A Depression Era Murder Mystery in Huntington, WV

Juliette Enslow

Murder on Millionaires Row: a Forgotten Huntington Mystery ( my source is huntingtonquarterly.com)

Enslow Mansion

On October 17, 1936, along Huntington’s elite Millionaires Row, a wealthy widow was brutally murdered in her bedroom suite in her mansion. Juliette B. Enslow, the widow of Frank Enslow and daughter of Huntington’s first mayor, Peter Cline Buffington, was found stabbed and beaten in the early morning hours.
Juliette was an icon of Huntington society, raised by her father Peter Buffington who had the distinction of being the first mayor; she was the granddaughter of William Buffington, who was Cabell County’s first surveyor. Her great grandfather Thomas Buffington was one of the early settlers of this region, so her roots grew deep in this area. Her first husband was Charles Baldwin, and their child was Charles Baldwin Jr. who grew up to be a lawyer and was residing with Juliette at the time of her death.
After the death of her first husband, Juliette married Frank Enslow, a lawyer who was known as one of the most influential men in WV. He was busy in Huntington business and civic affairs and served as the President of the Huntington National Bank. He also owned extensive properties in Huntington and was heavily involved in the development of oil and gas throughout WV.
In 1890 he built one of the areas most elegant homes, boasting 27 rooms, marble fireplaces, and Tiffany chandeliers. Located at 1307 Third Avenue, it was the scene of many lavish parties and the hub of Huntington society. Frank and Juliette lived there together with their daughter, Dorothy, Franks son Frank Enslow JR and Juliette’s son Charles.
Juliette was last seen alive at 10:30 pm October 16. 1936. That night her son Charles had three visitors over and played bridge in the parlor. Also present in the home was the housekeeper and companion of Juliette, Lizzie Bricker as well as a staff of servants. Around 830am, the chauffeur found Juliette’s wallet lying in the driveway, he brought it inside to the housekeeper, and she became alarmed and ran to Juliette’s suite. There she found Mrs. Enslow on the floor beaten and bloody with a towel wrapped around her neck. They found five stab marks in her head, believed to have been made by an icepick as well as defensive wounds on her hands. She was badly beaten.
A search of her suite showed two diamond rings missing, as well as a diamond-encrusted watch. The watch was later found in a dresser drawer. Curiously, even though it had rained all night, the wallet found outside was dry, leading to speculation that it had been planted. There were no fingerprints found in the room and no signs of forced entry, leading the police to believe that it was an inside job.
Juliette’s funeral was held in her beautiful mansion, and she was then laid to rest in Spring Hill Cemetery. Charles Baldwin was arrested and was arraigned on October 27, 1936; he was later formally indicted a grand jury on February 18, 1937. He went to trial and was found not guilty on March 25, 1937.
On February 27, 1940, one of Juliette’s diamond rings was found in a catch basin behind the Enslow mansion. It was described as a large diamond solitaire set in platinum with a black onyx mounting. Huntingtonians were skeptical that such a large ring could sit there for almost four years and survive the 1937 flood. However, the case was not reopened.
So, who killed Juliette Buffington Enslow? Was it her son? At the time of her murder, he was not practicing law and was living with his mother. Was he short on funds and couldn’t wait for the inheritance I’m sure he was going to have to share with Frank Jr and Dorothy? Was Lizzie an accomplice, was she more than just the housekeeper to Charles? Did one of Charles guests murder her? Unfortunately, these questions will never be answered. Also unfortunate is the fate of the Enslow mansion. It ended up being sold and was used as Steele Funeral Home for many years before it tragically burned to the ground in a fire. I believe that someone knew the truth, someone with access to the stolen rings, maybe they wanted absolution for their crimes? We will never know.

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About TheOddPast by Matthew A. Perry

Writer, teacher, broadcaster, and podcaster from West Virginia. I write about and discuss the wacky and weird side of history on my website www.theoddpast.com and my podcast "The Odd Past Podcast" available everywhere