Saturday, May 5, 2018

"Enveloped in Mystery"
Compiled by Robert A.  Waters

In 1895, a gruesome murder occurred in the backwaters of Florida.  A few national newspapers published brief stories about the case, but never followed up with a conclusion.

Aucilla, Florida, located in Jefferson County, was home to only a few hundred residents, many of whom worked for local lumber and turpentine companies.  Before air conditioning, it took a hardy soul to live in the backwoods of the state.  This brief compilation of stories about the rape and murder of Stella Johnson shows that Florida, then as now, could be a dangerous place.

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Young Girl Murdered: Atrocious Crime Reported from Aucilla, Florida

Janesville (MO) Daily Gazette

September 7, 1895--Sometime last Tuesday night, Stella Johnson, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a widow who lives near here was kidnaped. 

This morning the nude corpse of the girl strapped to a log and horribly mangled was found floating in a small lake about six miles from her home.  The girl's neck had been broken and her throat cut from ear to ear.  Her right arm had been severed from the body at the shoulder and no trace of it can be found.  Several young men who had been paying attention to the girl are under suspicion.  In the girl's room was found a mask which had been torn from one of her assailants.  The coroner is investigating and if the inquest confirms the suspicions entertained three men will be lynched.

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Examination showed that the girl had been outraged.

Philadelphia Times

September 6, 1895 (Aucilla, Florida)--On the shore of the lake there is a small cabin, and when it was searched, evidence was discovered which indicated that it was the scene of the outrage and murder.  In the hut was found the night gown of the girl, that being the only garment she wore when she was kidnapped.  The gown was covered with blood, as was the floor of the cabin.  From the cabin down to the lake a bloody trail led.  Beyond a few bloody footprints on the door of the cabin, the fiends who committed the crime had left no trace.  The crime is enveloped in mystery.

The girl and her mother had lived alone.  Tuesday night, according to Mrs. Johnson, Stella retired at the usual hour, and about 12 o'clock the mother heard her daughter screaming.  She rushed to Stella's room and found it vacant.  The mother gave the alarm, and since then, posses have been searching for the young girl, but in vain until this morning. 

Several young men who have been paying attention to the young girl are under suspicion, and it is hinted that the mother knows more than she had told.

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Her Neck Broken, Throat Cut. Right Arm Severed and the Body Strapped to a Log In a Pond.

Columbus Daily Herald

Jacksonville, Fla., Sept. 6, 1895--A special from Aucilla, Fla, says: Last Monday night Stella Johnson, the 14-year old daughter of a widow who lives near here, disappeared.  The mother said the girl had been kidnaped and posses have been searching for her.  Thursday the girl's nude and mangled body was found strapped to a log in a pond some distance from her home.  Her neck was broken, throat cut and right arm severed from the shoulder.  The arm could not be found.  She had also been outraged.  The coroner is investigating.  Several persons are suspected and the story of the mother is regarded as peculiar.

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If anyone has additional information concerning this case, please contact me.

NOTE: The photograph used is from the Florida Memory Project.

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