… Samuel Coovert ( scape goat /jay mark / fall guy )
army head wound detached to home 3 months
The others Meets
THE ROOSA MASSACREPractically every county has a startling multiple murder that has taken place in bygone years and the story with all it’s gory details, has been handed down from one generation to another. In reading the newspaper stories of which mass murders, one becomes very aware of the change in journalistic writing in the last 100 yrs. We find such expressions as “brave little Nettie (Jeanette) alone in the house with five silent forms” or the “white snow in the lane was crimson-streaked” or “she lapsed into eternal sleep”. The accounts were written to play upon the reader’s emotions and in that way were very successful.
The Warren County murder that still can claim to be the most gruesome occured December 26, 1864, on the John Roosa
farm one mile north of Deerfield (South Lebanon) about midnight of that day. It was according to newspaper accounts,
“the most horrible in the annals of crime.” One adult, the Roosa’s “hired man”, Jesse Couzens and three Roosa children,
Alice 13, Francis 11 and little Harry, lying by his mother’s side, were all killed by one man with a dull axe which belonged
to the house. Mrs. Roosa was bludgeoned into unconsciousness by the same dull axe, but by a miracle recovered.
The father, John Roosa, was a patient in the “Lunatic Asylum” at Dayton where he had gone voluntarily because of regular
monthly attacks of lunacy or in our more modern vernacular, severe depression.
Mr. Roosa was a township treasurer and most of the time was capable of taking care of the business. Just before the time of the murder, Mr. Roosa had written a letter instructing her to sell their barley crop of 800 bushels and to keep the money at the house for the purpose of paying orders on the township treasury. Unfortunately, the letter was read aloud in a store in Deerfield (South Lebanon) in the presence of a number of persons. This publicity was, of course, the cause behind the robbery and murders. However, only about $20.00 was found in the house.
Excitement ran high and Mr. Roosa was accused until it was proved that he had not left the institution. Several others were arrested, proved their innocence and were released. Finally a former Deerfield resident named Samuel Coovert presented himself to the Proscecuting Attorney with the story that a saloon keeper from Cincinnati named David Hicks had confessed the massacre to him. He enlarged upon the story to such an extent that suspicions were aroused. Hicks was able to prove that he was not involved and subsequently Coovet was tried and found guilty of perjury and sent to the penitentiary for five years.
Investigations of his stories and activities pointed to the fact that he himself was guilty of the murders. He was removed from the penitentiary and brought to Lebanon to stand traial. All of these investigations had consumed two years so it was not until March 1, 1866 that Samuel Coovert’s trail began with George Smith as judge and George Sage from the office of the proscecuting attorney. Mrs. Roosa during the two year interval had recovered although she was badly scared on the face and neck. She was able to testify at the trial and her most vital statement was to the effect that the murderer had held the axe in his left hand. Sam Coovert was found to be lefthanded. In identifying him, Mrs. Roosa said, “He looks like the man, his eyes look to me like the mans’s, they have the same staring look, I noticed it every time I look at him.” Little Jeanette, who by the time of the trial was nine, also said that Sam Coovert “looked like” the man but since she was hiding under the bed she could not say for sure. The trial lasted several days and a guilty of first degree murder verdict was returned. However, it was learned that one
juror had expressed the opinion before the trial that Coovert was guilty. Another trial was ordered, the same verdict was reached and Samuel Coovert was sentenced to die.
The scaffold for the execution of Sam Coovert was built in the yard behind the jail in Lebanon for the execution had been ordered to take place in Warren County. A large crowd gathered on August 24, 1866 and promptly at “12 o’clock the doomed man was taken to the scaffold. He seemed very weak but quite calm. Standing on the trap door soon to fall beneath him.” he again stated his innocence in a “steady voice”. The minister offered a prayer for, ” the soul that was about to be hurried into eternity, prepared or unprepared”….”Goodbye, Sam, I will meet you at the judgement seat and then all hearts will be known.”
The black cap was drawn over his face and the hook above was fastened to cord on the cap, he said, ” An innocent man gentlemen, I am.” “God bless you, Sam Coovert, good bye,” said the Sheriff.
“Good bye,” responded Coovert.
Then the lever was moved and the door fell and Samuel Coovert was sent into eternity.
Samuel Coovert is the only man to be executed in Warren County.
This in it’s briefest form is the melodramatic story of the famous Roosa Massacre. If Samuel Coovert were innocent as he insisted, a dear price had been exacted from him. In all of the intervening years no new evidence has come to light that would help to prove his innocence. The story has been told and retold until it is almost a Warren County folk-tale. Unfortunately, it is true!