STRANGE GH: Tarred and feathered in Ottawa County

Apr 2, 2012


Snyder was not married, and as a carousing bachelor, he caused quite a stir among gossipy neighbors. But the biggest stir he caused was with Horace B. Atwood, a neighbor and sometimes employer whom he didn’t get along with. Some claimed it was an ongoing feud.

Atwood, born in Ohio in 1838, was an industrious farmer whose farm was in section 13 in South Blendon Township. The 46-year-old farmer lived with his wife, Helen, and their three children, Morris, Vesta, and Lena.

When Atwood’s barn was destroyed by fire in mid-November 1884, suspicion fell upon Snyder. Authorities ruled it was a case of arson, but made no arrest. While neighbors strongly believed Snyder was the culprit, with no direct evidence connecting the man to the fire, he walked.

Atwood lost his barn, farming implements, and three head of cattle in the blaze. According to the Chicago Tribune, the destruction cost the farmer $1,500, a value of over $35,000 in today’s currency. The barn was uninsured.

Atwood and his neighbors assumed authorities would be back in short order to arrest Snyder after examining what evidence they did collect. But in the days following the disaster, when no suspect was arrested, riled neighbors took matters into their own hands. A group confronted Peter Snyder, serving him notice to get out of town. When Snyder refused, the angry mob tarred and feathered him.

But Peter Snyder never did leave Blendon Township, even after being tarred, feathered, and shunned by his neighbors.

Horace B. Atwood died in 1921. It is unknown when Peter Snyder died, but his final resting place is no secret. Snyder, along with Atwood, are both buried in the Blendon Township Cemetery, not far apart.

Thus, Atwood never did get rid of Snyder.

There is evidence a man was tarred and feathered in Grand Haven around 1950, reported by the De Hollander newspaper, published in Ottawa County. The Dutch newspaper served Netherlands immigrants who settled in Holland, Mich.

In the article, the newspaper drew a contrast between the Grand Haven incident and a case "out east" that involved a man who was tarred and feathered and brought a lawsuit against the perpetrator. The victim was awarded $3,000 in damages.

“A man was served (with a lawsuit) the same way in this county, Grand Haven, and the fellow was only charged $40,” the De Hollander reported, “And [the perpetrator] was a Government officer at that!”

As in jest, De Hollander considered the $40 judgment here to be paltry in comparison to the enormous reward in the other case.

“The people could afford to tar and feather the whole pack at that rate,” De Hollander reported. The newspaper added that it was advisable to "keep away from a place where a coat of tar and feathers only costs (a perpetrator) $40.”



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