Massacres/Mass Murder · Pennsylvania · Workplace Violence

The Dearing family murders

April 7, 1866
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Six members of the Dearing family, a family friend, and a fieldhand are murdered

The Dearing family (misspelled in the top picture as “Deering”) and two others were lured into a barn and systematically murdered with an axe and hammer. The victims were Christopher Dearing (38), Julia Dearing (45), John Dearing (8), Thomas Dearing (6), Annie Dearing (4), Emma Dearing (14 months), Elizabeth Dolan (family friend, 25), and Cornelius Cary (fieldhand, 17). 10-year-old Willie Dearing had been visiting his grandparents, becoming the only survivor of the family.

The victims were struck over the head with an axe and had their necks chopped as well, which led to at least one victim being decapitated. 4-year-old Annie apparently saw the axe coming down on her head and held up a hand defensively resulting in her fingers being severed. The bodies of 7 of the victims were arranged in rows and covered with hay; Cary’s body was found outside the barn.

The murderer was revealed to be disgruntled farmhand Anton (or Antoine) Probst who murdered the family “for revenge and money.” His trial began April 19, he was convicted of 8 counts of murder, and was executed on June 8. His body was then given to a doctor who performed various experiments, including testing a popular theory at the time which proposed the eyes of a dead person retained the last image a person saw before death.

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