New Jersey Local News, Breaking News, Sports & Business.

'Homicide on the Mountain' recollects notorious West Orange case – Essex Information Each day


WEST ORANGE, NJ — “Crime, Ardour, and Punishment in Gilded Age New Jersey.” This subtitle for the nonfiction ebook “Homicide on the Mountain,” by Peter J. Wosh and Patricia L. Schall, is simply as intriguing and fascinating because the ebook itself. On this ebook, the married duo of Wosh and Schall study and relate a case of homicide that occurred in West Orange within the late 1800s.

Again in 1879, John Meierhofer, a West Orange farmer, was shot within the head. Police arrested his spouse, Margaret Meierhofer, and one of many farm’s boarders, Frank Lammens. Although solely one in all them may have pulled the set off and killed John Meierhofer, each have been delivered to trial for the crime, in a joint case that fascinated the nation. Although every pointed fingers on the different within the trial, each have been convicted, and, in 1881, each have been executed for the crime in Newark. Margaret Meierhofer now holds the excellence of being the final lady to be executed in New Jersey.

Along with relating the info of the case, “Homicide on the Mountain” supplies an in depth image of West Orange at the moment, focusing closely on its societal make-up, which clearly influenced the trial’s end result.

Wosh was first drawn to the case after receiving a print of a map of West Orange from 1871 as a present. In finding his West Orange house on the map, he found that it as soon as bordered the Meierhofer farm. Additional analysis into the Meierhofer farm astounded him, as he was not anticipating it to result in a grisly homicide case. In keeping with Wosh, researching this ebook was, at instances, “considerably eerie.”

“On many a night we sat out on our deck having dinner and staring out on the previous Meierhofer property — which was subsequent door to us — the place the homicide befell. It’s nonetheless fairly wooded, and it was fairly unusual to attempt to think about the Nineteenth-century panorama, the goings-on on the farmhouse and the homicide that befell there within the late 1870s,” Wosh instructed the West Orange Chronicle. “At one level we visited the ruins of the previous Essex County Jail in Newark — close to the present New Jersey Institute of Know-how campus — the place the executions befell, discovered a gap within the fence and made our means into the courtyard the place Margaret and Frank have been hanged. It was fairly overwhelming and emotional. 

“One of many attention-grabbing issues about researching the homicide within the city was coming to a brand new understanding of the panorama, the mountains and the terrain,” he continued. “All of these elements influenced life throughout the Victorian period earlier than suburbanization, industrialization and trendy transportation utterly modified life up on the mountain and down within the valley. And the previous saying that ‘the previous is a overseas nation’ definitely rang true for us.”

Wosh and Schall’s meticulous analysis and eager observations make this ebook a must-read for native historical past buffs, and even these with only a passing curiosity in native historical past. Sadly, Schall didn’t dwell to see the ebook revealed; she died in 2020.

“I believe we made an ideal staff and introduced completely different expertise to the mission. My profession and background largely had been in historical past and archives, so I used to be capable of make the most of the analysis expertise that I had picked up over time. Pat had a real love of English and language, and he or she had a classy understanding of storytelling and the way to assemble a story. So I believe we complemented one another effectively, and he or she was all the time excited to go to archives and conduct historic analysis, a brand new factor for her,” Wosh stated. “As soon as she handed away, the mission grew to become a real labor of affection. I’m unhappy that she didn’t dwell to see the publication of the ebook, however hope that on some metaphysical stage she is aware of that I used to be capable of convey her good work to gentle.”

That good work led to a variety of fascinating revelations about West Orange’s previous — revelations not seen to the bare eye in the present day. For example, Wosh and Schall have been stunned to be taught of the in depth position farming performed locally. Many of those intricacies of West Orange life within the 1870s straight led to the homicide case’s consequence.

“The shortage of any municipal infrastructure — police, hearth, highschool — throughout that interval was additionally a significant component within the proceedings, and the peculiarities of the Nineteenth-century authorized system definitely grew to become a captivating subtext,” Wosh stated. “Then there was the politics of land as older and wealthier farm residents in West Orange started cashing out their holdings to actual property builders. The group tensions that boiled beneath the floor and have become revealed throughout the trial definitely made us take into account what it was prefer to dwell in a village the place seemingly minor incidents grew to become main conflicts and precipitated division. And it was attention-grabbing to find how the valley, the hill nation and Llewellyn Park actually constituted completely different worlds, every with their very own ethnic makeups, economies and cultures.

It appears doubtless within the ebook that Margaret Meierhofer was a sufferer not solely of state execution, however of the area’s many biases towards impartial girls and immigrants. Whereas it’s unimaginable at this time limit to state conclusively that she was harmless, the proof appears to bear that out.

“I hope readers take away the actual fact that there have been no ‘good previous days’ and the concept some legendary ‘greatness’ in American tradition can in some way be restored if we simply magically flip again the clock to some earlier time is a harmful idea. Justice has all the time been troublesome to realize,” Wosh stated. “The truth that two folks on this story have been put to loss of life largely owing to the place they got here from, how they seemed and — within the case of Margaret — the truth that she didn’t behave within the womanly ways in which her male judges and jurists would have most popular definitely provide some historic and up to date classes. Each era has had to deal with points involving immigration, financial tensions, and human rights. In fact these tensions play out in a different way primarily based on specific historic circumstances. The American dream has all the time been, and continues to be, a piece in progress. I believe that by attempting to know the lives of marginal folks, social outcasts and people who didn’t slot in, we obtain a a lot richer understanding of specific cultures at particular historic moments.”

To buy a replica of “Homicide on the Mountain,” go to


Comments are closed.