Peninsula Enterprise, November 28, 1885


reprinted from Somerset Herald.Transportation -- Railroad - Steamboats

The steamer "Eastern Shore," which now runs between Baltimore and Crisfield, has been chartered by the New York, Phila. and Norfolk R.R. Co., and will shortly be placed on the line between Cape Charles and Norfolk. The increase in business on the line has made it necessary to place another boat on the route. The "Eastern Shore" will be a day boat, principally.


Tourists and sportsmen -- Other recreation - Horse racing

In the races at Snow Hill, Md., last Thursday, Stonewall, owned by the Walker Bros., of Pungoteague, won first and third heats, and Lady Bennett second, fourth and fifth heats.


Infrastructure -- Commercial - Hotels

The hotel property at Drummondtown has again changed hands. -- Mr. Duffield Savage, the purchaser, will begin at once to have it put in thorough repair.

The Virginia Oyster Beds.

reprinted from Baltimore Sun.Sea -- Shellfish - Oystering : BaysideSea -- Shellfish - Oystering : LegislationWatermen -- Watermen's organizationsSea -- Shellfish - Oystering : Dredging

There is much dissatisfaction among the Virginia oyster dredgers because of the restricted territory allowed them by their State laws to pursue their business. Captains of oyster vessels coming to Baltimore speak very discouragingly of their chances to even make a living, and they are unanimous in saying unless the coming legislature grants concessions they will be forced out of the industry altogether. With a view of influencing legislative action a meeting of dredgers has been called to meet at Hampton, Va., on the 28th inst., to discuss their troubles and appoint a committee to place the matter before the legislature.

A captain said on Boston street: "It was supposed that our Legislature of 1883 would grant dredgers the privilege of working at Gwinn's Island and in Pocomoke sound. These grounds are not used, and are of no interest to any one. Instead of doing so a line was drawn by the Legislature from Windmill Point to Wolf Trap, restricting the dredgers to the eastward of this line, which cuts off all the oyster grounds, leaving nothing but a few oyster rocks in Tangier Sound, which abound with oyster of poor quality and unsuited for market. We have been hard at work ever since the beginning of the oyster season, with very bad returns for our labor. We have not been able to meet our running expenses, and if we are not granted privileges we shall ask for, the result will be disastrous. Our success wholly depends upon concession. It is not our intention or desire to interfere with any rights the tongers now enjoy. If we are allowed to dredge about Gwinn's Island and Pocomoke sound the tongers would still retain their guaranteed privileges. The State of Virginia receives considerable taxes from vessels owned by dredgers, and sustain the oyster police force to a great extent from what we pay. I tell you, the situation of us dredgers is one that requires the greatest interest from Virginians, and only combined effort resulting in the concessions we shall ask from our Legislature will save us from wreck and ruin.


Moral -- Murder

Mears' Dying Declaration.

John R. Sturgis, charged with the murder of G. S. G. Mears on the 19th inst., and who had been released on bail by a justice in the district in which he lives, was re-arrested on a warrant sworn out by the attorney for the Commonwealth and brought before Justice Mears at Accomac C. H., last Wednesday. -- The Justice and also Judge Parramore (before whom afterwards the prisoner had a hearing on a writ of habeas corpus) declined to release him on bail.

The Commonwealth was represented at the examination by Mr. Jas. H. Fletcher, Jr., attorney for the Commonwealth, and Mr. T. H. Bayley Browne. Messrs. U. B. Quinby, John J. Gunter and John W. G. Blackstone appeared for the prisoner.

The evidence was substantially as follows:

Dr. John E. Mapp witness for the Comth. said, he saw Mears 3 o'clock Friday morning, 20th inst. He was then pale, extremities cold and complained of excruciating pains in the stomach. An examination revealed a wound about an inch below navel and on his back when Mears was turned over skin was broken, at which point ball was afterwards extracted. The ball was produced and identified, another ball was also produced 21 grains heavier than one taken from body, which came out of box belonging to Mears. Dr. Mapp did not try if it was of size to suit Mears' pistol but thought some one else did. He assisted at coroner's inquest and was satisfied that ball was immediate cause of death and made no further examination. He died of internal hemorrhage. The ball that passed through Mears was deflected slightly upward; could not say it passed through the intestines, but judging from course of bullet thought it did. In answer to the question as to the extent of external hemorrhage, he said, that the flannel shirt which Mears had on was saturated with blood, there was some on his pants, and two or three places on the floor the size of a man's hat were stained. He was a witness of the dying declaration, and Mears was conscious he was about to die -- had been apprised of his condition by his physicians. The dying declaration (hereafter appended) was taken about 10 o'clock Friday, and he was informed that Mears died about 2 o'clock same day.

Dr. George W. LeCato testified that he was called into consultation with Dr. Mapp between 10 and 11 o'clock Friday. Found Mears in a state of collapse -- cold, pulseless and with excessive thirst. On examination found wound, one inch below navel, and assisted in extracting the ball from his back, 3 or 4 inches to left of middle line. Assisted at post mortem and found that bullet had passed through cavity of the belly, and believed cause of death to be internal hemorrhage. After he had satisfied himself as to cause of death, did not examine further, but from the escape of gas supposed that his bowels had been punctured. The dying declaration was written by him. Mears was informed of his dying condition. In answer to the question, whether a man wounded as Mears was, could have made the journey from Sturgis' store to his home (about a half mile distant,) he said it was improbable, but the authorities agree that a man might walk that distance after having received an abdominal wound of the character described. Usually a man when wounded in that way would fall, but if a man had been drinking, the stimulant might counteract the effect of the shock.

Mr. Wm. C. Mapp testified that he saw Mears about one o'clock Friday morning, examined his clothes and saw no powder marks on them.

Thomas Fitzgerald, witness called for the defense, said he was at work for Mr. Sturgis and saw Sturgis and Mears when they came home together Thursday night. They went to the store and I followed them. Three colored men also were present. While there a dispute arose between them as to a debt of $20 which Mears owed Sturgis. A colored man who lived on Sturgis land whose name was George Downing, I think, had gotten from Mears $15 worth of potato sprouts and Mears wanted him to take the debt in part for what he owed him. Mr. Sturgis said if he had to pay all his tenant's debts it would ruin him. Then Mr. Mears said "the colored man had more principle in his little finger than he had in his whole body." Then Mr. Sturgis got up and said "damn you, if you don't get out I'll kill you." Mr. Mears then started to the door. The colored men ran out and I followed them. When I got out I went to end of porch. Mr. Mears then came out, went across the porch and with his left hand on the left post was in the act of stepping to the ground when the pistol went off. Mears kept his go, without stopping or flinching until he got to the middle of the road, he then turned around and said your damned old pistol is no account, you couldn't hit me. He then said I dare you to put your head out of the door and put his hand in his hip pocket, but if he had any pistol I didn't see it. He then went to store door and Sturgis let him in. He was then about 9 feet of Mears and Mears had his back to store door, when pistol fired. He left Mears in road when he returned to store and he supposes he (Fitzgerald) staid in road about 5 minutes. Sturgis was opposite the door when the pistol fired.

George Brown, colored, testified, that when he got to Sturgis' store, Thursday night, he found there Sturgis, Mears and Fitzgerald. When I went in Mr. Mears said he wanted to see me and I soon saw he was about half drunk. After some talk about potato sprouts, Mr. Sturgis said to Mears, you owe me $20. Mr. Mears says, well Rev., George Downing owes me $15 and you promised to pay it. Mr. Sturgis then invited Mr. Mears to take a drink. While they were talking Ben Harmon, Jobe Savage and Edmund Savage came in. He then left and went down to mill. When he returned from mill he saw Mears standing in road and heard him say "open door I dare you." Mr. Mears staid in road about 15 minutes after he came back from mill. He then went in store and remained there about 15 minutes. On his way home heard a pistol fire in direction of Mr. Mears'. Horace Savage was not in store while he was there. Sturgis' store is about a half mile from Mears' house.

Tobe Savage, colored, said he was at Mr. Sturgis, Thursday night, but did not see Horace Savage there while he was there, heard the damn rascal passed. -- Heard Mr. Sturgis tell Mr. Mears he would hit him with a weight or blow out his brains. He then ran for door and after he had gotten a few feet from it, turned and saw flash of pistol. He did not stop but struck out for home.

Heze Wescott testified, that he had sold Sturgis a 38 calibre pistol, and that another pistol of same calibre was sold by Sturgis to Mr. Chas. H. Sturgis. It was shown that ball taken from Mears' body was too small for either pistol. He went to see Mears on Thursday night, was told by him he had been shot at Sturgis' store, and found Mears's pistol near a poplar tree where he told him had left it.

Mr. Chas. H. Sturgis said he had been clerk for Mr. John R. Sturgis for 3 years and had never known him to own any other pistols than the two produced before justice. Was sure he had never owned any other.

Dr. John L. Harmanson who had been a practicing physician for 39 years, said he had heard the testimony and did not think Mears had received his wound at Sturgis's store for following reasons: -- Severe abdominal wounds are accompanied by immediate constitutional effects, which effects are shown by impairment of vital functions -- of heart, brain and lungs. In other words, wounds of this character produce certain symptoms which we call shock, the person receiving the wound is weak, his skin cold and clammy, he suffers from nausea sometimes vomiting, and if he does not fall, seeks rest by laying down, none of which symptoms according to testimony were evidenced by Smith Mears at the time. It is possible that after he had recovered from the shock which the wound produced, he might have made his way home with difficulty (of distance which has been shown,) but it is certain that he would not have had the physical strength or disposition to have left home, when he had once reached it. The shock under the circumstances was inevitable.

Dr. F. C. A. Kellam Jr., who had not heard the evidence, but to whom it was stated, asserted positively that a person wounded as Mears was could not gone, after lingering as he did, to his home and returned part the way. Penetrating wounds of abdomen are more fatal than penetrating wounds of brain. -- From the statement made he judged that intestines were penetrated.

Dr. Jno. W. Bowdoin, who had heard the evidence, said that he thought Mears could have made the journey, after receiving the wound described and numerous cases can be produced to sustain the opinion. In his opinion, a bullet might penetrate the abdomen and produce no shock. A bullet like the one with which Mears was wounded might pass through the intestines and not wound any of them. In Mears' condition he might not have felt it.

Dr. George T. Scarburgh, who was present at post mortem held over Mears said that he did not question that a man might receive the wound which he did, and have performed the entire journey to his home without being conscious of being shot, except by the mere sting.


The following was the dying declaration, as exhibited before the examining and committing justice.


ACCOMAC CO., to wit:

I, George Smith Mears, of above State and county recognizing, under the advice of my physicians the likelihood of a fatal termination of my wounds, and in view of that fact make the following statement, this 20th day of November 1885. I was at John R. Sturgis' store last night, and made a proposition to him to turn our debts around. He refused to do this except in settlement of a certain potato bed transaction. I told him that was the way all damned rascals made their money. He asked if I meant to call him a damned rascal. I said "if the cap fits I do." He said "go out of the store or I'll shoot you." I said "shoot and be damned." Then he drew a pistol and as I passed around the store on my way out, he fired. I felt the ball strike and burn me when he fired. He was standing behind the counter. -- Three negroes were present at the time, one was Horace Savage, I do not know the other two. I then walked home, got my pistol and started back. My wife asked me where I was going and I said to shoot a coon. Going out of the gate I fired off one barrel to see if it would fire. Had shot off one barrel, some time ago at a hawk and two barrels are now empty. Went down the road about 150 yards but my strength failed and I set down to rest. I then felt compelled to return home. Think I saw no one after leaving Sturgis' store except at home. John R. Sturgis and I had some unsettled business since setting out potato sprout time but no serious dispute until last night. I rode with him yesterday evening from Mappsburg and at his request went with him down to his house to take his horse out. Then went into his store and took a drink with him. -- After this the conversation and shooting took place as above described. In witness whereof, I hereby set my hand this 20th day of November 1885.





Jas. A. Winder,

John E. Mapp.

I further state that no other demonstration of violence was offered by either of us toward the other except as stated above.





Jas. W. Winder,

John E. Mapp.


Sea -- Shellfish - Oystering : Law enforcement

MR. EDITOR: In a few days the General Assembly will begin its session. Largely Democratic it will enter upon its labors with a heavy responsibility. Among its many duties will be the selection of Auditor and Treasurer. These two, with the Governor, constitute a board of management of the most vital and important interest to us who have so great sums of money wrapped up in it -- namely the Board on the Chesapeake and its Tributaries. To this Board is committed the custody and protection of our oysters, and from the Potomac river to the Atlantic ocean, every man has a clear and distinct interest that the choice of these associates and advisors of the Governor shall be well and wisely made. The Board as now constituted has been "run" by the Republican Governor, though the Auditor and Treasurer are Democratic. I Charge this to be true -- and the history of events in the work done and in selection of officers of the Oyster Navy tends to prove this -- the fact being that it was never the Democratic members who voted together against the Governor, but the Republican Governor and one Democrat against a Democrat.

I charge that the monies appropriated ($30,000) for the building of an Oyster Navy have been squandered by this Board in the building of the steamer Chesapeake at a cost of nearly $25,000, when a steamer equally efficient as a sea boat and by far better suited to the purposes for which she was designed could have been had at a price not one-half so great. I Charge that the above monies have failed to produce the results intended by the Legislature because of the reckless and ignorant and subservient method of their use -- which inevitably entails future loss to us.

I charge the responsibility of the inefficiency and profligacy of this Board upon the Auditor and Treasurer, who as Democrats should have guarded the treasury, protected the interests of the people and saved the taxpayers' money from waste, and should have remembered that upon the Democratic party alone the whole onus rested.

With such a record we of the oyster section have had enough of our present Auditor and Treasurer or men like them. At their hands we have suffered loss and gained nothing unless it be the absolute knowledge of the folly of putting men for political reward into places where business men only should be placed.

We demand, that in the stead of such officers as these, men shall be put who will not be mere negatives; who will put aside personal feeling for public good; and become in ten months of service sufficiently acquainted with the duties of office as to stop the robbery of the State of tens of thousands of dollars. "Reform" is the cry -- "Reform" is the watchword -- "Reform" is imperative. Let us begin in the offices of the Auditor and Treasurer, and put there business men for business purposes who realize the importance of economy and thorough acquaintance with their offices while they do not forget they have party obligations.


Accomac, Nov. 27th, 1885.

Peninsula Enterprise
Accomac Court House
November 28, 1885