Frances Robinson was born 1859 at Howle Hope farm, Fishburn. She married John Stephenson in 1880 and they farmed the College House farm, near the Hare and Hounds. Between 1901and 1911,  Frances and John took over a farm at Butterwick Hall, with nine of their children, leaving son John George, now married, to run College Hall. The following newspaper articles describe murder of two of their daughters, Isabella and Jane, in 1911.

Northern Daily Mail. Friday. December 15th. 1911.


A terrible tragedy took place at Butterwicke Hall, Sedgefield, at midnight, last night.

Two sisters named Isabella and Jane Stephenson, aged 20 and 18 respectively, daughters of a well-known farmer, were returning home from a dance at Sedgefield, when they were shot by a farmer’s son, named Jonas Marshall, the younger being fatally wounded.

It appeared that the sisters were set so far along the road from the dance by a young man named Thos. Ferguson, and then were left to continue the journey of about half a mile.

They had got about 300 yards from home when Jonas Marshall, who had concealed himself in a shed by the roadside, came out, it appears, with a double-barreled gun, and shot at them.

The younger sister was killed on the spot, and the other was badly injured.

The elder girl must have been unconscious for some time, because at 2:30 o’clock this morning, when a brother of the girls, who had been alarmed at that non-appearance, went out to look for them, he found her crawling along the roadside in the state almost of collapse.

Further along the road he found the other sister lying dead, and, close by, the body of the young man Marshall, who had apparently re-charged the gun and shot himself in the side. He was practically disembowelled, and was laid in a pool of blood.

The cause of the tragedy is believed to have been jealousy, as the young man Marshall, it is stated, until recently been the elder sister’s sweetheart.



Further details show that Jonas Marshall walked straight up to the girls, and pointing his gun, fired at Isabella. This shot must have missed her, because the girls walked away, and Jane suggested that they should lie down and pretend they had been shot. He then fired again, and struck Isabella in the abdomen and hip. Jane turned upon him and said: “Oh, don’t do that!”

Thereupon he charged his gun and fired direct at her, killing her on the spot. Through what was subsequently revealed Marshall had then gone about 20 yards further along the road and fastened a piece of string on to the trigger of the gun and then made the other end of the string fast to a gate. In this way he was able to discharge the gun into his right side by pointing it to his body and jerking at the string. Death in his case must have been instantaneous.

 Isabella had evidently tried to crawl towards her home, but unconsciousness overtook her, and she fell into the gutter at the roadside. There all three lay for about three hours, for it was not until about 3:30 a.m. that the father and mother of the girls, feeling alarmed at their daughter being absent from home at such a late hour, sent a son named Alfred to meet them.

When he arrived at the spot where the terrible tragedy has been committed, his attention was first attracted to his sister Isabella, who was laid in some water in the gutter at the roadside, groaning as if in great pain.

“What is the matter, Bella.” anxiously inquired the brother. He raised her head on to his knee and she gasped “Jonas has shot me, and he has also shot Jeanie dead.”

The poor distracted youth ran back with all haste to his father’s farm for assistance, and, a trap was immediately dispatched along the road, and the girls conveyed home. It was raining at the time, and the girls’ bodies were both wet and cold.

The brother Alfred entered the Trap again, and drove off to Sedgefield for medical assistance, and it was not until he was passing along the road on this occasion that he found the body of Marshall.

Inquiries into the movements of Marshall last evening revealed the fact that he took out his gun about 5:30 o’clock, saying that he was going duck shooting. About 9 o’clock he visited a brother who resides at Butterwicke  Moor Farm, about a mile distant, and left about 10:30. He had no gun with him about that time. At all events he did not take it into his brother’s house. No one seemed to have seen him after he left his brother’s farm until the unfortunate Misses Stevenson encountered him on the lonely highway.

His gun was a double-barreled one with only one trigger in use, and must have charged the firearm four times, for in his possession were three empty cartridges, and also one discharged in the gun and another full one in his pocket.
There was also found upon him a little bottle labelled carbonic acid, the content of which he was supposed to have drunk before discharging the gun into his side.

All three persons involved in the tragedy are spoken of in the district as being highly respected. The deceased young lady – Miss Jane Stephenson – was very well-known and liked, and her sister, too, though they have only been resident at Butterwicke about three years. They are well spoken of as being quiet girls of a very nice disposition.


Page added 17th Feb 2018