by Frank Ohlegschlager
at the Inquest and the Crime
Frank Ohlegschlager is the confessed murderer of William Henry Woolridge. The crime was committed between 9 and 10 o’clock Friday night while the men were crossing what is known as the double bridge about six miles west of this city. --?-- hours later the murderer’s confession was wrung from him by the officers. It was a cold and cruel tragedy. The murderer was accompanying his victim to the later’s home when the dreadful act was committed.
The first part of the double bridge is straight. It begins at the county road on the east and is about 150 feet long. The ---?-- part is slightly curved about the --?-- length. It joins the county road which leads to West Portland. The road --?- of the first part is now being repaired. When James Ryan, one of the employees began work yesterday morning he found the same bloodstains and signs of the struggle that Woolridge had seen, and also some hair at the end of the bridge.
The coroner and his party viewed the bridge and surroundings, and then resumed their journey through the snow to Woolridge’s home, nearly a mile distant. The house is a simple affair, constructed of boards, with wide interatices, through which the wind blew incessantly. Several neighbors and friends were seated about stoves in two rooms, while the one in which the dead body laid was deserted. About 25 residents of the section, many of whom had never before seen a coroner, followed the party into the house and watched Mr. Holman’s movements with considerable interest.
Andrew Neff, proprietor of the South Portland saloon, on the northwest corner of Corbett street and Bancroft avenue, was the first witness. He stated that when he went on duty about 6 o’clock Friday night as --?- Woolridge, Ohlegschlager and another man playing cards for drinks. Woolridge drank one glass of beer and took several cigars; Ohlegschlager drank two glasses of beer and took some cigars. About --?- o’clock both men left, intending to catch the West Portland motor and go home. They missed the car, and returned to the saloon, where they played cards until ? o’clock, but neither one drank anything. Then Woolridge arose and started to go. His companion evidently pressed him to stay, for Woolridge said: “No, I won’t; I promised the old lady to be home early and I’m going.” He drew a sack of money from his pocket and walked to the counter to pay for some drinks. So far as Neff could see the money was all silver. He thought than Woolridge had about $30 in all. Neff saw two holes in the sack and told Woolridge to be careful or he would lose his money. Woolridge did not reply and Neff gave him a cloth tobacco bag, and threw the old sack away. He returned the money to his pocket, and Neff thought Ohlegschlager watched him curiously. Both men then left the place.
Ohlegschlager held his head erect and maintained a rather firm front when Coroner Holman examined him regarding the facts of the case. But when the officers interrogated him, and the jurors plied him with questions about various points, he grew nervous. His eyes roved about the room in the evident hope of finding something upon which to fix his attention. He clenched his hands almost involuntarily, then looked like a schoolboy who is about to be punished for an offense which he had committed, and then doubled his fists and assumed a defensive attitude. All of which did not escape the observation of the officers.
When Ohlegschlager finished the coroner asked him to sign his statement. He replied, “I cannot write.” The statement was signed b y the clerks and Ohlegschlager made his mark, which was witnessed by Mr. Lafferty.
“I do not,” he replied; “father gives me a half dollar or a dollar when I want it, and that is all.”
Another consultation followed and then Ohlegschlager was told to step aside. He started out of the room, apparently much relieved, but was called back by Mr. Thomas and told to stand in one corner of the room. There was some excitement among the 30 or 40 spectators who had crowded into the house. All wanted to know if he was the murderer. There was a whispered conversation between two big, determined-looking fellows, and then both tried to push their way into the room. Fearing trouble, the officers stated that Ohlegschlager was only an important witness and would be taken to Portland to testify. This explanation was satisfactory, and there was no further disorder.
William Wallace Woolridge and Elfe Spencer, woodchoppers by occupation, testified, but their statements were only in regard to the first story told by Ohlegschlager, which was all they knew of the matter. Young Woolridge said that both men had been drinking, as he could smell liquor. Woolridge, two of his brothers and Spencer have a cabin about a mile from the Woolridge home. W. W. Woolridge is about 25 years old and Spencer 19.
Francis Marion Reed, of West Portland, a farmer and mechanic by occupation, was the last witness. He said he was in the grocery store and postoffice station on the night of the murder until 9:30 o’clock. There were lights in the store until that time and it was not closed until he left. If Ohlegschlager passed the place at 9:30, as he said, he certainly would have seen a light. The witness said that the distance from the cabin of the Woolridge boys to the double bridge is about 1 ¼ miles, and could be covered by a runner in about 20 minutes.
It was late when Reed finished, and the jury had to adjourn in order to catch the last train to town. It was decided to hold a meeting at 2 p.m. today, in the coroner’s office, to agree upon a verdict. Then the party left the house and started over the hills through a driving snowstorm for West Portland, a mile distant, followed by a crowd of men, all anxious to know what was to be done with Ohlegschlager. The prisoner took maters very coolly, as did his brother Adam, who accompanied him. While waiting for the train, the party enjoyed the luxuries of a West Portland dinner at the expense of Coroner Holman.
“We cannot let this pass, or we will have a murder every night,” said one.
“Yes; we should certainly make an example of this fellow,” replied the other.
“Do you mean the murderer of Woolridge?” asked a reporter, who overheard the conversation. “Do you suspect anybody of the crime?”
“No,” he said, winking at his companion as a signal for silence.
“Has such a man as Ohlegschlager been seen about here?”
“No; and there has been no such man out here, for I have made diligent inquiries.”
Then the party came to Portland on the West Portland motor, and Ohlegschlager was taken in charge by Constable Al Thomas and Deputy Sheriff Wood. They took him to Mr. Thomas’ office and “worked” him. Ohlegschlager is an extremely ignorant fellow, but could realize the enormity of his crime and the penalty, and refused to talk. The officers questioned him for some time without any result. Then they agreed upon a clever plan of cross-examination and the prisoner became confused. A direct charge of murder broke him down, and he confessed.
Ohlegschlager is a son of John Ohlegschlager, a farmer living near Fulton. For many years, the family lived on the old McAdam road. There are several children. Frank is of medium height, dark complected, with brown eyes and black hair. He is not a vicious-looking fellow.
Areas referred to in the article
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* Neff's Saloon located on the northwest corner of
Corbett street and Bancroft avenue.
* Macadam Avenue.
Runs in a northernly direction parallel to the river.
* The community of Fulton