Murder, She Heard

Sallie (Burch) Baysore was widowed at the age of 43 when her husband, George, died in 1897. The couple lived in the village of Mason, Ohio which is near Cincinnati. Sallie and her late husband’s friend, Albert Dill, continued a friendship after George’s death. Albert even boarded with Sallie, although he made use of a sleeping room in the town hotel.

In late 1900, Sallie and Albert purchased a house on Main Street from John and Rebecca McClung. The large square brick building in the center of town had been the McClung’s residence for 22 years. As part of the deal, the elderly McClungs were allowed to continue living in part of the house until their new home was completed. During this time Sallie and Albert resided in two rooms on the main floor where Sallie also worked as a dressmaker.

Seventy-four year old John McClung was a wealthy miser with a bad temper which caused the couple’s estrangement from both of their families. They did not partake in any social activities, nor did they have any friends or visitors. John was seen about the village only when he was conducting business. Rebecca, fourteen years younger than her husband, never left the house. Her only contact with the outside world was glimpses of passersby as she peeked out the slats of the heavy, wooden shutters which covered the windows.

John and Rebecca McClung and the square brick house

The inside of the McClung’s residence was as unkempt as the old man’s appearance. Moth-bitten clothing hung in the closets, dust covered almost every surface, and it was said that their bed wasn’t fit for a dog. The tightfisted couple feasted on the unsavory pieces of the animals they raised while selling the choice cuts of meat at the market. Same with fruits and vegetables, they sold the best and made due with the bruised and rotten.

It must have been difficult for Sallie Baysore living under the same roof and facing these two killjoys on a daily basis. Hopefully she could commiserate with Mr. Dill as I can’t imagine he enjoyed dealing with the McClungs either. At least (or unfortunately, depending on who you’re talking about) this uncomfortable situation didn’t last long. On the morning of April 12, 1901, Rebecca McClung was found dead on her bed and old man McClung was charged with the crime.

Due to overwhelming public interest, McClung’s preliminary trial was held
in the Opera House and the building was “crowded to the doors”

Sallie’s days of dealing with the McClungs might have been over but she was now a star witnesses in a murder trial. Although she didn’t see the killing take place, she heard it. Sallie testified that she awoke that fateful morning about 4:25 a.m. to the sound of a fire being made in the room next door. About 15 minutes later she was startled by screams coming from the McClung’s living quarters upstairs, followed by loud moaning, and then silence. Sallie attempted to coax two gentlemen who were passing by to investigate but neither was willing. When Albert Dill arrived for breakfast at 5 a.m., she told him about the awful screams she’d heard but he dismissed her concerns. About 10 minutes later, old man McClung came to the door. Sallie immediately asked him if Mrs. McClung was sick to which he replied, “My God, she is dead.”

Rebecca McClung had been bludgeoned to death. Every bone in her head and face was broken except for her lower jaw. The weapon was believed to be a piece of firewood, although all that remained were bloody pieces of bark. When asked point blank if he killed his wife, John McClung would only say, “If I did, I did not know it.”

McClung’s odd non-denial, his lack of emotion, and blood on his clothing made him the obvious suspect. Plus, being the miser all knew him to be, he had the perfect motive…to prevent his wife’s family from getting their hands on his fortune. The old man knew that he was knocking on death’s door and his much younger wife would surely outlive him.

July 12, 1901 ~ Akron Daily Democrat (OH)

Despite all of this circumstantial evidence, McClung had an alibi, one Albert Dill confirmed. McClung was in the barn doing his chores when his wife was attacked. In the end, he was found not guilty. He went to live with a sister in Butler County, Ohio and lived just three years more. He was laid to rest beside his wife.

It appears the only other possibility considered was a robbery gone bad. It was known around town that McClung didn’t use banks and kept his money in the house. However, the scene of the homicide didn’t fit this theory. Everything was in it’s place, no sign of ransacking.

Here’s where I want to come back to Sallie Baysore and Albert Dill. The true crime addict in me found the pair immediately suspect. Not only were they in the midst of purchasing the McClung’s property, but they were sharing the dwelling with the elderly couple…a couple who were anti-social, known to be difficult to deal with, and who kept their portion of the residence in less than tidy condition. Sallie testified that she sometimes heard the McClungs argue and that she was kept awake nightly by the old folks stirring until dawn. Bingo! Keep me up night after night for weeks on end and I may start having murderous thoughts.

However, if Sallie and Albert had anything to do with Mrs. McClung’s violent end they surely would have been eager to point the the finger at her husband. Instead, Albert helped solidify McClung’s alibi of being in the barn at the time his wife was slain, and Sallie said that footsteps she heard coming down the stairs after the screams were not that of the old man.

I believe John McClung got away with murder. His alibi is far from air-tight. Nobody witnessed him going to the barn that morning, only leaving it. I feel this provides an ample amount of time for him to kill his wife about 4:40 a.m., throw the weapon in the stove, head to the barn to create an alibi, then return to “discover” the body around 5:10. Who do you think killed Rebecca? If you’d like to read more about the case, a quick google search will provide lots of opportunities. I gleaned all of the information shared here from newspaper articles.

Albert Dill died penniless in 1906 at the age of 57 years. I assume this means he was no longer part-owner of the square brick house. I wish I knew how long Sallie and Albert stayed after the tragedy. I would have been packing my bags that very day.

In 1909, Sallie married Mr. Zimri Radar, a carpenter, and moved to his home in Dayton. They separated five years later but she stayed in the city, working as a seamstress, until her death in 1922. She was laid to rest in Rose Hill cemetery next to her first husband. I wonder what Sallie would think if she knew that 120 years later people were still talking about the murder of Rebecca McClung.

A huge thanks to Sally from the Mason Historical Society for reaching out to me after finding this photo on Find a Grave. Without her this post wouldn’t have happened. And I’m happy to report that Sallie Baysore’s cabinet card portrait is now part of the Historical Society’s collection.

5 thoughts on “Murder, She Heard

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  1. Fascinating story and very well told! I find it interesting that in the late 19th and early 20th century, people were willing to believe a roving maniac had brutally killed someone (thinking Lizzie Borden here) and may have preferred that solution to a family member being the guilty party. I think your solution to the mystery is correct!

    Liked by 1 person

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