Mayhem at the Cottage

We recently came across a poignant statistic: Only a small percentage of Americans can readily name all eight of their great-grandparents. According to a 2019 survey by Ancestry®:

– About 21 percent of Americans don’t know which city any of their grandparents were born in.
– 14 percent don’t know what any of their grandparents do (or did) for work.
– Just over 20 percent can’t name a single grandparent’s parent.

Yet, beneath the layers of history, within each family tree lies a trove of captivating narratives waiting to be unearthed. Discovering your eight great-grandparents and their stories is daunting enough, but as you do, you may be tempted to go deeper into your family history. Caution…….it quickly gets much more complicated, as your eight great-grandparents each had two parents, so you have 16 2-great grandparents and 32 3-great grandparents. Starting to get the picture…….2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128….your family tree quickly becomes a forest, so start slowly.

Recently, as we delved into the archives of the Erie Times News, we stumbled upon two remarkable newspaper articles from 1913 that vividly depict a forgotten chapter of the Howard ancestors’ lives. The following story, which took place at Attorney A.P. Howard’s summer cottage in Franklin Township, Pennsylvania, was harrowing to read, but it brings to life a family we only see in photographs now.

Photograph of the Howard Family taken in approximately 1880
From Left to Right: George T. Howard, Levi Howard, Albert Perry (A.P.) Howard, Mary Howard, Frank Howard, and Ellen Howard.
(Family members in bold mentioned in the following articles.)

As we share these narratives, we hope to inspire you to explore your own family’s hidden stories, as every person, regardless of their circumstances, has a story to tell. With a bit of digging, you might uncover tales you never knew existed, just as we did with our Howard ancestors.

The cottage mentioned in these articles still stands alongside the Falls on the Howard family property, serving as a silent witness to the events that transpired more than a century ago. In the following paragraphs, we will journey into the past, peeling back the layers of time to reveal a dramatic and unsettling tale of the Howards, and the relentless pursuit of justice that followed.

Photograph of the Cottage (circa 1920-40)
The Erie Daily Times Headline July 21, 1913
(Story transcribed below. See full article at end of blog.)

George T. Howard, a well known retired farmer of Franklin township and his son, Frank Howard, were attacked by two highwaymen in Attorney A.P. Howard’s summer cottage, four and one-half miles west of Branchville Saturday evening about 8 o’clock. Frank Howard was shot in the left shoulder by one of the desperadoes and both of the men were bound and tortured by the two men who endeavored to make the elder Howard reveal to them the hiding place of money he was supposed to have in his possession. They were frightened away while in the act of torturing their victims.

It was one of the most desperate crimes ever committed in Erie county and all night Saturday and through Sunday score of Franklin township farmers searched the woods and surrounding country in search of the two outlaws. County Detective P. Sullivan and the local police were both notified of the crime and Sunday morning acting Chief Welsh informed Capt. Sullivan that the Erie authorities stood ready to furnish the county officials with any assistance in their power in running down the two men. Attorney A.P. Howard of this city, whose father and brother were victims of the crime and at whose summer house it took place left for Franklin township Saturday evening and has been working with the authorities in an endeavor to apprehend the criminals.

From facts in the case it appears that the two men who committed the offense rode bicycles. They were dressed in greasy overalls and both were heavy set and exceptionally strong men. The authorities have a fairly good description of both men.

It seems that A.P. Howard’s summer house had not been occupied for some time, but Mr. Howard’s father, G. T. Howard, had been sleeping here nights and taking his meals at the home of his son, Frank Howard, but a short distance away.

Saturday, after eating the evening meal at his son’s home, Mr. Howard started for the summer house, and was accompanied by his son, Frank. The two men went into the house by side door and both went to the basement. Upon coming out of the basement they looked up and saw two men facing them with big revolvers in their hands. As Frank Howard looked, one of the pair let go with his gun, the bullet hitting the younger Mr. Howard in the shoulder. It inflicted a deep flesh wound, but struck bone that deflected it, and then the bullet passed out of his shoulder.

At the same time, the other man reached for the one who had been shot and yanking him to his feet and rained blows on his face and head and then kicked him. Mr. Howard had been dazed by the shot, but the blows he received brought him to a realization of what was happening and he attempted to put up a fight with his adversary. The larger of the two men had hold of him and grasping his victim by the collar this man pointed his revolver at his hear and said: “Keep quiet or I will blow your brains out.”

The other man had grappled with the father and forced him into a chair, where he tied his hands and feet and gagged him with pieces he cut from a towel that he found in the room. The same course was followed with the younger man, his hands were tied behind him and pieces from a towel were made into a gag and forced into his mouth. But in his case the desperado failed to tie his feet and undoubtedly proved to be the salvation of the two men attacked.

As soon as the pair was tied the thugs went through their pockets and took their watches and what change they had in their clothes.

Then one of the men turned his gun on the father and said: “Come on, Mr. Howard, we want to know where you keep your money.”

“I havent’ any money,” said Mr. Howard “can’t you see that this is no place a man would keep money?”

“We want that shot bag you carry your money in.” said the outlaw.

“I havent’ got it.” Said Mr. Howard.

“Come on now Mr. Howard we know you have and we are going to make you give it to us,” said the man and then the pair got together some paper and after taking the shoes from the feet of the two men, prepared to burn them and torture them in other ways to compel them to tell where the money had been hidden.

All lights in the room were put out, but the little lantern the two men carried, and the pile of paper was put under the feet of the two men, but at this time, a noise was heard outside of the house and with revolvers in their hands the desperados rushed out to ascertain where it came from. About this time Frank Howard discovered that he could work his left hand free of the ropes that held him and as his feet were not tied, he jumped up and throwing open a side door rushed out crying for help. This frightened the two men, and fearing that assistance would be there in a minute or two, both jumped on the bicycles they had ridden to the house and started away.

Farmers in the vicinity who heard Mr. Howard’s cries for help, rushed to the summer house and a general search was made in the surrounding country for the pair, but without avail.

Frank Howard is suffering considerable pain from the effects of his bullet wound and the harsh treatment he received at the hands of the two men. However, his condition is not looked upon as critical and unless complications set in as a result of the bullet wound he will undoubtedly recover from its’ effects. The elder Mr. Howard was not seriously injured. A.P. Howard returned from Franklin township Monday morning and told a reporter for the The Times, that every effort has been put forth in the search for the two men, but no trace of them has been found and the authorities are at loss for a clue upon which to work.

The Erie Daily Times July 22, 1913
(Story transcribed below. See full article at end of blog.)

That a man who had been serving a long sentence in the penitentiary for having tortured an aged man and burned his feet much in the manner the two men worked who assaulted G.T. Howard and his son Frank in Franklin township Saturday night was seen on the streets of Erie a few days ago is the information given a reporter of The Times by one of the detectives who is working on the Howard case.

It seems that this man in company with a number of others were convicted and sentenced to six years in the Western penitentiary for a crime of this kind and was recently released. It is said that this man came to Erie during the Perry centennial and was seen on the streets by detectives. This is one of the clues upon which the officers assigned to this case are working.

Reports from Franklin township indicate that the elder Howard has fully recovered from the effects of the bold hold-up and that while Frank Howard is still suffering from the effects of the bullet wound in his shoulder his condition is very favorable.

Several clues have been unearthed in the case, it is said, and that the guilty parties will be run to earth is confidently expected by the authorities.

Front Page of The Erie Daily Times July 21, 1913
The Erie Daily Times July 22, 1913 (Including image of image of George T. Howard, taken in 1913 at the age of 71.)
Photograph of the Cottage in present day.
(At some point the screened in front porch was removed
and an addition was added onto the right side of the original cottage,
creating the structure as it exists today.)

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