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Piecing Together What Happend

Until 1879, Wayne County only had six documented homicides. However on October 2nd, 1879 the seventh homicide occurred and the local newspaper, Wayne County Democrat, characterized the murder of the “bloodiest killing of a man.”1

The details of the murder are as followed:

The murder was committed at the old Wayne County Fairgrounds, known as Branstetter Crossing, now where the Frito-Lay factory is located.2

It all begins on the fateful day of October 2nd, 1879. The fair was closing for the day and around 5 or 6 o’clock eastern time zone the last of its guests, 50 to 100 people, were on their way out.3 These lone 50 to 100 people would be the only eyewitnesses to the brawl between John Tormie and five individuals, eventually this brawl escalated to the fatal stabbing and murder of Tormie.

It all begins as brothers in law, John Tormie and Frank Martin, are leaving the fairgrounds for the day. They spent the majority of October 2nd hosting a ball-throwing game of chance. While leaving, Tormie and Martin crossed paths with a group of six young men - John Callahan, James Saddler, Anthony McGowan Jr. and Sr., Michael Burke, and Michael Mulready.4 While at first the groups interactions appeared friendly, something still unknown triggered a brawl to commence.5

The first physical attacked occurred when 18 year-old James Saddler hit Frank Martin over the head with a cane.6 From this first altercation Martin’s brother-in-law, John Tormie, triggered the verbal fight. Tormie ran after the group of young men cursing and prepared to fight back.7 Eventually Tormie’s assailants took turns beating him with a cane and billy club. Once both parties became involved, the brawl morphed into a back-and-forth melee between Tormie and his assailants.8

Throughout the back-and-forth melee, both the chief of police George Smyser and officer William Taggart were present. However, it wasn’t until after Tormie chased Michael Burke out of the fairgrounds and searched for the primary assailant, James Saddler, that law enforcement and citizens stepped in to stop the ensuing brawl.9

At this point reports claim that only six minutes had passed between the first hit and the public spectacle occurring.10 The public spectacle was an attempt to separate Tormie from his assailants, however this only lasted for a few moments - Tormie’s assailants pressed on.11 The pursuit for Tormie’s life escalated, eventually leading to Tormie revealing his single barreled pistol and exclaiming, “let me alone or I will shoot you!"12

The escalated brawl introduces John Callahan into the murder of Tormie. While Callahan was one of the assailants, he didn’t take center stage of the melee until after Tormie revealed his pistol and continued to flee from the six assailants, eventually leading to where he was knocked into John Callahan and tumbled down the hill becoming what is known as the “running fight.”13 At this point the quarrel had moved from Mechanics’ Hall to between Floral Hall and the gate entrance.14 Within this area is where John Tormie received his final beatings from: Saddler, Mulready, Anthony McGowan Jr. and Sr.

Meanwhile John Callahan proceeded to stab John Tormie three times.15 Witnesses claim they saw Callahan stepping away and saying, “I guess he has got enough. I have fixed the son of a bitch.”16‚Äč


1. “Murder! Killing of John Tormey at Wooster Fairgrounds,” Wayne County Democrat
(Wooster, OH), Oct. 8th, 1879. Pp 1. 
 
2. Locher, Paul. When Wooster Was a Whippersnapper - Two Hundred (or So) Yarns about Wooster for Two Hundred Years. Wooster, Ohio, 2008. Pp 159.

3. “Murder! Killing of John Tormey at Wooster Fairgrounds,” Wayne County Democrat
(Wooster, OH), Oct. 8th, 1879. Pp 1.
 
4. Locher, Paul. When Wooster Was a Whippersnapper - Two Hundred (or So) Yarns about Wooster for Two Hundred Years. Wooster, Ohio, 2008. Pp 159. 
 
5. Ibid. Pp 159.
 
6. “Murder! Killing of John Tormey at Wooster Fairgrounds,” Wayne County Democrat
(Wooster, OH), Oct. 8th, 1879. Pp 1.
 
7. Locher, Paul. When Wooster Was a Whippersnapper - Two Hundred (or So) Yarns about Wooster for Two Hundred Years. Wooster, Ohio, 2008. Pp 159.
 
8. “Murder! Killing of John Tormey at Wooster Fairgrounds,” Wayne County Democrat (Wooster, OH), Oct. 8th, 1879. Pp 1.               
 
9. Locher, Paul. When Wooster Was a Whippersnapper - Two Hundred (or So) Yarns about Wooster for Two Hundred Years. Wooster, Ohio, 2008. Pp 159.
 
10. “Execution Day Special: John Callahan” Wayne County Democrat (Wooster, OH), Dec. 3rd, 1880. Pp 1.
 
11. “Murder! Killing of John Tormey at Wooster Fairgrounds,” Wayne County 
Democrat (Wooster, OH), Oct. 8th, 1879. Pp 1.               
 
12. Locher, Paul. When Wooster Was a Whippersnapper - Two Hundred (or So) Yarns about Wooster for Two Hundred Years. Wooster, Ohio, 2008. Pp 159.
 
13. Ibid. Pp 160.
 
14. Ibid. Pp 160.

15. “Execution Day Special: John Callahan” Wayne County Democrat (Wooster, OH), Dec. 3rd, 1880. Pp 1.
 
16. Locher, Paul. When Wooster Was a Whippersnapper - Two Hundred (or So) Yarns about Wooster for Two Hundred Years. Wooster, Ohio, 2008. Pp 159.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  
Piecing Together What Happend