Morrow County Reflections: The Hotel Fulton murder

By Evelyn Long - The Sentinel

The village of Fulton, once known as Lincoln Center, was a thriving village of more than 300 residents in 1881. The little village was served by many businesses and the economy was helped by the limestone quarry nearby.

As the village grew, one of the businessmen, Alpheous Pipes, decided to build a hotel to accommodate the quarry workers. The two-story hotel became a reality in 1891 when it was completed. Although the outside was plain, the inside had many amenities, typical of many hotels of that era. Pipes turned to Alonso Lorenzo Gano (Ren) and his wife, Lillian, to run it and the livery stable that was part of the business.

Gano was known for his drinking habits and on many occasions had beaten and choked his wife, with his young son and daughter witnessing, according to “old” newspaper accounts. One evening Ren returned from a dance in Westfield, stopping in Ashley at the distillery where he picked up a jug.

Upon his arrival at the hotel, he could not find his wife in their downstairs bedroom so went upstairs to find her. The door to that room was locked so he broke into it and found Lillian, whom he tried to choke. When she broke away and ran downstairs he followed and grabbed a shotgun from the office, shooting her in the left side of the chest. The doctor was called, but he could not save her. She died at 9:30 am.

Reno was arrested, taken to Mount Gilead jail,arraigned and held there. Following a botched attempt at escape, his trial was held the following March. Many witnesses testified to his being a scoundrel but his family, which had a background as pioneers and well respected came daily, bringing his two children.

He was found guilty and sentencing was scheduled for the next day. When court convened, word was sent that the prisoner was near death. He did expire, saving his family the shame of having a convicted killer in the family.

It was thought that his sister, who had brought him flowers the night before had tucked a bottle of poison in the flowers. There was a note on brown paper that was thought to be instructions on how to take the poison.

The hotel was later split, with the back part rebuilt to fit neatly in the hole across the street where the stately home of Mr Pipes had sat until it burned to the ground. The front part became a residence at 103 E. Main St., standing on the original site of the Hotel Fulton.

The one time residents of that property, now vacant, said the part they lived in was the part in which Lillian Gano died, but “they did not believe in ghosts,” and never saw a sign of her.

As part of this story I learned that hangings were carried out in the county in which the criminal had been found guilty until the mid 1880’s when Allen Levering, Mount Gilead’s representative to the Ohio House, introduced a bill, subsequently approved, that declared executions were the responsibility of the state and should be carried out at the State Penitentiary. Ironically the first such execution at that site was that of a Morrow County man, Valentine Wagner.

Active in the Mount Gilead community, Levering was chairman of the Mount Gilead Building and Loan Company and Levering Hall was named in his honor. He had also owned a Dry Goods Store in downtown Mount Gilead in the 1870s.

I will have more on the history of Fulton in later columns.

By Evelyn Long

The Sentinel

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