By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
What was left was just a skeleton found in a pine stand at a place called the Devil's Elbow.
October 30, 1886, Palatka, Florida
A boy hunting found him. His head lay to the roots of the pine tree, and his flesh had been completely stripped off by animals and buzzards. The condition of the clothes indicated he had been dead several months, and that he might have been the victim of the prior winter's freeze.
The clothes consisted of an overcoat and a neat suit. The pants were stuck into the tops of the boots. The linen shirt had two gold studs in the bosom. They were inlaid with pearl, and in one of the pockets was found a Waterbury watch. There was also a fine knife, an ivory-handled watch key and a pencil inside the pockets, but no papers or money were found. In one corner of a silk handkerchief was the name D. Steadman plainly written with indelible ink, but there was nothing else to identify the body. The upper teeth of the man were false, set in in a rubber plate. The overcoat was stained red in places, but it was unknown if it was red paint or blood.
It was judged the man was Caucasian, measured about 6 feet in height and he was neatly dressed. From scraps of hair that were still attached to the skull it seems he was probably 40 or 50 years of age, since the remnants were sprinkled with gray.
Strangely Judge Haughton declined to hold an inquest over the remains, and ordered the bones buried.
However a day after the discovery, the young man who found the skeleton, and who worked in the orange grove belonging to Martin Griffin described where several months before, four or five men who he described as "hard cases", and which were intoxicated were walking in the area where the bones were found.
A few days later he noticed buzzards congregated there in large numbers, but he thought it was the carcass of a dead animal they were eating, so he didn't pay any attention. Now he believed this man was killed by his companions.
This story put into doubt the theory the stranger had died due to the freeze.
Two days later E.T. Gale the coroner claimed there was a strong suspicion the stranger was murdered, since it seemed the skull was split at the back as if by a sharp instrument of some kind. This reinforced the theory the man had been the victim of foul play.
A tramp that worked in the area where the bones were found, spoke of stealing a hatchet from a house. It was decided to search the grounds in case they could find the hatchet, which might turn out to be the murder weapon. Nothing was ever found.
On December 11, 1886, a letter was received from New Haven, Connecticut. It read:
A friend of mine tells me that a month ago he saw in your paper an account of the finding of the body of a man "back of Devil's Elbow." Will you kindly send me a copy of the paper containing the item? E.M. Andrews went from here early last year and set up a sawmill at DeLand. He went from there to Jacksonville, January 1, 1886 and has not since been heard from.
It turned out that since September 1886, there was an ongoing search for E.M. Andrews who disappeared into the wilds of Central Florida since the first days of 1886. It took a year for a connection to be made between his disappearance and the bones found at the Devil's Elbow.
E.M. Andrews had left for DeLand, Florida in January with thousands of dollars worth of sawmill machinery to start a new business, however nine months later he had disappeared. A member of the Masonic Lodge in Connecticut, asked Mr. Perkins with the lodge in DeLand to help in locating him.
Behind the scenes, the two mysteries were joined, and the story of of Mr. Andrews and the man's skeleton disappeared from the newspapers. That is until February 1889, over two years after the discovery, when a small article was mentioned in a Connecticut newspaper, referring where E.M. Andrews who was murdered in Florida in January 1886, was declared dead and the Masonic Lodge he belonged to paid benefits to his widow.
And that would have been the end of that except...
In September, 1889, Mr. Andrews, a wealthy architect and builder was found very much alive, living in Oregon. The Masonic fraternity who had paid his widow insurance benefits were asking for a refund, and until this arrangement was finalized is when he would step out of his hiding place.
Andrews refused to meet with newspaper reporters, and he had H.C. Baldwin from Naugatuck act as his spokesman. It turned out that he had been living in Portland, Oregon where for a time he spent time as a young man. What he had done since January 1, 1886 remained a mystery.
There were some dark hints of a southern romance; others talked of a mental aberration from which he had just recovered.
Andrew's life until his strange actions had been anything but unusual. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and was wounded in the arm. He graduated from Yale Scientific School as a civil engineer in 1876. This was the same year he married Julia Maria Hill. They moved to Naugatuck in 1881, when he received the commission for the erection of the townhall. He went on to design other buildings, and along the way he made a host of friends, most of them were men of influence in the town.
Evelyn Marcelon Andrews was described as a man of more than medium height, with sandy beard and dark eyes. He was considered a shrewd businessman and he was an "interesting talker on familiar subjects."
He got investors in Connecticut to back him on a venture in Florida for the sawmill. He went in a schooner fitted out expensively at New Haven and landed at Palatka, Florida. He went up the St. John's River to Deland, and then four miles further into the swamps and forest of Highland Park, where he established the second largest sawmill in the state. This was on the land of Major Norris, who also advanced him money to get the enterprise started.
Perhaps he saw the potential when five new railroad lines were attracted to Palatka during the 1880s, and tourists, lumber and the citrus industries were growing. However in 1884, a great fire wiped out the entire business district, and instead of rebuilding with wood, the structures were made from brick.
He obtained a large railroad contract, but after that he failed disastrously, lumber going to to $8 and $10. He persisted with the business, however he was a slave driver with those working for him, and threats were made against his life. His wife went to Florida and stayed with him, but she eventually returned to Connecticut.
In the summer of 1885, he contracted malaria, and was said at times to show symptoms of insanity. He got behind in business, and became very discouraged. He tried to raise more money, but then he disappeared mysteriously.
His brother-in-law came to Florida to find him, and a reward of $500 was offered for any news of him, dead or alive. An announcement with his description was distributed throughout the state.
He was last seen alive in Deland on December 28, 1885, and on January 1, 1886 he was seen in Wightman & Christopher's store on Bay Street, Jacksonville.
His partners attempted to carry on the business without him, but the following year the whole place burned down, and without insurance they had no funds to rebuild.
The evidence that Andrews had been murdered by some of his help, was thought to be conclusive by the Masonic fraternity to which he belonged. When the skeleton was found at Devil's Elbow, it seemed they had found the answer as to what happened to E.M. Andrews.
It was supposed that now that he had been found alive many suits were apt to follow, perhaps this was why he was slow to return from the West Coast. In October, 1889, his wife received a letter from him, written in California. He did not return to Naugatuck until two months later, however he gave no answers as to how he had amassed a small fortune of $20,000 during the three years he had disappeared.
When he returned to Connecticut, it seemed all was not well with Mrs. Andrews who for a few years believed herself to be a widow. He arrived at their home, only to find it empty since she moved in with her father in Moosup, and she had no plans to return. He went to live with his sister in New Britain, where he would remain for many years. They would remain married until their respective deaths, but never shared a household again.
In 1898, he made ready to set out to the Klondike with a machine that melted ice-bound ground in winter. This was a process used in digging for gold. What became of the venture is unknown, however he continued to do business in Connecticut and in July, 1891 he bought land with plans to divide it into building lots.
His wife Julia died in 1918, and was interred at the Hill family plot. Evelyn Marcelon Andrews died in 1934 at the age of 90. He was buried at New Rock Landing Cemetery in Haddam, Connecticut.
There is one question that remained unanswered. Who was the unfortunate fellow who met a grisly end at the Devil's Elbow?
Stranger Than Fiction Stories
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