Mullinix Murder

Not far from Manhattan lived Greenbury O. Mullinix and his young wife Martha. He was often described as an unruly and largely undisciplined young man, barely twenty-five years of age, with a quick temper. Martha, a lovely lady several years younger than her new husband, was the daughter of Manhattan’s own David Sublett. This young couple had been married not quite one month, when in the early morning hours of April 10, 1857, she was doing her usual household chores and preparing breakfast for her new husband who was outside tending to his livestock. Martha was excited that Friday morning, as she was preparing to be baptized into the church. Greenbury, however, was apparently vigorously against her doing so and when he returned to the house the young couple became engaged in a heated discussion, which turned into a violent argument that ended in tragedy.

Greenbury was seen deliriously running from their house on the way to his father’s home. Quite disturbed, several of the neighbors went to the young couple’s home and witnessed what the newspapers of the day described as the most heart-rending scene ever recorded. Martha was found on the floor barely alive with the front of her skull bashed in with what appeared to have been a heavy blunt instrument. The local doctor was called, but he determined her to be beyond hope, and she soon took her last painful breaths. Knowing the violent nature of her young husband, suspicion immediately fell upon him and he was questioned by the authorities. He tried to claim that robbers must have entered the home while he was out doing his morning chores, resulting in his young bride’s violent end. But few believed this wild story.

Authorities felt that Mullinix himself had caused this grave injustice, possibly with a large iron shovel he recently had made. One of the witnesses to this horrible scene speculated that perhaps he had taken an axe in both hands and struck her with all his force. This only confused matters, because it was clear the wounds were caused with a heavy blunt instrument, not one that would have been made with the sharp end of an axe. This witness should have been clearer, or not have speculated in this matter at all. Possibly he had meant the blunt end of a single blade axe?

Greenbury Mullinix was brought to trial, which many in the community followed with keen interest. After a jury of his peers deliberated for about an hour and a half, they rendered their verdict by stating “We, the jury, find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictment, and that he suffer death.” The court then ordered the defendant to be returned to the county jail, where he was to remain until Friday the twentieth of November, at which time he would be brought forth between the hours of ten o’clock in the forenoon and two o’clock in the afternoon, and then to be hanged by the neck until dead.

His father, Jonathan Mullinix, went to Indianapolis in an attempt to get Governor Willard to commute the sentence to life in prison, but he found the Governor unwilling to have anything to do with this case. Mr. Mullinix then went in search of an attorney to hopefully help him in this matter. He ran into the notorious attorney Tom Walpole and his partner Roberts, who knowing the Governor’s weak point, were able to get him under the influence of intoxicating drink, which was apparently not a difficult task to perform. In order to appear to justify the $500 fee charged Mullinix, Walpole was able to get the Governor to commute the sentence for about one month, until December the 18th.

At eleven o’clock on Friday, December 18, 1857, Mullinix was brought forth to the gallows which had been prepared for his execution and, after declaring his innocence, Sheriff Farrow tied his hands behind his back and placed the rope around his neck. The prisoner in a jovial and unconcerned manner, said “Bill, this is rather tight” which evoked a round of laughter. The sheriff then pulled the lever to send the prisoner to eternity, at which time the rope broke. Mullinix fell to the ground with the dangling rope still around his neck, then after taking two or three steps while making an unnatural sound, was hoisted back up with the rope being more securely fastened. He then hung for a total of thirty-three minutes, at which time he was declared dead, ending one of the more memorable, yet tragic, chapters of our county’s history.

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