Monday, September 19, 2011

Three Early Parental Kidnapping Cases, 1792-1815: Peirson, Bonnell, Tuthell

Such debt disclaimer ads as this one constitute the earliest public reports of parental kidnapping. This example contains the earliest known illustration connected with a parental kidnapping case.

FULL TEXT: Whereas RUTH, my Wife, eloped from my bed and board on the twenty ninth of instant January, with one child: -- This is therefore to forbid all persons trusting them on my account, as I will not pay any debt of their contracting after this date.

WILLIAM PEIRSON, Shelburn, Jan. 30, 1792.

[Adversisement “William Pierson.” The Vermont Journal and the Universal Advertiser (Windsor, Vt.), Mar. 13, 1792, p. 4]


The Tuthell case is the earliest fully documented parental kidnapping case to be reported in a United States newspaper.

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): Some time since a person who calls himself John Creston, but from circumstances it is supposed his real name is Charles D. Walsingham, and it is more than probable he has a number of names, came to the (publick) house of Howard B. Tuthell, in the character of a gentleman; he appears to be about 35 years of age, about 5 feet 8 inches high, thick set, and clumsy appearance, dark complexion and dark hair, cut short behind but long on the top of the head, dark eyes; his hands tanned very black, with two scars, one across the back of his left hand, and a scar on one of his legs near the ancle; a good set of teeth which appears to be a little indented; from his conversation he appears to be a captain of a vessel or a British officer; he wears a dirk and pocket pistols; he drove a bay horse about 16 hands high, stout made, about 8 years old, with bushy main and tail; his legs and feet very large, has a small white spot on his back, occasioned by the saddle; he rode in a calash top chair, of a light jean color; the body a dark green, with a red lion on each side; the carriage and wheels a green, with small yellow spots; the left side of the box a little injured; the harness very plain; he had a yellow canvass case which he sometimes wore on his chair box, with a spread eagle behind, and a small new one on before; he has a two barrel gun which he generally carries with him; he has several thousand dollars in specie with him, most of it in doubloons –

The unprincipled wretch, on the third of July, inst. absconded with the wife and child of Edward B. Tuthell. She is a slender, delicate made woman, about 20 years of age, about 5 feet 5 inches high, fair complexion, and a little freckled; light brown hair; dark grey eyes, short face and prominent cheek bones; her teeth fair and good and shows them much when she laughs; her name is Frances.

The child a female, about 7 months old; the hair brown and dark eyes; her name is Susan, but they changed it the second day to Mary. She may change their clothes as they took but very few with them. They started with an intention (as they said) of visiting Mrs. Tuthell’s friends, about 8 miles off, but took the direct road to Naston, in Pennsylvania, where they were seen on the 4th July, and from there they took a south west direction.

The disconsolate husband offers a reward of 200 dollars to have the villain detected, and will give 100 dollars and all reasonable charges to recover the lost infant. The distressed parents of the deluded woman would be glad to receive any information concerning her, and will at any time be happy to receive their humble and penitent child to their distressed dwelling. All humane people are desired to give all information they may get of either of them, to Edward B. Tuthell, post master, in the town of Monroe, Orange County, and state of New York.

The printers of newspapers in the southern states, are requested to give the above a few insertions in their papers, and they will much oblige the distressed connexions, and assist to detect a monster running at large.

[ “300 Dollars Reward. The Public is earnestly requested to apprehend a finished villain,” Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia, Pa.), Jul. 16, 1810, p. 4]

~ The Resolution of the Tuthell case (2 articles):

FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): The press is stopt to state, that by a gentleman last night from Fincastle, we are just informed that Creston, alias Walsingham, who carried off Edward B. Tuthell’s wife and child, on the 3rd July last, from the town of Monroe, Orange County , New York, as particularized in the advertisement on the last page of this paper, was a few days ago arrested in Fincastle, and committed to jail. A very considerable sum of money was found in his possession, which from disclosures made by him to the lady, has been unrighteously obtained. It is stated that he was the captain of a vessel which her cargo he sold on his own account, and decamped with the plunder; and disliking solitude as most men do, he embraced the first opportunity as was very natural of engaging a companion, &c. to soothe his solitude, and smoothe the tedium of travelling in foreign parts.

Mr. Walsingham on being first apprehended delivered his keys to the lady with the direction to take what money she wanted – She took 3 or 4 hundred dollars with which she engaged professional men to prosecute her betrayer. His trial is set for to-day and the lady recognized to appear as a witness. Further particulars soon.

[Untitled, Charleston Courier (South Carolina), reprinted from Lynchburg (Vir.) Star, Aug. 24, 1810, p. 3]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): Gentlemen, The following is an extract of a letter received this day, dated Fincastle, the 14th August, 1810. The circumstances mentioned are so extraordinary that I conceived it material to publish the information. Should you be of the same opinion you will be willing to give it a place in your Mercantile Advertiser. -- August 25 – A subscriber.

The town of Fincastle has been in a great uproar in consequence of a suicide committed on Friday last in the jail. You may remember an advertisement inserted some time ago in the New-York papers, relative of the elopement of a Mr. Walsingham, with the wife and child of a Post-Master in Orange county. It appears that Walsingham was an assumed name; and that during his progress to this place he at various times went by several different ones; when he was taken here he called himself Smith. A civil action being commenced against him, and he being unable to find bail to the amount ordered by the magistrates, he was committed to prison; and after a few days confinement executed that justice upon himself which the laws could not have inflicted. But the only thing which induced me to mention his fate, was the mystery which it involves. Before the magistrates, nod after committed, he steadily persisted in refusing to reveal his name, and after his death, it was found that he had not only buried every article of his clothing that could lead to a discovery of his family, but had also burnt a large sum in bank notes, from an apprehension that they might afford some clue to that object – He has left a paper, on the subject of his conduct, which is not written in his common hand, but in round letters. His very boots were cut in small pieces, lest they should betray him; and his face and body so mangled as to bear no resemblance to their original appearance. This circumstance has given rise to a variety of conjectures, and will probably afford an exclusive topic of conversation here for a month at least.

[Untitled, New York Evening Post (N.Y.), (reprinted from the Mercantile Advertiser), Aug. 24, 1810, p. 3]



On Thursday afternoon last two ruffians, by name Jonathan and Ephriam Simpson, employed by my wife Catherine, seized and took by force of arms, my daughter Caroline, nearly 4 years of age, and at the same time presented their pistols and threatened my life, if I attempted to interfere. The conduct of my said wife had been before so base and wicked, that I had publicly forbid all persons harboring or or trusting her on my account; and her recent and still more aggravated conduct has been such as to induce me to give  this public notice, and again forbid, and I do hereby forbid all persons harboring her, or either of my children, or trusting her in any manner on my account, as I am determined not to pay any debts of her contracting from the date of my former notice.

ELIAS BONNELL. Waverliet, May 8, 1815

NOTE: Any person that will safely convey my children to me shall be handsomely rewarded.

[Elias Bonnell, Public Notice, New-Jersey Journal (Elizabeth-Town, N.J.), May 30, 1815]

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