No. 643
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
February 29, 2024

Melancholy Boat Accident.

April 24, 2012
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Via Newspapers.comPhantom stagecoaches are always fun (especially when they generate manic headlines.)  The “San Bernardino News,” December 7, 1914:Have you seen the phantom coach that dashes madly, silently, down the steep, rugged mountain trail near Pilot Rock? It is a weird story, this. It deals with the apparently supernatural. Possibly it isn't that at all, maybe it is simply some
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Strange Company - 2/28/2024
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HE DUEL IN ELLEN'S HONOR. Soapy Smith’s grandmotherOn Wednesday, August 9, 1820, an argument between 17-year-old, James Bowe Boisseau (1802-1820) and Robert C. Adams (unknown-1820) vying for the attention of 18-year-old Ellen Stimpson Peniston (1802-1860), took a terrible turn. The happy party in her honor took a tragic turn when the competition for Ellen’s affections ended in a deadly duel,
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 1/10/2024
There’s nothing wrong with the MTA’s usual subway signage: the directions are clear, the design is simple. But when a contemporary sign happens to be stuck underneath original signage made with decorative tile and an unusual typeface—as it is inside the Sixth Avenue F and M station at 14th Street—the old-school sign wins hands-down. Subway.org […]
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Ephemeral New York - 2/26/2024
An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
 Alice Hoyle last saw her sister, Lillie, the night of September 1, 1887, in the room they shared in Webster, Massachusetts. Lillie left to use the outhouse, and Alice fell asleep. Lillie never returned. The next morning, Alice went out, thinking Lillie had already left for work. That is the story Alice told the police— as the investigation progressed, she would change it several times.Read
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Murder By Gaslight - 2/24/2024
Included in yesterday’s trip to Fall River was a stop at Miss Lizzie’s Coffee shop and a visit to the cellar to see the scene of the tragic demise of the second Mrs. Lawdwick Borden and two of the three little children in 1848. I have been writing about this sad tale since 2010 and had made a previous trip to the cellar some years ago but was unable to get to the spot where the incident occured to get a clear photograph.  The tale of Eliza Borden is a very sad, but not uncommon story of post partum depression with a heartrending end. You feel this as you stand in the dark space behind the chimney where Eliza ended her life with a straight razor after dropping 6 month old Holder and his 3 year old sister Eliza Ann into the cellar cistern. Over the years I have found other similar cases, often involving wells and cisterns, and drownings of children followed by suicides of the mothers. These photos show the chimney, cistern pipe, back wall, dirt and brick floor, original floorboards forming the cellar ceiling and what appears to be an original door. To be in the place where this happened is a sobering experience. My thanks to Joe Pereira for allowing us to see and record the place where this sad occurrence unfolded in 1848. R.I.P. Holder, Eliza and Eliza Ann Borden. Visit our Articles section above for more on this story. The coffee shop has won its suit to retain its name and has plans to expand into the shop next door and extend its menu in the near future.
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 2/12/2024
Youth With Executioner by Nuremberg native Albrecht Dürer … although it’s dated to 1493, which was during a period of several years when Dürer worked abroad. November 13 [1617]. Burnt alive here a miller of Manberna, who however was lately … Continue reading
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020
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Melancholy Boat Accident.

Boat Accident

August 31, 1868 - Sad End of Two of the Demi-monde, near Cairo, Ill.

Prostitutes and their Paramours Go Bathing

Two of the Unfortunate Women Drowned

The following account of a very bad disaster, we copy from a recent Cairo (Ill.) paper:

At a late hour on Saturday night, Aug 31st, Frank Douglas, proprietress of the notorious house of ill-fame, known as the “Flat Top,” situated on Fifth street, between Washington and Commercial Avenue, and three of her “lady” boarders, named Fanny Williams, Mollie Jones and Alice Forche, accompanied by four men, started for the Kentucky shore in a small skiff, for the alleged purpose of bathing. The party made the trip in safety, reached the other shore, and remained there for perhaps two hours. At about 1 o’clock they started back to the city, and report has it, that either the bath or something else had an exhausting effect on the party, for they are reported as being rather noisy and careless in the management of the skiff. The boat was a small leaky concern, unfit for carrying over four or five persons, but the party of eight were crowded in, and because they were far from the Kentucky shore, commenced leaking badly, perhaps on account of the reckless manner in which they acted, rocking the boat from one side to the other. To add to the trouble, the bailing dish had either been lost or thrown overboard, and the boat was soon in a swamping condition. When they reached a point opposite the stone depot, the boat filled with water to the seats, went under, leaving the party scrambling in the water. Their screams attracted the attention of Mr. Robinson, mate of the steamer Alpha, who immediately went to the relief in a skiff. On reaching the party, he ordered the men away from the boat, and threatened to strike with the oar the first one who attempted to get in, until he reached the females. He succeeded in picking up Frank Douglas, Fannie Williams, and the four men. Mollie Jones and Alice Forche were drowned.

Mollie Jones had resided in Cairo since 1863. She was a married woman about thirty years old, and her husband, a contemptible wretch, forced her to enter on a life of prostitution, so that he might live a life of ease.

The unfortunate Alice Forche, has been in Cairo about six months. She is reported as being of a decidedly prepossessing appearance, intelligent and of a good family. She was sixteen years old and came from Paducah to this place. It is said that she was seduced by a well-known and “highly respectable" Paducahian who send her here to get rid of marrying her.

One of the men, when the boat went under and he found himself in the water, attempted to remove his pantaloons, in the pocket of which was his pocketbook containing a considerable amount of money, and a fine gold watch. He had partly succeeded in doing so when one of the drowning females caught him and in the endeavor to save himself, lost his pantaloons, watch and money.


Reprinted from The National Police Gazette, September 14, 1867