EX-CHIEF JAMES J. CHILDERS KILLED BY OFFICER WM. MYERS
The Appalling Affair Happened in the Crescent Saloon in Glen Elk, Where Childers as Peacemaker was Trying to Quell a Disturbance Between Myers and Charles C. Hurst, both of Whom Entered the Saloon in a Quarrelsome Mood and Resorted to Blows While Drinking at the Bar.
Childers Shot Through Heart Dropped Dead Instantly
Never Uttered a Word or Made a Struggle–Coroner’s Jury Said Myers Killed Him–Myers Arrested and Jailed–Warrant Issued Charging Him with Murder–Hearing Thursday Morning–Will be Held–Prisoner and Victim had been best of Friends–Said to be Related.
The Clarksburg Telegram., July 04, 1902
William Myers, second lieutenant of the fire department and formerly a member of the police force, shot and instantly killed James J. Childers, ex chief of police, Tuesday evening.
The shooting occurred in the Crescent Saloon, No. 417 Baltimore Street, about 6 o’clock in the evening, under very peculiar circumstances. Childers had been in the rear room of the saloon about two hours that afternoon playing California Jack with other parties. About 5:30 o’clock Myers and Charles C. Hurst entered the saloon, seemingly in a quarrelsome mood with one another. Both were drinking. Before they left the saloon Childers lay on his face dead.
Myers left the saloon in charge of Policemen Harry and Richard Brooks who were hastily summoned. They took him to jail.
The appalling news was soon circulated upon the streets and a large crowd gathered at the saloon to find it securely closed. Mayor Crile arrived upon the scene in a little while and had Coroner W. P. Camp notified. The latter came shortly afterward, entered the saloon and viewed the body. He turned it over and found one hand on the heart and the other across the abdomen. He directed the undertaker to remove the body to the Clifford-Osborn undertaking establishment, where at 9 o’clock an inquest was begun upon view of the body.
The coroner’s jury consisted of W. H. Lewis, Camden Sommers, F. B. Haymaker, I. M. Kelley, O. P. Boughner and H. F. Criss.
Dr. J. W. Johnson made a postmortem. He discovered that the ball entered between the fifth and sixth ribs on the left ventricle and right auricle of the heart, then the upper lobe of the right lung, then striking the back bone deflected and passed through the right side and came out just behind the right arm pit. The main blood vessels about the heart were severed. He stated either the wound in the heart or the lung was sufficient to cause death, and that the shot positively caused his death.
J. M. Wood, bartender at the Crescent, testified that Hurst, Myers and Art Waldo entered the saloon about 5:30. They were talking loud and seemingly had been quarreling. He gave them what they wanted. They took two or three drinks together. Hurst went back in the rear room where Childers and Flaherty Kearns —– sat down, but went back to the bar in a few minutes. Myers asked for whiskey, when next they called for drinks. Hurst said to Myers, –don’t drink whiskey, Wood won’t like it, Myers resented this by slapping Hurst on the cheek. They then nixed up in a racket. Childers came in from the rear room and asked Myers not to raise a disturbance. Myers said “let loose of me or I’ll fix you.” He shoved his pistol under Childers left arm and fired. Childers fell in a half a minute and Myers stepped to the bar. While I was locking the door Myers stepped to the end of the counter. When arrested he said to the policemen “search me.” Policeman Harry Brooks went to the end of a counter and found the gun Myers made no effort to escape. “I could not call him a drunken man.”
The shooting occurred 15 or twenty minutes after they came in. Childers was not drinking much. He had been there two or three hours. Hurst and Childers had no conversation. The struggle was not in the nature of a fight. Childers did not attempt to draw a gun. After the shooting Myers put the gun in his pocket. They were standing against one another when the shot was fired. Among those in the saloon were Clyde Thorndell, Charles Shannon, and Mike Boyles.
Clyde Thorndell, driver for the Brenner Brewing Co., was the next witness. He said he was in the rear of the saloon, where his company has storage. Parties were in there playing California Jack. Hurst, Myers and Waldo came in and were talking loud; looked like they were going to scrap. Kearns and he jumped up. After a little while Myers called up the drinks for the house. “We all went in and took something; think Childers took a glass of beer. They stayed in the saloon a half hour drinking.” Other parties came in and invited Shannon and Thorndell to take a drink. Myers said he would drink with them and told bar tender to ring up two beers. Myers ordered up another drink after these parties left. “Hurst came out of the back room and said something to Myers. He slapped at him and struck at him with his fist twice. Childers came out and took hold of Myers’ coat and said to him, “Bill, don’t do that: don’t raise any disturbance.” Myers grabbed Childers and pushed him back, almost throwing him over. He said, “I am a damn good man.” Childers pushed him back. Myers then grabbed for Childer’s throat. They scuffled until they got to the slot machine. Bill said, “I’ll fix you,’ and pulled out his gun and shot. Childers’ hands fell by his side and he dropped to the floor face downward. Myers deliberately put his gun back in his pocket and walked to the back end of the bar. When Harry Brooks came Myers had gone into the back room. Bill said “search me,” and pointed to Wood. Wood picked up the gun at the end of the work board and handed it to Brooks and said, “Bill, there is the gun you shot Childers with.” Childers never moved a muscle. Wood cautioned Myers while in the saloon to be still. He was not very drunk.”
Charles Shannon merely saw the shooting as he had gone out and was returning. He saw Myers have Childers by the throat but did not hear him say “I’ll fix you.” This witness said Myers shook hands with the policemen.
Policeman Brooks testified as to the arrest and said he found Myers crying. He said that Myers remarked that he liked Childers and never had anything against him.
Harry Brooks also testified about the arrest and produced the gun used. It was a Smith and Wesson, 38-caliber, with one shell empty. He said Myers was very drunk.
Undertaker W. B. Osborn told about the bullet dropping from Childers’ shirt, when he undressed the body.
The verdict of the coroner’s jury at 11 o’clock was that “James J. Childers came to his death about 6 o’clock July 1, 1902, in the Crescent saloon No. 417 Baltimore street, Clarksburg, Harrison County, W. Va., from the result of a gun-shot wound at the hands of William Myers.”
Wednesday morning W. P. Camp swore out a warrant in Squire Riley’s court charging him with the murder of Childers and the hour for preliminary hearing was fixed for 10 o’clock Thursday morning.
Thursday morning his trial was continued until 10 o’clock Saturday morning, as he had not secured a lawyer.
Childers’ funeral was held at 2.30 o’clock Thursday afternoon and interment was made in the I. O. O. F. cemetery, by the side of his wife who died two years ago. He leaves four small children, all boys. Mr. Childers was chief of police here during the years 1899 and 1900. He was 40 years of age.
Myers served as policeman during Childers’ first administration and was transferred from the police force to the fire department when it started. He was not on duty at the time of the shooting. He has a wife and a step daughter. He has always been a quiet, peaceable and orderly fellow, and a good officer.
Myers made a short statement at noon Wednesday to a newspaper man, who visited him at the jail. He said “I am very sick. I was not mad at time when the affair took place. We never had any trouble. I don’t know just how it happened. Don’t know whether Hurst and I quarreled or not. I expect I was drunk, but don’t know. I don’t know whether Jim was drunk or not. The truth is, I don’t really know how it happened or what occurred.”
When asked if he and Childers were related, he replied, “I expect we were, if it were traced, but I don’t know just how.”
The Clarksburg Telegram., August 22, 1902
S. A. Lanham has qualified as quardian of Burton, James, Ray, and Clarence Childers, infants of James J. Childers, deceased, giving separate bonds of $800.
WILLIAM MEYERS WAS SENTENCED
To Twelve Years in the Penitentiary for murder of James J. Childers, ex-chief of police Wednesday afternoon.
Touching Scenes in Court Room
Wife in tears and prisoner on the verge of Collapse–Tragedy Ascribed to the rum traffic Judge Expressed Sympathy for all.
The Clarksburg Telegram., October 11, 1902
Judge Mason sentenced William Meyers to the penitentiary Wednesday afternoon. He gave him twelve years, Meyers had confessed to second degree murder for the killing of James J. Childers last July in the Crescent saloon. Judge Mason had the matter under consideration several days and carefully examined affidavits and the evidence before the coroner’s jury. After having done this he was of the opinion that twelve years at hard labor would be sufficient punishment. In passing sentence the judge expressed sympathy for Meyers and his wife and the orphan children left by Childers. He also touched upon the results of drunkenness and ascribed the awful tragedy to the liquor traffic. He deplored the awful results of the drink habit. While he expressed sympathy for Meyers, yet he declared he had a duty to perform in the interest of society and he could not and would not shirk that duty. The scene was distressing as the prisoner accompanied by his wife was taken back to jail. His wife completely broke down and he was on the very verge of collapse. He will be taken to the penitentiary the last of this week by Deputy Sheriff M. B. Curkendall. Meyers is 49 years of age.