Saturday, May 8, 2010
THE MURDER OF DR. DAVENPORT
Sadly, I have discovered at least three murders and two possible suicides while researching my ancestors. I am sorry to say that these sad events do occur and if you research your history long enough and go far enough into the past you are bound to discover one or more murders.
My Mother’s grand-aunt Mary (Wise) Davenport, sister to her grandmother Harriet (Wise) Bayless, married a young man in Cherokee Co., AL. This young man was John W. Davenport. John W. Davenport went on to become a physician. The Davenports moved west as many families did in the early part of the 19th century. They went from AL to possibly AR and, I believe, settled for a short time in TX. They eventually made their home in Oakman, Indian Territory (IT), in what is now the state of OK.
The Hon. James Sanford Davenport was the doctor’s brother. James S. Davenport was an attorney for the Cherokee Nation, 1901-1907. He lived in Vinita where he had served as Mayor 1903-1904. At the time of the crime he was serving as a Democratic Representative for the future state of OK. He was elected a U. S, Congressman the following September and served in that capacity from Statehood, Nov. 16, 1907, until March 3, 1909. The Hon. James S. Davenport later became a Judge of the Criminal Court of Appeals.
John and Mary Davenport settled in Oakman near Ada. They raised three children while John practiced medicine. In 1907, Dr. J.W. Davenport ran for County Coroner in Ada. The Ada newspaper had several ads promoting the doctor for this position in the Spring of 1907. We will never know if he would have been elected because he was murdered during the campaign.
On March 18, 1907, the shocking headlines of the Ada newspaper announced that Dr. Davenport had been “FOULLY ASSASSINATED”. The same paper that announced the murder continued to run the ads for Davenport’s campaign for Coroner, a rather macabre comment on the tragedy. The Hon. James S. Davenport rushed to Ada to assist in the investigation of the crime.
The information about the crime and investigation has been taken from “The Evening News”, Ada, OK, March and May, 1907.
On the evening of Saturday, March 16, according to Mrs. Davenport, the doctor left home to answer a medical call. The exact events that followed are unknown but I will relate what was determined by the evidence.
Dr. Davenport had attended a patient on the south side of Francis and was preparing to return home. This was surmised from the fact that one rein of his two-horse buggy was hanging down and the other had been put up apparently in preparation to drive away from the scene. At this point, someone approached the doctor from behind, placed a gun barrel against the back of his head and shot him. The Coroner found powder burns around the wound. A shot was heard by neighbors at about 1 AM Sunday morning.
The body was found at 8 AM, Sunday morning. A large crown of onlookers soon gathered making it difficult to investigate the scene. The Hon. James S. Davenport, of Vinita, rushed to the scene and provided investigation by a noted team of bloodhounds. Two sets of footprints were found leading to the scene of the crime. These appeared to be those of a man and a woman. The smaller set led away again. This indicated that the doctor and a woman had come to the buggy from a nearby house, the doctor was shot and the woman returned to the house. The woman’s footprints then proceeded to a neighbor’s house. In the woman’s house was found a Colt pistol. The 32 calibre ball in the recently fired pistol matched that taken from the doctor’s wound.
On Monday, March 18, U. S. Deputy Marshal Cummings arrested Mrs. Mary E. Brooks in whose house the Colt pistol was found. Mrs. Brooks, a patient of Dr. Davenport, was described as “a handsome, clear-eyed, young woman” who sat “composedly” in the courtroom on Monday. Mr. Brooks was in Bates, AR, at the time of the crime. Mrs. Brooks was 31 years old and the mother of two children. She denied any knowledge of the crime.
Three witnesses took the stand on Monday to give evidence. Otis W. Tittle, the keeper of Vinita’s famous bloodhounds, gave evidence about the trailing of the suspect from the crime scene to first her own home and then to her neighbor’s home. The Hon. James S. Davenport, brother to the deceased, testified as to his observations at the scene and to the work of the bloodhounds which he had hired. R. J. Skinner, City Marshal of Francis also testified. Mrs. Brooks was held over for trial and sent to Ardmore.
In May a Grand Jury convened in Ardmore to hear evidence against Mrs. Mary E. Brooks. They deliberated and failed to return an indictment in spite of the evidence. Mrs. Brooks was freed and the murder remains unsolved.
PHOTO: Dr. John W. Davenport and his wife Mary Wise.