By Pamela Pattison Lash
A former resident of Williams Co, OH was murdered in California. He disappeared from the county and his family about 12 years before his death. Definitely a tragic story made even more so because his parents had already passed away, never knowing what happened to their son. After you, the reader, digest the news article and the particulars I have found concerning this family, take a closer look at the event through the eyes of different points of view from news articles in California. You will see a completely different “character” of James Roop. The lesson to be learned: carefully take what one reads in the old newspapers, sift for facts, and look for inconsistencies. The truth is usually somewhere in between.
Bryan Democrat, 21 May 1896, p4 (which apparently served as an obituary)
James Roop who was raised at Pulaski mysteriously disappeared from his home some 10-12 years ago making no sign of his intended departure and during all these years giving no hint of his whereabouts. His relatives made diligent search and inquiry but could obtain no trace of him. A few days ago letters were received by his relatives here stating that he had gone hence to California where he had married and engaged in gold mining in which he was quite successful, he and his father-in-law owning a 2/3rds interest in a paying mine. On March 12 both Roop and his father-in-law were murdered – Roop being shot through the heart, dying instantly and the old gentleman so seriously wounded in the head as to render him unconscious in which condition he remained until death. The motive of the double murder is not known. Several persons were arrested on suspicion but no positive clue has been developed. Mr. Roop, though somewhat eccentric, was an exemplary young man and his untimely death is regretted by many acquaintances. His sisters, Mrs. Byron Wyatt of Bryan and Mrs. George Gares of Stryker are almost prostrated with grief.
Here’s what I discovered on the Roop family:
James F Roop (1863 IN – 12 Mar 1896 Riverside Co, CA), s/o William F and Christena Chilcote Roop; married Nellie E Conover McLaughlin on 15 Sept 1892 in Mariposa, CA(Sept 1868 IA - ); he was 27 and she was 23; they had a son Allen B (July 1893 CA - ) and a daughter Eunice Maude Roop Waite Jackson (9 May 1895 CA – 20 Aug 1983 Contra, CA)
Nellie E Conover McLaughlin, d/o Robert and Adeline Conover (Sept 1868 IA – aft 1930 Richmond, Contra Costa Co, CA; after the murder of her husband, Nellie married William Kearney, c1899 and had three children
James’ parents and siblings:
William F Roop, s/o Frederick R and Elizabeth Clayton Roop (13 Apr 1828 OH – 14 June 1886 Stryker, Williams Co, OH)
Married Christena Chilcote, 7 Oct 1855 Allen Co, IN
Christena Chilcote, d/o Heathcoat C and Hannah/Anna McClain Chilcote (1 Mar 1838 pos Crawford Co, OH – 10 Feb 1886 Stryker, Williams Co, OH)
1. Anna Elizabeth (24 Oct 1857 IA – 29 July 1939 Stryker, OH); mar George Gares, 31 Jan 1895 Williams Co, OH
2. Rebecca J (13 Apr 1859 IN – 24 Mar 1921 Montgomery Co, OH); mar Byron Wyatt, 30 Sept 1880 Williams Co, OH
3. James F
4. William Paul (23 June 1880 Williams Co, OH – 26 Apr 1960 Toledo, Lucas Co, OH); mar Elda Gunn, 4 Sept 1904
Bryan Press, 18 Feb 1886 – Christena Chilcote Roop
Bryan Press, 17 June 1886 p4 – William Roop
William Roop died this morning aged 58 years. The funeral and burial will be in Edgerton, Tuesday afternoon, where Mrs. Roop was buried some months ago. The remaining family are one son and daughter past 21 years, and a lad six or seven years old. Mrs. B Wyatt, of Pulaski, is a daughter of Mr. Roop.
Williams County Death Date of Record 18 May 1887 No. 2-39-11
William F. Roop
Date of Death – 14 June 1886
Condition - Widowed
Age – 58Y 2M 1D
Place of Death Stryker
Place of Birth Ohio
Cause of Death Dropsy
Last Place of Residence Stryker
Williams County Probate Index, General Index 1
#4177; 2 Aug 1878; Roop, William F.; Case # 2028)
Williams County, Ohio, Probate Index, General Index 1
# 4178; 22 Sept 1886; Roop, William F.; Case # 2741 guardianship
Obits for sisters of James Roop:
Bryan Democrat, 29 Mar 1921 p4 c4 – Rebecca Roop Wyatt
Bryan Press, 4 Aug 1938 p9 – Anna Gares
The federal census records for the Roop family:
1860 Cedar Creek, Allen, Indiana; Roll: M653_243; Page: 370; Image: 134; Family History Library Film: 803243.
h/h 957/935 Roop, William 26 OH carpenter $1200/350
Christina 23 OH
Anna 4 IA
Rebecca 1 IN
Note: /934 Chilcoat, Heathcote 50 PA
Anna 40 PA
James 18 OH and other siblings living near the Roop family; by 1870 the Chilcotes live in Milford, then in 1880 Hillsdale, MI; both parents died in Edgerton, Williams Co, OH and are buried in Maple Grove Cemetery
Allen Co, Indiana Volunteer Bounty and Volunteer Relief Fund
88th Reg. William F. Roop Aug. 29, 1862 $20.
Christina Roop wife of Wm. F and 2 children
1870 Milford, Defiance, Ohio; Roll: M593_1195; Page: 135A; Image: 273; Family History Library Film: 552694, PO Farmer
h/h 60/60 Roop, William F 38 PA carpenter and joiner
Christina 32 OH
Annie E 12 IA
Rebecca J 11 IN
James F 6 IN
1880 Pulaski, Williams, Ohio; Roll: 1078; Family History Film: 1255078; Page: 616A; Enumeration District: 011; Image: 0091.
h/h 3/3 Roop, William F 49 OH-PA-OH Justice of the Peace
Christena wife 43 OH-OH-OH has asthma
Annie E dau 22 IA-OH-OH
Rebecca J dau 21 IN-OH-OH
James F son 17 IN-OH-OH works in sawmill
Calender, Inez B 7 OH-OH-OH
Now, as I stated above, here are several accounts of this same murder, but with different points of view and more detail than the newspaper article appearing in Bryan, Ohio. I discovered these accounts online:
Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, CA 14 Mar 1896
TWO MINERS KILLED - A QUARREL OVER A MINE RESULTS IN THE SHOOTING OF JAMES ROOF AND HIS SON -IN- LAW
Two brothers named Nicholson, miners from a mine about a hundred miles east of here, called The Lost Horse, came into Banning today and gave themselves up to the Sheriff of Riverside County claiming to have killed their partners named Robert Conover and James Roof, his son-in-law, of Pasadena, in a quarrel over the division of their mine. Self-defense is given as the reason for the murder. The Nicholson's claim that Roof shot one of them in the arm and that Conover struck him with a pick. The other Nicholson then shot both Roof and Conover, killing them both instantly. The wife of one of the dead men is bringing in the bodies, and the coroner from Riverside will investigate the matter fully.
Los Angeles Evening Express, Los Angeles, CA 14 Mar 1896
Two Pasdenans Killed Near Banning - They Were Shot by Two Other Men - Who Quarreled With Them Over the Possession of a Mining Claim. Murderers Surrender.
Word was received in this city this afternoon to the effect that a double murder had been committed at a place called Twenty-nine Palms, about twenty miles from Banning, in which two miners named Robert Conover and James Roof were killed by a man named Nicholson.
As near as can be learned, the trouble arose over a mining claim. Roof and Conover were working a claim, when Nicholson and a brother put in an appearance. The brother ordered Roof and Conover to vacate, which they declined to do. Words ensued, when Roof picked up a pick and attempted to hit Nicholson's brother over the head. At this point, Nicholson, who carried a Winchester, took a hand, and shot both Roof and Conover down. The Nicholsons then fled. Roof and Conover are said to be residents of Pasadena.
San Bernardino Sun, San Bernardino, CA 15 Mar 1896 - Last Thursday about noon, six miles southwest of the Pinto mountain, on Cottonwood road, in the Pinion mining district, Riverside county, P. R. Nicholson shot and killed R. Conover and James Roof. These men, together with J. J. Nicholson, were partners in mining claims, and they had a difficulty in dividing interests in the mines, out of which the fatal quarrel arose.
One of the survivors of the fight, P. R. Nicholson, says that Conover with a gun and Roof with a pick handle attacked J. J. Nicholson, his brother, and shot him in the arm and knocked him in the head with the pick handle. At this juncture P. R. Nicholson attempted to separate the combatants, and he was himself knocked in the head with the pick handle. He then went to his tent and got a Winchester and killed Conover and Roof. J. J. Nicholson was shot in the arm from which he came near bleeding to death. After the killing the two brothers came to Banning, where they surrendered themselves to H. M. Carpenter, Deputy Sheriff of Riverside County. The bodies of the dead men will be in Banning this afternoon and an inquest will then be held. By mistake the Sheriff of San Bernanrdino County was called to Banning, under the erroneous supposition that the killing took place in this county.
Riverside Daily Press, Riverside, CA, 14 Mar 1896
Two More Men Killed - A Shooting Affray on the Desert Over Mining Claims - The Slayer Under Arrest and Claims Self-Defense
Sheriff Johnson received a telegram this morning from Constable Carpenter of Banning stating that two men had been killed on the desert and that he had the man who did the killing under arrest at that place. The Sheriff immediately telegraphed to hold the man and send particulars of the affair. District Attorney Gill also received a telegram from Carpenter to the same effect, and sent a reply to bring the man here.
The San Bernardino Sun of today received some particulars by telegraph, from which it is learned that the two men killed were Robert Conover and James Roof of Pasadena. The killing took place near the Lost Horse mine, 90 miles east of Banning. Conover and his brother-in-law, Roof, were in partnership with two brothers named Nicholson in the mining business. The trouble arose over the division of the property, the men intending to separate. Anticipating trouble, the two brothers decided to leave camp to avoid it, when Roof seized a Winchester and without warning shot the younger Nicholson in the arm, at the same time Conover rushing at Nicholson with a pick-handle with which he struck him. The elder Nicholson, who was armed, fired upon and killed both his brother's assailants. The Nicholson brothers both came to Banning and game themselves up.
Mrs. Conover was expected to arrive in Banning today with the bodies of her husband and brother, on the way to Pasadena, and Coroner Sherman telephoned to Constable Carpenter to hold the bodies there. He will go up on the afternoon train to hold an inquest.
LATER - Sheriff Johnson this afternoon received another telegram from Carpenter, stating: "Will hold prisoner her until inquest. Will give you particulars when I come down." The Sheriff expects Carpenter to arrive in Riverside with the prisoner tomorrow.
Riverside Daily Press, Riverside, CA, Monday, 16 March 1896
The Nicholsons - They Were Brought to Riverside Yesterday
The two men, James J. and Thos. R. Nicholson, engaged in the trouble on the desert Thursday at a mining camp, near the "Lost Horse" Mine, 90 miles east of Banning, were brought to Riverside Sunday on the 11:30 motor, and were placed in jail. The inquest over the dead bodies of the two men killed, Conover and Roof, was held by Coroner Sherman at Banning Saturday night, the verdict of the jury being that they came to their death from gunshot wounds from a gun in the hands of the younger of the Nicholson brothers. It was previously reported that the older of the Nicholson's did the killing. Mrs. Conover, the wife of one of the murdered men, took the remains of the two men on to Pasadena Sunday for burial.
The version of the affair as given by the Nicholsons at the inquest, the four men mentioned being the only ones present when the quarrel began and ended, is to the effect that the difficulty occurred over the younger of the Nicholson brothers having located a claim with other parties, leaving out Conover and Roof. Up to this time the four men were partners, and Conover and Roof were incensed over the action of young Nicholson "locating them out" in the new discovery. Hot words ensued, and, as the Nicholsons tell it, they started to their work to avoid trouble when Conover seized a Winchester and shot the elder Nicholson through the right forearm. The wounded man grappled with Conover and was in the act of attempting to take the gun from him when the brother called to Roof to help him part the men, but he answered, "Let them fight!" But young Nicholson rushed in to separate the men and Roof picked up a pick-handle and struck James Nicholson over the head, knocking him down, and then hit the younger Nicholson on the head. Young Nicholson ran to a tent of some other miners and secured a Winchester left by them in the tent, and commenced shooting at Conover and Roof, firing three shots, two of them taking effect, one each in the left breast of the two men. The shooting occurred about 11 o'clock Thursday. Roof lived for about a half hour, and Conover until 8 o'clock in the evening.
The Nicholson's, after carrying Conover into a tent and furnishing him with water, started for Banning to give themselves up, stopping at another camp a half mile from the place of the shooting, and informed the men what had occurred and asking them to go down and take care of Conover. These men refused to go, not caring, probably, to mix in the affair. Later some other miners came to the camp and found Roof dead, and Conover died within a half hour after. Conover recognized the men but was unable to speak. The younger Nicholson testified that before he left Conover the latter told him to write a letter to his (Conover's) wife, taking all the blame upon himself and Roof, but that when he had gotten it written, Conover could not hold the pencil to sign it when he made the attempt to do so.
The eldest of the men had his arm in a sling, and his head tied up. Constable Carpenter of Banning, who came in with the men, said that when the Nicholsons got into Banning Friday evening the wounded arm was in a bad condition and the cut on the head was a frightful one.
The Nicholsons are to taken back to Banning this afternoon for the preliminary examination. District Attorney Gill will go to Banning to represent the State. It is thought that after hearing the testimony the justice may, if he holds the prisoners for trial in the Superior Court, allow them to give bail for their appearance. Geo. Beam was in Riverside yesterday ready to go on the bond for the men.
Thomas Nicholson, the one who did the shooting, is a young man of only 26 years of age, and J. J. Nicholson is 44 years old. Neither one of the men looks like a dangerous character.