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Treasures of the Archives: Midnight Murder, Spokane County Death Records

Unknown Death Certificate, Spokane County, 1888, Spokane County Death Return Collection, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives.

Unknown Death Certificate, Spokane County, 1888, Spokane County Death Return Collection, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov.

This death certificate is part of a 120 year old murder mystery. The deceased is listed simply as “man unknown.” He was shot three times on Oct 1st 1888 by an “unknown party.” The online Google News Archive provides another piece of the puzzle. In an October 4th 1888 article entitled “Midnight Murder,” the gruesome details of the crime are reported. The man was shot while sleeping in a cabin near Front Street and the Spokane River. The man’s coat and pants “were found smeared with blood some twelve feet distant from the body, where they had been thrown after being rifled through by the murderer.” The only piece of evidence for a possible suspect was a notebook found with the man detailing $14.80 due to him from some unknown “contractor.” Like many crimes of the western frontier, the case was never solved. But evidence of it still remains in the Washington State Archives. There are many unknown death certificates in the Digital Archives Death Records Collection. Who knows what further mysteries await within?

Special thanks to Assistant Digital Archivist Larry Cebula and Charles Hanson of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society.