The first topic for the Fenton History Center's Brown Bap Lecture Series season is so involved Fenton collections manager and area historian Norman Carlson needs two sessions to deliver the entire talk.
"It was a brutal double axe murder in the town of Busti in the era of Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper and Lizzy Borden, the first unsolved murder in Chautauqua County history," said Carlson. "Multiple suspects ranged from the closest blood relatives to total strangers. They included one victim's 14-year-old son, disgruntled former employees, larcenous or envious neighbors, well-connected relatives, and stray tramps. They include a wife beater, the bigamous ex-husband of the crazy sister and an hysterical prostitute who tries to commit suicide. There is a drug aspect, a supernatural aspect and a strong science fiction aspect to the case. There is national press coverage and swarms of sensationalist out-of-town reporters."
There were seven sessions of the coroner's jury, most ending like Hollywood teasers, and the last convenes and terminates abruptly with a verdict of "person or persons unknown." Chautauqua County's most colorful ex-Congressman then takes up the case as a crusade but dies after a bizarre fizzle of a trial. His son and namesake then attempts to pursue the cause but fails even more miserably and shortly later dies in a fire in a Jamestown house of prostitution.
More than 40 years later, another tragic death in the neighborhood chillingly recalls the whole experience for the town in what the State Police captain termed the most bizarre case in his career, Carlson said.
The lecture will be in the education room of the Fenton History Center during the lunch hour on Wednesdays, April 10 and April 17, beginning at noon. The lecture is free, but donations are welcome.
The series will take place the second Wednesday of each month April through October. The next topic on May 8 is about Aaron Hall, the architect who designed and built many of Jamestown's best-known structures.