Sibling Dispute Leads to Fratricide

The 1860 mortality schedule for Dayton

I was looking at the 1860 list of deaths in Dayton in the preceding year and was struck by the entry for James Mahar. MURDERED? A little research in the local newspaper produced this story:

FRATRICIDE – On Saturday last, two brothers, named James and Daniel Maher, living in the town of Dayton in this County, came to Ottawa to do some trading, and as is too frequently the case with a certain class of countrymen, drank a great deal too much whiskey before they went home. They got home however, about 8 or 9 o’clock in the evening and both took supper at James’ house. After supper James got to quarreling with his boys, when Daniel interfered and took the boys’ part.

Thereupon the brothers quarreled, and agreed to fight it out, but conceded that both were too drunk then, fixed upon the next morning for the fight, shaking hands upon the agreement. Daniel then started for home, and in passing through the bars, picked up a large club, and dared James to meet him. James picked up a mop or fork handle, and followed Daniel beyond the bars, where the fight commenced.

James struck the first blow which was warded by Daniel so that the mop handle broke in two. Daniel then struck James on the head, felling him instantly, and then passed on. James not rising again, his boys went to him and found him insensible. On closer examination, it was found that his skull was fractured, and that his injury was mortal. He lay insensible until next morning, when he died.

The Coroner was sent for, and an inquest being held, brought to light the above facts. Daniel made an attempt to escape but Deputy Sheriff having gone after him with a competent force arrested him on the prairie in the neighborhood, and brought him back to jail, where he now awaits his trial.1


  1. The Ottawa Free Trader, June 18, 1859, p. 3, col. 2

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