After the trial, James Nutt avoided the limelight. By the 1890s, he moved to Kansas, where he managed a farm that was owned by his mother. There, James became close friends with the Peyton family, who helped him and worked on his farm. One day James decided to visit their house. Mr. Peyton was out on business, but his wife—a young mother of five—asked James to stay for supper. After the meal, unexpectedly and without warning, James fired his pistol at Mrs. Peyton.
Hearing the gun shots, Mrs. Peyton’s hired help, Leonard Colnan, ran into the room. James shot him twice, but Colnan grabbed an axe and struck the man, rendering him harmless. He tied James down and went for help. Both Mrs. Peyton and Colnan survived the attack, which meant James would stand trial for two counts of attempted murder. Once glorified as an American hero, James was cast out by society and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.
Mrs. Nutt faced further struggles after James’ trial, losing two of her young daughters in deaths attributed to contaminated water. As for Lizzie, she married a traveling salesman from a nearby town and went on to live a quiet life.
After all the hype of the murders calmed down, new things came to light. It was published in The Harrisburg Telegraph on March 29, 1886 that Captain Adam Nutt had been embezzling money from the Pennsylvania Treasury. In September of 1882, he took $10,000. Then, after sending his letter to Dukes, he took $32,000, which would amount to around a million dollars today. His family found out about the scandal soon after he died, but they kept it from the press.
Dukes’ connection with Mary Beeson was confirmed after his death. In the first line of his will, he left her $2,000, a sum that would roughly about to $50,000 today.
The Dukes-Nutt affair was an internationally famous murder case of romance, betrayal and honor. What started out as a small dispute and an unwanted engagement lead to multiple murders. But with time, the passion and recognition of this grandiose affair—which at times seems fictitious, due to its many plot twists and scandals—began to fade out. It became another page in the history of Uniontown.
More than a century later, a new book has revisited the murders, offering a modern view into one of the area’s most intriguing historical events.