A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

History: Fred Hendrickson Murders William Slack in Red Bank (1899)

Nineteen year old Fred Hendrickson murdered 67-year-old William Slack in a fit of jealous rage after coming upon Slack and Mrs Fanny Withington in the woods with a six-pack of beers, according to the 20 Sep 1899 edition of The Red Bank Register. Hendrickson was not pleased with the couple's sylvan rendez-vous because he considered Mrs Withington his girl, so he took one of the beers and broke it across Mr Slack's skull, killing him. He then dragged the body to the edge of the clearing and left.

Moses Withington, Fanny's husband, was out of the picture as he was taken to Long Island a week earlier by Pinkerton detectives, who arrested him on charges related to the murder of John Bunn in Bayshore, LI over the 4th of July holiday. The detectives said Withington had been working on Long Island at the time under the name Charles Richardson.

Hendrickson, Mrs Withington, and Eugene "Slick" Holmes and his wife Edith were incarcerated in the Monmouth County jail in Freehold. The Holmeses aided and abetted the crime by providing Hendrickson a place to stay the night. Hendrickson was arrested at their home the day after the murder.

Distant Cousin has a full transcript of the Red Bank Register article about this incident.

Below are some details about key players in this saga. I'll add updates to this article if I can find more information about this story.

Fred Hendrickson

Fred Hendrickson is the son of Henry Hendrickson of Shrewsbury. Initial reporting suggested that Fred was the maternal grandson of Mingo Jack, an African American who was lynched at Eatontown for assaulting the white woman, Angelina Herbert. This was soon retracted. His mother was actually the daughter of John and Rachel Holmes, according to the Red Bank Register of 27 September 1899, as cited by Distant Cousin.

Fred was educated in the Red Bank school system. "He left school about five years ago. The Red Bank boys and girls who were his school mates say that he was a very nice mannered boy and they liked him very much. . He had more companions and associates among the white young people than any other colored lad has ever had in Red Bank. A short time ago he began to go with a tough-crowd of colored people and his degeneration was rapid He lived with his father at Shrewsbury until about two months ago, when his father told him he must give up his evil companions or quit his house. The boy chose to do the latter and has since lived at Red Bank."

The 4 October 1899 edition of The Red Bank Register details the empanelment of the Grand Jury at Freehold. The names of the judge and jury are provided.

Fred served 7 years in prison for the murder of William Slack. 

New Jersey birth records show Fred Hendrickson was born 12 Oct 1876 in Shrewsbury to Henry and Charlotta Hendrickson.

The 1910 Federal Census shows a Fred Hendrickson (30 NJ) living in Red Bank with his wife of 7 years Margaret. He was a laborer at the bottling works. They were enumerated by race as mulatto.

Fred ran into Fannie again in 1911, according to the following article from the 23 Dec 1911 edition of The South Amboy Citizen, page 2.

Has Ex-Convict Arrested

With blood streaming from a gash over her right eye and her face lacerated, Mra. Fannie Holmes, of Beach street, Red Bank, staggered into police headquarters Saturday and told Police Chief J. Frank Patterson that Fred Hendrickson, a former convict had beaten her and attempted to kill her with a knife. Hendrickson was arrested a little later and committed to jail to await the action of the grand jury. Hendrickson recently served a term of seven years in the State prison for killing John Slack. Slack was talking with Mrs. Holmes when Hendrickson hit him over the head with a bottle, killing him instantly.

He was driving a carriage in Red Bank in this article in the 26 March 1913 edition of The Red Bank Register.

Two Men and a Horse Hurt, and a Wagon and Automobile Badly Damaged -- Driver's Escape from Serious Injury Was Remarkable
Two men and a horse wofe hurt and an automobile and a wagon were damaged in a lively runaway on Monmouth street Monday morning. The horse belongs to William Kelly, proprietor of the American hotel. A New York man had hired the rig to go to Oceanport. Fred Hendrickson of Red Bank was driving. Some of the harness broke when the wagon was near the railroad crossing and this caused the horse to bolt.
The horse ran down the street at top speed for a distance and then dashed into an automobile belonging to Mrs. Isaac H. Adlem. The machine was standing in front of Dr. Frances L. Cooke's house. Both Hendrickson and the New York man were thrown out. Hendrickson for a few minutes was beneath the excited plunging horse and it seemed remarkable that he was not crushed to death. The New York man landed heavily on his shoulder. He was taken into Dr. Cooke's house, and later in the morning he returned to New York. His injuries are painful but not serious.

Hendrickson was cut and bruised on his hands and legs. The horse also suffered similar injuries. The automobile is a new machine, which Mrs Adlem bought about a week ago. Both the lamps on it were broken and it was otherwise damaged. It is estimated that it will cost about $200 to repair it. The dash board of the wagon was broken and the vehicle was badly dented and bent.

Fred Hendrickson, born 12 Oct 1876, registered for the World War I draft in September 1918. He was working for Frank H Brasch as a teamster at the stable on West Street in Red Bank. His residence was also listed as West Street. Fred listed his nearest relative as his mother, Charoli Hendrickson, 12 St. Mary Place, Red Bank. He was listed as negro by race, short by height, and slender by build.

The 1920 Federal Census showed Fred Hendrickson (43 NJ) living on Central Avenue in Red Bank, along with his partner Josephine Lacey and 4 Lacey children.The family was enumerated by race as black. He was a laborer at the coal yard by trade.

The 28 June 1965 edition of The Red Bank Register, page 2, contained the obituary of Fred Hendrickson's widow.

RED BANK — Mrs. Margaret Hendrickson, 85, of 16 St. Mary's Pl., died Saturday at her home. Mrs. Hendrickson was born in Canada.
She was a member of the Shrewsbury Ave. AME Zion Church here. 

Mrs. Hendrickson was the widow of Fred Hendrickson. 

Surviving are an adopted daughter, Mrs. Grace Jeter of this place and several nieces.
The funeral will be tomorrow at 1 p.m. in the F. Leon Harris Funeral Home, Red Bank, with Rev. T. H. Coursey, pastor of the Shrewsbury Ave. A.M.E. Zion Church, officiating. Burial will be in White Ridge Cemetery, Eatontown.

William Slack

Slack was born and raised in the Trenton area, where he worked as a carpenter. He moved to Red Bank after the Civil War and lived on Broad Street for a few years with his wife and three sons. After his wife died, Slack moved West, returning to Red Bank about 1896. His sons Ralph and Joseph were living in Red Bank at the time of the murder, while his son Charles remained out West. Slack built a number of houses in Red Bank and was considered a good carpenter. He built the Hubbard house at the corner of Broad and Monmouth Streets, for example.

William Slack (30) of Princeton was called for military service in the Civil War in June 1863, according to a registry of the Second Congressional District draftees.

The 1860 Federal Census showed William Slack (28 NJ) living in Lawrenceville, Mercer County, NJ with wife Anna P (28 NJ), son Charles H (4 NJ), and daughter Elizabeth (6/12 F NJ). William was a carpenter. He and his family were enumerated as white by race.

Annie Slack (35 PA) and sons Charles (14 NJ), Ralph (6 NJ), and Joseph Slack (1 NJ) were enumerated in Lawrence Township, Mercer County, NJ in the 1870 Federal Census. They were living in the household of Israel and Mary Reed. Mary was 28 and born in Pennsylvania, so she and Annie could have been sisters. Israel was a farmer.

Ralph Slack

Slack's son Ralph, also a carpenter, died on 3 Oct 1899, less than a month after his father was murdered. He was aged 34 years 7 months at the time of his death.

The 12 October 1899 edition of The Matawan Journal, page 2, inferred that his death might have been a suicide, perhaps a response to the circumstances of his father's recent death:

Killed By a Train - Ralph Slack of Red Bank, aged 34 years, son of William Slack who was murdered at Red Bank about four weeks ago, was killed by a freight train at Red Bank last Thursday night. He was working at Lakewood that day and returned to Red Bank at 4:45 that afternoon. He did not go home immediately, but was noticed between 7 and 8 o'clock lying down in the vicinity of his house. Hearing a train whistle blow, he was seen to jump up and run toward the railroad track. Later his body was picked up between the tracks. He leaves a wife and two children.

The 1900 Federal Census showed Ralph's widow, Thasia Stack (Oct 1865 NJ) and her children Yvonne (Jul 1891) and Robert (May 1895), living in Shrewsbury with Ralph's brother Joseph (Dec 1868 NJ), his wife Bernice (Aug 1877 NY) and their 2 children Elsie (Apr 1897 NJ) and Ralph (Jan 1899). Also a carpenter, Joseph had been married to Bernice for 4 years at the time. Thasia was working as a seamstress to make ends meet. She had had 4 children, but only 2 had survived by the time of the census.

The 1895 NJ State Census showed Ralph P and Phisa (?) Slack living in Shrewsbury along with children Yvonne, Robert H, and Joseph.

The 1880 Federal Census showed a 17-year-old Ralph Slack in reform school in Jamesburg, Middlesex County, NJ.

Moses Withington

The 1900 Federal Census shows Moses Withington (Apr 1876 NJ) as a prisoner at Sing Sing State Prison at Ossining, Westchester County, NY. A waiter by occupation, Moses had been married 7 years at the time of the census. Moses was enumerated as a black man.

Moses (4 NJ) was living in his parents' household in Middletown in the 1880 Federal Census. His father Samuel Withington (55 DE) was a gardener by trade. His mother was Catherine (43 NJ) and his many siblings were Wesley (18 NJ)  Alfred (16 NJ), Caroline (12 NJ), Cornelius (10 NJ), Augustus (7 NJ), and Ida (2 NJ).

Birth records show Moses was born in Trenton on 11 May 1876 to Samuel and Catharine Withington.

First Methodist Church Responds

Pictures of Red Bank Events at the First Methodist Church.
A temperance service was held by the Sunday-school of the First Methodist church on Sunday afternoon. Rev. J. E. Parmley of Oceanic made an address and Rev. E. C. Hancock and John Chamberlain gave blackboard talks. The illustrations on the blackboard were drawn by Clarence M. Johnston. One series of illustrations was called " Snap Shots of Recent Events in Red Bank." Among the events pictured were Fred Hendrickson in jail, the finding of Ralph Slack's body on the railroad track, the eviction of a family for non-payment of rent, and a young man taking a drink at a hotel bar.


  1. I'm looking for information of a murder that happened in the mid to late 40's in Matawan. It was a shooting, right in the middle of the street while this person was getting the mail. I am almost positive it was a man shooting a woman neighbor, but not sure. Is there any resources you might be able to forward me to? Or perhaps it would make for a good blog post? Thanks!

  2. Check my Research Tools link at the top of the blog, just below the title. You'll find all sorts of resources for digging into this sort of thing. I recommend looking in The Matawan Journal and the Red Bank Register (RBR).

    Try Page 2 of the 28 Mar 1946 edition of The Matawan Journal, which covered the funeral of Joseph Shelbrick, who committed a murder-suicide involving his wife and step-daughter. It doesn't exactly match your recollection, but it's a start. I found that story in about ten minutes. Keep in mind that the Matawan Journal search tool isn't the easiest to use. RBR might be easier. If it was a big case it should be in the RBR.

    If you find the story you're looking for, let me know and I'll add the story to the blog. Thanks for writing.