Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Adamant Pottery Arson Mystery

On February 7, 1918, the Adamant Pottery, just up the road from The Crockery City Brewery, was found burning uncontrolled.  Later that morning the grisly remains (pictured above) of two bodies were discovered.   They were missing their heads, arms, and legs.
They would later be identified as David Mumaw, a night watchman about 60 years old.  According to descendants, final identification was only made through a Knights of Pythias medallion worn constantly by watchman Mumaw. The second body was identified as being that of Joseph Cannon, 55, a potter who had been sleeping at the plant for several nights and who proved to be missing after the fire.  A man named Willis Payne  was arrested a few day later for the attempted arson of the Thomas Pottery. It was not at first thought he was involved in the Adamant Fire.  He refused to answer questions about it until the  arrival of Police Chief Hugh McDermott.  From there  the interrogation of Payne took on a more aggressive aspect. At the arraignment before Mayor J.S. Wilson, Payne at first refused to answer any questions put to him. At some point during these proceedings, however, McDermott's Airedale terrier, "Turk", lunged at Payne who, faced with the snarling dog,  immediately confessed to setting two fires.  Upon further questioning it was determined that  "he was not in possession of normal intelligence".  At one point he did claim that another man put him up to starting the fires. Payne said the man was tall and wore a fur coat.   He said he was paid 50 cents to start the Adamant fire by him.  He denied any knowledge of the death of Joseph Cannon, but claimed he did murder David Mumaw by hitting him in the head with a hatchet.  A hatchet was found near Mumaw's body.  He also said he liked to hear people who got trapped in the fire scream.  Charges of arson and murder were filed against Payne.  Fearing that some attempt might be made to lynch him, Payne was sent to the Lisbon jail.  Before he left he told authorities that he intended to burn several other pottery plants, all of which had orders from the government to makes war supplies.  It was concluded that Payne did not work alone and it may well have been a German plot.  Now, I am skimming through this story for it is far more detailed.  You can read the whole thing here under Adamant Fire:

IN the end, Payne was never charged with anything, but was institutionalized in an insane asylum in Lima, Ohio.  The man in the fur coat was never found.  If he was a German spy, he got away with it.  Route 11 runs through the area of the Adamant Pottery now, as well as the walking bridge.  But at one time, it was the site of mystery and intrigue.  The perfect story for a ghost hunter like me!





No comments: