Alfred James Hitch
- Born: 1841-1842, Somerset Co., MD 1 2 3
- Died: 31 Dec 1873, Eden Station, Somerset Co., MD 4 5
On Sep 30 1862, Alfred Hitch is listed in the U.S. Adjutant General Enrollment for Somerset County Election District No. 7 as age 20, a farmer, Forktown P.O.
On May 30, 1864, for $150, Alfred J. Hitch bought from Ephraim K. Wilson and Ann W. Snow land which they were enpowered to sell by the will of Walter P. Snow of Worcester Co. The land is in the 7th District and called "Walkers Conclusion". (Worcester Co., MD Land Records, Liber GHR No. 1, Folio 611).
On February 10, 1866, William James Jones and Francis H. Jones were paid $75 by Alfred James Hitch for 7 acres of land on the road leading from Upper Trappe to the county road leading from Forktown to Princess Anne. This road is known as Sea Tick Road. This is the same land that William Hitch and wife sold to William Jones, the father of the above grantees, that adjoins the land of Levin Pollitt's heirs. (SoLR-LW9:452).
On February 23, 1866, Alfred James Hitch and Nancy E. Hitch paid $2,000 to William Hitch for 100 acres of land that included "White Oak Swamp", Wolf Pit Ridge", and "Pine Swamp." Also for the life interest and estate of William Hitch and the tract of land he now resides called "Cockmore" containing 199 acres. (Ibid., Folio 484)
On November 14, 1866, for $1500, Alfred J. Hitch of Somerset Co. paid to Thomas A. and Mary E. Spencer (his wife) for land called "Morris Mill Supply" and "Holly Bottom" on the east side of the road from Denstons Dams to Adkinsons Mills. The land was conveyed to Spencer by Charles B. Calvert & wife except for the part conveyed by Spencer to John Purnell Pusey & wife. (Worcester Co., MD Land Records, Liber GHR No. 2, Folio 523).
On July 9, 1867, William and Ann Hitch with Alfred J. And Nancy E. Hitch mortgaged for $913, John D. Williams & Samuel A. Graham all that land that William Hitch purchased from James Ward called "White Oak Swamp", "Wolf Pit Ridge", and "Pine Swamp" on the county road leading from Princess Anne to Salisbury by way of William P. Morris and adjoining land of Josiah Pollitt containing 100 acres. Also includes that land called "Cockmore" where William Hitch now resides which was devised to Ann Hitch by John Morris her former husband. Mortgage must be paid within a year. (Somerset Co., MD Land Records, Liber LW, No.10, Folio 438).
On January 13, 1868, Alfred and William Hitch sold property to John D. Williams and Samuel A. Graham for $300 including oxen, cows, hogs, and horses.. (Ibid., Folio 616).
In the July 1868 court records for Wicomico County, Maryland, Alfred Hitch shows up in Case #152, William Shockley vs. Alfred Hitch, garnishee of Robert Butler. Judgement was for $175 in damages. (Wicomico Co., MD Judicials).
In Somerset County for 1870, there was a court case - Benjamin F. Mezick versus Alfred, Nancy and William Hitch. Mezick was awarded damages of $93.21 and costs of $2.40. (Somerset Co., MD Judicials)
In the May 1872 court records of Worcester County, Maryland, Alfred J. Hitch shows up in the case of Ephraim K. Wilson (exec. of Walter P. Snow) vs. Alfred J. Hitch and Henry W. Brumbly. They jointly owned land with subject of executor (Ann Snow). They were ordered to auction the land. (Worcester Co. Court Papers)
Alfred James Hitch was evidently a tough man to get along with. However, I doubt that this justified the fate that he eventually faced. He was the unnerving recipient of a well-placed blow from the razor sharp blade of a woodcutter's axe owned by Mr. William Taylor of Somerset County, Maryland. The story was told in the typical Victorian-era fashion for sensationalizing in an article in the Jan 3 1874 edition of the Salisbury Advertiser (Salisbury, Wicomico County, Maryland):
A Man Split Open With An Axe!
HE DIES IN THREE MINUTES
Last Wednesday, (December 31st) at about five o'clock P.M., a terrible tragedy was enacted at Eden Station, Somerset county, Maryland. The de- tails of the murder, as related by an eye witness are as follows: About half past four o'clock, William Taylor, who had been in the woods hewing timber, came in to Mr. Parker's store at the Station, with his axe on his shoulder, in company with Thomas Flemming. Taylor put his axe out side of the store door, out of the way, and sat down near the stove. Alfred Hitch, a man who bore an unenviable reputation in the neighborhood, by reason of his quarrelsome and over bearing disposition, picked up the axe, and by carelessness cut himself slightly. He immediately began cursing the owner of the axe and Flemming. Flemming resented Al's conduct, and the two had pretty sharp words in the Store. Taylor persuaded Flemming to leave the store in order to avoid any disturbance, and both walked up the Railroad track, which passed directly in front of the door, towards home. They had barely started when Hitch left the store, picked up a club and followed them, saying that he could "whip them both, and intended to do it," and daring them to the test. Taylor said to Hitch Go away and let us alone or it will be worse for you." Hitch persisted in carrying his threats into execution, and advanced rapidly upon Flemming and Taylor. Flemming picked up a round stick of wood and was going to strike Hitch with it, when on looking around he saw Taylor advancing on Hitch with his axe drawn; he stepped off the track. Taylor passed him, and the next moment the dull "chuck" of the axe was heard, as it entered Hitch's body, literally splitting him open. The murdered man, trembled a moment and then pitched forward on his face, in a perfect gore of blood, and in less than three minutes was dead. The axe entered Hitch's left shoulder and cut diagonally across the lower part of the breast bone, making a terrible wound. After the occurrence Taylor shouldered his weapon of death, and with his companion marched cooly away. He now went to Captain T. W. H. White's to whom he related the particulars of the affray, at the same time asking him what he should do, Captain White advised him to go to Princess Anne, and deliver himself up to the State authorities. We learn that a warrant has been issued for the murderer's arrest, but as we go to press he is still at large.
To give the reader some perspective of where the murder of Alfred Hitch occurred, I turn to a map of the area from 1876/77 (see illustration). The map is of the Princess Anne District of Somerset Co., Maryland. To the north (including the town of Upper Trappe - which is modern-day Allen) is Wicomico County and to the east is Worcester Co. The illustrated map is marked with numbers as follows:
1. The residence of William and Nancy/Ann (Pollitt-Morris) Hitch where Alfred was living at the time of his death.
2. S.Q. Parker's store next to the railroad tracks (on the west side of the tracks) in Eden Station where William Taylor, Thomas Flemming and Alfred Hitch had their first altercation.
3. The railroad tracks where Taylor and Flemming started walking after the altercation in the store. Alfred Hitch followed - ultimately to his death.
4. A house owned by Captain Thomas W.H. White where William Taylor may have sought refuge and advice following the murder. His house is not shown on this map, but is for the Trappe District of Wicomico County.
5. Railroad tracks leading to Princess Anne approximately five miles to the south. It is the county seat and location where the murder trial was held in Apr 1874.
6. An aside, the residence of Handy Irving Hitch (brother of the compiler's great-great-great grandfather Washington Henry Hitch) which is on a tract of land called "Mount Pleasant" originally purchased by Benjamin Hitch in 1765. This land is just on the east side of the road that divides the counties of Somerset and Worcester (this is modern-day Meadow Bridge Road). The M.E. Church shown just to the south of the I. Hitch residence is gone today, however, the cemetery is still there and contains many Hitch and related graves.
The compiler have traveled these roads quite frequently and have often wondered what it was like back when this map was produced in 1877; back when Benjamin Hitch bought his land in 1765 and; even further back when Adam Hitch moved here in the 1680 timeframe. The story of Alfred Hitch has piqued my imagination even further as I think what it must have been like to be sitting in Mr. Parker's store along the railroad tracks in Eden on New Years Eve 1873 and venturing outside with the three antagonists as the ghastly event took place. As mentioned earlier, Mr. Alfred Hitch might have been a real bear to get along with, but I do not believe that anyone would deserve quite such a fate!
By the way, our Mr. Taylor was subsequently apprehended and, it is from the May 2 1874 edition of the Kent News (Chestertown, Maryland) that we learn his eventual fate for the brutal murder of Alfred Hitch. An article in that newspaper states "Alfred Hitch, murdered, William Taylor tried in Princess Anne, Somerset County, last week, found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to 17 years, 3 months in the penitentiary. He is considerably past middle age and not likely to serve out his term."
However, a reference can be found to Mr. Taylor at the Hall of Records in Annapolis, Maryland that is of interest to this story. The reference, Prisoners Record, Maryland Penitentiary, gives the following listing: No. 8309, William Taylor (2nd time), Wicomico County, age 54. White, black hair, hazel eyes, 5'-9¼", resides in Wicomico County. Convicted of 2nd degree murder in Somerset County, received in 1874 to serve until Aug 1 1891. He was confined in the State Shop until pardoned on Mar 24 1886.
From this record, we glean several bits of interesting information regarding Mr. Taylor. Besides his physical characteristics, we see that he was born in about 1820 and resided in Wicomico County when he committed the murder. As prisoner number 8309, he seemed to be a repeat criminal noting the "2nd time" in parentheses next to his name. Finally, it appears that he got off on good behavior as he was pardoned at age 66, 5½ years before his sentence was to end.
Turning to the Federal Census of 1880, we find William Taylor, age 58, prisoner at the Maryland State Penitentiary on East Madison Street in Baltimore serving as a laborer. By that time, he was 6 years into his 17+ year sentence. More insight into his person is gleaned by looking at the 1870 Census, a time prior to the murder - where a Charles W. Taylor is listed in the Trappe District for the newly-formed Wicomico County (founded 1867) with himself as age 50 and his family; wife Eliza Taylor, age 47 and daughter Sarah L. Taylor (16). Although William Taylor is rather elusive in the earlier records, this writer feels reasonably certain that Charles W. Taylor is Charles William Taylor who is the William Taylor of this article. That family resides in the household directly next to John T. Fleming who is directly next to Thomas W.H. White. John T. Fleming is likely the Thomas Fleming also of this story and Thomas W.H. White is where William Taylor sought advice after the murder. Three years after the 1870 enumeration, Taylor was to murder Alfred Hitch and be sent to prison for 17 years.
William Taylor died at some point after being released from prison in 1886 and before the taking of the 1900 census (the majority of the 1890 census is not extant or this writer would have checked). As we can see, Mr. Taylor certainly left his mark on history and within the branches of the Hitch family and the rich story surrounding his violent interaction with the family led this writer to a wide variety of historical resources and records. Most of these records can be found at the Nabb Center at Salisbury University including its on-line digital newspaper archives where the Jan 3 1874 article telling of the murder can be found.