The village of Tyre near Ubly in the Thumb was named after the Biblical place of Tyre because of it’s stony terrain, but it was the mysterious death of John Wesley Sparling and his sons that the town is most noted for. One June day, John Wesley quit work midday, clutching his stomach. His oldest son Peter rode his horse at breakneck speeds to fetch Dr. Robert A. MacGregor, who diagnosed a kidney ailment. John Wesley died on July 8, 1909, and was laid to rest in the Tyre Cemetery. The whole community attended the service. A year later Peter staggered from a field where haying was in progress and died 5 days later. Albert, the next oldest Sparling, became ill in church a year after Peter died; he suffered the exact symptoms as Peter and his father and died after a short struggle for life on 03 May 1911. On August 4th 1911 the strange symptoms struck a third Sparling son, Scyrel. Dr. MacGregor called in a colleague, Dr. Conboy, to examine Scyrel. Dr. Conboy suspected poisoning and reported the same to local authorities. Scyrel grew worse and died 14, Aug 1911 leaving only the youngest son, Raymond alive.
The prosecutor ordered the examination of Scyrel’s organs and they were sent to the University of Michigan which they reported finding arsenic. The body of Albert was exhumed and examined with identical findings, death by arsenic poisoning. Dr. MacGregor was arrested and tried for the murders of the four men in a trial which gained national attention. The prosecutor presented a case that John Wesley Sparlings wife Carrie was having an affair with the good doctor, and that he had her take out life insurance policies on her children who were strong and healthy at the time. Dr. MacGregor was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life in prison.
After Michigan Governor Ferris received an appeal on MacGregor’s behalf, he had the case re-investigated. The results of the re-investigation were not made public, so it is not known what facts it established. Nevertheless, in 1916, the Governor issued MacGregor a full and unconditional pardon. The Governor took the unusual step of having MacGregor brought to the state capital at Lansing where he handed him the pardon personally. In his statement the Governor said, “I am firmly convinced that Dr. MacGregor is absolutely innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.” . The Governor shortly thereafter appointed MacGregor as the official state doctor to the Jackson prison where he had just been an inmate, again without explanation., MacGregor died In 1928.
I found out that there was a book written about the Sparling Murders called The Thumb Pointed Fingers, I have not read it yet, but here is a link to the book’s website HERE
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