Angie Newton Gillis

Angie Newton Gillis shares a headstone with William and Almeda (Waterhouse) Hall, the adoptive parents of my great grandmother Daisy. I didn’t know who she was, and decided to research her history to see if she might be a relative.  Here’s what I found.

Angie Augusta Newton was born 12 December 1865 in Lebanon, NH, daughter of Elias Baxter Newton and Clementine Paulina Pixley.  In 1870, the family lived in Hanover, where Elias had a small farm.  In 1880, still living in Hanover, Angie was listed as a student, along with her brother George. Elias was a day laborer.

On 30 April, 1890, Angie married Linwood C Gillis, in Manchester, NH.  He was the son of John and Martha Gillis, born July 1867 in Manchester.  Linwood was listed as proprietor of The Dartmouth Press, in the Dartmouth school yearbook in 1898 and 1900.

In the 1900 census, Angie was living with her husband in Manhattan.  Linwood was a newspaper reporter.  On 1 November 1907, Angie divorced Linwood in New Hampshire, citing abandonment as the cause.  Passenger records indicate that Linwood married someone named Margaret.  He later married Ethel Flummerfelt, and was a newspaper publisher in New Jersey.

Angie is listed in the 1907 Lebanon city directory, boarding at 69 Hanover.  (William Hall lived at 98 Hanover, about 200 feet away.)

I have not found a 1910 census record that is definitely Angie.  One likely match is for an Angie Gillis living in Fort Worth TX.  She is listed as divorced and no children, which appears to match.  The record says she was born in New Jersey, which doesn’t match, but does match where her ex-husband was living in 1905, when she was still married.  Her occupation was soap maker in a packing house.

In 1911, an Angie Newton Gillis applied for membership in DAR.  At that time, she was living in Asbury Park, NJ.  Her patriot ancestor was James Parker, who served in the Revolutionary War from Connecticut.

In 1914 and 1915, Mrs. Angie N Gillis lived on Stark road in Worcester, MA

The Milwaukee Wisconsin city directory lists Mrs. Angie N Gillis as a welfare worker, living at 256 Farwell avenue.  Her employer was the Palmolive Company.  This matches an entry in the 1920 census for Angie N “Gibbs”, welfare worker at a soap works, born in New Hampshire, same address as the city directory entry.

Angie moved to Mohawk, (now part of Minneola) in central Florida, and operated a filling station there.  On July 6, 1929, she and Levi N Allen, who lived nearby, were beaten to death.  H. W. Prescott and J. C. Pike were arrested about two weeks later and indicted for the murders. They were eventually tried. According to newspapers published at that time, Pike was acquitted of killing Allen but was convicted and sentenced to life for killing Angie.

Twenty years ago today, on 17 Jan 1996 the Orlando Sentinel published a review of the event, written by Ormund Powers, as follows:  Questions Still Exist About Double Murder In Mohawk CommunityNearly three score and 10 years after the double murder in Mohawk, near Clermont and Minneola, there still is no satisfactory explanation for what happened in the early morning hours of July 6, 1929. Angela Gillis, who was about 70, and her friend and helper, Levi N. Allen, were killed.  Gillis ran a combined filling station and curio shop and was sometimes referred to as ”the alligator lady” because she sold purses and belts made from alligator hides.

She lived in the back of her shop, and Allen lived in a tiny cottage some 500 feet away. The two had known each other in Massachusetts, where he was a successful dairyman and she was editor of the Salvation Army newspaper, War Cry.

On the morning of the murders, a passing motorist noticed the door of her shop was standing open when it should have been closed. Sheriff Balton A. Cassady was called from Tavares.

He found Gillis dead from a savage beating about the head, and Allen was near death. Allen was rushed to Dr. A.L. Izlar’s office in Clermont but died en route.

Cassady determined that both victims had been attacked with a claw hammer found at the scene. Deputies found a butcher knife and later determined it had been used by Allen to try to fight off his attacker. The motive for the attack was robbery, Cassady said. The victims were thought to have had considerable cash hidden on the premises.

All Cassady had to go on was the fact that he knew Gillis occasionally bought alligator hides from local hunters and that nearby residents reported seeing two men driving up and down the road by the shop before the murders. They were in a large Buick with a knocking motor.

Inquiries took Cassady to Winter Garden and the home of a man named H.W. Prescott, who had knife wounds on his chest and who owned a Buick with a knocking engine.

He admitted he had been at the alligator lady’s shop but said the killing was done by a man named J.C. ”Joe” Pike, who lived on John’s Lake near Clermont. Prescott said he was stabbed by Gillis when he entered the shop and found Pike and Gillis fighting.

Both Pike and Prescott were indicted on first-degree murder charges by a grand jury in Lake County. On Nov. 14, 1929, Pike alone went on trial in Tavares before Circuit Judge J.C.B. Koonce. He was tried only for the murder of Gillis and was acquitted Nov. 16 by a 12-man jury that deliberated only one hour.

According to The Orlando Sentinel, ”Pike was freed after a trial in which testimony of defense witnesses was pitted against an alleged confession of H.W. Prescott, who stated that he was with Pike . . . when the aged couple was slain, and that he saw Pike kill Allen and Mrs. Gillis with a hammer.”

Pike’s second trial, this time for Allen’s killing, began in Tavares before Judge Koonce Jan. 14, 1930.

Pike continued to maintain his innocence, saying he was at home the night of the slayings. Prescott again testified for the state saying he and Pike stopped by Mrs. Gillis’ filling station after they had delivered a load of moonshine liquor in Groveland.

Prescott said the killings grew out of an argument that ensued. He said Mrs. Gillis was beaten to death by Pike, ”who then attacked Allen when he came to the aid of the woman.”

After deliberating six hours, the jury fund Pike guilty of the murder of Levi Allen and recommended mercy, which automatically required Judge Koonce to sentence Pike to life imprisonment.

State Attorney J.W. Hunter, assisted by Roger Giles of Umatilla, said Pike wouldn’t have been convicted without the testimony of H.W. Prescott and asked that the murder charge against Prescott be dropped.

On Jan. 4, 1932, Joe Pike escaped from the Florida State Prison at Raiford and was never heard from again.

My research didn’t result in any family connections to Angie Newton Gillis.  By 1929, William and Almeda were both deceased, as was their younger daughter Fannie Hall Taylor.  Perhaps Charlotte Hall Kenyon, who died afterwards, was a friend who gave permission for Angie to be buried in the family plot.  The Florida death index says she was buried in Orlando, so it is also possible that while her name is on the marker, she isn’t buried in New Hampshire, or she was moved there later.  I do not know what became of H W Prescott.