17 October 2012

Annie Beekman, Strangled, Part One

Somerset County Fairgrounds, Somerville NJ, Thursday September 12, 1895.  Jacob Johnson hadn't seen young Annie Beekman in more than two years.  Some people said that she was dead or hospitalized - others, that she had married a much older man and was living in Newark.  In any event, she was there at the Somerset County Fair, standing at his peanut and soda-water stand.  By the end of the week, Johnson would be in the Somerset County Jail, accused of her murder.

Somerset County Fairgrounds, Somerville, NJ - 1891
Annie Beekman had indeed been living in Newark.  She told Johnson that she had returned to Somerset County to visit her brother in Hillsborough, and to collect $45 that was being held in trust for her by Calvin Corle of Neshanic.  Annie and her brother, both of biracial descent, had been bound by their mother to Neshanic farmer Edward Horner.  Upon reaching the age of maturity, each was given $50.  Her brother had taken the full amount directly, but Annie withdrew just $5, leaving the rest with Corle.

Jacob Johnson worked as a laborer on the estate of JB Duke.  He lived with his wife, son, and daughter in a cabin on the Elmendorf property near the banks of the Raritan River, not far from the tracks of the South Branch Railroad.  He was well liked and admired, especially in the black community around Hillsborough, where he was well known as a preacher with a particularly strong religious fervor.

Johnson suggested that Annie stay with them while she was visiting in the area.  She spent the day Friday visiting with her mother, and upon returning that evening, asked Johnson to accompany her on Saturday to Neshanic in order to recover her money form Mr. Corle.  She explained that she did not feel comfortable travelling alone with such a large sum.


Somerville Train Station - 1891

On Saturday afternoon, they boarded the train at the Roycefield Depot near Johnson's home for the short trip to Neshanic.  Annie received $45 from Mr. Corle, which she placed in a small purse and tucked into the bosom of her corset.  On the return trip, she suggested to Johnson that they get off the train at Somerville, and celebrate with a drink.
 

Commercial Hotel, Somerville, NJ - 1891
They went first to the Commercial Hotel, where Annie bought them a couple of rounds of beer.  She then suggested Cawley's restaurant, where they dined on sandwiches and wine - Annie carefully removing her purse, paying the bill, and returning it safely to its hiding place.
 

Cawley's Restaurant, Somerville, NJ - 1891

Johnson later told police that Annie had wanted to continue drinking, but he begged off, on the account of the lateness of the evening - it was already close to 10 pm.  Johnson claimed that before he left Annie near the Somerville Station, he saw her with two white men, one tall, one short, and that she had gone off with them.
 
That's not the story told by Joseph Gorman, a railroad flagman working near the Somerville Depot that Saturday evening.  Gorman told police that he clearly saw the pair cross the tracks in the vicinity of Bridge Street, and head towards the Raritan River.
 

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