Murder & Suicide

The Story of the Murder and Suicide on Wood Island According to the Biddeford Daily Journal on June 2nd 1896.

Murder and Suicide at Wood Island Yesterday.
Repeating Rifle the Weapon.
Howard Hobbs killed Frederick W. Milliken.
Bullet in his own Brain.
Liquor Mainly Responsible For The Tragedy.

Howard Hobbs frenzied by a prolonged spree, shot and killed Frederick W. Milliken at Wood Island, late yesterday afternoon, and then ended his own life by a bullet from the same rifle that he had used on his victim. Rum, and some slight difficulty on account of Hobbs’ failure to pay his house rent, are the only definite causes assigned for the shooting.

The murder, occurred at “about 4:45 in the afternoon.” The victim lived three quarters of an hour, and after his death, his slayer was found on a bed in his own room with a bullet hole through his brain.

Frederick Milliken, the victim of the shooting, was about thirty-five years of age and married. He was a special officer and a game warden, and devoted much of his time to the fish and lobster industry. He owned two sets of buildings at the southern point of the island, those being the only buildings there except the lighthouse tower and the picturesque homestead of the lighthouse keeper, Thomas H. Orcutt. Milliken lived with his family in the modest 1 1/2 story structure while the building a dozen rods eastward was until yesterday afternoon occupied by Howard Hobbs and William Moses, fishermen, each about 24 years of age. Their rather uninviting looking domicile was built originally for a hennery, but as the two young men cared little for external appearances and the luxuries of life, the place made fairly comfortable quarters for them.

They did their own cooking in the open room on the ground floor and slept by night on the rough couch on the floor of the loft which was reached by means of a short and steep ladder. It was on this couch that the lifeless body of the murderer and suicide, Howard Hobbs, lay last night while within the little cottage near by lay the dead body of his victim Fred W. Milliken, each body pierced by a bullet from a 42-calibre repeating rifle.

William Moses and Mrs. Milliken were eye-witnesses of the slaying of Fred Milliken and their story is given below. Hobbs and Moses had spent a part of the day at Old Orchard where the latter’s half brother, Wiley Hobbs, is employed as assistant baggage master at the Boston & Maine station, and where his mother and sister live with the former’s father, Thomas Googins.

They went to Old Orchard Sunday, and were seen in that town Sunday evening by Deputy Sheriff Duff. They were drunk then and rather disorderly and the officer threatened to lock them up, but they begged so hard to be let go, that he dismissed them with and admonition to keep quiet, and they were not heard from again during the night, apparently following the officer’s advice. They left Old Orchard about noon Monday, and walked over along the Beach railroad to Camp Ellis, taking their boat there, and rowing to the island. On their way, they made a stop at Hill’s Beach. Both of them had been drinking and Hobbs was considerably under the influence of liquor, when they reached Wood Island about 4:30.

Officer Milliken and his young step-son were at work near the landing place when the boat containing Hobbs and Moses pulled in to the island. As the young men passed Milliken, he turned towards Hobbs and said, “Howard, I want to see you a minute.”

“All-right,” came the response, but Hobbs made no movement to linger near Milliken and with Moses continued to walk toward their shanty. Milliken followed the pair as far as his own house, went in, and shortly reappeared, having donned his vest, on the lapel of which was pinned his policeman’s badge.

Meanwhile the young men entered their own domicile and Hobbs picked up his rifle and said to Moses, “Come on, we will go over to Fred’s.”

“Leave your rifle, you don’t want to take that along,” said Moses.

“Yes, I do,” was the reply.” I might get a shot at some birds.”

So Hobbs took along his rifle. They met Officer Milliken just outside his garden gate.

Milliken stood still a moment as the pair came toward him, and then speaking to Hobbs, asked, “Is that gun loaded?”

Hobbs laughed a little and then replied, “It’s not loaded.”

“I’ll see whether it is or not” said Milliken and he started towards Hobbs, who deliberately put his weapon up to his shoulder and fired at Milliken point blank.

Milliken placed both hands at the right side of his chest and in an appealing tone shouted to Moses, “He has shot me.”

Then the wounded man started haltingly toward the house assisted by Moses and Mrs. Milliken, who had watched the scene from her doorway. They got him into the house and on to the bed. Mrs. Milliken realized that her husband was dangerously hurt and urged Moses to row over to the Pool and telephone for a doctor. Moses started off on that mission accompanied by Mr. Milliken’s step-son. They went to Hussey’s store and telephoned for Dr. E. D. O’Neil of this city, who lost no time in getting on the road for the Pool. He left here at 6:15PM.

When Moses and young Milliken started off on their errand, the wounded man was still unconscious and he was bleeding profusely.

The assassin, who seemed to have been suddenly sobered by the tragedy, offered to render any assistance in his power. The dying man remarked that his boots were hurting his feet and that Hobbs might pull them off if he would.

“Certainly,” replied Hobbs, and he coolly proceeded to remove the boots from his victim. While he was engaged in that task a dialogue ensued between the two men.

“It was all your fault, Fred,” said Hobbs, “If you hadn’t started to take the gun away from me, I wouldn’t have fired.”

Mr. Milliken made some almost inaudible reply.

As soon as the boots were removed Hobbs resumed possession of his rifle, which he had temporarily laid against the bed.

“Please put down the gun,” pleaded Mrs. Milliken. Then stepping toward him, she said, “Let me take it, Howard, I will take care of it for you.”

“No you don’t,” suddenly responded the owner of the gun. “you can’t have that gun. “Don’t you come toward me for if you do, I will put a bullet through you too.”

His threat caught the ear of the dying husband, who raised himself in bed and moaned, Don’t kill her, Howard, she has never done you any harm.”

“I won’t harm her,” was the response as the assassin lowered his fowling–piece, “but I don’t want her to touch this gun.”

Then Mrs. Milliken pursued a new course to rid her home of the blood-thirsty neighbor. She asked him to go to the lighthouse and tell Keeper Orcutt the whole story.

Off he went toward the lighthouse, with his rifle over his shoulder. He found the lighthouse keeper at home, and to him related a brief account of what had transpired at the Milliken homestead.

Keeper Orcutt hastened to the scene of the shooting and arrived there in season to be of assistance to the family in the wounded man’s dying moments. Death ended his suffering in 45 minutes after the shot was fired.

When the murderer returned he inquired of Mrs. Milliken the condition of her husband and was informed that death had just ensued.

“Do you know what I am going to do now,” he asked her.

Receiving a negative reply, he said, “I am going home and will take this gun and put a hole right through there,” pointing to his right temple.

Then he started off and executed his threat of self-destruction. The Milliken children heard a shot, a short time afterward, but nobody ventured near the murderer’s house to investigate.

Will Moses shortly reappeared, having rowed home from the Pool, after summoning a physician. He went into his home in search of the murderer, climbed the stairs of the little loft chamber, and here found his friend dead, his head resting in a pool of blood that had flowed from a wound in the right temple. The rifle lay on the quilt beside him, its muzzle within a few inches of his head. The ball had gone directly through the head and lodged in the roof timber.

On the little table was a hastily written note, addressed to Moses. It bade him good-by and asked him to be sure and deliver a letter which he had written to a Biddeford young woman to whom had had lately been paying some attention. The sealed letter lay beside the note.

Dr. O’Neil arrived at the Pool before 7 o’clock and was at once rowed across to the island. When he started he had only heard that a man had been shot and needed assistance, but half way to the island a boat was met which brought the tidings that there was no need to hurry as the man was dead. The doctor kept on to the island and on his arrival found two corpses instead of one as he had expected.

Deputy Marshal Mogan was notified of the shooting shortly after Dr. O’Neil had started. The officer supposed from the information he received that it was a case of accidental shooting. He learned that Dr. O’Neil had gone ahead of him and so drove down alone. When he reached the Pool, he was informed of the double tragedy and went over to the island and stood guard over the bodies until the coroner or his representative should arrive.

Meanwhile Coroner Warren had been notified of the affair, but like Deputy Mogan he understood that it was a case of accidental shooting and he only knew that one man was dead. He sent down Undertaker Dennett with instructions to take the body in charge temporarily. He deferred his official visit until this morning when he went down to investigate. The bodies were cleaned and prepared for burial by the undertaker last night.

The ball which ended Frederick Milliken’s life was found to have entered the abdomen, just below the lower right ribs. It struck a rib on the opposite side and lodged near the liver.

So far as can be learned, there had never been any trouble between the murderer and his victim, except that Hobbs had not paid house rent for a long time and had occasionally been dunned for it. Milliken recently told parties at the Pool that he had warned Hobbs and Moses to leave the house June1.

Mrs. Milliken declares that there was no hard feeling between her husband and his tenant, and that the shooting would never have occurred had not Hobbs been under the influence of liquor.

Milliken leaves a wife and three step-children. Mrs. Milliken was formerly the wife of Warren C. Rich and her children were by him.

There was considerable curiosity among the officers as to the exact manner in which Hobbs shot himself. From the position of the body, however, Deputy Marshal Mogan believes that Hobbs lay down on the bed, and holding the rifle by the barrel with the muzzle about six inches away from his head, pulled the trigger with his foot. The bullet passed clean through the head and entered a rafter, so deeply that it was just discernible from the surface. Hobbs was quite an expert with the rifle and before he shot Milliken practiced on the door of his own house, one shot breaking the latch and the other entering the door just above the latch.

The statement that Milliken was a special officer at the time of his death is a mistake. He had been a special, but was removed about a month ago by the police commissioners who appointed Napoleon (Nelson) Orcutt, son of the lighthouse keeper in his place.

Both Hobbs and Milliken were considered powerful men though the former was the larger build than Milliken, who though rather small in stature was known as of remarkable strength. He was proud of his ability to lift great weights, and perform similar athletic feats. Hobbs, however, was taller and seemed more muscular in appearance.

Both Mrs. Milliken and William Moses deny that there had been a sign of trouble between the two men, except on account of Hobbs’ failure to pay his rent. Mrs. Milliken says he had not paid anything since he had lived in the house and that her husband occasionally dunned him for the money. She says there was no other motivation than that, and her story is corroborated by Moses, the only other witness of the affair now living.

Mrs. Milliken bore the shock of the killing of her husband before her very eyes, with remarkable fortitude and all through the time that the authorities were on the island she showed great calmness and patience.

Coroner Warren later visiting the island this forenoon and examining Mrs. Milliken and Moses and others on the island, decided that there was no necessity for an inquest, and turned the bodies over to the undertakers, Bradbury of Saco taking charge of Hobb’s body and Dennett of this city having the care of Millikens.