about Lonas’ mill, when Solon told him that he could tell him how it was done. He said that Bruce came in the mill by the engine and came in contact with several of the men, that he pushed on into the mill when he met West Craig who struck him with a small bar of iron and knocked him down, when Bruce was down he began to beg for his life and West Craig said “No! G– D– you, you have done the cutting and you must die.” He said that Tucker Craig was cut on the head and that John Bent Craig was cut on the arm.
On cross examination, Mr. Silvious said that Solon told him that he was not in the mill but was out on watch, at the blacksmith’s shop.
Detective Spandauer, stated that he was present when Jacob Hepner had a conversation with Solon Linthicum in the jail.
Mr. Hepner asked Solon to repeat what he had told him sometime ago, and Solon told Mr. Hepner to make the statement that he had told him and he would correct him if he made any mistakes.
Mr. Hepner said, “Solon, did you not tell me that “on the night of the fire that you were at home and about 7 o’clock you were called out by West Craig, Jno. Bent Craig, Geo. Craig, Tucker Craig, John R. Linthicum and Robt. Linthicum, who wanted you to go and help them rob Lonas’ mill, you told them you did not want to go and they said they would kill you if you did not go and that Robt. Linthicum was placed in the field near the mill as a watch, and that five of them went into the mill and that Bruce walked in on them and had three of them down, he cut one of them over the right arm, and another on the head, and then he was killed, after he was dead they went out and got some oak lumber and piled it on the body and set fire to it and the mill was burnt down. Solon’s reply was “that was right.”
Mr. Spandauer, “I examined John Bent Craig and found a scar on his right arm about two inches long, and found a scar on back of Warren Craig’s head about 1 1/2 inches long.
J. W. Wilkerson was recalled and testified that he also saw the knife and it was open and it was considerably burnt. He saw little Jake Hepner pick the knife up.
W. T. Drummond testified that at his house on the 20th of last June Solon Linthicum told him he was hunting this thing up; that he was afraid he would be prosecuted if he did not hunt it up. He also said “I could tell who done it,” or “I could guess who done it.”
For the defendant, the first witness was Cora A. Linthicum, wife of Solon Linthicum the prisoner, who testified that her husband was at home all of the day of Dec. 18th and that he did not leave the house that night. She said that she was sick and unable to do her housework and he was assisting her. She stated that Jacob Hepner said to her that he would give Solon $5 to tell him what he knew about this Lonas affair, and he wanted his mind satisfied.
Dr. Schmucker testified that Tucker Craig applied to him last winter for something for boils and carbuncles but did not examine as to any scars on his head.
Dr. D. D. Carter testified that he had examined John Bent Craig’s right arm Tuesday and could not find any scars that were made by a knife and that he could not find any trace of a scar on Tucker Craig’s head.
Dr. H. H. Irwin stated that he made an examination of John and Tucker Craig and that he had found on John’s right arm a scar about the size of the end of a lead pencil, but could find no scars on Tucker’s head.
The court ordered John Bent and Tucker Craig brought into court and an examination was made by Dr. Irwin before the jury, with about the same results as stated above. On this evidence the defendants rested their case.
Jury brought in a verdict at 2:40 p.m. Thursday and fixed the punishment of Solon Linthicum, the prisoner at eleven years in the penitentiary.
The court is trying W. West Craig for arson.