12 September 2020

John O'Keeffe Killed in Front of Washington Hall Hotel in 1852

Ireland native John O'Keeffe, born about 1808, had been a resident of Macon, Bibb County, Georgia "for many years" when he was killed on 11 December 1852. His wife Ellen placed a gravestone for him in the Oak Ridge Section of Rose Hill Cemetery.

In Memory of
A native of Westmeath, Ireland.
For many years a resident of Macon.
His acquirements as a scholar and
deportment as a citizen obtained for
him to his last moment the respect and
consideration of all who knew him...
Requiescant in Pace.

Death notice from Wednesday, 15 December 1852 Georgia Journal and Messenger (Macon, GA):

Death of John O'Keefe.
On Saturday night, about twelve o'clock, John O'Keefe was killed in front of the Washington Hall, by John T. Boyd, a journeyman saddler in the employ of Wm. T. Mix & Co., of this city. Mr. O'Keefe was a native of Ireland; but had resided in this place for many years, quietly and unobtrusively pursuing his occupation as a school teacher.

On Monday morning Boyd was committed to await his trial for murder, at the next term of the Superior Court of this County.

"Mulberry Street at Second Street Macon, Georgia"
© 2011 Ken Lund (CC-BY-SA 2.0)
Washington Hall was located at the NW corner of
Second and Mulberry streets.
The killing seemed to result from a strange encounter between O'Keeffe and Boyd after a night out at the bar. Testimony published in the 17 May 1853 Georgia Telegraph (Macon, GA):

Bibb Superior Court.
The State vs. John T. Boyd } Murder.
JOHN SPRINGER SWORN -- I do not recollect the day of the month, when the circumstances took place. But it was on the night of the day of the election of the Mayor and Aldermen, the election was in December, 1852; the circumstances took place in the county of Bibb, in Georgia, near the Washington Hall.

I was in company with John O'Keeffe, coming diagonally across from Macarthy's Bar Room towards the Washington Hall, O'Keeffe had my left arm. Just as we were striking the sidewalk, we discovered a gentleman, who since proved to be Mr. Boyd, on the inside of the sidewalk, walking in the same direction that we were going. Mr. O'Keeffe hailed twice or thrice, saying, Who is that? or something to that purport. No answer being made, O'Keeffe let go my arm and advanced into the inside of the walk, where Boyd was; a scuffle or fray immediately ensued, they fell, Mr. O'Keeffe falling on top. I ran up, caught hold of O'Keeffe, exclaiming John, quit, attempted to pull them up; and in the attempt fell myself, and they fell again also. I recovered from the fall, caught hold of O'Keeffe again, and raised him up, he was not difficult to raise. He seemed to be in a staggering condition, and said that he was a dead man, that, that man had killed him.

I eased him down as gently as I could, on the pavement, and said to Mr. Boyd, you have killed O'Keeffe, and must not leave. Whereupon, Boyd said, good God! is he dead! I went then to the Washington Hall with Mr. Boyd, gave the alarm, and gave notice of what had occurred. I know nothing more of the case at this time, unless it was the fact, that when we reached the Washington Hall, Mr. Boyd showed two knives, and designated the one which he had killed O'Keeffe.

I do not think O'Keeffe had a knife. When O'Keeffe haild Boyd, it was in a usual tone of voice. Can not identify the prisoner at the bar with Boyd. Mr. O'Keefe died immediately, I think from the effect of the wounds.

SPRINGER CROSS-EXAMINED -- John O'Keeffe and myself were coming from Macarthy's Bar Room; said Bar Room is this side of the Lanier House, on the right side of the street as you go up. We were crossing so as to strike this side of the Washington Hall, Boyd was going up towards the Washington Hall from Strohecker's corner, on the inside of the sidewalk.

Boyd was near the Barber Shop when we first noticed him, about half way, he did not stop when O'Keeffe hailed him.

When O'Keeffe started towards Boyd we were about square with Boyd. Boyd kept walking on. I said to O'Keeffe, let him alone John, he has as much right to the sidewalk as we have. O'Keeffe did not stop till he reached Boyd. I do not suppose it was more than a second, after they caught hold of each other, before they fell. I did not fall on O'Keeffe and Boyd, but fell over them on the pavement.

After raising O'Keeffe, he made no attempt to run at Boyd again. O'Keeffe said nothing about being hurt, until he was raised completely up, and said he was a dead man, nor do I think he made any further complaints.

I saw no cutting or knives when they were engaged together. I cannot swear that O'Keeffe did not have a knife, nor did I see any knife until afterwards at the Washington Hall. It was in the inside of the Washington Hall, that Boyd designated the knife with which he had killed O'Keeffe.

The night was dark, and there was no moon that I know of. From the confusion that I was in, after falling and getting up, many things might have happened without my knowing it. After getting into the Washington Hall, some conversation occurred between Mr. Dense, Mr. Boyd and myself, in relation to the occurrence. I do not recollect what I said, but suppose what I said was true, as the facts were then fresh in my mind.

If I made any statement to Mr. Dense in regard to O'Keeffe's jumping on Boyd, it was under excitement, and not as the thing occurred.

There was an unusual interest taken in the City Election, I suppose.

There was no light on the sidewalk when the difficulty occurred.

WILLIAM T. MIX SWORN -- I saw Mr. Boyd on the night when the killing took place, at about a quarter of six o'clock, it was on the 11th December, the day when the City Elections took place.

THOMAS WILLIAMS SWORN -- I was present at the examination before the Mafistrates, on the Monday after the difficulty took place. I identify the prisoner at the bar as the John T. Boyd who was up before the Magistrates that day.

DR. A. PYE SWORN -- I examined Mr. O'Keeffe when I was called to see him, found one mortal wound on his left breast, which seemed to have caused his death, there were other cuts, but none that I deemed serious. It was Sunday morning, after breakfast, when I called to see him, 'twas after the Coroner's inquest. I do not recollect more than four distinct wounds -- the wounds seemed to have been made with a knife. The mortal wound was right above the fourth rib...the wound ranged up, seeming to have entered between the 4th and 5th rib, and ranged upwards.

PYE CROSS EXAMINED -- I think that if they were lying down, the wound might have ranged upwards, if they were standing front to front, the knife would probably have entered straighter, everything depends on the way the knife was held. There were two wounds in the back, both ranging upwards, both of which might have been made either while they were standing up or lying down.

I did not examine the wound under the left arm, and am unable to say whether it ranged up or down.

The same paper also published the following on the same day:

Bibb Superior Court.
The Spring Term of this Court commenced a week ago yesterday, his honor Judge Powers, presiding. We give, in another column, the testimony in the case of John T. Boyd, charged with the murder of John O'Keefe...After a consultation of several hours, the Jury returned a verdict of "Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter."

I don't know what punishment (if any) came to Mr. Boyd.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Blog Widget by LinkWithin