George Longman Killed by Roger Phelps in Dispute over $1.50
Taken From the Henry Republican, Henry, IL
Transcribed by Nancy Piper
January 25, 1883
On Tuesday, 22d, at 2 p.m., this community was startled by the most shocking event, resulting in the death of Geo. Longman, son of William Longman, caused by a disagreement as to wages. Longman worked for 10 days for Roger Phelps picking corn. Longman claiming more than Phelps was willing to pay, hence a heated dispute. Longman left the Corners at one o'clock for Phelp's house to enforce his demands or get what was due. Phelps saw him coming, and went out and warned him not to come in the house but leave the premises. Longman insisted on having his due, passed round to the rear of the house. Phelps went into his house and closed the door. Longman, intent on getting at Phelps, broke in two lights of the door, gathered up a butcher knife laying near and made at Phelps, who, thinking himself in danger, called to Mrs. Phelps to bring the revolver, when he shot at Longman, the ball, a 32 caliber, entered his head in the eyebrow over center of left eye, ranging back, killing him instantly, he falling dead on the back porch. Thus has terminated this unfortunate dispute, occasioning much sorrow and grief. The amount in dispute did not exceed $1.50. A coroner's inquest was held Wednesday.
February 1, 1883
The Milo Homicide
We have refrained from commenting on the tragedy near Whitefield Corners, in Milo township, preferring to save the matter with our correspondent Vindicate to report and make such comments as he thought proper. Coroner Keener of Bureau county held an inquest on Jan. 24, the jury returning a verdict reciting the events as stated by Mr. Phelps, who did the shooting, without exculpating him or ordering him to be held for trial. The following is a synopsis of Mr. Phelp's testimony at the inquest:
Roger W. Phelps, being duly sworn, deposes and says: That he resides at Milo, Bureau Coounty, Ill.; am 40 years of age. Am a farmer. The dead body here lying is that of George Longman. Have known him since last November; at that time I employed him to work on my farm, husking corn. He worked for me 8 or 10 days, when I discharged him because of a spasm, which alarmed the women of the family. At the time I discharged him I paid him $13.85, leaving a balance due him of one dollar, which I promised to pay him the first time I saw him, or leave it at Snell's store; did not pay him because I could not make the change. Before leaving he said, in the presence of John Cooney and two O'Brien's, "You owe me a dollar."
The next time I saw him was the Saturday before Christmas, at Snell's store. I then and there paid him the dollar due, which he took and claimed I owed him still more, claiming $1.25 or $1.50. I left the place where he was, by the stove, and went to another part of the store. He followed me, commenced talking and took hold of my clothing about the throat, I pushed him away and Esq. Swift told us to hold on. I went further back in the store and no more words passed between us.
I did not see Longman afterwards until the 23rd of January, at about 1:30 p.m., when I was sitting in my house and saw him coming into my yard. I went out and met him about two rods from the house. I asked him what he was there for. He said Mr. Cliff sent him for that $1.25. I told him to leave. He pulled off his mittens and kept coming toward me. I pushed him and told him to leave. He kept following me as if intending to grab me; followed me to the house where I stopped and tried to keep him back by ordering and pushing. He kept crowding me and I entered the house and he rushed up against the door and struck the window in it. I took up a tea kettle from the stove and told him if he did not leave I would scald him. He rushed against the door and I tried to throw the water on him. He took up a butcher knife lying on the shelf outside and I called on my wife for my pistol. She did not get it and I asked a second time. I told her to keep in the other room and watch for someone in the road, and to call them in. By throwing water I kept him off for a while, and again called upon my wife for my pistol. When she brought the pistol Longman ran back to the corner of the house - said the pistol was not loaded and approached again. I told him to get away or I would shoot. He held up his hand with the knife and said, "I'm not doing anything." Told him to throw the knife down or I would shoot him. He was then within a few feet of the door and sprang upon it, breaking the window in the door. He sprang forward several times and when I pointed my pistol at him sprang back. I was expecting my hired hand and tried to keep him off until he should come; but Longman made a heavy spring against the door, and I fired under the impulse of the moment.
Longman died almost instantly and as soon as the other men could be got and his hand had arrived, Mr. Phelps sent him to Lombardville to telegraph for the coroner.
The results of the corner's jury has not given satisfaction. Something more definite is demanded and especially by the friends of young Longman. We understand Phelps was arrested on Wednesday and that a judicial investigation will be held before Justice Murphy at Lone Tree commencing on Saturday, Feb. 3.
February 8, 1883
The Milo Homicide
The verdict of the coroner's jury in the Phelps-Longman tragedy was rendered as follows: "We, the undersigned jurors, sworn to inquire of the death of George Longman, on oath do find that he came to his death by a bullet, shot into his brain from a pistol in the hands of Roger W. Phelps, at the residence of the said Roger W. Phelps, in the township of Milo, county of Bureau and state of Illinois, on the 22d day of January, 1883, between the hours of one and two o'clock."
The examination of R. W. Phelps before Edward Murphy, J.P., on Saturday, at Lone Tree, resulted in the justice binding him over in the sum of $5000, to appear before the circuit court at Princeton, March term, to answer to the shooting of Longman. Homer Hinman, a brother-in-law, of Milo, affixed his name to the bond as surety.
Back to Bureau County Illinois History and Genealogy