The brief paragraphs that appeared in newspapers could hardly convey the tragedy of a murder-suicide, but there it was. The incident occurred at the farm of Francis Marion Shaw on Possum Creek Road near Ray City, GA on a late Friday afternoon 112 years ago today, September 21. James Merritt shot and killed his wife, then took his own life.
The following day an account of the incident appeared in the Richmond, VA Dispatch:
September 23, 1900, Page 17
Wife-Murder and Then Suicide
RAY’S MILL, GA., September 22. – James Merritt (white), aged about 47, killed his wife this morning, with a repeating rifle, and immediately turned the weapon upon himself and sent a bullet into his chest.
Mrs. Merritt was walking home with a woman neighbor, when her husband arose from a clump of bushes bu the side of the road, and with barely a word of warning shot her through the heart. Death was instantaneous.
Merritt then shot himself. The theory is that the woman and Merritt were not actually man and wife, but had eloped, leaving other families, and that officers were after them.
The Atlanta Constitution published a brief account with a few additional details:
The Atlanta Constitution
September 23, 1900
SHOT WOMAN, THEN HIMSELF
Tragedy Near Ray’s Mill on Last Friday Afternoon.
Nashville, Ga., September 22. — (Special.) On Friday afternoon. near Ray’s Mill, a man named Merritt shot and killed a woman named Hutchinson and then shot himself, both dying side by side. It seems they had been living together for some time, and hearing that the sheriff had warrants for them both, he tried to get her to leave with him. She would not. He then went off for a week, then returned, ambushed and shot her. He then told Mrs. F. M. Shaw, with whom they worked that he was going to kill himself. She ran to tell Mr. Shaw, but before she reached the house the rifle fired, and when Mr. Shaw reached him he was dying.
Bryan Shaw, descendant of Rachel and F.M. Shaw, has researched this tragic episode and published an article on the subject, Witness to Murder, in the Shaw family newsletter.
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