Killed Far Away From Home

by Laurel | August 31st, 2009

August 31, 1900, page 4
A Holyoke Sailor Murdered.
Thomas McKenna of Holyoke Stabbed to Death by Two Ruffians at Marseilles — Confirmatory News Received This Week.

U.S.S. Scindia in 1899

U.S.S. Scindia in 1899

Thomas McKenna, son of Michael McKenna of 311 Dwight street, Holyoke, was stabbed to death by two ruffians at Marseilles, France, Friday night, August 3, just as he was taking a boat for the United States steamer Scindia. He was robbed of all that he had, robbery being apparently the motive for the crime. McKenna was soon discovered and taken to the Hotel Dieu, a hospital of that city, where he died in a few hours. McKenna was a sailor on the Scindia, having enlisted on the training ship Buffalo at Brooklyn about two years ago. He served on the Charleston and the Baltimore and had lately been on the Scindia. He was a member of the St. Jerome temperance society and well and favorably known among the young Catholics of Holyoke. From the letters and dispatches it is learned that McKenna had leave to go ashore from the Scindia and was hastening back to take a boat, when two men attacked him near the quay and one stabbed him with a poignard on the left side. As soon as he was found, the American consul at that port, Robert P. Skinner, was notified. It seems that the Scindia sailed away before the consul could communicate with the captain — probably in the early morning. Consul Skinner at once wired to the American consul at Naples, for which port the Scindia had cleared, saying: “Notify commander Scindia immediately Thomas McKenna cruelly murdered while attempting to regain his ship. Holding his body until Tuesday for instructions. Money and papers all stolen.” In reply Capt. Miller of the Scindia wired Consul Skinner declining to allow the consul to bury the body at his own expense, as offered in a letter following the telegram, but enclosing a check to cover the expense of burial and the erection of a headstone on which should be placed the inscription: “Sacred to the memory of Thomas McKenna, U. S. N., U. S. S. Scindia, cruelly murdered at Marseilles, France, Aug. 2, 1900. Erected by his shipmates.”

Word of the matter was received from the navy department by his father, Michael McKenna, about three weeks ago, but he waited for confirmatory word from the consul at Marseilles before making public the sad news, hoping that some mistake had occurred, or the report was untrue. A letter was received from Consul Skinner this week, however, that ended all hope. After reciting the circumstances connected with his death the consul writes: “The funeral took place under the direction of the officers of this consulate and was attended by them. If the family have any directions with respect to the permanent disposition of the body it will be my pleasure to aid them as far as possible. I am pleased to inform you that the police authorities have arrested two individuals, one of whom is confidently believed to be the guilty person.”

Michael McKenna stated yesterday that it would be his wish that the body be returned to his home. It seems that young McKenna received the last rites of the church at the hospital and gave as well as he could a description of his assailants. He early in the year expected to be in Holyoke this summer, but was transferred so that he was not expected home until fall. He had about 125 francs with him when he was stabbed and it may be that he showed these indiscreetly. Besides his father, he leaves three brothers, Michael, John and Patrick, all of Holyoke.

From The Springfield Republican.

[Note: the U.S.S. Scinida is seen in the photo above, moored off Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo CA, circa 1899. Image used courtesy of NavSource Naval History. A history of the Scindia (renamed the Ajax in 1901) may be seen at the NavSource site and on Wikipedia.]

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