L.C. Weilli’s Trunk was Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.

On occasion here at Forgotten Stories, we like to reprint newspaper stories in full. Having come across the article below from the New York Sun of January 10, 1885 while doing some research, we thought we’d share.

Boston-Jan. 9 – L.C. Weilli, travelling salesman for Julius Brecker, dealer in human hair at 28 Howard Street, New York, came to Boston on Saturday with $6,000 worth of hair. On his arrival at the Boston and Albany Station he gave the check for his trunk containing the hair to Armstrong’s Express, with instructions to take the trunk to the United States Hotel. When Weilli went to look for his trunk on Tuesday, he could learn nothing concerning it.

The expressmen said that they had left it upon the sidewalk in front of the hotel. No clue to the thieves or property was obtained till yesterday morning, when officers on South street saw two young fellows carrying a trunk and bag on their shoulders. Knowing them to be thieves, they started to follow them, but the men dropped their loads and ran. The bag and trunk were brought to the station, and on being opened, were found to contain about $2000 worth of missing hair.

To-day, Michael and Andrew Presley were arrested for the robbery, and the trunk, empty, was found in their rooms. Many of the young hoodlums of the South Cove appeared on the streets to-day sporting flowing beards and moustaches and wearing wigs. The value of the plunder is said to be $10 per ounce. In all, about $2250 was recovered.

Don’t you wish you could see the facial hair display amongst the hoodlums of the South Cove?

A “Fluke” Appearance of Some Unlucky Whales

Harpooned Whales

In its glory days, Amagansett, a tiny village on the Long Island shore, had based its economy on whaling. Remnants of the once profitable trade still could be found in the shops and homes of its 300 or so residents; walrus tusks, rusting harpoons, and scrimshawed teeth from long departed sperm whales. Older residents, such as Captain Josh Edwards and his brother Gabe still told stories of battles fought with 100 ton beasts, of longboats caved in, of men dragged under the Arctic ice by a diving sperm whale, of long chases and narrow escapes. Overhunting had diminished the supply of sperm whales until it was no longer profitable to send the whaling boats out, and by 1885 Amagansett subsisted on the efforts of fisherman who sailed out into the Atlantic for the cod which would find their way onto the tables of homes and restaurants in New York City.

Captain Josh arose before daybreak on Saturday morning, December 12, 1885, and accompanied by his son began the cold walk to the beach. Cod fisherman such as Captain Josh used a dory, a 20 foot long boat which offered little protection from stormy seas or bitter cold, but was at least easy to pilot. As he strode up one of the sandhills that bordered the Amagansett beach, the Captain thought he spied another ship about a half mile off, which was curious. He knew everyone of the fisherman in the small village, and was sure none had beat him to the shore that day. “Here’s somebody that’s been spryer than us,” he complained to his son, “who do you suppose it can be?”

Then came a spout, and Captain Josh joyfully sang out words he hadn’t employed in many a year. “By gosh, thar she blows.” All thoughts of cod fishing forgotten, the Captain ran back to Amagansett and on the village flagpole ran up the town’s Weft, a tattered old flag that indicated a whale had been sited. Recruiting his brother Captain Gabe, Josh roused the villagers, and a tremendous bustle ensued as harpoons and lances were dug out of storage. Three boats of six men each shoved off, and it was a family affair. Captain Josh and Captain Gabe led the first, while relatives Jesse Edwards and Jonathan Edwards led the second and third boats respectively.

The whales, for soon it became apparent there were two, and already moved off to the southwest, and even the most experienced of the whalers knew there was slim chance at catching them. From the helm, Captain Josh encouraged the men to row harder, shouting with glee another “Thar she blows” whenever the whales broke the surface for a breathing spell. Breathing spells weren’t allowed for the men in the boats, and for hours they pulled at the oars, drawing ever closer to the beasts.

As they approached, it became clear that the two whales were exceptionally large prizes, a cow some 60 feet in length and a bull about 40 feet long. To Captain Gabe went the honor of the first throw, and from the bow he let the harpoon fly. Three feet of cold steel backed by ash buried itself up to the handle in the cow, and a shower of blood speckled spray covered the boats as both whales dove deep.  Under orders from Captain Gabe the boat backed away as the rope attached to the harpoon was made fast.

As the whale dove, smoke rose from the rope as it played out through the ring on the boat’s front. Taking advantage of the whale’s dive, Gabe and Captain Josh traded places, and the other two boats came up.  At last the whales again appeared, and were greeted with a shower of harpoons. Harpoons stuck from the whales’ bright shiny backs, but they made a game fight of it and their tails stove in the bows of two of the three boats. Again and again the harpoons flew, and both whales were soon hopelessly entangled in ropes that prevented them from diving. After two hours of fighting the cow’s spout showed blood, a sure sign she’d been hit in a vital spot, and a few minutes later she was dead. The bull too showed signs of exhaustion and the men took advantage of the slowed movement of its flukes to approach more boldly. Soon the bull too succumbed.

The battle over, the men discovered they’d drifted some ten miles from Amagansett, and binding the whales to the boats began a long strenuous row backwards, the carcasses trailing behind them. Sore, weary, but satisfied with a job done, the men dragged the whales on the beach and returned to their cottages. The next morning, they gathered round for the long bloody work of removing the blubber, whale oil and whalebone.

All together, the whales were worth around $1000 apiece ($250,000 each  in 2010 dollars) for the poor village of Amagansett, and it came as a welcome early Christmas present for the town.

A Bit of Language

While trolling through Pearson’s Magazine from July, 1910 I came across an article entitled The Prize Ring, discussing the mental confidence of boxers. From there, I learned a bit about the origin of the term “Get his goat.” Enjoy.

Freddie Welsh, the present lightweight champion of England, a vegetarian with puny hips, watery eyes and a weak mouth, who has never been knocked out, puts is advice to aspirants in three words, ‘Get his goat!’ Originally this phrase was racing slang. To keep a racehorse from going stale a trainer frequently quarters with him a goat, for the pet relieves the thoroughbred of his loneliness. But intriguers have found that by stealing a goat from a horse a day or two before a great race he can be thrown out of his condition. The loss of his favorite companion annoys the horse and he goes into the big event in a highly feminized state of nerves. So, to ‘get his goat’ is to remove his confidence.

   These days it is a little political incorrect to describe a high-strung, nervous horse as feminized, but now you have a bit of trivia that you can use at cocktail parties.


The Pimping Professor

Senor Jose Hidalgo had accomplished more by age 29 than most men do in a lifetime. In his native Guatemala he’d earned a doctor of laws degree, then gone on to represent his country as a counsel to Japan. Resigning his position he’d gone to San Francisco, published a book on the history of aviation, and by 1910 had become an assistant professor of Spanish at the University of California, Berkeley.

Jose Hidalgo

His courtly manners and his polished appearance, coupled with a bit of Latin charm, made him one of the more popular professors on the Berkley campus, especially amongst the female student body. Many of the coeds signed up for private Spanish language tutoring at Hidalgo’s offices in the Westbank building.

His Latin American heritage also made him an advisor of sorts to the small contingent of foreign student from Central American who were studying at Berkley, among them Juan Posados, son of Zenon Posados, the coffee king of Guatemala. The two shared an interest in aviation, and Hildago took Posados, a sophomore, under his wing. As Posada recalled in June, 1910, “About three or four weeks ago, he invited me to visit a girlfriend of his. Prior to this time he had often boasted to me of his conquests among the girls of the University of California, most of whom, he said, were very young.”

Apparently, Hidalgo’s conquests were not solely due to his charm, “[h]e, knowing that I was interested in chemistry, asked me to let him have a drug which would render a person unconscious, explaining at the time that there was a girl visiting his offices at the Westbank building on whom he had designs.”

Posada never disclosed whether he provided the knockout drops to Hidalgo, but teacher and student kept in contact, “[h]e took me to the Hotel Cecil, where I was introduced to a woman named Marie Milder. I gave her $15.” Two weeks later, Hidalgo arranged another prostitute for Posada. “Last Saturday Hidalgo came to me again and invited me to meet another girl friend of his that night. Again I accepted. On this occasion I met Grace Carter. The strange part of the affair was that she was not the person whom it was intended to meet, but the other party failing to keep the appointment, Hidalgo found Grace Carter walking the streets, became acquainted with her to be a substitute.” Hidalgo reached an agreement with Carter, and they split the proceeds of her night with Posada.

Grace Carter

The ease with which he’d arranged trysts between Posada and Grace (a/k/a Grace Ellifritz) gave Hidalgo an idea; a house of assignation in Napa, where he could arrange meetings between his wealthy Latin American students and a hand selected group of prostitutes. He pitched the idea to Grace Carter, fully intending her to run the house while he took care of recruiting student visitors. Posada was either brazen or foolhardy; his meeting with Grace took place in his offices in the Westbank building, where a 20 year old student he’d ravished lay passed out from the effects of absinthe. Carter agreed to the proposal.

Meanwhile, Posada and Carter’s trysts at the Hotel Navarre continued. As Posada described one tryst “Hidalgo left us, and waited outside in the corridor. After he had gone the girl told me of her meeting with Hidalgo and said that he had proposed to her that he should bring students to her, and that she should give him a third of the money she received. ‘He is waiting for his share now.’ she said. ‘Let him wait.’ I replied. ‘He waited until 1 o’clock in the morning, and then slipped a note in through the door, saying he would call again at 3 o’clock the following afternoon.”

Hidalgo did call, although by that time Posada was gone. Carter and Hidalgo finished off a bottle of absinthe, then went looking for another victim. It didn’t take long. At one of the neighborhood cafes, Hidalgo sighted Richard Barry, sitting alone nursing a drink. Hidalgo quietly pointed him out, and discreetly withdrew.

Hidalgo couldn’t have chosen a worse victim. The lonely young man who appeared to be a likely looking Richard was a writer for Pearson’s Magazine. Even worse for Hidalgo, Barry was a muckraker who’d dedicated his literary efforts to exposing corruption in everything from boxing to the Utah state government. A skilled interrogator, Barry soon had the full story, and he dragged Grace Carter off to the San Francisco District Attorney, and then to the police.

Chief Martin, and Detectives Wren and Boyle set up a sting operation, and ordered Carter to phone Hidalgo and invite him to visit her at the Hotel Navarre on the evening of Wednesday, June 22, 1910. To entice him, Grace let him know that she’d found a mining millionaire willing to invest in the Napa establishment.

That night, Richard Barry, the detectives, a newspaperman from the San Francisco Call, and a police stenographer sat in an adjoining room, listening as Grace steadily drew Hidalgo out. The conversation, preserved by the newspaperman, gives the modern reader a fascinating window into the economics of prostitution and the slang of the day:

Grace: How much would it take to sta

rt an assignation house?

Hidalgo: Where?

Grace: Here, in San Francisco.

Hidalgo: Oh, about $3000 at least.

Grace: I’ve heard of a chance in Napa. I hear you can rent a house there for $35 per month, and get a license for $30.[1] So we could start on easy capital. Would you like that?

Hidalgo: Certainly.

Grace: Well, make a square propositi

on. How shall we run it?

Hidalgo: The way to do business is half and half. You take half and I take half.

Grace: How about getting the women for the place.

Hidalgo: Oh, get some you can manage – two young chickens and one good old one. Do not get them under 18. You have to look out; but get young fools –

Grace (laughing): Like the one you gave absinthe on your couch the other day?

Hidalgo: Yes, certainly.

Grace: How old was she?


Hidalgo: Oh, 20, I guess.

Our newspaper report cuts off here, presumably out of concerns of revealing the identity of the young victim. At 4AM, the police broke down the door, and took Hidalgo away in manacles. Two days later he was indicted on one felony count for a “criminal conspiracy against public morals.” Isaac Goldmen, grand jury foreman opined “It is the regret of this grand jury that the law does not permit of a stronger felony charge being laid against the man, as the evidence proved him to be of a most depraved character and a danger to the community.”

Hidalgo’s lawyer, H.F. Marshall, put up a valiant but forlorn effort to quash the indictment, and moved that it  be dis

missed because one of the witness’ names had been spelled incorrectly. The motion was denied, and on July 26th, 1910, Hidalgo pled guilty before Judge Conley of the county court. According to the San Francisco Call, “the assistant district attorney…urged the imposition of a light penalty, and said the prosecution would be satisfied if Hidalgo were sent to jail for a month.” Scheduled for sentencing on July 30th, Hidalgo was unable to appear in court because of a quarantine placed upon the city jail after a smallpox outbreak. On August 23, 1910 the court granted Hidalgo probation, on the condition that he leave the country immediately. After seven weeks in the county jail, Hidalgo hightailed it out of San Francisco and was last heard of in Mexico, where he was managing airplane races. He got off easy if you ask us.

As for the rest of the motley collection of characters they disappear, except for Richard Barry who kept right on muckraking.

[1] I can only assume they mean a liquor license.

Forgotten Man O. Puren, of Seattle

On occasion, we touch on those men and women of the past who appear for but a brief moment on the world stage, before sinking once more into obscurity.  Today’s Forgotten Person is O. Puren of Seattle, Washington.

Puren was apparently a large fellow; at least according to the Prosecutor who called the twenty-year old a “big hulking brute,” when he appeared before Judge Gordon on a charge of disorderly conduct.  His crime was breaking into a boxcar that lay on a siding near the Seattle waterfront on the morning of April 6, 1908.

Puren had been out of work, and as a consequence was hungry. He’d last eaten on the morning of April 4, and when he saw the refrigerated boxcar, knew it contained food of some sort. He broke the car’s seal, and downed four cans of condensed milk. But then Puren did a strange thing, which we confess we might not have done in his shoes. He left a note behind:

 “Dear Sir,

This burglary have been made by me, O. Puren, because I was near to the starvation. I am voluntary to give myself up and pay for it by such act. I am courageous to give myself up because I am unequal to do wrong. I was broke and nothing to eat since 10 a. m. yesterday. I guess you will be very satisfied because that is not so many thieves in the country confess their crime. I drunk four of the cans of milk that were in the box present here.

Yours Truly,

O. Puren

Puren then marched out, found Patrolman Jennings of the Seattle Police Department, and placed himself in the officer’s custody. Taken before Judge Gordon the next morning, Puren received the maximum sentence; 30 days in jail and a $100 fine. Unable to pay the fine, Gordon added another 33 days of hard labor on the chain gang.

Compared to the other sentences handed down by the same Judge, Puren’s sentence seems unduly harsh:

  • On March 27, thirty Chinese workers were arrested for gambling, and had the charges against them dropped;
  • On that same date, George Baldwin was apprehended with a loaded gun, and charged with carrying a concealed weapon. He was fined $20;
  • J. Hong was convicted of operating a boiler without a license, and forfeited his bail and went free.
  • Several men were charged with selling milk that didn’t come up to the standards of the health code, and fined $15 each.

There ends the story of poor, but honest O. Puren, who leaves behind a question for us some 105 years later. Would you have turned yourself in?

The Tragic Tale of Alice Bowlsby

Alice Bowlsby

Had it not been for the foul stench, Robert Vandervort, baggage master of the Hudson River Railroad, would never have opened the trunk labeled as freight to Chicago on the hot afternoon of August 27, 1871.  Inside was the naked corpse of a young woman, bloody and rotting.  Dr. Cushman, who performed the autopsy, could still tell that the nameless victim had been comely, with blond hair, blue eyes, and skin “as white as Parian marble.”  Cushman discovered she’d had an abortion; whoever had performed it had botched the job, and she’d died in excruciating pain.  Cushman noted that her mouth still bore the marks of an agonizing death scream.

Even before the police ascertained the victim’s identity, they had a suspect.  Through the cartman who’d delivered it to the station, the police tied the trunk to Dr. Jacob Rosenzweig.  He did not look the part of a doctor; one reporter noted Rosenzweig was “a fat, sensual looking fellow, without any trace of refinement in person or manners, and does not bear the faintest appearance of the educated physician.”  Appearance matched reality.  The “Dr.” before Rosenzweig’s name was little more than an honorific, purchased for $40.00 from a Philadelphia medical institution, and costing nary a minute of study.  Before setting himself up as a doctor, Rosenzweig tended bar in a dive saloon and worked a brief stint as a butcher, which provided a cursory understanding of anatomy and little else.

As if being one faux doctor wasn’t enough, the police discovered that Rosenzweig ran an abortion parlor on South Fifth Avenue under the name Dr. Ascher.  Further victims turned: Mary Carroll, true name unknown; Rosenzweig had convinced the undertaker to list dropsy as the cause of death; Agneta Dumague, who had come to the city and promptly disappeared.  A gentleman who preferred to remain anonymous identified Rosenzweig as the man he’d kicked down the stairs after he’d almost killed the gentleman’s wife through medical ignorance.  The police suspected Rosenzweig in the death of his young cousin Figa, who’d disappeared.  Rosenzweig swore she’d moved back to Europe, but rumor had it he’d impregnated her, then killed her while performing the abortion.

For the New York Times, the discovery of the mysterious woman in the trunk could not have come at a more fortuitous time.  At the time, abortion before the first quickening was legal, and for months the paper had crusaded for an outright ban on the practice.  The Times considered abortion barbaric, likely to lead to feminine licentiousness, and most importantly, to demographic displacement; since the Irish eschewed abortion Protestants would soon be eclipsed.  The Times was not completely altruistic.  Abortionists, including Dr. Ascher, regularly advertised in the rival New York Herald, and the Times were not one to miss the opportunity to goad a rival.

It took until Wednesday, August 30, for the corpse to be named.  The body had already been dead a few days before Vandervort opened the trunk, and even though Dr. Cushman had ordered the body packed in ice, the sickly sweet stench of death lingered in the broiling summer air around Bellevue Hospital.  Theodore G. Kimmel and Joseph Parker, both real medical professionals and both of Paterson, New Jersey, identified the body as Alice A. Bowlsby.  Kimmel recognized an odd vaccination mark on her forearm, and Parker, her dentist, recognized his handiwork on two fillings.

Only 20-years-old, friends knew Alice as a sweet, gentle, innocent girl, who taught Sunday School and worked in the family’s dress shop.  Alice and her mother had been staying with Alice’s aunt in Newark, and she’d left to return to their empty home in Paterson after a brief shopping trip in Manhattan, or so she told her mother and aunt.  Bowlsby disappeared into the metropolis in a white lawn dress, tucked and ruffled, with a blue sash and ribbons about her waist.

The newspaper reporters got to Bowlsby’s aunt quickly, and she identified the putative father, Walter F. Conkling; bookkeeper at the Dale Silk Mill, and son of a Newark alderman.  By the time Conkling showed up for work the next morning, the entire Silk Mill knew of the accusations, and co-workers gossiped amongst themselves whether a diamond stick pin, which he usually wore but which was now absent, had been used to pay for Rosenzweig’s services.  Conkling refused to discuss the matter.  He looked nervous and pale as he balanced his books, and refused to join his friends for lunch.  While the office was empty, Conkling tore a page from his ledger and scribbled:

I have long had a morbid idea of the worthlessness of life, and now to be obliged to testify in this affair and cause unpleasantness in my family is more than life is worth.  Good by dear father, mother, brother and sister.


Putting the note in his pocket, Conkling went to the fireproof room where the company stored finished silks, put the barrel of a revolver behind his left ear, and pulled the trigger.

A few months later, the state tried Rosenzweig for manslaughter.  The state’s key pieces of evidence were a handkerchief with “Bowlsby” inscribed with indelible ink, the cartman’s testimony, and some scraps of fabric purportedly belonging to Bowlsby’s dress.  His lawyers put up a vehement defense, glossing over the testimony of the cartman, who’d admittedly never seen Rosenzweig, and finding an alternative Mrs. Bowlsby from Brooklyn to testify that the handkerchief belonged to her daughter.  At the close of the case, two jurors held out, and only agreed to a verdict of guilty provided that they jury agreed to request mercy for the accused.  The court ignored the mercy request, sentencing Rosenzweig to seven years in Sing-Sing.  The murder sparked public outcry, leading to the outright abortion ban championed by the New York Times.  Ironically, Rosenzweig’s lawyers managed to use the legal change to free Rosenzweig after a successful appeal.  Released after a year in prison, Rosenzweig went right back to providing backroom abortions, neither chastened nor chagrined.

Want to charm your friends with scintillating stories of the distant past? Anxious to read entertaining stories of a world gone by? Do yourself (and us) a favor, and follow us on Twitter. Better yet, to be sure not to miss a single post enter your email address at the top right to receive a copy of each new forgotten story in your inbox.

Some fun stuff from the archives:

The World’s Worst Divorce Attorney: http://tinyurl.com/acc4v24

The Original Flagpole Sitta: http://tinyurl.com/bsptdjx

A Public Service Announcement from 1896: http://tinyurl.com/bzkavtk

The Great New York Shoe Conspiracy: http://tinyurl.com/bpjwnpm  



How to Get Those Washboard Abs

We here at Forgotten Stories are well aware that millions can be made from authoring a successful weight loss book, or by crafting an workout program designed to melt away the excess pounds. Yet, in the interest of the readership, we are going to forego those untold millions, and present gratis our own exercise regimen designed to help you melt away those extra pounds, with a little help from 1912’s foremost exercise guru, Miss Villa Faulkner Page.

Villa Faulkner Page

According to Miss Page, “[h]ousweork is one of the most natural and wholesome of womanly occupations. It offers variety, opportunity for frequent breathing spells, and a chance to develop one’s individuality. It is performed among cheerful surroundings, in good air and with proper hygienic safeguards. Its different phases exercise every muscle in the body, and the mental qualities as well. And it is work done on a schedule and with a definite purpose, not casual calisthenics.”

Better than a Masseuse

The best upper body workout of all…the washtub. Let’s start with figure one. Here, “the young woman is following the example of all good housewives and putting the white clothes to soak in cold water the night before washing day…She wants to be sure that all the garments are completely immersed. Her whole body sways almost imperceptibly following the direction of her arms. The slight sidewise movement at the waist…is the exact exercise recommended by the obesity doctors for the taking off of surplus flesh.  The whole process is a gentle preparation for the more strenuous activities to follow.”

1 - Putting Clothes to Soak

Good, you’ve made it through the warm-up. Now to figure two, scrubbing the clothes along the washboard. “The body moves from the knees, up and down over the board. Then there is the splendid up and down swing of the arms. They go down straight from the shoulder to the very bottom of the board. Then they are drawn back to the top, so that the elbows are bent almost at right angles to the body, and the elbow muscles are brought into play. The motion is very similar to that of the pulley-and-weight machine in the gymnasium.”

2 - Rubbing Garments on Washboard

Now we get a bit of a cool down, as seen in figure three, where the woman daintily rests her hand upon the edge of the washtub.

3 - Rubbing Clothes with One Hand, Resting Other

But, not a long rest mind you, because we can move right on to our next exercise, which works out the forearms. “There are always obstinate spots on tablecloths and napkins. If these are rubbed on the board with the vigor necessary to remove them, a hole in the linen will result. So the young woman at the tub assumes another position in Illustration 4. She straightens up, draws a deep breath, and gives the napkin a gentle but effective rubbing between her closed fists.”

4 - Rubbing Stains out with Hands

Lest you think that the washtub workout ignores the biceps and shoulders, we move to figures five and six. Here, the clothes large and small are wrung out, and “the arms are extended to their full length, and there is a fine straight sweep of the shoulders.”

5 - Wringing out a small article

6 - WRinging out a large article

For our final step, we focus on the torso and pectoral muscles. Here, clothes are dipped in a tub of “blued[1]” water at least twice getting rid of the soap, with “a slow, even up and down movement of the arms and torso.”

7 - Rinsing Garments

“Where will you find a better course in calisthenics than a morning every week at the washtub?  The ‘poor washerwoman’ receives a lot of professional pity, but come to think of it, doesn’t she usually look healthy?” We agree, and hope that you’ll give the washtub workout a try. Let us know your results, won’t you?

Incorrect Way - Correct Way

[1] Before the advent of bleach, a blue-ing agent was used in washing. The agent, such as Mrs. Stewart’s blueing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrs._Stewart%27s_Bluing) added a bit of blue dye to white fabric to offset the slight grey or yellow cast white clothes acquire after long usage.

Lillie’s and Ella’s Tragic Lover’s Quarrel

The citizenry of Pocomoke, Maryland, knew Miss Ella Hearn as a quiet, pleasant young woman. While she may not have been beautiful, she struck observers as refined and ladylike.  Her bosom companion, Lillie Duer was the exact opposite; she preferred to dress in men’s clothes, and had “decidedly masculine manners, such as smoking, boxing, climbing trees and jumping posts and fences.”

Pokomoke City

Women of the period regularly embraced, kissed, held hands and expressed their love, so contact of that sort between Lillie and Ella excited little comment, but then the small town did not know of how often the two women disappeared into the wood alone, or locked themselves behind the Hearn’s parlor doors, away from prying eyes.  The girls had been roommates at seminary school, and had become friends.  Ella’s parents suspected nothing of the true nature of the relationship; in fact, Mr. Hearn had encouraged Lillie’s visits.

Ella Hearn

For three or four years, their companionship continued, but both girls were growing into women, and by the time she was 18,  Ella was attracting the attention of several young men about town.  Lillie’s competitors also appeared in female form, Ella Foster, who shared a name and at least a friendship with Lillie’s beloved.  Alarmed by the growing jealousy, Ella called off the relationship, and requested that the daily visits cease.  For a time, Lillie complied and busied herself studying medical textbooks, but soon she was back, begging Ella to relent.

Lillie Duer

Ella agreed and the walks resumed, but things did not smoothly go back to the way they were before.  Lillie was suspicious, Ella standoffish.  In late October, 1878 the two had a falling out while they were out in the woods, ostensibly picking tea-berries.  Ella declared in a huff she was going home; Lillie pleaded with her to wait; Ella refused.  Lillie whipped out her pistol, fired two shots in Ella’s general direction, and then broke down crying.  Ella snatched the gun from her, asking if Lillie had intended to murder her.  “No,” the weeping woman responded, “I only intended to frighten you and make you wait for me.”

The Woods

Lillie had indeed frightened Ella, and the walks in the woods ceased.  As Ella withdrew, Lillie began sending frequent, desperate letters.  She proposed marriage, claiming the thing could be done if Lillie disguised herself in men’s clothing.  There was no response.  On November 4, Lillie sent one of her frequent notes, requesting that Ella pay her a visit.  This time Ella came, accompanied by her younger sister.  Lillie made what seemed on the surface such a simple request, another walk in the wood,s but Ella made no answer. Lillie fell to her knees, grabbing at the hem of Ella’s dress; “Before God Almighty Ella Hearn, if you do go into the woods with me tomorrow I’ll never ask you to go anywhere else.”  Ella left, and Lillie hoped she’d show up the next day.

Ella failed to make an appearance and Lillie went storming to the Hearn house.  She found Ella quietly sewing.  The two fought, Lillie got up to leave, sat down, got up to leave again, then standing over Ella, grabbed her sewing and threw it to the ground.  Lillie started for the door; Ella followed her into the hallway.  Lillie, in tears, asked Ella to take it all back and start fresh, and tried to kiss her.  Ella shoved her away, knocking Lillie to the ground.  Lillie rose, and tried to get her love to listen; but Ella ordered her from the house.  Lillie couldn’t understand; did she love one of the men who’d been calling, did she love Ella Foster?  “Yes,” came the response.


Lillie stepped back, “Say that again, and I’ll kill you.”  The look on Ella’s face made no response necessary; the pistol she habitually carried appeared in her hand.  Ella raised her arm to her throat, and started to scream, but the sound of the shot drowned out the cry.  The pistol ball grazed Ella’s wrist, then lodging in her upper jaw, smashing her teeth and knocking her to the floor.

The family came running.  Someone sent for Dr. Truitt, who pronounced the wound as non-life threatening, but he deemed it wise not to extract the ball.  Lillie fled in the commotion, cutting her hair and donning men’s clothes.  She turned up in Philadelphia, but second thoughts sent her back to Pocomoke.  She even visited Ella.  The first time Ella was conscious; she asked Lillie if the shot was intentional.  Lillie shook her head no and collapsed onto Ella’s chest, holding her tight.  Lillie came again two weeks later.  By then the shot, combined with Ella’s nervous disposition, had rendered her delirious.  She screamed at the sight of Lillie, and drew the covers over her head.

The Bedroom

A week later, Ella was dead.  Her father swore out a charge of first degree murder.  Lillie’s defense centered on Ella’s nervous disposition hastened her demise, and even Dr. Truitt conceded that the pistol shot hadn’t been the sole cause of death.  The jury found Lillie guilty only of manslaughter. The court levied a $500 fine and left it at that.  Anonymous friends raised the funds, and Lillie was free.  She announced an intention of going on a lecture tour, to take advantage of her momentary celebrity, but there is no indication it happened.  A few years later, newspapers reported she’d gotten married, and then Lillie disappearedfrom the record.

Duer during the trial

The Tragic Tale of the USS Onieda, Conclusion

For Part Two: http://tinyurl.com/bjpjp7h

For Part One: http://tinyurl.com/aosw6rc 

Oneida’s officers and men sprang into action. Crowninshield’s first thought was for Captain Williams; still unsteady, he climbed over the wreckage to the cabin he shared with Williams. Two other crewmen had already carried Williams on deck. Crowinshield grabbed a cap from his duffel, and put on his warmest coat and boots before heading on deck to receive orders. The officers gathered around Williams on the Bridge  to survey the damage. Yates pointed to the fleeing Bombay, “that steamer ported her helm and cut us down.”

“I know it,” Williams responded, “but let us save the ship.”

Lt. Commander Stewart took charge of the efforts to hail the Bombay. Dressed only in shirt sleeves and without a hat, Stewart sprung onto an arms chest; yelling through cupped hands “Heave to, you have cut us down.” Bombay continued to retreat into the distance. With no help forthcoming, Stewart led an unavailing search for the blue lights and rockets which would signal a ship in distress; they’d been stored carefully in the stern, the very part of the ship which Bombay tore from Oneida.

Desperate now to attract attention, Stewart and Ensign Adams decided to fire the Parrot gun. With the key to the arms locker resting in the pocket of one of the men washed overboard, it took precious minutes to force the door to the arms locker. Stewart and Adams managed to get off three shots in as many minutes before the tilting deck and gravity caused the gun to come loose from its moorings. It crushed Ensign Adams as it careened backwards, killing him instantly.

Muldaur reported to the Captain that the ship would sink in three minutes. Williams turned to him; “Save yourself and all you can; never mind me. This is my place and I will stay here.”  Yates reminded Williams that the ship lacked lifeboats; “I know it but what can I do. I asked for more boats, and they weren’t allowed me.”

Williams on the Bridge

Williams ordered boats that remained filled, and Suddards took charge of the port side cutter. Already it was dangling by its davits. Coal heaver Robert Dyer and Landsmen George W. Kaufman jumped aboard at the last moment, and fastening ropes cut away. In the hurry to get clear, the cutter struck Oneida’s side, severely damaging it. With the cutter in danger of sinking, they pulled for the Western shore.

Onieda Going Down

The Captain ordered Copp to the berth deck to help the wounded top side. Copp quickly completed the assignment, but refused to abandon his post, even when a fellow officer shouted down to him that Oneida would sink in a few moments. Copp responded “I will stay until relieved.” Orders relieving him from his post never arrived, and Copp died where he stood.

After doing all he could, Frothingham raced below deck, searching desperately for the Japanese orphan whose care had been entrusted to him. Their last moments are unknown, one hopes that Frothingham found and comforted him as the icy water poured into the ship. Frothingham had not yet had time to add his ward’s name to the ship’s roll; the orphan son of a Samurai perished anonymously. The casualty list simply called him “a Japanese boy.”

Among the officers, Yates alone managed to make it to the starboard side cutter; leaping aboard as the men lowered the boat into the water. They could hear Williams give out his last order; “All men to the rigging.” Yates stared aghast at his crewmates climbing the rigging in a final desperate attempt at life. “Every part was black with the poor fellows, who like so many wingless, helpless birds, perched and clung to it and on the yards, hoping to thereby lift themselves above the profound abyss of the waters.” Yates described,  “As the surging waters parted to receive and engulf her, one concentrated piercing shriek from every line and mast and spar went up to heaven, then all was silent.”

Onieda after the Col.

Moments before Crowinshield hit the water he shed his overcoat, a desperate struggle against the Oneida’s vortex brought him to the surface directly besides Yates’ cutter. The men hauled him aboard, sputtering and chilled. Yates spotted Stewart as well, from across the water Stewart appealed in desperation; “Yates, for God’s sake save me.” Yates ordered the men to row backwards to reach Stewart, they were only a few feet from him when he sank beneath the waves. Other sailors managed to come alongside, and the boat filled rapidly. Aided by their crewmates, men who could not fit into the overloaded cutter tied handkerchiefs to the gunwale and hung on with fingers rapidly stiffening in the frigid air.

Designed for only twenty-five but with forty aboard, the cutter rode low and took in water. Yates ordered the men to bail with boots, hats, and whatever else came to hand. With his cutter in dire straits, Yates overcame his desire to keep searching for survivors. Reluctantly he ordered the men to row for the lights of a small Japanese village on the Eastern shore. It took them over an hour to make the trip. Grounding the cutter, the survivors stumbled to ashore beneath the village; Yates and his men collapsed in exhaustion.

Suddards’ trip proved easier, the Western shore was closer to Oneida and his cutter carried fewer men.  Clinging to the hope that Oneida may have grounded in water shallow enough that some of the crew might survive, Suddards and Ensign Anderson began walking towards Yokohama. Neither of the two men wore enough clothing for an eight hour hike over three mountains in below freezing temperatures. Benumbed by cold and barely able to stand, they arrived in Yokohama at 3:00AM. Suddards pounded on the door of an American merchant whom he considered a friend, Mr. Carroll. Once inside, Anderson collapsed, but Suddards mustered his last reserves of strength and escorted by Carroll, took a boat out to Idaho. They reported the collision to Captain Muller, and then steered to the Ocean. Ocean’s crew helped Suddards aboard, and he passed out in the Captain’s quarters.

Less than an hour after the collision, Bombay arrived in Yokohama Harbor. She behaved suspiciously. Her captain, Arthur Wellesley Eyre, anchored far out in the Bay, and away from the prying eyes of those aboard the various merchant and naval vessels closer to shore. One of Ocean’s lieutenants, aboard Bombay to pick up the mail, heard Eyre state,  “I have cut the quarter off a damned Yankee frigate. Serves her bloody well right, she crossed my bows with a starboard helm.” A few of Bombay’s officers, over brandies at the International Hotel, let slip word of the collision, and were overheard stating that not stopping to verify that Oneida was not sinking was a mistake.  

Not until Suddards arrived did Yokohama begin to stir itself. Bombay was the only ship in the harbor with her steam up, but Eyre refused to sail. Only when dual orders from the Pearl and Orient offices and the British Navy arrived did Eyre agree return to the scene of the collision. Eyre’s efforts and those of the Sylvia, Ocean, and Vsadnick could not help Oneida’s crew. The few survivors not fortunate enough to find a spot on board the cutters perished hours before any of the erstwhile rescuers arrived.


            Back in the United States, details trickled in slowly with the arrival of each ship from the Orient. Newspapers splashed accusations across their headlines. The Washington Star accused Eyre of running so as not to get into to trouble. Another paper contended that abandoning Oneida to her fate “fixes a stain and a crime on Captain Arthur W. Eyre that will forever damn him before the civilized world as an inhuman wretch.” The Saturday Evening Post drew a lesson from the bravery of Oneida’s crew:

How can we despair of a country that can breed such sons? The brave old blood of the sea kings still runs in our veins. The calm courage of our grand Celtic Saxon race, which has looked death proudly in the face so many thousand times since our wandering sires left the great plains of Central Asia, still when the occasion comes gleams out of our eyes. We may make mistakes on our political theories and policies, but while that indomitable spirit still runs in the blood of the race, who can despair of the Republic?

The rumor went out that Eyre was merely to be suspended from duty. Out of distant Tucson in the Arizona Territory, the Weekly Arizonian had a different type of suspension in mind, “Suspension may mean hanging, and if just were done would so in the present instance. To suspend Capt. Eyre and not to hang him is an outrage as well as a paradox.”

In Yokohama too people talked of lynching Eyre; to forestall mob justice the Peninsular & Orient Company requested an immediate Court of Inquiry. Two questions were before the court; 1) Was the collision between Bombay and Oneida occasioned by any fault of Mr. Eyre or his officers? and 2) After the collision had taken place did Mr. Eyre do his duty? At the outset, the Court warned Eyre anything he said could be used against him in a prosecution for murder. Wisely, Eyre stuck to his story and kept it short: He had been following the rules of the road; the collision was not his fault; he did not think the collision was serious; and had no reason to believe that the Oneida in danger of sinking. He had seen no lights, and knew of no hail from the Oneida.

The testimony of the rest of the Bombay’s crew and the pilot contradicted Eyre’s carefully crafted story. Eyre testified that the Oneida was travelling at a speed of fifteen knots. Each of the Bombay’s officers named her correct speed; eight knots. Eyre stated he knew of no hail from the Oneida, each of the Bombay’s officers heard a hail, two of them reported it to Eyre, who ignored them. Eyre claimed he did not think the Oneida was in trouble, the pilot contended that Eyre asked him if the water in Yokohama Bay was deep enough that the Oneida could rest on the bottom without fear of danger. Eyre stated a lookout had been posted to keep an eye out for signs of distress from the Oneida; her crew reported Eyre ordered no lookout. Eyre claimed he stopped the ship for an extended period, the ship’s log reported the engines set at full stop for approximately three and one half minutes, not even long enough for the ship to cease forward movement. Eyre stated he had heard none of the four guns fired by the Oneida. Residents of Yokohama, miles away heard them, as did at least two of the crewmen aboard the Vsadnick in Yokohama Harbor.  Even a navigation expert contradicted Eyre’s testimony regarding the rules of the road when entering a bay. In the face of an oncoming ship, Eyre followed the common law for navigation on the Thames River by helming hard a port; the written rules of the road stated otherwise. By helming hard to port, Eyre violated at least three separate naval regulations. According to the expert, the entirety of the fault lay on Eyre.

Rule of the Road at Sea

Aided by skilled trial counsel, Court gave Eyre a light sentence. On the first count, the collision’s fault, the Court found that Eyre had been in violation of the rules of the road, but that Oneida deserved the blame. Oneida should have followed longstanding custom rather than naval regulations. On the second count, the Court found Eyre guilty of leaving the Oneida, but gave him a light sentence, six month’s suspension of his captain’s license. The American Minister demanded that Eyre be held for extradition to the United States, his British counterpart dithered. One step ahead of the slow moving minister, Eyre took the next ship out of Yokohama; it happened to be the Bombay. He shipped as titular first mate.


            A few days later, Japanese fishermen found Captain Williams’ body floating out to sea, naked except for his shirt collar. De Long arranged a burial with all due honor, the American, Prussian, French, and English Ministers, an English Admiral, a large concourse of civilians, a firing party of U.S. Marines in full dress uniform, and the Japanese Governor escorted Williams’ body to Yokohama’s foreign cemetery. The Band of the 1st Battalion, 10th Regiment of Her Majesty’s Army played the Dead March from Saul. British and American troops fired volleys over the grave, and the ships in the harbor dipped their flags in tribute.

Minister De Long turned to the assembled crowd, and in a wavering voice concluded the services, “Gentlemen, in the name of the United States Government, the Army and Navy of the United States, the relatives of the deceased, and in my own, I beg to thank you most dearly and most kindly for your courtesy on this sad occasion.”



            The wife of John C. Fremont announced that the Union Home and School for Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphans would educate the children of those lost on the Oneida. A Mr. Forbes in London raised $2,700 for the benefit of Captain Williams’ four orphan children. Many of the home towns of Oneida’s crew raised monuments to the individual dead in local cemeteries. One of those lost on board the Oneida remained nameless, Frothingham’s protégé was simply listed as “an unknown Japanese boy.”

Eyre appealed to a British Admiralty Court in London for reinstatement of his Captain’s license. The Court refused to listen to the case, if anything, they contended, the Yokohama Court of Inquiry had been too lenient. Eyre’s fate is uncertain. One source has him dying a few months after the Admiralty Court’s refusal to hear the case, but there is a record of an Arthur W. Eyre being married in Tasmania in 1881. The Bombay ran as a mail steamer between Yokohama and Hong Kong for a few more years, before being retired and used as a tea hulk. On Christmas Eve, 1880, fire accidently destroyed her while she lay at Woosing.

Japanese fisherman found two other bodies, the American  Minister  interred them on either side of Williams. The foreign residents contributed funds for a monument to the men of the Oneida, it still stands today over the three men’s graves. In the 1890’s, the Japanese cleared the Oneida’s wreck while constructing fortifications on Saratoga Spit. They found a number of bones. One of the survivors of the Oneida, his name lost to history, attended the ceremony burying them in a common grave. A monument stood over the grave, a copper plate attached to it identified the remains, until the Japanese removed it in World War Two to melt down for shell casings. It has not been replaced. DeLong returned to the United States, settling in Virginia City, Nevada, where he died of typhoid fever in 1876.Suddards stayed in the Navy, serving as Chief Medical Officer for the entire branch at the time of his death in the 1880’s. Yates too remained in the Navy. Promoted immediately on his return to American soil, he faded into history. For years, the photograph of the Oneida’s officers with their counterparts of the Vsadnick hung in the later ship’s ward room, surrounded by black crepe.

Reflecting on the disaster, the loss of Frothingham, Copp, and 118 other men, in distant Yankton, Dakota Territory, the Union and Dakotian published an obituary on the Oneida’s crew.

Their memory will live in the hearts of their countryman. It is not difficult to exhibit gallantry, courage, and lofty determination in the shock of battle, when the blood is stirred, and the feelings raised to their highest point. But in the midst of a quiet, peaceful scene, while indulging in the most pleasing anticipations, when suddenly called on to confront death, without the opportunity of escape or resistance, the heroism of these brave men is something indeed for the nation to glory in. 

The Tragic Tale of the USS Oneida, Part Two

For Part One: http://tinyurl.com/aosw6rc 

After a brief stop in Hong Kong, where the Navy rotated Captain Creighton home and placed Captain E. H. Williams in charge, Oneida returned to Japan. Only a typhoon marred the good weather Oneida enjoyed during her three years in the Orient. It destroyed two of her longboats, but otherwise did little damage.  By November of 1869, she received orders to begin preparations for the return trip back to New York City, and the Navy dispatched her to Yokohama to have her boilers refitted. Captain Williams also tried to purchase replacement longboats, but they proved too expensive. He hoped to procure some in Hong Kong when Oneida stopped there on her way home.

Commander Williams

Her crew said last goodbyes to their friends aboard the various warships in Yokohama. The Ocean’s crew wished them an especially fond farewell, a shared battlefield experience made the two crews close. The Russian cruiser Vsadnick’s officers invited their counterparts aboard the Oneida to join them at a local photography studio; each crew hung a copy of the picture in their respective wardrooms.

Frothingham gathered up some books to enjoy on the journey, including a volume of Confucius’ teachings. He’d also brought aboard a Japanese orphan, the son of a Samurai killed in the Boshin War. It took some doing to convince the boy’s guardians to allow him to educate the boy in New York City at Frothingham’s expense; but they had eventually relented.

In addition to Frothingham’s ward several men from USS Idaho came aboard. Scheduled to depart the previous November, a typhoon caught Idaho when only one day out of Yokohama. Idaho managed to limp back to port, but she was no longer seaworthy. Those of her crew whose enlistments were schedule to return to the United States joined Oneida’s crew.

Homeward Bound

Ensign Charles Copp was among the Idaho crew transferred to Oneida. Copp was tall and good looking, with a muscular build. He possessed an indomitable will; while working as a newsboy in his native Troy, New York, Copp successfully resisted his compatriots’ inducements to smoke, drink, and gamble. With the money he saved hawking newspapers, Copp left school at age 14, and moved to New York, taking a job as a clerk. Two years later, in the midst of the Civil War, Copp joined the Navy. He proved himself quickly, earned a promotion and his senior office Commander Joseph Miller’s recommendation to the U.S. Naval Academy. Although inclined to refuse, Copp found himself persuaded when Miller threatened to strip his promotion if he refused to take the entrance exam.

Although Copp’s examination was lackluster at best, he found himself admitted. While faring poorly on the academic pursuits, Copp’s impressive build brought with it athletic achievement; Copp was a champion boxer, expert sportsmen, and earned high marks in practical seamanship. The consummate Christian gentlemen, Copp neither swore, used tobacco, nor drank. The beau ideal persona matched well with Copp’s willingness to defend his Naval Academy classmates when upperclassmen attempted to haze them; several fights resulted, which Copp won.

After graduation, the Navy assigned Copp to USS Decatur, the Asiatic Squadron Flagship. In late 1869, the Navy ordered Copp to return home aboard Idaho to take the examination for promotion. After the typhoon disabled Idaho, Copp found himself aboard Oneida.

Oneida’s executive officers, Lt. Commanders Muldaur and Stewart, oversaw departure preparations. Illness kept Williams ashore under the care of Frothingham’s superior, Doctor James Suddards. Williams did make an effort to find replacement longboats, they proved expensive, and headquarters ordered him to wait until the Oneida arrived in Hong Kong. At the last possible moment, Williams and Suddards boarded ship. The Oneida weighed anchor.

Lt. Commander Muldaur

Captain Williams conducted a brief inspection of the ship before Suddards sent him below decks to the cabin the Captain shared with his clerk, William Crowninshield. Williams barely managed to light a candle before sinking down into a sleeping chair. Stewart ordered sails set, arranged lookouts, and set the course south by east, one quarter east. Secured for sea, he turned the deck over to Master Isaac Yates.

Lt. Commander Sterwart

With the exception of those on duty, most of the officers and crew relaxed. Captain’s Clerk William Crowninshield lay down for a nap; he found a perch on the starboard transom and dozed. The officers made their way to the wardroom. In the absence of Captain Williams, Lt. Commander Stewart presided over the meal. Newcomers like Copp sat cheek by jowl with old Oneida hands such as Frothingham. Indeed, the men probably swapped stories of life in the Orient, or told tales of home, excited over the prospect of seeing loved ones left behind some three years before.

Yates disturbed the ship’s officers at dinner to ask Lt. Commander Muldaur, the navigation officer, to verify Oneida’s course. Muldaur’s lone concern was the Saratoga Spit, a small piece of land jutting into Yokohama Bay from the East. If she kept to her present course, Oneida would be safe. Off to West, the distant lights of an approaching ship glimmered on the water, but Muldaur saw no need to worry. “That steamer will pass to the starboard of us,” he told Yates then headed  back down to dinner.

Yet, with each passing minute, the steamer drew closer. Her green starboard light could be seen clearly now, and in an profusion of caution, Yates ordered Oneida’s helm to starboard; turning the ship to port. He again called for Mulduar, who insisted Saratoga Spit posed a threat, not the approaching steamer. The bay was three and a half miles wide, more than enough room for both ships. Besides, Naval Rule 14 stated that if two ships saw each others’ green starboard lights, they were to remain well clear of each other by helming to starboard. Oneida already had helmed to starboard as far as was safe, were the distant steamer to do the same, all would be well. Muldaur ordered the course resumed, and joined Frothingham, Copp and the rest at dinner.

Bombay drew closer. Inexplicably, she seemed to be recklessly attempting to round Oneida and get on her port side, in between Oneida and the western shore. With only a few feet between the ships, Yates ordered helm hard starboard. For the briefest of moments, it seemed the steamer would go around Oneida’s stern. It was not to be. On January 23, 1870, at 6:50 PM, the Peninsular and Orient steamship Bombay collided with the USS Oneida.

Bombay’s iron hull sliced off the entire rear quarter of Oneida just aft of her mizzen chains. Steaming away into the distance, Bombay carried with her Oneida’s spanker book and gaff. In the steamer’s guest dining room, two female passengers barely felt the collision, looked up momentarily, then resumed their game of bezique.

The Collision

Frothingham, Copp, and their fellow officers, relaxing in the wardroom with the solid contentment of men who’d enjoyed a good meal; in mere seconds the hull of the ship came bodily across the dinner table with a sickening sound of crushing timber and shrieking metal. In his cabin, the crash knocked Captain Williams to the floor. Crowninshield, moments before asleep in the transom, fell to the deck, stunned. As his head cleared, he stared, mouth gaping. Where before there had been the ship’s hull, know he looked out at the sea and stars. On deck, Alfred Ruggert fell to his knees, aided by his grip on the weather wheel. Fortune favored him; he’d seen two of his crewmates sent overboard into the icy water.


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