January 29, 1865: Death by Fire of James Ellis Remains a Mystery


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA.

January 29, 1865: A shocking discovery—the charred body of James Ellis, the engineer at the Phoenix mines, has been found in the ruins of the engine house, which burned down tonight.

The deceased was a man well-advanced in years who leaves a wife and several children. His vest, where he was known to carry his money, was lying outside the ashes, but the large wad of “greenbacks” that he had flashed earlier in Leider’s Saloon (now Iezzi’s on Third) was missing. The suspicion of murder has been raised.

Daniel Leider was the first to see the fire and the first at the scene, and he knew more about it than anyone else. That alone was suspicious to the investigators, and the fact that he sold his tavern and left town “for the West” soon after the incident was even more incriminating. (It has remained an unsolved mystery for the Boyertown people to ponder.)

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