Over a year has passed since the discovery in our collection of a letter written in 1839 containing the story of a possible murder. Abel Randall in Bolton, New York, wrote to his brother, Jared in Kirtland, Ohio, about the exhumation of the body of their sister, Sally Randall Place. In the letter Abel reveals that the physicians who examined the exhumed body found that Sally had died of Arsenic poisoning. Suspicion had grown that Sally’s husband, Nathan Place, had murdered Sally in order to marry their house maid, Lucy A. Robins. The newly married Lucy, who was just 14 at the time, was already expecting a baby by Nathan. Nathan and Lucy were brought before a Grand Jury, but no charges were brought because the evidence was too circumstantial.
The letter spurred a modern day investigation by the LCHS into the incident to try to determine just who these people were, and, if possible, find out what happened to Sally. This is the fourth installment of the saga. So far, we have learned who all the players were and have discovered that many of them were related to or were significant to Ohio history and Mormon history.
This installment of the story will revolve around who the Randalls were – Jared and Matilda – and their Lake County history.
The Randall family were prominent in New York. Many family members were buried in Federal Hill Cemetery in what is known today as Bolton Landing. Sally’s final resting place is there. However, Jared moved his family to Kirtland, Ohio. Jared’s wife, Matilda, was the daughter of John Tanner, a prominent Mormon convert who followed in the Mormon migration to Kirtland when the temple was built there.
Jared and Matilda owned two plots of land in Kirtland on Chillicothe Road. The primary plot just south of the Kirtland Temple was located near the present day Kirtland Public Library is, and this became the Jared Randall homestead. The other plot of land was further south of Billings Road and just north of Chardon Road.
Though the Randall family moved to Kirtland in 1835 along with the Tanners, they did not become members of the Mormon church. When the Tanners moved to Missouri with the Mormon followers who left Kirtland, Jared Randall went with his wagon to help them move, then returned to Kirtland and bought the farm John Tanner had owned. The Randalls remained there. Jared died in his home in 1883 surrounded by his family (his death notice is in the May 10, 1883 Painesville Telegraph).
The reason for the Mormon exodus from Kirtland is well documented. The Kirtland Safety Society Bank had failed. It had been started by the Mormon leadership without a bank charter. The Mormon community were encouraged to make deposits in the bank, and many did. However, the deposits were not secured. When depositors tried to withdraw their funds, they were told they could not.
A pioneer of Kirtland named Christopher Crary later wrote in a series of articles submitted to the Willoughby Independent in 1893 entitled Pioneer and Personal Reminiscences about an encounter with John Tanner shortly after the Kirtland Safety Society failed. He states, “One day I met John Tanner coming out of the bank. I saw that he was feeling bad, and spoke to him rather sympathizing. He said he wanted to tell me how he had been used. We stepped to one side, and he said that he had put all his money into the bank, and now when he wanted to draw a few dollars to support his family they refused to let him have a dollar, and abused and threatened and insulted him for asking. Subsequently he had some articles of property which he took into Portage County and traded for cheese; this he brought to Kirtland and traded for other provisions. This was violating Mormon rules – that all marketing should be done through the market-master. He was brought up before the church. I happened down there and went into the Temple to hear the trial. The market-master stated his case, and Joseph Smith made a speech showing the necessity of strictly obeying the rules. He was convicted, but I do not recollect the amount of the fine. Yet John tanner stuck to his faith, and left for Missouri with the camp, though he was a man of good ability, strict integrity, and respected by all who knew him. It was marvelous to see with what tenacity they held to their faith in the prophet, when they knew they had been robbed, abused and insulted.”
Another story found while researching the Randalls was of Louisa Maria Tanner Lyman who took a trip back to Kirtland from her home in Utah in 1887 to visit her only living sister, Matilda Randall, after an absence of fifty years. She was escorted by her son, Apostle Francis M. Lyman of the Mormon church; but unfortunately no details of their visit were recorded. Matilda Tanner Randall died the next year in Kirtland, on April 17, 1888, at age 83.
Of the six children Jared and Matilda had, four lived to adulthood, and Henry John Randall is the easiest for whom information can be found. H. J. Randall married Jane Ellis Gotham. He became a deacon in the Disciples of Christ Church of Willoughby. Their home was the red brick house at 4330 Sherwin Road (which used to be named Randall Road). The house was built by John Gotham, Jane’s father. This house was featured in an article entitled The Country Life in Northern Ohio LIVE, November 1983, and it is on the LCHS Heritage Home Registry.
Henry John Randall’s sister, Maria Louisa, married Madison Cooley Tuttle. There are many descendants of these two families still in Lake County. Most of the Jared Randall family were buried in the Willoughby Village Cemetery. Maria and Madison Tuttle and many of their family were buried in the Mentor Municipal Cemetery.
The next installment of “Arsenic and Old Letters” will be the fifth and final installment. We will follow Nathan and Lucy Place to their final resting place.