Sunday, December 27, 2015

Celia Rose, 24-Year-Old Triple Murderess - Ohio, 1896

CHRONOLOGY: Newville, Ohio.

Jun. 24, 1896 – First poisoning by Celia; victims: father, mother, brother; arsenic laced schmierkaese (“smear case;” cream cheese).
Jun. 30, 1896 – David Rose, father, 69, dies.
Jul. 5, 1896 (circa) – Walter Rose, 31, brother, dies.
Jul. 19, 1896 – Second poisoning of mother; arsenic in bread and milk.
Jul. 20, 1896 – Mrs. Rebecca Rose, mother, dies. (5am Sunday).
Jul. 30, 1896 (around) – Celia confesses to Tracey Davis, adding false accusation about Guy Berry as deliberate instigator of the murders.
Aug. 1 – Celia retracts the false accusation about Guy.
Aug. 12, 1896 – Celia Rose (“Ceely”), 24, arrested; warrant issued by Squire Smith’s court.
Oct. 13, 1896 – trial begins.
Oct. 20, 1896 – verdict: “not guilty by reason of insanity.” Sentenced to Toledo asylum, later transferred to state hospital, Lima, Ohio.
Mar. 14, 1934 – Celia Rose dies at state hospital, Lima, Ohio.



FULL TEXT: Mansfield, O., Aug. 14. – Miss Celia Rose, a young woman 24 years old, is in jail here charged with killing her father, mother and brother with poison. Daniel Rose was a farmer and lived near Newville, O. He and his wife and son died recently within a few days of each other [Jun. 24; Jul. 5; Jul. 6]. It was evident that they had been poisoned. The daughter Celia was suspected and closely watched.

A young woman gained the confidence of the girl and it is claimed Celia made a confession to her. Miss Rose was in love with Guy Berry, a neighbor. He did not like her and considered her attentions a nuisance. He complained to his father and Mr. Berry complained to Mr. Rose. The girl’s parents took her severely to task and the poisoning was the result.

[“Jailed On A Fearful Charge. – A Woman Accused of Poisoning Her Family Near Mansfield.” The Salem Daily News (In.), Aug. 14, 1896, p. 1]



FULL TEXT: Mansfield, O., Aug. 15 – In the little churchyard of the Pleasant Valley Congregational Church, near Mansfield, O., there are three new-made graves, which contain all that earth could claim from David Rose and his wife and bachelor son. Celia Rose is in a cell in the County jail at Mansfield Walter. Rutland charged with poisoning them – all the relatives she had in the world. She spends her time sewing, embroidering and reading the Bible, a “Story of the Bible,” and the “International Sunday-School Lesson Leaf.” She talks freely of the death of her father, mother and brother, and is well aware of the charge against her. She shows no emotion whatever and greets visitors with a cheerful smile, and laughs half archly, half coquettishly at times when she is questioned about her relations to Guy Berry, the 17-year-old neighbor for love of whom she is said to have confessed to a schoolgirl friend that she caused the death of her parents and brother.

Celia Rose has no symptoms of insanity, and while not considered bright or wholly balanced mentally, is far from being an imbecile. Nordau would class her as a degenerate. She does not appear to know the difference between right and wrong. Her moral sense, if she has any at all, is defective. Yet this woman attained the age of 24 years without doing a criminal act so far as is known.

~ Seventeen Peaceful Years. ~

David Rose was a pensioner nearly 70 years old. He lived in the neighborhood known as Pleasant Valley during the last seventeen years. He had a snug property when he first came to the vicinity of Mansfield from the central part of the state. He bought a home of nine acres and built a pretty cottage and a substantial flour and grist mill. The family prospered until half a dozen years ago, when so many mill races began to choke up with weeds and mud owing to the destructive competition of the new English syndicate roller process mills. Since then the mill has been used only to chop feed and make cracked wheat and hominy for the neighbors. Rose worked during harvest time and at other busy seasons for various farmers, and cultivated his few acres of garden and corn land.

Walter, a son, 31 years old, was unmarried and he lived at home. He made a thrifty living as a huckster. He was below the average mentally, but was a good business man.

Mrs. Rose kept house, assisted by Celia, when the latter’s humor prompted, and wove to help keep the family from want.

The family was respectable and respected, differing little from hundreds of others in a country of prosperous, thrifty farmers. David Rose was known as a man of unquestioned probity, who attended strictly to his own business and was quick to resent interference of any kind. He was peace-loving, but no one cared to arouse his enmity. His son inherited these qualities in a heightened degree. He was fiery, of temper, passionate and vindictive, but not dangerous.

~ Coolness Between Neighbors. ~

The nearest neighbors of the Rose family were George Berry’s family, consisting of himself, his wife, two sons, a daughter, and aged father. Three was little friendship between these neighbors. The Berrys are prosperous, open-hearted people, with broad acres of well-tilled land, who never quarrel with any one, and who never feared a quarrel with any one except the Roses. The peculiar temperament of the pensioner and his family was long known to Mr. Berry, and, though Rose’s mill is within twenty yards of Berry’s front porch and a conversation can be carried on without difficulty between the two homes, there had been no intercourse between the two families in five or six years – no known intercourse. Walter Rose did not speak to George Berry when they passed on the road, and a barely civil salutation sufficed to preserve the form of social amenities when members of the two families met in public – with one fatal exception.

Celia Rose from her childhood has been a puzzle to the simple, shrewd, practical country folk of this neighborhood. She would never work except when she was so inclined, no matter how busy or tired her mother might be. To children of her own age she displayed an unsocial disposition, building her doll-houses in the woods on the bank of a Tennysonian brook. There she would stay for hours at a time, and no one cared to disturb her.

~ Felt the Imprint of Her Teeth. ~

One who at once felt the imprint of her sharp teeth when attempting to force her to go home or do anything else that happened not to suit her fancy was quite willing to leave her to her own selfish way.

At the district school which she attended irregularly and where she studied just as much as she chose her progress was not marked. However she continued her studies until nearly grown and is as well educated as the most of her neighbors. She acquired a taste for reading and has read and reread many times the few books that composed the family library. Every newspaper that got into her possession was devoured from line to line and stored away for second reading at another time. Her father took one or two weekly newspapers and family papers. Next to reading, her interest centered in fancy work. She was skillful and quick and many beautiful children of her hands were among the family effects sold on Friday at public auction for the purpose of procuring the means for her defense.

Reading was a passion with this strange being and so far as can be ascertained the column about potato bugs was just as interesting to her as the weekly installment of the serial story.

~ Lived a Lonely Life. ~

She seemed to become more unsocial as she grew older and had no friends, few acquaintances but also no enemies. Many days and almost every fair evening, indeed, many nights of storm and rain were spent by her in the woods or perched upon a mossy stone by the roadside, where if possible she could see everybody that passed without herself being seen.

She grew to womanhood slowly and has been regarded as a callow girl until the last year or two. Her figure is stout, plump and well rounded, but lacks grace. She has a well shaped head and regular features, but her intelligence seems to be mechanical or animal like.

Dances rarely profane the religious atmosphere of Pleasant Valley, but social reunions of the young people are not infrequently held. Celia attended few of these “parties” during the last two years, but she never became popular with the young men. She was a perfect specimen of that very common plant, the wallflower. This fact caused her no annoyance and even hostesses ceased to care whether she received attention or not. Celia ceased to accept invitations and was in a fair way to become completely dead to all the world except her immediate neighbors and the members of the Sunday-school class she attended, when, some six months ago it began to be noised about she was in love with Guy Berry, her neighbor, whose downy face had just begun to be seen in social gatherings.

~ Beginnings of Celia’s Romance. ~

One day Guy was plowing in the cornfield Celia approached from the wood lot on a wreath of flowers, and shyly began to talk to him about her lonesome life.

“You surprise me, Guy, the way you grow,” she added, as she seated herself on the top of the low snake fence, and reached out to break off a twig from an overhanging tree.

This is the customary way of addressing little boys in rural neighborhoods. The young man was little flattered. Turning his team he plowed to the other side of the field, expecting the girl would be gone when he returned.

Young Berry seems to have been utterly surprised at the admiration evinced for him by his strange neighbor, and he listened often and long to her rambling conversation and her professions of love for him. Doubtless she did not use the word – she who had never loved her own mother – but the boy understood. He listened and was flattered. Since then hardly a day has passed but he would be sought by Celia, in the meadow, the cornfield, or beside the old mill. They were much in one another’s company, though Guy never seemed to care whether Celia came or not. Celia’s little affair of the heart remained unknown for some time, and it never became a subject of general gossip. The parents of the young people were the last to hear their clandestine meetings.

~ She Names the Date. ~

“We will be married in three years,” said Celia one day at dusk as she leaned over the fence that separated her father’s little home from the Berry farm.

“How do you know that?” asked Guy smiling. “I never told you so.”

The girl was not abashed. It had never occurred to her that it was unwomanly to make a proposition of this kind. It is scarcely probable either that she thought about this being a leap year. The next day when she reopened the conversation Guy seemed different.

“Never mind, the girl said, as she turned away. I have three other fellows, and every one of them tries to kiss me when they go home. Some of these days I may marry one of them and then you will be sorry you didn’t take me.”

“Do you think so?” was the answer. “Just try me.”

Celia was standing by the roadside the next morning when Guy opened the stable to feed the horses. She seemed harassed and anxious.

“O, Guy, she said with tenderness and half pleadingly. I am so sorry I said what I did last night. It wasn’t so what I told you that I would marry some one else. I do not care for any one but you.”

Claude Berry, Guy’s younger brother noticed the intimacy between Guy and Celia, but he thought nothing about the matter for awhile. One day he told his mother about a conversation he had had with Celia.

~ Guy Becomes Tired of Her. ~

“Celia. Guy isn’t going to marry you,” Claude said. “He has got another girl.”

This was unwelcome news to Celia, but she was quick to recover her composure, and to gather together the fragments of her heart.

“Then I will marry you. Claude,” she said.

“I am too young,” the 12-year-old lad replied.

“O, I can wait until you grow up.”

She would marry a 10-year-year boy on the spot if she got a chance,” was Mrs. Berry’s comment. She told her husband of her discovery.

Guy himself seems finally to have grown tired of the attentions of the girl, and he tried to avoid her. At least he told his father this and added that he had borne it as long is he could and that he intended to leave home unless something was done to put a stop to Celia’s visits. The story would probably have had another termination in Kentucky. Berry was afraid of complications, but realized that matters would not be helped by delay. He went to David Rose about a month ago, and told him all he knew.

Rose’s feelings and family pride were deeply wounded. but he parted peaceably from Berry simply promising to speak to her daughter and have her cease “annoying” Guy. The old man, who, though stern by nature had never undertaken to discipline Celia, upbraided her unmercifully for bringing reproach on the family name.

She promised to quit going with Guy if her father would not tell Mrs. Rose.

Whether the old soldier forgot this agreement or how Mrs. Rose learned of the conversation between her husband and George Berry is not known. At any rate she and Walter both added their reproaches to those of the father and life at home became unbearable. She seems to have reached the conclusion that nothing but the family feud stood between her and Guy and prevented him from asking her to marry him at once. Certainly she resented the nagging and constant reproaches of her relatives as a deadly insult. Revenge, riddance of tyrannical relations, and the hope of marriage became her controlling passions. She was heard to say, it is averred that she would marry Guy in spite of her father as he would not live always.

However she did not long remain in open rebellion and her mother. thought she had never been so dutiful and helpful. She ceased to go to the woods and fields and took part in the family life as she had not done in years.

On the morning of June 24 Celia helped her mother spare breakfast making a dish of cottage cheese. David and Walter Rose both ate heartily of this dish Mrs. Rose more sparingly. Celia did not taste it at all. After breakfast she placed all that was left in a plate and set it in a cupboard and later in the day threw it out into the yard.

Shortly after breakfast David Rose became sick and began to vomit. Walter started for a physician at Newville and fell in the road. He was picked up by a neighbor and carried home and several doctors were summoned. All agreed that the symptoms were those of arsenical poisoning. Mrs. Rose also got sick before nightfall but she suffered less than her husband or her son. David Rose was the first to die, succumbing after six days of intolerable agony. Walter followed at the end of five days more.

Mrs. Rose was apparently on the road to recovery, when she grew suddenly worse and died within two weeks of her husband’s demise.

Suspicion fell from the first on Celia, from the fact that she had not sickened too. Mrs. Rose was unaware of the death of the other sufferers until two days afterward. as the doctors were unwilling to allow her to be told while in a critical condition. She, too, suspected Celia, or, at any rate, knew the girl was under suspicion.

“Celia, could you have done such an awful thing?” she asked one day after she was able to sit up in bed. “God help you if you did.”

“Why, Ma,” the young woman answered, “what makes you ask me such a question? If you had not said anything about the rat poison nobody would have suspected me at all.”

“Look me in the face, child,” Mrs. Rose is reported to have said, a woman of the neighborhood being in the next room, “and tell me the truth.”

~ Celia Hung Her Head. ~

Celia is reported to have hung her head and quietly left the room.

The death of the two bread winners of the Rose family, as reported in Mansfield but for some was not thought to be serious Mrs. Rose is said to have grown strangely silent after this conversation with Celia and when questioned about the fatal breakfast said she had no idea how the poison could have found its way into the food as she had prepared it all by herself. It has been understood that Celia helped to get this meal. No, Mrs. Rose insisted that this was a mistake Celia is said to have openly admitted she did assist in its preparation until she knew she was suspected.

After Mrs. Rose’s death Prosecuting Attorney Douglass ordered an inquest by the Coroner Dr. Baughman. Various facts were learned which threw suspicion on Celia. She was put under but was not arrested. Prosecutor Douglass asked Mrs. John Ohler a neighbor of the annihilated family to take charge of Celia so she would have a home while the matter was being investigated.

Coroner Haughman caused a chemical and microscopic analysis of the stomach of David Rose to be made and traces of arsenical poisoning were found. This finding was agreed to by fix or eight reputable physicians of Newville a village two or three miles south of Pleasant Valley, Perrysville and Mansfield.

Prosecutor Douglass took the matter up with the determination of finding out whether Celia was guilty before he began criminal proceedings against her. He has a tarot called Green Gables not far from John Ohler’s house. He and his wife went there and sent for Miss Theresa Davis of Newville the only person that had ever been an intimate of Celia’s. Prosecutor Douglass asked Miss Davis in the interest of justice to ingratiate herself with Celia and worm the truth front her. This, according to the prosecutor and Miss Davis was accomplished.

Miss Davis went to see the orphaned girl at Mrs. Ohlers and expressed sympathy for her. Celia’s complete lack of emotion or pretense of sorrow gave Miss Davis an excuse to begin her work. She frankly told Celia of the suspicions that were current in the neighborhood and begged her to unbosom herself.

“I am your friend and you might as well tell me,” she pleaded.

“I believe you are my friend,” was the answer

“O, I have known others that did such things because people treated them mean never anybody urged Miss Davis.

On the night of July 30, as Miss Davis relates, Celia made a partial confession, implicating Guy Berry, saying her told her to put the poison in the schmierkaese in order that they might get married.

The next day  Celia expressed regret that she had said anything about Guy, admitting he had nothing to do with the poisoning and that he had never asked her to marry him. The confession was repeated on another occasion, according to the Prosecutor and Miss Davis, in the presence, or hearing, rather, of someone who was hidden in a closet. The name of this person has not been made public.

Celia is related to have confessed to the following:

She found some rat poison which had recently been purchased by her brother on a shelf in the pantry and put it into a pepper box and sifted it into the schmierkaese. preparing the mixture in the spring house where he dairy products were kept. She took some of it on her plate and pretended to eat of it, but did not touch it. A hen and seven chickens ate what she threw away and soon died. The bones are in the possession of the prosecutor.

Celia heard a physician say that Mrs. Rose was out of danger. She got the pepper box. which she had hidden under a dock weed and waited for a chance to administer another doss to Mrs. Rose. Mrs. Rose prepared herself a large bowl of bread and milk and ate heartily of it. The remainder was set in the cupboard. Celia watched her chance and sprinkled in some of the ratsbane.

“This milk tastes very funny,” Celia is said to have quoted her mother as saying.

I was afraid mother would detect the poison. the young woman continued in her alleged confession to Miss Davis, but she did not. After she ate all the milk she got sick and began vomiting very bad. I could hardly help laughing the poison was working so well.”

Miss Davis reported regularly to Prosecutor Douglass and he finally on Aug. 12. secured a warrant for Celia Rose’s arrest. She accompanied Constable Pluck who went to Ohlers home for her the next day without objection. She was driven to the office of the public prosecutor where she had a conference with her attorneys. L. C. Mengert and I. M. Reed. Later she pleaded not guilty and waived preliminary examination before a Justice of the Peace and was held to the grand jury without bonds. She broke down during the examination and cried but before the sympathies of those present were fully roused she was laughing heartily.

All the household effects of the Rose family were sold on Friday. The sale was at tended by crowds from all the neighboring towns and hamlets. Mrs. Rose was evidently thrifty housekeeper and a good provider. The larder was filled with large quantities of made preserves, pickles, and canned good, apparently enough to supply the needs of the family for a year or two.

~ Berrys Are Indignant. ~

Miss Theresa Davis was present. She related how she had secured Miss Roses’s confession. Guy Berry did not attend the sale. He was seen at his father’s home. Mrs. Berry a sylph-like figure of delicate health and spirituelle countenance, expressed the greatest indignation at the stories told by Celia connecting her son with the tragedy.

“There’s not a word of truth in her statements that they were engaged,” said Mrs. Berry. “She is sill on the subject of marrying and bothered Guy so much that he complained to his father and threatened to leave home unless Mr. Berry requested Mr. Rose to put a stop to the annoyance of Celia’s trailing alter him all the time. He did not like her, never did. Guy has a nice sweetheart and would not have thought of marrying Celia if he had been of age as he is not. He knew that we did not like her and he is a good son.”

Guy is a handsome lad and apparently wholly. worthy of his mother’s pride and love. He talked freely of his acquaintance with Miss Rose. His bearing was frank and his whole demeanor inspired confidence in the truth of what he said. The public prosecutor has told Mrs. Berry that Guy will not be needed as a witness.

The poisoning of the three oldest members of the Rose family has caused a sensation second only to that which followed the suicide of Congressman M. D. Harter last spring. The neighborhood gossip hardly penetrated to Mansfield until the public prosecutor gave out the history of the case.

~ Prosecution Has Ample Evidence. ~

He is said to have all the evidence he thinks necessary for the trial. In addition to the evidence mentioned in the foregoing, the rat poison bought for Mrs. Rose shortly before June 24 could not be found anywhere, though Mrs. Rose immediately told where she had put it the day before. However, the pepper box which had just been scoured was found under a large dock weed close to the house. The prosecuting attorney expects to be able to prove the confession without any trouble.

Of all who have heard the horrible recital of Celia Roses crime as it was related yesterday to the correspondent of THE TRIBUNE the young woman seems to be least concerned. One day while she was at Mrs. Ohler’s she said she was homesick and asked for permission to go back to her fathers cottage. As she had never expressed any sorrow over the death of her relatives. Mrs. Ohler asked what made her homesick.

“O, I want to see the little chickens and the old mill,” she answered.

Miss Davis accompanied her on the trip. The road leads past the church and the graves of her father mother and brother are so close to the road that one cannot help seeing them. Celia glanced at the fresh earth indifferently and made no comment.

It was on this occasion that Mica Davis was able for the first time to secured half promise of a confession. They sat down on a big, smooth waterworn limestone rock on the roadside by the little red brick school house which was the only bond of association between the two young women and after a long struggle Celia said the would think over the matter and tell the next day if she felt able to do so.

Celia expressed relief when the jail doors closed behind her. I have been working so hard at Mrs. Ohler’s she said.

Mrs. Ohler said the extent of her labors was to lie at length on a sofa until the bell rang for meals. As soon as the young woman arrived at the jail she took off her black sailor hat, and sat down to read one of her favorite books. She varies the time with needlework.

When seen yesterday forenoon she was stretched out at full length reading the international Sunday-School Lesson Leaf. She had on no shoes or stockings and was clad in a coarse black woolen dress with red bands in the bodice. Her thick neutral blond hair was done up in a neat knot, and the front curls were in papers. She did not rise when addressed, but let her pamphlet drop, and leaned forward long enough to adjust her skirt. She made no apology for her lack of shoes. They were tucked under the cot.

Miss Rose has blues eyes straight nose slightly thicker than usual small and delicately shapen ears a large eight mouth rosy complexion and a fine, rounded head, neck and chin.

Her eyes are expressionless even when she laughs which is not infrequent. Her laughter is not silly nor momentarily timed. She did not laugh while one was talking about the death of her parents, but was likely to in the next breath, if she thought anything at all amusing. She talks intelligently about what she has read but seems to be deficient in ideas. Her memory is retentive and her stock of facts is larger that that of the average reading woman. Her face sobered barely perceptibly whenever the tragedy of the family was mentioned but she did not pretend to express sorrow by her looks.

When asked directly if she were sorry she said, without looking up:

“Of course I feel bad and all that. I am all alone.”

She seemed to have nothing more to say on that subject though her tone betrayed to resentment at the question.

Of Guy she had little to say, but she smiled or laughed gleefully whenever his name was mentioned.

“Are you going to marry Guy when you get out,” she was asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “He has some other girls and he may marry one of them.”

On being asked if he had ever asked her to marry him she said he had not. Later she added that he had treated her respectfully whenever they met.

~ Resents Questions on the Crime. ~

This was said in a low tone with bowed head and a flushing face. Miss Rose stutters painfully when at all confused or excited. Sometimes her utterance is wholly inarticulate. Once she thought a question was intended to touch upon the charge against her and the question of her guilt. She seemed to be slightly indignant and looking her visitor straight in the eyes said.:

“You know you are asking a question you have no right to ask.” My lawyer told me to be very careful in what I said, and I am trying to be.”

Her tone was reproachful. It seemed to say it was hard to be careful when so many people asked questions.

Once or twice a train of thought would be started by something that was said and she would start up, murmur something indistinctly, whether intended to be understood or not could not be seen, and fall limply forward on the cot and sit several minutes lost to her surroundings. It was a pitiful sight.

Careless observers here say she is insane. It is morally certain that her punishment, if any be meted out to her, will be light.

It is believed the public prosecutor will not ask for a sentence but will recommend that she be provided for as an imbecile.

[“Awful Peril Of A Girl. - Celia Rose Awaits Trial For Poisoning Three Persons. - Her Father, Mother, and Brother Die from Poison and Evidence Is Offered That She Administered It – May Be a Degenerate – Strange Story of Her Lonely Life and Its Bit of Romance – Love May Hare Led Her.” The Chicago Tribune (Il.), Aug. 17, 1896, p. 2]


FULL TEXT: Mansfield, O., October 14. – The trial of Celia Rose for the murder of her father, mother and brother by poisoning was begun before Judge N. M. Wolf yesterday. Coroner Bauerhman was called and told the story of the post-mortem and the inquest.

Miss Rose, the accused, had confessed to a girl friend, Miss Tracey Davis, that she had committed the deed; and Miss Davis was sworn. She told the story of the confession: how the girl had done the poisoning by placing “rough on rats” in the cream cheese, and had done it because her father scolded her for going with Guy Berry, a young farmer who had betrayed the girl. Miss Davis’s father had concealed himself in the barn and had heard a second confession, to which he testified. The matter of allowing these confessions to go before the jury was argued at some length, and the court finally decided the evidence competent.

Drs. Allan and Budd testified to having made a post-mortem and to conclusive evidence of poisoning by arsenic. The State will rest within a short time and the defense will endeavor to establish the plea of moral and legal irresponsibility.

[“Celia Rose’s Trial. – She Confessed To the Murder of Her Father, Mother and Brother.” Oct. 14, 1896, p. 4]


FULL TEXT: Mansfield, O., Oct. 21. – In the case against Miss Celia Rose, on trial here for having caused the death of her father, mother and brother with poison, the jury yesterday after being out an hour brought in a verdict acquitting the accused on the ground of insanity. She will probably be adjudged insane and be sent to an asylum.

[“A Girl Declared Insane.” The Bronson Pilot (Ka.), Oct. 22, 1896, p. 1]


EXCERPT: Sometime, while she was under treatment, Rebecca Rose realized that Ceely was responsible for the deaths of her father and brother and for her illness. She began talking of moving away, her one thought being to save her daughter from the gallows. Ceely, who had no intention of going away and leaving her beloved Guy Berry behind, took action; she gave her mother more arsenic-laced coffee, and Rebecca died. [by Faire, “Ceely Rose,” Fairweather Lewis, May 13, 2010]








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


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