Philadelphia Inquirer – January 14, 1885
Agent Barrett’s Assistant Suffering from Mysterious Wounds
Post Office Agent Barrett was alarmed on Saturday by receiving a telegram requesting him to meet at the depot Postal Inspector. William Abels, then on his way from Reading, and believed to have been attacked and badly hurt. Mr. Barrett accordingly met Mr. Abels at the 5.30 train, and asked him if he had been hurt, when the latter displayed his hand, which was cut and bloody, and bore the appearance of having had some rough instrument drawn forcibly through it. Afterward he put his hand to tho back of his head, where examination showed that he had been dealt a heavy blow, which had cut through his stiff felt hat.
On being interrogated in regard to his hurts, Mr, Abels was unable to give any account of the manner in which he received his hurts, His recollection of his journey was clear up to the time of leaving Reading, but he could not recollect having been at Prescott, though his diary contained a minute account of his visit to the post office there.
It was learned from the escort who brought him to Philadelphia that be had gone about half way from Prescott to Lebanon, Here he went to a private residence, where it was seen that he had been injured, and he was taken to the Avon post office, near at hand, and from there sent under escort, via Lebanon and Reading, to Philadelphia.
On reaching his home, at No, 105 Pearl street, Camden, Mr. Abels startled bis wife by asking what day it was. He then remarked that he was dizzy and that something was wrong. A physician was summoned when it was ascertained that Mr. Abels was suffering from a severe bruise on the back of the head, His arm and shoulders were bruised, and his clothing indicated that he had been struggling with some one. He has no knowledge of where he has been, other than from memorandums found upon his person, His vouchers show that he purchased tickets at Reading on Saturday morning for Prescott, Lebanon county, where he went to negotiate for the transfer of two prisoners from the local to the Federal authorities. The prisoners were charged with robbing the Prescott post office, and were confined at Lebanon, about three and a-half miles from Prescott, He was driven to the latter place, and, after identifying the men, started to walk back, when, it is supposed, friends of the prisoners waylaid him. Another theory advanced is that Mr. Abels saw a man for whom he had a warrant in June, and, in attempting to arrest him, was assaulted by him. As his wanderings on that day are a blank, the manner in which he received his injuries remain a mystery. The physicians at first feared the wounds might produce paralysis of the brain and prove fatal.
A later account says “As Mr Abels recovers from his injuries he begins to have a dim recollection of having seen a man for whom a warrant has been Issued for some time, and who has been a fugitive from justice, Mr. Barrett thinks there is no doubt that he did see the fugitive, and attempted to arrest him, but was worsted in the encounter.” Surgeons say that the instrument with which be was struck on the head was a blackjack. Mr, Abels cannot recall the circumstances of the assault, Upon his recovery Mr. Barrett intends to go with him over the road which he traveled, to see if this will not refresh his memory.