Continuing the saga of the murder of John T. Allen
and his son-in-law, Robert Reid.
If you ever watch Dateline on NBC and hear Keith Morrison tell a story, I wonder how he would tell this one. “It was a cool, clear October night in a small, brick row home in a southern Baltimore suburb called Curtis Bay. A “Sweet 16″ party was being thrown in that tiny home on a Monday night. It was late, by all accounts, but the party was in full swing at the Allen’s. Young and old alike were most likely partaking of the array of food and drink on the buffet table. A large birthday cake in the corner of the dining room beckoned the guests…”
(I couldn’t figure out how to upload a PDF file and it’s not even 5:00 AM yet, so I decided to transcribe the next newspaper article from the Baltimore Sun, dated October 19, 1921. If you haven’t read Part I, you can do so here.)
SLAYER OF TWO MEN ALLEGES SELF DEFENSE
Guest At Curtis Bay Party Says He Shot Only After His Life Had Been Threatened.
William F. Thompson, 38 years old, Lynchburg, Va., who admitted shooting to death John Allen, 24 Hazel street, and his son-in-law, Robert Reid, 1745 Jackson street, early yesterday, insisted at the Southern Police Station that previous to the shooting Allen had twice threatened his life with a pistol, placing it against his stomach.
Thompson is said to have become jealous over Lillian Brannon, 24 Hazel street, at a party at the girl’s home. According to Miss Brannon’s sister, Jennie, some of the guests had been ridiculing Thompson’s stoutness, covertly calling him “Fatty Arbuckle.” Thompson’s anger reached a climax when, during a “kissing game,” Hershey Small, a sailor from the steamer Quaker City, kissed Lillian.
An argument outside the house followed, during which Thompson fatally shot Allen and Reid. Mistaking Jennie Brannon for her sister, Thompson chased her around the house after the shooting.
Charges of murder were read to Thompson at the Southern Police Station by Magistrate McAllister and he was held pending an investigation by a coroner’s jury tonight. Small was also held as a witness for the State.
The funerals of Allen and Reid will be held at 2 o’clock Friday from the Allen home. Burial will be in Cedar Hill Cemetery.
When my grandmother was older, she would tell me some crazy family story and then always end it with these final words, “And don’t tell anybody!” Sometimes I didn’t know what to believe, as Nana had had a stroke and I wasn’t sure if what she was telling me was real or something she dreamed. One of the stories she told me was about how her grandmother’s husband (#3!) was shot and killed on his front steps due to an argument over Nana’s sister, Lil’s boyfriend. I asked my mother if this was a true story and she confirmed that she had never heard such a thing!
Well, you know the detective in me just couldn’t rest until I knew the truth. So, I did some digging. I found some newspaper articles from the Baltimore Sun and the Baltimore American, the first article below published on Oct. 18, 1921, 90 years ago! It reads like an old movie! Click on the article to zoom in if you have trouble reading it.
But first, some of the players in this story:
Lillian Brannon (aka Lillian Allen) – My grandmother’s oldest sister, “Sweet 16″ at the time
Jenny Joynes Allen – Lillian’s grandmother (my great-great grandmother)
John Allen – Grandmother’s 3rd husband
Robert Read – John Allen’s son-in-law
William F. Thompson – the man in love with Lillian
Hershey Small – Lillian’s first love
Jenny Brannon – Lillian’s 14 year old sister
Molly Brannon – my great-grandmother (Lillian & Jenny Brannon’s mother)
STAY TUNED FOR PART II!