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Oddities abound on February 1894 pages

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Browsing through the collection of Albany Herald daily editions from the month of February 1894, readers can glean a series of stories that can perhaps be best summed up as just plain odd.

First up is the tale of Mattie Clay. On Jan. 24, a 3-year-old boy was found dead floating in the Flint River. As was the normal practice of the day, a "coroner's jury" was quickly assembled to determine the circumstances of the boy's death.

But three juries and two weeks later charges still hadn't been brought. As the writer puts it, the coroner knew that either the boy's mother, Mattie Clay, or his father, Matt Pearce, was guilty of killing the boy, but had no substantial evidence against either.

The fourth inquiry would prove to be just too much for Mattie Clay to take, however, and after recounting her take on the events of her son's disappearance, she broke loose and confessed before the coroner and the jurors.

"She decided to kill it, as she was not able to take care of it -- that its father had refused to give any aid," the writer recounts. Clay went on to tell those in court that she had put the child in a Crokus sack and strangled him before going down to Broad Street and tossing him into the river.

In telling the tale of her confession the writer points out that the 25-year-old mother "does not look like a murderess."

INPROMTU 'FOOT BALL' GAME

A man identified only as "Capt. Hobbs," called a "foot ball" game on Broad Street in which he was to serve as both a referee and a player -- a part of either a team of six Irish men or six Jewish men, the report states.

The game apparently took up the entire block of Broad downtown and used Washington Street and Jackson Street as the respective goal lines.

While there was no play-by-play reporting by the reporter, the writer did recount that Herman Farkas and Tom Cox each scored. Henry Tarver apparently tried to, but with painful results.

"Henry Tarver kicked one time -- or made an effort to. It is thought that he will recover," the reporter writes.

The game apparently ended in a disputed tie, leaving the reporter to surmise: "A committee will, no doubt, be appointed to determine who won the game."

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JAILER SHOT IN BIZARRE ESCAPE

In Thomasville, Jailer Tom Singletary was lucky to walk away with his life after he was shot twice -- including once in the face -- and stabbed in the back of the head with an adz, during a brazen escape attempt.

In all, five men busted out of the Thomas County Jail, when Singletary was attacked by one of the men, shot in the shoulder and shot again just above his mouth and then was stabbed in the head with the adz he had tried to use to defend himself.

According to the Herald, "Sheriff Doss" quickly rounded up a posse to search for the mean who were last seen crossing the river near Bainbridge.

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'PLEASE BE CUTE'

Lastly, an odd tale was published in late February about a letter that had been found in an orange basket that had apparently been sent up in a produce shipment from Florida.

In the letter, the writer -- a 26-year-old man -- implores the recipient to send him a photograph and correspondence as he is looking for a wife.

"Please be cute," he states on the last line of his letter.

There is no word on if the man, who was writing from his orange grove near Richland, Fla., ever found his wife.

E-mail government reporter J.D. Sumner at j.d.sumner@albanyherald.com.