Hidden History: Wash Loomis, Part 2

Roscoe Conkling Defends Suspect in Loomis' Murder

UTICA - The key to keeping James Filkins in jail for as long as possible was to postpone his bail hearing.

The Loomises avoided appearing, asked for delays and even went so far as to run away from the courthouse, but the judge in Waterville would have none of it, so Rhoda Loomis changed her plan.

Oneida county D.A. Hiram Jenkins was a beneficiary of the Loomis Gang. On November 13th and 14th, 1865, he presented the Filkins case to a grand jury.

Gang members who'd been unavailable for previous court hearings suddenly appeared to testify, but the most important witnesses -- two men who swore in affidavits that they were in the house that Halloween and saw Filkins kill Wash Loomis -- weren't present.

The grand jury indicted Filkins anyway; he didn't know about it until he read it in the papers.

He and his attorney headed for the Utica law office of newly-elected Congressman Roscoe Conkling, who got Filkins released on bail that very day.

Conkling may have had his own Loomis-related revenge motive for defending Filkins.

In April of 1850, Governor Hamilton Fish, a personal friend of Conkling's father, appointed the 20-year-old Conkling as Oneida County interim D.A. even though he'd only been an attorney for two months.

Two of the Loomis brothers, Bill and Wash, had been indicted by a grand jury for grand larceny the year before.

Conkling was able to convict Bill Loomis, but Wash fled the state, swearing that he'd get even...and he may have done it when he pledged to swing votes against Conkling in his campaign for a full term as D.A.

Conkling lost by fewer than 700 votes.

In the Filkins case, Conkling secured postponements until June of 1867, and we'll look at what happened then next week.


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