This information was submitted by: Bill Salmon of Elk City.  

Click on the wanted poster for Litchfield Photos.


John Charles Litchfield
Born Peterborough, England, May 29, 1854.
Sailor in Royal Navy aboard H.M.S. Triumph. Jumped ship in Vancouver, B.C., and traveled to San Francisco, Ca. to marry Sarah Elizabeth Smith on July 20, 1880.
Moved family to Butte, Mt. about 1885, then to Elk City, Idaho, arriving Aug. 2, 1888.
Died near Elk City, ID, August 9, 1926.  Buried in Litchfield family plot near Elk City.

Sarah Elizabeth Smith
Born Nov. 8, 1857, in San Francisco, to parents born in England.  Married John Charles Litchfield in San Francisco, July 20, 1880.
Her brother, Samuel W. “Buster” Smith, established the Buster Mine near Elk City, Idaho in 1884, and encouraged J.C. and Sarah to move there in 1888.
Sarah died Nov. 23, 1920, in Elk City, Idaho, after a long battle with cancer.
Buried in Litchfield family plot near Elk City.

John Charles and Sarah had eight children:

William Grant Litchfield
            Born July 12, 1881, in San Francisco.  Never married.  One of the earliest Forest Service rangers in the Elk City area (1906-1909); a rancher and miner for many years.
            Died Aug. 10, 1940; buried in Litchfield family plot near Elk City.

Stanley Watkins Litchfield
            Born Feb 15, 1883, in West Oakland, Ca.
            Married Eva Lotta (b. 4 Mar 1874; d. 14 Nov 1939).
            Worked in mining; ran a sawmill; built many buildings; famous for his axemanship and bad temper.
            Died about Dec. 3, 1943 near Elk City when his wagon overturned.
            Stanley and Eva are both buried in Litchfield family plot near Elk City.
            No children.
Noël Arden Litchfield
            Born Dec. 25, 1884, in West Oakland, Ca.
            Married Lawrence Albert Painter in 1906 in Elk City.
            Two children, Helen (born Dec. 13, 1906) and Lillian (a few years younger).
            After Larry Painter’s death, married Earl Spafford, who died in 1975.
            Died Mar. 13, 1967, in San Bernardino, Ca.
Alma Allen Litchfield
            Born Aug. 6, 1886, in Butte, Montana.
            Married Frank Hye, a prominent businessman who was about 14 years older, in Elk City, Sept. 29, 1906.
            One child, Thomas Francis Hye, born Jan 22, 1914 in Elk City.

Alma was killed by her husband (who also killed Hugh Kennedy at the same
            time) in Elk City on October 4, 1914. She is buried in the Litchfield family plot
            near Elk City. Her child was later adopted by Mary Hye Carlin, Frank’s sister,
            and given the name Thomas Francis Carlin. He died in Waco, Texas in 1992

Frank Hye was convicted of second-degree murder in the killing of Alma,
            but never tried for killing Hugh Kennedy. The evidence was overwhelming that
            Hye had framed Alma and Hugh, making it look like he caught them committing
            adultery. In fact, he had different reasons for wanting to be rid of them,
            and chose this method of literally killing two birds with one stone. He was
            sentenced on March 10, 1915 to a term of ten years to life in the Idaho
            State Penitentiary. However, he was granted a full pardon under dubious circumstances,
            effective Christmas Day, 1917. So Hye served less than two years and ten months of his sentence.
            After his release, he was recorded in the 1920 U.S. Census as living in Casper, Natrona County, Wyoming.
            His activities after that time are unknown, except that he died March 9, 1941 in Casper and is buried there in the Highland Cemetery

Idaho Charles Litchfield
            Born October 30, 1889 in Elk City, the first white boy born there.
            Machinist’s mate, U.S. Navy, World War I.
            Married Emma Luella Kimball in Lewiston, Idaho, May 27, 1922.
            Worked as machinist, carpenter, metal worker.
            Four children: William, Barbara, Robert, and Floyd.
            (Luella had another child, Francis June Edwards, by a previous marriage.)
            Idaho died June 17, 1961, in the Veteran’s Hospital in Boise.
            Luella was born Jan. 28, 1898, in Rockford, South Dakota and died
            Jan. 13, 1979 in Grangeville.
            Idaho and Luella are buried in Prairie View Cemetery, Grangeville, Idaho

John Arden Litchfield
            Born May 11, 1893, near Elk City.
            Married Cora Hansen, formerly a teacher in Elk City.
            Worked in mining in the Coeur d’Alene area.
            One child, Howard.
            Died July, 1967, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where he is buried with Cora, who died in June, 1981.

Ruth Elizabeth Litchfield
            Born July 13, 1895, near Elk City.
            Married Lee Fruit, 1913, in Elk City.
            Two children, Virginia and Jack, both born in Tonasket, Wa.
            Worked as designer for Janssen Sportwear in Portland, Oregon.
            Ruth and Jack later changed the spelling of their last name to Fruett.
            Died 6 Oct 1977 in Multnomah County, Oregon.
            Ruth’s and Jack’s ashes are buried in Litchfield family plot near Elk City.

Sarah Helen Lee Litchfield
            Born Sept. 4, 1898 near Elk City, Idaho.
            Married George Darius Burpee in Grangeville, October 27,1916. Died Aug. 22, 1978, in El Segundo,   Ca.
            No children.

Alma Allen Litchfield Hye (1886 - 1914)   Alma Litchfield was born August 6, 1886, in Butte, Montana, to John Charles Litchfield (1854 - 1926) and Sarah Elizabeth Lee Smith Litchfield (1857 - 1920). At the time Alma was born, her parents already had three older children: William Grant (1881 - 1940), Stanley (1883 - 1943), and Noël Arden (1884 - 1967).

Alma’s parents brought the family to Elk City, Idaho in the summer of 1888. At that time, Elk City was a rough gold-mining camp, said to have a population of “a dozen white men and about 400 Chinese.” In October of 1889, another son was born to the Litchfields. He was named Idaho Charles because he was the first white boy born in Elk City. Three more children arrived in due course: John Arden (1893 - 1967), Ruth (1895 - 1970), and finally, Sarah Helen Lee (1898 - 1978). So altogether, the Litchfields had eight children.

Alma was married on September 29, 1906 in Elk City, Idaho to Frank Hye. At the time, Frank was 34 years old and Alma was only 20. Alma’s family didn’t like Frank's bullying personality, but he seemed to be an up-and-coming businessman. By 1914, Hye was the Justice of the Peace in Elk City. He had also buying the Stites-to-Elk-City Stage Line.

The marriage between Frank and Alma Hye was not a happy one. Contemporary accounts describe Alma as a friendly and warm young woman, but shy and afraid to talk to people she didn’t know well. It turned out that Frank abused her severely during their eight years of marriage.

On January 22, 1914, Alma gave birth to a baby boy. Frank was not happy, because he did not want a family that would tie him down. Nonetheless, the baby was named Tommie Francis Hye, after Frank’s older brother.

By 1914, Frank had bought a lot of land on credit, speculating that he could sell it to the hordes of people who would flock to the mines. Now he and Alma owed nearly $8000 on various notes at 12% interest, the mines were playing out, and the notes were coming due. Elk City had gone bust and Frank had no money. He couldn’t even pay the people who worked for his stage line.

Among the people who were owed money was a 20-year-old stage driver named Hugh Kennedy. Frank owed Hugh more than $100 – big money for those times. As the year wore on, Hugh became more aggressive, hunting Frank down at every opportunity and demanding his money. Frank was getting desperate. Life was closing in on him.

Things came to a head on Sunday evening, October 4, 1914. About 10:15 p.m., Frank suddenly showed up at the Parr Hotel in Elk City, bringing with him his eight-month-old son. He handed the baby to Maud Baskett, who was running the hotel, and announced that he had just shot Alma and Hugh Kennedy. According to Frank, he had caught them committing adultery and Hugh had attacked him. Frank had a revolver and had shot Hugh in self-defense but in the scuffle, Alma had been shot by accident. While Frank paced back and forth in the hotel lobby, crying “Alma! Alma! Why did you make me do it?”, several townspeople, including Noël’s husband, Larry Painter, ran down to the Hye house to investigate.

Hadn’t anyone heard the shots? Alma’s 20-year-old brother, Arden, testified later that he had heard several shots from the direction of the Hye house, then a pause, then one more shot. This was about 9:40 p.m. But, he said, “as there was always more or less shooting at night in a mining camp, I paid no attention.”

They found Alma dead on the parlor floor. She was lying on her back, wearing only a camisole, her hands neatly folded on her stomach. There was a single bullet hole in her upper left chest, a bloody gash on the side of her head, a bruise on her chin and face, and a great deal of blood in her hair. Her clothes were neatly folded on the arm of a chair in the kitchen. Hugh Kennedy lay crumpled and dead in the corner of the room. The bottom buttons of his pants were undone, but the top button was fastened and his belt was hooked. He was otherwise fully dressed, and was wearing a pair of extremely muddy boots.

Investigation revealed that the clothes folded on the chair were not the ones Alma had been wearing when she took the baby up to the hotel for dinner earlier in the evening. After a search, the investigators found those clothes burnt in the woodstove. The presumption was that Alma was fully clothed when shot, and Frank didn’t want anyone to see the bullet hole and blood in the clothes. However, the shoes Alma had been wearing were found behind the woodstove, with bloody stockings stuffed into them.

Investigation also revealed that Hugh Kennedy had been inquiring all over town for Frank, in an effort to get the back wages he was owed. It was said by one resident that Mrs. Baskett, at the hotel, had sent Hugh down to the Hye house, telling him that Frank was there and he could get his money. There was also testimony to the effect that Hugh was not the sort of man who would have entered a home willingly wearing muddy boots. Many townspeople surmised that Frank had ambushed Hugh outside the home and marched him inside at gunpoint.

Meanwhile, it had been pointed out to Frank that “the Litchfields are a hot-headed bunch,” and he would be a lot safer in jail in the county seat at Grangeville. Frank, being the Justice of the Peace, deputized a citizen named “Slivers” Thompson to place him under arrest and to take him to Grangeville immediately. Slivers did so, and he and Frank left in the middle of the night.

After the investigation was complete, Alma was prepared for burial, and then buried  on the Litchfield homestead on October 8.

A week after the killings, Frank’s older brother Thomas showed up in Elk City on the stage. He and his wife took the baby to Spokane, where he was later adopted and raised by Frank’s sister, Mary Hye Carlin. The baby took the name Tommie (later Thomas) Francis Carlin.

Why did the Litchfield family not prevent the Hyes from taking the baby? Perhaps they couldn’t do it legally. Frank Hye was still the baby’s father, and probably couldn’t be prevented from acting as the baby’s parent until he was convicted.

After a long and sensational trial, Frank was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Alma. (He was never tried for killing Hugh Kennedy.)  Frank was sentenced on March 10, 1915 to a term of ten years to life in the Idaho State Penitentiary in Boise.

He applied for a pardon in 1916, on the grounds of temporary insanity. The Governor and Secretary of State were at first willing to pardon him, but the Attorney General explained the facts of the case and they changed their minds. Frank applied again in 1917, when there was a new Attorney General. The Governor still voted against pardoning Frank, but the Secretary of State and the new A.G. voted for a pardon and release on the grounds of “temporary insanity and the unwritten law.” The pardon was granted in September but for some reason did not become effective until Christmas Day, 1917.

Although legends assert that Hye was later murdered in Mexico or Canada, presumably in retribution, the facts are quite different. In April 1920, the U.S. Census recorded him living in Casper, Wyoming. He is also recorded as dying in Casper on 9 March 1941, at the age of 71.  He is buried in grave 20, lot 6, block 166 of Highland Cemetery, in Casper.  So far, we know nothing of his later life.

We do know, however, about the baby. Tommie grew up in Spokane and became a military man. After serving in the U.S. Marines and Navy, he found a home in the Army and served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, earning three Purple Hearts and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He retired from the Army as a sergeant in 1978, after 42 years of military service, and died in Waco, Texas, in 1992.

         - by Bill Salmon, for the Idaho County Historical Society


Interviews with Floyd and Betty Litchfield, Bob and Evie Litchfield, and Barbara Litchfield McPeak.

Articles from the Idaho County Free Press: “Tragedy at Elk Ends in Double Killing,” October 8, 1914; “Hye Will Answer to Charge of Murder,” October 15, 1914; “Preliminary Held Behind Closed Doors,” October 22, 1914; “Hye Gave $4000 Bonds But Is Arrested On Second Charge,” November 12, 1914; “Hye Trial Opened Monday,” February 25, 1915; “Hye Tells His Story to the Jury,” March 4, 1915; “Sentence of Ten Years to Life,” March 11, 1915; “Hye Pardoned,” September 27, 1917.

Transcript of an undated statement by Angus L. Kennedy, who relates family stories of the murders. He also relates what he was told by Effie Mae Miller, who was in Elk City at the time and knew both of the victims.

Letter from Idaho Department of Corrections to Floyd Litchfield, postmarked August 8, 1990, stating that Frank Hye, prisoner #2265, claimed to be 43 years old when received at the Idaho State Penitentiary on March 14, 1915. Frank stated that he had been born in Providence, Rhode Island. He said that he had a brother, Thomas, living in Spokane, but did not mention a sister. He mentioned that he had a son, but did not give the boy’s name or state where the boy was at that time.

Note from Sarah Litchfield, apparently written soon after the events, describing the last times she saw Alma alive, and giving the burial dates.

Harriet Fish Backus, the wife of a prominent mining engineer, gave a personal description of Alma and Frank in her memoirs, Tomboy Bride (Pruett Publishing, Boulder, CO; 1977). The names are changed to protect all parties concerned. Alma is called “Nan Cane,” and Frank is called “Bert Cane.” Some of the dates and minor details are incorrect, but the bulk of the story agrees with other sources.

Interviews with Helen Troll, of Bedford, Texas, and Bettye Spears, of Waco, Texas, both related by marriage to Thomas Francis Carlin.

Interview with Tricia Dibblee, of Beaverton, Oregon, who is descended from Mary Hye Carlin.

Frank Hye’s brother and sister were still in Spokane at the time of his release, and the Idaho Department of Corrections had only a Spokane address for him. Searches for death records in Washington State turned up no record of Frank Hye’s death there. There is also no record of his death in California, where his brothers and sisters lived in later years, or in Rhode Island, where Frank grew up. In the summer of 2003, I discovered with the help of a USGenWeb volunteer that Frank actually died in Casper, WY, as mentioned above. This was confirmed with the help of the reference librarian at the Natrona County Library.  The details of Frank’s later life are still unknown.




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