Murder at Dockery Park (1913)

A week after the killing of a Mexican at the Rock Island depot at Gallatin, another murder occurred when the companion of 16-year-old Blanche Brodbeck, Edward Donaldson, was killed from an ambush attack. Bloodhounds, brought here from Chillicothe, help produce evidence. Findings from a coroner’s inquest leads to a grand jury indictment against Thomas Estes.

A week after the killing of a Mexican at the Rock Island depot at Gallatin, another murder occurred when the companion of 16-year-old Blanche Brodbeck, Edward Donaldson, was killed from an ambush attack. Bloodhounds, brought here from Chillicothe, help produce evidence. Findings from a coroner’s inquest leads to a grand jury indictment against Thomas Estes.

Edward Donaldson, 23, of Junction, IL, representing the Yeast Foam Company of Chicago, arrived in Gallatin and formed the acquaintance of Blanche Brodbeck, the daughter of well-known nurseryman S.S. Brodbeck of Gallatin. Donaldson arranged to return to Gallatin the next night to continue the acquaintance — which proved to be a fatal decision.

The murder occurred about 9:30 p.m. while the couple were walking on the sidewalk at the Harley Rodger’s residence near Dockery Park. Donaldson was shot in the back and died almost immediately. The .22 shot evidently passed through his heart, causing pulmonary hemorhage. Authorities responding to the news of the crime ordered the body to be taken to Pettijohn’s undertaking establishment. Prosecuting Attorney Padget, Sheriff Surface and others sent to Chillicothe for blood hounds to try and trace the assasin. The ground proved too dry and too much of the area was trampled over considerably by the time Deputh Sheriff Whitt arrived with the dogs. And yet, what trail the dogs could trace led to the residence of the suspected killer, Thomas Estes.

The motive was not robbery. Nothing was taken from Miss Brodbeck nor from the victim. The crime was not thought to be the result of a jealousy since Miss Brodbeck had no steady companion among Gallatin youth. As put by the Gallatin Democrat in its Aug. 7, 1913, edition: “It might have been done by a man of weak intellect, who considered himself custodian of Dockery Park. The evidence given during the coronor’s inquest, leads to that conclusion.” The following summary of that inquest led by Coroner Minnick:

Dr. A.G. Minnick of Lock Sprigns arrived in Gallatin summoned the following to act as jurors: John A. Keck, Geo. H. Payne, Earl Cline, J.H. Weldon, W.W. Martin and F.M. Parker. The inqeust was held in the circuit courtroom and consumed most of the day.

Mayor Frank Woodruff, proprietor of Woodruff Hotel, was the first witness to testify. But many more details were given by Blanche Brodbeck.

Miss Brodbeck stated that Donaldson came to her home at 8:30 p.m. Aug. 1, and that she suggested they take a walk. They went to Dockery Park, where they stopped and tarried for a few minutes at the big gate before starting to return to town. After going a short distance, they stopped and talked about 10 minutes. While standing there a rock was thrown and Miss Brodbeck was struck on the right shoulder. “It did not bruise or pain me or leave any mark,” she said. When a third rock was thrown and Donaldson said “Keep rocks to yourself.” Miss Brodbeck was on the outside of the walk, facing west, when “something whizzed by my ear and Donaldson said, ‘Blanche, I am shot.'”

“He was standing by my side and took hold of my hand,” Blanche said during the inquiry. “I saw the man throw the rock, he was just behind the tree north of us. We ran to about halfway between the Bennett and West residences. When I left Donaldson, he was staggering and grabbing at his collar and shirt. I went to the first house and ran up on the porch and knocked against the screen and cried for help….

“I had never met Donaldson but the two times and know of no person who wuuld have any reason to shoot him. I have had no steady company here but have a fellow at McFall….

Upon recall she added: “Did not see where the man procured rock the first time he threw. He dodged behind the tree when he threw the first rock, then took his right hand from behind his back and it looked to me that he might have put his hand in his pocket. He never stooped down to pick up the rock. Whatever clothes he had on were black, and he wore a dark hat.”

Dr. M.A. Smith testified to the medical particulars describing Donaldson’s death. Gallatin Marshall Sam Poage testified about Donaldson’s blood found on the ground at the crime scene. Then S.S. Brodbeck testified but added little to shed light on the shooting.

O.P. Walter stated, in part, that during the previous month there had been 52 couples counted at the park and that “there were a number of bad women in town.” S.D. Rohrer of Chillicothe, and owner of the blood hounds, testified about the futile use of the dogs in the investigation. Harry Bills of Lock Springs testified that he heard the shot which sounded “like he was near the ticket house, about 150 feet from us” but did not see the shooter.

James F. Milstead, a brother-in-law to Blanche Brodbeck, stated that when he was going to the park on a bicycle upon learning of the shooting, he saw a man going north through the alley near Dr. Doolin’s.

Sheriff Sam Surface testified that a gun was obtained from the Estes house by Mr. Padget. It was loaded. He also pointed to a rock taken from close to the place where Miss Brodbeck said she was struck. There was a green stain on the rock. “I saw houds working. Whitt and Rohrer had hold of the chains. They went like they were tracking something and smelling, pulling on the chains. They went to the south end of the alley, then part way up the hill to the south end of the road and up to the window at the Estes house.”

J.I. Hughes, who lives within a half block of the park, said he had seen Thomas Estes pass that way toward the park but that he’d never seen Estes carrying a gun.

George Runnels stated his knowledge of Thomas Estes. “I talked with him in Dockery Park on Sunday night, three weeks ago. I was sittind down and heard noises behind me and saw Estes. He did not have a gun. He said he saw young couples under trees one night and another couple near the ticket office. He said he had turned seats over and asked me to take notice if they were turned back in the morning. Said he wanted to know if anybody had been there during the night.”

Thomas Estes testified in part as follows: “My correct name is Irving Estes; I’m 32 years old. I live in the northeast part of Gallatin and take my meals at Mary B. Myers’ just across the alley. I was at home (the night of the murder) and went to bed about 8:30 or 9 o’clock. I had no light in the house after going to bed. I heard some person pass the alley. I heard no gun. I’ve not been in Dockery Park for a month or so. I have a .22 calibre single shot rifle. It was loaded with a .22 short and was behind my bed on the floor. I loaded the gun a few days ago with the intention of killing a rabbit. I used the gun last at Alma Fuller’s where I shot two boxes of cartridges. This was on July 4th. I wiped the gun glean and have not shot it since. The gun and the coat here are mine, taken by Mr. Padget. I put these rocks in the pocket of my coat in my house a week ago to use them to kill a rabbit for a sick lady. I got six at that time. There were other rocks on the floor. I threw two of the rocks at rabbits. I have never turned over seats in Dockery Park. Have never been in there with this target gun or any other gun. I never met George Runnels in the park. I have not watched boys and girls in the park, and have made no threats. I do not know Tennell Holcomb or Wm. Whitt and have no conversations with them. I did not tell them I had been watching men and women in Cox’s pasture. I was not in the direction of Dockery Park last night. I first heard of the killing through Padgety and others who came to my place. I bought the gun from Mann & Musselman on July 3rd, and visited Alma Fuller on July 4th.”

After hearing the evidence, the jury serving in the coroner’s inquest returned the following verdict:

“We find that Edward Donaldson came to his death from a gunshot wound, fired by some person unknown to us, and we further recommend that Thomas Estes be held to the next grand jury for further investigation and that the prosecuting attorney investigate all persons connected with the affair.”

Published in the Aug. 7, 1913, edition of the Gallatin Democrat