A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

History: Love Triangle Ends in Murder on Sycamore Avenue in Shrewsbury, 1897

The 27 May 1897 edition of The Matawan Journal (page 2, 1st column) carried the following story of a love triangle that turned to jealousy and murder. This article is part of my continuing series on how African Americans have been covered in The Journal over the years.



Jealousy Causes James M Rosler to Shoot David Looker

David Looker, a negro, was shot and killed Saturday night at Red Bank by James M. Rosler, another negro. The murdered man was employed by Joseph Woolley, a Shrewsbury farmer. Rosler is a carpenter, but has for a short time been employed as a janitor at the Shrewsbury Public School, besides doing work for farmers in the neighborhood.

Rosler's wife was the cause of the trouble. The woman was married to Rosler two years ago. According to reports she had been receiving attentions from Looker, who has a wife and family in North Carolina. Saturday night Looker, Blunt Murphy and Mrs. Rosler went to Red Bank. On their way home, and when near the house of Jacob Shutts, where Mrs. Rosler is employed, the party was accosted by Rosler. A few words followed, and then Rosler hit Looker over the head with a club. Mrs. Rosler ran away. Murphy stepped in between the men, when, quick as a flash, Rosler pulled a pistol and shot Looker in the right temple. A physician was called, but the wounded man lived only an hour.

Rosler went to a neighbor's, told them what he had done, and made arrangements with a man to take charge of his work, saying that he expected to give himself up to the officers. Early Sunday morning Rosler was arrested by Aaron Tilton, a constable, who took him to Red Bank and placed him in jail.

About the same time Looker's body, which had lain by the roadside all night, was taken charge of by Deputy Coroner Robert T. Smith of Red Bank.

Constable Tilton took Rosler to the County Jail at Freehold Sunday afternoon and Murphy and Rosler's wife were held as witnesses.


The 18 November 1897 edition provides a more complete rendering of events based on the testimony of witnesses at trial. Rosler had reportedly hidden behind a locust tree near the trolley stop on Sycamore Avenue and emerged wielding a pistol in one hand and a club in the other. "Here you are!" Rosler said to his wife, Looker, and Murphy. He then proceeded to strike Looker repeatedly with the club and shot him in the temple. Rosler was convicted of murder and was awaiting sentencing of 5 to 20 years. The article provided a complete list of the jurors in the trial.


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