Saturday, August 15, 2009

Edmonia Lewis (1844-1911?)

Edmonia Lewis was born in about 1844 of African (West Indies) and Chippewa heritage. An 1880 newspaper article states that she spent her first 14 years wandering the wilderness with her mothers Chippewa tribe until her brother was able to send her to school. She attended Oberlin College, the first coeducational and interracial college in the United States. However, other articles give a very different light to her childhood, showing that she was born to a financially stable and highly intelligent father, a historian, Robert Benjamin Lewis - author of "Light and Truth". However, the 1850 census suggests that this was NOT her father, as she is clearly not listed with the rest of his family, whom had lived in Maine for several years.

She later moved to Boston and began lessons with Anne Whitney and went on to produce portraits of John Brown, Garrison and other abolitionists, as well as a bust of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. She relocated to Rome in 1865 after selling one hundred plaster copies of her portrait bust of Col. Robert Gould Shaw. There she met Charlotte Cushman and her lover Harriet Hosmer as well as other feminists in their artistic lesbian circle.

At least one passenger record shows her returning to the United States on July 1, 1875 aboard the S.S. "Ville de Paris". She took a second class cabin, possibly with three other women. She listed her occupation as "sculptor". The manifest does not show who stayed in what room, but three single women were listed immediately after her. They were Miss Margaret States, dressmaker, age 24 and twin sisters Angelique and Ernestine Ebel, both 18 with no occupations. All three of the women were from Alsace, France and might not have known Edmonia.

Her work in the United States, however, did not end. That same year she completed a bust of General Grant who went to Rome to specifically sit for her. In 1880 she presented a work called "Bride of Spring" at a Roman Catholic fair in Cincinnati; at the 1893 World's Fair she presented a sculptor of the poet Phillis Wheatley and at the 1895 World's Fair in Chicago she presented a sculptor of Charles Sumner.

Edmonia Lewis was the first African American sculptor to be recognized internationally.


New York Herald (New York) - November 22, 1869

Edmonia Lewis, the colored Boston sculptress, is going to Rome.

St. Joseph Herald (St. Joseph, Michigan) - January 22, 1870

Among the sculptors now in Rome are seven American women, Miss Whitney, Miss Mosmer, Miss Freeman, Miss Stebbins, Miss Edmonia Lewis, Miss Vinnie Ream, and Miss Foley.

Daily Gazette (Davenport, Iowa) - October 12, 1872

Edmonia Lewis is very busy at her studio in Rome. She is engaged upon a statue of Abraham Lincoln for Central Park, John Brown for the Union League Club, and the poet Longfellow for Yale College.

The Bath Times - September 1873

The Bath Times states that Miss Edmonia Lewis, the half Indian half negro sculptor, is a daughter of Robert B. Lewis, formerly of this city. Most of our older citizens will remember "Bob Lewis," as he was familiarly called, the famous colored historian of the colored race, who wrote and published a book here under the title of 'Light and Truth,' in which he maintained that black was the original color of the race, and that white men were of inferior stock, and not be regarded of much account anyway. "Bob" was great on ancient history, and in the naming of his children his peculiar taste for the "classical" was prominently apparent. He could call over the roll - "Euclid", "Edmonia", "Euphrosie," "Artemecia," "Hypatia," and each plump descendant of the "once ruling race of the world" would come to the front with dignity and alacrity, and answer to the summons of the "paternal head." He used to wear his long, black, Indiany hair in ringlets, profusely greased with his "immitable hair oil," an article of his own manufacture, and from the sale of which he seemed to derive quite an income. At one time he proposed to go out as a missionary to Africa, and we believe the South Congregational church in this city rendered him some aid in the way of obtaining an education for the foreign work. He never carried out his purpose, but after remaining here for many years finally moved to Bath, where he died several years ago, leaving a family of children of more than ordinary intelligence and ability.

The Globe (Atchison, Kansas) - October 8, 1878

The mother of Miss Edmonia Lewis, the sculptor, was an Indian; her father was a negro. She is dark, short and young. At Chicago, where she is exhibiting her work, she is constantly insulted by boors because of her color. In Rome she received the blessing of Pius IX, who was kind to her. Lord Bute purchased her "Madonna" for $3,000; Lady Ashburton has "The Old Arrowmaker and Daughter," and Lady Orphan has "Hiawatha's Marriage". St. James' Church, of Chicago, has ordered from her a Madonna and child, and a St. Joseph, and she is to chisel a Madonna for an Episcopalian church in Baltimore.

Mountain Democrat (Placerville, California) - January 4, 1879

Miss Edmonia Lewis, the colored sculptor, has finished a bust of General Grant, who sat for it in Rome last winter. Miss Lewis thinks he will be the next President, and adds that she doesn't know who is any better fitted for the position.

Burlington Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa) - January 25, 1879

Why Miss Edmonia Lewis, the Colored Sculptor, Returns to Rome

Not forty years ago, in an extremely humble cottage in Greenbrush, near Albany, lived a little girl, Miss Edmonia Lewis, who, physically and mentally, united many of the traits of two races - the Indian and the negro. Miss Lewis speaks very frankly and unaffectedly of her early struggles and privations. Although a fluent talker when the theme is such as to arouse her enthusiasm, she has something of the habitual quietude and stoicism of the Indian race. In person she is rather below the medium stature, and strong and supple, rather than delicately made. She bends slightly forward in speaking, pronounces slowly and deliberately, and has a trace of the sadness of both races in her manner, notwithstanding her assured artistic success.

Years ago, when going to Boston meant something, a little girl, rather outstandishly dressed, appeared in the streets of that city one afternoon. The brown little thing paused in front of the state house, and gazed long and silently at one of Story's masterpieces. From that day the passion of art and the resolve to execute something like that took possession of the girl. She went home devoted to a life purpose that rendered her ears deaf to that taunts of her schoolmates and the cuffs of the village schoolmaster. A few years later Miss Lewis came to New York, and found a sympathizing listener in Rev. Highland Garnet, the friend and admirer of the heroic John Brown. The old man, so far from discouraging the little creature, who waited upon his verdict with anxious eyes, put his hand upon his head and answered, "God bless you my little one; it is better to fail grandly than to succed in a little way!" But the Shiloh congregation was poor, and no millionaire came forward to send the colored aspirant to Rome. Next, armed with letters of introduction she called on William Lloyd Garrison, the veteran abolitionist. The old man, with the placid, but keenly critical face, shook his gray head and doubted. The little girl asked for some clay and modeled a baby's foot for him, dimples and all. "Good, little one," he said, surveying the work critically; "there is an artist in you, and I'll help to bring it out." But the art world, the patrons, still held aloof.

I was practically drive to Rome," said Miss Lewis, "in order to obtain the opportunities for art-culture, and to find a social atmosphere where I was not constantly reminded of my color. The land of liberty had no room for a colored sculptor." With the little money she could raise, Miss Lewis set out for Rome, where at last she found herself in a real republic. Miss Hosmer became her fast friend and defender and the American colony at Rome, having left their race prejudices at home, received her kindly. Her origin only seem to give emphasis to her phenomenal powers. Victor Emanuel, the marquis of Bute, sovereigns and nobility, vied with each other in doing her honor. She has executed several busts of John Brown and of other celebrities for European customers, and has been received as an honored guest in the first circles. All this time she was cogitating her first great ideal work - "Dying Cleopatra" - a work that in some sense typified the attitude of both the races she represents. But John Brown is her hero, although she never saw the rugged old man, and has worked wholly from photographs in the several busts she has produced. She tells the story of the reception of her work at Philadelphia with curious frankness. She was lingering about within earshot of the committee room when it was brought in and opened. She had seen, with trembling for the fate of hers, work after work rejected by the committee. At length they box containing the "Dying Cleopatra" was brought in and opened. "I scarcly breathed," she said. "I felt as though I was nothing. They opened the box, looked at the work, talked together a moment, and then I heard the order given to place it in such a position." The Indian stoicism gave way. Miss Lewis swallowed her sobs for the moment, and went home and had a good cry all by herself. Miss Lewis makes no secret of the reason of her return to Rome, which she has adopted as her home. "They treat me very kindly here." she said, "but it is with a kind of reservation. I like to see the opera, and I don't like to be pointed out as a negress. She sailed last Saturday.

Mountain Democrat (Placerville, California) - April 12, 1879

Miss Edmonia Lewis, the colored sculptress, is now in Indianapolis, Ind., visiting a friend. Her father was a negro, her mother a Chippewa Indian, and from the latter she says she inherits her spirit, industry and perseverance.

Daily Miner (Butte, Montana) - September 25, 1879

Edmonia Lewis, the colored sculptress, is now in New York exhibiting her "Veiled Bride of Spring".

Mountain Democrat (Placerville, Cal.) - October 18, 1879

Edmonia Lewis, the colored sculptress, is now in New York exhibiting her "Veiled Bride of Spring".

Helena Independent (Helena, Montana) - March 25, 1883

Miss Edmonia Lewis, the sculptress, sister of Samuel Lewis, of Bozeman, has completed, at her studio in Rome, a fine bas-relief in white marble, representing the Magi adoring the infant Jesus, for a church in Baltimore. Miss Lewis has also recently finished a statue of the Virgin Mary for the Marquis of Bute.

Decatur Daily Republican (Decatur, Illinois) - May 2, 1887

Edmonia Lewis, the sculptor, is colored. Overcoming the prejudice against her sex and color, and self-educated, Miss Lewis is now successfully pursuing her profession in Italy.

Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio) - April 17, 1893

A statue of Phillis Wheatley, the early Massachusetts colored poet, will be on exhibition at the World's Fair. The statue is the work of Miss Edmonia Lewis the colored sculptor.

Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) - March 2, 2002

Samuel W. Lewis was one of Bozeman's earliest settlers. When he died in 1896, he also was among its most respected and loved residents. Lewis was born in Haiti in 1835 and came with his parents to the United States as a child. After his mother died, his father remarried a Chippewa woman who bore Lewis' half-sister, Edmonia. After his father died when Lewis was 12, the boy became a barber.

In 1852, he left for California and opened a barber shop in San Francisco. He moved on to the gold fields, where he did some mining and barbering, making enough money to travel to Europe. He returned to the American West, eventually working in Idaho and then mining camps in Montana. He displayed and entrepreneur's spirit that even several financial setbacks couldn't dim. Lewis lost $5,000 in gold when two San Francisco firms failed and two buildings that he had constructed in Idaho burned.

He came to Bozeman in 1868, when the fledgling town was only 4 years old. As he had done in other towns, he set up his barbering business along Main Street and became part of the town's commercial life. Starting in 1874, his name begins to appear in the local newspaper, The Avant-Courier. Several references described him renovating, expanding and painting his "apple-pie order" barbershop business. By 1883, he finished construction of his own home on South Bozeman Avenue. Lewis also built four rental homes, including two that still stand today on South Tracy.

Blacks made up less than 1 percent of the population in territorial Montana, according to a paper written in 1978 by Marilyn McMillan of Bozeman. Lewis was one of only 10 black in Bozeman during that time. In 1884, Lewis married Melissa Bruce, a widow with six children. The couple have one son, Samuel E. Lewis. Samuel Lewis died at the age of 63 on March 28, 1896 after a short illness. The Avant-Courier's lengthy obituary paid tribute to Lewis as a "firm friend, an enterprising, public spirited citizen, a pleasant neighbor, a king husband and affectionate father." The funeral was in his home, and his pallbearers included Bozeman's mayor. Lewis was buried at Sunset Hills Cemetery in Bozeman in a grave still marked today by a obelisk monument. Melissa Lewis died in April 1927 from flu and was buried in the family plot.


Bath, Lincoln, Maine - August 26, 1850
1850 United States Federal Census
[Robert Benjamin Lewis was, according to the Bath newspaper, the father of Edmonia. However, she should be six years old and present in this record but she is not. I think the newspaper remember that this family had children with classic names and made the connection without checking. Further research will be needed to see for sure.]

Robert B. Lewis - mm 52 - whitewasher - b Maine
Mary F. Lewis - fm 33 - born Maine
Mary A. Lewis - fm 14 - born Maine
Benjamin H. Lewis - mm 12 - born Maine
Rachel Z. Lewis - fm 10 - born Maine
Ann C Lewis - fm 9 - born Maine
Artemisa D. Lewis - fm 7 - born Maine
Hypatia Lewis - fm 5 - born Maine
Eucled Lewis - mm 4 - born Maine
Henary C Lewis -mm 2 - born Maine
Europa V. Lewis - fm 6 months - born Maine

Passport Application - August 22, 1865
[italics were hand written]

I, M. Edmonia Lewis of Boston in the State of Mass do solemly swear that I am a native and loyal Citizen of the United States of America, and about to travel abroad. That I was born in Greenbrush, New York in or about the 4th of July 1844.
[signed] M. Edmonia Lewis.

Residence: Boston
Age: 20
Stature: 4 feet
Forehead: high
Eyes: black
nose: small
mouth: medium
chin: small
hair: Black
complexion: Black
Face: oval

Notes: "Passport to be sent to George F. Baker, New York". [written along the side] "M. Edmonia Lewis is a Black girl sent by subscription to Italy having displayed great talent as a sculptor."

8th Ward, 10th Dist, New York, New York - June 24, 1870
1870 United States Federal Census
[mm=mulatto male, mf=mulatto female]

Hankerson, Ben - wm 52 - Porter - prop. $1,000 - b NY
Hankerson, Nancy - mf 54 - Keeping House - born NY
Hankerson, Alfred - mm 14 - born NY
Miller, Chas - mm 36 - Doctor - property $500 - b NY
William, Walter - mm 30 - Drugist - prop. $500 - b NY
William, Eugene - mm 28 - Dentist - born NY
William, George - mm 26 - Seaman - prop. $500 - b NY
William, Mary - fm 22 - born NY
Keath, George - mm 28 - Waiter - b Philadelphia
Keath, Susan - fm 24 - Hair Dresser - b Philadelphia
Crosby, Ed - mm 18 - real estate $20,000 - b NY
Lewis, Edmond - fm 24 - Scupltress - prop $20,000 - b NY

Bozeman, Gallatin, Montana - July 11, 1870
1870 United States Federal Census

Williams, Lizzie - mulatto female age 33, Keeps Restaurant, b KY
Lewis, Samuel - mulatto male age 37, barber, born Bermuda

Bozeman, Gallatin, Montana - June 3, 1880
1880 United States Federal Census
[An 1883 newspaper in Helena said that this man was Edmonia's brother - this seems to be a somewhat closer match than that of the Robert Benjamin Lewis of Maine]

Lewis, Samuel - Mulatto male age 48, barber, b West Indies

Sodomy Cases

The term "sodomy" has had many meanings over the centuries all which had something to do with an act of debauchery. Over time it became exclusively known as gay male sex, and eventually anal sex specifically. But originally it could have included bestiality or molestation. Here I'm going to collect criminal cases of "sodomy" and note if they have been confirmed as being between two men (age 14 and older) or if they were of the other types. I will record them in chronological order and show the newspaper that mentioned them.

1790, March 31 - The Times (London, England)
At Bury assizes, the 14 following prisoners were capitally convicted and received sentence of death: John Southwell and John Smith for the detestable crimes of sodomy.

1797, Aug 18 - The Times (London, England)
At the Assizes for the County of Suffolk, which ended last Saturday, four prisoners were capitally convicted, and received sentence of death: one of these was a man of 70, for the detestable and unnatural crime of sodomy; and another, a woman, for horse stealing. John Waiste was convicted of beastiality, and sentenced to two years solitary imprisonment - Joseph Hall, found guilty of manslaughter, was fined 1S, and discharged.

1803, Dec 5 - The Times (London, England)
OLD-BAILY, Dec 3 - sentence of death was passed upon the following malefactors: Methuselah Spalding, for sodomy.

1824, May 26 - The Sandusky Clarion (Sandusky, Ohio)
At the Rockland county circuit last week - Nicholas Rickhout, for sodomy, State Prison for life.

1853, June 14 - New York Daily Times (New York, NY)
The District Attorney of Hawaii reports 39 cases of Sodomy in 1851, and 19 in 1852, punished by the District Justices; yet Sodomy is an offence entirely beyond the jurisdiction of these officers and can only be tried by a jury! Fifty-eight persons thus are punished for gross offences by officers having no shadow of authority for their action, and yet not an appeal has been taken! Moreover, 41 of these cases have happened in Hilo, the great sea port and centre of civilization for the island, - what must be the ignorance of the Justices who dwell near the circumference! - and 12 of them close by the residence of the Governor!

1854, July 8 - New York Daily Times (New York, NY)
Rev. Dr. Hamilton, for many years the leading Presbyterian pastor and preacher in Mobile, Ala., has been found guilty of sodomy, and been expelled from the ministry. When investigation made his guilt apparent, the indignation of the citizens of Mobile was so great that the reverend gentleman was compelled to flee from the city or risk the chances of life in the hands of an infuriated mob.

1858, Feb. 24 - New York Times (New York, NY)
SENTENCED - Captain Levi F. Dean, convicted last week of sodomy in the King's County of Sessions, was yesterday sentenced to imprisonment in the State Prison at Sing Sing for the term of five years and six months

1858, Feb. 27 - New York Times (New York, New York)
Elisha French, indicted with Levi F. Dean, (who was convicted last week) for sodomy, was permitted to withdraw his former plea of not guilty, and plead guilty. Sentence suspended.

1858, March 10 - New York Times (New York, New York)
In the Kings County Court, yesterday, Elisha French, who pleaded guilty of sodomy, was sentenced to the Penitentiary for sixty ' days. The prisoner is about 18 years of age, and was let off with this comparatively light sentence, as he acted under the direction of another party who has been sentenced to State Prison for five years and six month.

1867, June 5 - New York Times (New York, NY)
John Lyon: sodomy

1868, Feb 4 - New York Times (New York, NY)
G. W. Redeback, sodomy and robbery: pleaded not guilty.

1868, Feb 8 - New York Times (New York, NY)
In the case of German Reidenbach charged with sodomy, evidence was given on the question of the physical incapability of the prisoner. Two doctors were sworn, and their evidence was directly contradictory. Counsel on both sides having summed up, the Judge charged the jury, who, after a short absence, returned into court with a verdict of guilty. The judge sentenced the prisoner to 9 years and 8 months imprisonment.

1873, June 23 - Fitchburg Sentinel (Fitchburg, MA)
CONCORD, NH, June 23 - Great excitement exists in Webster and Fisherville over the arrest of Rev. George Woods, on the charge of sodomy. Mr. Woods is an iltnerant? revival preacher, and claims to be a Methodist. He is a young man of good appearance, and has been holding revival meetings in Webster most of the time since last November.

1876, Nov 15 - Galveston Daily News (Galveston, TX)
State vs. Tony Socarro, charged with sodomy.

1880, Feb 12 - New York Times (New York, NY)
John Rielly, sodomy

1880, Mar 4 - The Standard (Albert Lea, MN)
Although the Prioneer-Press has not yet discovered the fact, it is, nevertheless, true that Postmaster Harwood, of Austin, is a defaulter to the tune of about two thousand dollars, twelve hundred of which was sucurred and was known to exist prior to September last, so that this man, at the very time he was howling over this district against Judge Page was a criminal and should have been under arrest for his crimes. Irgens, his coadjutor, was in the same boat, and only escaped arrest for the crime of sodomy through the clemency of the authorities of St. Paul.

1880, Mar 12 - Keystone Courier (Connellsville, PA)
The following is a record of the proceedings of the Criminal Court last week: Com vs Wm. Moon, sodomy, Charles Ritenour prosecutor, ignoramus.

Cases confirmed NOT between two men:

1857, Mar: a Milton, Massachusetts school teacher
1859, Jan: Jas Neary, Albany, NY - bestiality
1860, Feb: John Haskell, age 43. - molestation
1878, Mar: a "Chinamen" in Portland - molestation

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mary Linnett (1878-1896)

This is an odd and, yet again, a sad case from the 1890s. Mary Linnett was born in about 1878, her father was a contractor. She developed an infatuation with her next door neighbor, an older woman named Frances Sharman. Under unknown circumstances, Mary tried to kill Miss Sharman and was put into an insane asylum. She was later released and developed a 2nd infatuation with a Miss Elizabeth Trowbridge, the niece of Judge Sherwood of Elgin, Illinois. Judge David Sherman was married to Philury "Lula" Trowbridge, daughter of Stephen Trowbridge. She had at least five older brothers, any one of which may have been Elizabeth's father. They were Barton (b 1830), Gardiner (b. 1836), Stephen (b. 1839), Levi (b. 1841) and Charles (b. 1844). On April 16, 1896, without warning, Mary shot and killed Elizabeth and then herself on South Street, very near to the Judge's home. An odd possible side effect of this was the death of Elizabeth's aunt, Lula Trowbridge Sherwood, who died a year later in October 1897 of "nervous prostration" - an emotional disorder that leaves you exhausted and unable to work.

Town of Russia, Lorain, Ohio - August 1, 1850
1850 United States Federal Census

Trowbridge, Stephen - m 46, farmer, born NY
Trowbridge, Almira - f 42, born NY
Trowbridge, Barton - m 20, born NY - farmer
Trowbridge, Asenath? - f 19, born NY
Trowbridge, Gardiner - 14 m, born NY
Trowbridge, Stephen - 11 m, born NY
Trowbridge, Levi - 9 m, born NY
Trowbridge, Charles - 6 m, born NY
Trowbridge, Philury - 4 f, born NY

263 South Street, Elgin, Illinois - June 10, 1880
1880 United States Federal Census

Sherwood, David - wm 32 born in Ill, pb NY - lawyer
Sherwood, Lula (wife) - wf 34 born NY, pb NY - housewife
Sherwood, Martha (dau) - wf 5, born Texas
Sherwood, Granville (son) - wm 1, born Illinois
Trowbridge, Stephen (father-in-law) -
---wm age 75 - retd Farmer, b NY, pb Conn
Gibson, Lizza (servant) - wf age 20 - servant

Hamilton Daily Republican (Hamilton, Ohio) - June 24, 1895

Strange Love of a Girl

CHICAGO, June 24 - A mad infatuation of Miss Frances Sharman led Mary Linnett, of 43 North Campbell avenue, to make an attempt upon the former's life Sunday morning. Miss Sharman, who lives at 45 North Campbell avenue, is about 35 years old. Mary is not yet 17. The latter formed an attachment for the elder woman, and it is said grew insanely jealous whenever Miss Sharman ever so much as spoke to another.

Batavia Herald (Batavia, Illinois) - April 16, 1896

Mary Linnett of Chicago Kills Miss Trowbridge of Elgin.

Miss Elizabeth Trowbridge, of Elgin, was shot dead in South State street about 8 o'clock Monday night, by Miss Mary Linnett of 43 North Campbell avenue, Chicago, who then killed herself. About two years ago Miss Linnett became infatuated with another Chicago girl, whom she attempted to kill because the girl would not consent to live with her. She was adjudged insane and was sent to the Elgin asylum, where Miss Trobridge was an attendant. She was discharged last December as cured. She had become much attached to Miss Trowbridge, and tried hard to get her to come to Chicago and live with her. Miss Trowbridge was out walking with her sister, Alice last evening, when Miss Linnett came up behind her and shot her without warning. Miss Linnett was 18 years old, and was a general favorite. Miss Linnett's father is a contractor, and was formerly in the employ of the Chicago board of education. Supt. Loewy of the insane hospital testified at the inquest on Miss Mary Linnett and Miss Elizabeth Trowbridge that Miss Linnett was undoubtedly insane. Her victim had been warned of the danger, as friends feared such an outcome of their association. Miss Trowbridge, while in charge of Miss Linnett, had noticed suicidal tendencies.

Fort Wayne Weekly Gazette (Fort Wayne, Indiana) - April 16, 1896


Murder Followed by Suicide on State Street in Elgin, ILL.

Elgin, Ill., April 15. - At 8 o'clock Monday evening a tragedy was committed on State street, near the residence of Judge David B. Sherwood. One of the victims was his cousin, Elizabeth Trowbridge, aged 35 years; the other was Miss Mary Linnett, aged 18. They were walking Miss Alice Trowbridge, a sister of Elizabeth. Suddenly without any warning or indication of what was to happen Miss Linnett drew from her pocket a revolver and shot Elizabeth Trowbridge, the bullet taking effect in her heart. She fell dead, and the murderess placed the weapon against her own temple and followed murder with suicide. Miss Alice Trowbridge ran screaming to Judge Sherwood's house and told the awful story. It appears that the murderess had been a patient at the asylum. Last December she was discharged as cured. She went to her home in Chicago and is believed to have remained there until she came out Monday. The murderess tried to induce her victim to accompany her to Chicago. Failing in this, the two walked down the street to where Alice Trowbridge boarded, and with her were retracing their footsteps when the tragedy occurred. The prominence of the two parties, and the fact that Miss Linnett is reported to have been concerned in a somewhat similar tragedy in Chicago a few years ago, lends additional interest to the affair. Miss Trowbridge was an asylum attendant.

Batavia Herald - October 14, 1897

Death of Mrs. D. B. Sherwood

Mrs. D. B. Sherwood, wife of ex-Judge Sherwood of the Probate Court died Sunday, Oct 10 of nervous prostration at her home in Elgin. She was 52 years of age and was prominent in church and society circles of Elgin. Mrs. Sherwood was a member of the Episcopalian Church, and the funeral was conducted by the Rev. J. Stewart Smith of Kansas City.

45 N. Campbell Ave., Chicago, Illinois - June 4, 1900
1900 United States Federal Census

[43 N. Campbell, Mary Linnett's residence, was also enumerate but the Linnett family had already moved away - if they ever lived there, she could have been a domestic or boarder. In 1900 the building at #43 was broken into two residences. The first was James and Matilda Parker and James' mother Rhoda Thompson. The second was occupied by A.E. and Katie Rupp and their two sons George and Fred. Today, both residences have been leveled and the lots are empty fields.]

Sherman, N.? - wm b Aug 1855 in Illinois to English parents
Sherman, Martha (sister) - wf b Sept 1853 in Ill
Sherman, Frances (sister) - wf b Oct 1855 in Ill
Sherman, George J (brother) - wm b May 1852 in Ill
Sherman, Virginia (sister) - wf born Oct 1862 in Ill

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Alcatraz Prisoners

There were a number of early prisoners at Alcatraz Island that were arrested on charges of "sodomy" while in the military. Their arrests occurred in either Hawaii or Panama Canal Zone and, for some unknown reason, they were transferred to Alcatraz just after it was switched from a military prison to a Federal prison. It's inconceivable to me that these men, who were first time offenders and soldiers, were put into a maximum security prison. Here is the information as I have it. They are in order by the prisoner numbers.

#1. Frank Lucas Bolt - Frank was born in about 1907 in Virginia. The first record we have of him is dated April 21, 1910 when he was just three years old. The US Federal Census has no record of parents at his home in Hiawassim, Pulaski, Virginia. Instead he lived with a cousin, a seamstress for a private family, by the name of Ellen Kemp. Ellen was 37 years old, had married within the year (although her husband was also not present) and had never had children of her own. She, as well as her parents, were born in Virginia suggesting that the Bolt family had probably been in the state for some time. Also in the household was 16-year-old Mollie Childress who is listed as "companion" to Ellen. Such a relationship status is unheard of in a Federal Census record and was not one of the authorized relationships given to the enumerators to use. Mollie was also born in Virginia, was unemployed and was not attending school. She most likely helped around the house and with the raising of Frank.

On June 26, 1920 Frank is living in Pine Creek, Carroll, Virginia. He is no longer living with family, but is now the 12 year old servant of a 49 year old man named Charles Dorvane (the last name is difficult to read in the original record). Charles is listed as a widow, and although Frank is noted as his servant under "relationship", the occupation for both was given as "teamster". Although only 12 years old, Frank did not attend school that year and it seems that he did not receive a formal education during his childhood.

By April 15, 1930 he was in the army and a member of Battery "E", Ld. Coast Artillary and living at Fort Sherman in Cristobal, Panama Canal Zone. No additional information is given, census records were sparse when it came to military personnel, but this would most likely be the location were Frank was arrested for sodomy in 1932. According to the warden's notebook for Alcatraz, Frank's five year sentence began on Jan 24, 1933 in Honolulu. He arrived in Alcatraz from USADB Pacific Branch on June 19, 1934 with a parole hearing date of September 25, 1934. His minimum sentence was scheduled to end September 3, 1936 and his maximum date was January 23, 1938. He had no detainers and no prior criminal record.

On May 10, 1936, four months before the end of his minimum sentence, he was transferred to USP McNeil Island in Washington State. He had been at the countries most maximum security prison for just one month shy of 2 full years. Frank has the prestigious honor of being inmate #1 for Alcatraz Island, the first ever prisoner of the official national maximum security prison.

#4. Joseph Constantine Harrison - The 1930 US Federal Census list two men named Joseph C. Harrison at Schofield Barracks on Oahu Island, Hawaii. Both were born in West Virginia and only two years apart (1907 and 1909). Unfortunately, there is no way to know if this was a clerical error (and there was only one man) or if they were actually two separate individuals. However, in either case we know that Joseph was sentenced to five years in prison for sodomy on February 27, 1932 in Honolulu. He was transferred to Alcatraz from USADB Pacific Branch on June 19, 1934, he was 27 years of age. He had a parole date of October 28, 1933 which he clearly did not pass. His minimum sentence date was August 18, 1935 and his maximum date was February 26, 1937. Interestingly he was discharged two weeks early on July 29, 1935. He had no ditainers and no known prior criminal record.

#6 Clyde F. Hicks - Clyde Findal Hicks was born in Granville County, North Carolina on September 5, 1910. His father was Robert Lennis Hicks, a cropper at a general farm in Durham County (1920 US Federal Census), and his mother was Sallie Ann Crabtree. On April 13, 1930 he is listed as a soldier residing in Barracks #158 at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. On August 7, 1931 he was sentenced to six years in prison for sodomy with a parole date of August 7, 1933. However, it seems that he did not pass that parole for on June 19, 1934 he was transferred to Alcatraz. Although he wasn't as noisy as some other inmates, he was put into Lower Solitary on December 3 and 4, 1934 for "for conveying a note from one prisoner to another". Two other prisoners were put in Solitary that day, and stayed in much longer, for causing a ruckus and planning an escape. The note may have contained information concerning this plan. He had a minimum sentence date of August 6, 1937. Clyde, despite his solitary confinement, seems to have otherwise been on his best behavior, he was discharged on his minimum sentence date, August 6, 1935. He had no detainers and no known prior criminal record. A Clyde Hicks of Boonville, North Carolina married a girl named Mary Wolfe of Mt. Airy on December 19, 1936 by Minister C. W. Russell. The witnesses were the ministers wife and daughter. Clyde died in Durham, North Carolina on December 5, 1993 according to his Social Security record.

#9. Alan Whitney Hood - Alan was born in about 1909. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment on December 1, 1932 in Honolulu for sodomy. He was received at Alcatraz from USDB Pacific Branch on June 19, 1934 with a scheduled parole date of August 2 (for which he declined to file). His minimum sentence was scheduled to end June 28, 1936 and his maximum date was November 30, 1937. He had no detainers and no prior criminal record. On June 15, 1936 he was transferred to USP Leavenworth.

#10. Frederick Lasalle Hulme - Frederick was born in New York in about 1900. In the 1930 (April 15) US Federal Census, he is listed as a soldier living at Schofield Barracks Military Reservations on Oahu Island, Hawaii. His father is listed as being born in New Jersey and his mother in Nebraska. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on November 24, 1930 in Honolulu on charges of sodomy and false enlistment. He was transferred to Alcatraz from USADB Pacific Branch on June 19, 1934 with a scheduled parole date of June 24, 1935. His minimum sentence date for release was July 28, 1940 (having lost 30 days good behavior while in Honolulu) and his maximum date was November 23, 1945. In December of 1935 the 30 days he had previously lost of good behavior were restored and on March 17, 1936 he was transferred to USP McNeil Island in Washington.

#12. Charles E. Johnson - born in about 1911, making him the youngest of those listed on this page. He was only 23 years old when he arrived at Alcatraz (when the photo above was taken). Like many of the others here, he was listed as living at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii in the 1930 US Federal Census. Charles was sentenced to five years in prison for sodomy on November 28, 1931 with a parole date of July 29, 1933 which he declined to file. He was transferred to Alcatraz from USADB Pacific Branch on June 19, 1934. He has a minimum sentence date of March 30, 1935 at which time he was discharged. He had an original maximum date of March 30, 1935 at which time he was discharged. He had an original maximum date of November 27, 1936. He had no detainers and no known prior criminal record.

#20. Angelo George Paris -Angelo George Paris - born Sept 6, 1900. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison (the longest sentence of all of those listed here) for sodomy on Jan 8, 1931 with a parole date of Feb 12, 1934, which was denied. His minimum sentence date was April 13, 1937 and his maximum date was Oct 12, 1940. He had 88 days of good conduct credits forfeited during his time in the military but 35 days were restored on Dec 21, 1936. Angelo's page in the warden's notebook is the only one that states the reason for transfer as well as other highly detailed information:

Reason for Transfer: Subject is a military prisoner serving 10 years for sodomy and was transferred here from the Army June 19, 1934. He is a moron and may not have wit enough to go straight but his confinement at Alcatraz will do a lot to constrain him. Former Institution Rule Violations: The report from Disciplinary Barracks rated him as "poor" showing reports for disobedience of orders , disorderly conduct, and forfeiture of eighty-eight days good time. (Was in solitary confinement on various occasions)

Criminal History:
2-6-22 ---- Arrested by PD Jersey City, N.J. Chg: Carnal abuse; no other data;
3-10-22 --- Arrested by PD Jersey City, N.J. Chg: Assault;
Sentence: 1 year in County Jail; no other data;
10-28-26 -- Arrested by PD Jersey City, N.J. Chg: Sodomy;
Found guilty of indecent assault; Sentence: -
1 year in County Jail; no other data;

Medical Exam: Syphilis secondary, Physically able for manual labor;
Neuro-Psych:- dull appearing man of low intelligence, lacking in ethical and moral sense; He is a married man of the Protestant religion and has a sixth grade education; Since early manhood he has been in conflict with the law because of his abnormal sexual traits; Is not especially interested in future; He had shifting occupational adjustment working as farm hand, clerk, timekeeper, trucker, etc.

Angelo was discharged April 13, 1937 with transportation furnished to Trenton, N.J. There are several men named Angelo Paris that lived in the United States between 1900 and 1940 however the vast majority of them are clearly not our Angelo Paris. There is however one possible match. On April 5, 1924 a man named Angelo George Paris (the same full name as ours) married a Miss Evelyn Ethel Wright (1909-1997) in Bellows Falls, Windham, Vermont. The couple had at least two possible children - Clayton in 1924 and Chester in 1926. At first glance it seems that the only matching information here is the name and approximate age. The fact that this family lived in Vermont, was a primary reason to assume that he was not the same individual. However, records of a genealogist studying Evelyn Wright notes that Angelo married a 2nd time (date not given) and had a daughter named Dorothy who was born in Jersey City, NJ. At the moment we do not know her birth date but her son is noted as having been born in 1939 giving an approx birth date for her of 1920 when Angelo was 10 years old. We have not yet confirmed this information, however it does make the possibility that these two men, both named Angelo George Paris, both approx the same age, both living in Jersey City, NJ in the 1920's - are one and the same.

#21. William G. Payne - born circa 1905. He was sentenced to five years in prison for sodomy on November 16, 1931 with a parole of July 17, 1933 which he declined to file. He was transferred to Alcatraz from USAPB Pacific Branch on June 19, 1934. His minimum sentence date was March 15, 1935 and his maximum date was November 15, 1936. He had no detainers and no known prior criminal record. He was discharged upon expiration of his sentence on March 15, 1935.

#23. Leo Prokopf - born Jan 19, 1907 in Altenbruch, Germany. His father was Ludwig Prokopf. He seems to have lived his entire early life in Altenbruch, as he also gave that city as his last permanent address. When he was 19 he resolved to move to the United States. He received his visa (#41670) in Stuttgart on September 23, 1926 and boarded the SS Derfflinger in Bremen, Germany on October 23, 1926, arriving in New York City on November 3. On the ship manifest he noted that he was a "Baker" and planned to join his cousin, Alma Stadler, in Milwaukee. He gave her address as 1753 5th St., Milwaukee. His physical description at that time was given as 5'9", fair complexion with brown hair and blue eyes.

Alma Stadler was born in Wisconsin in October 1899. Her father was Frank Staddler, a tinman, born in Germany in July 1860. Her mother was Amelia, born in Germany in February 1868 and immigrated to the United States in 1882. She also had several siblings, all born in Wisconsin - Amelia, born March 1889; Frank Xavier, born January 28, 1892 in Milwaukee; Theresa "Tessie" born March 1896; and Rose born 1902. In 1920 Alma was working as a stenographer in a law office and her sister Rose was working as a dental assistant. This was Leo's family in America, whom he had probably never met before arriving in 1926.

On April 15, 1930 he is listed in the US Federal Census as a member of Battery "C", 2nd Coast Artillary at Fort Sherman Post, Cristobal District, Panama Canal Zone. He is listed in that record as age 23. According to the Social Security Death Index he died in Nov 1976 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His social security was issued in Wisconsin before 1951, his Social Security number was 398-09-4752.

He was sentenced to five years in prison for sodomy and escape on January 12, 1934. He was transferred to Alcatraz from USDB Pacific Branch on June 19, 1934 with a parole date of September 12, 1935 which he did not pass. His minimum date of sentence was September 22, 1937 with a maximum date of January 11, 1939. He had no detainers and no known prior criminal record. He was transferred to USP Leavenworth on August 8, 1936.

#54. John Golebrowski - convicted of sodomy. His name has also been spelled Goleboski.


These first criminals - with the exception of Angelo Paris - seem to be far less violent with little to no previous criminal history. The following prisoners are a different story. Some seem to have been extremely violent and a much higher caliber of criminal. Fewer of these may have been homosexual.

#72 Charles Richard Krug - convicted of sodomy.

#76 Louis Zuckerman - convicted of "sodomy & assault".

#111 Hubert Alexander Grindle - convicted of "sodomy & manslaughter". Hubert was born in Ohio in about 1904. His father was also from Ohio, his mother from Indiana. On April 5, 1930 he is already a prisoner at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He listed his occupation as "Cook", this may have been his work detail while in prison. LaFayette Thomas was listed on the same page.

#149 LaFayette David Thomas - convicted of "sodomy & manslaughter" and was considered to be an escape risk as he had previously escaped from Fort Mason on July 1, 1927. LaFayette was born in Indiana in about 1907. His parents were both from Kansas. On April 5, 1930 he is back in prison, according to the US Federal Census of that year, he is an inmate at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He gave his occupation as "Shoe-maker". This may have been his work detail while in prison. He was put into Lower Solitary from January 22 to 25, 1936 for "verbal attacks made to officers". According to graffiti in Alcatraz, he had left his prisoner number "#149" in Cell 51, Cell block A.

#183 Walker Harris Wiggins
- convicted of "sodomy, assault, theft and escape." Walker was born in Texas in 1908. In the 1930 US Federal Census, he is listed as a soldier in the 12th Field Artillary, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Bexas, Texas. He was 22 years of age. His parents were both born in Texas.

#365 Harold June - convicted of "sodomy & attempt to commit sodomy" on a "Govt Reservation".

#475 William Burman - convicted of "sodomy, assault & attempted"

#664 Leray Dohrman - convicted of "sodomy, assault & attempted escape" from ESP Leavenworth

#731 Thomas Cartwright - AWOL, sodomy, disobeying officer - army prison - conditional release 1953.

#732 Robert Cummings - sodomy, assault (Military) & attempted escape (Civil) from Chillicothe Army prison

#1055 Kethel Osborne - The only personal information that I have found, so far, on Kethel, is that he was African-American. An army prisoner, he was charged for assault, disobeying officer & sodomy. On October 27, 1955 he filed an appeal against E. B. Swope, warden of Alcatraz. "The application alleges he had exhausted his administrative remedies in the military practice and therefore he is entitled to have considered his contention that he had been tried by a general court martial, a member of which previous to the trial had "threatened" Osborne, "promising to find him quilty, irrespective of the evidence", and hence he has been denied due process and the military court was without jurisdiction to try him. Johnson v. Zerbst, 1937, 304 U.S. 458, 467-468, 58 S.Ct. 1019, 82 L.Ed. 1461.

On February 6, 1964 Kethel filed an appellant suit against J.C. Taylor, warden of Fort Leavenworth, regarding the calculation of his good behavior and whether calculations should be based on army regulations or civil. The appeal was denied on March 2. The record gives a history of his time in prison. - "Appellant was in the United States Army and on active duty when he was court-martialed and sentenced to a dishonorable discharge and to be confined at hard labor for three years. While serving this sentence in military custody he committed another offense, was court-martialed and sentenced to confinement for six months at hard labor. Later he was convicted of a third offense, this time by a general court-martial, and sentenced to confinement at hard labor for eight years. The total sentences were eleven years and six months. After the general court-martial appellant was transferred from the military prison to the Federal Prison System and ultimately to the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth.

#1063 Daniel Catalano - assault to commit sodomy & sodomy - army prisoner

#1209 Robert Radcliff - sodomy & assault - army prisoner

#1269 Joseph Bright - murder, rape, assault with Intent to commit sodomy (military) & attempted escaped (Atlanta) - army prisoner

#1293 Severo Reyes - rape, sodomy & assault with intent to commit bodily harm (5 counts), theft, threatening with violence & fraternization - army prisoner.

#1298 William Jenkins - armed robbery, sodomy on "Govt Reservation". Transformed to Washington DC Jail 1963

#1307 Derotha Flynn - assault & sodomy - army prisoner. The only record that I can find of anyone by this name - was one DeRotha Lee Flynn, born November 11, 1931 and died July 14, 2008. There is a great deal of additional information on his family from his obituary, but as I'm not sure that he is the same person, I will omit it here.

#1429 Henry Harris - rape, sodomy & robbery - army prisoner

#1561 Paul Benson - sodomy (Alaska) - army prisoner

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Harris Olney and James Dalton - 1894

Middletown Daily Argus (Middletown, New York)
1894, October 18

Probably a Double Suicide

Harris Olney and James Dalton were found dead in a room at the Metropolitan hotel, Kent avenue and Grand street. They had retired leaving the gas turned on full head. Olney, who was 2[8?] years of age and resided in Brooklyn was at one time a jockey, and Dalton was connected with race tracks.

Southeast corner of Kent Avenue, Brooklyn today.
In 1894, this was the location of the Metropolitan Hotel
where Olney and Dalton took their lives.

New York Times (New York, New York)
October 18, 1894

Asphyxiation Ended Two Lives

Cyrus Olney, twenty-eight years old, at one time well known as a jockey, and James Dalton, twenty-five years old, who was a frequenter of race tracks, were asphyxiated in their room on the third floor of the Metropolitan Hotel, corner of Kent Avenue and Grand Street, Brooklyn, yesterday morning.

The two men had been to the Maspeth race track on Tuesday, and did not return to the Metropolitan Hotel until late at night. Both were under the influence of liquor. Olney rode Pierre Lorillard's famous horse Pontiac when he won the Suburban race.


Further research here has shown that Harris Olney won the "Suburban Handicap" in 1885 at Sheepshead Bay Race Track at the Coney Island Jockey Club in Sheepshead Bay, New York. He rode a four year old horse named "Pontiac" owned by the Rancocas Stable and trained by Matthew Byrnes. Rancocas stable, located in Jobstown, New Jersey, was a well known horse training stable owned by Pierre Lorillard IV.

Pierre Lorillard IV - Harris Olney's employer - circa 1885.

Harris Olney (along with his brother - "Walter" Olney) were listed among the guests at the 2nd annual "Red and Blue Social" held by the Red and Blue Social Club at Toni Dugan's Assembly Rooms at the Brooklyn Jockey Club Hotel on Ocean Parkway in Sheepshead Bay, New York. This was in 1884.

The book "Cherry and Black: The Career of Mr. Pierre Lorillard On the Turf" by W. S. Vosburgh gives the following description of Harris Olney:

"Harris Olney, who rode so many races for the Lorillard stable, was born at Manchester, Iowa, in 1865, and learned riding under Jacob Pincus. He, Olney, rode his first race for Hon. Perry Belmont on Ada, 82 lbs., in 188o, and came to Mr. Lorillard in 1881. In 1882 he won 6 out of 35 races; and in 1883 he won 17 out of 68. His light weight gave him plenty to do in the stable riding exercise, trials and races."

In 1881 Harris was living Newmarket All Saints, Cambridge, England as a "servant" for Jacob Pinkus, age 42. He was listed as "Olney, Harris, Servant U 16 born Iowa, US Jockey". Harris was one of 12 servants - all grooms and jockeys. Mr. Pinkus was a horse trainer.

In 1889 the Olney's were listed in the Clifton District for the Passaic, New Jersey City Directory. They were listed as follows:

Olney, Harris - horseman bds opp Erie station
Olney, Waldo - horseman bds opp Erie station
Olney, Mrs. C. D. - h opp Erie station

Various genealogical records show that Harris was the son of Edward and Colestra Olney of Manchester, Iowa. That he was born in 1865. He older brother Waldo was born in Iowa in 1863 and they had one younger sister Mary, born in 1869. Their parents were both from New York.

The Metropolitan Hotel #22-24 on the southeast corner of Kent, opened in 1871 and was remodeled in 1886. Dieterich Allers & Sons were the proprietors. It was demolished several years ago, but I do not have the date yet - possibly not long after the suicide in 1894 as I haven't yet found a record of the hotel more recent then that, and the current building on the site (which couldn't be the same as it is only 1 story) seems to be quite old itself.

Dr. McCall and Frank Boley - 1897

The Weekly Gazette and Stockman (Reno, Nevada)

May 5, 1897

Special to the Gazette:
San Francisco, April 28. - On the arrival of the steamer Weber from Stockton this morning, a mysterious case of double death on the steamer was reported. George Miller, porter on the steamer, on opening a stateroom, found in the berth the dead body of Dr. McCall of Stockton, and on the floor the dead body of an unknown man, fully dressed. On the floor was a pint bottle partly filled with whiskey. In the pocket of the unknown man was a Chinese was ticket on the back of which was written the words, "No one to blame."

The officers of the steamer and the local police believe the case one of double suicide. The body of Dr. McCall was identified by several of the crew and passengers. The man found dead in the stateroom of the steamer Weber this morning with Dr. McCall was Frank Boley, a carpenter. The pair had been together drinking heavily for the last four days.

McCall was a confirmed dipsomanic and addicted to opium, having recently been released from the county jail, where he served six months. He was well connected, but latterly friends and practice left him. It is supposed both men were despondent through drink.

Mountain Democrat (Placerville, California)
May 15, 1897

Dr. J. C. McCall and Frank Boley, both of Stockton, were found died in McCall's stateroom on the steamer Captain Weber. Indications pointed to a double suicide.

Two Men - Suicide - Grand Island, Nebraska

The Steubenville Hearld (Steubenville, Ohio)
February 11, 1897

Two Well-Dressed Men Shuffle Off at Grand Island, Neb.


All the Gas Jets In the Room Where
They Were Found Were Turned
on Full - Name on Hotel
Register Illegible.

Grand Island, Neb., Feb 10 - A mysterious double suicide has occurred here. Two well dressed men arrived in this city from the east and inquired for the best hotel in the city, and only one registered, saying one would do for both. The name on the register is very vague, evidently made so purposely, but looks like R. A. Newcome and the residence as Billings, Mon.

About noon the two men were found in the room dead. All the gas jets in the room were open full,, and on jet, placed very high up and of which no possible use could have been made for lighting purposes, was also open.

Neither had any baggage other than a small grip, which contained nothing but two shirts and a few collars. They were all new and bore the stamp of a Chicago firm. With this exception there is nothing to indicate from whence they came. The coroner's jury could obtain no light onthe case and returned a verdict of suicide.

Both are tall, fine looking men, dressed in dark suits. One wore a full beard and was of sandy complexion, and probably five years the senior of the other. There were no papers in the pockets of their clothes, though ashes in the toilet bowl suggest that some papers had been destroyed.

A Baptist student from Scotia, Neb., late last night thought he recognized the bodies as those of two merchants of that city.

Bessie Foust and Maud Hoffnagle - 1898

Tyrone Daily Herald (Tyrone, Pennsylvania)

August 17, 1898


Philadelphia, Aug. 17.-"Because of a belief that they were unfit to live, two girls, of whom the father of one said 'they loved each other like man and woman,' committed suicide yesterday by jumping from a ferryboat into the Delaware river. They were Bessie Foust, age 19, of 721 Federal street, Camden, N.J., and Maud Hoffnagle, age 20, of 423 Reed street, this city. Both took the leap to death together, hand in hand, and were drowned before a rescue could be effected. The double suicide was evidently prearranged. A note was found in a pocketbook they had left behind. It was signed maud and Bessie, and consisted of a quotation from a melancholy poem and the words, "We find we are utterly unfit for this world and will try another."

Bismarck Daily Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota)
August 18, 1898

Two Young Women Jump From a Feeryboat at Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 18 - Because of a belief that they were unfit to live two girls, of whom the father of one said "they loved each other like man and woman," committed suicide by jumping from a ferryboat into the Delaware river. They were Bessie Foust, aged 18, of Camden, N. J., and Maud Hoffnagle, age 20, of this city. They took the leap to death together, hand in hand, and were drowned before a rescue be affected.

The double suicide was evidently prearranged. The girls had been close associates for five or six weeks and alternated in visits to each other's home, spending two and three days at a time.


I have found the Foust family in Camden, at 721 Federal Street as mentioned in the article. The family is listed in the 1900 US Federal Census, although Bessie, having already passed, is not listed. Her family was as follows:

Foust, George (father) - b May 1846, married 31 years, born in PA
" , Martha (mother) - b March 1846, 9 children - 7 living, born in PA
" , George M (son) - b March 1872, widow, born in Pennsylvania
" , Charles (son) - b December 1876 in Pennsylvania
" , Helen (daughter) - b November 1887 in New York

From this we can gather that Bessie must have also been born in Pennsylvania and that the family moved to New York or New Jersey sometime between 1876 and 1887. Her fathers occupation on this record was listed as "Bird Dealer" and both of her brothers are listed as "Compositor".

By 1910 George Sr had also passed away. Martha W. Foust and Helen R. Foust were living alone at 721 Federal St. Helen, age 22, was working as a bookkepper at a Soap shop. Martha, now 65, was taking care of the house. Charles married in 1903 to "Lena" and the young couple moved to 831 Park Ave in Collingswood, Camden, New Jersey which was less than four miles away, a direct shot down Haddon Ave. Although they had been married seven years by this time, Charles and Lena had had no children. I haven't found a record of the older brother, George, but there is one man who fits his description living alone in Danville, Pennsylvania in 1910, a laborer of odd jobs - but there is no way to be sure that it is the same person.

"Double Suicides"

This is entirely morbid I know, but it is also a very sad part of our gay and lesbian history. Strong and loving connections have been made time and time again between two people who aren't aloud to love. Their families, society, jobs, in fact every aspect of their lives tell them that their love is wrong. In some cases these couples, possibly inspired by Romeo and Juliet, take their own lives.

When a double suicide occurs, it is almost always between two lovers. And from time to time I run across cases in which the lovers were of the same gender. These old articles usually don't give a cause for the deaths, or try desperately to make some sense out of them. In a few cases one of the two may have had the opportunity to express their love for the other, making their reasons clear. Whatever the circumstances, these cases are tragic ones.

This post is a cross-reference tool for the different cases that I run across as I find them. I will list them here in chronological order. If I have additional information on the case, I will make a separate post for them and link them together. If I don't, I'll transcribe the information directly to this post.

1869, September 2: From the New York Herald (New York, New York) - Hoboken - Attempted Double Suicide - Mary Williams and Mary Johnson, two youthful damsels, were committed to prison yesterday for attempting to drown themselves near the Elysian Fields.

1871, November 23: From the Indiana Progress (Indiana, Pennsylvania) - A Double Suicide. A lewistown (Maine) paper says that Mr. Cobb saw two young ladies sitting on the Auburn shore of the river, on the very verge of West Pitch. Mr. Cobb's daughter also noticed the girls, and thought it very strange that they should be sitting so near the very dangerous place. The more noticeable became the fact when he saw them jump up and trip lightly and carelessly down the precipitous, rocky, and slippery bank, where they removed their outer garments. Miss Cobb then said to her father that she believed they meditated drowning themselves, and so possessed with this idea was she that she resolved to still watch them and see what they were proposing to do. After removing their outer garments, including their hats, she saw the girls return to the spot where they had been sitting and resume their seats. In a few minutes, not far from 1 o'clock, the train from Bangor came thundering by, the track being about 200 or 300 feet from where they sat. Miss Cobb says that while the train was passing that point she saw the girls rise, each throw her arms around the other's waist, and in his embrace they, with apparently one consent, leaped from the shore into the falls. Miss Cobb turned to her father. "Father, they have jumped togehter into the falls." Mr. Cobb, who a moment before had seen them sitting on the shore, looked at once out of the window, commanding a full view of the scene. No girls were to be seen - nothing but the garments they had left on the shore. The facts speedily became known, and crowds gathered in the vicinity of the scene of the terrible tragedy, but nothing could be seen but the garments, bearing silent and at the same time sad witness of the tragedy. An examination by Mr. Cobb, who saw the movements of the girls, and by one or two other gentlemen, who noticed where the sat, but did not happen to see them when they took the fatal leap, established that the two suicides - as they seemd to have leaped from the point where they first sat down - threw themselves from the flat rock which forms a level platform close to the water's edge, near the foot of the first descent of West Pitch, which, as everybody hereabouts knows, consists of two falls. The first is a slight plunge upon a table-rock; then a light fall of a hundred feet, more or less; then a great cataract, with, at present, a fearfull fall of water, rolling down into a chasm many feet from the base of the first fall. Here, just beyond the base of the first fall, they seem to have thrown themselves into the river. Miss Cobb saw them no more. Late in the afternoon, Miss Starbird, from Attburn, and other, identified the clothing left by the suicides on the West Pitch sone as belonging to Ada Brown of Buckfield, and Anna Wood of Hartford, young girls 14 and 16 years of age. Miss Brown's eldest sister has been at work in the city, and is frantic with grief at the sad tragedy. She left int he afternoon to carry the sad news to her parents. We understand both the Wood and Brown girls were at room, on the Bates Corporation, Thursday night, reaching there at ten p.m. Friday morning the leder sister of Ada carried Ada's breakfast to her room, where both the girls then were. She left Ada with the understanding that she would be in the mill at 8 o'clock. Ada did not go into the mill as promised. As she did not make her appearance at dinner, the elder sister became alarmed, and going out learned of the suicide of the two girls, whom she at once surmised might be Ada and Miss Wood. A party of lumbermen, in a buttcaux, dragged the river for the bodies Friday afternoon, but discovered no traces of them. The cause of the sad suicide is only conjectured as being the "old story" but will be more definitely known when there shall be an inquest over the bodies on their discovery.

1879, May 14: From the Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana) - DOUBLE SUICIDE. Burlington, Ia., May 8 - Two young men, August Miller and John Miller, friends but not relatives, attempted suicide this morning. The former was successful, having used a pistol, and the later used a knife with probably fatal effect. They lived in different parts of the city, and it is not known whether they had a mutual understanding.

1886, December 25
: Lizzie Hart and Sadie Bigelow in Boston, Massachusetts.

1891, March 5: From the Idaho Statesman (Boise City, Idaho) - Double Suicide - "Cincinnati, Ohio, March 4 - L. Franentna? of St. Louis, and Ernest Salinger of Philadelphia, two students at the Hebrew Union college in this city, were found died in their room this morning. The young men took their own lives, according to a preconcerted arrangement. It is asserted by fellow students that the young men must have been demented on the subject of hypnotism. Salinger for a long time has been a firm believer in it. Franentna fimly scoffed at it, but [?at?erly] Salinger had won him over and seemed to have complete control over him. For some time past Franentna has been falling off mentally and physically, and frequently complained of pains in his head. they left a joint note asking that their families be notified, but [vouc?sa?ing] no explanation. Salinger was still alive when found and said before expiring they had agreed to die together. His diary had an entry, saying he was going to end his never ceasing pain.

1891, March 28: Portia Hill Doyle and Jessie Rigley in White Oaks, New Mexico.

1891, August 2: From the San Antonio Daily Express (San Antonio, Texas) - Double Suicide at Fort Worth. "Fort Worth, Tex., Aug. 1, - [Special] - Mrs. Jack Sanders, wife of a horse trailer, and Silence? Morgan, a woman of the town, recently from Birmingham, Ala., took morphine with suicidal intent and at midnight are both pronounced too far gone to recover.

1891, September 2: From the Indiana Progress (Indiana, Pennsylvania) - A double suicide by hanging occurred in the county jail at Buffalo, N. Y. The victims were two insane women - Anna Gorosowski and Catharine Schmidt.

1892, May 13: From the Tyrone Daily Herald (Tyrone, Pennsylvania) - TWO WOMEN SUICIDE - "LONDON, May 13. - The bodies of two women, clasped in each others arms, were found yesterday in Highgate pond, north of London. Heavy stones had been placed in the pockets of both women, who thus far are unidentified. The motive for the double suicide is unknown."

1893, March 11: From the Evening News (Lincoln, Nebraska) - A Double Suicide - "Chicago, March 11 - [Special] - Charles Fiala and John Hinch considered life a failure, being unable to get work and shot themselves this morning. Both died in a short time.

1894, October 18:
From the Middletown Daily Argus (Middletown, New York) - Probably a Double Suicide - "Harris Olney and James Dalton were found dead in a room at the Metropolitan hotel, Kent avenue and Grand street. They had retired leaving the gas turned on full head. Olney, who was 2[8?] years of age and resided in Brooklyn was at one time a jockey, and Dalton was connected with race tracks.

1896, April 25:
From the Daily Huronite (Huron, South Dakota) - "THEY DIED TOGETHER. Wisconsin Girls Commit Suicide in a Sensational Manner. MILWAUKEE, April 25 - A special to The Wisconsin from Menomonie, Wis., says: Edna Varney and Emma Cunningham, aged 16 and 15 years, respectively, committed suicide by drowning in the mill pond at Downsville, nine miles north of this city. They were last seen on Tuesday evening. A clock, watch and bottle of laudannum were found on the bank of the mill dam. Letters have also been found which throw some light on the cause of the double suicide. The names of prominent parties are mentioned in the letter, and Downsville people are in a fever of excitement in consequence.

1897, February 11: 2 unknown men in Grand Island, Nebraksa.

1897, April 28: Dr. J. C. McCall and Frank Boley

1897, November 5: From the Boyden Reporter (Boyden, Iowa) - COMMIT SUICIDE TOGEHTER - Two St. Paul Cigar Makers Jump From High Bridge to River and Both are Drowned. - "St. Paul, Minn., Nov. 2 - Jacob Amos, married, age 44 years, and Henry Bergenkreuger, single, aged 38 years, committed suicide yesterday in a sensational mannger. They had been visiting numerous saloons together during the day, and were both under the influence of liquor. They went across the Smith bridge to a point where it is 200 feet above the Mississippi river and jumped over the railing. The second man leaped before the first struck the water. One sank immediately, but the other came up and floated down stream a short distance before sinking from sight. There were a number of eye witnesses to the double suicide. Amos was treasurer of the Cigarmakers' union, but it is not known whether his accounts were all right, an investigation not yet being possible.

1898, August 17
: Bessie Foust and Maud Hoffnagle

1899, April 11: From the Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey) - Double Suicide Attempted "Columbus, O A sensational attempt at double suicide was made last night by Gertie Leland, aged 18, and Daisy Null, aged 17. The girls were housekeepers for Oliver Frazee. Both swallowed carbolic acid and laid down to die. The Leland girl's arms were tightly clasped about Miss Null. Miss Null may die. Miss Leland is the daughter of Francis Leland, of Spikersville, Ind. Miss Null always lived here. No cause is known.

1899, November 1
: From the Tyrone Daily Herald (Tyrone, Pennsylvania) - "Two men, apparently laborers, were asphyxiated in a Chicago hotel. It is believed to be a case of double suicide.

1899, December 26: From the Trenton Times (Trenton, New Jersey) - Mystery at Niagara Falls. "Buffalo, Dec 26 - A special to The Express from Niagara Falls says that last evening two young men whose names are unknown were driven to the cliff above the promenade at the whirlpool rapids on the Canadian side of the river and were lowered to the promenade. Note returning in an hour, a search was made for them. As no trace of the men could be found the police was notified. Foot prints of the two men in the snow were followed to the extreme end of the promenade toward the whirlpool. Farther along the bank there were signs of a body having fallen in the snow, and the footprints of only one man could be discerned. Owing to the darkness the search had to be discontinued, but men are stationed along the river on the watch for the appearance of either of the men. The police are inclined to look on the mysterious affair as a case of murder and suicide or double suicide.

1900, October 14: From the Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) - TWO KILLED BY A TRAIN - "Pana, Ill., Oct. 13 - Donald Breker and Antone Ruchem were killed today by a Big Four passenger train while walking on the tracks. Many think it a case of double suicide.

1900, September 8: From the Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio) - "Deadwood, S. D. - News has been received here of the suicide of Robert Truax and Patrick Nagle, mining men, in the vicinity of Hill City. Truax shot himself in the ear and Nagle shot himself through the heart.

1911, October 22: From the Washington Post (Washington, D.C.) - Student Life in Germany - The schoolboy duel, with its attendant double tragedy, which has just shocked Germany, is ascribed to the fact that both lads were students of pessimistic and cynical literature and devoted admirers of Nietzsche and Oscar Wilde. The theory is now advanced that their duel was merely a blind to hide a carefully planned double suicide. Indeed, school-boy suicides are becoming almost epidemic in Germany, and the suicide of a boy of 14 and a murder by a boy of 11 are reported simultaneously with the foregoing tragedy.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Portia Hill and Jessie Ridgley - 1891

Another double suicide! So sad! I don't really want to write about these cases, but they are a part of our history and these poor souls should not be forgotten. The first article is from Newark, Ohio - the first I found on the subject. The second is from Sacramento, California - a bit closer to the incident. The second article starts off with identicle verbage but quickly rewrites the article with a great deal of more detailed information. An additional, identicle copy of the Newark article, was published in the New Castle News (New Castle, Pennsylvania) on April 15, 1891, that paper having received the information on April 14.

Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio)
April 8, 1891

Two Women Kill Themselves Locked in Each Other's Arms

SANTA FE, N.M., April 8 - Details of an Easter Sunday tragedy at White Oaks, N. M., has reached here, the affair being a double suicide in which two young women, formerly of Liberty, Mo., were the principals. The names of the women are Mrs. Howard Doyle and Miss Jessie Ridgley. Mrs. Doyle has been separated from her husband for some time and had made a confidante of Miss Ridgley. It is thought that Mrs. Doyle was despondent and had prevailed upon Miss Ridgley to commit suicide at the same time. The bodies of the women were found in a lonely part of the town. Over the heart of each was a bullet hole. They were clasped in each other's arms, and between them was a revolver, which usually had a place on the mantel in Miss Ridgley's bedroom. Their hats hung on a post near by; their cloaks had been neatly folded and served as head rests, and to each clock was pinned notes to various friends. One letter expressed the desire that they be buried in the same grave. None of the letters gave the reason for the rash act, only: "Death is sweet, and we prefer it to life."

The Record-Union (Sacramento, California)
April 8, 1891

Two Women Found Dead Clasped in Each Other's Arms

SANTA FE (N.M.), April 7. - Details of Sunday's tragedy at White Oak, N. M., reached here to-day, the affair being a double suicide, in which two handsome young women, formerly of Liberty, Mo., were the actors. Some two years ago Miss Portia Hill came from Liberty to serve as governess in the family of Mrs. Ellis. At the end of a year she married Howard Doyle, a brother of Mrs. Ellis, and a prominent ranchman. On their bridal tour they met an old friend of the bride, Miss Jessie Ridgley, who replaced Mrs. Doyle as governess in the ellis home. Last Sunday Mrs. Doyle came on a visit to Miss Ridgley and the two were seen in a long conversation at various times during the day, avoiding the other members of the family. In the afternoon they went for a walk and in an old corral near by their dead bodies were discovered an hour later. Over the heart of each was a bullet hole. They were clasped in each other's arms and between them was a revolver. No reason is known for the deed.

Davenport Morning Tribune (Davenport, Iowa)
April 8, 1891

They Die in Each Other's Arms in New Mexico Corral.

DENVER, Col., April 7 - A Santa Fe (N.M.) special says: Details of an Easter Sunday tragedy at White Oaks, N. M., reached here to-day, the affair being a double suicide, in which two handsome young women, formerly of Liberty, Mo., were the actors.

Two years ago Mrs. Portia Hill came from Liberty to serve as governess in the family of a Mrs. Goodwin Ells. At the end of a year she married Howard Doyle, brother of Mrs. Ells, and a prominent young ranchman. On their bridal tour they met an old friend of the bride, Miss Jessie Rigley, who replaced Mrs. Doyle as governess in the Ells home. It was their custom to spend Saturday night and Sunday together. On later Easter Sunday Mrs. Doyle came on a visit to Miss Rigley, and the two were seen in long and earnest conversation at various times during the day, avoiding the other members of the family.

In the afternoon they went for a walk, and in an old corral near by their dead bodies were discovered and hour later. Over the heart of each was a bullet hole. They were clasped in each other's arms and between them was a revolver which usually had a place on a mantel in Miss Rigley's room. They left several notes, one alone giving a reason for their act. "Death is sweet and we prefer it to life," it said. They requested that they be buried in the same grave. The request was complied with.


I have searched for additional information on these women and have learned that the Tucumcari Mortuary in Quay County, New Mexico handled their services. The mortuary listed their date of death of March 28th and listed their names as Portia Hill Doyle and Jessie Rigley. Both women were buried at Cedarvale Cemetery, the historical cemetery of White Oaks, New Mexico. It also holds the grave of Sheriff James Hill, who was killed by Billy the Kid in 1881. Billy was also a regular in the town, just a few years before Portia and Jessie came to town. White Oaks was a hard place to live at that time, not much more than a mining camp, it had the typical saloons and an Opera House. This was serious old west! Most of the historical building that still exist today were build after Portia and Jessie had died, showing that the town that they had known was of a less robust quality, unable to survive the passage of time.

I have written to White Oaks to see if they might be able to provide any additional information on Portia and Jessie. Hopefully they will be able to turn up something.

Lizzie Hart and Sadie Bigelow - 1886

I came across another interesting news story today. It is of a double suicide which is most commonly between two lovers - these being two women named Lizzie Hart and Sadie Bigelow in Boston in 1886. From the history gathered, it seems that the two girls were of the same age and both from St. John, New Brunswick. They moved together to Boston in about 1883 and the two women lived together for the majority of that time - with the exception of a brief marriage of Miss Hart to an unknown man. This marriage was an "unhappy" one she back in with Miss Bigelow. The women then moved to New York briefly before returning to Boston in early December of 1886. They found lodging together at a hotel for four days under assumed names and seem to have decided to commit a double suicide together before moving to the hotel - which they did on Christmas Day. Miss Hart told a friend that Miss Bigelow was determined to kill herself after learning of her mothers death, and miss Hart loved her too much and would not let her die alone. Incredibly sad. It is impossible to say whether or not this was a lesbian relationship - but the mutual effection for each other (or at least Miss Hart's effection for Miss Bigelow) is clear.

Here are the original articles, both are from the same newspaper althoug they were reprinted in several papers across the country. I have found duplicated in at least five other states.

Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio)

December 30, 1886

A Sensational Double Tragedy Resulting From a Lover's Quarrel

BOSTON, Dec. 30 - The last sad act of the most sensational tragedies ever enaccted in this city occurred this forenoon at Mount Hope cemetery, when a double casket, containing the earthly remains of two young and pretty women, was lowered into a double grave. The story of the death of these two women is a tragic one. Neither had seen twenty years, yet both had found that life was not worth living, and had in each other's company completely bidden adieu to the world on what, to most people, in the happiest day in the year, Christmas.

Sadie Bigelow and Lizzie Hart were respectively eighteen and nineteen years of age. The former was a decided brunette, quite pretty and with dark brown hair and eyes. She was a ready talker, and a favorite with all who knew her. The latter was a handsome blonde with blue, facinating eyes, golden hair and a slender, stylish figure. The girls were born in St. John, N.B. Two or three years ago they came here and secured situations at small salaries as saleswomen in the store of Jordan, Marsh & Co. No ill word was ever breathed against them. Some time after coming to Boston Miss Hart married a Boston man of respectable connections, whose name is not given. The marriage proved an unhappy one, and the couple separated, the wife returning to live with Miss Bigelow.

Last fall they heard of an opportunity to better their condition in New York, and going there entered the dry goods store of Simpson, Crawford & Simpson. The situation proved only temporary. Two weeks ago the girls returned to Boston. They were unable to get work and they soon became utterly discouraged. Among their few friends here were two youmen men of good character named Henry Villard and Richard Reynolds. It is said that these young men had offered the girls pecuniary aid, but the latter were too proud to accept it. On Christmas afternoon the young men treated the girls to a dinner at Verdellis' restaurant. After dinner they repaired to Villard's rooms, where a telegram was found announcing the death of Miss Bigelow's mother. The young men escorted the girls to their horse car, and on the way a quarrel arose between Villard and Miss Hart about some attentions the former had recently shown to some other women. The party separated in ill-humor, the men returning to Villard's quarters where Reynolds was to sleep. At 1 a m Villard was aroused by a knock at this door and on opening it he found Miss Hart in an exhausted condition and just able to say that she and her friend had taken "Rough on Rats". The girl was laid on the bed, a doctor summoned, and antidotes applied, but too late, for after suffering agonies for six hours she died.

Before dying, upon being asked what could have induced her to poison herself, she said: "Lizzie was so sorry that her mother deid that she wanted to die too. But I would not let her die without me, so I took the poison too, I love her more than my life." She also said that she had determined in the horse car to commit suicide. They got off the car, bought the boxes of "Rough on Rats" went home and took the poison in water. Lizzie felt the effects first and lay down to die. Sadie then repented her act and started out for help. She took a cab for Villard's rooms firsts, stopping at a street telegraph office and ordering a messenger to send a doctor to assist Miss Hart. The messenger thought she was drunk and did not obey. On going to the girls' lodging house the young men found the half naked body of Lizzie Hart stretched out ont he rumpled bed, cold in death.

It is stated an autopsy held yesterday showed that Miss Bigelow was enciente. Medical Examiner Draper, however, was seen at midnight and refused to disclose the results of the examination.

December 31, 1886

Belief That the Act of Lizzie Hart and Sadie Bigelow Was Premeditated.

BOSTON, Dec 31 - It is now believed that the suicide of Lizzie Hart and Sadie Bigelow was premediatated. On the Tuesday before their death they took a room at a lodging house under fictitious names, Lizzie Hart giving that of Flora Sammes, and Sadie Bigelow that of Mrs. Johnson. This was done, it is thought, in view of their contemplated suicide and in order to conceal their identity. The landlady says that both "Mrs. Sammes" and "Mrs. Johnson" came well recommended. They appeared more than ordinarily good natured and happy. "Mrs. Sammes" or Lizzie Hart frequently played with the children but seldom had much to say to the lady of the house.

During the four days they were at the house the young women had no gentlemen callers, except on Christmas afternoon, when their friends, "Henry" and "Dick," called to take them to dinner. The story that the girls bought "rough on rats" on Christmas night fails of substantiation, and it is now supposed that they procured the poison at an earlier day. It has been denied that they were employed at Jordan, Marsh & Co.'s under any of the names given; but Villard and Reynolds, the young men with whom they supped on Christmas, say that the acquaintance was formed at that store.