‘An appalling story of homicide’ in Whiteson
It bore a headline that commanded immediate attention: “MURDER AND SUICIDE.” The subhead elaborated this way: “W.E. Cook Murders J.H. Stine and then Kills Self.”
In the style of the day, a few more pithy comments followed before the actual news story began: “Final Act of an Insane Man. No Provocation Whatever. Walking Down the Railroad Track He Suddenly Draws a Revolver and Begins to Shoot.”
This was one of those infrequent incidents whose shocking and sensational nature inspired a local newspaper to rise to the reportorial occasion.
In the interest of doing justice to it, the full text is reprinted here nearly 112 years later. All this writer did was type or more accurately “key” in these long-ago-published words:
“Sunday November 29th at about 3:30 p.m. the news reached this city that a tragedy has occurred near White’s Station. A reporter from this paper in company with several other young men of this city immediately borrowed a handcar and started for the scene.
“Upon arriving at White’s Station it was learned that the shooting had taken place about a mile south on the track. A few minutes brought them to the spot.
“In the ditch on the west side of the track lay the body of J.H. Stine editor of the Whiteson ADVANCE, a newspaper lately started, with a bullet hole in the back of his neck. His head was toward the north and he lay upon his back with his hands tightly clenched over his breast.
“Beneath him was his gold-headed umbrella. On his forehead was a bruise, the result of striking a tie as he fell. Death was instantaneous.
“About 15 feet south was the body of H.C. Cook section boss of the narrow gauge line. In his right hand, tightly grasped with his finger on the trigger, was a Smith and Wesson long barreled revolver.
“He lay on his back between the rails. In his right temple was a bullet hole and in the left breast was another. He also was dead. There was one witness to the affair and from him we learned all the facts.
“Sunday morning J.H. Stine, H.C. Cook, Jas. Neville, and several other people living in Whiteson walked to Amity for the purpose of having a drink or so, as the town of Whiteson is a dry town.
“Upon arriving there they entered the saloon and had two drinks around, Stine and Cook purchasing a small flask of whiskey apiece. About noon Stine, Cook and Neville started for home. They were not intoxicated and the conversation was on commonplace topics.
“On Saturday, the day before, the ADVANCE of which Stine was editor had suspended publication and the conversation was on this when they entered the cut about a mile north of Amity on the broad gauge.
“Stine was walking three or four paces in advance talking about the paper and Cook and Neville were together in the rear. Neville said that he was walking along with his head down, paying no attention to the other men, but listening to the conversation.
“Wanting to make a remark he raised his head and saw Cook with a revolver in his hand pointing it at Stine. Before he could cry out or attempt to do anything the revolver exploded and Stine reeled into the ditch.
“He started on the run immediately and after going a very short distance fell to the ground. He was up in an instant and started again but fell. During this time he heard two more shots.
“He finally righted himself and made quick time to Whiteson, where he informed the people of the above facts. A number of people started immediately and the bodies were found as described.
“The coroner was sent for immediately and people remained with the bodies in order that they could not be disturbed before the arrival.
“The handcar from this city arrived before the coroner. The coroner immediately empaneled the following jury: G.W. Crawford, C. Shipley, W.H. Cox, D.A. Brown, C.N. Bennet, W.F. Livingood. The jury rendered the following verdict:
‘Inquisition taken at Whiteson on the 29th day of November 1891 before John Evendon, coroner of Yamhill County.
‘Upon view of the bodies of H.C. Cook and J.H. Stine then and there lying dead, upon the oath of six good and lawful men of said county being duly summoned and sworn to inquire into all the circumstances attending the death of the said H.C. Cook and J.H. Stine and by whom the same was produced and by what manner and when and where the said H.C. Cook and J.H. Stine came to their deaths, do say upon their oath aforesaid that the aforesaid J.H. Stine came to his death at the hands of H.C. Cook aforesaid, who then took his own life.
‘In witness whereof, as well as the said coroner, as the jurors aforesaid have to this inquisition signed their hands and seals on the day of the date hereof.’
“As far as is known there was no provocation for the deed and it was the spasmodic act of an insane brain caused by the too frequent use of spirits. Both men were heavy drinkers, but had never associated much together.
“For some time past the section hands have noticed that Cook has been growing more erratic and his roommate said that lately he has heard him muttering and talking to himself during the night.
“Cook was an unmarried man and from the following letter found beneath the quilt upon his bed, suicide had been premeditated. (The suicide note was dated Nov. 29, 1891).
“J.H. Stine is known to many in this city. Several years ago he worked on the REPORTER while in the hands of the Snyder Bros. Drink was his curse, otherwise he was a man. He leaves a wife and one child.
“When the Independent Post of G.A.R. was organized in that city he was elected its first commander. Very little can be learned of his military history and it is doubtful that he was eligible for membership.
“It is said that he was a member of Pennsylvania reserve during the war, resembling the O.N.G. and did not see active service. Stine had a reputation of starting more newspapers in this state than any other man in it.
“He was erratic and of a wandering disposition and as soon as he had established a paper and placed it upon a paying basis, he would sell and move to some other field.
“His killing by Cook can not be explained except that Cook was insane and being contemplating his own death, as he drew the pistol to kill himself, Stine just a few steps in advance, proved to be too tempting a mark for his weak brain and the shot was fired at Stine.
“The Whiteson ADVANCE plant is owned by the Land Co. They are now looking for a man to take charge. The body of J.H. Stine was taken to Independence for interment.
“It is rumored at Whiteson that Cook shot Stine because of some remarks in the latter’s paper about Cook and the woman with whom he boarded. How much truth there is to the report we are unable to state.”
In the Dec. 10 issue the following week, the Telephone-Register further reported:
“It is now reported that several years ago H.C. Cook who killed Editor Stine, ran away with a married woman of Monmouth and that Stine was joking to him about this occurrence on the day of the tragedy. Many theories can be advanced but the direct cause of the shooting was too much drinking.
“And so goes an appalling story of homicide whether pre-planned or spontaneous wherein both the murdered man and his murderer paid the ultimate price for a senseless act of violence.”
One baffling incongruity is the conclusion that Cook shot himself twice. That a man could fire at point-blank range into his own chest, then be able to put a second shot into his head, stretches the limits of credulity.
There were no background checks for pistol purchases in those freewheeling days, when Oregon was still impetuously sprouting new growth from its pioneer roots.
To me, citing insanity as the underlying cause of the shooting cries for a conclusion that under no circumstances should unbalanced individuals be granted legal access to firearms. Not 112 years ago, not now, not ever.
And that’s what I found out while OUT and ABOUT — taking a trip back in time via the pages of our esteemed predecessor, the Telephone-Register
Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 503-687-1227.