Thursday, September 22, 2011

Charlotte Lamb, Wisconsin Serial Killer - 1872

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): For some days rumors have been circulated concerning the discovery of a new horror in a neighboring community, caused by the stealthy, secret and cunning administration of that deadly poison strychnine. Chauncey S. Lamb, his second wife Charlotte, about twenty years his junior; two sons and a daughter—the latter the youngest of the household and only ten years of age at the time of her death—removed to Trimbelle, Wis.,  about sixty miles from St. Paul, about eight years ago. and have continued to live there without anything specially noticeable in their conduct up to within eighteen mouths ago. The village of Trimbelle is in Pierce county, Wisconsin, nearly opposite Red Wing, Minn., and the Lamb family lived upon a farm of 100 acres, live miles distant from the village. He was a hard-working man. Respected by his neighbors, while the wile pursued the even tenor of her way, and gradually won general esteem by her Christian deportment, and eventually became conspicuous for her ready assistance in all cases or sickness and her efficient works in all religious enterprises, being a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and, to use the language of our informant, “one or its most active workers in the township of Trimbelle.” Some time before the death of Mr. Lamb, it is alleged, upon good authority, that the wife expressed a strong desire to have a portion or the land set apart and conveyed to her by deed; but the husband objected and disagreements ensued. These finally became so serious that the husband was induced to transfer to the wife and to be owned in her individual right about two hundred dollars’ worth of personal property, and the feud was considered at an end. The family affairs of the Lambs continued without change or striking event until the


the husband, which occurred on the 18th of September, 1871 He had just gone into his corn field and begun work when he was seized with some singular malady. His arms lost the power or responding to the will, he fell to the ground and was soon afterwards a corpse—the victim of heart disease, according to the testimony of the wife and sympathy of the community in her sudden affliction.


Some time alter the death of Mr. Lamb the widow became a frequent visitor at the house of H. G. Carr, of Trimbelle, and Mrs. Carr and Mrs. Lamb became intimate friends, the widow being no less an admirer or the good qualities or Mr. Carr. In course of time the two women had occasion to walk out together, and during the interview Mrs. Lamb asserted that she had recently been at Red Wing, and while there she had consulted a fortune teller, who had informed her that she was soon to lose a dear friend, and that she (Mrs. Lamb) would eventually marry the husband of the dear friend who was about to be in articuto mortis.

The inference was so plain and the prediction so directly applicable to Mrs. Carr that the lady repelled the cheerful prospect and prophecy instantly, and she closed the conversation with the suggestive words:—”Mrs. Lamb, I am not going to die.” The circumstance was related to Mr. Carr upon the return of his wife, his suspicious were aroused, but by mutual consent they made no public reference to the matter, and the friendly relations between the widow and wife were maintained without marked interruption until a few days afterward, when Mrs. Carr dropped into Mrs. Lamb’s house, and at the invitation or the latter sat down to tea. A cup was banded Mrs. Carr by the hostess, and upon taking a swallow an intensely bitter taste was noticed. Mrs. Carr suspected nothing wrong, but remarked that the tea was too strong for her, and arose to pour it back into the vessel from which it had been poured by Mrs. Lamb. The latter grasped the cup from the hand of Mrs. Carr and threw the contents out of the window. Mrs. Carr returned home, and was soon seized with violent pains in the stomach, spasmotic movements or the muscles of the arms, throat and jaws. She tried to vomit, and while doing so the jaws were closed so that the skin was torn from the finger while in process of removal. Succeeding finally in ejecting the contents of the stomach, Mrs. Carr’s life was saved, but the suspicions of both Carr and his wife being fully aroused in regard to a horrible possibility, further relations between the families were closed at once and forever, though the Carrs dared not express their fears. It was kept a perfect secret until other events culminated in a revelation the accumulated horrors of which are almost without a parallel and entirely beyond description.


Mrs. Lamb remaining quietly upon her farm, attending to her duties as usual, and bestowing such attentions upon the sick that she was regarded as a rural Samaritan by those stricken down with disease and. those who had an opportunity to witness her apparently charitable impulses and kindly actions. After the Spring opened she called the attention of neighbors to the condition or one or more of her children, and advised them repeatedly that there was something


although the neighbors failed to detect any outward manifestations of impeded action and the children appeared, as well as usual. They accepted her word, and presumed that the heart difficulty from which the father had died had been entailed upon the children.


In May last Mrs. Lamb claimed to be distressed by apprehensions of some calamity in her family, and the “calamity” came. Orrin S. Lamb (called Don), a son only 18 years of age and a favorite, was called into the house by the mother while he was engaged at play with another lad named Sears. Both walked in and Orrin was given some bread and milk, which he objected to eating, saying it tasted bitter. The mother told him he must eat it, as she bad put some-worm medicine in it. He ate considerable of it, and young Sears was calmly allowed to taste it, but not liking its flavor he passed it back. Poor Orrin died in half an hour, and young Sears was oppressed with symptoms of sickness which he described as feeling “bad at the stomach and could hardly keep his legs on the ground.” But be fully recovered. This transaction and death occurred on the 24th of May last, and in due time the little boy was buried.


Shortly the mother expressed fears in regard to her daughter, Sarah A. Lamb, and in exactly one mouth after the death of Orrin, June 24, the girl manifested precisely the same symptoms—convulsive movements of the arms, legs and throat and sudden death. Bow the fatal draught was given or what cause produced her death can only be conjectured by the aid of subsequent developments.


During the Spring, and after the cessation of friendly relations with the Carrs, Mrs. Lamb became a visitor in the family of James Ottman, a near neighbor, and, it is stated, frequently expressed treat admiration for Mr. Ottman’s character—in act, pronounced him the best man in the world, or, at least, approaching that degree of perfection. Mrs. Ottman had expressed an unaccountable aversion to Mrs. Lamb, but preserved an appearance of ordinary friendship toward the woman. On the second day of August she had called upon Mrs. Lamb, who either went home with her or arrived soon after. Mrs. Ottman complained to her husband of an odd sensation in her stomach, to which Mrs. Lamb remarked that she had given her (Mrs. Ottman) some of her (Mrs. Lamb’s) bitters, and maybe they didn’t agree with her. Mrs. Ottman ran her anger down her throat and vomited, alter which she felt better, but was taken with spasmodic symptoms during the night. A physician was called, who prescribed some powders, which he left. The next day she was better; so well that she thought of assisting her husband in the field. Mrs. Lamb prepared some toast for her and gave, or pretended to give, her one of the powders left by the physician, after which she died in about fifteen minutes—precisely the same symptoms as in the cases heretofore referred to being noticed in her case—and still the suspicion of the public was not excited by the remarkable similarity in all the cases with which this Mrs. Lamb had been connected, like an inevitable harbinger of quick agony and death.


After the death of Mrs. Ottman Mrs. Lamb was employed by Royal Garland, a resident of Diamond Bluff township, as a cook during harvest time. Garland was a man of less than ordinary intelligence, and, having been divorced from his wife, was living alone. It is averred that he had previously proposed marriage to Mrs. Lamb, but she bad expressed a strong dislike to him for some reason and rejected his offer. Garland was about thirty-two years of age when the following events occurred: -- On the 15th day of August, or a little over three weeks ago, Mrs. Lamb was cooking at his house for himself and harvest hands. At dinner she turned the tea for all at the table except Garland; after which, remarking that she had missed him, she went into the pantry and stood a moment with her back to the table, then took his cup to the stove and turned him tea. He soon complained of being in pain, but started to go to the field. He soon returned, and died in great agony within an hour.

The accumulating mass of suspicious circumstances now found voice, and she was arrested on the 26th of August by Constable Mason, of Ellsworth, Wis., and confined in the Pierce county jail at Ellsworth, on the charge of murdering Royal Garland, as above stated, Justice Frank Hewett, of Trimbelle, issuing the commitment papers and requiring her to appear at the ounce of K. J. Wilcox of River Falls, for a preliminary examination on the 6th of September. The day arrived, and the Dispatch reporter visited River Falls, when, upon his arrival in the afternoon, he ascertained that the preliminary examination had been waived by the attorneys for Mrs. Lamb, Messrs. Spooner & Baker, of Hudson, and H. K. Bevans, of Ellsworth. The State of Wisconsin was represented by Judge George E. Hough, of Prescott, Prosecuting Attorney of Pierce county, assisted by State Senator O H. Ives, of Trimbelle. Under the motion to waive her formal trial will be commenced at Ellsworth on the fourth Monday in November next.


Prior to the steps just alluded to, and immediately following the arrest, the bodies of the supposed victims were exhumed and the stomachs sent to Dr. Hoyt, of Hudson, for analyzation. The fact that strychnine and arsenic were found on her premises by Constable Mason has already been announced in these columns, and we are indebted to Dr. Hoyt for the following report of the


The examination of Chauncey S. Lamb’s stomach has not been fully completed, but thus far no strychnine has been discovered. [In this connection it may be stated that the prisoner, in a conversation, has remarked that “they would not find strychnine in the old man’s stomach;” and further, when advised by a Miss Atkinson, of Trimbelle, to have a thorough examination of all the bodies, asked if they had found strychnine in Garland’s stomach. Upon receiving an affirmative reply she said:—”Well, they will have to prove who put the strychnine in their stomachs.” —Rep.] It remains in Dr. Hoyt’s possession, and tests will be made for the discovery of other poisons.

In the stomach of Royal Garland sixteen grains of strychnine have been found, and it is believed that a sufficient quantity was administered to kill over thirty men, in that of Mrs. Irene H. Ottman about five grains of strychnine wore found in one half of the organ—the portion analyzed. In the stomach of the children, Sarah and Orrin Lamb, the existence of strychnine is amply proved, but the quantity is not determined.

In a bottle of sarsaparilla found in Mrs. Lamb’s house the existence of the same poison is undoubted, from the experiments already had, but the quantity is not measured, and the entire ghastly array of poisoned evidence is kept by the doctor under lock and key.


and incarceration of the prisoner in the Ellsworth jail, she has been greatly depressed and for days together has not consumed more than a mouthful of food, but while at the Bracket House in River Falls, on Thursday and Friday, she ate heartily and seemed to appreciate the change from the plain but wholesome diet of the prison. She was returned to the Ellsworth jail yesterday morning in charge or Constable Mason, where she will remain until the day of trial in November, as there is no prospect that any friend will intercede in her behalf. The simple truth is that the sudden and horrifying revelations of the past few days have paralyzed every friendly impulse in the hearts of her neighbors and acquaintances, and so profound is the conviction of her enormous guilt that she would undoubtedly be shot or killed without merely immediately upon her reappearance at her old home.


Mrs. Charlotte Lamb’s personal appearance is a difficult thing to describe accurately in all particulars. She is about thirty-six years of age, and married Mr. Lamb eighteen years ago. She is of medium height, heavy bodied and of a masculine appearance, with a slight beard perceptible on her child. Her hair is dark, eyes gray, small and keen. Her complexion is sallow; she has a receding and low forehead, and the lower portion of her lace is heavy and projecting. During her stay at River Falls she was dressed in mourning, and was closely veiled when starting for her dreary home in the Ellsworth prison. She has made no statement or her guilt or innocence, and is probably under instructions to keep her later life a sealed book, and her lips as dumb as those or her innocent victims decaying in their graves. Concerning her


but little is known, and that little is not calculated to allay the suspicion that her past life may have been criminal also. She was the second wife of Mr. Lamb, and had been an inmate of his family before the death of his first, who is reported to have died suddenly, as did a young woman to whom he afterwards became attentive and before his marriage with the subject of this sketch. Further information in regard to this wholesale poisoner will be looked for with interest, comparison with the destroying Duchess of Ferrara will be omitted. She had kindly maternal instincts, culture and education. Charlotte Lamb does not seem possessed of either or them—only brutal cunning determination or mania.

[“A Devil And Her Deeds. - She Killed Her Husband, Her Two Children, a Farmer Neighbor and Possibly Two Others—Attempts to Poison Another Child and a Lady Friend—An Unparalleled Tale of Crime.” [From the St. Paul Dispatch, Sept. 7.], New York Herald (N.Y.), Sep. 12, 1872, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): The jury in the case of Mrs. Charlotte Lamb, the Wisconsin prisoner, has found her guilty of murder. The only occasion for regret in the matter is that no severer punishment can be visited upon the woman who poisoned two of her own children and six other persons than “imprisonment persons for life.”

[Untitled, The Daily Phoenix (Columbia, S. C.), Jun. 13, 1873, p. 1]



Mrs. Carr – friend, poisoned in Fall 1871, survived; subsequent poisonings, survived.
Chauncey S. Lamb, husband – died Sep. 18, 1871.
Mrs. Lamb, Chauncey’s first wife – suspected murder.
Woman, friend of widower Chauncey Lamb – suspected murder.
Orrin (Daniel) S. Lamb, son, 18 – died May 24, 1872.
Sarah A. Lamb, daughter – died June 24, 1872.
Irene Hall Ottoman – neighbor, died Aug. 3, 1872; 2 separate poisonings.
Royal Garland, 32 – employer (C. L. was his cook), died Aug. 15, 1872.
Sears, boy – friend of Orrin, poisoned, survived.


August 31, 1872 – Charlotte Lamb arrested.

June 11, 1873 – Charlotte Lamb charged with murdering Sarah and Orin (Daniel) Lamb, Royal Garland, and Jane Ottoman.



FULL TEXT: St. Paul, Minn., September 7. – One of the most sickening cases of crime and horror that the modern journalist has ever had occasion to record has just been developed in the neighboring State of Wisconsin, a case sufficient in all its horrible details to almost cause the human mind to believe that Satan takes mortal form in which to work out his superhuman iniquities. A short time since a telegram to the Inter Ocean announced that a Mrs. Charlotte Lamb, of Trimbeille, Wisconsin, had been arrested on suspicion of murdering her husband, and now a further development of facts brings to light the moral certainty that this fiend in female form is not only guilty of that act, but that she also killed her two children and two neighbors, and possibly two others.

This sickening record of possible and certain crime dates as far back as the year 1854, at which time a former wife of Mr. Lamb died, and within a year afterward a young lady to whom he was paying attention, both in a sudden and mysterious manner. The present Mrs. Lamb was at that time an inmate of his family, and these later developments have, aroused the suspicion that these unfortunate persons also were victims to her malignancy.

The record the last two years is as follows: Mr. and Mrs. Lamb have been living on a farm at Trimbeille since 1866. In a neighborhood of devoted Methodists, of which society Mrs. Lamb was apparently a faithful and efficient member, and it is owing to this fact that suspicion, which might otherwise have been openly expressed against her, has been allayed. For eighteen months previous to September, 1871, the husband and
wife had been living in a more or less openly declared state of feud, owing to the refusal of the husband to deed the property over to her, and he declaring that she should have her third and the children the rest in case of his demise [sic (word order)].

On the 18th of September, 1871, Mr. Lamb was taken with a singular malady while at work in the cornfield and died in great agony in a few moments. The death was ascribed to heart disease. Again Mrs. Lamb made unsuccessful attempts to get control of the entire farm, saying that she expected that the children would turn her out of doors when she got old. Last May, the son, Orrin, a lad of thirteen years, in good health, was suddenly taken sick and died in half an hour after eating a piece of bread and butter which he declared “tasted bitter.” This death was also attributed to heart disease.

On the 24th of June the daughter, Sarah, was taken with convulsions, and died within an hour. Early this spring Mrs. Lamb became a frequent visitor at the residence of a near neighbor, Mr. James Ottman. She was not welcomed with a great deal of cordiality, but continued her visits, and was often heard to declare a great admiration for Mr. Ottman. One day after Mrs. Ottman had returned from a call at Mrs. Lamb’s, where she said that she had taken a glass of bitters, she was taken violently ill. A physician was summoned, and so successfully rested the malady that the lady rapidly improved. The next day Mrs. Lamb called, and was very attentive to the invalid. She prepared a slice of toast for her, and administered some of the medicine left by the physician. Mrs. Ottman was instantly taken with agonizing pains, and died in fifteen minutes. Shortly after this Mrs. Lamb was employed in the family of Royal Garland, a man living in Diamond Bluff Township. On the 16th of August Mrs. Lamb turned Garland a cup of tea at dinner. He was immediately taken with real pains, and died in awful agony within in hour.

The almost unaccountable blindness in the public now fell off as by a shock, and on the 28th of the month she was arrested for causing the death of Garland. The scales fell from the public eye, the horrible chain of deaths caused by this wholesale murderess was discovered, and immediate investigations were commenced. Both strychnine and arsenic were found on her premises. The stomach of Garland was exhumed and examined, as were also those of Mrs. Ottman and the two children, and strychnine was found in each of them. The trial of this inhuman monster will come off at Ellsworth in November next.

[“The Wisconsin Borgia. - Strychnine And Arsenic As Instruments Of A Woman’s Hate. - Climax of Modern Deviltry - The Female Fiend Murders Six Persons, Among them Her Husband and Two Children - Latest Particulars.” [Correspondence of the Chicago Inter Ocean], Sep. 16, 1872, p. 1]



For more cases of this category, see: Female Serial Killers of 19th Century America


1 comment:

  1. I didn't find a general comment spot, so I'll put this here re: your list of female serial killers.

    Seriously consider adding Waneta Hoyt. Not only was she a cunning female serial murderer of children, she was a (now discredited) foundational case study in SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in the 60s / 70s, by duping Dr. Steinshnider.