Part of the PAGenWeb




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 am."
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
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 Proceedings Probable.
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 there.
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 or premeditatedly.
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 of it.
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 their plan.
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 consideration.
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.
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 pension."
"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, 1864."
"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 end."
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 hide."
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 at breakfast.


This site is maintained  by Cathy Wentz-Eisenstadt
Copyright 2003-2010.  All Rights Reserved.

This page was last updated on:   02/16/2009

People for better PA Historical Records Access (PaHR-Access)
Learn about the grassroots effort to make older PA state death certificates available on-line!!  Please consider helping.