Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Mary L. Bowsher, Ohio Serial Killer Mom - 1868

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 6): We are informed that our neighboring town, Upper Sandusky, was thrown into a state great excitement on Tuesday last [Jan. 7], by the arrest of a mother upon the charge of poisoning five of her children, three of whom have died. We have room only for brief statement of what we are told are facts, as follows :

The woman, Mrs. Bowsher, until the death of her husband a few years since, bore a good character and moved in good society. Since that event she became dissolute and depraved, and in due time became the mother of three illegitimate children, borne two years since, a man to whom she became very much attached, proposed to take her in charge with the younger children if by some means she could relieve herself of her five legitimate children. She immediately set to work to effect the object by means of poison. About eighteen months since, the eldest daughter, a beautiful and virtuous girl of eighteen, died under circumstances which filled the mind of the attending physician, with suspicion, but not sufficient to warrant him in taking a decisive step. Subsequently, another daughter fell a victim, and about three weeks ago a son, a young man, also died. Investigations of a private nature were set on foot, which resulted in the her arrest and a preliminary examination before the justice, who committed her for trial on the charge of murder. The two other children were seized with illness bearing the same symptoms as the cases which had proved fatal, but were attended to in time to save their lives, and the presence of arsenic was discovered.

We will give full particulars next week.

[“Sensation at Upper Sandusky - Horrible Poisoning Case.” The Hancock Jeffersonian (Findlay, Oh.), Jan. 10, 1868, p. 3]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 6): We have been unable to learn but little farther than what we gave last week in regard to the Upper Sandusky poisoning case.

The examination before the Justice in that town closed Friday last and she was admitted to bail in the sum of $2.000. In the examination the State had several witnesses, one of whom gave testimony very important and interesting. This witness, a gentleman whose family was some what intimate with the accused woman, Mrs. Bowsher, testified, as we learn that some eighteen months ago the woman approached him and said she wanted to get rid of her five children, and enquired of him if she could not poison them. He told her that she she could not do it without getting caught, for if she bought arsenic her name, description, etc., would have to be taken. She then told him that she could get the arsenic from her brother-in-law in Fort Wayne, and administer it at different times so as not to create suspicion. The witness testified that he did not consider the woman in earnest. He further stated that when the five children died he suspected the woman but did not feel like making it known. He kept the matter to himself till the last or those poisoned died and then he told his wife of the above conversation and informed several prominent men of it, but always under promise of secrecy. It was also brought out that Mrs. Bowsher did receive a package from Ft Wayne, but it had not been ascertained what it was. She claims that it was a pound of sugar. The defence in the case brought forward but few witnesses, preferring to wait for the trial before the Court.

The affair is a horrible one, and the feeling against the woman intense. Her appearance while on examination was bad; she was indifferent and brazen.

[“Upper Sandusky Poisoning Case.” The Hancock Jeffersonian (Findlay, Oh.), Jan. 17, 1868, p. 3]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 6): Upper Sandusky, O., Jan. 14. – Some years since, Milton Bowsher, of this place, died, leaving a widow and live children, named respectively, Fanny, William, Theodore, Olive and Lettie. Home time alter his death, Fanny (the eldest) left home, refusing to live with her mother, on account of her disreputable actions. About one year ago she was taken sick at the place where she was living and died, all efforts to relieve her proving unavailing, and the cause of her disease unknown.

Nothing was thought of it until last fall, in September, when Olive was taken sick in the same manner, at home. She was relieved, and was able to be up, when she was taken again and soon died, having the symptoms of poison. Suspicions were quietly whispered about, but nothing done. Then little Lettie (the youngest) was taken sick in the same violent manner, but recovered, partially, and is able to be around, but not well, the suspicions were whispered louder, and the physicians thought of exhuming the body of Olive and having a post mortem examination, but it was not done. About the 15th of last December William was also taken down with the same mysterious disease, and a few days after, Theodore, likewise. William died in a few days, and a coroner's jury was summoned, and a postmortem examination made, and the stomach, and a portion of the liver taken to Columbus tor analyzation. Meantime Theodore was removed from home, and recovered. In due time the Professor at Columbus reported that he had discovered arsenic in very notable quantities in the stomach and liver of William Bowsher. On receipt of this, the bodies of Fanny and Olive were immediately disinterred, and the stomachs of each sent to Columbus. On these the Professor reported “ditto,” but not having finished the analysis, he could not report the quantities of arsenic found. The mother was suspected very strongly, because of her want of feeling and apparent disinterestedness. No proof sufficient to warrant her arrest was found until last Tuesday evening, when a Mr. Shaffer divulged the following conversation, which he said he had held with Mrs. Bowsher, about fifteen months before, viz : “Mrs. Bowsher said she had received a letter from a man, in which he said that if she would get rid of the older children, he would take her and her three little (illegitimate) children and keep them, and clothe the children and send them to school. She said, I was so mad at Fanny, the other day, that I had a notion to step into a drug store and get some arsenic and poison her. I remarked that she would not get poison without being found out, for they would take her name, age, &c. She could send to Fort Wayne and get it of her brother, or send to this man and he would send it to her. I told her that she could not poison Fanny, for she did not live at home. She said she could bake it in a cake and send it to her by the little girl. She could poison all her children one by one, it she wanted to, and the doctors never would find it out. She could poison my wife, if she wanted to, by sending her a ginger cake with some poison in it. I told her I did not want any of her ginger cake at my house.”

The above is the substance of his story, and on the strength of it she was immediately arrested, and on Thursday the inquest was finished by hearing Shaffer's and other testimony, after which the coroner's jury rendered their verdict, “That Wm. Bowsher came to his death from the effects of arsenic administered by Mary L. Bowsher.” The next day she had a preliminary trial, and was committed to jail to answer the charge of murder. Effort is being made to bail her out of jail. Who can conceive a greater crime than that of a mother murdering her own offspring? The affair causes much excitement in town.

[“Crime. - Alleged Murders - Particulars Of The Upper Sandusky Case.” ( From the Cincinnati Gazette), The Harrisburg Telegraph (Pa.), Jan. 24, 1868, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 6): At Upper Sandusky, Ohio, the case of Mary L. Bowsher, charged with the murder of her son, by poison, after a continuance of eight days, was closed on Thursday night. The jury were absent three hours, and brought in a verdict of not guilty. She was immediately after removed to jail to await trial on two other indictments for the murder of her two daughters. The evidence against her is all circumstantial.

[Untitled, The Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pa.), May 26, 1868, p. 3]


FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 6): Mrs. Mary Bowsher, charged with poisoning her children, and who was confined in the Wyandot county jail for some time, has been admitted to bail in the sum of $8,000.

[Untitled, The Triffin Weekly Tribune (Oh.), Aug. 6, 1868, p. 3]


EXCERPT (Article 6 of 6): At the February term in 1868, Mary L. Bowsher, a resident of Upper Sandusky, was indicted for the murder of William, Olive and Frances Bowsher, her children. Upon being arraigned, she pleaded not guilty. Thereupon it was ordered by the court that Robert McKelly and John Berry, Esqs., be appointed to assist the Prosecuting Attorney in the prosecution of the case. During the May term, she was tried and acquitted on the first indictment — charging her with the murder of William Bowsher; but on the second indictment, charging her with the murder of Frances Bowsher, she was held to bail to the amount of $4,000, and on the third indictment, charging her with the murder of Olive Bowsher, she was also held to bail in the sum of $4,000. Finally, however, at the September term, 1868, a nolle prosequi was entered respecting the last indictments, and she was discharged “to go hence without day.” It was supposed that she hastened the death of her children by administering poison. Her own death occurred recently.

[The History of Wyandot County, Ohio: Containing a History of the County; Its , Chicago, Legett, Conaway & Co, 1884, p. 368]


For more cases of this category, see: Female Serial Killers of 19th Century America (as of January 20, 2014, the collection contains 61 cases)


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