On Decoration Day 1881, the tranquil morning silence at Coyle’s Ferry was shattered by the sound of gunshots, and in an instant Emily Myers lay dead at the hand of John Coyle, Jr. Although his guilt was never in question, he claimed he was in love with Emily and was driven insane by her continual rejections. Coyle’s subsequent murder trials and multiple appeals became local headlines, and the public outcry surrounding the use of the “insanity dodge” was immediate and intense.
The setting of the tragedy was the Susquehanna River crossing now known as Accomac. As early as 1727, Reverend James Anderson began ferrying settlers bound for points west. Hotly contested by the colonies and coveted for potential mineral wealth, the area prospered over the next three centuries and was the scene of numerous historical crossings and events. While undergoing changes in ownership, Accomac witnessed the birth of the United States, endured the struggle of the Civil War, and survived the greed-driven growth and eventual financial crash of the town of Marietta. During the 1800s, the declining need for ferry services began to take its toll. Always adapting, Accomac expanded into a thriving hotel, tavern, fishery, sawmill, and resort destination.
Pulled from local news headlines, court records, trial transcripts, and land records, this story weaves together the history of the Accomac river crossing, the town of Marietta, and the untimely death of an innocent young girl. Against a rich historical backdrop, the murder and ensuing legal proceedings provide a compelling account of life Across the River.