Part 1: A Rockland murder mystery
By Daniel Dunkle | Feb 07, 2019

On Monday night, Dec. 30, 1918, Carolyn Welt Brown had supper at 6 o'clock with her adult daughter and son-in-law at her home at 198 Broadway.

Baked beans were the main dish that night, but Brown didn't eat much. Perhaps she was troubled, as she knew she was going to visit a sick friend.

At some point, she went out, on foot, wearing a checked skirt, fur coat, toque hat and pearl earrings. At 47, she was said to be prominent in local society and a woman of "exceeding popularity." She was the widow of Harry E. Brown, who had been a well-known businessman with Rockland Hardware Co., and who had died in 1915.

She spent most of the evening at Hotel Rockland on Main Street, down near the corner of Park Street. The building would later burn in the great fire of 1952. Brown visited that night with Mr. and Mrs. George W. Bachelder, the latter of whom was convalescing from pneumonia. None of them knew that within a week's time he would be one of the bearers of Brown's coffin.

Around 10 p.m., she left and started her walk home.

Patrolman Percy Condon saw her walking north along Main Street until she had passed the H. R. Mullen fruit store near the corner with Limerock Street.

J. H. Wiggin was just closing up The Corner Drug Store at Limerock and Main. A trolley car passed, headed for Thomaston, as he extinguished the light. As he stepped into the street, he saw Carolyn Brown walking ahead of him. He was the last to see her alive, or the second-to-last, at any rate.

She continued up Limerock Street, passing the courthouse and Knox County Jail and made it to somewhere near the corner of Limerock and Broad streets.

It was here that someone came up behind her and struck her on the head with a club, which was actually a two-and-a-half-foot-long birch sled stake. It had been removed from the theater van in post office square.

She was dragged off the street, leaving a bloody trail in the snow. She was dealt more blows with the club and possibly choked. Her jaw was broken, her skull was fractured and she died. Her clothing was disarranged.

The murderer left footprints at the scene believed to be size 9 or 10. He also left the murder weapon. Her hat and pocketbook would be found nearby. The pocketbook still contained one dollar bill and some coins.

The struggle was likely heard by Pastor Willard L. Pratt of First Baptist Church, who was on his way home from visiting a person on Masonic Street.

Some impulse led him to cross Broadway instead of following his usual custom of taking Broad Street. As he was crossing Limerock street, his attention was attracted by a scuffle and sounds, which appeared to be made by three distinct blows. Looking down Limerock street about 300 feet, he saw a man standing. "As there was no renewal of the sounds Chaplain Pratt passed on."

Miss Grace Ford, housekeeper at H. H. Stover's residence, would later report that on that night she was on her way to the post office, when she was suddenly "confronted by a stranger, who stepped from out of the shadows near the residence of Mrs. C. E. Littlefield (96 Limerock St.) and made a peculiar guttural sound which Miss Ford could not construe into words. She went hastily on her way, noting in a quick glance that the man was tall, wore an overcoat buttoned closely around his neck..." She also noted he had a cap with a prominent visor.

Driving to work around 6 a.m. the next morning, John Beaton of Oliver Street spotted a strange man wearing a long overcoat with the collar turned up. As soon as his headlights played full upon the man, he ran away at top speed over Lincoln Street.

It would be Louis (or possibly Lewis) Hart and Maynard Greenlaw of the Camden & Rockland Water Co. on their way to a job at 7:30 a.m. who made the gruesome discovery.

The news created an immediate uproar throughout the city and beyond. Headlines screamed in The Courier-Gazette: "FOUL MURDER COMMITTED: Mrs. Harry E. Brown of Broadway Beaten To Death On Limerock Street Last Night -- Footprints In the Snow Only Clue To Criminal."

Before long, reporters and law enforcement experts were arriving from Boston.

This is what was being talked about 100 years ago, because the investigation would still be ongoing in February 1919.

The newspaper referred to it as "the most fiendish murder in Knox County's history..." The public wanted the killer caught, and with good reason. The incident was not entirely isolated. Several other reports of assaults and attempted assaults against women in the region were made at the time.

There was a "Scare" in the city.

Despite the efforts of local and outside law enforcement experts and the posting of a massive reward for evidence leading to prosecution, the case appears to have remained unsolved. I have not been able to find anyone who knows anything about it or any records other than newspaper articles. By Jan. 17, the Courier declared the authorities were "baffled," and in mid-February, the reward was still being posted in the paper, but the stories started to peter out.

If you know something about it, let me know. And stay tuned until next week, when I will discuss the investigation in detail.

Read part two here: https://knox.villagesoup.com/p/bias-derails-detectives-in-city-killing/1799347

Editor Daniel Dunkle of The Courier-Gazette lives in Rockland. He is author of the novel, "The Scrimshaw Worm." Send in your stories, photos and memories via email at: ddunkle@villagesoup.com; or snail mail to: 91 Camden St., Suite 403, Rockland, ME 04841. Vintage Ink columns rely on back issues of The Courier-Gazette for source material. Other sources will be cited specifically.


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Comments (3)
Posted by: Dan Dunkle | Feb 12, 2019 15:14

I'm not sure they did keep any of the evidence. I doubt they took anything that could be used for DNA evidence back that far, so I think it's not getting solved. I was really surprised that this has never been mentioned to me in all the years I've worked here, so it may be somewhat forgotten.


Posted by: cathy Cleaveland | Feb 09, 2019 06:17

With all the technology today, I would think if the evidence was kept, they would be able to solve this crime.

Sad story.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Feb 08, 2019 15:27

Sad! I hope they at least find out who did this, probably too old to prosecute but still. Closure!

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