Archive for June 2010

An Execution in Charlestown- Part 2

June 18, 2010

Crowds in front of the Dedham Court House during the trial

The scene at the Readville train station on March 2, 1934 was just a preview of the frenzy that would surround the Millen Brothers’ case over the next year. Several thousand people gathered at the station to greet the brothers upon their arrival from New York. The crowds continued to gather throughout the trial, with curious onlookers from all over the country heading to Dedham to get a look at the accused and the beautiful young bride, Norma. School kids played hookey and waited in front of the court house to see the defendants brought from the jail. People dressed in suits and carrying briefcases tried to pass themselves off as lawyers in order to sneak into the court room. With Faber’s confession already in hand, the trio would have had a difficult time proving their innocence, and so their lawyers pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Incredibly, Faber’s confession in late February included the details of a Lynn theater hold-up and murder for which 2 cab drivers were on trial in Salem. The judge suspended the trial and freed the 2 men just as the DA was about to present his closing argument. This bizarre chapter in the Millen Brothers case was later dramatized in the 1939 film “Let Us Live,” starring Henry Fonda.

After a two month trial, all three men were found guilty and sentenced to death. The men certainly did their best to avoid their fate by attempting several escapes from the Dedham Jail, but by June of 1935, all appeals had been exhausted and the electric chair awaited them at the state prison in Charlestown. After the executions, the drama continued as a mob of onlookers tussled with members of the Millen families at the cemetery dusing burial services.

Twenty-year old Norma Millen was released from the Dedham Jail two months later, and disappeared into obscurity. Although the case received as much attention in 1934 as the Sacco-Vanzetti trial had a few years earlier, today it remains a little known chapter in Norfolk County legal history. Look up my May 23, 2010 post “The Cage is Removed” to see a courtroom sketch of Faber and the Millens sitting in the “cage” during the trial.

Above- the “lovely” Norma Millen, Below- Norma exercising in the yard of the Dedham Jail

75 years ago- An execution in Charlestown

June 7, 2010

June 7, 1935- Irving Millen, Murton Millen, and Abraham Faber are executed in the electric chair at Charlestown State Prison a year after their convictions in the Dedham Court for the murder of a Needham police officer during a robbery at The Needham Trust Company. Faber and the Millen Brothers, all in their early twenties, had begun a short but violent crime spree in the fall of 1933 and winter of 1934, robbing banks and other businesses in the Greater Boston area and leaving four men dead.

The Needham robbery on February 2, 1934 was like a scene right out of a gangster movie, with sub-machine guns blazing and a terrified bank employee hanging on to the running board of the getaway car as it raced through town. Needham police officers Forbes McLeod and Frank Haddock were gunned down by the robbers; McLeood when he responded to the bank alarm and Haddock as he stood with a Needham fireman in front of the Needham firehouse.

After finding the burned out wreckage of the getaway car in a wooded area of Norwood, police were able to trace a battery repair job to Irving and Murton Millen and their friend Abraham Faber. Millen, his 19 year old wife and brother Irving manged to escape to New York, but were captured after a wild gun battle in the lobby of a New York City hotel. Faber was apprehended in Boston. While the brothers and Murton’s young bride rode the famed Yankee Clipper train back to Dedham to face justice, Abraham Faber began to talk. NEXT: The TRIAL

NY Times February 24, 1934

Happy 200th SIDFAHT!

June 4, 2010

On June 4, 1810, the Society in Dedham for Apprehending Horse Thieves was founded by group of men in town who were fed up with “the nefarious practice of horse-stealing” in Dedham and the neighboring towns of Norfolk County. Membership gave you the full benefit of the Society’s crime detecting and thief apprehending powers, which consisted mostly of putting up posters and taking out newspaper ads such as this one from 1822:

By the end of the nineteenth century, the usefulness of such a group had lessened considerably, and as other such societies in nearby towns disbanded, Dedham’s began a new life as a social organization. Entertainment was featured at each annual meeting, and charitable donations were made to such groups as the Dedham Emergency Nursing Association. Today the Society is believed to be the oldest such organization still in existence, and will celebrate 200 years of protecting Dedham and Norfolk County at its annual meeting in December. I am proud to be the vice-president of this venerable institution, and invite all of you to join up and do your part to keep our town and county safe from felonious thieves of horse-flesh for the next century.

To read a more detailed history written by Clerk-Treasurer Robert Hanson, and to learn about becoming a member, go to our website:
Look for more posts about SIDFAHT during this, our bicentennial year!

The Community House will be rockin’ on Saturday!

June 2, 2010

Come on down this Saturday, June 5th from 10:00- 8:00 and enjoy the Dedham Square Music and Arts festival. I am pitching a tent and selling and signing my book, so be sure and stop by and say hi. Check out the festival’s website for the complete schedule:

While you’re there, take a look at the front door latch of the 1795 mansion. Some people believe the X shaped mark inscribed into the metal is a hexmark to keep witches out. What do you think?