FROM THE BOOK BLUE EYED SIX: Drews and Stichler’s legs and arms were pinioned by stout straps. Stichler, who was the last one bound, being engaged in silent prayer all the while. The rope was first adjusted around Drews’ neck and the white cap drawn over his head, and as they were performing the same operation on Stichler, Drews cried out, “Frank, now we go to heaven, now let go, oh, Father, help.” Both men trembled all over like Aspen leaves for a moment before the fatal blow was struck and they shot through the trap launching them into eternity. Their bodies were placed in very plain coffins, furnished by the Directors of the Poor. Drews was buried in Mt. Lebanon Cemetery and Stichler in the garden at his father’s house in Indiantown Gap.
LOBO COMMENT: So ended the lives of the two men convicted of the murder of poor Joseph Raber drowned to death in Indiantown Creek on the fateful day of December 7, 1878. An unlikely pair, Charles Drews (age 59) a humble father, farmer, butcher and past soldier in the Union Army whose name is listed on the Gettysburg memorial, and Franklin Stichler (age 19) a bold town ruffian and frequent thief were contracted to commit the crime by four other Lebanon County PA conspirators, all six having blue eyes and such were tagged as the infamous “Blue Eyed Six” by a reporter covering the story.
The genesis of the story begins with a plot to kill a man in order to collect money from the insurance policies which four of them had taken out on the victim. It’s a story of greed and viciousness not unlike many murder mystery stories of its kind. I happen to be related to two of the men, Charles Drews and Franklin Stichler, and thanks to my Uncle Wayne H. Anspach, who wrote the book “Blue Eyed Six” have an authentic record of the event through his research and interviews of family members done at the time it was first published back in 1971. Uncle “Snack” as our family and friends called him, graciously granted me permission to use the information and pictures from his book which, if you want more detail, can be purchased at the Lebanon County Historical Society.
So why another account of this tragedy? My blog “Lobochronicles” is meant to give spiritual insights into a disciple’s pathway and so my goal was to examine the Blue Eyed Six to see if there existed any record of true Faith in their lives and what could have derailed that Faith to allow them to commit such a heinous deed? What follows is what I discovered and my opinions of these matters. Since our faith always has roots springing from the foundation of the influences in our lives from family, schooling, friends, church, our work etc., I will list some of these influences and comment about their impact on the men.
We’ll save my relatives who actually committed the murders for last, and look first at the four men who participated in the plot of insuring Joseph Raber for the $10,000 they planned to gain by his death. Thankfully, the laws have changed and today you cannot blatantly insure a friend or stranger for devious purposes.
To begin, here is an artists sketch of the little hamlet called “Joseph’s Springs” where the plot was hatched and murder committed. Raber was drowned in Indiantown Creen (loc C) and the plot was planned in Brandt’s house (loc B).
ISRAEL BRANDT – Age 47 – The Mastermind
A SUMMARY FROM “THE BLUE EYED SIX”: He was born in North Lebanon Township, Lebanon County PA on May 27, 1834 a father of 4 children at the time of his death in 1880. His father was a faithful hard-working farmer and carpenter in the community but Israel did not possess the stability of his parents but was possessed with a restless disposition and a desire for change. He went to school at age 8 and continued to age 15 when his father sent him to a tailor to learn his trade until his 18th year. He worked at tailoring for 5 years but sighed for a change so he packed his gripsack and wended his way to the Hoosier State working on a farm gathering fruits of the earth for a few years. Again the demon of change wrestled with him and he headed back to his home in Pennsylvania.
A short stint in the military followed but his unit chose not to go to war. A two-year job keeping the Washington House in Lebanon followed after which he sold the business and moved to Illinois where he lost his arm working with a threshing machine then moved to Iowa remaining a short time. Finding no work he headed back to Lebanon! His next venture was managing the Cold Spring Hotel for two years where his first wife died from consumption. He tied the knot again in 1858 while managing and land lording a hotel called the Half-Way House for some years where he was known as a country tavern keeper.
Like the “Wandering Jew” we find him still on his travels catering to the appetites of his customers in the hotel at Joseph’s Springs and was there the longest time of 7 years at the time of the Raber tragedy. He was arrested once for selling liquor to minors and routinely had stolen cattle, sheep, chickens and turkeys butchered in the basement of his hotel. He even served stolen sweep potatoes to the man from which they were stolen and the man enjoyed them immensely! He was known as a “jolly good fellow” while doling out beer and whisky to the general public. It was his idea to insure Joseph Raber but he needed others to participate so that his cost would be limited. Testimony was given that he tackled and badgered these men until they finally agreed to join the conspiracy.
LOBO COMMENT: So here was a restless and devious man who found no happiness in the fruit of his labors wherever he went. He was a regular bad influence in his community to say the least! There is a short reference about him being a Lutheran and also a note about him protecting a Camp Meeting in Sinking Springs from some “ruffians” who made it a practice of breaking up such spiritual gatherings. But to his dying day on the gallows he made no public confession of the crime nor outward confession of his faith. With that said, just before his excecution Brandt shared a poem he had written with a Newspaper Reporter which in part said: “Yes, Israel I was christened, Jesus’ name I see; In him I’ve found all comfort; O precious blood for me; Holy home I wish to go; My faith in Thee alone I show; For You will be my Savior.” He also had “devotions” with fellow blue-eyed convict Jesiah Hummel until midnight the night before the hanging and also participated in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. On the day of his execution he went to Henry Wise (who had confessed all the details of the crime) and forgave him “for all that Wise had ever done against him”. All these are to me as evidences that God was truly working in this sinners heart.
THE BIBLE: The great God who formed everything Gives the fool his hire and the transgressor his wages. The way of the transgressor is hard. Surely you did not hear, Surely you did not know; Surely from long ago your ear was not opened. For I knew that you would deal very treacherously, And were called a transgressor from the womb. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Proverbs 26:10; Proverbs 13:15; Isaiah 48:8; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23)
Next up Henry Wise “The Squealer”