Monday, September 29, 2014

Dearborn Cemetery Part 2

The deaths of Hattie and William Moore caused much speculation. The couple married in 1872 and ranched along the Benton-to-Helena Road where they also kept a stage station. In the fall of 1885, Hattie moved to Dearborn City, some ten miles from the ranch, so their three children could attend school. Teachers usually boarded with their students’ parents. Thus teacher J. C. McConnell came to board with Hattie. She and McConnell soon became the subject of scandalous gossip.

Hattie’s rented home suspiciously burned to the ground and the family barely escaped. Hattie and William quarreled over McConnell. William demanded that she and the children return to the ranch. McConnell gave Hattie a .44 British Bulldog “pocket” revolver to take with her for protection. In the meantime, a second arson fire destroyed the Dearborn City hotel. An investigation revealed that McConnell was the arsonist. However, he was never prosecuted.

Hattie Moore. Courtesy Charleen Spalding, via Gayle (Moore) Tadday
In February 1886, soon after Hattie’s return to the ranch, the Moores placed their children at St. Peter’s Mission, paid for three years’ tuition, and began divorce proceedings. On February 25, travelers discovered the bodies of William and Hattie amid the signs of a violent struggle. Hattie lay propped in a doorway. Her husband sprawled nearby on top of a Winchester rifle with one shot in the breast, another to the head.

William Moore. Courtesy Charleen Spalding, via Gayle (Moore) Tadday
The coroner theorized that during a quarrel, Hattie drew her revolver; William grabbed it and threw it outside. Hattie went for the Winchester, fired at her husband, missed, and fired again, hitting him in the breast. A struggle ensued. William shot his wife in the side, staggered toward her and embraced her. Hattie’s bloody finger prints were smeared across his shoulders. He then stood up and shot himself in the head. Widely publicized as murder-suicide, the coroner’s jury actually found the Moores died “by their own hands or at the hands of others.”

Several years later, on December 7, 1889, at a Helena hotel, J. C. McConnell put a .44 Bulldog to his temple. Was it the same gun he gave Hattie? McConnell may have had money troubles, but he was implicated in the two arson cases and there were suspicions about his complicity in the Moores’ deaths. McConnell took the answers with him when he pulled the trigger.

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