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Transcript of the Murder of Moses Spencer
Transcribed by Deb Spencer-Axtman,


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My great-great Grandfather, Moses Spencer, a founding pioneer of Tuscola County, was murdered in Bay County, Michigan, in 1865.  I am looking for any further details of the results of the murder trial of Calvin Hills, who killed Moses.  If anyone has information, please contact me.

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Transcription of Court Proceeding and Subsequent Report in The Bay City Journal - Thursday, March 9, 1865

Shooting Affair At Portsmouth - A Man Shot by a Soldier

A soldier named Calvin R. Hills, a corporal in Captain Lewis' Company, 29th Michigan Infantry, who is home on a furlough, shot a man named Spencer, at Portsmouth, on Monday morning last. Spencer lived but a few minutes after he was shot. He leaves a family of five children, we are informed. Hills, who made no effort to escape, was immediately arrested. He was examined before Justice Randall on the afternoon of the 6th inst. The following is the testimony given on the occasion.

Henry Ellison sworn: I live in Portsmouth, know defendant. He made it his home at Spencer's with his children. Was in my barn yard when the fuss first commenced between him and Mrs. Baker, across one block. Mrs. Baker called on me for assistance. Saw defendant and Mrs. Baker and her little boy George and a little child, no one else. I took it slow because I did not think there was any great trouble. She came out a second time, and called - said "hurry! come into the house and assist me." and I quickened my pace and went in. Defendant stood on the north side of the house at the back part of the room - could not get quite against the back part on account of a table against the wall. The dispute seemed to be about some furniture goods. Defendant spoke "these goods I am going to have, I am going to take them out." Mrs. Baker said "no, you shan't." She ordered him out of the home and said if he would go out of the house she would take the things out herself. He said he wouldn't: that he would shoot any dammed man that attempted to assist her. I had not then seen any weapon.  Mr. Spencer then came in, and said, "What, what! Can't you get along without shooting women?" I stood three or four feet inside of the house, in front of the door, with the side of my face toward the door. Spencer stood in front of him. I saw defendant turn, and saw that he had a pistol and I told Spencer to take care, that he had a pistol. Spencer said, "I don't care, I am not afraid of the pistol" and made one step toward him with his hands down at his side. (sentence unreadable) ed toward to stick, and it stood in the corner of the door and window.  Can't say whether Spencer had taken his hand off from it or not. Defendant said, "You ain't damm you, and shot him at that instant. Spencer turned around and said he - " Hank, he's done it." I didn't think he was hurt until he commenced to spit blood just as he was going out doors. Saw defendant draw his revolver and cock it at Spencer. Mr. Bunnell has got the revolver - said he should keep it for a debt defendant owed him. I went to Bunnell's store and cried "murder". I can't say who went back with me. Found defendant taking his things out. Spencer died in about fifteen minutes. Spencer made no motion with his club. Spencer said "you must not draw that pistol at me again." These were the last words that were spoken by Spencer until he was shot. Have known Spencer 18 years. When I started to go into the house, Spencer was making stakes to put into his bunk, not more than four rods from Mrs. Baker's house.

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Cross Examination: I was hitching my cattle on the wagon. I was about the same distance from the house as Spencer. I passed about two rods from Spencer. He was making pins for his bunk, some 22 inches long. Spencer was at his work and did not know that he was going to leave it until I saw him come into the house. Room about 11 by 16: door at the east end.
Defendant 6 or 8 feet from the door on the right hand side as near the wall as he could get but for a table. Window on the right hand side of the door; about 8 inches between door and window. Can't say as anything stood under window. Was not excited. Defendant on the same side of the window.  There was a temporary buttery on the north east corner of the room. The table touched the north side of the room but the buttery kept the table from touching the east wall. Defendant was standing at the table when Spencer came in. He was having some hard words with Mrs. Baker. She was a good deal excited. I asked if he was not in big business shooting women. When Spencer came in he had a stick in his hand. He stood at my right hand near the door, and had the stick in his right hand. As soon as I told Spencer that defendant had a pistol, he said he was not afraid of the pistol and immediately stepped towards defendant. Whether he had let go of the stick or not I can not say. His right arm was extended somewhat out from his shoulder. This stick was about five feet long and more than two inches thick - it had been sawed off at both ends, and commenced to saw about 18 or 20 inches at one end of the stick, one-third way in two. I
think a black ash stick about half round. I had seen the stick laying by his side and he took hold of the stick as I started into the house. I had been in but a very short time when Spencer came in. I had never noticed the stick before. I did not stop as I went by Spencer going in. I turned my eyes toward him as I went by. I know it was the same stick that he had by his sleigh because there was no other stick like that around there. I never examined to see whether there was any other stick there until I went back this forenoon. Defendant said, "stand back, or damm you, I'll shoot you." Spencer answered that he was not afraid, and advanced one step forward, which brought him within five feet of the defendant.

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Re-examined: The stick was leaning up against the window when Spencer went out. After Spencer was shot his hand was dropped down by his side. The stick was not in his hand when he came out of the door.

Re-cross examined: Can't say how the stick came against the wall unless Spencer left it there himself.

Re-examined: Spencer stepped one little step toward him - one short step with one foot.

Mrs. Mary Baker sworn: I lived in Portsmouth. Have lived there more than a year. Know defendant; lived a neighbor to me a short time before he enlisted. I saw him first near 7 o'clock this morning at my house. He sat and talked about his wife and children. I had bought some furniture off her before she went away, after he went to the army. He seemed to get excited talking about Spencer and his family. I told him that I wanted him
to go out of my house - that I considered he was abusing me and my neighbors. He said he would not go. I called to Ellison and Spencer to put defendant out of the house. I am a widow woman and alone - When I stepped back from calling them he took his revolver from his belt and held it toward my breast and told me that if I opened my lips again he would
blow me through. I couldn't tell what passed. He held the pistol within less than a foot of my breast. I was so stunned that I can't recollect what took place when Ellison came in. Ellison made a remark that it was no mark of a gentleman to be threatening a woman, or something to that effect. Spencer came in a short time. Can't recollect what he said, but it was something about shooting women. Defendant told Spencer something to the effect of his showing it or taking the contents of his revolver. Spencer had a stick in his hands when he first stepped in the door. He stood it up against the casing between the door and the window, and leg of the stick and stopped several paces back, between me and the defendant. Then was when Spencer spoke about shooting women. Hills made the reply that he might get the same. I looked up and defendant had the pistol in his hand. Spencer made the reply that he did not fear him, or something to that effect. He drew the pistol then immediately and fired. He either said when he fired, "take that, or There it is." Don't remember whether Spencer spoke after that or not. As he stepped towards the door he turned towards the door and turned his head towards me and fixed his mouth as if to spit
and then spit blood upon the door step, stepped several steps outside of the door, leaned forward and fell a short distance from the door - about 30 or 40 feet from the door. His wife and daughter Ellen helped to carry him in. I heard afterwards that defendant helped carry him in. I saw him in his house dead. Defendant went to carrying out the property that I had bought off his wife out of doors as soon as he shot him. No person about
but Ellison, myself and my little boy at the time of the shooting. No one came in until Spencer was carried home. Albert Miller was the first man I saw. Defendant put the pistol into his belt I think, and it remained there until it was taken from him. I said to Miller, "Take his revolver from him as he will shoot someone else." Miller asked him for it (sentence unreadable) give it up. I asked Miller to take him out. I didn't want him to shoot another man in my house. Miller took him and the crowd huddled around him and I supposed they took the pistol from him. I didn't see Hill anymore.

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(For want of space we are obliged to omit the cross-examination of this witness)

Dr. Jeffrey R. Thomas sworn: Know defendant and Spencer, the deceased. Saw the body of Spencer at his residence in Portsmouth. Am a physician. Found a punctured wound in the breast bone between the _____ of the third and fourth ribs - made by some round instrument a gun shot wound I presume; traced it downward and backwards. Traced the wound 3 or 4 inches to the right ventricle of the heart which was wounded. It went through the ventricle and into the upper lobe of the left lung. The wound was necessarily fatal.

Cross-examination: The wound was about an inch higher than the left nipple a little left of the centre of the breast bone. The external wound was a little higher than the wound in the bone. The integument or covering over the bone must have been drawn down when the shot was given.

Luther Beckwith, Esq. Prosecuting Attorney, appeared on behalf of the people and T. C. Grier, Esq. acted as a counsel for Hills.

The prisoner was committed to take his trial at the next sitting of the circuit court.

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October 12, 1999

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