Judge McNaughton and the Boy Slayer

On November 26th, 1921, a 17 year old young man was brought before Judge McNaughton on the charge of murder.

Robert D. Ford, of Worley, Idaho, was born in Jonesborough, Tennessee on February 14th, 1905 to Walter Ford and Nancy Catherine Sifford. She went by Catherine. His parents either divorced or his mother took son Robert and daughter Rosa and abandoned the marriage. At some point she ended up in Idaho, where she marries Charles B. Smith of Worley. The marriage took place on January 20th, 1919 in Spokane, WA.

Side note: Interestingly enough, Catherine does state that she was a divorced woman, that this was her second marriage, but gives her surname as Dowell. A little further digging shows that on January 10th, 1918, at Spokane, she had married a B.W. Dowel, claiming that THIS is her second marriage! In any case, this marriage only lasted for 6 months, with Dowel claiming that Catherine threatened and committed bodily violence against him. He was granted a divorce. So, Charles Smith was actually Catherine’s 3rd husband. In 1929 Catherine actually got around to divorcing Walter Ford, her first husband. Robert’s mother Catherine died in Spokane, WA on January 27th, 1946, with the claim that she had been the wife of Fred Severin. I suspect she had only lived with him as a common-law wife, as no marriage record exists, and upon Fred’s death on February 11, 1942 at the Spokane County Hospital & Poor Farm, (where he had been living since as early as 1940 as an inmate) it is stated that he was a single man, not married or divorced. Additionally, while Fred was still alive in the County Hospital as an inmate in 1940, we find Catherine using his surname on the 1940 Census for Washington, and calling herself a widow! Catherine attempted to apply for his social security benefits. Fred was also over 30 years older than Catherine. I include this information about Robert’s mother as it might provide some insight into his personality and character.

On the night of November 21st, 1921, Robert Ford returned home late. His step-father Charles, in a fit of anger, struck him. Robert retaliated by shooting Charles four times and then slashing him with a knife. At the time of this incident Robert’s mother was pregnant with the child of Charles Smith, his step-father.

Death bed testimony was allowed in this case. The papers also reported that Robert showed a lack of remorse or emotion, and his mother at times appeared the same way. She seemed more upset over the fate of her son than the fact that he murdered his step-father. In the end, Robert was acquitted as a “juvenile delinquent” and allowed to go home. I wonder what Judge William McNaughton thought about this verdict?

Robert died November 27th, 1967 at Spokane, Washington.


Many might be interested in saving a historic building, but are unsure of how to go about it. There are many steps that could seem overwhelming. It’s all about direction, knowing the requirements and then the purpose.

This guide takes you through it in an easy to follow and understand way.

A Roadmap for Preserving a Landmark Building in Your Community

Insuring Your Historic Property

Owning a historic property can come with some unique issues that simply are not covered or protected with standard insurance. While doing some research into the pros & cons of owning a historic property Cindy came across insurance that is specifically tailored to the needs of historic homes, structures and property. Just click on the image below to learn more.

Swedish Rosemåling Painting

Just a quick update on the Swedish Rosemåling painting in the basement of Hamilton House. It is a high probability that it was painted during the time the Hawkins family owned and lived in the home. Agnes (RAMSTEDT) Hawkins was the granddaughter of both paternal and maternal grandparents born in Sweden.

Cupid Victorious

This painting was created on a wall in the stairwell at Hamilton House. It was painted on a sheet of canvas wallpaper that probably covered the entire wall. Cindy just found through a few hours of research that it is a copy of painting by one of the “Old Masters,” Adolphe-William Bouguereau (1825-1905), and is called “Cupid Victorious.” When the McNaughton family moved out circa 1930 they cut it from the wall and took it with them. Mary Sanderson, granddaughter of William and Mamie McNaughton, has donated it back to Hamilton House. It is in beautiful condition and retains its gorgeous colors. The big question… will it be hung back up in Hamilton House, or will more modern eyes find it too “offensive” and “inappropriate?” What are your thoughts?

More “hidden treasures” found!

More “hidden treasures” found in another closet at Hamilton House. Some are easy to read, while the one with the heart and arrow needs to be revisited and photographed with more light. We can make out the initials “M.G.” in the heart, but not the name above the initials. In another she has signed herself as “Mary G.” and it clearly says… Ruste Hum + Mary G. We don’t know who “Mary G.” was yet, and we believe the surname of “Hum” was misspelled and should have been “Hume.” So, if we can find a young man who went by the nickname of “Rusty” with the surname of Hume sometime between the years 1912 and about 1920, we might figure out who Mary was as well.
The name “Jim Hawkins” and “Jimmy Hawkins” is nice and clear

More Photos – Mary Sanderson Collection

A big THANK YOU to Mary Sanderson, granddaughter of Judge William F. & Mamie McNaughton, for clearer scans of Hamilton House photos, taken circa 1920/21, as well as for the charming photo of her Aunt Marjorie siting on the lawn, and one of her mother Frances standing in front of one of the trees. We have also learned that the small room in the NW corner of the first floor was used as a sewing room by her grandmother. This is now the administration office of the music conservatory.