The bodies of Jacob Young and Nancy Jane Young, husband and wife, were discovered along White River, near the intersection of what would become Lafayette and Cold Spring roads, on September 13, 1868. The murder had actually occurred the previous day. Both victims had been shot in the head. Mrs. Young’s body was also burned from the knees to the face, the shotgun blast having ignited her clothing.

Illustration of Nancy Clem.
Nancy Clem, ca. 1869 Credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons View Source

Even though the murder had occurred in a popular recreational area, apparently the shots were not heard or were not recognized for what they were. William J. Abrams was the first person arrested in the case, on September 15, when it was discovered that he had purchased the murder weapon. This was followed by the arrests of Silas Hartman on September 21 and his sister Nancy Clem on October 7.

The three were indicted for first-degree murder on October 23. Clem had planned the murder. She had been involved in borrowing large amounts of money and paying it back at exorbitant interest rates by borrowing yet more money. She was deeply in debt to Jacob Young, and apparently the murders were to prevent Young from revealing the situation to Clem’s husband, William F. Clem, a grocer “of good reputation” in the city.

Mrs. Young had apparently unexpectedly accompanied her husband to Cold Spring, thereby leading to her murder. Clem was tried a total of five times. Between hung juries and appeals to the Indiana Supreme Court, she never served a sentence for the murders. She was in jail briefly for separate perjury and forgery charges, and during one of these periods her husband divorced her.

Abrams was eventually pardoned, and Hartman committed suicide in jail after confessing to his part in the crime. Clem died in Indianapolis in 1897. She was selling patent medicines at the time of her death.

Revised February 2021

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