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Anton PROBST

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

   
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 8
Date of murders: April 7, 1866
Date of arrest: 5 days after
Date of birth: 1843
Victims profile: Christopher and Julia Dearing and four of their children; Cornelius Carey (boy employee) and Elizabeth Dolan (family friend)
Method of murder: Beating with an axe and a hammer
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Executed by hanging on June 8, 1866
 
 

 

The New York Times

 
probst's full confession the deering murder
 
 

 
 

The axe murders in 1866 near Philadelphia.

Anton Probst, a farm hand, systematically lured all eight members of the Deering family into a barn, then axed them to death.

Beginning about 8:00 in the morning and finishing around 1:30 p.m., he then went into the farmhouse and put on Mr. Deering's fine clothes, sat down and ate the food in their kitchen (a man's got to eat), then plundered the house one room at a time until evening.

He then went into Philadelphia to his favorite saloon, bought drinks for the house with his new found wealth, gambled and lost at bagatelle (an early form of pool) and then treated himself to a lady of the evening until the following morning when he was thrown out of the whorehouse almost penniless. Managing to come up with more money for whoring for the next five days,

Probst was finally captured and subsequently hanged, His body was then used for chilling medical experiments at the local college.

Strong evidence also suggests he was also a cold-blooded serial killer who roamed the east coast and enjoyed butchering families.


THE PHILADELPHIA MASSACRE

By Troy Taylor

The Murders of the Dearing Family

In recent times, many people in America have longed for days gone by, when life was simpler and people were kinder to one another. These same people often speak of the "good old days" before the streets were rampant with crime and before stories of serial killers and murderers appeared quite so often in the news. Those were better times, these people will say, but an event in 1866 proves that the good old days weren't always good -- and that bloodthirsty killers are not a product of our modern times. This was proven by a man named Anton Probst in that year when, for a few dollars, he committed a massacre that shocked the city of Philadelphia, and the entire nation, with its brutality.

Anton Probst was born in Germany in 1843 and came to the United States in 1863, during the height of the Civil War. Almost immediately upon arriving in New York, he young man volunteered for service in the Union Army. He did not do so because of some patriotic zeal but rather because recruits were being paid $300 in those days.

Probst decided to use this to his advantage and he volunteered for the army several times. He would collect a bounty for his enlistment, serve a few weeks in a training camp and then desert, moving on to another northern city, where he would enlist again for another $300. He never saw any action but he did manage to make a comfortable living during the bloody days of the war.

His racket came to an end in 1865 and by the fall of that year, Probst found himself penniless in Philadelphia. Living on the streets, he found out that a man named Christopher Dearing was looking for a handyman to work on his farm. Probst applied at the small homestead on Jones' Lane and was soon hired.

The Dearing farm was only a few acres in size with a small house, a barn where a horse and one pig were kept and some grazing space for cattle. Dearing, his wife, Julia, and their five children supported themselves by raising and selling cattle. They were not wealthy by any means, but they were a happy family who managed to get along on the little they earned.

Probst soon revealed his true personality but only to Julia Dearing. She noticed how he did little work and would lounge in the barn when he was supposed to be tending the cattle. After he made several lewd comments to her, she urged her husband to fire the strange young man after just three weeks. Dearing agreed and Probst, claiming to be in poor health, was taken in by a Philadelphia charity hospital. He lingered here from December 1865 to the following February. While lying on his cot in the poor house,

Probst schemed to rob the Dearing's and to get even with them. He returned to the farm on March 2, 1866 and begged Christopher Dearing to hire him back. Dearing, who felt sorry for the man, agreed.

Over the course of the next month, Dearing worked harder than he ever had in his life. He pretended to be quite friendly with the family and even Julia began to feel kindly towards the young man. All the while, Probst continued to scheme and on April 7, decided to put his plan into action.

That morning, Christopher Dearing traveled by buggy to the Philadelphia docks to meet a visiting family friend, Miss Elizabeth Dolan from Burlington, New Jersey. Meanwhile, Probst and Cornelius Carey, a boy employed to help on the farm, worked in a field. Events began just as started to rain at about nine that morning.

As the rain began to fall, Probst and Carey took shelter under a tree. When the boy looked away for a moment, Probst clobbered Carey with the blunt end of an ax and when he fell, stunned, Probst turned the ax over and severed the boy's head with it! He quickly hid the body in a haystack and then, with methodical precision, Probst lured the entire family --- one by one --- into the barn.

There, he struck them senseless with a hammer and then chopped them with the ax until Julia and four of her children, including an infant, had been slaughtered. When Mr. Dearing arrived home with Elizabeth Dolan, Probst was waiting for him. He told him that there was a sick animal in the barn and after they went inside, Probst attacked him with the hammer and ax as well. Miss Dolan, who had gone into the house, was also lured into the barn and she was also slain.

When he was finished, Probst neatly lined all of the bodies up inside of the barn and tossed hay over them. He then ransacked the farm house, looking for money. He found $10 in Dearing's wallet, of which $4 was later found to be counterfeit, as well as revolver and a battered old watch. He also managed to find $3 in Miss Dolan's purse but that was all.

Probst then used Dearing's razor to shave off his beard and exchanged clean clothes and boots for his own blood-soaked apparel. After that, he ate some bread and butter and then went to his room for a nap. He slept peacefully, unconcerned about the murders, and before leaving the farm, he took the time to feed the dogs and chickens and the put out feed for the horses and the cow in the barn, just steps away from where the bodies of the Dearing family lay stiffening under the hay. Only one of the children survived the massacre. Willie Dearing, the oldest son, had gone to stay with friends a few days before the crime occurred.

After feeding the animals, Dearing leisurely strolled away and spent the next few days on the streets. Neighbors came to the farm on the day after the murders and found the bodies of the family in the barn. They notified the police, who had little trouble tracking down Probst. He had sold Dearing's revolver to a bartender and his watch to a jeweler.

On April 12, five days after Philadelphia's first mass murder, he was arrested by a single policeman while drinking in a tavern at 23rd and Market Streets. He surrendered without a fight.

At first, the killer protested his innocence but the evidence against him was so strong that at the end of his trial on May 1, the jury took only 20 minutes to find him guilty. He was executed on June 8 but before this occurred, he made a complete confession of his crimes.

Strangely, even after death, Anton Probst has remained in Philadelphia. Following his execution, his body was delivered to the medical college, where it was dissected. His mounted skeleton then went on display in the museum of the college, which still operates today. It was a strange and macabre (although perhaps fitting) ending for this vicious killer.

 


After the massacre of all but a boy, family lives to tell the tale

By Daniel Rubin - The Philadelphia Inquirer

Apr. 12, 2009

The headline in the Inquirer needed but a single word to sink the hook:

Horror!

Eight persons lured one by one to a barn and then killed with an ax: a father, mother, four children, family friend, visiting aunt. A German farmhand gone missing.

The events of the day became known as the Murders in the Neck, for the canal-laced district at the tip of South Philadelphia. The "most horrible" murders in the city's history, the paper called them on April 12, 1866, after a neighbor stumbled upon the bodies.

Maybe because only one child survived - William Deering, age 10 - the ghastly murders have captivated Susan Kushner.

Or maybe because that boy was her great-grandfather.

Anton Probst, a solitary, morose Civil War deserter, would be arrested a few evenings later while walking toward West Philadelphia, his hat pulled low on his brow.

After the murders he'd fed the horses, shaved, picked out some of Christopher Deering's clothes, then sat down at the tenant farmer's kitchen table and devoured a butter sandwich. He grabbed two pocket watches, two pistols, and $17, then set out for a favorite Northern Liberties brothel. The motive, he'd soon confess, was robbery.

Justice moved quickly in those days. Within the month Probst was tried, and in June he'd hang from the gallows at Moyamensing Prison.

Tuesday was the 143d anniversary of the murders. Kushner observed the day "just reflecting on who they were." Speaking from her home outside Indianapolis, the 49-year-old is one of more than 60 descendents of William, who at the time of the killings was living with his grandparents in West Philadelphia, where he attended school.

Kushner was about William's age when she came upon an old clipping from the Philadelphia Bulletin in the family Bible. The article pictured her father, about 25, and an aunt, and focused on the treasure some believed was buried on the family farm.

The Deering family slaughter long intrigued her father. For years he enlisted Susan and her brother Michael to accompany him by train from their Bensalem home to Center City, where he'd pore through old maps and papers at the Philadelphia Free Library and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

The former Philco engineer had hoped to write a book about the killings, but got sick at age 59, and had to put down his quest. His daughter carried on. She shared her archives with a young writer named G. Jordan Lyons, whose account of the killings, The Philadelphia First Ward Horror, has just been published.

Reading about a distant massacre has had an unexpected effect on her, she said. "I feel I am grieving for them," Kushner said. "It brought them to a special place within me."

Today the Deering family lies buried in a mass grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon under a statue of the Blessed Mother. Their bodies were moved from a church graveyard at 10th and Moore in the 1950s for the construction of St. Maria Goretti High School. This continues to trouble Kushner.

She has asked the archdiocese if the family can put a marker on the grave, in part because during her research she was horrified to read how her ancestors' bodies had been put on gruesome display before burial and thousands of people bought tickets to the spectacle.

I sought out Roger Lane, a Haverford College historian who has written at length about Philadelphia deaths, to explore how such a sideshow could happen.

During that period, he said, "nothing was too gruesome to be exploited commercially."

Robert E. Whomsley, director of the Catholic Cemeteries Office, told Kushner that the family could not put up a marker because it would be unfair to the rest of the 8,471 adults and children buried in the grave.

Kushner wonders if more attention should be paid to her people's near-annihilation. Dark as it is, it's a chapter of the city's history. "This is a whole family that no one knows about," she said.

Whomsley has invited her to visit, which she said she would, this summer, with scores of other descendants of what was once this city's most horrific mass murder.

"It will be kind of a family reunion," she said.


Anton Probst

Anton Probst was born in Germany in 1843 and came to the United States in 1863, during the height of the Civil War. Almost immediately upon arriving in New York, the young man volunteered for service in the Union Army. He did not do so because of some patriotic zeal but rather because recruits were being paid $300 in those days. Probst decided to use this to his advantage and he volunteered for the army several times. He would collect a bounty for his enlistment, serve a few weeks in a training camp and then desert, moving on to another northern city, where he would enlist again for another $300. He never saw any action but he did manage to make a comfortable living during the bloody days of the war.

His racket came to an end in 1865 and by the fall of that year, Probst found himself penniless in Philadelphia. Living on the streets, he found out that a man named Christopher Dearing was looking for a handyman to work on his farm. Probst applied at the small homestead on Jones' Lane and was soon hired. The Dearing farm was only a few acres in size with a small house, a barn where a horse and one pig were kept and some grazing space for cattle. Dearing, his wife, Julia, and their five children supported themselves by raising and selling cattle. They were not wealthy by any means, but they were a happy family who managed to get along on the little they earned.

Probst soon revealed his true personality but only to Julia Dearing. She noticed how he did little work and would lounge in the barn when he was supposed to be tending the cattle. After he made several lewd comments to her, she urged her husband to fire the strange young man after just three weeks. Dearing agreed and Probst, claiming to be in poor health, was taken in by a Philadelphia charity hospital. He lingered here from December 1865 to the following February. While lying on his cot in the poor house, Probst schemed to rob the Dearing's and to get even with them. He returned to the farm on March 2, 1866 and begged Christopher Dearing to hire him back. Dearing, who felt sorry for the man, agreed.

Over the course of the next month, Dearing worked harder than he ever had in his life. He pretended to be quite friendly with the family and even Julia began to feel kindly towards the young man. All the while, Probst continued to scheme and on April 7, decided to put his plan into action. That morning, Christopher Dearing traveled by buggy to the Philadelphia docks to meet a visiting family friend, Miss Elizabeth Dolan from Burlington, New Jersey. Meanwhile, Probst and Cornelius Carey, a boy employed to help on the farm, worked in a field. Events began just as started to rain at about nine that morning.

As the rain began to fall, Probst and Carey took shelter under a tree. When the boy looked away for a moment, Probst clobbered Carey with the blunt end of an ax and when he fell, stunned, Probst turned the ax over and severed the boy's head with it! He quickly hid the body in a haystack and then, with methodical precision, Probst lured the entire family --- one by one --- into the barn. There, he struck them senseless with a hammer and then chopped them with the ax until Julia and four of her children, including an infant, had been slaughtered. When Mr. Dearing arrived home with Elizabeth Dolan, Probst was waiting for him. He told him that there was a sick animal in the barn and after they went inside, Probst attacked him with the hammer and ax as well. Miss Dolan, who had gone into the house, was also lured into the barn and she was also slain.

When he was finished, Probst neatly lined all of the bodies up inside of the barn and tossed hay over them. He then ransacked the farm house, looking for money. He found $10 in Dearing's wallet, of which $4 was later found to be counterfeit, as well as revolver and a battered old watch. He also managed to find $3 in Miss Dolan's purse but that was all. Probst then used Dearing's razor to shave off his beard and exchanged clean clothes and boots for his own blood-soaked apparel. After that, he ate some bread and butter and then went to his room for a nap. He slept peacefully, unconcerned about the murders, and before leaving the farm, he took the time to feed the dogs and chickens and the put out feed for the horses and the cow in the barn, just steps away from where the bodies of the Dearing family lay stiffening under the hay. Only one of the children survived the massacre. Willie Dearing, the oldest son, had gone to stay with friends a few days before the crime occurred.

After feeding the animals, Probst leisurely strolled away and spent the next few days on the streets. Neighbors came to the farm on the day after the murders and found the bodies of the family in the barn. They notified the police, who had little trouble tracking down Probst. He had sold Dearing's revolver to a bartender and his watch to a jeweler. On April 12, five days after Philadelphia's first mass murder, he was arrested by a single policeman while drinking in a tavern at 23rd and Market Streets. He surrendered without a fight.

At first, the killer protested his innocence but the evidence against him was so strong that at the end of his trial on May 1, the jury took only 20 minutes to find him guilty. He was executed on June 8 but before this occurred, he made a complete confession of his crimes. Strangely, even after death, Anton Probst has remained in Philadelphia. Following his execution, his body was delivered to the medical college, where it was dissected. His mounted skeleton then went on display in the museum of the college, which still operates today. It was a strange and macabre (although perhaps fitting) ending for this vicious killer.

Psychocarnival.blogspot.com

 

 

 
 
 
 
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