Gant [sic] Was Infatuated With Girl; at Factory Saturday


At the right is Miss Ruth Phagan, aunt of Mary Phagan, and in her arms is Miss Ollie Phagan, sister of the victim, whom she is trying to comfort.

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Monday, April 28th, 1913

Gant [sic] was arrested on a warrant sworn out, in Judge Powers’ court, charging him with murder.

Gant was last seen before his arrest at 8:45 this morning by Herbert Schiff, assistant superintendent of the factory. A few minutes later he was on a car bound for Marietta.

The officers in Marietta were notified by telephone and were on the watch for a man answering Gant’s description.

The detectives began to spread their nets for Gant on significant stories coming from half a dozen different sources.

All were to the effect that Gant had tried on many occasions to pay attentions to the little girl, and that his infatuation for her was evident even in the factory.

Gant was employed as shipping clerk for some time with the pencil company, but left three weeks ago Saturday. He was seen Friday and Saturday, the latter time by Superintendent Leo M. Frank, from whom he asked permission to go into the factory to get a pair of shoes he had left. Then he was seen again this morning near the factory, while the detectives were looking in another part of the city for him.

The fact that he had been seen about the factory Friday and Saturday was recalled by employees when his name was mentioned in the case.

Herbert Schiff, assistant superintendent of the factory, was sitting at his desk in a front office on the second floor to-day when he saw Gant come out of a near-beer saloon [1 word illegible]


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the way and hurry down Forsyth Street toward Alabama Street. He was dressed in a blue suit and wore a straw hat. He carried a package under his arm.

Detective Starnes was notified, but by the time he had taken up the trail, Gant had disappeared. Officers were dispatched to the railway stations and to the Marietta Street cars to thwart him if he had any thoughts of escaping.

The old Granite Hotel building at 37-39 South Forsyth Street, now the home of the National Pencil Company, and scene of the slaying

The old Granite Hotel building at 37-39 South Forsyth Street, now the home of the National Pencil Company, and scene of the slaying

E. F. Holloway, timekeeper at the factory, said that he was aware of Gant’s infatuation for the girl, but did not know that she accepted his attentions at all.

Gant had told him, he said, that he had been greatly attracted by Mary Phagan and had walked home with her and had been with her on other occasions.

Mary Pirk, a girl who worked near Mary Phagan in the pencil factory, said to-day that she knew the murdered girl well and that she had heard her girl companions talking a number of times of Gant’s infatuation for the Phagan girl.

She had heard, she said, that Gant frequently walked home with her and paid her other attentions.

Police detectives, after an all-forenoon conference with Leo Frank, permitted the factory superintendent to go. One result of the conference, however, was to get an important admission from Newt Lee, the negro night watchman, who is being held as a material witness.

Gant Admitted to Factory Saturday.

Mr. Frank told the detectives that after leaving the factory Saturday evening he called up Lee and asked if Gant, who had asked permission of Frank a few minutes before to get his shoes in an upstairs room had left the building yet. The negro answered that Gant had obtained his shoes and left the building within ten minutes.

This noon, however, Attorneys Luther Rosser and Herbert Haas, who were representing Superintendent Frank, went to Lee’s cell after the conference in the detectives’ office had concluded and questioned him sharply in regard to Gant.

After catching him in a misstatement, they induced him to admit that his first testimony in regard to the time Gant was in the building was misleading. He thought that Gant was there 20 minutes or half an hour.

He added the remark, which is regarded as highly important that Gant, while in the building, called on and talked to some girl.

Recent Movements a Mystery.

The case against Gant is made stronger by the mystery surrounding his movements during the past three weeks. Mrs. F. C. Terrell, of 284 East Linden Avenue, with whom Gant has been boarding, told a Georgian reporter this morning that three weeks ago today Gant packed up all his belongings and left her house, telling her he had secured a good position in California and was going there at once.

Gant’s object in telling the California trip story to Mrs. Terrell is unknown, but detectives consider his movements during the three weeks that have elapsed since then a strong link in the chain of evidence that is being woven about him.

Mrs. Terrell said she had not received any word from Gant, and supposed he was in California. She considered his silence unusual, because hitherto whenever Gant had been away from home, for even a day or two, he had always sent postcards or a letter.

Mrs. Terrell also declared that Gant had known the Phagan family in Marietta, where Mary Phagan lived for a number of years. Gant has been living with the Terrell family for seven years. Up to four or five years ago the Terrells were neighbors of the Phagans in Marietta, and little Mary often played around the Terrell home. It was there that Gant became acquainted with her, Mrs. Terrell said. Gant is about 22 years old.

Strange Notes Increase Mystery.

A few inches from the body were found two remarkably strange notes. These notes, incoherent and almost illegible, only serve to increase the mystery. Detectives declared there was no doubt that these notes were written by the murderer and were a feeble and tragically grotesque effort at a ruse. They purport to have been written by the girl, and the wording would seem to indicate that she had written them after she was in the throes of death.

“A tall, black negro did this,” is the substance of the two notes.

The police were notified by the janitor, and several officers were quickly on the scene, immediately starting a thorough investigation.

After finding that all of the doors and windows to the building were securely fastened, the police took Newt Lee into custody on suspicion, believing that he could throw light on the tragedy. Lee carried the keys to the building, but protested that he had admitted no one to the building and that he had no idea that any one had been inside until he found the body.

Detectives are certain that the negro can explain the mystery of how the girl found her way into the building, even if he did not actually commit the murder.

Negro Pleads Total Ignorance.

The negro’s sole statement to detectives since his arrest has been:

“I didn’t know nothing about it until I found the body.”

Detectives, however, declare the locked doors and windows render this statement unreasonable.

The negro was put through a grilling examination time and again Sunday and last night, but no amount of questioning could induce him to change his “know nothing” statement. To every question he replied:

“I don’t know nothing about it.”

Detectives are sure the negro has not told all he knows, and will hold him until the mystery is cleared.

The theory that the crime was the work of a negro held full sway and was assiduously followed by detectives until Sunday afternoon, when E. L. Sentell, of 82 Davis Street, a clerk for the Kamper Grocery Company, divulged the information that he saw Mary Phagan at Forsyth and Hunter Streets Sunday morning, about 12:30 o’clock, in company with Arthur Mullinax. He said they were walking in the direction of the pencil factory, which is but a few doors from this corner. Sentell knew the Phagan girl, and said he spoke to her as he passed.

Since then detectives have been working on both theories—that the crime was committed by a negro and that it was the job of a white man and that the negro watchman is an accomplice in that he knew of it.

This gave a new angle to the mystery and set detectives on the trail of Mullinax, who was found late in the afternoon and placed under arrest on suspicion.

Gant was arrested as he alighted from a street car from Atlanta, carrying a suitcase. He was taken by Deputy Sheriff Hicks, to the office of Sheriff Swanson, where he was questioned and the contents of the suitcase examined.

Chief of Police Goodson, of Marietta, said this afternoon that Gant expressed surprise when arrested, but didn’t make a statement. Gant, it was stated, was extremely nervous when he got off the car, and was evidently expecting something to happen. When Hicks accosted him and placed him under arrest, Gant turned pale and stammered that there must be some mistake.

Gant in Saloon.

Charles W. McGee, of Colonial Hills, a bartender in the saloon of J. P. Hunter, at 38 South Forsyth Street, across the street from the plant of the National Lead Pencil Company, this afternoon said that Gant and another man, whom he did not know, came in his place Saturday night about 10 o’clock.

“Gant and the other man,” said McGee, “walked back to the lunch counter and got something to eat, and then Gant came to the bar and said he wanted to leave a pair of shoes with us until Monday morning. I told him he could, and the shoes were placed behind the cigar counter in the front part of the saloon.”

While in Hunter’s place Gant and the other man appeared to be in a hurry and kept talking earnestly together as though they were planning something.

This morning at 8 o’clock Gant, looking like he had not had much sleep, came into the Hunter saloon and got his shoes. He talked to McGee for a moment at the cigar counter, and they discussed the Phagan murder. McGee jokingly said the police were looking for Gant, and the latter was excited. He stepped quickly to the door and glanced across at the National Pencil Company’s building, and then looked hastily up and down Forsyth Street. He then told McGee he was going to Marietta and walked rapidly up Forsyth Street.

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Atlanta Georgian, April 28th 1913, “Gant Was Infatuated With Girl; at Factory Saturday,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)