Murderer was lynched on Eastern Shore
Blacksmith who killed girl was hanged in 1895 on the courthouse green in Denton
Marshall E. Price, a Caroline County blacksmith, met his fate at the end of a rope wielded by a lynch mob on July 2, 1895, for the murder of a13-year-old girl, Sallie E. Dean, whom he accosted as she made her way to school. Earlier this month, with a friend, Joe Coale, I went to the Eastern Shore to spend a perfectly wonderful sun-splashed autumn day with former Gov. Harry R. Hughes, who lives in Denton.
After talking for a while in the den of his home, Hughes suggested a tour of some of the county’s historic sites.
He stopped the car midway between Denton and Preston in the rural village of Harmony, which looked as if it hadn’t changed since the 1895 attack and murder that shocked Caroline County.
Hughes pointed to the benign-looking woods of cedar and scrub pine where the girl’s body was found.
Dean was last seen alive about 8:30 a.m. March 26, 1895, as she passed by a neighbor’s house.
When a schoolmate asked Dean’s mother why she hadn’t been in school that day, she became alarmed.
A search party was formed that included the young girl’s father, Jacob Dean.
As they approached the woods, evidence of her struggle became obvious.
Dean’s father bent over and picked up a napkin from her lunch pail that lay on the ground.
Under a dead cedar tree, he discovered the lifeless and bloodied body of his daughter.
“Her clothing was torn and twisted, her bonnet though still on her head was untied and bloody and the mark of death was a huge, gaping, hideous wound in her throat that had spewed forth the blood that saturated her clothing and settled in a pool beneath her head,” according to an account published in the Caroline County Record.
Dean was less than one-eighth of a mile from the rural country schoolhouse when her murderer pulled her from the road and took her into the woods.
The Baltimore Sun reported that Dean’s body had been found with her “throat cut from ear to ear and otherwise mutilated in a clump of bushes by a roadside within less than half a mile of her home, near the Village of Harmony.”
The newspaper theorized that Dean had been hit on the left temple to subdue her during the struggle.
“Rape was without a doubt the purpose of the murderer, but the struggle had taken so much time that he was either afraid to remain in the neighborhood longer or afraid of being identified by his victim, so he cut her throat, covered the body with some bushes, buried her school books and little tin pail in which she was accustomed to carry her luncheon and disappeared, leav- ing an empty bottle on the ground labeled ‘chloroform,’” reported The Sun.
“No more brutal murder has ever occurred in Caroline County or one in which traces of the murderer were more difficult to find,” observed the newspaper.
The case “will be tried by Judge Lynch, for it is the almost unanimous opinion in the neighborhood that he does not deserve any other trial.”
The Harmony Methodist Episcopal Church was overflowing for the funeral services for Dean, conducted two days after her murder.
On April 5, police arrested and charged Marshall E. Price, 23, a Harmony blacksmith who had been a member of the original inquest jury looking into the murder.
It was Price’s unusual knowledge of the murder that made him a suspect. He claimed that he knew where the murder weapon was from a dream, and, once on the scene, led investigators to it.
Price later confessed to being Dean’s killer, but not before implicating Grant Corkran, a young teacher
He contended that it was Corkran who had slit the girl’s throat and that “neither of us assaulted her in the way people think,” reported the Denton Journal at the time.
Lynching fever was sweeping Caroline County and Price was sent for his safety to a jail in Baltimore.
He returned to Denton by police boat for his trial, which began April 30 and lasted one day.
He was tried before the court without a jury, in front of Judges Wickes and Stump, and after being found guilty, was sentenced to hang.
“When Marshall Price returned by boat from Baltimore, where he was in prison for trial in Denton, he rushed to my grandfather, Harry Roe, grabbed him around the legs and begged him to save him from the mob,” Hughes wrote in a recent letter. “My grandfather did what he could to calm things down.”
Price later exonerated Corkran, who had been at home the day of the murder, plowing his fields.
“I did not violate her and I cut her throat,” said Price. “I was alone. Grant Corkran had nothing to do with the murder.”
When his attorneys filed an appeal and the governor issued a stay of execution, it was all the public needed.
At 11 p.m. July 2, a large masked mob arrived at the jail.
Hearing the approach of the gathering mob, Price begged the sheriff, “For God’s sake, let me out. I will hide. I will not run away.”
The lynch mob warned the sheriff not to interfere with the proceedings and seized Price, who was crouching in the corner of his cell, weeping and praying.
A rope was thrown around his neck, and he was dragged across the road.
The rope was thrown over the limb of a tree on the courthouse lawn, and Price was soon “struggling in the throes of death,” reported the Caroline County Record.
“This termination was not unexpected,” said The Sun.
The official inquiry found that “he died at the hands of persons unknown.”
Marshall Price confessed to killing 13-year-old Sallie Dean.