In the Quiet of the Cabin: Part Two

“The iron-gray hair was deep-dyed with of blood. Even the walls and low ceiling of the little living room bore evidence of the tragedy in dull garnet blotches.”

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Taken about the same year as Jane Bowers’ murder, this photo shows the cabin home of the A. Melangton Wolfe family in Garfield, Frederick County, Maryland. The Bowers cabin may have appeared quite similar, based on descriptions in contemporary newspaper reports.

Continued from Part One.

On Saturday morning, 8 February, the temperatures were frigid. Henry Flook was up early, hauling wood. As he drove his team past Jane Bower’s cabin, Flook noted immediately that there was no smoke issuing from the chimney and no other sign of activity. By piecing together the newspaper accounts, it can be surmised that a concerned Flook returned at lunchtime with two other local men and found the cabin’s front door open a crack. After knocking and shouting raised no reply from within, the Sun reported that the trio entered and beheld “the ghastly sight of a human body cut into ragged pieces scattered on the floor before them.”

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Hagerstown Herald, Monday, 10 February, 1908.

The newspapers went on to print every salacious detail of the murder scene found by Flook and his companions. For example, from the Sun, “The little living room was bespattered with blood and chunks of flesh and bone all scattered in a heart-sickening disorder. From beneath a portion of the woman’s torso, the bloody handle of an axe protruded…. Surrounded by blood-soaked garments lay parts of her dismembered body. In a corner, Flook found the woman’s head, the jagged flesh of the neck telling how the murderer hacked and hacked in his apparent insane desire to sever it from the body. The iron-gray hair was deep-dyed with of blood. Even the walls and low ceiling of the little living room bore evidence of the tragedy in dull garnet blotches. Bits of bone and tatters of flesh were stuck to the window panes …. The mass of flesh and bones, chopped into little bits the size of a marble, presented a sickening sight [that] declared the murderer must have hacked at the body fully two hours before completing his fiendish work.”

After making the terrible discovery, the frightened men went straight to the authorities. The resulting investigation found that “there was little, if any, struggle on behalf of the victim. In the death chamber, there was an overturned chair that seemed to have fallen with the woman when she was struck and killed. In a puddle of coagulated blood was a leather purse containing a little money, showing that robbery was not the motive,” noted the Sun. The beds in the cabin had not been slept in and a wound 24-hour clock was still working on Saturday afternoon—both indicating that the killing occurred late Friday afternoon or evening.

Continue reading “In the Quiet of the Cabin: Part Two”

In the Quiet of the Cabin

“Officers and others familiar with the circumstances [think it] one of the most brutal and fiendish crimes in the history of this section of the state.”

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Jane McPherson Bowers and her brother Thomas are buried in the graveyard behind Pleasant Walk Church.

At Pleasant Walk United Methodist Church (formerly Mount Olive United Brethren), two miles from Myersville, Maryland, visitors may find the grave of Emma Betts, who arrived with the spring of 1900 and departed with summer, lacking even one milk tooth. They may also see the grave of Henry Dusing, a 70-year-old champion violinist who, in 1954, on a dark night, fatally encountered an automobile atop South Mountain. There is also Tiny Dagenhart. In 1913, the five-year-old girl was shot dead in the family’s kitchen by her brother when he dropped his hunting rifle. There are two more vestigial residents of interest for whom no grave markers call out: Jane Bowers and Thomas McPherson. During one week in the winter of 1908, however, newspapers bellowed their names and described in orgasmic detail Jane’s bloody, gore-soaked, and horrifying murder at the hands of her elder brother.

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A Childhood Beside Poffenberger’s Well

“Mother, mother, where’s your daughter?/ Oh, my laws, she’s gone for water/ Three times daily I must yell her to and from the well….”

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Once, more than 150 years ago, Myersville’s de facto town well likely stood beyond that white picket fence. The well had almost been forgotten when this postcard photo was taken circa 1911. Author’s Collection.

In December 1951, Rev. Horace Ehrman Zimmerman wrote of his childhood in Frederick County, Maryland, for the Middletown Valley Register, which printed the story on the 28th of that month. “Of all the memories of [my] boyhood days in Myersville, none are more vivid to the writer than the old Enoch Poffinberger home well, across the street from the Lutheran Church. While not called a ‘village well,’ it virtually amounted to that for that part of the village in which our home was located. There were several other neighboring wells nearby, but none gave forth the clear, cold water that this well produced,” Zimmerman noted.

In small Maryland towns, the public well was not just a source of clean, drinkable water, but was also a social anchor point. “From its platform political speeches were often made; the village wiseacres … whittled and discussed the country’s problems; women gathered about it to gossip … [and] auctioneers cried public sales,” Zimmerman wrote of the common scenes of his childhood during the decade after the Civil War.

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Sarah Hoover Weddle: Lost to a “Criminal Operation”

“State’s Attorney Worthington is investigating the death of Mrs. Sarah E. Weddle, widow, who died near Myersville April 14th. Certain discoveries have aroused the suspicion of the authorities.”

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Although this advert looks innocent enough, terms such as “special strong for obstinate cases” and “will quickly bring about the desired result” indicate these pills were meant to induce miscarriages.

Dayton (Ohio) Herald, 25 February, 1903: “Mrs. Amy Snyder, 52, the wife of Aaron Snyder, an expressman, of 223 South Montgomery Street, was arrested Tuesday afternoon by Sergeant Fair and assistants, on suspicion of having performed a criminal operation on Miss May Smith, 19, of Xenia, which resulted in her death.”

Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal, 26 March, 1903: “Miss Stella H. Stork, a pretty young woman whose home was at Huntingburg, Ind. … died at the private hospital of Dr. Sarah Murphy, 1018 West Chesnut Street, Tuesday afternoon. While peritonitis was the direct cause of death, this was brought on by a criminal operation….. George Lemp, a Southern Railway conductor, who came to Louisville with the girl last week, was arrested … but denied he had any knowledge of the girl’s condition.”

Scranton (Pennsylvania) Tribune, 27 March, 1903: “The sudden death of Mrs. Martha E. Rosengrant, widow of the late William Rosengrant, was the occasion of an inquest by Coroner Tibbins…. Mrs. Rosengrant was found dead in her bed at her home on Foundry Street on Wednesday morning…. The verdict of the jury was that Martha Rosengrant came to her death from a criminal operation performed upon her by someone to the jury unknown.”

Frederick (Maryland) News, 30 April, 1903: “The people of Myersville and vicinity are excited by the discovery of what appears to be evidence that the death of Mrs. Sarah E. Weddle, which occurred April 14, was due to a criminal operation. Mrs. Weddle was sick for about two weeks before her death.”

♦♦♦♦♦♦

When she died during the quickening Spring of 1903, widow Sarah Weddle left five young children as orphans. The lingering evidence shows she was one of the uncounted thousands of Victorian and Edwardian women who, when they fell pregnant, turned to “female pills”—herbal abortifacients advertised openly albeit with coded language—or to “criminal operations,” as illegal abortions were termed in the press.

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Widow Hitchcock and Her Clan

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Albumen Cabinet Card of Abigail Hitchcock in widow’s weeds, circa 1872. Written on reverse: “Aunt Abby Hanks Hitchcock. Gubelman, 77 &79 Montgomery St., Jersey City.” Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.

Abigail Irena Hanks was born on 10 November, 1816, in Mansfield, Tolland County, Connecticut. She was the daughter of Rodney Hanks (1782–1846), a Mansfield, Connecticut, manufacturer of silk machinery, woolen goods, cannon swabs, and other machinery, and Olive Freeman (1783–1816). The extended Hanks clan were large-scale makers of silk, a business that had begun with the family importing English mulberry trees to Connecticut for the nurture of silkworms.

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Abigail’s renowned uncle, Benjamin Hanks, cannon, bell, and clockmaker.

The Hanks family was also associated with the Meneely (Watervliet) foundry, which closed the mid-20th Century after more than a hundred years providing bells for various carillons and chimes throughout the Western hemisphere. The bell foundry was established 1826 in Gibbonsville, New York, on the west bank of the Hudson River, a few miles north of Albany, by Andrew Meneely, a former apprentice in the foundry of Benjamin Hanks (1755-1824), Abigail’s uncle, who is generally credited with being the first bronze cannon and church bell maker in the United States. Hanks is believed to have worked at a foundry connected with patriot Paul Revere and was a drummer during the Revolutionary War.

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A Master Mariner’s Mourning Brooch

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Mourning Brooch for Master Mariner Joshua Goodale, who died March 1850, aged 74. This gold-plated brooch has seen some rough handling. The plate is worn on the bezel surrounding the glass-capped compartment and the pin is missing. Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.

Joshua Goodale, master mariner, merchant, and agent for Salem Iron Company, was born on 1 November, 1775, in Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, and died 3 March, 1850, in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts.

He was the son of Joshua Goodale (1753-1795), a blacksmith, and Mary Henfield (1752-1821). His siblings were: Lydia (b, abt. 1782), who married Solomon Towne; she married, secondly, Hale Late of Newbury; Poll (b. abt. 1784); Thankful (b. abt. 1787), who married Nathan Green on July 15, 1813; Hannah (b. abt. 1790); and Nathan (b. abt. 1793).

Goodale was already an old name in Salem by the time of Joshua’s birth. Robert Goodale with his wife Katherine Killam and three children came from England on the ship Elizabeth in 1634. After immigrating to Massachusetts, the couple had six more children.

According to the Pickering Genealogy: Being an Account of the First Three Generations of the Pickering Family of Salem, Mass., by Harrison Ellery and Charles Pickering Bowditch, “Mr. Goodale began his business life in the counting-room of the eminent merchant William Gray, and, in 1794, was sent by him to the West Indies as a supercargo. He afterward became the agent for the Salem Iron Company, and at one time was in New Orleans in business. On the decline of trade in Salem, he moved to Boston.

“Mr. Goodale was a man of spotless character, very temperate, and even abstemious in his habits. His form was erect, and his gait elastic to the last, while he retained the manners of a gentleman of the old school. He was inclined to reprove the errors of others, but always without harshness, and in a way peculiar to himself. At the time of his death, Mr. Goodale was the oldest member of the Park Street Church, Boston.”

On 22 October, 1804, in Danvers, Essex County, Massachusetts, Goodale married Rebecca Page, the daughter of Captain Samuel Page (1753–1814) and Rebecca Putnam (1755–1838) of Danvers, the small village next to Salem. One of Rebecca’s relations was Ann Putnam, a chief accuser during the witch hysteria of 1692-1693.

The couple had a number of children: Joshua Safford (b. 6 May 1808); Samuel Page (b. and d. 1810); Rebekah Putnam (b. 1811); Mary Henfield (b. 6 March1814); Samuel Page (b. 9 August 1818), and Eliza Ann (b. 1819), of whom the Pickering Genealogy notes, “[Goodale’s] portrait, which was painted while he was in New Orleans, is now in the possession of his daughter, Miss Eliza A. Goodale, of Highland Avenue, Newtonville, Mass.”

Of his wife, the Pickering Genealogy states, “Mrs. Goodale’s father was a Revolutionary patriot. He enlisted at the breaking of the Revolution, and took part in the battles of Lexington and of Monmouth and was with Washington at the crossing of the Delaware and at Valley Forge. He also served in the campaign of 1779 and was present with company at the storming of Stony Point. After the war, he became a successful merchant, filled many public offices, and was distinguished for his integrity and moral worth. Ω

When the Bow Breaks

“She sleeps in peace, dear sister sleeps—
Art thou forever gone?
No, we will see thee soon again,
Where parting is unknown”— In Memory of Mary Frey by Her Sister CMB

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Edyth Miriam Embery, gelatin silver bromide print, 1909 or 1910. Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.

This angelic child, pictured at the start of what should have been a long life, was Edyth Embery, born 5 March, 1909, in Frankford, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Dr. Francis Patrick Embery (1867-1939), a Philadelphia otorhinolaryngologist, and his wife Miriam Fairbairn Wilson (1875-1948), whom he wed in early 1899.  (The 12 February Philadelphia Inquirer described Miriam as wearing “heavy corded white silk, trimmed with chiffon and lace and carried bride roses. The flower girl, maid of honor, and bridesmaids wore white organdie and carried white carnations.”)

Francis Embery, known as Frank, was born at Foxchase, Philadelphia County, to William Henry Embery (1840-1914). Frank’s father was, by 1872, head of the Assay Laboratory of the United States Mint. Previously, he’d served as a sergeant in Co. A, 1st New Jersey Cavalry, during the Civil War. Frank’s mother was Annie Elizabeth Manning (1841-1921), who was of Irish descent.

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