About The Series

Even for the pioneers of Western Pennsylvania who had fought in the American Revolution and experienced the atrocities of the Indian wars, the ax murder on a homestead near Cross Creek on Sept. 4, 1796, was horrifying. The crime remains Washington County's coldest case – its oldest unsolved murder. “A Sense of Evil” is a true story, written by Park Burroughs, retired executive editor of the O-R.

Foreword to ‘A Sense of Evil’

  • October 23, 2017

The settlement of Western Pennsylvania was often violent and bloody, particularly during the Indian wars of the early 1780s. The following story, set in 1796 not long after the Whiskey Rebellion and when civilization had taken hold here, concerns what historian Earle Forrest termed Washington County’s oldest unsolved murder.

This is a true story. This is the first of a four-part series running on Sundays through the end of November. All of the events described happened, all of the people mentioned existed, and none of the names has been changed. Some details, however, have been added by the author to improve the flow of the narrative.

The histories of Washington County written by Boyd Crumrine, Alfred Creigh and Forrest were sources for this story, as were genealogical records, deeds, wills and other public documents.

“A Sense of Evil” is written by the Observer-Reporter’s retired executive editor, A. Parker Burroughs. He is the author of “Enter, With Torches: Recollections of a Grumpy Old Editor,” and editor of “200 Years: Our History Through the Pages of the Observer-Reporter.” His latest book is “Washington County Murder and Mayhem.”


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