Casefile Clues

18 September 2012

The Earliest Rufus Stephens Murder News Item

Date: Thursday, January 17, 1805  

Paper: Daily Advertiser (New York, NY)  


obtained on
Lesson: Keep a research log.

I overlooked this entry from January of 1805 because in my initial attempts to locate items on Rufus Stephens, I neglected to search for Stevens. My research notes did indicate that only searches for Stephens were conducted, but this variant should have been included.

A search for Stevens located several references--this from 17 January 1805 is the earliest one and apparently the one from which several other newspaper accounts were copied. This account provides more details about the incident than the account of the trial does, but the account of the trial does mention that Rufus was a bigamist as well.

One challenge with early newspapers (and not so early ones) is that sometimes they "copy and paste" information from each other. One temptation can be to simply look at the earliest article and not reference later ones. In this case, the articles in January and February of 1805 generally have the same details as this item. The ones about the trial are later (July of 1805) and have slightly differing information.

Henderson was "stabbed" not "ftabbed" in the heart--the type of 1805 was used and one needs to interpret what often looks like an "f" as an "s."

This doesn't change my list of goals, but does indicate that there's hopefully more information at the local level.

Thanks to a Facebook Genealogy Tip of the Day fan for pointing out this newspaper item to me on our fan page.

The newspaper account was obtained on Genealogybank.