On December 26, 1864, Warren County’s Roosa family experienced a crime so heinous that it resulted in the first and only execution to take place in the County’s history. Mrs. Roosa, her children, and their farm hand were all fast asleep in their beds on that cold December evening. Their slumber was short lived when an intruder with an ax began attacking them room by room. The farm hand, Jesse Couzens, was the first to suffer blows from the murderers ax followed by Mrs. Roosa and three of her young children. Only one child, 7 year old Jeanette, managed to remain unharmed by hiding under her bed covers. All of the victims were found dead the following day except for Mrs. Roosa, who had survived multiple ax wounds to the head.
Due to the lack of evidence and no suspects, Warren County residents were fearful for their lives. These circumstances led Warren County Commissioners to offer an official reward totaling $1,000 for the capture of the murderer or murderers. This reward is one of the first documented in the Warren County Commissioners Minute books. Following a lengthy investigation that included multiple suspects, Samuel Coovert was convicted and sentenced to death. Although he asserted his innocence up until his death, Coovert was hanged on August 24, 1866, for those crimes committed against the Roosa household. County documents, such as case files and commissioners minutes, have been utilized by many researchers who continue to tell this gruesome tale, including a book titled Murder Most Foul: Massacre in Warren County written by Robert L. Drake, 2009.
Commissioners Minutes Volume 9, page 208 from 1864
Commissioners Minutes Volume 9, page 209 from 1864
Commissioners Minutes Volume 9, page 252 from 1866
Today marks the 99th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the old Warren County Infirmary building, which now houses the Warren County Health Department. On August 17, 2015 the Records Center and Archives completed a new exhibit highlighting the history of the old Infirmary. While conducting research I found an entry from the Commissioners Journals appointing J.A. Runyan, a member of the Infirmary Building Commission, to purchase a box and to procure the necessary records and matters for the laying of the corner stone. I thought to myself that this must mean there is a time capsule in the building! Unfortunately there were no follow up entries in the journals detailing whether the time capsule existed or when it would have been sealed within the corner stone.
Moving on with my research I was able to find an article from the Western Star with all of the missing information. The article details that there was a small informal ceremony on September 2, 1916, in which the Building Commission, the Superintendent & family, and other interested spectators placed a “treasure box” within the corner stone.
As an archivist it was thrilling to discover a missing piece of Warren County’s history. The Records Center and Archives staff met with the Warren County Commissioners on August 11, 2015 to propose the opening of the time capsule. It was agreed upon that a committee will be formed in order to confirm the existence of the time capsule, to organize the opening of the time capsule, and to gather items from throughout the Warren County departments to replace the 1916 time capsule. The ceremony to extract and open the time capsule is currently scheduled on the 100th anniversary, Friday September 2, 2016. Be sure to check out the new exhibit and look for addition information to come! -Written by Jenifer Baker, Deputy Archivist
Commissioners Minutes Volume 26, page 40 from 1916
The Western Star, September 7, 1916