This community was greatly agitated on Saturday by the murder of a young son of Mr. Andrew Baird living near Flaggtown, Hillsborough township, about four miles south of Somerville by a man named Jacob Van Arsdale.  It appears that Van Arsdale, who is a shoemaker, has occupied a shop on the premises of Mr. Baird since November last and boardedwith the family. On Saturday the family excepting Van Arsdale and the boy, took breakfast at about 6 o’clock – a colored girl eating last. While she was eating, Van Arsdale came down from the room, which was entered from the dining room, and passed into the shop. The boy in the meantime returned from driving the cows to pasture when his mother remarked that he and Jake might have breakfast together, and sent him off to the shop to call the latter.  A few minutes afterward, Van Arsdale entered the room, passed by Mrs. Baird and gently slapping her on the shoulders remarked, “you’ll soon see now,” and then passed on to his room.  The boy not returning, the colored girl went after him and found him lying in the corner of the shop, with his neck and face covered in blood.  She immediately ran back crying, “Jake has cut Jep’s throat!”  Van Arsdale by this time had left the house but was pursued by the oldet son of Mr. Baird, who had heard the cries and who soon overtook and grappled with Van Arsdale. The latter flung him off, then drew a large pocket knife, but said nothing.  The son then returned and alarmed the neighbors.  Van Arsdale walked deliberately away.

Mr. Baird, on hearing the alarm, went into the shop and found the murdered lad quite dead.  On examination, his skull was found to be broken in two places and there were two stabs to the throat, either of which wounds were sufficient to produce death.  The neighbors who went in pursuit of Van Arsdale came in sight of him on the railroad, and the Flemington train, which then came along, was halted and stopped – Van Arsdale and his pursuers coming up at about the same time.  He warned them not to touch him but the conductor quietly told him to get into the car, which he did, the others following.  The train halted before reaching Somerville and a messenger was sent forward to inform the Sheriff, and by the time the train reached the Depot, Sheriff Brokaw was on hand and effected his arrest.  Van Arsdale made no resistance.

Coroner Darling being notified of the occurrence, proceeded to investigate the case.  The following  Jury were summoned –

H. G. Wagoner     Peter Quick

Thomas S. Cathers     Isaac J. Voorhees

D. P. Disborough    Abraham Van Cleef

George Lawes    Isaac J. Sebring

H.J. Hoagland    Israel Compton

Thomas W. Davis

Andrew M. Baird:

Jasper Burger Baird was my son. He was about twelve years old. At 6 o’clock this morning I saw him alive. He went to call Jacob Van Arsdale to breakfast. Between three and five minutes after I heard of my son’s death his mother and the children were screaming that Jake had killed Jasper. I went to the front of the house and saw Van Arsdale going toward the road. He was not over 25 yards from the house. He was 50 yards off when my son Abraham D. Baird caught him. He was walking a little faster than his ordinary walk. When my son caught hold of them they had a scuffle. Jake walked on, then I sent my son Henry to the neighbors. Can’t say whether I had seen my son Jasper’s body yet or not. It was all done in such a hurry. I went to the shop where Van Arsdale worked and found my son lying there. My son Abraham was with me. He said, “there’s life yet.” My son raised his hand a little. I saw a motion of life in the boy. He lay where the jury now see his body. I saw only the wound on the right side of the neck. His head lay on its left side. There had been no quarrel of any kind in the family. My family consists of my wife and I, three boys (Abraham, Henry and Jasper), two daughters, Jacob Van Arsdale and a colored girl, – Getty Jane Straats.  Van Arsdale had lived with me since last Thanksgiving day. one of my boys (Henry) slept with him awhile. He got bothering him by his spells at night, getting up, that Henry went in another room bust Jasper and Abraham slept in the same room. Van Arsdale was very friendly to Jasper and thought as much of him as if he were his own son, apparently.  This morning after I was done with breakfast, I went to shave myself in the sitting room. Jasper had gone to the field to drive the cows and had not returned. Jake came down from his bedroom while Jasper was gone. The colored girl was eating. Jake had to pass her to go out to the shop. The colored girl had not done eating and I had finished shaving, when Jasper came back in the kitchen. I inquired of him if there was school today and we spoke about school. He was going to sit down when his mother said, “go and call Jake.”  After he went out I stepped into my bedroom to get some things as I was going away from home, to be back by noon.  I never heard Van Arsdale make any threats as to my family. I have heard him say, “I would like to have Pennel Mason’s heartblood,” but I never thought he meant it. I would afterward hear him speak of seeing Mason, as if there was nothing in it. I have heard him speak the same way of John Hall. Van Arsdale is very deaf. He has always been rational as far as I know. I’ve heard him at nights stamp down the stairs, slam every door, be outside about two minutes and then come back in the same way.  He’d be alright the next morning.  The boys would say the next morning he had a spell.  Sometimes these spells would occur every week, sometimes every two weeks.  He was very good humored last night.  I think if he’d got up at the ordinary time, it wouldn’t have happened.  I don’t know that he every saw the colored girl eat before him before.  After hearing him make the threats about John Hull, he settled with John.  I asked him how they were getting along and he said, “all right.  I had no trouble with him.  It was his wife I hate.”

Alleta Ann Baird:

I sent my son Jasper to call Jacob.  When Jacob came in, I had done nothing in the meantime and stood byt the table.  It was but a minutes or two, a very short time.  Jacob came by and gave me a ltitle slap with his hand.  He said something I can’t repeat. “Now you’ll see,” or something like that.  He went upstairs and changed his coat and hat.  I was standing still.  He was upstairs rattling the keys.  I listened to hear what was going on, then he came down and said something to me again.  I can’t say what he said.  He went off.  When he had got out of the kitchen and to the yard, my son Henry came in and said, “Jacob has killed Jasper”.  I then ran in the room and called my husband and told him.  I went into the shop and saw my son laying there.  I don’t know of anything which should have induced Jacob to kill my son.  Jacob acted very strange sometimes.  I couldn’t say whether he was rational or not.  He would get up in the night and stomp around.  I never heeard him say anything strange or irrational when he lived with me.  He always appeared to be right.

Getty Jane Staats (colored woman)

Heard Mrs. Baird and Jasper call Jacob.  I was in the dining room at the time, eating.  I saw Jacob come from the shop.  He walked fast.  I was in the kitchen.  I saw Jacob slap Mrs. Baird on the shoulder, a gentle slap.  He said, “Now you see,” then I went out on the stoop.  Henry asked me where Jasper was.  I went to the shop and looked for him.  I saw him, Jasper, kicking there.  He made a noise as I left.  I hollered and called Henry.  I came away from the shop.  I have eaten breakfast before Jacob before.  I never heard of his being angry about it.  I’ve seen him mad at Joe, the colored man.  This was last winter.  This was the only time I’ve ever seen Jake mad since he moved here.  When I called Henry, I said, “Jake has cut Jasper’s throat,” for I saw Jake come from the shop.  He did not walk fast when he came from the shop, I am sure of that.  Jasper was bleeding when I saw him.  The door of the shop was halfway open.

Henry W. Baird

Slept last night in a room alone.  There is a closet between my room and Jacob’s.  Jacob did not get up this morning as early as usual.  He was fifteen minutes to half an hour later.  Jasper was gone with the cows while I was eating breakfast.  I saw him come back.  I fetched the horse with him.  I was by the wagon house and saw Jasper go to the shop.  While I stood there I saw Jake come back, but Jasper did not.  I asked the colored girl where Jasper was.  With that she went into the shop and when she came out she told me Jake had cut Jasper’s throat.  I went then and saw Jasper laying in the shop by the door.  His body seemed to move a little.  He was bleeding.  He was all covered with blood.  I couldn’t see any wound.  I did not go farther than the door.  Then I saw Jacob start out of the gate with different clothes on.  Abraham was going towards him to stop him and I was going on, too.  Abraham had hold of him.  Jacob jerked loose and got his knife out and  opened it.  Said something, I could not exactly hear what.  I then started to go to Mr. Staat’s but met him before I got there.  Jacob sometimes complained of his head, of having a headache.  I never heard him say anything strange or irrational.  I have heard him threaten folks (Mr. Mason) and heard him talking of his relatives, Mr. Hall.  I can’t give any cause why he should kill my brother.  They were on good terms.  I never heard of his having anything against any of the family.  I don’t think it was two minutes from the time Jasper went into the shop that I saw Jake come out.  The colored girl was gone no longer than to go to the shop and come back.  I heard no noise in the shop.  Jake came back from the shop at about his usual walk.  I heard him slam the door as he went upstairs.  When Jacob first came here I slept with him, in the same bed, until the first of April.  He was tlaking a good deal in the to himself.  He got up one night and kicked against one door and then against another door.  The next morning he thought someone was after him.  This was the last night I slept with him.  He hollered murder that night.  The last night I slept with him he thought someone was after him.  He did not dress himself.  He kicked with his bare feet and made quite a noise.  He said last night that he had a headache.  I was never afraid, but I left because hemade so much noise.  I could not sleep more than half the time.  He ate the same as usual last night at suppoer.  After Mr. Staat came I and George Sauge ran ahead after Jacob.  Mr. Staat came behind.  I beckoned him to hold on.  He told me not to come by him.  He put his hands to his breast, inside of the coat as if he had a weapon there.  Then he picked up a stone and went on.  We followed him about fifty yards until he got to the railroad station.  He walked until he found he was not going to be in time for the cars and then he ran.  We got on the cars before they got to the depot.  He got on at the depot.  He said to Mr. Staats before he got on, “you are in this thing, too.”  He said he would fix it when he got to Somerville.  This he said before we got to the car.

Abraham D. Baird

I’m a brother of the deceased.  I slept in the same room as the prisoner, but in a different bed.  Van Arsdale got up at nine o’clock last night and walked across the room, looked out of the window a moment and then went back to bed.  I heard him say, “this is two nights and I haven’t slept a bit.”  I heard nothing more of him.  He’s in the habit of getting up and going heavily down the stairs every night.  I can’t say for what purpose.  He would dress himself and be gone a minute or two then come back.  I thought his motive for doing so was contrariness.  I never said anthing to him about it.  This morning I was in the stable about 6 o’clock putting harnesses on the horses.  A little black gir came running up to the barn yelling, “Jake has cut Jep’s throat.”  I started and ran to the house where I saw Van Arsdale going towards the road.  I was about twenty yards from the house.  I caught him on the collar.  This was before I saw my brother.  I didn’t know whether he looked around because I didn’t see him.  So I caught him by the collar and told him he killed Jep and must come back.  I don’t think he heard me.  I slung him loose and he walked off about two paces.  He pulled a knife out of his pocket and thrust it at me.  I picked up a stick, then he picked up a stick.  I threw mine down and went back to the house.  He did nothing at all.  He was walking slow and was dressed as he is now.  This isn’t his ordinary dress.  He’d had on his shirt for a day or two now.  Then he went into the shop where my little brother lay and said there was still some life in him.  Father stood there and said there wasn’t.  I came out again in front of the house and started after Mrs. Sebring.  I didn’t go after Van Arsdale again.  I don’t think he had any ill will against the family.  He always liked to see children come in the shop.  I’ve heard him say he’d put a knife to this one or that one, but outside of the family.  That is, if they ever came in his way or did him any hurt.  He’s talked this way ever since he’s been with us.  He don’t go to church.  He went nowhere on Sundays.  He would go around and talk with the neighbors.  He carried on business for himself.  I never heard him say or do anything irrationally.  I never heard him say anything about his eating after the black girl. Last night when I went to bed he snored and was asleep when I got up.  I came out of the room by his door and thought he was asleep.  I never saw a hatchet in his room.  The closet stood by the door that goes into his room, where he kept his clothes.  A gun stood there, which was loaded.  I don’t know who loaded it.  The shop stands about thirty feet from the house.  In going from the shop to his bedroom, he would pass through the kitchen, dining room and then upstairs.  I don’t know where he kept his notes and papers.  I never saw a hatchet before.  It doesn’t belong to father or the family.

Walter Cumming

I was at Baird’s farm this A.M. when the jury were there.  I found bloody clothes, rags in a small cupboard which was locked, in a vestibule of the bedroom upstairs in which the prisoner slept, rolled up tightly and placed in the back part of a drawer between the edge of the esconat.  I looked in the back of the cupboard and found another shirt marked withthe initials J.V., part of the shirt torn.  Found other pieces of Muslin in the shop which correspond with the shirt found.  One piece was in the pocket of a vest.   Found also a case in the lower part of the cupboard and a hatchet in the upper part.

John J. Brokaw (Sheriff)

I searched the person of Jacob Van Arsdale this A.M. after the arrest.  I found a watch, a bunch of keys, a large pocket knife, several scraps of paper, two pocketbooks, one contaning $21.40 also several memorandums which referred to money and bonds, one of which appeared to be a memorandum of an account against Andrew M. Baird and sons.  In the other pocketbook was found a note of John V.A. Van Cleef for $16.99 endorsed $3.10.  There was another note of $75 by W.W. Wykoff and D. Wykoff with (unintelligible) for interest paid and other notes.  There was also a small amount of silver change, gold stud and sleeve button.  When I examined him he said he would like to have me get his clothes for him.  I asked how he came to do this.  He said he didn’t want to say anything about it.  He said his head was all wild, that he hadn’t slept any for two nights.  He also said something about being drugged.  He said he wasn’t very well about his head.  I asked him if he was going to New York and he said, “I am not fixed for going to New York.”  He spoke about being troubled somewhat with his bowels.  I asked him how long he’d been there.  He said, “Since last Thanksgiving.”  He said he got the sickheadache, which goes off when he sleeps.  He said he was in excitement and if he’d stayed away, he would not have hurt anyone.  I asked him if he was sorry for what he did.  He said, “I guess I’m not.  I don’t know yet.  I can’t tell.”

Dr. H.F. Vanderveer

In connection with Dr. Wagoner I examined the wounds and the body of Jasper Baird.  I found a good deal of blood on the floor.  I found two fractures of the skull, one near the top of the head, a little on the left side about an inch wide and half an inch long.  The skull was slightly depressed.  Found a fracture of the skull on the right side, back and behind the ear.  It was circular and measured 2 1/2 inches one way and 2 the other.  The bone was very much depressed.  I suppose three quarters of an inch in the center.  The head of a shoemakers hammer fitted in exactly.  The wound must have been made by it or something like it.  The fracture on the top of the skull might have been made by the claw end of the hammer or any other heavy thing with an edge.  There were two stabs in the throat, one on the right side and one on the left.  The one on the right side was about an inch long.  It passed backward, inward and upward, say an inch and a half in depth.  The cut was in such a situation that it passed blood into the throat and would have caused suffocation to a degree.  The cut on the left side was also about an inch in length, a little lower on the throat than the right.  It was backward, inward and downward and wounded the internal jugular vein.  There was a bruise on the back of the head, probably caused by the boy falling. These wounds would produce death speedily, in about two minutes.  A shoemaker’s knife being shown, the witness said.  I saw the knife in the shop.  It had fresh blood on it then.  My idea is that the boy was struck down with the hammer first.  I don’t know which wounds on the head were given first.  I think either would have knocked him senseless.  I suppose the cuts on the back of the neck were made after he fell.  The wounds were in such a position and of such a character as to make it impossible for him to have killed himself.   The prisoner was asked if he knew what he was charged with and if he had anything to say and he was told he need not answer unless he saw fit.  He replied that he supposed another opportunity would be given.  He said he hadn’t slept any for two nights and he had no explanation to make.  The jury then , after a brief consultation, returned a verdict that Jasper Berger Baird came to his death at the hands of Jacob Van Arsdale.  The prisoner was then fully committed to await the notion of the grand jury at the next term of court which meets the third Sunday in September.  Van Arsdale is well known in the community.  He is very respectably connected, is about 45 years of age, unmarried and is very deaf – so much so that he is unfit for ordinary conversation.  He is slightly bald, has a wandering eye, a generally haggard appearance, but nothing about him which looks vicious or bad.  He has evidently a weak mind and at times is said to have been very passionate, but no one ever thought him insane.  Since his confinement we hear he is well and eats heartily.  The exaggerated reports in circulation he was very violent to the sheriff and that he attempted suicide are fabrications.



*This article was mailed from The Somerset Historical Society in Somerset, Nj. There are no citations made.

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