The Brutal Murder Of The Beloved DeFoor Family Is Still Unsolved To This Day

Martin and Susan DeFoor were a kind, elderly couple that lived in the Bolton neighborhood in Atlanta, GA during the late nineteenth century. The DeFoor family, however, is known for much more than their simple lifestyle - their murder remains one of the most famous unsolved murders in America. The DeFoors were savagely killed in their home while they slept in 1879.  It seemed as though someone had been in their house, just waiting to strike. The killing of the DeFoors was brutal and received national attention, but the question of who killed the DeFoor family was never answered. 

How did the whole thing happen?  What were some theories of the crime?  What did authorities do - or not do - to solve the crime?  Let's find out!

  • On July 26, 1879, The DeFoor's Grandson Found Them With Their Heads Almost Completely Cut Off

    The DeFoor's grandson, Martin Walker, walked by his grandparents' home on the morning of July 26, 1879. He noticed that they weren't up yet, an oddity for the couple.  When Martin Walker went inside the DeFoor's homestead, he found a bloody scene.  His grandparent were in their bed with their heads nearly cut off. They had been attacked with an axe while they slept. There were no signs of a struggle and no indication they fought back. The axe used to kill the DeFoors was laying in the fireplace, covered in blood and ash. It was actually the grandson's axe - he had left it there the day before.

  • Evidence Suggested Someone Had Entered Their House And Waited For Hours To Kill Them

    When Martin Walker got to the back door of his grandparents' house, he found it open with the lock on the ground. All of the other doors to the house were unlocked, except the side door.

    There was an attic area to the house, although the family never used it. It was only accessible with a ladder, but police found a muddy footprint on the windowsill. When police entered the attic, there were signs that some one had been living there. The bed in the area was unkempt and there was fresh urine and excrement nearby. Indications were that someone had entered the home at least one day before the killings, maybe more, while the DeFoors were out.

  • The Only Things Taken From The Home Were A Wallet, Food, And A Pair Of Boots

    Whoever killed the DeFoors didn't have robbery as a motive. Investigators discovered a stash of money - $18 in silver, which was a significant sum - still in the house. The only items that were missing included Martin DeFoor's wallet, which had nothing more than a promissory note in it, his boots, and some food. The boots were later found a few hundred feet from the house in the woods. 

  • Lots Of Suspects Were Questioned, Mostly Transients And Black People

    By some accounts, there were two sets of footprints in the DeFoor home, so suspicion shifted to two transients that had passed through the area recently. Apparently they had been denied a place to stay the night before. With heavy believe that the vagrants committed the crime, the local newspaper warned of "The Danger of Tramps," basically accusing them of the murder, describing them as skulking "through the country like wolves, only harmless when glutted - gathering in gangs whenever there is crime to be committed, or whenever there is taint of blood in the air.”

    Other suspects included local "Negroes" but there was no clear evidence or indication as to who committed the crimes.

  • Martin And Susan DeFoor Didn't Seem To Have Any Enemies
    Photo: user uploaded image

    Martin And Susan DeFoor Didn't Seem To Have Any Enemies

    Little is known about the DeFoors before their terrible deaths. Martin DeFoor was a native of Franklin County, Georgia and married Susan Tabor in 1830. The couple moved DeKalb County (just east of modern-day Atlanta) and settled into the the Bolton district, six miles outside of Atlanta, in 1853. Martin DeFoors, 73 at the time, and his wife Susan, 81 years of age, were well-known in the community and said to have "had not a known enemy in the world.”

  • The DeFoors Ran The Ferry Across The Chattahoochee RIver

    Once they arrived in Bolton, the DeFoors took over the Montgomery Ferry, which crossed the Chattahoochee River. They renamed the ferry, calling it the DeFoor's Ferry, and ran it until it was destroyed during the Civil War. As a key path connecting Georgia and Tennessee, Confederate soldiers used a makeshift crossing to traverse the river. After the war, a permanent ferry was rebuilt and business resumed.  They ran the ferry until they were killed.