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A MURDER MYSTERY FOR THE AGES

“It was a cold October morning. Two patrolmen stopped to make a routine check on a car parked off the side of the road. On the back seat was the body of a woman. In the trunk was the body of a man. And behind the wheel sat a quiet 18-year-old boy…” (excerpt from: Thunder Over South Parish, Addison J. Allen, author)

As the falling leaves of October blow across Paris Hill Road from in front of the Country Club and into the yard of the old “Delta House” (now owned by the Decato’s), I’m always reminded of a dark time on Paris Hill. It was October 16th, 1937 when murder tore at the spirit of this quintessential village we call home. The events leading up to the murders of Dr. and Mrs. Littlefield are sketchy at best which in turn caused the incarceration of two men when likely only one man had committed the murders. “Whodunit”, the 17 year old young man, Paul Dwyer living with his mother across the street from the Country Club or the Oxford County Deputy Sheriff Francis Carroll whose daughter was Paul Dwyer’s girlfriend.

Here is a synopsis of the murders provided by the New England Historical Society:

The death of Dr. James Littlefield on October 13, 1937 in South Paris was not the biggest crime story in the state of Maine. That distinction belonged to Bangor where the streets were filled with gunfire as the notorious Brady Gang met its demise in a shootout with police and FBI.

Three days later police around the country were still looking for any signs that members of the gang had gotten away. In Arlington, N.J., police noticed a car with Maine license plates pulled over beside the road with a young man sleeping in the front seat and a woman in the back. While they were wrong to suspect the two were connected to the Brady gang, they were very right to be suspicious.

Dr. James Littlefield

Dr. James Littlefield

The woman in the backseat, Lydia Littlefield, was dead. Strangled. In the trunk they found her husband, Dr. James Littlefield, also dead. Bludgeoned and strangled. The man behind the wheel – 17-year-old Paul Dwyer – confessed. His extradition to Maine kicked off one of the most convoluted and lurid murder trials in the state’s history.

A FANTASTIC TALE

Before it ended, two men would be convicted of murder, launching a debate that continues to this day as to who did the actual crime and why.

Dwyer, a chauffeur with no criminal record, outlined the murder story in his initial confession. Though Dr. Littlefield had an addiction to morphine, he still had a reputation as a respectable physician.

Dwyer had suspected he had venereal disease and called the doctor. Littlefield treated him during a house call, but chastised the young man about the company he kept. Dwyer flew into a rage because the doctor had insulted his girlfriend, Barbara Carroll. He then attacked the doctor, killing him.

Dwyer then stuffed the doctor’s body into the trunk of his car and drove to the Littlefield home. He told the doctor’s wife, Lydia, that the doctor had left on a train to Boston. According to his fantastic story, the doctor had hit two pedestrians with his car, panicked and fled. He asked Dwyer to pick up Lydia and meet him in Boston.

For two days, Dwyer stayed on the road with Lydia as a passenger, explaining that at each stop he had received instructions from the doctor to travel to a new destination. The pair traipsed around from South Paris, to Boston, back up to Concord, N.H., and then back to Maine.

South Paris, Maine, in 1907

Dwyer finally strangled the increasingly suspicious Lydia and propped her in the back seat, as if sleeping, and went on his way to New Jersey. Oddly enough, two police officers stopped the car for traffic violations, but sent Dwyer on his way with only a warning—all while Lydia “slept” in the back seat.

GUILTY, NOT GUILTY

Dwyer pleaded not guilty, but after two days of trial he changed his plea to guilty. The judge sentenced him to life in prison, but the public had doubts. The motive for the murder seemed slim, and Dwyer seemed an unlikely killer to those who knew him.

Behind bars, Dwyer took up pen and paper and wrote a very different version of events. In this second version, Dr. Littlefield had not come to the Dwyer home to treat Paul. Rather, he had come there to examine Paul’s sweetheart, Barbara, who feared she’d gotten pregnant. Barbara told the doctor that her own father, Deputy Sheriff Francis Carroll, might have impregnated her.

Barbara had told Dwyer of the incest and the two had turned to the doctor for help. Dr. Littlefield confronted Francis Carroll and threatened him. The deputy killed the doctor and bullied Dwyer into helping with the getaway. Carroll, Dwyer said, killed Lydia and sent Dwyer on his drive.

Dwyer had changed his plea, he said, because Carroll had threatened him. Police didn’t think the new account had any more truth to it than the old one, but the story rang true to one person: Carroll’s boss, the sheriff of Oxford County. He arrested Carroll on the incest charge in 1938 and began investigating the murder.

New York Times, Aug. 13, 1938

In short order, Carroll stood trial and a jury convicted him of the murder. Carroll privately denied the incest allegation, but did not do so in court. His lawyers feared that if he addressed it, his daughter would have to testify and add to the weight of evidence against him.

Carroll offered an alibi for the murder of Dr. Littlefield, but he couldn’t back it up. He was accused of trying to bribe a witness to support him. Another witness reported seeing him at the scene of the murder. In the end, the jury was persuaded that Carroll was guilty.

TWO MEN, ONE CRIME

Now two men were in the state prison convicted of the same crime. There the matter would sit for 10 years while both Carroll and Dwyer proclaimed their innocence. In 1950, Carroll would finally win his release and the Legislature would order the attorney general to re-investigate the case.

At this point, prosecutors could not charge Carroll with incest. Nor could a court retry him for the murder of Dr. Littlefield. But the court could retry either him or Dwyer for the death of Lydia Littlefield, a crime that neither had so far been accused of.

In the end, the last investigation – published in 1952 – found reasonable doubt as to Carroll’s guilt. He should not face additional charges, the investigation concluded. Carroll went free. Dwyer would, himself, win his freedom on parole for good behavior.

So there you have it, you can make up your own mind as to  “WHODUNIT”. 

“Thunder Over South Parish” originally titled “New England  Gothic” was published in 1960 and caused a real stir in the  community due to its salacious content….hardly ‘salacious’ in  today’s literature however. I can remember growing up on the Hill  in the 1960’s and hearing about the macabre novel. I was sworn  to secrecy when I caught my sister, who was six years older than  me, hiding a copy of the paperback under her mattress. To this day I’ve yet to read the book, still abiding by my parents wishes – haha, but perhaps one of my more risqué neighbors might have a  copy hidden under their mattress I could borrow.  

So when you walk or drive by the old ‘Delta House’ notice the  boarded up window on the second floor. It’s said this was the  bathroom window in the room where the murder took place.  Folklore has it that boarding up a window is an attempt to close  off the memory of a tragedy too horrible to bear. 

Story and cemetery photo submitted by Linda Richardson – excerpt by the New England Historical Society

Welcome to the new Paris Hill Community Website

Welcome fellow neighbors!

After 12+ years of publishing the On the Hill newsletter, Janet Brogan has decided it is time change things for the better.  We have a mailing list of over 200 residents, and others who love our village, and the newsletter has a been a valuable way to communicate, share stories and events. We believe moving to a dedicated website with more frequent, interactive and dynamic content will help us tell the history and happenings on our village more easily!

A huge thank you to Janet Brogan and all the newsletter contributors who supported the On The Hill newsletter for the last 12+ years!

While the format is changing from the print newsletter to this new website, Janet is staying onboard as an editor and coordinator for news and features going forward.

Should you still want a print copy, we will be sending monthly copies to those who request, as well as posting in the Historical Society display box for viewing each month. The Hamlin Memorial Library is also making available their computers and wifi for access to the site.

Introducing ParisHill.org

As part of the transition to this website we wanted to offer a central place for all Paris Hill organizations, events, notices, news, galleries, links and contacts. These sections make up the menu at the top of the page on mobile devices, or the left sidebar on desktops. When new features and news are posted, emails with links will go to the newsletter and facebook, and the ParisHill.org site will always have the latest information.

Organizations
Each organization has their own page with contact information, history, uses, nonprofits involved, events, news and links. You can view these pages in the Organizations menu, or directly at each link; Hamlin Memorial Library & Museum, Paris Hill Academy, Paris Hill Baptist Church, Paris Hill Country Club and the Paris Hill Historical Society.

Events
In addition to the new organization pages, we wanted a centralized event calendar to capture the many events that happen each summer (and some in winter!) We have over a dozen events this year, including the summer suppers returning, Hannibal Hamlin’s Birthday, the Music Festival, the (43rd annual) Founders Day and more! Details for each are in the events section of this site and updated regularly. We will also continue to promote the same events on our Paris Hill Residents group and the public Paris Hill Historic District facebook page for public events.

More Events

Notices, Links and Galleries
In addition to events, we have notices – which are brief community notices such as power and water outages, MSAD 17 budget meetings, and other things our community may find of use. There is also a community links section which includes links to local resources like the Town of Paris resources and the Utility District. Also new, a Gallery section containing photo galleries from events and happenings around the hill. Expect to see a lot more galleries soon!

News and Features
We’re most excited to begin to have more frequent and visual News and Features content, starting with stories and spring updates from each organization. We’re also planning more frequent stories contributed by writers who are interested in documenting the history of the Paris Hill community! Some great feature ideas Janet Brogan suggested include the Mt Mica Mine, Cooper Springs, the Cornwall Preserve, the Lost Buildings of Paris Hill, and the Little buildings of Paris Hill. Please volunteer if interested in helping write or contribute to a feature!

We realize there may be some hiccups during this transition, so please stay engaged and feel free to reach out anytime with questions, issues or corrections. We’re planning a support session as part of our June summer dinner, if anyone has any questions or needs help navigating the site. We’re also delivering a printed “Community Invite for Summer 2022” to everyone in the coming week. We’ll also be using that to promote this new website and make sure after such a long winter (or two, or three!) new residents are aware of all the events, historical buildings and organizations that support them in our community.

Most importantly, we hope that you will continue to stay engaged with our community after we come out of a much longer than usual winter hibernation. See you out walking as the temperatures warm and yard work calls, and hopefully at some of the many events planned this summer!

Paris Hill Historical Society Spring 2022 Updates

The Paris Hill Historical Society began using its present building on 48 Tremont Street in 1993. Edwine Guyer was instrumental in securing the location with the land deeded by the Paris Hill Utility District. It was built by students from the Oxford Hills Vocational Technical School with plans to resemble a one room schoolhouse designed by A.K.(Alex) Alexander. The need for the building was critical since the society’s beginnings in 1967. The group had collected many items of historical interest from the area and needed a repository for them. Prior to that the society met in members’ homes, upstairs in the Country Club, in the Academy (now the Community Club), the Albion K. Parris Law Office as well as in the vestry of the First Baptist Church.


This summer we hope residents will take an interest and stop by to see what we have to offer. Every year we change what is in our display cases. This year we are thinking of putting together an exhibit on The Women of Paris Hill. If you have items (photos, diaries, journals, etc) on an interesting Paris Hill woman we would love to share them in the display. A walking tour of Paris Hill was another idea for this summer. Newer residents may not be aware that we have files on many of the houses, past residents of Paris Hill and interesting artifacts not on display in the other public buildings of the town. One of the projects that visitors to the village comment on is how much they enjoy the historical signs on many of the homes in town. This is just one of the projects that the society sponsored to help in its mission to preserve and promote the rich history of Paris Hill.


We hope to be open on Thursday afternoons throughout the summer and are willing to open the building on request. We have a loyal group of supporters who continued to support us during the last two years. Our dues have been kept at just $30 a year because of their generosity. Presently, the two officers and three trustees try to continue the work of the society to include the maintenance of the building and grounds. Beside our need for more residents who are willing to consider joining us on the board as a trustee, we need a larger venue to host the programs that will keep the history of Paris Hill real, relevant and relational for our community. Please give us a contact us or stop by this summer if you wish to join and are not on our mailing list

(Provided by Nancy Schlanser)

Upcoming Events

There are no events

The map we followed to the Tomb

The Search for the Chandler Tomb

Calling all ghosts, ghouls and goblins in search of the mysterious legend known as the “Chandler Tomb”.


Rosemary Losso and I set out on a beautiful October morning intent on locating the infamous “Chandler Tomb” that up until today was just a legend I had heard about while growing up on the Hill. Donning our orange caps, we threw caution to the wind and headed past the Academy to what I remembered as Granny Hill Road. Well, much to my surprise Granny Hill Road had become a thicket of briars, blow downs and an over growth of thick brush. Disappointingly, my childhood path had disappeared and we were forced to turn around and head down the newly paved Paris Hill Road to the Mink Farm Road.


Armed with scant information and a rudimentary map found in my “Paris Cemeteries 1793-2004” book, we headed down the Mink Farm Rd. Growing up, the Mink Farm Rd was a desolate narrow dirt road that led to Granny Pond and my best friend Camelia’s family mink farm. I was surprised to find it a paved road flanked with modest homes and no sign of the mink farm. However, Granny Pond was just where I remembered it and the memories of catching giant frogs and skipping rocks came rushing back. As we shuffled through the beautiful fall leaves on the road, we heard acorns hitting the metal roofs and watched the busy chipmunks prepare to fill their larders for winter.


At the intersection of Mink Farm Rd and Granny Hill Rd we paused, and since I remembered no siting of a tomb near the pond we took a left and headed down the dirt road. Little did we realize this dirt road was the original ‘Old County Road’ to Paris Hill mentioned on our sketchy map. We came to what appeared to be a dead end and a “No Trespassing” sign. With no remnants of a tomb in sight we turned around, a bit disappointed, and headed back to the Mink Farm Rd. As luck would have it we came across an elderly woman mowing her lawn. We exchanged pleasantries and asked her if she knew where the tomb was located. She knew exactly where the tomb was located and sent us back from whence we had just come. She said to ignore the ‘No Trespassing’ sign and head further down the dirt road and the tomb would be blatantly obvious on the right hand side of the road. As the attached photos prove we did indeed find the “Chandler Tomb…right where the rudimentary map had shown had we realized the ‘Old County Rd’ was a dirt road and not what is considered Paris Hill Rd today.


Dr and Mrs. Benjamin Chandler are indeed entombed on the woodsy knoll over looking what used to be an apple orchard and a beautiful view of the White Mountains. The engraved marble slab remains as do the granite pillars holding it up. The engraving is still legible however the lichen has taken up considerable residence over the centuries. The iron gate has been replaced, the granite walls are intact and the dead elm is now just a mere hollowed out stump. The tomb is a fitting memorial to yet another courageous and generous Paris Hill resident with close ties to the First Baptist Church of Paris. Proceeds from his orchard were given to the Church to benefit the Sunday School.


Dr. Benjamin Chandler was born in Duxbury, MA in 1782…the son of Perez and Rhoda Chandler. Dr Chandler moved to Paris from Hebron in 1811 and continued his medical practice until he died in April of 1827. He wasappointed Assistant Surgeon in Col. Ryerson’s regiment during the war of 1812. He served as Representativeof the Legislature in Boston until Maine was granted statehood in 1820. He then was appointed Judge of Probate on June 6, 1820 and held that office until 1827. He was married twice but left no children. He was a deacon of the First Baptist Church of Paris and a community subscriber of the Revere bell that hangs in the First Baptist Church by donating $10.00 towards its purchase. He was described as a “moral, upright man, amiable in his dispostion, unobtrusive in his manners, respected and beloved as a physician, and honored as an able, intelligent and useful citizen by all his contemporaries.” He died at age 45 in 1827. His remains are entombed beside the old road to South Paris.


I encourage you to follow our footsteps down the ‘Old County Road’ and pay tribute to Dr. Benjamin Chandler and to become a little more immersed in the history of the town we call home.

And stay tuned for more strange and wonderful stories “On the HIll”.

(Provided by Linda Richardson)