The Golf Club Murder
by B.F. Ruby
"Town Tidings", April, 1935.
(Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of Buffalo's historical homicides. In an early issue the author will tell the story of another old Buffalo murder mystery.)
The judge looked searchingly at the young woman before him. He leaned forward and pointed a finger at her.
"And you loved Pennell, did you not?"
The woman, who was petite and stylishly dressed, lifted a level gaze to the jurist. Her face bore traces of recent tears but it was cold and passive. And there was no hesitation when she answered unflinchingly:
"Yes, I loved him!"
That was the brave admission of a wife whose husband's lifeless body, nearly nude, had been found on a divan in the den of their fashionable Ashland avenue home on a morning nearly two scores ago. The man she confessed loving was a brilliant, but unbalanced young lawyer, Arthur R. Pennell, also a socialite and a member of the "Elmwood Avenue Set," coterie of fast-living, sex-ridden "aristocrats" whose amorous evasions and compromises eventually led to a murder and a probably suicide.
The case, which was well described by the press as "a dress-suit murder with a social and mysterious attachment," splashed into the headlines on the 27th day of February, 1903. The victim, Edwin L. Burdick, a dapper little man with a waxed mustache, cultured, reserved and dignified in bearing as became his position as president of a large manufacturing establishment, lived at 101 Ashland avenue. For two months the house had lacked the vital presence of "Allie," his wife. Domestic trouble had been brewing for a long time and efforts to prevent marital shipwreck had failed. Burdick had filed a suit for absolute divorce naming Pennell as corespondent. Mrs. Burdick had filed a counter-suit naming a Mrs. Warren of Cleveland and a Jane Doe. Mrs. Burdick had gone to Atlantic City, Burdick remaining in the house.
On Thursday, the day preceding the murder, Mr. Burdick was at his office most of the forenoon and in the early afternoon. About 3 o'clock an acquaintance called to discuss the election of officers in the Buffalo Golf Club. After that, with the caller, Burdick walked to the corner of North Division and Main where the two parted. He was cheerful and in no way indicated the presence of any impending trouble. The last seen of him was at about 9:45 Thursday night when he was noticed on his way to the cellar by one of the servants.
The murdered man's body was found by a servant girl at about 8 o'clock Friday morning in the den of the first floor where he was accustomed to spend much of his time at home. The den was "fancifully" decorated, with a profusion of Turkish rugs on the highly-polished floor; figured burlap covered the walls, the ceiling was hung with a gold-flecked cloth draped from the chandelier toward walls, and the wall decorations included oriental swords and other relics collected on world cruises. There were also some pictures of ballet dancers in color and photographs of several women acquaintances, later identified by police.
A second-floor maid had noticed that the bed in Mr. Burdick's room on the upper floor had not been slept in.
Thinking he might have fallen asleep in the den, she investigated. There was a strange heap of oriental rugs on the divan. Fearfully, she went closer, lifted the rugs and saw her master's head wrapped in a blood-stained crazy quilt.
The police complained loudly that there was an unwarranted delay in reporting the case and the family physician who was first called was accused of having tried to persuade the medical examiner to call it a suicide -- a somewhat implausible theory inasmuch as the back of the victim's skull was practically pulverized. The doctor had telephoned for Dr. Howland, the coroner, who then had called up Chief of Detectives Cusack, asking the latter to come downtown. When Chief Cusack got down to his office at 9:30, police learned, for the first time, that a murder had been committed. When they did get to work on the case, they found they had a first-class mystery on their hands.
District Attorney Coatsworth said: "I am confident that the murder is the result, directly or indirectly, of Burdick's social relations. There have been a large number of divorce suits in this circle and possibly there should have been more." There was press comment to the effect that "during recent years this set has been seriously disturbed by a number of scandals. The social freedom enjoyed by this coterie has resulted in several divorce suits, a few assaults, and a miscellaneous assortment of domestic infelicities which some fear may pass in review when of the slayer of Edwin L. Burdick is apprehended."
Continuing, the press observed: "Like a gale-fanned prairie fire the statement flew from one end of the land to the other that the dead man had died because of a wrong to a woman. He was branded as a man of notoriously immoral character; labelled a home breaker. Stories were sent abroad that he was one of a social set of such swiftness that the London Smart Set would seem snail-like in comparison. The Elmwood Avenue Set was what the public discussed. 'What an immoral contingent, that Elmwood Avenue Set is to be sure!' said the ultra-virtuous single women of advanced age who happened to live in other sections of the city. 'Why doesn't Heaven open and Divine wrath come forth and burn them all?'"
There was less worry about that exigency, probably, than about the peril of burning in the electric chair. The police, reasoning inductively from a mass of evidence, developed a plethora of clues and nearly everyone from the center to the circumference of the "fast" set became jittery. Incriminating evidence piled up rapidly and one wild police theory succeeded another in such swift succession that no one was secure form the pointing finger of suspicion.
By March 1st, two days after the crime, the police had settled down to the belief that a woman had committed the murder. Jotted down in the notebooks of Chief Cusack, and Detectives Henafelt, Holmlund, Devine and Sullivan, were probably such bits as these:
Item: A tuft of sixteen loose hairs was found on the torso of the victim. Are the hairs from a woman's head? Whose?
Item: A photograph of Mrs. Paine, wife of Dr. Seth T. Paine, dentist of 492 Elmwood Avenue, was found in Burdick's den. Dr. Paine was in the habit of remaining out of town for lengthy periods. Along with these memoranda, the sleuths might have carried a clipping from The Courier which read: "A wonderful woman is this Mrs. Paine. Young she is. Beautiful she is. Intellectual and deep. She knew Burdick. She talked with him on the day prior to the murder. She is poor. Still she insisted upon looking beautiful and dressing with taste and in the mode."
Item: Women visitors are said to have been frequent at the Burdick home mostly in the absence of Mrs. Burdick.
Item: Appearance of the den when body was found. On the desk were remnants of a cheese and cracker sandwich and a bottle of martini cocktails. Mr. Burdick never ate cheese and crackers, according to servants. Evidence that there was no struggle -- a knife was resting against a plate in such a way that a slight jar would have caused it to fall. But the assassin could have placed it there after the murder. The body was dressed only in an undershirt. Had he been sleeping, or...?
Item: In Mrs. Burdick's suit for divorce, she named a Mrs. Warren of Cleveland as corespondent. In Burdick's den was found a clipping telling of Mrs. Warren having obtained a divorce from her husband. Did Burdick and Mrs. Warren have a pact to obtain divorces from their respective spouses and then get married? Then did he refuse to go through with the plan, and was he murdered by the Warren woman during a fit of jealousy?
Item: Mrs. Burdick's suit for divorce also named a Jane Doe? Who is Jane Doe? And did she kill Burdick?
Item: A woman is reported to have alighted from a hack in front of Gregory's drug store on Main street near Genesee at ten minutes after twelve on Thursday night. The woman, who was a strikingly beautiful blonde, entered the store and bought chloral.
Detectives uncovered a substantial mass of evidence which would lead to the supposition that a man had committed the crime. For one thing, the post mortem disclosed that two fingers on Mr. Burdick's left hand were broken, indicating that perhaps he had been awake when attacked and had tried to ward off the murderous blows. If he were awake and not taken completely unawares, could a woman have beaten him to death? Could a woman, even with a mashie golf club, the conjectured weapon, have dealt the blows which were obviously of great violence?
Another parcel of evidence was the statement of a hackman that he had picked up a man in front of the fashionable Tifft House at 10:30 the night of the murder and taken him to the corner of Ashland and Bryant. And if this man did it, what was his motive?
Another deduction was that if the insinuations that Mr. Burdick had been intimate with Mrs. Pierce, the Mrs. Warren of Cleveland, or the mysterious Jane Doe, the murder might have been the work of a jealous husband. Lending suspicion to this theory was the fact that Burdick must have feared he would be attacked and carried a revolver. Also, a man, not named in press reports, had come to the District Attorney with a story of an overheard conversation between Burdick and another member of the Red Jacket Golf Club.
"If I ever see you with my wife again, I'll kill you," the man threatened Burdick.
"Well, I'll be ready for you," answered Burdick.
The threats had been made two months prior to the murder and it was shortly afterward that Burdick purchased the revolver.
However, the police seemed to relish the idea of seeking a beautiful woman as the criminal and in interviews they hopefully said:
"We'll apprehend the murderess very soon."
It was inevitable that one day the papers would come out with the headline: "AND NOW THE WOMAN!"
A policeman had seen a woman coming from the directions of the Burdick house at 1:10 A.M. on Thursday night. A few days later, a young girl who was a choir singer in the First Baptist Church at Main and Fourth street, was seized and taken to Headquarters, stripped and subjected to a mortified search in the quest for evidence that would connect her with the crime. She had worked for a short while for the Roller Mill Magazine in which Burdick was financially interested. But she was able to demonstrate her complete innocence and police let her go hastily with profuse apologies.
This was about the status of affairs of March 10th when a man who had been questioned only in a perfunctory way regarding the crime, drove his automobile into Gahre's stone quarry on Kensington avenue in the "Jammerthal" (Valley of Sorrow) section. The man, Arthur R. Pennell, alleged paramour of Mrs. Burdick, was instantly killed. His wife died after being taken to the hospital.
Was the death an accident or was it a suicide and a confession of guilt?
Many facts now came out which seemed to point in the latter direction. He had been named as corespondent, it will be remembered, by Mr. Burdick in the latter's suit for divorce. Burdick's detectives had shadowed Pennell and had learned some interesting things. One of the things uncovered was what would now be called a "Love Nest" in the shape of an office rented by Pennell at No. 353 Ellicott Square for a firm named The Buffalo Collection Agency. The furniture consisted of a few chairs, a rug, a screen, and a lounge.
Mrs. Burdick had a lock box at the post office. Burdick, it was revealed, had procured a duplicate key to the box and obtained letters written to his wife by Pennell. He steamed them open and made copies. One of them dated about two years before the murder, contained the words written by Arthur R. Pennell -- "I feel that I must kill Ed Burdick."
At the inquest it was brought out how Mrs. Burdick was traced with Pennell to various furnished rooms. On one occasion Pennell and Mrs. Burdick were surprised together in a furnished room in Seventh street by the husband and some companions.
District Attorney Coatsworth, at the inquest, asked Mrs. Burdick:
"Your husband didn't see you on the occasion, did he?"
"No," she said, "I didn't know it was Mr. Burdick at the door or I wouldn't have opened the door for him to come in. I thought it was some stranger and I left the room."
"You left the room? But how did you leave it?"
"I stepped out of the window. And then I went to church."
Pennell left the room by means of the same window but was caught by Burdick and his companions and taken back to the room and examined.
Mr. Burdick was completely cleared by the inquest of charges of amorous high-jinks in the den of his house with Mrs. Paine, Mrs. Warren, Jane Doe, or any one else. Expert testimony was offered that 'nothing of an impure nature had taken place in the den proceeding Mr. Burdick's death.' Furthermore, Judge Murphy in rendering his verdict, deplored the attacks made upon the murder victim's reputation and the character of the various women with whom his name had been linked. In particular, he said that the arrest of the young choir singer had been an outrage.
Possibly he lifted a judicial eyebrow at the neglect of the police to arrest Pennell, but he did not verbalize about it. Tersely, he reviewed the evidence against the handsome young lawyer, who had made ardent love to Burdick's wife, had met her clandestinely even when she was supposed to be in Atlantic City, had boldly threatened to kill Burdick. Judge Murphy said, briefly:
"Altogether, the facts would, in my opinion, constitute just grounds for suspicion on which a warrant could be issued were he (Pennell) alive."
Nevertheless, many persons refused to believe that Pennell, with his wife seated beside him, deliberately drove his car over the quarry brink. They pointed to the fact that witnesses who examined the demolished car, stated that the brakes were set. They further insisted that Pennell was innocent of the murder. The belief held by this group was that he had no sufficient motive to kill Burdick. And there was a touch of modernity in the view expressed that the marital difficulties of the Burdicks were the ordinary difficulties that arise in many marriages and that Pennell and Mr. and Mrs. Burdick were already seeking a civilized, sane solution of the problem.
Mix salt, pepper, allspice and a Japanese seasoning mix called "nanami togarashi" (chili Pepper, sesame, seaweed and orange zest). Coat the fish or meat with these spices and pan roast on all sides. Add sweet red vermouth and freshly squeezed lemon juice to the pan. Braise the fish or meat until done. This seasoning is particularly delicious with lamb and beef, especially if you add zest from a fresh orange and toss it in with the vermouth when cooking.
Kaye Powell (email@example.com), also researching pre-1800 New York families, has a suggestion. New York State performed mid-decade state censuses in 1855 and 1865 which differ from US census in several ways. They ask where, what county each person was born in, what year, and sometimes even a woman's maiden name. It may be possible to extract helpful information about mothers and even grandmothers. The better libraries in New York state have them, as well as the LDS family history centers. From what Kaye has heard, if you order one from the LDS, you actually get both censuses in the deal. Since so many Burdicks came out of NY prior to the magical 1850 census, this resource may be very useful.
And while we're in New York, one more item that may help. Tanya Babcock Stringer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a professional genealogist specializing in the Babcock, Burdick, and related families. She is located in Upsate New York, close to all the research sites of that state. Check out her Babcock Web Site .
Paula Lukow (email@example.com) knows quite a lot about her 5th great grandfather, Daniel Burdick, but would like to know more. Daniel was born in February, 1778 in Vermont, but the boundaries were changed in 1781 and his birth place and place of residence became Washington County, New York. The 1820 census finds him in Rensselaer County, New York. In 1830, hw was in Genesee County, New York. His "wonderlust" took him to Lake County, Ohio for the 1840 census, and he finally settled down in Berrien County, Michigan in 1850, where he died in March, 1872. He married Charlotte Stewart (she may have been his second wife) and had 5 children during the 1820s: Hannah Loretta, Betsy Maria, Eliza Jane, Polly Catharine, and Stephen Vinson. Know more, need more? Contact Paula.
Gay Lea (GLea472968@aol.com) is looking for confirmation of her Maxson/Burdick connection. Her Maxson line starts with Richard Maxson (b. 1602) and Rebecca Unk, whose son, John Maxson (b. 1637) married Mary Mosher. Their son, John Maxson (b. Oct. 12, 1661) married Judith Clarke, and thier daughter, Dorothy Maxson (b. Oct. 30, 1703) married Thomas Burdick. Can anyone confirm?
Connie Wright (DBBFAN111@aol.com) wants to express her thanks to the extended Burdick family. You may remember that, on short notice, Connie asked for emails wishing her daughter/bride, Sarah, and military groom Adam, happiness on their wedding day. She was overwhelmed, figuratively and literally, by your response. Final total: 86 emails in a couple of hours! Connie, Sarah and Adam are all very appreciative of your support. By the way, the wedding came off great, with 125 attending!
You may also remember that in the last Newsletter, Fern Jentges was looking for information about Rebecca Winters. Both Dick Shaw (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Carol Cox (CarolACox@aol.com) know quite a bit about this famous Burdick ancestor (Rebecca was one of the original settlers who died making the trek to Utah with the young LDS Church.) Carol, a direct descendant, reports that quite a few of Rebecca's descendants are in the Denver, CO area. Actually, there is so much information about Rebecca Winters that a future Newsletter will be devoted to her.
There is also a lot known about Civil War veteran, Fernando Cortez Burdick. Jerry Feltman (email@example.com) has graciously sent historical information, which will be featured in an upcoming Newlsetter, as will be information sent in by Ellen Teller (Elletelle@aol.com) about her gg-grandmonther, Polly Babcock and a Burdick relative. Lots of interesting reading to come!
Diana Watson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a descendant of Daniel Comfort Burdick (1804-1906) of Beloit, Wisconsin. She knows a lot about Daniel, for instance, that Daniel is the oldest voter ever in Wisconsin -- he died at the age of 102, in 1906. He never missed an election, starting with his first in New York in 1836. Diana has identified many descendants through obituaries, and would love to hear from you if you are one or know about Daniel.
Ron (Burdick) Ohlfs (email@example.com) wants to let everyone know about Family Tree DNA Genealogy by Genetics, Ltd., in Houston, They have a reasonably-priced Y-chromosome test of male lines and matching ancestry back centuries. Their web site is http://www.familytreedna.com. I don't know anything about the service, other than that it exists, but would love to know more if anyone has experience with it. By the way, Ron recently visited the Burdickville homestead site in Empire Township, Leelanau County, Michigan. His great-grandfather, Austin Burdick, joined his brother, William, in lumbering on their 160 acre hill of timber many years ago. William and his wife traveled on the SS Saginaw from Ohio to Glen Arbor, MI in August 1855.
Ruthanne Hayes Haight (firstname.lastname@example.org) is helping her friend, Eleanor Sanders (email@example.com), trace her Burdick roots. Elenor's grandmother was Addie Burdick who married Henry Herrington. They lived in eastern Washington State. Anyone know more?
How's about something really off the wall. Anyone have any Wittwer family members? Stephanie Krienke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is looking for them.
Denise Green Sprecher (email@example.com) is a direct descendant of Joseph Green of Rhode Island with Burdicks, Maxsons, and Babcocks in her line, all from the upstate New York area -- Brookfield, Adams, Pickney, Watertown, Oneida County, etc. As Denise says, she is "truly hoping that we are related cuz I am tired of finding dead people and going to cemeteries!" She's also planning a reunion near her home town of Luverne, MN, so if you live in the area you may be able to score an invite...
Anyone ever heard of this spelling for "Burdick"? Stephani "Burdiek" (firstname.lastname@example.org) thinks she is family, with a different spelling, but isn't sure. Can anyone help? I sure hope so, it's always great to welcome more people to our clan.
Lee (LKGINC@aol.com) is the gg-grand child of Caroline (Callie or Calli) Burdick of Wisconsin. Caraoline was the daughter of Clark and Mary Burdick, originally from New York but later moved to Wisconsin. Clark and Mary had 3 children: Caroline, Wilson (Willey or Wiley) and Dellie (maybe Delila). Anyone know more?
Another generation is under way! My niece, Nellie, and husband Keith are proud parents of their first child, Elizabeth Kelly Marie Beaubien, born October 28. All are doing well.
Ashling Sans (email@example.com) lives in Oxford, England and is trying to trace her Burdick roots. Her late father, Eric Burdick, was from Canada, but she doesn't know don't anything else about him, other than that he had six children. Perhaps some our Canadian or English Burdick cousins can help. Ashling would be appreciative.
On a sad note, Howard and Jane Burdick (Seaburds@aol.com) and Jane Maxson (Jhm2727@aol.com) report the peaceful death of Howard's father, also named Howard. As you may recall, "Old Howard" has been referenced several times in this Newsletter. To keep all of us "Howard"s straight, Old Howard was "Howard(1)", his son, of Seaburds sailing fame, was "Howard(2)", and me, totally unrelated, was "Howard(3)". I never met Howard(1), wish I could have. He lived to be 102 years, 8 months! As his son Howard(2) writes, "He was ready, and wishes that there be no wailing nor gnashing of teeth." I had a drink in his honor, hope you do the same. Here's the obituary from the Westerly Sun:
"Howard Frederick Burdick, 102, of Avondale, RI, died Sept. 22, 2003 at The Westerly Hospital. He was the husband of the late Edna Gregory Burdick. Mr. Burdick was born at home in Avondale on Jan. 6, 1901 the son of Frederick and Mary (Barber) Burdick. He attended the village school in Avondale and he was a commercial fisherman for most of his life. He served in the Coast Guard at Watch Hill and Fisherman's Island as a surfman from 1919-1924, and as a chief boatswain's mate in the Coast Guard Reserve during World War II at Watch Hill. During his fishing years, Mr. Burdick served as secretary of the Southern New England Fisherman'ss Association. He also served on the Westerly Highway Commission from 1938-1944. Mr. Burdick wrote a column, "Along the Shore" of philosophical observations and maritime events of note in the Westerly Sun. Many of these were compiled in a pamphlet published by the Westerly Historical Society. Mr. Burdick is survived by two sons, Howard F. Burdick of Newport and Stuart Fla., and Gregory Burdick of Stuart, Fla., a daughter, Carolynn Cordner of Avondale and Stuart Fla.; seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to The Westerly Historical Society, 124 Granite St. P.O. Box 91, Westerly, RI 02891."
Chuckie Blaney (firstname.lastname@example.org) also reports a death, this of James J. Burdick. Here are excerpts from the lengthy the obituary that was in the Portsmouth Herald in New Hampshire:
"SANBORNVILLE - James J. Burdick, 81, of Brackett Road, died late Wednesday night, July 30, 2003, at Maine Medical Center in Portland Maine. Born May 10, 1922, and raised in Brattleboro, Vt., the son of the late Jesse H. and Rose M. (Flora) Burdick, he was a graduate of Lexington High School, Class of 1942, and a graduate of the Massachusetts State Police Academy in Framingham, Mass., in 1955. He had resided in Sanbornville for 32 years, having moved from Kensington, and Lexington, Mass. He served in the Army from 1943 to 1946 in the 269th Police Corps division during World War II, in the Pacific theater and in the liberation of the Philippines, receiving two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart."
"He also worked for Raytheon Corporation as a draftsman, having designed the company's logo, and at the Watertown arsenal in Watertown, Mass. He was a patrolman for the Lexington, Mass., Police Department. From 1956 to 1960 he was the police chief in Kensington and also worked at Claristat in Dover. Survivors include his wife of 31 years, Elaine (Lovejoy) Burdick, five children, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren."
So let's see, so far this Newsletter has covered the Babcocks, Greens, Crandalls, and even the Burdieks! Only one family left to talk about, that's the Langworthys. If you have Langworthys in your past (or present), you may be interested to know that the authoritative family book, "The Langworthy Family" (published in 1940) is now available on CD-ROM. You can read about it at the new H & L Creations web site, http://www.hlcreations.com. And in case you haven't already guessed, H & L is the company that Lois ("L") and I ("H") started to bring old family history books to CD-ROM. We're working on several, including Frank Mueller's book, "The Burdick Family Chronology." Please visit our web site and let us know what you think.
Finally, several of you have sent emails regarding sons, daughters, spouses, and parents who are currently serving in the military. I have been advised that it is not wise to publish names and/or places of active duty personnel or family due to security risks. As such, I'm open to suggestions on how to recognize our family members who are helping to protect us all. If nothing more, I hope that if you are in the above category, or know someone who is, you will know that your service and sacrifice is appreciated by every American. Thanks.