THE MURDER OF MALINDA SNYDER
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Perry County Democrat; 10 March 1897
Accused of Murder-
Hugh Smith, aged about 68 years, of Liberty Valley, Saville township, this
county, was committed to jail here on Saturday night, charged with the murder of
Malinda Snyder, a deaf mute, aged about 20 years, daughter of David Snyder, of
N. E. Madison township. Upon information made by Elias Snyder, of Toboyne
township, brother of the missing girl, S. B. Trostle, J. P., issued a warrant
for the arrest of Hugh Smith. Constable Bistline executed the warrant.
Sensational accounts of this alleged murder has been published in the city
dailies, much of which is probably mere rumor.
That Malinda Snyder disappeared from her home one night 28 years ago and that
she has never been since seen, are undisputed facts. The following we find
in the local columns of THE DEMOCRAT of March 24, 1869:
INFORMATION WANTED.-- Malinda Snyder,
daughter of David Snyder, of Liberty Valley, Perry county, left home on Sunday
March 14, 1869, since which time she has not been heard of. She is a
mute, about 20 years of age, short, light hair, blue eyes, fullfaced, about 5
feet high and weighs about 150 pounds. Any information as to her
whereabouts will be thankfully received by her father, whose Post Office
address is Sandy Hill, Perry county, Pa.
We learn that the neighbors have been
hunting the mountain for a week past for the missing girl, but their search
thus far has been unavailing. She is said to be simple minded and being
also unable to call for assistance, may have perished, though it is probable
she has found her way to some habitation in the settlement on the other side
of the mountain.
It is said, among the many rumors, that when
the arrest was made Smith exclaimed: "This, after so many
years! Have you arrested my brother Sam? He is in it as deep as I
Malinda Snyder, it is said, was a troublesome young girl, stoutly built and deaf
and dumb. She was a frequent visitor at the residence of Hugh Smith and,
it is alleged, that he became angry at her persistent calls and struck her on
the head with a hatchet, the blow killing her. Then, it is further
reported, the body was taken up into an old field and buried while the
neighboring sawmill of Kendig & Hostetter was burning.
The whole neighborhood was soon afterward aroused and searching parties scoured
the valley and the mountains, but to this day her disappearance has never been
authentically accounted for. It is further reported that the persistent
search for her body induced those who had put her out of the way to disinter the
remains, take them from the old field, chop them up and burn them in a large
fire place in an old home on the mountain side.
Further arrests are expected today.
The Newport News; 24 October 1897
ACCUSED OF MURDER
THE CRIME ALLEGED COMMITTED 28 YEARS AGO.
The Victim a Demented Female Mute, Malinda Snyder, and the Old Men Charged With
Killing Her are Hugh and Samuel Smith, Brothers, Who Declare They Are
Innocent--History of the Mysterious Disappearance of the Girl-- Habeas Corpus
In March, 1869, and weeks afterward, the entire western part of Perry county,
and particularly that fertile and romantic stretch extending from the eastern to
the western boundary of Saville township, was agitated over the mysterious
disappearance of Malinda Snyder, a demented, 20 year old mute daughter of David
Snyder, of Liberty Valley.
Away up there, then beyond the reach of the demoralizing influences of modern
struggle, where everybody was industrious, patriotic and honest, no one was
thought capable of committing any grave crime, an certainly not murder, but when
Malinda Snyder suddenly disappeared as if the earth had swallowed her up, and
could not be found, has not yet been found, the moral sentiment of the
neighborhood was aroused simultaneously with the development of a suspicion that
she had been murdered and earnest efforts were made to find her or her dead
body, but without avail.
It was on Sunday afternoon, March 14, 1869, that she was last seen, at the home
of a neighbor, Hugh Smith, The Tuscarora mountains and Conococheague hills, were
searched and every nook an corner carefully inspected. Mr. Smith's
premises were gone over thoroughly and he was unavoidably looked upon with
suspicion by some of the men and women who had known and respected him all his
life. But he assisted in the search and afforded every opportunity to
those who scoured his premises for the missing girl. Neither she nor her
body, nor any trace of it, were ever found. One familiar with the story of
the disappearance of Miss Snyder relates it in about these words.
It appears the young woman left home sometime during the afternoon and, as the
parents supposed, had gone to a neighbor's house, as was her ___. She was
of feeble mind and of little aid to her mother about the house, thus her visits
were more frequent to neighbors than if she had been of sound mind.
On leaving home she went to the house of Hugh Smith and it appears remained
there until about dark.
After dark, members of the Snyder family began to inquire of each other as to
the whereabouts of the girl and started out to the neighbors in search of her.
At Hugh Smith's house the information was obtained that she had been there
during a part of the afternoon, but left about dusk for home. This was the
last account of the young woman alive. ..........there during a part of the
afternoon, but left about dusk for home. This was the last account of the
young woman alive. On the report that she had left Smith's place about
dusk, and no trace of her being found along the public road by the one who came
to Smith's house to inquire concerning her, Mrs Snyder, it appears remarked that
she might have taken the back road, which is used by Samuel and Hugh Smith,
lading from their buildings southwest through the Snyder farm. The
distance by the back road is somewhat greater, though often traveled by the
families. Mr. Snyder went out on this back road, as far as the old log
barn, to which the girl frequently went, thinking she might possibly have come
that way and was stopping at the barn. Not finding her there, he returned
home and no further search was made that evening.
But the night wind caught up the alarm and carried it far and wide during the
night and early morning. Neighbors gathered to inquire as to the lost
one. While the few who had gathered and were talking, arranging and
planning for a general hunt, more came and soon it was determined to thoroughly
search dale, valley, hill and mountain. Mr. Snyder asked that the search
be put off until they could take and prepare to feed the people who might come
On this day or day following, the funeral of John Rice, an old resident of
Liberty Valley, was to take place, and was attended by many of the residents of
the valley, and only a few left to hunt for the lost.
After delays, search was finally commenced. The people divided into small
parties and started out in different directions. One party started to
search Hugh and Samuel Smith's premises--houses, barns and out-buildings.
At Hugh Smith's some one in this party noticed several lumps of yellow clay on
the surface of the garden, while appearances indicated that the ground had been
freshly dug up. This discovery and the getting into the garden and probing
sharply pointed sticks in the disturbed soil was all accomplished in about as
short a time as the act can be put on paper.
Mr. Smith told the party that he had removed a stump, which accounted for the
yellow clay noticed on the surface; also, offered them shovels and picks if they
wished to dig there or anywhere else. Next his dwelling house was again
gone through; this time some of the flooring was torn up and a careful search
made under the floors, but no trace or clew was obtained.
The burnt saw mill, a few hundred yards south of his house, was carefully
examined and the ashes raked about. This, too, like the garden and the
dwelling house, gave up no clew to the lost young woman.
Hugh Smith, during all this time, appeared to exhibit as much anxiety as any one
in the party to find the lost one. While there was suspicion directed
against him at the beginning of the search, his willingness to aid wherever he
could, dispelled this suspicion and in a short time sentiment changed somewhat
in his favor, and the dark cloud which was overhanging him for a time passed
away and sunshine took its place.
While a few believed that Hugh Smith was guilty of the crime of murder and the
secreting of the body at first, after the excitement subsided and the question
was permitted a calm discussion, it was then said that Hugh's largeness of
heart, his kindness, his naturally sympathetic disposition, could not be moved
to take the life of a fellow being and more particularly that of a harmless,
inoffensive, feeble-minded young woman.
A few of the residents of the valley, it seems, at leisure times would go to the
Tuscarora mountain for a painstaking hunt among the rocks and places they
thought might .......of the young woman was almost forgotten.
Suspicion was not alone directed to Mr. Smith. The father of the missing
girls did not escape public distrust. An occurrence which caused more or
less talk and concern in connection with the mysterious disappearance of the
girl, was the filling of a well on the Snyder premises. The well was
situated a short distance northeast of the family residence, and it is
said contained a plentiful supply of good water. It is thought the well
had been walled and that the water was then used for domestic purposes.
About the time of the search for the missing girl it is said Mr. Snyder began to
fill up the well, and for what reason has never been clearly given, so far as
can be remembered. The filling was not done at once, but a little at a
time, by gathering knots and knotty pieces of wood about the wood pile and
dumping them into the well. Before the filling was completed he began to
dig another well, a few yards from the basement kitchen door, and as soon as
this one was completed the former was filled and the surface leveled. The
strangeness about the filling of the well gave rise to the idea that it
contained a secret which was not to Mr. Snyder only. Mr. Snyder pleading
illness and asking that the search be delayed until preparations could be made
to feed the people, seemed as though the gaining of time was an object.
While there may have been no reason for connecting the disappearance of the girl
with the act of filling the well, it was nevertheless done, and the two
circumstances combined may play an important part in the trial of the case.
Hugh Smith was arrested at his home, in Liberty Valley, Saturday night, by Lewis
Bistline, constable of Toboyne township, in the presence of W. H. Kell, district
attorney of Perry county, upon the charge of murdering Malinda Snyder. The
warrant was issued by S. B. Trostle, justice of the peace, of Toboyne township,
on information made by Elias Snyder, a brother of the girl, and Mrs. Smith was
lodged in jail at Bloomfield about one o'clock Sunday morning. When the
warrant was read to him he exclaimed: "My God! This, after
twenty-eight years." He then inquired if another man had also been
arrested, adding: "He had as much to do with it as I."
Hugh Smith will be 63 years old November 26, 1897. He has been twice
married, has ten children living and three dead. His eldest child, a son,
is thirty eight years of age, while the youngest is two years. His second
wife is about thirty-eight years old. He is a fine specimen of
manhood-tall, massive, picturesque, bright eyed, light hearted, and one would
think the last man in the world to kill any person deliberately, through malice
Samuel Smith, Hugh's brother, aged 65 years, was arrested on Tuesday in Liberty
Valley by Constable Bistline, as an accessory after the fact. He was put
in jail Tuesday afternoon. He resides at Blain. Hugh, it is said,
not being able to dispose of the body himself, informed his brother Samuel of
the trouble he ......... dispose of the body himself, informed his brother
Samuel of the trouble he was in and he to shield him, agreed to help him dispose
The disappearance of the girl having been accurately told, it is but necessary
to refer to the proof which the commonwealth is said to have that she was killed
by Hugh Smith.
The facts revealed are that on the afternoon of the day she disappeared she
called at the home of Hugh Smith, where she remained for some time. She
was finally ordered out of the house by Smith. This Smith admits, and says
that the last he saw of her she was crossing the fields after leaving the house.
It appears she returned to the house and Smith, it is claimed, became so enraged
at her refusing to go home, that he seized a hatchet and struck her in the head,
almost instantly killing her.
Hugh Smith had been married only a short while then, and had not built a house
for himself. A little old log school house had been moved back from the
lane near which Samuel Smith, his brother, lived with his father, and this had
been fitted up by Hugh as his place of abode. Its location was
isolated. Its accommodations were scant. A lean to on the west was
the kitchen. here was a big open fire place. In the larger part of
the dwelling was a stove. The family consisted of Hugh Smith, his wife, a
baby at the breast, and a lad name Jerome Valentine, whom Smith had taken to
raise. There was a prayer meeting at the "Home House," as it was
called, down nearer the lane, and all the neighbors were there except Hugh Smith
and his wife and baby. The "bound boy" was there and did not
come back until late. Hugh Smith says he didn't go because his wife said
she had seen "Crazy Lindy" cross the fields and she was afraid to be
left alone. He also says he looked out of the window and saw Malinda in
the fields, so he stayed to comfort his wife, though he never could see why any
one should be afraid of "Lindy." He declares, however, that the
girl did not come to the house and that he never saw her after she passed out of
sight of the lean-to windows.
District Attorney Kell it is said ____ there are several witnesses still living
who saw Malinda go to Hugh Smith's house that Sunday afternoon in March, and who
will also testify that he ordered her away.
An affidavit has been made that the murder was evidently done with a hatchet,
and it is said to have been Sam Smith's remark while angered one day that he
"knew where the hatchet was that killed Lindy Snyder;" that has
helped to connect him with this case. This theory would seem too [the
following portion of the article is missing]......died years ago, and her
husband married again.
A witness has been found who says Jerome Valentine, the "bound boys"
who went west several years ago, said, on leaving, that Hugh Smith had
threatened to kill him if he ever told something he had found out that happened
in the house. Mrs. Smith is said to have said when dying, that she had a
statement to make, but the neighbors said Hugh drove them all out o the room and
would not let her speak.
The affidavit of John Shull, a conscience smitten cousin of the Smiths, aged
about 73 years, on which the warrants of arrest have been based, is to the
effect that the body was first buried under leaves on the mountain side back of
the Smith property.
It is well remembered by many of the older residents of the vicinity that when
the girl was missed a rigid search was instituted. Shull's statement is
tot he effect that this so frightened the Smiths that they determined to destroy
the body, and that he was let into the secret in order to help them carry out
One of the trio was to set fire to the old Kendig & Hostetter saw mill, so
as to concentrate the attention of the community, and was to join the fire
fighters for the looks of it, while the other two brought the body down from the
mountain side to the lean-to kitchen of the old log house.
This, Shull says, was carried out two nights after the murder. Shull
swears he did not set the mill on fire. His further statement sets forth
the details of the dismemberment of the body and it incineration in the big
fireplace, while pieces of meat were kept boiling in a pot on a stove in the
other room of the house to account for the fumes of burning flesh if anyone
chanced to come. This operation was not interrupted.
Luke Baker and the law firm of Barnett & Son have been engaged as counsel
for Hugh Smith, whose discharge from jail by habeas corpus proceedings is under
Judge Lyons having been written to for the purpose of learning when it would be
convenient for him to hear a motion with this end in view, went to Bloomfield
yesterday so that Smith's counsel might consult with him as to the time, as he
has agreed to hold court for Judge Bechtel, of Schuylkill county, for two weeks
from next Monday. When he came away, Smith's lawyers had not decided when habeas
corpus proceedings would be begun.
SMITH MAKES A STATEMENT.
Hugh Smith made a statement for publication on Monday. He said he was
perfectly willing to make a statement, as he intended to make one on the witness
stand. He started out by saying:
"This is all a piece of spite work, said he. "There are some neighbors
of mine who think they can make something out of digging up an old charge that
was gossiped about near thirty years ago, but there is nothing in it. I
have got nothing to hide. I am an old man, 63 years old, and have never
been arrested except in a land case once, and it's pretty hard to bear such lies
and to have to come to such a place."
"I am just as innocent of the death of that girl as you are," turning
to the reporter, "and maybe you wasn't born at that time. I saw her
out of my kitchen window that Sunday afternoon that my wife was afraid of her,
but she didn't come to the house and I did not speak to her at all."
Asked if he ever had ordered her off of the premises Smith said:
"Never, I never spoke a cross word to her in my life. Why, see
here," continued he, warming up to the subject, " I helped nurse that
girl when she was a wee little thing. Her folks all knew me and liked
me. Old Dave Snyder told me before he died that it was all wrong that me
and Sam was talked about on her account. He told me there was some hunters
found some bones up on the Conocoheague mountain a few years ago and that he
went up and found the shoes his girl used to wear. Dave never blamed
me. He told me so. And so has Elias Snyder been my friend.
Only a few weeks ago he came to me to get me to make an affidavit about his
"Were you in the war with him?" asked the reporter.
"Not with him, but we was both there. I was quartermaster of Company
F, Two Hundred and Eighth Pennsylvania. I came home in September,
"But about that girl," said he again, without a prompter,
"I want to say that I know no more of what became of her than
nothing. When her brother and mother came to my house next morning to ask
for her, I told them I saw her in the fields, and we went out and tracked her in
the snow out in the woods a ways and then back again to my ploughed field.
There we lost the track. I never knew where she went after that. But
she didn't come to my house, and I never had a hard word for her. She was
strange acting, but made no trouble. I remember she used to be a slim
thing, but she got so she must'a weighted about 200 pounds.
At another point during the interview Smith remarked that he was something of a
giant in his young days. He said he used to think nothing of holding two
boys out, one in each hand. "And Cousin John Shull was a mate for
me." said he. "We were both as strong as oxen."
Asked point blank concerning the story that the body of the girl had been cut up
and burned in his back kitchen, Hugh Smith said: "that's the
awfullest thing I ever heard of. It's all a lie from beginning to
On the subject of why John Shull should say anything against him, he simply
said: "If John has told anything it has been for the sake of getting the
old gossip cleared up, for he knows there is nothing that any of us has got to
Smith explained his absence from the mill fire the night he was alleged to have
been destroying the body, by the declaration that he had gone to bed early, and
had not known anything about the fire until the next morning. The mill was
situated at a corner of the lane, about 150 rods away from his house. He
declared that the first he knew of the fire was when his folks told him about it