1919 Mass Murder in Laurel
By Kevin Leonard
I’m often asked where the ideas for these columns come from, and the answer is everywhere. Many times as I research one story, other stories pop up and lead to columns. But some of the most memorable columns originated from people contacting me. This story has three significant examples of that.
Significant Contact #1: I received an e-mail from Lindsey Baker, the Executive Director of the Laurel Historical Society, asking if I was interested in talking to a woman from Oregon who visited the Laurel Museum looking for information about a murder in Laurel back in 1919. Her great-grandmother was one of the people murdered. This was right up my alley. Of course I was interested.
Significant Contact #2: So Lindsey put me in touch with Kathy Baldwin, who had since returned home to Oregon. That started about a six-month collaboration between us. Kathy was determined to see this story told, and she interviewed many family members from across the country. Eventually she wrote a family history to provide me with all the details from these interviews. She also sent some great family photos.
I did my own research and found much information to fill in the blanks from Kathy’s input. As I pondered how to write the story, Significant Contact #3 happened. My fellow Laurel History Boy, Richard Friend, told me that he was e-mailed some photos that appeared to be crime scene photos from this story. I assumed that Kathy had inadvertently sent them to Rich instead of me, but no matter. I was excited that we had them.
But as we investigated, it turned out that the photos of the bodies of Alice Allen and Annie Sloates were sent by someone with absolutely no connection to the story or the Allen family. I’m researching a 100-year-old murder and these photos appeared out of the blue!
It turned out that West Laurel resident Holly Maxwell was cleaning out her late mother’s possessions and came across the photos. A friend of hers recommended she contact The Laurel History Boys about them. The timing of this was bizarre.
We had Holly meet up with Melanie McKnight, an Allen family descendant and a local Remax realtor, for lunch at the diner. It was a fascinating chat, but we’re still not sure how Holly’s mother came into possession of the photos—but I’m very thankful they surfaced when they did. The photos are included in the slide deck below.
This article is a follow-up to a 2017 "History Matters" column Kevin wrote for the Laurel Leader. You can read that original column by clicking on the image above. BALTIMORE SUN
Holly Maxwell (left) and Melanie McKnight at the Tastee Diner.