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Monadnock Moment No. 173
Era 5: Civil War and Reconstruction - 1850 to 1877
Murder at the Bowling Alley
About 1850, a bowling alley was built east of Keene's Main Street near where the Beaver Mills buildings now stand. The alley was a popular place and patronized by many leading citizens. During the mid 1850s, however, the reputation of the alley took a bad turn. It became a vile place with many disreputable characters visiting the alley's barroom and the three ladies who operated the business.
On November 22, 1864, the community was startled by a report that a murder had occurred at the alley. Miss Sarah Webber, one of the three ladies who lived there, had taken a pistol from behind the bar and shot Alfred Tolman in the head. He died the next morning. Sarah Webber surrendered to the police and was placed in jail. She pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder. Miss Webber's trial took place in April of 1865. The case caused considerable excitement in the community. The indictment charged that her act was premeditated. Her lawyers claimed that she had acted in self defense, and in fact Alfred Tolman had attacked Miss Webber just before she shot him.
After a five day trial, the jury brought in a verdict of manslaughter. Miss Webber was sentenced to one day of solitary confinement and fifteen years of hard labor in the state prison. Her lawyers finally found two witnesses to the shooting who admitted that she had shot Tolman in self defense. Governor Weston pardoned Miss Webber in 1871. At about the same time the bowling alley was removed forever from Keene's east side.