Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rachel Hartley, Suspected Serial Killer – 1794, Mississippi

Rachel Hartley, 1794, accused; wife of Jacob Hartley.

Suspected victims:
Jacob (John, Jr.) Hartley, died Apr. 4, 1774; son of John and Anna Catherine Hartley.
John Hartley Sr., died.
Betty Hartley, died; daughter of John and Anna Catherine Hartley.
Christina Hartley, ill, poisoned; daughter of John and Anna Catherine Hartley.

Anna Catherine Hartley, widow of late John Hartley, accuser.


Excerpts from court records dating from 1794.

EXCERPT (p. 212-13): To His Excellency Governor Gayoso, the petition of Anna Catherine Hartley showeth that whereas she understands that her son’s pretended wife is making applications to Your Exellency for her son’s property and that she understands that the said Rachel has set forth that her son made a will and left what property he had to her, for about nine days before he died, he said that all that he had in the world should go to his decrepit mother and his soul to God. Her son was not twenty years of age when he joined himself to her in marriage . . . . . . . [accuses his wife as the means of shortening her son’s days and those of others.] Had I not applied to a man on this creek I should have lost two more of my children as this man declared in his opinion that they were poisoned, and by several other circumstances and her threatenings, it appeared evident that she poisoned them. Please direct Col. Bruin to examine this affair, according to evidences and examinations and transmitting their depositions to Your Excellency. Sig: Anna Catherine Hartley. 23 Sept. 1794.

EXCERPT (p. 213): Catherine Miles was at the house of her late father, Mr. John Hartley, about nine months before the death of her brother, Jacob Hartley, and she heard him at that time declare that he willed property to his mother and his soul to God. Rachel Hartley was present and laughed heartily. She believed that her brothers, Jacob and John, and her sister, Betty, were poisoned. When asked what reason she had for so believing, she answered that she was told so by Mr. Nicholas Sirlott, a neighbor who was called in to administer some relief to her brother John and her sister Christina and who didn’t relieve them. Q. What reason had he that Rachel Hartley was responsible? A. I have reason to believe that she did administer it because she threatened to take satisfaction on the family. She said she would have satisfaction if it was seven years afterwards. She declared to the truth of what Hezekiah Harman deposed of the dead bodies of her sister and her brother, Jacob. Catherine Miles, signed with a mark. Bayou Pierre, 8 Oct. 1794. Before P. Bryan Bruin.

[May Wilson McBee, The Natchez Court Records, 1767-1805, Abstracts of Early Records, 1953, Greenwood, Mississippi; reprinted, 1979, Baltimore, pp. 212-215.]


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