If you’ve ever been to New Meadows Cemetery on Purinton Rd. you’ve probably seen the red granite marker engraved “KILLED IN DEFENCE OF HIS DAU.” and wondered what exactly happened to Joseph Crockett. If you’re like me, you might have gone so far as to look in Brunswick or Bath newspapers for a 1910 obituary and come up empty handed.
Now, thanks to a newspaper article posted on the website DrBronsonTours.com, we know that by 1910 the Crockett family had moved from Maine to Florida. We also know how Joseph Crockett died:
St. Augustine Record
June 12, 1910
One is Brained; Two are Shot
Tragic Result of Affray in North End of County.
Jos. Crockett Shoots Daughter and Son-in-Law and is Killed in Self-Defense.
Brained with an axe by his son-in-law, Charles Tappin, in whom but a moment before he had buried two bullets from a pistol, Joseph Crockett is dead, his son-in-law is seriously and perhaps fatally wounded and his daughter is suffering from two bullet wounds. The tragic affray occurred in the Switzerland neighborhood in the northern end of the county late Saturday afternoon. The killing of Crockett was in self-defense.
News of the crime was received in St. Augustine yesterday and Coroner Mackey and Deputy Sheriff Joe Apler hurried to the scene and spent the day there on the case. A coroner’s jury with Gregg Carrera as foremen was summoned by Judge Mackey and an inquest was held over the remains of Crockett and the entire tragedy was thoroughly investigated. The jury, without hearing Tappin at all brought in a verdict that Crockett came to his death by the use of an axe or some other blunt instrument in the hands of Tappin but in self-defense. Accordingly Tappin was not held for the killing. The jury was not secured from the immediate neighborhood but was drawn from some miles distant in order that there might be no possible chance of prejudice.
From the evidence that was submitted it appears that there has long been bad feeling between Crockett and his son-in-law. This has existed ever since Tappin married Crockett’s daughter about two years ago, Crockett endeavoring at that time to have the marriage annulled.
Crockett is understood to have received a letter from his daughter on Saturday but the contents of this were not made known. That afternoon he engaged F. E. Pacetti to drive him over the long distance to Switzerland. He acted a little strange all of the time but did nothing to especially arouse any suspicions in the mind of Mr. Pacetti.
When they reached the outside of the Tappin home Crockett left Mr. Pacetti and the team and disappeared around an old house that stands in front of the home. But a few moments later Mr. Pacetti heard five shots fired in rapid succession and followed by a woman’s scream. The tragedy had been enacted by the time he reached the spot.
From the evidence it appears that Tappin’s children came into the house and told him that they had seen a man skulking about outside. He went out and looked under the house but saw no one, but as he turned to reenter the house he came face to face with Crockett standing in the doorway with a pistol in his hand. He immediately opened fire and one shot struck the younger man over the heart, but glanced up slightly while another struck him on the head through not in such a way as to inflict a mortal wound. Mrs. Tappin was standing by her husband and two of the bullets grazed her, one on her arm and another on the neck. Both are only flesh wounds.
Tappin, though desperately wounded, closed with his assailant and in the mix-up succeeded in wrenching his pistol from him and striking him over the head. They then reeled over near the wood pile and Tappin dropped the pistol and secured the axe and crushed in the entire right temple of Crockett’s skull. Death must have been instantaneous.
Tappin is well known and respected throughout the northern end of the county. He is a hard-working and industrious farmer and is held in high esteem by his neighbors. Crockett has for some time been employed as a street cleaner in St. Augustine.
-end of St. Augustine Record article-
What was in the letter the former Emily Crockett wrote to her father? Why did he try to have her marriage to Charles annulled? Census information provides clues but no answers:
In 1900, Charles Tappin was a married man from Barbados. He worked in the kitchen of a hotel in Portland, Maine. He lived with other workers in the hotel, without his wife. Joseph and Georgia Crockett and their 5 children lived in Brunswick, Maine, where Crockett was a farm laborer. One of the children was an 8-year-old daughter whose name may have been Amny or Nancy.
In 1910, Tappin and the Crockett family all lived in Florida. Tappin was a 38-year-old farmer, married to 18-year-old Nancy. The marriage was the second for Tappin and the first for Nancy. There were three children in the household, two girls ages 7 and 9, and an infant named Charles. The Crocketts had only 2 children at home. Crockett was a laborer for the city of St. Augustine.
In 1920, the Tappins were still together. The 2 older girls had left home, but 4 younger siblings remained. Mrs. Tappin’s first name was Emily, but she and her parents were born in Maine. Perhaps she chose to use her middle name after the death of her father. One of her brothers was married with a family of his own and living in Florida. Though her mother, Georgia, lived until 1965, she didn’t appear as Georgia Emma Crockett in the 1920, -30, 0r -40 censuses available on-line.
We don’t know if Crockett objected to the 20-year age difference between Charles and Nancy/Emily. We don’t if Crockett was upset by the way Charles treated her. We don’t even know what happened to Georgia Crockett after her husband was killed. We only know that someone believed Joseph Crockett died trying to protect his daughter.
Next Blog in two weeks: The Forgotten Patriot