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Wakefield History: A Century Ago, Town Was Rocked By A December Double Murder

Back in December of 1908, a shocking crime rocked Wakefield that could have easily had more victims.

While doing research for the look back at a long-ago Christmas that ran Tuesday on Wakefield Patch, another very non-Christmasy story came up that has one or two echoes of things we’re reading a lot of in the news these days and which was appropriate to hold for a day.

Basically, the December 25, 1908 issue of the Wakefield Citizen & Banner had a back-page story with the headline “Crazed Man Murders His Two Children.” Hiram L. Badger, 42, lived in a small house behind 394 Main Street and murdered his daughters, 15 year old Florence and 9 year old Catherine, with a hatchet as they slept. The girls were students at the Lincoln School. Mrs. Badger, 34, was away from home at the time and an extremely gossipy news article notes that before the murders, Mr. Badger had been spotted loudly accosting his wife and an unnamed male companion on a train. The newspaper said no arrests were made at that point because the matter was domestic in nature. The article even threw in that the killer’s grandfather died in an insane asylum and his uncle committed suicide. The reporter went on to say that the killer, a native of Bangor, Maine, had “acted queerly” at various times in recent months and I believe it was the follow-up that cited the doctors’ opinion that his intellect had never been particularly strong in the first place.

When police entered the crime scene, they discovered that Mr. Badger had painted the term “at rest” on the walls in red and with scrolls.

As if the murder of his two daughters wasn’t horrific enough, the newspaper casually noted that Mr. Badger had purchased a .38 caliber revolver and cartridges at Taylor’s Hardware in downtown Wakefield shortly before the crime. From there, he proceeded to take a couple of shots at people on the streets downtown who had looked at him wrong, and then he actually fired a shot or two into Mitchell’s Restaurant.  The shooter did not actually hit anybody, and was soon tackled by Frank Hackett and Herbert Mitchell, who, with other men, strapped the suspect to a plank and brought him to town hall for processing by the police. Only then did word of the murders get out. At the time  Mr. Badger also told police he had killed his wife, but she was reportedly found in short order and was described as hysterical at the news. Follow up articles noted that Mr. Badger was taken first to a padded cell in Cambridge and later moved indefinitely to the mental institution at Bridgewater.

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