David R. Foster

The “Fatal Stabbing”

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Some time ago I received a brief reference to a stabbing incident that apparently involved my great great grandfather David R. Foster. I now have all the details and am happy to report that David Foster was no scalawag or scoundrel, but was simply caught up in an unfortunate situation. So, I’m still looking for the black sheep in our family tree.

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The Delaware Gazette
Wilmington, Delaware – Friday, April 3d, 1863

“Fatal Stabbing – Coroners Inquest. An awful tragedy occurred on Tuesday afternoon in this city at the tavern kept by Charles Crow, corner of 7th and Walnut streets, by which a man named Solomon Larabee was killed by another named David Foster. Larabee is from Rockland, Maine, and had been for some time in the employ of Mr. Barret here, trimming and preparing timber for shipping. He had sent for his wife to come on, and she had written to him that she would leave her home in Maine for this city, next Monday. How terrible has been the shock that the telegraph conveyed to her, the reader must be left to surmise. David Foster is from Milton, Delaware, a ship carpenter. The evidence elicited before the jury reveals the facts in the case:

Coroner Zobley summoned the following jury, viz.- Wm. T. Massey, foreman, H. M, Haughey, T. McQuid, A. Beckley, Elwood Grisom, D. Ervine, John W. Griffith, J.H. Hatton, Isaac Devow, H.C. McLear, Wm. M. Horn, A. Crozet, D. Robinet, Wm. McMinnemin, J.T. Pyle, and M. Harrity.

Charles Crow – sworn, Charles Larabee and David Foster both boarded at my house; Larabee had borrowed a dollar from Foster and they got to disputing about it this afternoon. I tried to quiet them several times, and at last borrowed a dollar and paid it. During the quarrel they raised to fight several times; Larabee said to Foster he would whip the dollar out of him inside of two weeks. I tried to shame them for using such language and told Larabee I would not offer to fight such a small man; asked them to talk about something else; to talk about rolling logs; Larabee said he was willing to talk about logs. I thought they had got over their quarrel; did not think they would fight and took the broom and went out on the pavement to sweep the snow and slush off. In a few moments I heard (Crow is somewhat deaf) a fall near the door; and came inside and saw Larabee on top of Foster – saw the blood on the floor and running from what I thought was Larabee’s side. He had his hand on Foster’s neck, Foster had a knife in his hand; I put my hand on his neck and said to him give me the knife, he opened his hand and the knife fell on the floor. I picked it up and put it in the draw. (The knife which is a large buck-horn handled pocket knife was here shown.) Larabee exclaimed my God Charley look here! – I then saw that blood was gushing out of his thigh. I helped Larabee on his feet, he leaned against the counter but fell over directly; I do not think he lived three minutes. Foster never left him until after he was dead; but remained and held his head all the while; I sent for Dr. Askew, I saw the blood gushing out of the thigh the moment I came in; there was a man sitting in the room; I sent him after the Doctor; don’t know this man’s name. The men had been drinking some; deceased belonged in Maine; he worked for Mr. Barrett; the occurrence took place about 3 o’clock.

Peter Durham – sworn.- I know nothing about the matter; I was passing when Charles Crow beckoned to me to come over; he said Foster hurt Sol.; went in, saw Larabee sitting against the counter and turned away again; Crow said where are you going? I said I can’t go in there; I then went for the doctor.

Jacob Hill – sworn. – I happened in here between 2 and 3 o’clock. Sol. Larabee, the large man, I knew – the other man I did not know; his name is Foster. They were talking about a dollar; Foster said he loaned the dollar to Larabee and L. denied it; Mr. Crow told them they ought not to quarrel about a dollar; finally Sol. asked Mr. Crow for a dollar; Mr. C. loaned Larabee the dollar and he paid Foster. They did quarrel a little after this; Mr. Crow shamed them out of it and told them to talk about log rolling; I then went out, I did not think there would be any fighting; Sol., after paying the dollar said he would whip it out of him inside of two weeks; Mr. Crow shamed Sol. for making this remark.; he said to him I would be ashamed to want to fight so small a man; there was another man in the bar room whom I did not know.

(This man could not be found, although the Jury had sent for him several times. It was stated he had stopped at the Bull’s Head hotel, and said he had been at Crow’s house and saw the murder committed. No one knew his name, but all concurred that he was an Englishman. His testimony was an important chain in the evidence, as he was the only man in the room when the stabbing was done.)

Dr. Askew made an examination of the wound and exhibited to the jury the severed artery which cost the man his life. He then sewed up the cut, and at the request of the jury submitted his testimony in writing, which was as follows:

Dr. H. F. Askew, affirmed. – About 3 o’clock this afternoon, I was called to visit a man at the corner of Seventh and Walnut streets, who had been stabbed; I came down and found a man sitting on the floor, his head and shoulders leaning against the bar counter, and being supported by some person; the man said to be Solomon Larabee, was entirely dead; on removing the pantalets of deceased a wound was found on the front of the left thigh, near the groin, about 3 1/2 inches in length and nearly 3 inches in depth; the floor for some distance around in a diameter of five feet was covered with blood. At 5 o’clock, P.M., I made an examination of the injury in the presence of the jury and ascertained that the instrument had divided the Femoral artery, which caused the death in a few minutes.

The Doctor was asked by a juror if such a knife was large enough to cause such a wound. To which he replied in the affirmative.

The jury then adjourned until 7 o’clock on Wednesday evening.

Foster was arrested by police officer Pierson, and placed in the city prison. He offered no resistance, but walked quietly to prison without entering into any conversation about the affray.

Wednesday evening 7 P.M. – The jury met pursuant to adjournment, at the Coroner’s house. The man who is spoken of above as being present in the barroom during the stabbing, had been found in Brandywine village, during the day was arrested and detained at the city hall, until conducted to the inquest. His evidence was given in a sensible and straightforward manner; and is as follows: –

Thomas Collins, sworn. – About 2 1/2 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon I went to Mr. Crow’s house; it was raining; I went in to warm myself and get something to drink. As soon as I set down, the tall (witness said he did not know either of the men) man (Larabee) came in and asked Mr. Crow to lend him a dollar; Crow loaned him one, and Larabee turned round to the small man (Foster) and gave the dollar to him. Larabee then said to Foster I never borrowed that dollar of you. Foster said he did – he (Foster) had got a two dollar note changed to give him (Larabee) one out of it. Larabee called Foster a liar at once and told him several times that he never borrowed the dollar. Foster about that time said “we will have a drink out of this dollar, won’t you take a drink?” Larabee said he would. Then Larabee said several times he never borrowed the dollar. Foster went out of the house to avoid a quarrel with Larabee. When Foster came in Larabee began again about the dollar. Larabee said that the dollar he paid Foster, he meant to take out of his hide in less than two weeks. Foster replied “very likely he could, for he was too small a man to fight such a man as him.” Then Foster began to cut up some tobacco to light his pipe and walked toward the door as if he was going out again away from Larabee. Larabee ran up behind him; clasped him around the arms, threw him down and fell right on top of him. Foster had his back to Larabee when he caught him. Larabee called to Mr. Crow to take the knife. Mr. Crow then came in from the street and stooped down to pick up the knife. I don’t know whether he got the knife; I did not go up then; I was setting by the stove; I got up, Mr. Crow said, run for the Doctor, when I immediately started and had to go to five Doctors before I could get one to come. They all had something to do except Doctor Kane; he went; I asked him whether I should go with him, because I was sick, and was afraid something had been done. I did not see any blood until Larabee got up – I did not see Foster strike. Foster fell with his face to the floor. I did not see Foster use the knife – I did not hear Larabee say Foster cut him; I did not hear Foster say a word; Foster did not appear to be angry – the big man was desperate angry. I have not spoken to Foster today. – Did not see either of them strike. They did not seem to be in liquor; saw them take one drink; I could not tell they were in liquor.

C. Crow, recalled and sworn. – When I came in the door Foster was lying on his back a struggling, trying to get up – I said Sol. let go of him. Sol said to me, “My God, Charley look here” – Sol had his right hand upon his neck – Sol took his left hand and pointed to his left thigh, making the remark quoted above. Could not tell whether the knife was in the right or left hand. All I heard Foster say when Larabee had fallen dead, was: I said Foster see what you have done, “Well” he said, I did not do it, or if I did I did not intend to do it – I was cutting tobacco for my pipe.” Crow stated that Foster was the quietest man that ever was about his house.”

About one o’clock Thursday morning
the Coroner’s Jury rendered its verdict as follows:

“Solomon Larabee came to his death by a knife in the hands of David Foster;
we believing it to have been caused by his own rashness.”

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Updated 11 April 2010