Saturday, November 14, 2015

Catharine Hummel, 14-Year-Old Murderess, Pennsylvania, 1870


FULL TEXT: Mr. Editor:  – One of the most horrible murders, that has few parallels in the history of crime, and certainly none in our county, transpired here about 2 ½ o’clock this afternoon. Some two miles from this borough, near the Ironstone station, on the Colebrookdale Railroad, in Douglass township, Berks county, stands the farm house of Mr. Lundy, a much respected young farmer. To-day he and his wife went to work in a hay-field in the neighborhood, leaving their three children, a boy of about 3 years, a girl of about 1 year 1 month, as a young baby, but a few months old, in the care of their nurse, a girl about 10 years of age, a daughter of a Mr. Alexander Hummel, who had been in Mrs. Lundy’s employ for several months past.

About 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Mrs. Ludy was surprised to see this girl come to the field with the baby and the older boy, telling her that the children were so unruly, that she could not control them. Mrs. Ludy took the baby, and soon pacified it, and then told the girl to go back to the house and look after the other child. The girl left, but when near the house, left the other children there and ran back to the field, telling Mrs. Ludy that her child was lying in the house with its throat cut, and that she had seen the watchman on the railroad, jump out of the parlor window of the house as she approached. The horror stricken parents immediately ran to their home, leaving the supposed murderess behind, and on arriving found the tale but too true. On the porch, its head reclining on the pillow, lay the lifeless corpse of the little child, a large butcher-knife, all blood besmeared, lay alongside. A large crowd of people at once assembled near the house, and it was ascertained that the watchman on the railroad had not been near the house during the whole day, he being up the road with the other employees of the road. From the innocent talk of the children it was ascertained that the nurse, this young girl, had wilfully taken the life of the child, she not being able to stop it from crying. In the intense excitement of the hour no one knew exactly what to do, but Mr. Ludy ran back to the field, where he found the girl sitting on a bank. He accused her of the horrible deed, and although she denied it at first, she soon plead guilty by a dogged silence. Mr. Ludy then forgot himself, and after beating and kicking the girl, she fled to the neighboring woods. On the return of the father to the house, Justice Gresh was notified and he at once repaired to the spot, where he empanneled the following as a Coroner’s jury: Christian Sassaman, Jacob Kreuser, Henry Gresh, Sr., Dr. Rhoads, Eli Fritz and Adam Swavely. Dr. Rhoads made a post mortem examination of the body and found the throat cut from ear to ear. The wind pipe was divided completely, the right carotid artery and jugular veins were also cut, and death must have occurred almost immediately from hemorrhage. The knife used was a common butcher knife with a thick blade and extremely dull, so that the girl must have used considerable force in accomplishing the monstrous crime. The jury returned the usual verdict, that the deceased came to her death by a wound inflicted with a butcher knife at the hands of some person or persons unknown. The evidence being very strong against the girl, a warrant was immediately issued for her arrest and a party of men started in pursuit. It is feared, however, that she will not be captured alive, but will surely commit suicide, by drowning herself in the creek, she being known as a very determined and odd girl.

Her parents could never do anything with her, and it is known that she ran away from home several times and lived in the woods.

The end of this youthful murderess will undoubtedly be fearful, but if captured, her youth alone will save her from the gallows.

Truly yours, Max.

Later. – The girl was arrested this morning by F. K. Pennybacker, driver of the Boyertown stage, at Stonersville,  and was brought to this city, and taken before Alderman Mengel, who committed her to prison to await a further hearing. She was taken to jail by officer Smith.

[“Horrible Murder. – A Little Child Murdered by its Nurse, a Girl not Quite 10 years of age. – Full Particulars of the Tragedy.” Reading Eagle (Pa.), Jun. 21, 1870, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT: The account given yesterday of the horrible child murder, in Douglass township, near Boyertown, though correct in the main, was inaccurate with respect to the person of the victim, which was a little boy one year and eleven months old, instead of a little girl, as stated. The age of the girl, Catharine Hummel, is said to be 14 years. An inquest was held on the body of the child victim by Uriah Gresh, Esq., acting for the Coroner, and a verdict was rendered of death by violence, at the hands of a person or persona to the jury unknown. The funeral of the murdered child took place yesterday. The terrible affair naturally created an intense excitement in the neighborhood.

The scene of the murder was visited yesterday by District Attorney Shearer, Detective Lyon, and several counsel. The following facts have been ascertained in regard to the movements of the girl, subsequent to its commission: About 7 o’clock, on Monday evening, she came barefooted to the house of a Mrs. Adams, the second place from Ludy’s, where she said her name was Catharine Kaser, stating at one time that she was from Birdsboro, and again that she was from Indiana. She said she had no home and no parents. Mrs. Adams asked her to take supper. While in the house the girl asked for a hoop skirt, and Mrs. Adams went up stairs to get one but when she came down again, the girl had gone.

She then went to the house of Mrs. Mary Romig, about a mile and a half inside of Adams, where she gave her name as Catharine Moore, and repeated the story about being, from Birdsboro and having no parents. She did not stop here however, but proceeded to the house of Charles Hagy, where she asked to stay over night, but was not allowed to do so. She then went to David Reinhart’s, close by, and made the same request, but was again refused. From thence she wandered up to, with in a short distance of the Yellow House, about 7 miles from Ludy’s, and was discovered by Isaac Rhoads next morning lying alongside of the fence. None of the above parties had heard of the murder. She then proceeded up the road toward Reading, and was picked up by the stage driver near Stonersville.

[“The Late Infant Murder Near Boyertown.” Reading Times and Dispatch (Pa.), Jun. 23, 1870, p. 1]

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From long article giving trial testimony:

William Ludy: Catharine Hummell said to me “Francis has the knife in his hand, he cut himself and will die.”

[Untitled, Reading Times (Pa.), Aug. 17, 1870, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT: Catharine Hummel, the child on trial at Reading since Monday [Aug. 15] for the murder of an infant, has been acquitted n the ground of insanity.

[From “Domestic Affairs,” The Evening Telegraph,” (Philadelphia, Pa.), Aug. 20, 1870, p. 3]

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