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From the Crazy Vault: A Gruesome Buzzard Point Tragedy from 1912

From the Ghosts of DC Crazy Vault: An unfortunate tragedy from 1912 at Buzzard Point in DC. Read about the gruesome murder and attempted peacemaker thwarted by a jealous husband with a revolver.
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Washington Post headline - March 18th, 1912
Washington Post headline – March 18th, 1912

We wanted to dig up a few stories on Buzzard Point since it’s recently been in the news as the potential site for our new D.C. United soccer stadium. The one we found fits nicely into our “From the Crazy Vault” category.

These stories are always pretty crazy, in addition to be being far more gruesome than what you’d see in the papers today. We came across this article in the Washington Post, published on March 18th, 1912.

A woman shot dead, the husband who did the shooting a corpse by his own hand, and a peacemaker with a bullet hole in his coat just over the heart sums up a tragedy enacted at Buzzard Point, near Half and V streets southwest, yesterday afternoon.

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John Griffin, 42 years old, living in an “ark” owned by Arthur Crouch, shot twice and instantly killed his wife, Mary, aged 26, of 941 Lettie street southwest, then fired a bullet into his own head, and another into his breast, dying instantly. The couple had been estranged for a year and a half. Jealousy is ascribed as a motive for the tragedy.

The murder and suicide occurred close by the river’s edge, in the midst of a squatter settlement, less than a quarter of a mile from the engineers’ quarters of the government War College and Engineering School. The bodies were removed to the morgue about an hour after the killing.

John Draper, an employe of the Navy Yard, who, with George Adams, of 1313 L street southeast, was the only eyewitness to the tragedy, graphically described the shooting.

“I was standing in front of Crouch’s ark about half-past 2, talking with George Adams, when Mrs. Griffin came by,” he said. “She went into Conway’s ark, just below, and after fifteen or twenty minutes came out and started up the river along the path close to the edge. She had hardly passed Adams and myself when Griffin came out of Conway’s ark, following the woman. There was nothing about either to attract our attention. As a matter of fact I do not know either one of them, and only learned their names afterward.

“Griffin went into Couch’s ark and in a few minutes came out. As he walked away from us and toward the woman I saw he had a revolver in his hand. I could see now that something was up, and that he was bent on harming the woman. I called to Adams, “That fellow is going to shoot that woman,” and running up to Griffin tried to catch his arm just as he raised the pistol to shoot.

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His wife heard us scuffle and turned around, stepping a little to one side and almost back of me. We were all close together by that time.

“‘I’ll fix you now,’ cried Griffin to the woman, and fired directly under my left arm. She just gave a little moan, grabbed at her breast, and crumpled on the ground.”

“‘And — you. I’ll shoot you, too,’ he said to me, and blazed away almost in my face.”

“I was scared for a minute, but didn’t know at the time what a close shave I had had. Adams showed me later where the bullet had taken a piece out of my coat just over the heart.”

“After firing at me, Griffin stepped over to the woman and fired a second shot into her mouth. He then raised his pistol and fired a bullet into his right temple. He sank to his knees, held the revolver right against his breast, and fired again”

“I ran over to Hyman’s stable, on the corner of South Capitol and S streets, and telephoned the news to No. 4 precinct.”

Adams corroborated Drapers’ recital.

Arthur Crouch, the owner of the revolver, is deaf. He said that Griffin entered his “ark” while he was dozing in his chair, and procured the revolver without his knowledge. It was always kept on a shelf at the end of the schack, a fact that Griffin knew. He said he knew nothing of what was happening till the murder and suicide had been done.

According to the police, Mrs. Griffin, who is said to have been employed in a local hotel, came down to the scene of the tragedy with a number of “want ads,” which she had clipped fro mthe papers, with the idea of helping her husband find employment. Griffin had formerly been an employe of the navy yard, but lost his place a month or so ago. He had served in the navy for three years; had been honorably discharged, and was said to be a competent workman. Lately, he had been working at anything he could get about the wharves, and had made his home with Arthur Crouch on the “ark.”

Mrs. Winfield, with whom Mrs. Griffin made her home, at 941 Lettie street, said she knew very little about Griffin. According to her statements, Mrs. Griffin was an orphan, who had been brought up by Mrs. Winfield’s uncle.

“Mary was a good, hard-working woman,” she declared. “She had several quarrels with her husband since their marriage, about six years ago, and they have not been living together for a year and a half. He was a man of a very jealous disposition, and made an attempt to shoot himself two years ago, when they were living at 4 T street southwest. He was seldom employed permanently, and the couple had difficulty more than once over money matters. They had three small children, two girls and a boy, who are in a charitable institution.”

This is such a tragic story.

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