Long Island's Hidden Past: Tar and feathering of Charles Kelsey

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HUNTINGTON -

It was 1872, Huntington was considered prosperous and sophisticated, yet it was there that one of the most barbaric crimes was committed - the tar and feathering of Charles Kelsey.

The crime involved the love triangle between the beautiful Julia Smith, Royal Sammis, and the older wealthier farmer Charles Kelsey.

Author Kerriann Flanagan Brosky retells the story of the Kelsey outrage and his obsession with the much younger Julia, an obsession that led to his gruesome death.

Kelsey, who was Smith's neighbor, was infatuated with the young girl and wrote her countless letters and love poems. It was believed the two would often meet in secret.

But Smith's family wanted her to marry Sammis - who was from a more prominent family.

Although Kelsey had been warned to stay away from Smith - he persisted.

One night, he came and saw a lantern in her window, but when he snuck into her bedroom it was actually a trap. Smith's aunt was in there and when he touched her she screamed and he ran out. A band of masked men, hiding in the trees, jumped him. He was brutally attacked and beat up.

The group stripped Kelsey of his clothes, shaved his head, and then he was tarred and feathered. That was the last time he was ever seen.

Despite the uproar and accusations of murder, Smith married Sammis in June of 1873. 

Three months later in August, Kelsey's body emerged. Just off a beach in Cold Spring Harbor, two fisherman made a gruesome discovery - they found two legs and a torso floating in the water. It was greatly mutilated and they believe it was the remains of Kelsey. 

According to the coroner's report, he was weighed down with ropes and the ropes actually severed the body. 

The story made national news, and despite several trials no one, including Sammis, was convicted of the crime.

The upper half of Kelsey's body has never been found.

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