The Dark History of Waterman’s Woods
You had to be brave to walk the road through Waterman’s Woods. Described as crawling up a long hill through acres of forest, it was believed to be located near the line between Scituate and Johnston and was a gateway to Providence.
Most people today have never heard of the once notorious location, which cannot even be pinpointed. However, in the late 1800s and early 1900s everyone knew this – and knew they were taking charge of their lives with every passing.
Eight murders took place on this lonely road through the forest. Bandits hid in the shadows, the slaughtered hanged themselves on the trees. There have been many tragedies, accidents and events that almost make the woods seem like a doom.
Waterman’s Woods, with its muffled darkness, was the perfect place to commit crimes and behave badly.
In September 1887, a man known as Mr. Guncheon beat up another man after an insignificant argument as a large crowd gathered among the trees to enjoy the bloody spectacle.
In October 1894, an unidentified man, aged about 65, was discovered hanged in the woods, the victim of an apparent suicide. It was estimated that he had been hanged there for about four days.
In August 1902, Henry Ferry, James Grant, and Peter Early, a 67-year-old Providence liquor merchant, were driving through the woods when their car‘s axle suddenly snapped and slid through the ground. The men suffered injuries.
In February 1905, Frank Randall was carrying a load of lumber through the area when he was suddenly thrown from the wagon. A wheel went over his leg and he was also injured.
The following month Caleb Atwood, a 37-year-old farmer from Scituate, returned home one night after going to town to sell his eggs. He walked past two men in the dark and ignored them until a bullet hit him under the left shoulder blade. Frightened, his horse raced. Caleb gripped the seat and hung on for life as the horse pulled away. After the animal pulled up outside a Scituate house, Caleb was rushed to Rhode Island hospital.
Six months later, John Cooney was arrested for reveling in Providence. The handcuffed man was waiting to be put on the train when he fled and disappeared into Waterman’s Woods.
In June 1907, Alfred Thornton, a 37-year-old carpenter, and Edgar Hicks, 40, discovered Gottlob Domke dead in the woods. The 59-year-old German came to America in 1891 and was employed as an agent of Providence.
The following month, Harry Joslin was driving when his passenger car’s steering gear malfunctioned and catapulted itself into the trees. The car was damaged and Joslin was injured.
In January 1910, an old soldier named Gilbert Mann received a fatal gunshot as he walked through the woods. German baker Ernest Lorenz, an evil madman suspected of numerous thefts and murders, has been tried for the murder.
In February 1912, William Hopkins’ horse slipped down the icy hill, broke his hip and had to be shot.
Seven months later, there was a party going on in their car when a man in a brown suit and derby hat came out of the woods and stole all of their money and valuables at gunpoint. .
In November 1913, Mary Everett, 37, and Jennie Bender, 33, were driving through the area when their horse suddenly rushed over, injuring Ms Bender.
Herbert Baxter, 49, a public school teacher, was driving through the woods in August 1915 when his car collided with that of another man. Both men were injured and both machines damaged. Baxter had to leave without his car and when he returned the next day it had been stripped of its tires and cushions.
Though lost in history, Waterman’s Woods was once a place to prepare for a traumatic experience, one that would be remembered for a lifetime … if it was to survive.
D. Kelly Sullivan is a columnist, speaker and author in Rhode Island.