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A Lebanon County Tragedy

Front Page of Lebanon Daily News - 5 August 1912 - 40th. year - no. 339

Mrs. Martha Blair Kills Peter Kreiser

Weapon Accidently Discharges at Indiantown Gap Home, After Defending Herself From Abuse of Husband, Whom She Shot, But Not Seriously.
Kreiser hit near groin and bled to death.
Woman Brought to Lebanon and Is at Home of Brother; Related Pitiful Story of Cruel Treatment Received at Hands of Husband
Driven from her own premises like an outcast, and then, according to her own story, harassed and abused by a cruel husband, who added insult to his injuries. Mrs. Martha Blair, residing near Donmoyer's Store at Indiantown Gap, on Saturday night, fired a fusilade of shots at her husband, who had renewed his assaults upon her. The husband was injured on the head by a charge from a shotgun, but was not seriously hurt. When Mrs. Blair attempted to get the gun in readiness to resist another anticipated attack of her husband, the weapon was accidently discharged, and Peter Kreiser, an aged veteran of the Civil War, whose daughter Alice is married to Mrs. Blair's son, fell with a serious wound. He bled to death before assistance could be rendered.

Mrs. Blair was brought to Lebanon by County Detective Aaron Sattazahn, and is being detained here awaiting further investigation of the case. The facts in the shooting are so well established, and it appears to be such a plain case of self defense, that Deputy Coroner, J. Herbert Manbeck decided to hold no inquest, after he had a consultation with Acting District Attorney Paul G. Adams, who advised that it was unnecessary to burden the county with additional expense which would be involved in an inquest.

The tragedy is decidedly one of the most pathetic on record in the history of the county, and the causes leading to it cover several years of time. The woman who did the shooting is held in high repute in the neighborhood in which she lives, and her neighbors seem to think that she is, morally at least, justified. She is 54 years of age, but trouble has made her prematurely old. Wringing her hands in agony over the horrible details of affair, and with her gray hair disheveled, she cried repeatedly, and with deepest unction; "God knows I didn't mean to shoot Grandpap." She made no such statement regarding Blair, but her angry attitude toward him is explained by his cruely toward her.

The shooting ocurred at the home of Peter Kreiser, the aged war veteran, which is located almost within a stone's throw of Donmoyer's Store at the Gap. Blair lives on a farm which is said to be owned by Mrs. BlaIr. Despite her title to the place, Blair is alleged to have driven her away. According to Mrs. Blair's story, Blair came to the Kreiser home which was locked and he could not gain entrance. He threw his weight against the door, and the latch soon gave way. The forced screws and the catch, and a splintered door jamb, corroborated this part of the story.

Mrs. Blair states that her husband then entered the place. During a rampage around the outside of the house, she says, he gave vent to the vilest kind of language, and uttered threats of the most horrible kind, among the least being that he "will cut the guts out of everybody" within. Mrs. Blair, being terrified, had secured a single barreled shotgun, and when the door burst in upon her, she fired, fearing that the threats made by Blair were about to be carried out. This shot went through the wall of the frame house, about six inches to the right of the door, and too high to injure a human being of average height.

Mrs. Blair declares that her husband then grabbed her and dragged her into the yard, but that the old soldier, Kreiser, then came to her rescue. Kreiser kicked Blair several times, and a scuffle ensued, and Mrs. Blair meanwhile entered the house and hastily grabbed a revolver, a twenty-two calibre weapon, which she fired repeatedly. The wildest kind of excitement prevailed at this time, and where these bullets went is pure conjecture. She says she fired the revolver in the yard, but no trace of the bullets could be found. None of them hit Blair.

Her story is corroborated, however, to the extent of finding the revolver in the house with one chamber loaded and the others discharged.

The revolver having been of no avail, Mrs. Blair again got her single barreled shotgun, and having loaded it, went to the door. The old soldier, by this time had held off Blair, and apparently Blair took off to get some weapons.

(CK note: Due to space restraints and the blackened partially unreadable part of this article I have had to edit this part of the story. From what I could determine, Mrs. Blair had a grandchild in a cradle on the floor at the time of this incident.)

After firing at Blair, she jammed another shell into it's place in the breach, and rushed to the rear door. She had to get there before Blair could return, else all would be lost. All would be killed. The old soldier, robust in figure, and still sturdy in health, caring nothing for himself, but thinking only of the tot on the floor, picked the youngster up in his arms.

Mrs. Blair had been preparing supper when the trouble began. The table was set with a frugal meal. Everything was ready. (Ye Gods, what a setting for a drama or a moving picture.) Then a shot rang out! But it was not the enemy again. "Old Grandpap" went down, because in her excitement, Mrs. Blair somehow or other, pulled the trigger, or it exploded otherwise.

Mrs. Blair knows nothing as to the cause of the accident. She remembers that the old man held her grandchild in his arms, when he sank to the floor. He uttered not a word. The gun, being single barreled, was a "full choked" weapon, and the shot did not spread at so short a range. The whole contents of the shell struck him in the left leg near the groin. It was not a vital point in his anatomy, and had a surgeon been present, his life undoubtably would have been saved. However, Peter Kreiser perished on the floor of his humble home, for the want not necessarily of a physician skilled in surgery, but for a grain of common sense and a bit of twine which would have stopped the flow of blood. Neither were available, and he slowly bled to death.

Mrs. Blair's story, when told, was given with a frankness and sincerity that left no doubt of it's truth. She accounted for one of the missing guns, but the one she had used herself she knew nothing of. It was agreed that Blair must have taken it with him to his own home, but there were no people in the locality who would lead the way to his place. It is said he was known to have been intoxicated, and in a great rage when the trouble ocurred, and his neighbors would not take a chance of meeting up with him when he had a gun. H. W. Heisey, a neighboring young farmer, who had heard the shots earlier in the evening, but had paid no heed to them, finally led the way to Blair's home, and then another surprise was given to the officers.

Blair, instead of being enraged, got up from his chair, in which he supposedly was sleeping and invited the party into his house as if they were bent on a pleasant evening visit. Blood which had trickled from the wounds in his head, had streamed down his face and dried and he was a ghastly sight. His finger was also bleeding from a slight wound.He was innocence personified. At first he said he knew nothing of the fact that Kreiser was dead, and appeared to be dumbfounded at the news. Then his befuddled brain got into action, and he told some of the story. BLAIR'S STORY: Oh, no! He had not been ugly. He merely went to the Kreiser home to deliver a letter which the rural carrier had left earlier in the day. When he approached the place, she began to fire at once, and without provocation. One shot hit him, and of course he wanted to defend himself. He ran to Donmoyer's to get his gun, and when he came back Kreiser was on the floor. At this point his story became so confused that it plainly showed that he did not know what he was talking about. He said that when he saw Kreiser on the floor dead, or at least dying, he went back to the store to give the alarm.

Front Page of Lebanon Daily News - 18 SEPTEMBER 1912


The September grand jury on Tuesday afternoon, ignored the bill of indictment in which Martha A. Blair, of Indiantown Gap, was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the accidental shooting of her aged benefactor and protector, Mr. Peter Kreiser. Instead, her husband George Blair, Sr. whose appearance at the Kreiser home that Saturday night and his attack on his wife was directly responsible for the tragedy, will have to face a Lebanon County jury on a charge of assault with intent to kill. Again, Mrs. Blair will not have to answer to a similar charge lodged against her by her husband. George Blair was directed to pay the costs of this suit and also the costs of the suit he brought against his son, George Blair, Jr., charging him with larceny. The grand jury ignored this bill of indictment. It will be recalled that Blair, on the night of the tragedy, visited the Kreiser home, where his wife had taken refuge from his cruelty, and not only attacked his wife, but made threats against the lives Kreiser and Mrs. Blair. It was then that Mrs. Blair, in fear of her life, opened fire on her husband, driving him from the premises, and in preparing for his threatened return, the gun was discharged in her hands, killing Kreiser.

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