Whitneyville Cemetery: the King brothers

Hiram King of the 5th Michigan Infantry, Alvin King of the 6th Michigan Cavalry and Myron King of the 3rd Michigan Infantry. Myron's stone is facing his two brothers and set back nearly out of the cemetery into the undergrowth, even though it's a relatively new stone. When I photographed this nearly a quarter f a century ago it was a very weather stone roughly in line with the other two King brothers.

Myron murdered his wife and then shot and killed himself.

Myron H. King

Myron H. King was born in 1846 either in Jackson County, Michigan, or Brooklyn, New York, the son John L. (b. 1813) and Mary Ann (Cole, b. 1815).

Myron’s parents were both New York natives and presumably married in New York sometime before 1833 when their daughter Phebe was born. Sometime between 1842 and 1845 John moved his family to Michigan, eventually settling in Jackson County. By 1850 Myron and his family were residing in Columbia, Jackson County. John eventually settled his family in Kent County and by 1860 Myron was attending school with five of his siblings and living on the family farm in Cascade.

Myron stood 5’10” with dark eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion and was an 18-year-old farmer probably living in Cascade, Kent County when he enlisted in Company E on January 12, 1864, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, crediting Cascade, and was mustered the same day. He joined the Regiment on April 9 at Brandy Station, Virginia, and was reported sick with intermittent fever April 21-23 and suffered from the mumps April 26 to May 1. He returned to duty and was transferred to Company E, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864.

He was again reported sick July 8-12, 1864, and subsequently sent to City Point hospital on July 12 suffering from diarrhea and transferred on July 15 to Washington, DC, where he was admitted to Armory Square hospital on July 16 with hematemesis (bloody vomiting). He was on furlough from the hospital August 1-31 and returned to duty September 14. He was admitted to the Fifth Corps depot hospital at City Point, Virginia, on February 2, 1865, with inflammation of the iris and chronic diarrhea and returned to duty on May 14. He was transferred to the Provost Marshal at Camp Dennison, Ohio. He was mustered out on July 5, 1865, at Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Myron eventually returned to western Michigan, probably to the Grand Rapids area.

Myron married his first wife, Michigan native Catherine (1851-1873), presumably in Michigan, and they had at least one child: William (1870-1889). By 1870 Myron was working as a farmer and living with his wife and child in Cascade; nearby lived his father and older brothers Alvin and James on their own farms and with their own families.

After Catharine died in 1873 Myron married Carrie B. (b. 1860), and by 1880 he and Carrie and his son Willie were living in Cascade.

Carrie reportedly left him sometime in the late 1880s for one George Lardie whom she eventually married.

Myron married his third wife, Cora Kelly (b. 1865) on August 28, 1889, and they had at least one child Charles, who was reportedly crippled.

Myron was working as a mason and living at 330 Taylor in Grand Rapids in 1890.

In 1887 he applied for and received a pension (no. 733789).

On Tuesday morning, November 28, 1893, Myron shot and killed his estranged wife and then shot himself.

Myron A. King, aged fifty-five years, an old soldier, yesterday morning shot his wife after a desperate struggle and then finished the tragedy by sending a bullet through his own head. The wife died almost instantly, and the murderer lived five hours without regaining consciousness.

The crime was committed in the home of the Kings, on Dean Street, a little ungraded street in the extreme northern end of the city, and the house stands on a slight hill, a half block west of Plainfield Avenue. The building is a new one and very cheap. The furnishings were poor and everything about the house indicated slovenliness and squalor.

The immediate cause of the tragedy was the tyrannical disposition of the husband. He drove his wife away from home several times by extreme cruelty and at last enticed her back and then brutally murdered her.

King had been married twice before. He served during the war in Company E, Fifth Michigan Infantry but did not belong to the Grand Army [GAR]. He was a stone mason by trade, but the neighbors describe him as a lazy and quarrelsome fellow who would not work and who depended solely upon his pension of $8 a month to care for himself, together with what his wife could earn by hard work. He was married six years ago, his wife, Cora Kelly, being twenty-one years old and himself forty-nine at the time. Their happiness was of brief duration. He treated the young wife more like a slave than a companion. She endured him as long as she could, but finally left him and went out to work, but he induced her to return. This was repeated several times and a few months ago a child was born to them. While the mother was unable to leave her bed it is alleged that he abused her shamefully.

As soon as the long suffering wife was able to walk she left the house and went to work for a family on Ottawa Street. Her parents, Adam Kelly and his wife, live at 13 Island Street and last Saturday she went to them for a brief visit. She said that she would be through with her work for the Ottawa Street family on Monday and must then look for another place. She had been nursing a sick woman. “We knew of the troubles between my daughter and her husband,” said Mr. Kelly yesterday afternoon, “but we never advised her to leave him, although he was a brute to her.”

When Mrs. King left her husband he would not allow her to take the child, and it is said he kept the little one as a means to compel the mother to return. He lived alone with the child but was not an unqualified success as a housekeeper. In fact the house looked more like a sty than a human habitation. Here, in misery and squalor, he nursed his revengeful feelings against his wife and conceived the idea of the crime.

He took the child to the home of his wife’s uncle, H. W. Stevens, 378 North Coit Avenue several days ago. Early yesterday morning he went to Mr. Stevens, and he was in destitute circumstances and asked for help. This was refused. He returned home and sent word to his wife to come and get her child. She evidently feared him, for instead of going to the house, she went to the residence of a neighbor, George Gray, and sent for her husband. He came and asked her to go to the house. She said: “I will go to get the baby, but I will never live with you again.”

Together they went across lots to the little house. She did not want to enter but he insisted, and the neighbors saw them go inside. After this, no one knows what happened. It is believed that the mother, not finding her child, attempted to leave the house. The husband grabbed her and a struggle ensued. He dragged her into the miserable little room, which served as a bedroom and here she struggled desperately. His brute strength prevailed and he forced her backwards across the bed with her head against the wall. With one hand upon her throat, he drew a heavy revolver, placed the muzzle against her head and sent a bullet crashing through her brain. Turning the weapon to his own head he fired a second shot and fell across her body.

These two shots aroused the neighbors and they hurried to the house. The door was not open and J. W. Burton was the first to enter. The woman was dead. Her husband still breathed, but was desperately wounded. She was fully dressed, not having even removed her hat or cloak, and he was also fully dressed. Their blood was rapidly soaking the bed clothing and a pool upon the floor was forming.

Coroner Bradish was summoned and medical assistance was also called for the man, but he was beyond all aid. He lived until 2:35 and died without regaining consciousness. The bodies were then removed to O’Brien’s Undertaking rooms and an inquest will be held today.

King has two brothers, J. J. King of Whitneyville and Lysander King of Cedar Springs. They were notified at once of the tragedy.

The sensational and tragic story made the rounds of the newspapers. The Grand Rapids Herald reported,

Frenzied by jealousy and domestic infelicity, Myron A. King shot two bullets into the brain of his wife Cora about 10 o’clock yesterday morning, killing her instantly, and a third bullet through his own head, from which he died four hours later.

The shocking double tragedy occurred in King’s residence at no. 908 [?] Dean Street in the north end and was first known by J. W. Burton, a neighbor residing at no. 306, a short distance away. Mr. Burton was sawing wood in his backyard when he heard screams coming from the King residence, followed by three revolver shots in rapid succession. After the shots Burton said he heard the cries of a puppy and thought perhaps King had killed a dog. All was quiet and hearing nothing more and seeing no stir about the house his suspicions were aroused that something was wrong. He went to a store a short distance away so that he might walk by the house for the purpose of looking into it to see what King was doing. The front door stood ajar, but all was quiet inside. He saw and heard nothing from within and when he returned from the store the same quietness prevailed about the premises. Burton felt timid about going into the house and asked a neighbor to accompany him in to investigate. He could get no one to go in with him and he went to Patrolmen Price’s residence to give the alarm. He and the patrolman returned to the King residence and upon entering beheld the awful result of the shots fired a few moments before.

Across a dirty blood-soaked bed lay the body of Mrs. Cora King with her head resting on a pillow wet with her life’s blood. She was dead. By her side was the almost lifeless and unconscious body of Myron A. King, gasping in the throes of death with a bullet hole through his head, the ball having entered the right temple and come out through the left. In his right hand firmly grasped was a .38 caliber British bulldog revolver with three empty chambers. The brain was oozing from the wound and the old quilt upon which the head rested was saturated with blood. There was no person present in the room with the murdered woman and the dying suicide when the officer and Mr. Burton entered. Mrs. King was fully dressed wearing her rubber shoes and wrap. Mr. King wore a full suit. . . . The house was . . . devoid of furniture, and the bedroom in which the bodies lay was separated from the main room with but a partition of lath. The room was cold and cheerless, and several of the windows were covered with rough boards. There was great excitement in the vicinity of the double tragedy and a large crowd of neighbors gathered to view the sickening scene. Coroner Bradish was notified and had the remains of Mrs. King taken to O’Brien’s undertaking rooms and left King to die on his murderous bed in charge of neighbors. King remained unconscious until 2:30 when he died. His remains were also taken to O’Brien’s.

King and his wife had not been living together during the last four weeks, she having left him and their only child a little boy 2 years old and gone to work for Mrs. William Flemming on Madison Street. In the meantime King lived at home with the child, leaving it with neighbors whenever he secured work for a day or two. Within the last few days he had made arrangements to go to Berlin [Saranac or Marne] to cut wood, and had shipped a portion of his household goods there. He intended to start yesterday afternoon and last Monday morning he called at Mrs. George Gray’s on Madison Street, where his wife had been staying since last Friday, she having finished working for Mrs. Flemming. He took their little boy with him and told his wife that he would not be so hard hearted as she, that he brought the little boy to her that she might kiss him good-bye before he took him to Berlin. Mrs. Gray heard some of the conversation between King and his wife and says that King asked her if she had changed her mind in regard to living with him. She replied that she had not, and that she was going to work at the Michigan House as a chambermaid. King returned home and stayed at his house Monday night. Yesterday morning [Tuesday] he took the little boy over to William Stevens on Coit Avenue, where he had left him many times before, saying that his house was cold and would like to have Mrs. Stevens take care of him a few hours until he could get the remainder of his goods packed ready for shipment. Mrs. Stevens was an aunt to Mrs. King, and she kept the boy as King requested.. King then went to Mrs. Grays on Madison Street, where his wife was temporarily staying. The Gray family were eating breakfast, and King asked his wife for a conference after the morning meal. She consented and he remained seated. Mrs. Gray says King was very pale when he entered the home but did not appear to be vexed. He remarked that he had “put in a bad night” and that he had not slept. He said the walk to Gray’s made him sweat. Mrs. King made a light remark about his sweating in winter, but he did not reply.

After Mrs. King had finished breakfast her husband repeated the question of the day previous as to her willingness to again live with him but she was stubborn and refused. He asked if she would take their little boy who is a cripple and she said she would. She promised to take care of him and assured her husband that he could see him at any time but she would not again live with him. He said the child was over to Mrs. Stevens’ where he left him in the morning. Mrs. King had not been on friendly terms with the Stevens family for some time, and she told her husband she would not go there after the baby. He told her she could go to their home and wait until he brought the child from Stevens and she consented to do it. Mr. and Mrs. King left the Gray residence together, and that was the last heard of them by Mrs. Gray until the awful tragedy was announced.

Mrs. Nases of no. 161 Ann Street, who lives a short distance from the King residence, says she saw King and his wife standing on their front porch about 10 o’clock yesterday morning, and they appeared to be engaged in earnest conversation. Finally Mrs. King sat down upon the railing surrounding the porch, and King took hold of her arm as if to lead her into the house. She resisted, and remained seated. King appeared to be talking earnestly and to be coaxing his wife to go with him into the house. After they had talked this way about fifteen minutes Mrs. Nases saw them enter the house together and that was the last she heard of them.

It is surmised that King premeditated his horrible deed for several days, and that yesterday morning’s work was the result of carefully planned details. The surroundings in the little room in which the bloody work was done showed that a violent tussel had taken place. A stand was tipped over and a lamp lay shattered in pieces upon the floor. It is thought that King and his wife were sitting on the edge of the bed when the shot was fired and that before firing he threw his left arm around her neck, choking her so that she could not utter loud screams while with his right he sent two balls into her brain. One of the balls entered her right eye and the other in the forehead a little above. The skin was burned and discolored, showing that the revolver had been held in close proximity to her head when the fatal shots were fired. Coroner Bradish empaneled a jury and he will hold an inquest at 10 o’clock this morning in his offices.

Monday night when King went to Mrs. Stevens he appeared to be badly dejected. He told Mrs. Stevens he had nothing to live for since he did not know what to do. He said the trouble between him and his wife was the result of the interference of another man whom he did not name. He said his wife had been attending dances where beer was sold and that she had not been keeping good company of late. He had made similar complaints to other neighbors during the summer.

The dead woman was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Adam Kelly of no. 13 Island Street, and was about 20 years old. She was married to King four years ago in this city.

King was about 46 years old and had been mixed up in matrimonial affairs on two previous occasions. His first wife died and the second, “Cad” White, left him a few years ago to live with one George Lardie, whom she afterwards married. He was a stone mason but had been out of work for some time. He was arrested some time ago with as gang of chicken thieves and was tried in the police court. He was considered to be an industrious fellow, but his domestic affairs had unnerved him of late so that he was nearly a wreck.

Indeed, the murder-suicide grabbed the attention of the entire city.

All day yesterday a steady stream of morbidly curious people passed in and out of O’Brien’s undertaking rooms to view the remains of Myron A. King and his wife. The bodies of the murderer and his victim rested upon slabs in the morgue without flowers or other tributes from friends. The face of the unfortunate woman was filled with powder, showing how close to her head the revolver was held when the shot was fired, and a small round hole directly over her nose, between the eyebrows, showed true had been the aim. The visitors were men and women, children being excluded, and most of them were attracted by mere curiosity.

The coroner’s jury heard the testimony of the neighbors yesterday morning and rendered a verdict of murder and suicide according to the facts already given.

On November 30 the Kelly family held funeral services for their daughter in their residence on Island Street and Cora was buried in Valley City (now Oak Hill) cemetery. Myron’s brothers made arrangements for his burial and he was buried at the expense of the County in Whitneyville cemetery, Kent County. His first wife and son Willie are also buried in Whitneyville cemetery.

The son Charles was placed under the guardianship of Peleg King of Cedar springs, Kent County, who subsequently applied and received a pension for the minor child Charles King (no. 448632).

Edmund W. King

Edmund W. King was born in 1843 or 1844 in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Michigan, the son of John (1798-1863) and Joanna (Riorden, 1821-1874).

Edmund’s parents emigrated from Ireland and came to Michigan sometime before 1841. By 1850 they had settled in Grand Rapids, Kent County where John worked as a merchant and Edmund attended school with his older brother John. By 1860 Edmund was working as a shoemaker and living with his family in Grand Rapids’ First Ward where his father worked as the ward tax collector. (His cousin Edmund Riorden also lived in Grand Rapids’ First Ward with his family; Riorden would join Company F in 1861.)

Edmund stood 5’10” with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion and was 17 years old when he enlisted with his parents’ consent in Company A on May 13, 1861. Edmund was taken prisoner on June 25, 1862, while on picket duty near Richmond, Virginia, and returned to the Regiment on August 15 at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia.

He was subsequently hospitalized until he was discharged on October 21, 1862, at Fort McHenry, Maryland for “spinal irritation and chronic hepatitis caused by as he says the fall of a tree at Fair Oaks, June 25, 1862.”

It is not known if Edmund survived the war or if he returned to his home in Michigan after his discharge from the army.

No pension seems to be available.

In 1870 Joanna was still living in Grand Rapids’ First Ward.