January 20, 2022

19th century killing ‘solved’

Homer slaying, women’s rights movement inspire historian’s novel

Shenandoah Briere/contributing photographer

Homer Historian Martin Sweeney points out the general area on Creal Hill Road where Patrick Quinlan was killed in 1894.

Some people’s and place’s names change, but Martin Sweeney said two things remain true about his new book: He wanted to finally say “who done it” for an unsolved murder, even if it’s only fictional; and he wanted to bring to light issues that still affect women today.

“The night I hang the bad guy was in a very perverse way satisfying because finally, in my world, justice prevailed,” he said. “The bad guy didn’t get away with it.”

Sweeney’s novel “The Suffragette’s Saga: A Murder Mystery,” is inspired by the unsolved killing of Homer resident Patrick Quinlan. Four days before Christmas 1894, Quinlan, a farmer, was killed while walking home on Creal Road from a pub that is now Dasher’s Corner Pub in the village of Homer.

Sweeney, the Homer town historian, decided to write the fictional book, published by Rogue Phoenix Press and available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, to suggest an answer to who done it.

“At a microcosmic level, it is basically one man fulfilling his bucket list,” he said.

Patrick Quinlan’s unsolved murder inspired Martin Sweeney’s new novel titled “The Suffragette’s Saga: A Murder Mystery.”

In order to come up with who killed Quinlan, Sweeney tied the novel to a big historic moment, he said. He chose the women’s rights movement, which has ties to Central New York, from bloomers, which became well-known after Amelia Bloomer walked down Main Street in Homer wearing them, to bicycles, which became a symbol freedom during the movement and were made in Syracuse.

“I decided that I had to find what was an issue at the time that could be polarizing enough, controversial enough, that somebody might be involved with polishing off a rising suffragette’s father,” he said.

Andrea Rankin of Cortland, who curates a collection of the Great Women of the United States to be featured in a Sherwood museum, said this part of New York was very involved in progressive issues back in the day.

“Women were involved with the suffrage movement here and also the Underground Railroad movement here,” Rankin said. “This is a Burned Over District, kind of a lot of radical people were here, church people and abolitionists and suffragists.”

Women would come through the area to speak publicly on those issues — something radical itself, she said.

Sweeney said adding in the women’s rights movement led him to address issues facing women today.

Pub owners in the book discuss women’s rights and all of the reasons it is a bad idea, he noted.

“Then there’s the one where one guy says, ‘If this keeps up pretty soon they’re going to be asking for the right to have abortions,’” Sweeney said. “So, in other words, I think it kind of resonates with modern readers — this whole matter of women’s reproductive rights.”

Sweeney said he hopes people can make the connection he’s hinting at with the murder and the women’s rights movement.

“I’m hoping that people will say, ‘Look what they were up against then’, and in the back of their mind they’ll say, ‘We haven’t made much progress have we? Or that we’re regressing back to the 1890s,’” he said. “I want to leave that to reader to decide to make the connection. A man might read it differently than a female.”

“It’s been a thorn in the family’s side for many years,” he said.

David Quinlan, a relative of Patrick Quinlan, said the book has helped his family find closure.

Patrick Quinlan’s death was avoided as a topic of conversation for decades, but the book has opened the family to talking about it more.

“We did want to find out who it was so now even though it’s fictional we can put a stamp on it,” he said.

He said he would like to see a TV movie made of it.

Senior Reporter Catherine Wilde contributed to this report.