Murder & Suicide in Old Marietta


A beautiful spring day was closing on the town of Marietta in May of 1861. Shopkeepers were shutting down their stores; workers were joking and laughing on their walk home. Ohio Street became noisier as the sailors and dock workers climbed up the levee from the boats, heading to their favorite saloons. Overall it was a tranquil evening, the sky turning a soft, dark blue as the sun slipped below the horizon. A door opened on a nice house on Second Street, just above where Scammel Street intersects. A gentleman stepped outside, his appearance orderly and wealthy, and his wife followed him, her wide skirts brushing the door frame on either side. Evening is a pleasant time for a walk in Marietta, even today. However, the tranquil evening was about to turn into violent tragedy.

Mr. Davis Green was a big man about town: a prominent attorney, wise counselor and trusted Judge. For a man like Judge Green, business wasn’t always complete by the time the sun set in the sky. This evening, he prepared to work a few more hours after he escorted his wife to her father’s home for a visit. They parted ways at the corner of Scammel Street, and Judge Green continued down Second Street to his office. After he had passed a few houses, shots rang out and the good Judge slumped to the ground, bleeding profusely.

The town was still finding its way in 1861, and certain parts of the town seemed more like the Wild West than a sleepy New-England style town. Dangerous characters roamed the streets, and oftentimes violence rather than law was the way to settle a dispute. Evenings in old Marietta meant that most people were at home, or at the bar, enjoying a rest after their day’s exhausting activity.

Many people heard the shots ring out in the street, and everyone within ear shot ran to see what was going on. Some had even seen where the shots came from, and were quick to notify police that William McBride had shot Judge Green from the second floor of his home on Second Street. Judge Green was a very popular figure in Marietta; he was well-known for helping the unfortunate and was equal and fair as both an attorney and Judge. The man who had shot him was one of his clients, a man who just a year before had been on trial for a big crime.

William McBride was a man that never knew how to help himself. He was hard worker, but his temper often got the better of him and he had a skewed sense of justice. Instead of blaming himself for mistakes in the past, he would blame anyone and everyone around him. He was not popular in town, many people were wary of him way before his shooting of Judge Green. He owned a grocery business on Front Street. And in 1860, McBride was a partner at Harmar Mills. There was fierce competition between the flour mill in Harmar and Cram’s Mill in Marietta.

Cram's Mill

There had been bad blood between the two towns for years, in 1837 Harmar actually broke away from Marietta, forming a separate community. It is unclear what was the original cause of tension; it could be that Marietta was made much of as the ‘first settlement of the Northwest Territory’ when Fort Harmar was established 3 years earlier and had both soldiers and their families living in it before the arrival of the Ohio Company in 1788.

Whatever the reason for the contempt between the communities, McBride felt extreme loyalty to Harmar Mills, and was often heard to loudly express his feelings about Cram’s Mill in Marietta. In October of 1860, someone crept over bridge and set Cram’s Mill on fire. It burned to the ground. The obvious suspect for arson was William McBride. Davis Green was McBride’s attorney. Due to the lack of evidence and Green’s excellent representation, William McBride was acquitted of all charges. However, bitter and resentful that many people still believed he had been the arsonist, McBride did not see that he needed to pay the necessary fees to his attorney. Judge Green filed for payment, and William McBride’s grocery business was declared forfeit. Just as loud as he had been about his hatred for Cram’s Mill, McBride was now as vocal about his hatred for Judge Green. On the day McBride shot Green, the goods from his store were sold at auction.