Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.
August 9th, 1913
THE RIDDLE OF THE CLOCK IN THE PHAGAN MYSTERY
Jim Conley swears Mary Phagan went up the stairs of the National Pencil factory and was murdered before Monteen Stover arrived. He says he saw Miss Stover go up and leave.
Monteen Stover, State’s witness, swears she arrived at 12:05.
George Epps, State’s witness, swears he and Mary Phagan arrived at Marietta and Forsyth streets at 12:07.
The car crew, defense’s witnesses, swear Mary arrived at Broad and Marietta at 12:071/2 and at Broad and Hunter at 12:10.
If Mary Phagan was at Marietta and Forsyth at12:07, as the State says, or at Broad and Hunter at 12:10, as the defense says, how could she have preceded Monteen Stover, as Jim Conley says, up the factory stairs, when Monteen Stover was in the factory at 12:05?
What’s the answer?
By JAMES B. NEVIN.
Hark to the tale of the old hall clock!
This is the tale of the clock!
—Old English Ballad.
This is a tale of an office clock and a motorman’s watch—an office clock in the National Pencil Factory, the first requisite of which, it being a “time” clock, is accuracy, and a motorman’s watch.
And this is the story of a clock that may or may not mean life and liberty and a restored good name to Leo Frank, or—a fate infinitely worse than mere death itself!
It is a story involving a young business man of repute and high standing, a college graduate and a husband, a brave, womanly little girl, foully murdered, a motorman known to many Atlantans, a newsboy not so well known, a disinterested working girl, a negro sweeper, a confessed accessory to murder, the dead girl’s mother—and an office clock.
What does the story demonstrate?
That shall be for the reader to say.
Here is the story:
What the State Contends.
The State of Georgia is contending that Leo Frank murdered on April 26, before the hour of 12:05 in the afternoon, Mary Phagan, a 14-year-old working girl, employed in the National Pencil Factory, of which Frank was the superintendent.
It cites, among others, to bear out its contention, James Conley, a negro sweeper in the factory, and Monteen Stover, an employee of the factory.
Miss Stover is a disinterested witness—Conley not only is the star witness against Frank, but is interested in fixing the murder upon Frank.
Here is what the State, by its own witnesses, asserts:
Jim Conley swears that a few minutes before Miss Monteen Stover came into the factory—Miss Stover herself, swearing that she entered at 12:05—Mary Phagan entered and passed upstairs and into Leo Frank’s office.
Miss Stover, asked how she was positive as to the time she went in and the time she came out, stated that she looked at the time clock both as she came in and as she went out. That fixes the time of her coming and going definitely and exactly.
It was before Miss Stover came in that Conley swears Mary Phagan came in. Therefore, Mary Phagan must have arrived at the factory, according to Conley, at least before 12:05, the moment Miss Stover came in.
Before Miss Stover Entered.
But after Mary came in, and before Miss Stover came in, the murder, still according to Conley, had been effected.
For (a) after Mary went upstairs and before Miss Stover came in, Conley (b) heard pattering footsteps toward the rear of the building, where (c) he says the body was found by him later, and after that (d) a scream, and then (e) a period of silence.
All of this, according to Conley, before Monteen Stover entered the factory—that is, before 12:05 certainly—and, considering the things Conley swears happened, several minutes before 12:05, necessarily.
Mrs. Coleman, Mary’s mother, swears that Mary left home “about 11:45” in the morning, and George Epps swears he joined her on the car at 11:50, for he looked at a clock at home just before boarding the car, and that he and Mary arrived at Marietta and Forsyth streets at 12:07, the latter hour not definitely fixed in his mind.
Motorman Remembers Time.
The motorman on that car, however, who swears he knew Mary Phagan, and had seen her board his car frequently, and remembers seeing her board that particular car on that particular day, says that the car arrived at Marietta and Forsyth at 12:71/2, [1 word illegible] that is the time it is scheduled to arrive there, and he was running on time that day.
The motorman swears Mary and a companion got off at Hunter and Broad about 12:10, that being a few minutes’ farther run than Marietta and Forsyth. The conductor corroborates the motorman in an additional statement that the car was not running ahead of schedule, the conductors being particularly required by the company not to run ahead of time.
Mary Phagan left the street car at 12:10, still a block and a half from the pencil factory.
If she walked directly to the factory, she could not have reaclied [sic] there before 12:12, in any event.
If the little victim of this tragedy, Mary Phagan, therefore, DID NOT REACH THE FACTORY UNTIL MANY MINUTES AFTER CONLEY SWEARS SHE DID GET THERE, AND UNTIL AT LEAST TWO MINUTES AFTER MONTEEN STOVER HAD DEPARTED, AND UNTIL AFTER CONLEY SWEARS HE HAD HEARD THE FOOTSTEPS AND THE SCREAM, HOW CAN CONLEY’S STORY BE TRUE?
Slain Before She Arrived?
In other words, how could Mary Phagan have been murdered before she arrived at the factory?
Remember, too, that when Frank was asked at the Coroner’s inquest as to the time of Mary Phagan’s arrival, he said that it was after 12, because the noon whistle had blown some time before—that she might have arrived at 12:10 or, maybe later, perhaps as late as 12:20 or 12:25.
Conley, also, in fixing the time of Mary Phagan’s arrival at the factory, said it was soon after the noon whistle blew, therefore, a little after 12—thus placing Mary’s arrival between 12 and the time of Monteen Stover’s arrival, which was 12:05.
Now then, take your pencil and paper, and figure this problem out for yourself.
Can you reconcile Conley’s story with the other things proved, in the main, by the State’s own witnesses?
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Atlanta Georgian, August 9th 1913, “Here’s the Time Clock Puzzle in the Frank Trial; Can You Figure it Out?” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)