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Forgotten History: The Murder of Minnie Scanling

Our friends at the Oneonta History Center, in the northern foothills of the Catskills, shared a letter from a father to his daughter written on October 12, 1892. In the letter, Willard Jenks, an Oneonta farmer (b.1827 - d.1898), wrote to his daughter, Jessie Elvira Jenks (b. 1873 - d. 1964) who was studying music at the New England Conservatory at the time. The majority of this letter speaks of the foliage changing and the town’s latest news, including a murder that took place a week prior to the delivery of this letter. 

“There was quite a tragedy at Oneonta week before last (perhaps you have read of it), William Scanling, Brother of Jon Jenks [illegible] Boy, in a rage of jealousy partly drunk killed stabbed his wife [Minnie Scanling], and another woman in bed with her, [Minnie] died soon after from the affects of the wound he is in jail and it is thought to be murder of the first degree. Scanling is the man that drove E.R. Fords team so long those chestnut horses with white stripe in face, you must have known the team his wife was Daniel Potter's daughter, they used to live where Mr. Shears live-”

In Jenks’ letter, we are able to imagine an autumn landscape similar to the one we’re experiencing in the present. We are also able to see themes of domestic violence and anti-LGBTQ violence that remain present in our lives today. We have a lot of work to do to make this world safe for people to live their authentic lives. We are committed to remembering victims of this kind of violence, like Minnie Scanling.

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