Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Catherine Miller, Pennsylvania Serial Killer - 1904

FULL TEXT: Lebanon, Pa., June 2 – No sooner was Catherine Miller laid in her grave than the village of Fredericksburg, where she lived and died was startled to hear that the kindly old spinster had confessed on her deathbed to the commission of four murders.

Three times the old woman told her strange, almost incredible, story of crime committed in the name of mercy.

“I killed my mother, Mrs. Jacob Miller sr., my brother Jacob Miller and my sister Mrs. George Albert because they so sick that death was a blessing I gave them white powders.”

“I killed the baby born to my niece while she was visiting me because the child was a disgrace. I thrust a pin into its soft little head and it died in a minute.”

Miss Miller, who was eighty three years old made this confession separately to Mr. and Mrs. Frank Zeigler with whom she made her home. She repeated it in the presence of a son of the Zeiglers. Then, declaring that her mind was at rest for the first time in years she fell asleep and died.

That was last Friday. Today, after the funeral the old woman’s story was made public. Miss Miller was an aunt of Mrs. Zeigler.

[“Confesses Murder of Relatives Declares She Poisoned Mother Brother and Sister to End Their Brain of a Baby.” Jun. 22, 1904, p. 5]


FULL TEXT: Lebanon, June 22. Miss Catherine Miller, an aged resident of Fredericksburg, seven miles from here, just before her death last Friday, confessed to four murders about forty years ago. On Monday, the day following the funeral, Mrs. Frank Ziegler, of Fredericksburg, with whom Miss Miller lived, made known the confession.  

Miss Miller said that forty-six years ago her niece came from Illinois in disgrace. As the young woman had to go back home and the infant would have revealed her story, Miss Miller killed the child by 'thrusting needles into its brain and smothering it.

Later, Miss Miller said, she had given "white stuff" to her brother, Jacob Miller, her mother, Mrs. Jacob Miller, and her sister, Mrs. George Albert.

She became very angry at the Ziegler family for their disbelief in her story, saying: Don t you think 1 know what I did." On two other occasions she gave the same story to neighbors. As to motive, she said that all three of her adult relatives were very ill and she wanted to relieve their suffering and misery.

The Zieglers tried to keep the statement a secret. Old residents point to most convincing circumstantial evidence in the case. Dr. Smith, of this city, who attended Jacob Miller, says that "he died of an inflammation after a very short illness." He also remembers that the mother's and daughter's bodies were swollen to such an extent that it almost prevented placing the lid on the casket.

[“Woman Said She Four People - Dying, Miss Catherine Miller Confessed She Killed Relatives in Order to Save Them Pain. - Crimes Committed 40 Years Ago.” Harrisburg Independent (Pa.), Jun. 22, 1904, p. 7]


Three other deathbed confessions:
1869 – Mrs. White – Lafayette Township, Sussex County, NJ
1873 – Mrs. York – USA, Moeaqua, Il.
1883 – Emma Stillwell – USA, Waterford, Oh


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Heart Balm Racket in 1872 - (Holman-Earle ruling)

FULL TEXT: The Homan-Earle case, a noteworthy sensation of last year, is made fresh in public recollection by the argument on the appeal to the General Term of the City Court. This matter is amusing, contemptible, or important, according to the point from which it is vowed. It is a paradox of human nature that the passion of all others commands sympathy – what is technically termed the “tender passion” – is as often the occasion of mirth as of sadness. It would be curious to know whether more tears or laughter have been bestowed by disinterested persons on the woes of lovers. The line which here divides tragedy and comedy is very indistinct. Certainly there are no elements of the former in the Holman-Earle case. A mature maiden sues a maturer widower for damages for an alleged breach of promise of marriage. There is nothing tragically respectable in this. Shinplasters cannot mend a broken heart, even if a broken heart were among the possibilities in these circumstances. In the dramatic picture we cannot see a distressed creature, wan, woeful, forsaken, on the edge of suicide, perhaps, but certain to die somehow of a perpetual pang. We only see a thrifty person disappointed of a comfortable settlement, and resolved to repair the loss, if possible, by securing a good round sum of money. This is only amusing where it is not contemptible. The contempt provoked by the scandal is by no means confined to the plaintiff. Putting aside her allegations and the testimony by which she sought to sustain them, the admissions of the defendant, the facts conceded by the clever, but excessively low toned speech of his counsel, published yesterday, are enough to cover the defendant with ridicule and with scorn of the moat contemptuous kind. If, on the one hand, the plaintiff has incurred the sneers and derision of the public by seeking a moneyed compensation of the wounding of sensibility that ought to be nursed in delicate privacy, on the other hand the confessed behavior of the defendant is such not, indeed, as to “bring his gray hairs in sorrow to the grave:” that would be dignified and decent, but to make him a laughing stock wherever he goes and whenever he appears.

Beside these special amusing and contemptible aspects of the case it presents an important legal question. At the trial Judge Neilson held that even where there was no express promise to marry an engagement of marriage might be inferred from circumstances. This has been regarded as a new departure in marital jurisprudence. The able jurist who announced the rule expressed himself with customary clearness and emphasis. So far as any leaning was shown by the General Term yesterday it would seem that Judge Neilson’s associates are scarcely prepared to accept his doctrine. Leaving them to dispose of the question formally the public will still have its own opinions on the morality of the proposition. In favor of the rule it may be said that its tendency will be to make men and women more prudent and circumspect in their social intercourse. A forethoughtful young man will be extremely careful about approaching a young woman with amiable warmth or with the faintest show of kindly regard, if his genial overtures are to conclude him in a promise of marriage, despite a precautionary and positive disavowal of matrimonial intent. Such a rule of law, rigidly enforced, would make cordial companionship among other than people already married unsafe; and that universal and more or less charming activity described by the elastic term “flirtation” a pursuit ranging from the absolutely innocent to the extremely perilous would be limited to other men’s wives and other women’s husbands. This might be of doubtful advantage. But upon the whole it would work no harm were there something more of restraint imposed on the social intercourse of single people of opposite sexes. This is what might be gained morally by the proposed new rule. On the other hand it may be said that such a rule would impair the gravity and delicacy of the marriage contrast. To say that it is one of the most serious of contracts is to repeat one of the most hackneyed of truisms. So is it to say that it ought not to be lightly entered upon, that it should be thoughtfully made, and with the fullest consent and the clearest understanding of both parties to it. It is to be feared that if Judge Neilson’s ruling were relentlessly reduced to practice not only many “implied” engagements would be made lightly but life-long responsibilities would be assumed unintentionally and unconsciously. The thought might be amplified. Indeed it amplifies itself, and forces us to the conclusion that there would be no social safety save in the absolute non-intercourse of unmarried men and women. The decision to be pronounced by the General Term of the City Court is therefore very important and will be awaited with interest not free from anxiety.

[“The Breach of Promise Case.” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (N. Y.), Oct. 30, 1872, p. 2]

Friday, February 10, 2012

Milwaukee’s Anti-Alimony Club - 1927

FULL TEXT: Milwaukee’s Alimony club got off to a flying start last night at its organization meeting, following a dinner in the Plankinton hotel.

Louis Wishrod, Chicago organizer of the Illinois Alimony club, after which the Milwaukee organization is patterned, was there. He told of the good work going on in Chicago, and urged them to start a membership campaign. They are going to do it, too, but whether they will solicit divorces court litigants, advertise in the newspapers or have “chasers” stationed at the Circuit court alimony window to interview prospects, is stll undecided.

The membership of the club numbers seven, and two of these. Attys. J. D. Sammarco and A. W. Cutright and the club’s counsel. Dr. H. W. Taylor, 370 Twenty-second street, was the organizer and E. R. Weeks, 778 Mineral street, is secretary.

The other three members, who as yet hold no office, are Mrs. Katherine Maezini, 59, of 1330 Wright street; Mrs. Lillian Strothman, 914 Fifty-second street, and C. R. Allen, 1704 North avenue.

Mrs. Marzini’s predicament is that after having gone through several courts and interviewed numerous judges and attorneys, she can’t find out whether she is divorced. She is not living with her husband, however.

Mrs. Strothman is not divorced. Moreover, she and her husband are living together happily. She is just “interested in the movement,” she says.

The club has no constitution, no by-laws, buts purposes, the same as those of their Illinois brothers, are as follows:

To create public sentiment, to promote legislation and to strive to remedy and prevent some of the causes and evils of separation and divorce.

To secure protection for children, particularly very young children. we have no desire to eliminate alimony in meritorious cases.

To prevent fraud, perjury, blackmail, conspiracy and extortion now practiced in domestic litigation.

To discourage scandalous and obscene testimony not vital to the issue.

To promote reconciliation and discourage separations and divorce for trivial causes.

Recognizing that domestic cases have many ramifications we pledge ourselves to promote social justice in all matters that affect the family life.

They agreed further that they favor alimony! Yes, sir. Favor it! That is – in meritorious cases.

[“Alimony Club Organized; Now The Want Members,” The Milwaukee Sentinel (Wi.), Sep. 13, 1927, p., 2]


For more revelations of this suppressed history, see The Alimony Racket: Checklist of Posts