Local History TidBits

The Linden Murders - Unsolved!

William F. Brown Jr. published the book from which the following excerpts have been taken. This introduction presents the story of five brutal slayings in a rural area of Genesee County (NY) in a span of seven years and two months. This carnage, which snuffed out the lives of four women and one man, ocurred in a remote region of Genesee County where neighbors always know what neighbors are doing and no stranger goes unnoticed. The comings and goings of every deliveryman, every salesman, are charted and unconsciously recorded by men and women in fields, barns, kitchens and front porches.

Yet no one was ever arrested for any of these five murders. No motive was found. No connection among the killings was uncovered. No clues that could even suggest the identity of the slayer or slayers were ever found.

These five murders were, to the dismay and frustration of policemen, two sheriffs and two district attorneys, the perfect crimes.

Today, the hamlet of Linden is a cluster of thirty-six homes tucked among tree-covered hills in south-central Genesee County. Linden is nine miles south of Batavia and eight miles east of Attica. It is near no major highways. It has no churches, no schools, no gas stations, no Post Office. The rock-strewn Little Tonawanda Creek wanders sluggishly north through the valley that separates the two areas of Linden. A single railroad track bisects the community.

Seventy years ago the name Linden evoked the instant recognition that the name Attica has stirred since September, 1971. Seventy years ago Linden was the center of attention, unwelcome and unwanted attention. Linden then had about 100 residents. Within 17 months four of them met violent deaths. The crimes were never solved. No motive was unearthed. No suspect was arrested. No trial was ever held.

The Linden murders began October 16, 1922 when a frail 73-year-old spinster, Miss Franc Kimball, was killed in her home. Her head was beaten to a pulp and her body stuffed under a fruit cellar shelf. The crime was never solved.

Seventeen months later, March 11, 1924, three more residents were brutally slain, again in the early evening hours. Mrs. Mabel Morse went to a neighbor's for milk. The Whaley family lived only fifty yards from the Morse store and when Mrs. Morse failed to return, some men gathered at the store to listen to a radio program went looking for her.

They went to the Whaley residence and saw smoke seeping from the lighted small frame house. The doors were locked but someone broke a window and the men entered. They put out the smoldering fire in a first floor bedroom and, as the smoke cleared, saw three bodies in a pile covered with kerosene-soaked rag rugs and paper.

Thomas Whaley, a section hand on the Erie Railroad that ran behind his home, had been shot in the neck. His wife had a single gunshot wound in her head. Mrs. Morse had been clubbed to death with an adz handle found nearby. All three bodies were burned but recognizable.

An intense investigation followed. Several tramps, a common sight along the railroad in Linden, were questioned. Linden was overrun by police ( the Genesee County Sheriff's Department and the fairly-new New York State Police shared the investigation), reporters from throughout Western New York and sightseers who clogged the narrow snow-rutted roads.

Gradually, the frenzy abated. the newspaper headlines grew smaller. Soon it was the "first anniversary of the Linden triple murders." No connection, if there were any, could be deduced between the Kimball murder of 1922 and the triple slayings of 1924.

Gruesome and perplexing as they were, the Linden murders soon faded from the public's memory. In the Daily News edition of March 11, 1925, one year after the triple slayings, a four paragraph story on the front page said: "No clues were ever found that led to the arrest of the slayer." The final sentence read: "Genesee County authorities and clever detectives carried on during the next several weeks (after the murders) the most thorough murder investigations that could possibly be made, but the Linden slayer still goes unapprehended."

The most common belief was that a local resident went to rob the Whaleys and, in fear and panic, shot them. Mabel Morse happened by and was clubbed to death to remove the only witness to the crime. The intruder then tried to destroy by fire the evidence of his horrible crime. If the killer was a man (no woman suspects were ever mentioned) in his early 20's, he probably has been dead for decades. The average life expectancy of a man born in the early part of this century was 47 years.

"The Linden Murders" by William F. Brown Jr., Fifth Printing Sept. 1985


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