1907 Nunica Tragedy
“Insane” farmer near Nunica turns
axe murderer, kills his entire family
On Sunday, July 21, 1907, Henry Scutcheon, a farmer who lived near Nunica, “went insane,” wielding an axe killing his paralytic son, his wife and foster father-in-law, according to newspaper reports. The 50-year-old murderer “went crazy without warning” said a published wire account. After the gruesome, bloody rampage, Scutcheon reportedly had a standoff with a neighbor, who shot him dead.
Scutcheon, who lived in Dennison, Michigan, owned Section 20 where his farm and residence was located. Dennison is located where Cleveland Street and State Road intersect in Polkton Township.
A reason for the slayings has never surfaced, but one theory is that Scutcheon wanted to end his invalid son’s suffering, and the act was to be a murder/suicide. “The Scutcheon farm house had apparently always been a happy home, except for the cloud which the son's invalidism cast over the family,” one published account said. The assailant had slashed his own throat and wrists with a razor and ingested the poison paris green, but his actual cause of death was a shotgun wound inflicted by neighbor Henry McClellan.
Scutcheon’s 18-year-old son Edward, who suffered from a paralysis and was confined to a wheelchair, was the first axe victim. “He crushed his head frightfully,” one newspaper said. When his wife, Polly, tried to intervene, her husband turned on her next. He pursued the screaming woman out of the house to the road, striking her to the ground. Scutcheon then ran back into his home and murdered George Anning, Polly's foster father. The assailant then cut his own throat and wrists, ingested poison, and returned outdoors to where he had left his wife only to discover she was gone.
Henry McCellan had carried Polly into his home and rushed to another neighbor's home for help. When Scutcheon discovered his wife still alive and inside the residence, he smashed out a window with his axe, and jumped through it, and finished her off by crushing her skull. Returning home, McClellan spotted Scutcheon back at his own farm house. According to a newspaper report, Scutcheon called out to McCelllan, “I want you, too.” McClellan, armed with a shotgun, replied, “I will shoot you if you come across that road!”
Scutcheon didn't heed the warning, and “with murder in his glance” headed toward the man wielding the axe. McClellan shot him dead. The tragedy was so shocking it made the pages of the Edmunton (Canada) Bulletin, which published, “Farmer Runs Amuck and Kills Three” in Nunica, Michigan.
The following story by Kevin Scott Collier will appear in his next book.
Kevin has been the Art Director for the Grand Haven Tribune for 29 years. He compiled a book that was published last September titled “Strange Grand Haven” (even though the book also covered Ferrysburg, Fruitport, Spring Lake, Nunica and Coopersville.)
His next "Strange Grand Haven" book is coming out in June.
You can check out Kevin’s website at the following address:
We wish to thank Kevin for allowing us to post this story to “nunica.com” even before his new book is published.