(from a Paterson/Passaic area newspaper, circa 1881)
Manslaughter Followed by a
Conflict of Authority
between Jersey Officials
Abram BROWER, a Passaic City carpenter, spent Saturday evening in the saloons and became intoxicated. At about 11-1/2 o’clock, he started for his home in Frogtown, a Passaic suburb. At the Erie depot, he stopped and leaned against the building. While he stood there, John GIRARD, who had just quit work in Michael DAUENHAUER’s butcher shop, volunteered to assist Brower home. Brower took this as an insult.
A quarrel followed, and Girard knocked Brower down. They had several scuffles, and Brower was knocked down two or three times. Finally, Girard started for home. Before he had gone far, Brower called him back, saying that he would go home with him. As Girard turned to go back, he saw Brower picking up a stone, weighing three or four pounds. Brower stood near the street lamp at the corner of the depot, so that Girard could see plainly what he was doing. As Brower threw the stone at him, Girard ducked his head, and the stone passed over his hat. Just behind Girard stood a young man named John KING, who had came to see the fight. The stone that Girard dodged struck King on the left temple, and he fell senseless.
Brower, seeing what he had done, staggered off homeward as fast as he could while Girard remained behind to help the wounded man. King soon recovered and was taken home. Dr. COLLINS and Dr. RICH, the City Physician, were called. The wound was not then thought to be serious, but King grew worse on Sunday, and yesterday he died. Justice NORTON had previously ordered the arrest of Brower, who was taken to the police station. The Justice then went to King’s house to get his ante-mortem statement, but King was too delirious to give any account of the affair.
Yesterday morning word was sent to Paterson for a Coroner. Then there was a race between Coroners WARNER and RUTAN. Warner went by the train, while Rutan hitched up a fast horse and beat the cars, reaching Passaic and assuming change of the case only a minute before Dr. Warner stepped off the train. Dr. Warner went back without saying anything, but Coroner Rutan encountered the opposition of the Justice who had committed Brower and who had had charge of the case thus far. The Coroner insisted the Justice’s jurisdiction stopped when the man died, while Justice Norton quoted law to prove that it was his duty to continue the investigation. The Corner pulled off his overcoat and asserted that it was his case, ordered Constable CONKLIN to impanel a jury, and instructed the Chief of Police to allow no one to remove or interfere with the prisoners without his orders. A jury was then impaneled, and the inquest was adjourned until this afternoon.
After Coroner Rutan had started for Paterson to attend to a case of accidental death, Justice Norton went to the police station and ordered Brower to be taken to the Paterson jail. Constable Conklin said he had orders from the Coroner not to do so unless he (the Coroner) ordered it. The Justice told the constable that he disobeyed the order at his peril. Constable Conklin then went to get the prisoner to take him to Paterson, but Chief of Police OLDIS stepped in and said that he considered the Coroner the rightful authority, and that the prisoner should not be removed without his orders.
The Constable took the next train to Paterson to get the advice of County Prosecutor WOODRUFF. The Chief of Police went on the same errand, and they found Coroner Rutan there for a similar purpose. The Prosecutor told the Coroner that the case belonged to him, as the man had died. Justice Norton, however, yet insists that it is his duty to hold an inquest so as to prepare the papers for the Grand Jury which convenes in Paterson today. So it looks as though there would be two inquests in the case.
Brower said yesterday that he remembers having a row with Girard, but does not remember picking up a stone to hit him. As for King, he never saw him in his life. He never had any trouble with either King or Girard before and had no malice toward either. Brower has a wife and three children. Brower is 32 years of age; King was only 20.
(The above is taken from an article within PCHS’s “Winfield Scott Collection.” Scott, a Passaic Attorney, maintained a collection area newspaper articles from about the late 19th century which he organized into a series of five scrapbooks and later donated to PCHS.)
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