Brodhead Murder: Part I The Crime

The eight Brodhead brothers. Sitting, from left: William, Thomas, Theodore. Standing, from left: Luke, Horace, Frank, DeWitt and Lewis.

Note: This is the first of a two-part series. Information on the trial and sentencing will be the focus of next month’s article.

By Amy Leiser, Executive Director
Monroe County Historical Association

On September 25, 1868, Monroe County citizens were shocked by a Delaware Water Gap tragedy in which one man, Theodore Brodhead, was killed and another man, his brother, Thomas Brodhead, was wounded.

Thomas Brodhead, [photo, right] owner and operator of the Brainerd House in Delaware Water Gap, was working in his fields when he was notified that his hotel had been robbed by two men. According to Brodhead’s staff, the two men, William Brooks and Charles Orme, came into the hotel for a drink and, when the staff had momentarily left the room, broke into the cash drawer and stole ten dollars.

Returning to his hotel, Thomas Brodhead got a description of the two men; then he set out on foot with his brother, Theodore, in pursuit of the criminals. Noticing the time, the brothers first went to the railroad station. The train was scheduled to leave the station, but Brooks and Orme were not onboard. The two Brodhead brothers then went to the Kittatinny House which was owned by William Brodhead, another brother. William, unaware of the robbery, told his brothers that the men had been there, but had left, heading south towards the Gap.

Thomas and Theodore left William to pursue the two men. The brothers soon saw Brooks and Orme in the distance and ran towards them. Thomas reached Brooks and Orme first. He confronted them about the money they had stolen and the contents of a carpet bag they were carrying, and demanded they return with him back to town. Thomas had both Brooks and Orme by the sleeves of their coats when Brooks reached into his pocket, grabbed the stolen money, and tried to throw it over a nearby stone wall. The money missed its mark, hit the wall, and scattered onto the road.

By this time, Theodore [
photo, right] had reached his brother and the two men. Bending down to collect the money on the road, Thomas heard his brother Theodore say, “You better not shoot.” Thomas looked up to see Brooks aiming a pistol at Theodore and said, “Don’t you shoot.” Brooks turned from Theodore, faced Thomas, and shot him in the side. Brooks then turned back toward Theodore and shot him through the heart, killing him instantly.

Thomas was only slightly injured - the bullet had hit a stack of papers in his jacket, protecting him. Thomas, unaware that his wound was not life-threatening, held onto his side and stood up. Seeing that Thomas had not died, Orme grabbed the pistol and shot several more rounds at Thomas, missing each time. Orme then physically attacked Thomas and called for Brooks to assist. Brooks grabbed a nearby rock and beat Thomas on the head until Thomas released his grip.

Stack of papers that protected Thomas Brodhead from a bullet.
Courtesy of the Antoine Dutot Museum, Delaware Water Gap.

When Thomas regained consciousness, Brooks and Orme, along with the money and the carpet bag, were gone. Thomas staggered back into town towards the Kittatinny Hotel and was met by Edward Brodhead, a nephew of Theodore. Word spread quickly through the small quiet village about the attack on two of their citizens.

According to a Jeffersonian-Republican newspaper reporter who was at the scene, every male resident of Delaware Water Gap quickly gathered arms, and they organized into groups and went to search for Brooks and Orme. After two hours, the murderers were found hiding in a thicket along the Cherry Creek. The two men were surrounded and surrendered to the Sheriff who had been among the posse.

Brooks and Orme were taken back to town where a large crowd had gathered. The sheriff, along with the citizens of Delaware Water Gap, escorted Brooks and Orme to the jail located a few miles away in Stroudsburg. According to the newspaper reporter, the sheriff and fellow police officers had to protect Brooks and Orme from the large crowd who attempted to hang the men on the spot.

The carpet bag carried by Brooks and Orme was also recovered. In it, police found the cash which belonged to Thomas Brodhead and tools that had been stolen from a hardware store in Stroudsburg.

Theodore Brodhead’s funeral was held at the Church of the Mountain, and he was interred at the Delaware Water Gap cemetery. William Brooks and Charles Orme were charged with murder, and their trial was set to be held in Stroudsburg on December 28, 1868. Thomas Brodhead recovered from his injuries and testified against the two men at their trial.

Next month: The Trial

Assistance with the research for this article was provided by Rebecca Spang.