Clara Melissa Hough was a domestic working for the family of Joseph W. Dougal, an agricultural implement dealer. Dougal’s home was located at 175 West Fourth, about where 454 West Fourth would be located today, near Penn Avenue. Clara came to Mansfield from the small town of Madisonburg, outside of Wooster, Ohio. In the 1880 U.S. Census, she is living with her grandmother, Magdalen, and working as a teacher. Clara had no plans to marry and, according to her family, was content to live her life as an old maid.
Saturday afternoon, September 19, 1885, between 2 and 4, the 24 year-old Clara left the Dougal residence and made her way to visit Gaylord Terman, who lived north of the city. She made this journey often and not much was thought of it. She usually returned on Sunday evening or Monday morning. Sunday evening passed, as did Monday morning, with no word from Clara. On Tuesday, Clara was still absent and, when she failed to return to the Dougal residence by Wednesday morning, J. W. Dougal went to the Terman farm to check on her whereabouts. The Terman family said Clara had arrived Saturday evening and that one of the family members had given her a ride Sunday evening, around 4 or 5, back to town and dropped her off near the water works. It was then her custom to walk back to the Dougal residence along the B & O tracks. Dougal next made his way to the B & O and Union depots to see if anyone had seen Clara, which no one had. A few tickets were sold to Wooster. Some weekends she would visit her family, but no one could say if she boarded the train. Dougal then returned to his office and met with James T. Jolley, Robert M. Garrett and Levitt Crider and the men began a search following the tracks.
The Grisly Discovery
It didn’t take long for the search party to make the discovery. First, about 140 yards from the railroad, Dougal and Crider discovered a pair of gloves, a young ladies gossamer, hat and bouquet within a few feet of each other. Then about 100 feet up the ravine, the body of Clara Hough was discovered. She had nearly made it to her destination before an unknown attacker attempted to assault the young woman. Her body was considerably bloated and bruises were found on her wrists and neck. When the body was turned over blood spilled out from the head and a bullet hole was discovered about two inches from the right ear. Crider was immediately sent to notify the authorities and Marshal James Weil and Prosecutor Jacob Seward arrived and placed the body in a wagon and moved it to the wood shed of the Dougal’s house.
The body showed clear signs of a struggle. The Mansfield Herald describes Clara as 5 foot 7 with a massive build and she surely put up a fight. It was believed the attack took place where her items were found and, upon her attempt to escape, she was shot with the bullet striking the back of her head. Doctors Ireland and Anderson and Coroner Mecklam, from Lucas, examined the body and determined the bullet had entered the head on an upward trajectory, suggesting the assailant was on the ground when the shot was fired and that he did not accomplish his primary purpose, as there were no physical signs of rape. There was some disagreement on how long Clara suffered after being shot. Some believing she died immediately, while others feel she languished for days. It appeared the weapon was a .32 caliber revolver. It also appeared robbery wasn’t a motive as a pocketbook was found on Clara, which contained .35 cents and a pocket knife. Also found were three plugs of tobacco and one which was partially used. The tobacco has been purchased at Jackson Grocery and the bitten off piece was found in her mouth during the corners examination.
After the examination, the body was taken by Undertaker James A. Niman. Isaac N. Hugh, Clara’s brother, and her brother-in-law, Edmund Keyser, arrived from Wooster Wednesday evening to retrieve the body. They made an examination of the area where the tragedy occurred and were surprised that such an event could happen in an open space during the day. Clara Hough is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Wooster, Ohio.