The Tragic Homicide of Jarvis Gay 1803-1882
Dr. Jarvis Gay was a veterinary surgeon who lived on Market Street and was often called out at all hours of day and night. At 78, he was becoming frail and was nearly deaf, a fact well known in town. According to a Boston Globe account, at 1:15 am on June 19, 1882, Gay was called to attend a sick horse in Canton. As he made his way, he apparently became disoriented by the fog along the road to Canton.
Perhaps hoping to get directions, or recognizing the house he had grown up in, Gay hitched his horse in front of what had been his father’s house on Neponset Street, and went up to the door. Inside, George Edmunds, a Civil War veteran and woodcarver at Smith’s Organ Factory in Boston, had only recently moved into the house with his wife and three children at the request of his elderly parents who lived there and felt they needed help.
Awakened by his wife and parents shouting that someone was trying to break into the house, Edmunds heard knocking and saw the light of a lantern flashing in the yard. He went into the kitchen and repeatedly called out to ask who was there. He got no response, just more knocking and footsteps. Startled and a bit frightened, Edmunds got his father’s gun, loaded it, stuck the barrel out the kitchen window and shouted, “Who’s there? If you don’t answer, I’ll shoot!” Jarvis Gay could not hear the warning. Edmunds shot at a passing shadow. He then sat in the kitchen with the gun on his knee, still thinking someone would try to enter the house.
At around 3:30 am, Edmunds’ father looked out and said there was a man lying on the ground in the driveway. It was Dr. Jarvis Gay. Dead. The elder Edmunds ran to a neighboring farm and Waldo Hoar went to get the doctor.
An inquest was held at which another neighbor, George Talbot, testified that he heard Edmunds’ shouted warning and the shot. The Gay family, town officials, and Justice Ely in Dedham, all agreed the killing was not intentional, but a tragic accident. Dr. Gay likely did not hear George Edmunds calling out; instead, he had kept wandering with his lantern from door to door, adding to Edmunds’ anxiety. The medical examiner said Jarvis Gay had died instantly. George Edmunds said he was “deeply sorry” for his action.
Jarvis Gay is buried in Old Parish Cemetery along with his wife, Fanny L. Dean Gay, who died in 1891.