In 1856, a telegraph line was constructed along the Fall River Railroad track from Myrick’s Station in Berkley, Massachusetts to Boston, passing through Bridgewater. [Kingman, History of North Bridgewater, p. 347] Following the discovery of the Sturtevant murders on Monday, February 16th, someone ran to the Bridgewater telegraph office and sent a telegraph far and wide to newspapers across the nation. On Tuesday morning, February 17th, before any arrests had been made in the case, newspapers in Vermont, New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago, Nashville, Iowa, Michigan, Los Angeles, and more ran the horrific details of the “Triple Tragedy”.
Here’s a sample of the telegraph, as reported in the St. Albans Daily Messenger in St. Albans, Vermont:
“BY TELEGRAPH. LATEST NEWS.
Horrible Tragedy in Massachusetts.
THREE PERSONS MURDERED FOR MONEY.
Boston, 17 [February].
Details of the triple tragedy at Halifax, Mass., show that on Monday morning, a shoemaker by the name of Lull, having occasion to visit a neighbor, stumbled upon the body of a maiden lady, about seventy years of age, lying on a cross path about thirty rods from the farm house of Thomas and Simeon Sturtevant, with whom she lived in the capacity of house keeper. She was lying face downward, and the back of her head had been crushed. In hastening on to inform the Sturtevants, the man found the body of Thomas Sturtevant stretched full length in the porch of the dwelling, cold in the embrace of death, with a lantern by his side. His face was most brutally mangled. In a bed-room was found the remains of Simeon Sturtevant. The walls and ceilings of the apartment were bespattered with blood. The weapon with which all the murders were committed was evidently a sled stake about four feet in length, as one was found blood-stained, near where the body of the woman was discovered. The village where the murder was committed is a thriving little hamlet, thirty miles distant from this city, and contains a population of less than 800. The brothers, Sturtevant, were the wealthiest citizens of that town and highly respected. The murder was evidently committed for money. There is no clue to the assassin.”
Telegraph lines enabled news of the terrible murders to spread thousands of miles across the country before police could even begin their investigation in earnest. And what would they discover upon their arrival?
[Photograph of the “Halifax Tragedy House” by photographer J.H. Williams of South Scituate, Mass. courtesy Historic New England.]