Loses Life in Jealous Rage

San Francisco Chronicle    The March 25, 1903, edition of the San Francisco Chronicle ran this wreathed photograph of Sheridan Chipman with the story of his murder.

 

No parent ever wants to hear that a child is dead. Caroline Dwinelle had already buried two husbands and stood by one of her daughters as she buried a husband. On Wednesday afternoon, March 25, 1903, Caroline received word not just that her son Sheridan was dead, but that he had been murdered. Read more about Caroline on page 6.

Sheridan H. Chipman was a California blue blood. His father had laid the groundwork for the thriving City of Alameda. His stepfather had sat in the state Assembly and introduced the legislation that created the University of California. 

And Sheridan? Well, he worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad in the freight shipping department. While working there, he met and befriended Rosetta Grundmann. When he and Rosetta decided to take the friendship to a more serious level, it seemed no matter to either of them that Rosetta had a husband, Frank. 

When Frank learned of his wife’s shenanigans, he followed her to the Clarence House on San Francisco’s Geary Street, where he witnessed a rendez-vous with Sheridan. He later confronted his wife and she confessed to her unfaithfulness. At first he couldn’t decide if he wanted to leave town with his wife or run Sheridan out of town. 

His next move, however, had a more sinister tone. He bought a revolver. He had the gun with him when he and Rosetta went to North Beach that March day in 1903. “I thought I would throw the gun in the bay, but did not do it,” he later said. Instead he called on Sheridan at his place of business. 

He faced Sheridan, the man having an affair with his wife, and told him that he knew all about what was going on and that he wanted Sheridan to leave town. Frank later told the San Francisco Chronicle that he knew that Sheridan had spoken to his wife on the telephone. “I asked them what they talked about.” 

Sheridan told Frank that he was going to meet his wife later that evening “in Russian alley.” 

“I told him again to leave town,” Frank said. 

Sheridan replied, “I won’t leave town for any—!” 

“Then I went for him and you know the rest.”  

“The rest” cost Sheridan his life. Frank took his .22 caliber pistol from his pocket and shot his rival point-blank in his heart. Sheridan reeled down the steps, drenching them in blood. Frank turned, walked down the stairs and raised his hands. 

“I won’t do any more shooting,” he assured the stunned witnesses.

John Donahue, the janitor, disarmed Frank. 

“Well, I fixed him,” one of the witnesses later remembered Frank saying. “I killed him because he ruined my happiness; he ruined my wife and my family.” 

Witnesses detained the murderer until the police arrived. 

When the police inspected Frank’s weapon, they discovered three empty chambers. The coroner later determined that two  shots had taken effect. One passed through Sheridan’s heart, while the second had “plowed through his right forearm four inches above his hand. The third shot went wild and bored a hole in the fourth-floor ceiling. Two Southern Pacific employees, Charles Holbrook and Walter Coffin, rode the ferry across to Alameda to break the news to Caroline. 

“The news seems too terrible to believe. I am simply crushed,” she told them. “I have had a great deal of trouble in my life; this seems too much too bear. 

She explained to Holbrook and Coffin that she was expecting to see her son the very next day.

“I had received a letter from him saying that he was coming.” Caroline told the railroad officials.  

Frank was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.