The Port Hope Tragedy - 1856

 

Two young men, G. Brogden, Esq. And T. Henderson, Esq., Barristers, Port Hope, were intimately acquainted from boyhood. Mr. H. left Port Hope a few years ago and went to California and Australia, and Mr. B. finished his studies, and married about two years ago, a lady by the name of Hornby. Some time after the birth of Mr. B’s first child, a fine boy, Mr. H. returned to Port Hope, and Mr. B, true to old friendship, introduced Mr. H. to his happy family circle. Too unsuspecting, though warned by friends, he allowed Mr. H. too much familiarity in his house, until one of Mr. B’s servants, afraid that Mrs. B. and H. would poison Mr. B., informed him that his wife was unfaithful, and if he wished any further confirmation of the fact, to look into a certain drawer: he did so and found a pile of letters from the base miscreant, addressed to his wife which unfolded the depth of his misery. He immediately to Henderson and asked him to walk up to his house, as he had some private business with him. On the way thither Mr. B. upbraided H. with being a villain; when H. took out a pistol, and threatened to blow his brains out, if he uttered another word. - In the house he upbraided his wife, in the presence of her paramour, and shoved her from him, when she immediately put herself under the protection of. H. Next morning they eloped together and ever since Mr. B. has watched the scoundrel for the purpose of redressing his wrong, and punishing the base wretch who dared to violate the sacredness of friendship, and the sanctity of the domestic he? On Tuesday last Mr. H. came to Port Hope wharf in a Steamer, he was warned by a friend on board of his danger from Mr. B. when he declared his fearlessness of consequences; as soon as the steamer was brought too, M. H. put his head our of one of the saloon windows and the first person that he saw was Mr. B. Mr. H. asked Mr. B. to come towards him, when M. B. drew a pistol and shot H. through the heart, and then after assuring himself that H. was dead walked up into the town and delivered himself up to a magistrate.

Every paper that we open, almost, we read of seductions, elopements and such tragedies. The law of the land is sadly deficient in reference to the crime of adultery. Slimy reptiles under the guise of friendship crawl into gentlemen’s houses, and by Satanic wiles beguile simple women into courses, from which they cannot disengage themselves; and all the redress that can be obtained from the law is only tantalizing to the feelings of any person with a soul fitted for domestic bliss.

In the Mosaic disposition, Henderson would have been executed: and we do not see how what was morally right then, can be wrong now. If this view of the higher law be right, then Mr. B. cannot be looked on in the light as a common murderer, inasmuch as the lower law is deficient of justice. We heartily pity all concerned, and we would cheerfully vote for a law that would make adultery a capital crime, were we only satisfied that capital punishments are to be determined in accordance with Mosaic institutions.

The Coroner’s jury returned the following verdict:

“We, the undersigned jury men, empanelled to enquire how and by what means Thomas Henderson, deceased, came by his death, on our oaths, do find the said deceased came to his death by means of a bullet discharged from a pistol in the hand of George Brogdin; and we do further find that said George Brogdin committed such act under great and justifiable provocation, and would express the strongest reprobation of that course of licentious-ness on the part of the deceased, which produced such a fearful retaliation.”

Signed by sixteen out of eighteen of the jurors.

 

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The Late Murder at Port Hope - 1856

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We have been requested by Mr. George Henderson to insert the following communication from himself in reference to his unfortunate brother and we accordingly do so as a matter of courtesy towards a person in the very painful and peculiar circumstances in which the writer is placed. We by no means endorse on single word of the statement. Many, perhaps most of our readers know more of Mr. Henderson than we do. All of them must just use their own judgement in the matter and take the statements on both sides for what they consider them worth. Our own judgement in the matter we shall withhold until the murderer has been brought to trial, when we shall endeavour to express it impartially from the whole array of evidence on the unfortunate transaction. For the present we shall only observe that the Coroner's jury appear to have had a most complete misconception of their duty which was simply to ascertain the cause of Henderson's death, considering which there was no doubt. If a bullet designedly fired by Brogden with intent to kill caused the death of Henderson, it was undoubtedly a case of "Wilful Murder". How far previous extenuating circumstances justified him in so acting was not for them to decide. THAT question will come before the proper tribunal for investigation at a future time.

To the Editor

DEAR SIR, - Now that the excitement occasioned by the cruel murder committed on board the steamer Arabian, while at the wharf here on Tuesday evening, in the 23rd instant, is considerably abated, I shall feel obliged by your giving the following facts a corner in your valuable journal. I would not touch the subject in its present state were not the misrepresentations already sent abroad apt to prejudice the public in favour of the murderer.

In the first place the deceased never had any intention of eloping with Mrs. Brogdin. Her husband turned her out of doors on the 21st of July; and I believe it would have been well for him if he had done so when he was first jealous, and perhaps not without cause, of a married man of this town, long before the deceased ever saw her, when she went to the house of the deceased and begged him to see her home to her mother. He immediately employed a carriage in open day, drove to Cobourg to catch the boat for Rochester. He returned the following day. She was placed in the hands of a highly respectable married gentleman, and duly delivered to her mother, Mrs. Hornby, of Niagara. The sympathy then expressed for the husband was very natural to those not acquainted with the facts.

Had the deceased been the first who interfered with Brogdin's happiness it would have been a very cruel affair; but the fact of her being a loose character before Brogdin every saw her, and as I have already said, the poor unfortunate fellow being jealous of a neighbour before they were six months married, alters the case in my opinion considerably. In speaking of her lord and master she generally used such loving terms as "the nasty, rough, drunken brute, &c., &c."

Mr. Henderson is accused of purposely exposing himself when he was warned to avoid Brogdin; but he truth is, Mr. H. was repeatedly told that Mr. and Mrs. Brogdin were together in Toronto, that they were negotiating to live again as man and wife, and Mr. Brogdin would never touch him. Indeed, the very day previous to his cowardly murder, he was told by respectable witnesses, by an old friend, a barrister of Cobourg, that he need not fear coming to Port Hope; that Brogdin would not touch him. So much for his having been warned to avoid his murderer.

Mr. Henderson, however, had not the least idea of living in Port Hope. He was busy in making arrangements for the removal of his three sisters to the west. His eldest sister was on the wharf by appointment, to accompany him to Cobourg, to talk of their future home, &c., and was witness to the cowardly murder of her favourite brother.

I intended informing the public at a distance of the farce enacted during the inquest, and the fact of the murderer being in a billiard room during the funeral of the deceased; that he was at large a whole day after the coroner's warrant had been issued. Yes sir, he was paraded round the barrooms and public streets, and exposed to the friends and brothers of the man he so cowardly assassinated for a worthless, guilty woman, who had imposed upon him from their first introduction, and as she often expressed herself, only married him for a home.

The Leader's correspondent, under date, says: "George Henderson was obliged to conduct his own case before the coroner's jury - no lawyer being found who would consent to take it for him." The writer of that article must be aware that the only professional gentlemen the town can boast of were witnesses, viz: Messrs. Kirchoffer and Scott; but what had George Henderson, or professional gentlemen to do with the coroner's inquest? The jury certainly took nearly a whole day to do business that in any other place would have been settled in fifteen minutes.

When the unfortunate affair is properly gone into at the proper time and place, I think the public will find the deceased not so much to blame as now supposed.

The deceased often left Mrs. B., with the determination of not returning again in her husband's absence; but if any time away he would be chased to his own house. Mrs. B. when Mr. H's own sisters would not speak to her would write him the most pressing notes to come to her. The following is a copy of one of them: - "Come up at once. George is home, drunk as usual, and sound asleep on the sofa." Such was the esteem in which the wife held the respectable young barrister. If the unfortunate husband had acted a manly, straightforward course and ordered the deceased from his house when he was told to look to his wife, he would not now be guilty of the foul murder. The deceased was so deceived that he was unarmed, and put such confidence in what he was told the day previous, that he expected Brogdin was coming up to speak to him.

Yours truly,

GEORGE HENDERSON


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