The Picnic Tragedy
On Wednesday, August 22, 1900, members of the Cambridge Grand United
Order of Odd Fellows, Harvard Lodge, 1542 were gathering at the
Shawsheen Grove at Pole Hill in Ballardvale for a group picnic.
Eventually several hundred G.U.O.O.F. members and their families
gathered at the Grove.
Members of the picnic planning committee included William Green,
Gaston Williams, William Watkins, and Edward Janifer.
the dinner hour approached, food was set out in the pavilion for the
musicians who were playing for the crowd. Members of the planning
committee were attending to the musicians when George "Smoky"
Davenport and William Norris approached the table, and Davenport
began to help himself to the food.
Committee member Watkins told Davenport to stop because the food was
for the musicians and Davenport hadn't been invited to the picnic.
Davenport continued to help himself to food and Edward Janifer told
Davenport he had no right to the food and stopped him. The two men
argued and called each other names. Davenport told Janifer that he
was going to get some bullets for his gun.
As Janifer went on to
testify, "I heard he offered $2.00 for some bullets
but could not get them. He told some one that he would get some when
his partner came up on the noon train and then he'd fix me." Janifer
went to have lunch with his wife and children, who were with him at
The noon train brought people Janifer knew, so he walked into town
to bring them back to the picnic. Meanwhile, Davenport had acquired
some bullets and was looking for Janifer. The two met up again and
Davenport began to call Janifer names. Janifer, trying to avoid the
trouble, started to walk away. At this point, Davenport yelled, "I'm
going to kill you!" Several men, including William Norris, tried to
stop the fight.
Later Janifer said he couldn't recall which man fired the first shot
but he said that "it was kill or be killed" so he pulled out his
gun. Both men began shooting when they were just three or four feet
apart. Davenport ran around the pavilion to the window opposite
Janifer and both men fired again.
Two bullets hit
Davenport, who fell at
the base of a tree, saying to Norris, "Bill, I'm done for."
Davenport died about ten minutes later, before a doctor could reach
him. When Dr. C.E. Abbot arrived on the scene with the police chief
some time later, he examined Davenport and reported that he had been
shot in the nose and the right breast, "either of which...would have
been sufficient to cause death."
One bullet hit William Norris in the leg. Dr. Abbot removed a
32-calibre bullet from William Norris's leg on the scene, "stating
that the wound was not serious."
Edward Janifer was untouched by bullets, however he had just fatally
shot George "Smoky" Davenport in an incident that would change
continued, next edition, Aug. 30, 2008