Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Romanticization of John Cronin

I wanted SO much to believe that John Cronin was a good guy -- and maybe he was.  But the evidence isn't pointing in that direction. 

Two days ago I got to live the dream of every family historian and travel to the places in Kentucky I knew John Cronin had lived -- Paris, Bourbon Co., Mt. Sterling, Montgomery Co., and Cynthiana, Harrison Co.  Armed with the approximate date of John Cronin's suicide and the shooting of Richard O'Connor that may have led to this decision, my goal was to check any local newspapers to see if I could get a more complete picture.  What a day it was!

I decided to create a timeline of the events culled from several articles:

3-10-1882 - The Democrat - Mt. Sterling, p.2.
  • John Cronin and Richard O'Connor "collided on the street and both turned and began an angry altercation."
  • John Cronin "drew a pistol and fired at O'Connor five times, one ball taking effect in O'Connor's left side, in the abdomen."
  • The statements of the participants were "so divergent" that the newspaper could not "attempt to give any further particulars."
  • The trial was set for Thursday morning. 
3-14-1882 - The Democrat - Mt. Sterling, p.2.
  • "The attention of the Police Court was occupied all day Monday with the trial of John Cronin for wounding Richard O'Connor with intent to kill."
  • "Quite a number of witnesses were examined on both sides, but on account of the absence of several important witnesses the trial was adjourned."
  • "The Court adjourned to the house where the wounded man is staying.  He was very feeble and could scarcely give his testimony."
3-17-1882 - The Democrat - Mt. Sterling, p.2.
  • The trial was concluded in City Court.  "The Judge then delivered his opinion which was that the defendant had acted too hastily and that there were good reasons for holding him over to the grand jury."
  • The Judge "softened the charge" since he did not believe " there was any malice aforethought proven in the case."  Cronin was to be held over under the charge of "unlawfully shooting."
  • His bail was fixed at $800, which he gave.  Patsy McNamara was his bondsman.
4-4-1882 - The Democrat - Mt. Sterling, p.2.
  • The paper reported on the death of John Cronin by suicide on April 1, 1882.  (Note:  This is my birthday as well as April Fool's Day).
  • He took his life by overdosing on morphine.
  • He was described as handsome and about 33 years old. 
There is no way I can do this part of the story justice without including the actual article.  Since it is difficult to read, here is the transcription:

In the Jaws of Death

An occurrence, as startling as it was sad, shocked the entire community Saturday night.  This was none other than the suicidal death of John Cronin.  Cronin lived on Maysville street with his family and worked hard all day Saturday.  He appeared light-hearted and good-humored and not a breath of suspicion was held by any of the dreadful resolve centered in his mind.  After supper he said to his wife that he had the blues and was going up town and get drunk.  She begged him not to do so, and he replied that if she would send up and get him some morphine he would stay at home and go to sleep.  She sent up and got him two grains of this narcotic which he took after he had washed and dressed himself.  He then lay down on the bed.  Calling his little son to him he said "come lay on the bed here, for it is the last time you will ever sleep with your father."  They nestled up together and lay there for about five minutes, when Cronin petulantly observed that the morphine was "no account" and that he would have to get more before he could sleep.  He then got six grains more which he took, this being the fatal dose.  This was at a few minutes after nine.  He fell over on the bed and his wife suspecting he had taken an overdose sent immediately for Drs. Thornley and Glover, who labored with him faithfully but to no avail, for he died at 25 minutes past 10 o'clock.  His father lives in Cynthiana, and John King and John Feehan drove over there to summon him.  He arrived here Sunday afternoon.  The remains will be taken to Paris for burial.  Cronin was a handsome man, about 33 years old.  He was a tinner by trade, although he had not worked at it since he returned from Kansas.  His career had been a checkered one and numerous incidents are now related of his lawless life.  About a month ago he shot a man here in a street broil and this man is still stretched upon his bed.  Many are the motives assigned for the suicide, but the immediate cause will always be shrouded in mystery.  Sunday afternoon John McGilaway, Pat Sammons and Will Bradshaw went around and collected $35 for the family, which is in indigent circumstances.

As this post is getting to be quite lengthy, I will reveal the rest of my findings in the next post.  I'd love to hear your opinion of John.  Leave a comment.


  1. jeanne Scardina VeenemanApril 28, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    Woo, how sad. This set lots of things into motion. Very sad how one man's actions change many people's life paths. But on the positive side... we'd probably wouldn't be here, if this didn't happen!

  2. Now sure what a "tinner" trade is. Also could anyone get morphine that easy? Betty A.

  3. Kath, this is amazing info! Can't wait to read more


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