Friday, January 6, 2012

Local Resident Writes Book About 1920s Murder Trial VIA @ Chelsea District Library | 221 South Main Street | Chelsea | MI | 48118

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Local Resident Writes Book About
1920s Murder Trial


David Churchwell
David Churchwell writes book at
Chelsea District Library

More than 600 people use the Chelsea District Library each day. Some come in to check their email and some come in to check out a good book. Some visit a few times a week, some a few times a year. David Churchwell comes to the library every day. Each morning he heads upstairs and logs on to a computer. For the past 20 years he has been researching the trial of Ethel Nott and is writing a fictional account of a murder that took place in the 1920s. Public libraries have played a key role in his research.

Rheumatic fever put Churchwell in the hospital at eight years old. Upon his release, he was encouraged to live with his grandmother and uncle because his mother lived in a home with stairs, which he was forbidden to climb while recovering. While living with his grandmother Churchwell would often overhear arguments between his grandmother and uncle, one defending a woman named Ethel, the other defending a man named George. As time passed, Churchwell found newspaper clippings around the house reporting the murder of a husband by his young wife and an even younger man. Recognizing the names and intrigued by the photos, Churchwell started asking family members questions about the murder and found that everyone had their own version of the story.

Trunk Murder Article
According to family and local papers, George Nott, his mother's cousin, had been murdered by wife, Ethel, and a local milkman, Elwood Wade. What Churchwell didn't know was why there wasn't a solid story and why certain family members sided with Ethel, while others with George.

Churchwell's research started at age 14 in Chelsea, Mass., where he and a friend would skip school, get sub sandwiches and then head to the Boston Public Library to research the murder on microfilm machines. Churchwell found stories of the murder in newspapers not only locally but nationally and started collecting the information to take home to his family. Trips to the library to research the murder were infrequent as a child, but in his late 50s when he started attending memorials as family members passed away, he noticed there was always talk of the murder, and still, everyone had a different story. These conversations sparked an interest in genealogy and validating family stories, not in writing a book.

Ellwood Wade and Ethel Nott
Churchwell started visiting the Boston Public Library again to continue his research, looking through hard copies of old newspapers and microfilm, and requesting documents through Inter Library Loan. As he researched the murder and the lives of George and Ethel Nott, he found that the newspapers portrayed a one-sided version of the story. He also found that someone in Texas had written a book about the murder, which he felt was also inaccurate.

And so he set out to write his own book, titled, Mrs. Nott's Moral Dilemma, a fictionalized account of real events that occurred in Bridgeport, Conn. during the 1920s and 1930s. A love triangle that ended in murder was shocking and inspired gossip in the 1920s. Add that the murder was witnessed by children who saw their father shot, brutalized and stuffed in a trunk - later to be submerged in a swamp- and the story garnered national attention.

In 2004, Churchwell moved from Chelsea, Mass. to Chelsea, Mich. and continued his research at the Chelsea District Library. Using library computers and online resources such as
Ancestry and Heritage Quest, he was able to supplement his research gathered at the Boston Public Library with the information needed to write his book.

Churchwell does not have a computer at home and appreciates the access to high-speed Internet, scanners and software programs available to him through the library. Churchwell hopes to complete Mrs. Nott's Moral Dilemma
by the end of December and will start looking for a publisher in the new year.

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The Chelsea District Library is nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide equal access to quality resources that serve the lifelong cultural, educational and informational needs and interests of all people.The Library currently serves 14,000 residents in the Chelsea district - City of Chelsea plus Dexter, Lima, Lyndon and Sylvan townships and more than 20,000 individuals visit the Library each month.  The Library's state-of-the-art facility is an access point for information. In addition to providing dynamic services to complement and support local schools and other important community needs, the Chelsea District Library strives to present timely, interesting and high-quality programs and events to engage and enrich the Chelsea community.



Anna Cangialosi, Marketing Coordinator
Chelsea District Library

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