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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

A family tragedy of Shakespearean proportions played itself out to a bloody end near Colfax.

The story began weeks earlier when a young couple, Mr. and Mrs. Brownell, were living with her stepfather, Al Neeves, near Culdesac, Idaho. Mr. Brownell went away on a job, leaving his wife, who was only 17, and their two young children at the Neeves home. During Mr. Brownell’s absence, Neeves “foully wronged” the young Mrs. Brownell and instigated other neighbor men into “wronging her” as well.

When Mr. Brownell came home and confronted the stepfather, Neeves threatened the couple and ordered them to leave that part of the country or they would be killed. So the Brownells took their two children, 15 months and three months, to the home of a local judge, along with a note asking that he care for the children. The couple fled into the mountains – and plotted revenge.

They discovered that Neeves had departed for Colfax, so they tracked him 100 miles on foot, with Mrs. Brownell attired in men’s clothes as a disguise. They followed him to Neeves’ son-in-law’s home, where they crept into a barn and waited until the son-in-law left the house. 

The Brownells walked into the house and opened fire. Neeves tried to run but fell at the back door because of his wounds. As he lay there struggling, Mrs. Brownell walked up and fired another bullet into his head, killing him.

The Brownells later turned themselves in.