My recount of the life and times of the Honorable Joseph Slagle of Livingston County will end with this entry. It has been a fun trip for the last several months and I have found the research on our 19th century pioneer/pariah to be very challenging, if not a bit frustrating at times. I hope you have enjoyed it. I believe that it is very important to keep our legacy alive and provide new information about what was and extrapolate a bit about what might have been.
Incidentally, my blog title comes from the world of major league baseball and was spoken by a disappointed young Chicago White Sox fan to one of the key figures of the infamous Black Sox Scandal of 1919; Shoeless Joe Jackson. Poor old Benjamin Collins could not defend himself against his very negative portrayal at the Slagle murder trial. Judge Joe cannot set me straight about what really happened. Or can he?
Was Joe Sinner or Saint?
He was neither.
But I can't prove it.
Did Joe kill a wife now and then?
He likely did.
But I can't prove it.
The circumstances surrounding the seemingly sudden and inexplicable death of some wives are suspicious. The whereabouts of Elizabeth Crawford II (fifth wife) after September of 1854 beg many questions. She seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. I think Joe knows what happened to her, and he certainly aint gonna tell!
Consider the following information to support my claim.
Elizabeth Crawford II was not listed on a family deed transaction in 1857. She had been cited as Joe's wife on several county deed transactions in 1851-1852.
Joe and daughter Susan (from his third wife) were the only family members listed in the 1860 US Census.
Joe's omission of her very existence in the “Official 1886 History” appears to be a blatant cover-up.
I have found no trace of her in the ensuing years. Nothing at all.
Joe's cold and deliberate “blowing away” of his blabbermouth brother-in-law as he was heading for California (armed with a banjo on his back) tells me something about Joe Slagle, the man. If he did that on public record, then what other crimes might he have committed?
So after being married to five women in less than ten years (1842-1851), what more is there to tell you about Joe Slagle?
Actually, while not as headline grabbing--- there is a bit more to tell.
Joe spent much of the Civil War years freighting goods in the Western states. History tells us that a Union-occupied Chillicothe was depressed economically and repressed socially. Joe was wise to “get out of Dodge” and stay out. Conditions slowly improved and Joe returned to the area and his businesses and farms in 1867.
Joe is now 57 and still has no one to pass his land holdings on to. His first born male child (Columbus Genoa) has launched a promising medical practice in Minneapolis. Joe ensured that he too “received an education by no means limited” just as Joe himself had gotten so many years before. Columbus Genoa clearly didn’t want to be a farmer. Joe’s only surviving daughter (Susan) married well, but she was of the wrong sex to run the family enterprises. Besides, Mr. Turner had taken care of her and their numerous offspring quite well.
Recall that two of Joe’s namesakes did not survive birth/infancy. Joe now needs a “Little Joe” to turn the reins over to; and he needs him soon.
But sometimes money can’t fix everything right off. He was feared by most local people, not without reason. Rumors persisted about his marriages. He was quick to anger and carried a loaded weapon everywhere he went. Then Mrs. Lottie from Illinois entered his life.
One might question why a once-married, mature Charlotte (Lottie) Parent Ellis (Joe’s sixth wife) marry Joe in 1869 if she thought Joe had murdered some or all of the first five.
I have no answer.
Joseph Lee Slagle was born in 1871 and would be the one to continue on the farm. Lottie was beloved by one and all and active in the community. The Slagle School was started with Lottie’s support. In 1885, Joe and Lottie moved to town and wintered in Eureka Springs, Ark. The 1886 history characterized him as a Retired Gentleman Farmer. Columbus Genoa visited by train. Life was good.
In 1895, Judge Joseph Slagle passed from this life to be judged by the one and only True Judge. Lottie moved to the West Coast and died in Pomona, California in 1915.
Lastly, I would like to have told you about local newspaper accounts of Judge Joe’s passing in 1895. But I can’t, because I have found nothing. Not one single word was found. Now that alone speaks volumes to me!
Joe has been gone from our midst for more than a hundred years. Just now he would like to share a personal word with you:
PS: You might ask this question; where is the body of Benjamin Collins today?
Well, from one account it was placed on the outside edge of the Slagle burial grounds toward a neighbor's place that I don't recall at the moment. His body may even be buried in the middle of the road that parallels the Slagle Cemetery.