The Malevolent Murder of Mary McKendrick

It was a cold winter morning, the 17th of January, 1894. John Quartel, an employee of Crowley & Morris, a local Grandville Avenue grocer, was busy making his rounds delivering groceries with his young partner, Jacob Boyton.

He pulled up to the McKendrick residence, a nicely painted story-and-a-half structure, as he had done many times before. John handed the reins of the horse team to Jacob and gathered up the groceries. As was his custom he walked around to the side door, which was always unfastened, and entered without knocking.

John called out to the 65-year old Mrs. McKendrick but received no response.

Entering further into the room John was surprised to see the old woman reposed on the floor. Thinking she may have fainted he rushed to her. Upon approaching he saw that she was bound both hand and foot with a strong piece of flannel cloth wound tightly around her mouth and chin: around this was a piece of twine drawn so tight that it cut into the elderly woman’s cheeks.

John promptly ran to the door and called to his partner Jacob, “Mrs. Mae has been murdered, call for help!”

Soon after the home was filled with inquisitive and terrified neighbors. Who could have done such a dastardly thing to poor Mary McKendrick? She and her husband Miles had lived in the home for the past 7 of the 15 years they had been married. All that knew the old Scottish couple considered them quite jovial, peaceful, never known to quarrel. In fact, the couple were so well respected that the street whereon they lived was named after them.

When the police arrived they cleared out the premises and conducted a thorough investigation of both body and home. Interviewing the neighbors no-one had seen or heard anything. Mr. Miles McKendrick worked for the rail yard and had gone off to work early in the morning as he was accustomed. Police sent for him.

The family dog was found sleeping calmly in a chair near the body. He awoke, jumped from the chair, nosed around the corpse of Mrs. McKendrick, jumped back in his chair and fell back to sleep.

There were no indications of a struggle other than the woman’s dress being torn in front from neck to waist and her false teeth lying beside her on the floor. The contents of a clothes press had been rummaged through.

Mrs. McKendrick’s lower limbs were tied so tightly at the ankles that the twine cut into her flesh. Her hands also bound tightly.

Her features were horribly bloated and her tongue rolled out once the coroner cut the flannel from her mouth. Her face was a purplish black and her wide open staring eyes bulged from their sockets – all telling the story of her agonizing death.

Miles McKendrick was a decent honest-looking, hard-working man of about 65 years of age. Miles explained how when he left the home early that morning everything was as it should be. His wife had between $600 and $700 she received from a piece of property, money Miles believed she kept in the bosom of her dress.

Canvassing the nearby neighborhoods one woman was found who overheard two men talking the Saturday evening before. The description of one of the men answered to a known criminal named Thomas “alias Fisty” Jennings. They were overheard to say that old man McKendrick worked in the car shops and that the woman was all alone.

Jennings was part of a trio of thugs who a few years prior had assaulted, bound and gagged Israel Smith, an elderly man living a hermit life near the plaster beds. The other thugs were Dick Sligh and Madden. All served long terms in prison for their crime.

Detectives discovered that the twine used to bind Mrs. McKendrick was similar to that found to bind Israel Smith, knotted at the end to prevent unraveling and at the other a loop nicely tied.

Police discovered that Mrs. McKendrick, after the death of her third husband, was defrauded in a real estate deal out of about $600. Ever since that time she was mistrusting of banks and investments. They learned that she had gone to the grocery to pay her bill the Tuesday before and found it to be $8. She had but $7 and paid that much. Police drew from this that the old woman had money secreted at home and it was not likely that the thieves secured the entire sum; however, a thorough search of the premises failed to locate it.

Mrs. McKendrick had left a will leaving her real estate to husband Miles, and dividing her money evenly between four nieces back in Scotland. Miles knew nothing about her finances. He was so affected by his wife’s death that that he could not remember much and got beastly drunk. A house full of neighbors and friends sat up with him Wednesday night but he had not recovered his senses enough to talk.

That Wednesday a reputable mill foreman came forward with a letter he had found upon a downtown street that read:

“Jon – you cum over to my house tonight caus I no were there is a pile of mon in our reech, bee sure and cum. You No Whoo.”

The writing was very poor and the letter addressed to a John Burgee. Allegedly the letter was found prior to the crime and might have had a bearing on the case but nothing had developed from it.

Police followed the trail of the two men who were seen walking in the woods and found that they had separated a short distance away and took circuitous routes back toward the city. It was thus presumed that the work was done by someone from the city.


Detectives were in hot pursuit of suspected criminal Charles McCard.  On 20 March 1894 Detective Gibson of San Francisco, California and Detective James Smith of Grand Rapids, Michigan, apprehended Charles McCard who was going by the alias Frank H. Rollins outside a Salvation Army barracks.  McCard was just leaving the Salvation Army barracks where he went to obtain money with the intent to flee to Mexico.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle dated 21 March 1894 McCard murdered a James O’Hara in 1890 and was convicted and sentenced to serve 7 years in the Jackson State Penitentiary in Michigan.  He escaped December of 1893 and was not seen or heard from until the murder of Mrs. McKendrick.

Monday, July 30th, 1894, aboard the Grand Rapids Express, one Jackson Charles McCard stepped from the car handcuffed to Sheriff Lamoreaux. Convicted the day before for the murder of Mrs. McKendrick with robbery as the motive, he had been arrested in San Francisco.

McCard was as unconcerned as could be. He was plainly dressed, his clothing of a brownish hue. He wore a black muslin shirt and black felt hat. His face was anything but intelligent in appearance, rather repulsive added to by a week old beard. His face was long and ill-shaped, the head abnormally large. McCard was small in stature but heavyset.

Under his left arm McCard carried a large parcel wrapped in newspaper.

McCard was taken to Jackson Prison where he began to serve his life term.

McCard was found to have an accomplice named Henry Prame who was also found guilty for the crime. Their trial was long and of great public interest.

McCard presented an indifference to the trial’s outcome which some characterized as of great nerve. Sheriff Lamoreaux explained that McCard, “had no nerve at all… he has no nerve in his whole system, but is simply cold blooded and brutal.” The Sheriff went on to say that “the whole McCard family was the same and that he got it from his parents. They were all devoid of refinement or the finer sensibilities and they hadn’t the power to realize the difference between a human life and that of a dog.”

The Sheriff further said that he had handled McCard during his trial for killing the old man O’Hara and McCard acted just the same.

That Sunday a notice was affixed to the Kent County jail door stating that no one would be permitted to see McCard. Surprisingly many women with flowers in hand were turned away on reading this notice. The flowers apparently intended for McCard.

McCard talked of his experience while in prison for the killing of O’Hara in 1886 and said there were far worse places than Jackson. He was a believer in the idea of taking things as they come and would not worry over anything. However, he did not expect to remain in Jackson his entire life. He thought the truth regarding Mrs. McKendrick’s death would some day be known and then he would be set free.”

The Confession of Henry Prame

A Saginaw News article published 24 April 1894 gives a few more details. Apparently McCard and Prame robbed the woman of $500 that day. Henry Prame was arrested in Libertyville, Illinois where he confessed that both he and McCard murdered the woman but robbery was their intention.

Prame told police that he was working on the docks in Chicago when he became acquainted with McCard. McCard suggested that they come to Grand Rapids and rob a woman he knew had lots of money. Prame allegedly refused. Their job finally ended and nothing else came up. Prame finally consented to come to Grand Rapids to look things over.

They arrived in December 1893 and for several weeks chopped wood near the McKendrick house closely observing the family habits. They saw that Miles McKendrick left the house early every morning leaving his wife alone and the situation of the house was that none could see what was going on.

Prame consented to the robbery. They went to the house early one morning, peered through a window and saw Mrs. McKendrick at work in the kitchen. Prame’s heart failed him and he did not follow through.

Two mornings later they went again and this time Prame had nerve. They quickly entered the house and together attacked the old woman. They threw her to the floor and Prame held her as McCard tied her with ropes and gagged her covering her head with a tablecloth.

McCard was masked as the woman knew him well but his mask fell off in the struggle and Prame thinks he purposely inserted the gag so that she would strangle to death.

McCard found the money in the woman’s bosom and they left the house without being seen.

They then traveled southward and in the woods divided the money. Prame got $235. They then separated. Prame fled for Chicago. When he arrived there he learned that the old woman had died. In desperation he squandered the money. He said he was haunted by his crime and was glad when he was arrested so the horrible crime would be off his mind.

Prame was about 40 years old and looked to be an honest hard-working man.

McCard when arrested denied knowing Prame saying he never saw or heard of the man. McCard was convicted of the murder of Michael O’Hara but gained his liberty on a technicality after serving a single year in prison. He lived near the McKendrick house and was well acquainted with the murdered woman.

Jackson Charles McCard only served 24 years of his life sentence.  He was gifted clemency by Governor W. N. Ferris in 1913 to be released 35 years from the date of his sentence less his good time.  He would thus be set free in 1929.  In protest, J. L. Lewis, who served on the jury during the trial, protested this early release stating that McCard wrote a letter to his mother in which he threatened to kill Lewis if he ever regained his freedom.

Charles McCard was released Saturday morning, the 16th of October 1915.  The article published that date in the Jackson Citizen Patriot (page 3) states that McCard was “implicated in a murder which was committed by another man for the purpose of robbery.”  McCard and his companion escaped but McCard could not refrain from again visiting the scene of the crime where he was arrested.  According to this article McCard was to go to Detroit to spend a few weeks with friends there and then headed to the upper peninsula for a two month hunting trip.

Prame had been paroled much earlier for assisting the State with evidence that lead to McCard’s arrest.

Was McCard guilty of murder?  He seemed to show no remorse for what he did.  Furthermore, there was the earlier conviction of murder 4 years prior.  And then there is the strange gift received by Chief Detective J. U. Smith of Grand Rapids… a cain, sent by McCard while in prison, in May of 1912.  He had sent another cain to Lieut. Hurley of the Grand Rapids police department in May of 1908.  These cains were manufactured by McCard while in prison.  They were made from leather and mother of pearl.  According to a May 30, 1908 Grand Rapids Press article McCard sent several articles to the various officers that had a hand in his conviction.  Remorse?  Threat?  Admission of Guilt?

Charles McCard (Macard) was a son of William McCard (Macard) and Saloma.  The family can be traced back to Detroit, Michigan where Charles was born in 1858.  The family came to Wyoming, Michigan in time for the 1880 census where father William is a fruit peddler.  It is interesting to note that father William was a war hero.  He was present at the Battle at Gettysburg during Lincoln’s War serving for nearly 3 years with the 24th Michigan Infantry, Co. B.

William died before 1890 and is buried at Grandville Cemetery (PLOT 0-099-01-1NW).  Charles’ mother Saloma died on 26 October 1897 at Wyoming, Michigan.  According to her death certificate she too is buried at Grandville.  She was the mother of 10 children of whom 4 were then living.

Mrs. Mary McKendrick is buried in the former Valley City Cemetery (now South Oak Hill) in Block A, Lot 75.

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