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A crime that has become celebrated. Amos J. Snell, a wealthy householder and capitalist of Chicago,was murdered during the night of February 7. 1888, In his residence, 425 Washington blvd., corner, of Ada St, West Side Take West Madison street cable line.
Amos Snell was a ruthless businessman. In addition to several hundred properties in Chicago, he owned what was later to be determined an illegal toll road, the old North West Plank Road. The road is now Milwaukee Avenue. The road ran from Wheeling to what is now Armitage Avenue.
Snell charged farmers and others 2½ cents per mile, bringing goods into Chicago or coming for a visit tolls. He kept increasing the number of booths and placing them closer to each other. His excuse was the cost of maintaining the poorly maintained road. It is rumored he made roughly four to five hundred dollars a day from the tolls. On certain weekends he made upwards of seven hundred dollars.
Headline from the 9 February 1888 New York Times
The body was discovered by the coachman, Henry Winklelocke, at 7 o’clock the next morning, in the hall, near the stairway. Suspicion fell upon a young man named Willie Tascott, who had been leading a life of dissipation, and who was known to have been familiar with the Snell residence. A number of valuable papers were stolen from a safe in the house, and some other miner articles disappeared. Notwithstanding that a reward of $50,000 has been offered for the arrest of Tascott ever since, no trace of him has ever been found .
The crime was enveloped in a dark mystery.
However, over twenty years later, on 10 December 1910, a notorious burglar and hold-up man, James Gillian, confessed to the crime. Mr. Gillian was on his deathbed in the County Hospital and in the presence of a traveling salesman named John Stanton, provided the details of the murder.
Headline from the 10 December 1910 New York Times
According to Lieut. Rohan, Gillian confessed that he and another man, whose name he would not divulge, had entered the Snell home to rob it, and had forced their way into the parlor, when Snell, clad in his night clothes, appeared and fired upon them. Gillian said he returned fire, one bullet striking Snell in the chest and another in the head.
Lieut. Rohan says that Gillian’s account of their entrance into the house, their rifling of the safe, and their position when the shooting occurred, was borne out by the circumstances discovered the next mnorning, as was also his story of how he made his way out of Chicago and escaped.
Gillian’s confession, he says, was never published, because the police lost interest in the case after they had not been able to locate the other man, and when their inability to find Tascott made them think he was dead.
Members of the Tascott family say they are sure Tascott was killed, possibly by Gillian’s confederate, although Gillian did not mention this in his confession.
Since the murder, the Snell family and the Snell millions dwindled. Mrs. Snell is dead, and her only son, Albert, died in May, 1910 in a ten-cent lodging house on Clark Street. A daughter, Grace, has come frequently into the public prints (newspapers) through her numerous marriages. She was eventually known as Mrs. Grace Snell-Coffin-Coffin-Walker-Coffin-Layman-Love-Love. Papers called her “The Most Married Woman in the World.”
The Snell Mansion was torn down in 1923. Few traces remain on Washington Blvd to indicate that it was ever a fashionable haunt for Chicago’s wealthiest citizens.