Mount Vernon Murder


Ironton Register, April 30, 1863

Submitted by Sharon M. Kouns

On last Thursday, 23rd inst., the citizens in the vicinity of Mount Vernon Furnace, in this county, were startled by the announcement of the sudden death of Nancy JOHNSON, wife of Robert JOHNSON. Up to the hour of her death, which occurred just after the ringing of the 12 o’clock bell, the deceased had enjoyed perfect health and was highly esteemed by all who knew her, as a very quiet, peaceful woman. On the day of her death the ____ Coroners inquest was held and verdict rendered, expressing a doubt as to the cause of her death.

It appears that Robert Johnson and his sister Rebecca Rose were the only persons present, and who were permitted to testify as to the cause of her death. Among other things they stated that Mrs. Johnson while standing at the safe, took a fit and bruised herself in falling that they laid her on the bed, and that before any person could be summoned she was dead. In view of these facts, such was the first rendering of the verdict. As the day wore on and the deceased exhibited no signs of decomposition, indeed until the middle of the afternoon her appearance was perfectly life like. Suspicions were however caused by the first appearance of decomposition on the back of the neck and head. Accordingly on the next day Squire Warneke acting as coroner, summoned Drs. Moxley and Cory to make a post mortem examination, which was done in the presence of the subjoined jurors, which examination together with the testimony of fifteen witnesses, influenced the rending of the subjoined verdict. Several of them testified that Mrs. Rose had previous to that time made threats of violence against the deceased. One testified that it was on account of an insult received by Mrs. Rose about a dipper of water at a party. Several stated that she (Mrs. Rose) had said a few days before the occurrence that Nancy Johnson had said something which she would make her take back or whip her. At noon time on that day, Isaac Wollem being at work close to Johnson’s, saw Mrs. Rose leave her own house, pass by where he was at work, and in reply to his question “what was the matter,” said, she was “very mad,” had her sleeves rolled up and spoke very short; saw her go into Johnson’s; about twenty minutes after heard that Mrs. Johnson was dead. As there is no conflicting evidence and none which will give more light on the subject than that of David Lodge’s we insert.”


Went to Johnson’s a little after 12 p.m., saw Mrs. Johnson on the bed – Mrs. Rose said, she has a fit; I answered no there is no fit on her. She replied pretty short, she knew there was; I asked Robert, “what was the matter;” he said, ” I don’t know only Rache and she was quarrelling,” he told his wife to quit quarrelling with Rache and hurry and get dinner for David was coming down. Last fall I heard Mrs. Rose say if Mrs. Johnson didn’t look out she would whip her to death. Her appearance soon after her death was natural – her face was the usual color, her ____ limber, and no appearance of cramp about her. I suppose her to be dead from the appearance of her eyes. Johnson said “she was well only she had been quarrelling and she breathed her last just as I came into the house. Said he was out of the door or about to go out. Said his wife turned round to get some dishes to put on the table and fell before she got them, and they put her on the bed.”

As there were none present but the accused, and the post mortem examination plainly decided that a violent blow or blows had been inflicted by one of the parties, it was impossible to hold them guiltless. The verdict was as follows:

After having heard the evidence and examined the body, we do find that the deceased came to her death, by the dislocation of the neck, caused by a violent blow upon the back of the head, by some heavy substance probably a club in the hands of Rachel Rose inflicted with intent to kill and which the jury do find caused the immediate death of said person, whose body was found as aforesaid, to wit: A dislocation of the neck between the first and second vertebrae, a fracture of the skull and a fracture of the spine between the seventh and eighth vertebrae, and we the jury do further find, the one Robert Johnson was accessory before the fact, signed by:
Robert Scott, foreman,
John M’Call
John Spear
R. J. Marshall
A. Trapp
Hugh Livingston
H. Warneke, J. P. & Cor.

We have thus given the facts as they occurred, and as nothing further is known concerning the murder, the public will await the development of facts, which will relieve them of their anxiety. The parties are both in jail and await their trial which will probably come off at the May term of Court.