Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jennie Anderson, Ohio Child Torturer and Murderer - 1906

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): Youngstown, Ohio, July 6. – A thrill of horror has been caused in this community by the killing of six-year-old Elsie Anderson, who was beaten to death by her stepmother, Mrs. Jennie Anderson.

Two years ago the wife of Hans Anderson died and another woman came from Denmark to marry him.

Coroner Klyne says the case of the murdered child is the most horrible in his experience. Mrs. Anderson confesses that she caused Elsie’s death. The coroner found the little one’s body covered from head to foot with bruises. There was a great red welt around the neck, and the hands were cruelly lacerated, apparently in an effort to ward off the fatal blows. Patches of skin were torn from the child’s back and at the corner of one eye was a hole apparently made by the head of a nail. The postmortem examination showed that here was no food in the stomach or large intestines. Neighbors told of having seen blood stained bandages hung on the fence.

In her confession Mrs. Anderson declared the utmost devotion to her stepdaughter, but said the child had made her angry. She was crazy over the provocation and had beaten the little one unmercifully with a lath. Elsie was put to bed and hidden from her father. She picked the bandages from her wounds. The result was more beatings of increasing severity. Three weeks of this treatment the child endured and then passed from earth. Then Anderson first learned of the condition of affairs and notified the police.

“I did not see Elsie in those three weeks.” he said. “My wife said she was tending to the children, and it was none of my business.”

Anderson says his wife locked herself in a room and saturated her clothing with kerosene with the intention of committing suicide, but he broke in and overpowered her before she had applied the match.

Neighbors declare that while Mrs. Anderson was much given to neighborhood quarrels she had shown no evidences of insanity.

[“Child Is Murdered; Step-Mother Held Awful Crime Charged to a Youngstown, Ohio, Woman. She Must Face Justice,” The Des Moines Daily News (Oh.), Jul. 6, 1906, p. 8]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): Youngstown, O., Nov. 9. – ‘‘Mother was good, to us children,” declared 8-year-old Valdora Anderson at the trial of her step-mother. Mrs. Jennie Anderson, for second degree murder In the killing of little Elsie Anderson.

This assertion by the child, who was called to the witness stand, was surprise, for at the coroner’s inquest she had testified that her stepmother frequently beat the children and was particularly cruel to little Elsie.

“Didn’t your step-mother ever whip you?” asked the prosecutor of the child witness.

“Oh, yes, sir.”

“What did she use to whip you with?”

“Once she hit me over the head with a bottle.”

“Did she hit you hard with the bottle?”

“No, sir, she didn’t bit me hard. The bottle broke on my head and mother combed my hair to get the glass out.”

Hannah, the 13-year-old sister of Elsie and Valdora, testified that her stepmother wanted to bury the body of Elsie in the woods, and tried to keep her father from telling that the child was dead. This girl also declared that her step-mother had been kind to her, which was contrary to what she told the coroner at the inquest.

[“She Certainly Was Good To Us When She Broke Bottles Over Our Heads She Kindly Combed The Bits Of Glass Out.” The Fort Wayne Daily News (In.), Nov. 9, 1906, p. 6; original has typo "Valbora"]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): Columbus, O., Nov. 24.—That the “eternal feminine” will always manifest itself, no matter what the conditions, was evinced in remarkable fashion when there was received at the Ohio penitentiary Mrs. Jennie Anderson, who murdered her stepdaughter by beating her with a nail-studded club. She came from Youngstown in company with Sheriff Donor Mandle. Before leaving he bought her a new coat, which she wore with apparent pride.

On the way the woman silently wept and with a choked voice would whisper: “Fifteen years is a long time to be in prison.” But when she stood at the narrow entrance to that prison thought of repentance and fear of suffering to come departed and left her an essential spirit of femininity. The transformation came when she was told to remove her coat and turn it over to the matron, to he kept until her sentence was finished.

“Oh, my pretty coat!” she gasped; “I shall wear it only one day!” In tears and with reluctant hands she gave it over and asked her jailer to take good care of it, patting a farewell as she changed from free to a bond woman. In her moods of wickedness Mrs. Anderson is a veritable tigress. So fearful is her ungovernable temper that when thoroughly aroused she falls fainting to the floor. So generally was she hated in her community that she had to be hustled to jail to prevent her maddened neighbors from lynching her.

[“Mrs. Anderson In Pen. - Weeps at Parting From Coat Bought by the Sheriff.” Altoona Mirror (Pa.), Nov. 24, 1906, p. 1]




For more examples, see Step-Mothers from Hell.



  1. This is my great, great grandmother. My great grandmother was the 8 year old who had to testify. Her name was Valdora, not Valhorn.

    1. Thank you. My original source is almost illegible, plus it has a typo. It actually reads "Valbora." I've made the correction.

    2. Indeed. The original transcript is hard to read and full of misspellings. I thank you for keeping this family history tragic as it is. I also appreciate your corrections. It is very much appreciated.

  2. So there are stories from your 2x greatgrandmother passed down im sure...ones about jennie andersons miss treatment, the things valdora endored as well as things she witnessed. Any idea why Jennie Anderson hated her step kids so much?? And did mrs. Anderson die in prison??( can only hope so)

    1. jennie Anderson did not die in prison. She was released and lived out her days in Youngstown. My great grandmother (valdora's) husband and his brothers met her at the train station when she tried to visit and put her back on the train and told her to never come back.
      Why she mistreated the kids is a mystery. She was just an evil women. The brush she used to comb the glass from their hair is still in the possession of family. I named my daughter Elsie after my great aunt Elsie Anderson.