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April 30, 2021

A Murdering Rogue in My Family Tree


August 5, 1895 in Buffalo, New York was a typically hot summer day. George Greenless, my 1st cousin 3 times removed, was estranged at this time from his wife, Ella 'Nellie' Misener. Hoping to find her at home with her parents, he entered their home and a shouting match ensued.

George then pulled a pistol and shot and killed his mother-in-law. Next he shot and wounded his sister-in-law's fiance Walter Flewell. Flewell later died of his injuries.

George's story is a convoluted one. He was sentenced to life in prison for second degree murder in 1898 and sent to Auburn Prison in New York.

During his trial he became friendly with the warden of the jail where he was held. Later George's Canadian relatives came to New York to testify, and more lurid stories of George's erratic behaviour and mistreatment of his wife came out. A family witness stated that there was a great deal of insanity in the Greenlees family.

In 1909 he was sent to Sing-Sing Prison but was released on parole and married Rachel Roach in 1918 in Buffalo. In 1924 the courts granted George a pardon. He and Rachel had six children before his death in 1928.

His widow Rachel married another Sing-Sing inmate in 1932. William Leonard, her new husband, was sent to prison in 1903, served a short term before release but was back in Sing-Sing in 1904. Another short term resulted but once again he returned to Sing-Sing in 1908 sentenced to 2 to 4 years. I cannot read his crime in the records as the writing is challenging.

Newspapers are amazing, full of genealogy gold! You can try a 14 day free trial at Ancestry to search newspaper records.

1 comment:

Teresa said...

Quite a tragic tale with a kind of happy ending, at least for George.

I agree about newspapers - I've found so much using the newspaper collections at FindMyPast, Trove, Newspapers.com and smaller provincial collections here in Canada. The details really help bring our ancestors to life. So much better than just a list of names and dates.