Saturday, November 15, 2014

Secrets in the Creek, The Mystery of Ella Newton


On the late afternoon of December 5, 1892, news spread quickly through Mount Vernon, New York, that the body of a beautiful young woman had been found, drowned in East Chester Creek. The circumstances surrounding her death at the immediate time were unknown. All that the Coroner and Police Department knew was that something terrible had happened.

When they found the lifeless body of this lovely young lady, it was noted that she was quite striking. Her slim figure, beautiful pale porcelain skin, and her glossy, raven colored tresses "hung loosely about her shoulders" as they pulled her body from the watery grave. 

She had been discovered in a swimming area of the East Chester Creek in Mount Vernon in the late afternoon approximately around 4-5 p.m. according to my research. Several newspapers mention that this was near the Webber's Hotel, although records indicate it was closer to the Invermere Hotel. Her body had been anchored down with a tight rope wrapped around her waist, and two heavy stones knotted to the rope to act as a weight to hold her down. The Coroner believed she had been in the water 36 hours, but I believe this was a typo in the newspaper and meant to read 3-6 hours given the time frame in which she was seen around town earlier before she disappeared.

On her person, inside the pocket of her dress the Coroner found these items:

  1. $. 35 cents
  2.  A pocket book 
  3. A blank piece of paper with letterhead of the Mott House (Tarrytown-on-the-Hudson) that only had the word “Dear", written on it.
  4. A business card that said “Simpson, Hall, Miller & Co., Silver Plated Ware, 36 East Fourteenth Street, Union Square, New York." The back of the card had handwriting that read :"6-46, Sat, Oct 22."
  5. Part of an envelope that was addressed: Lulu Newton care of G.Newton, Merchant Tailor, 158 Tenth Ave, New York City. (Post mark date illegible.)  
  6. Unused toothbrush (new) 
  7. Sewn into the lining of the waist of the dress, a rabbits foot (a symbol of good luck).
The Chief of Police searched the area for any clues as to what exactly happened to this lady and came up with nothing.  However, allegedly hours later, two other men who decided to do some "amateur sleuthing" claimed to have discovered more evidence that the police allegedly missed and basically claimed to have solved the case.

George Clough, Proprietor of Invermere Hotel, and employee John Grace claimed that after the police left they did their own “investigating” of the premises where Ella was found. This is what Mr. Clough had to say: 

“I found tracks that were such as hers in the snow, leading towards the end of the horse railroad towards the merry-go-round.  None of the conductors or the drivers on the road remember her, so it is supposed she walked the entire distance. I followed the tracks back to the shed, where the merry-go-round is stored, through a hedge, and there picked up a small cake such as bakers sell.  A little further on, we came to the big willow tree on the bank of the creek that is a landmark. It had been recently blown over, and the roots standing up in the air leave a big hollow. In the hallow we found the coat and hat of the girl.  The coat was neatly folded and the hat had in it a white silk handkerchief*, with a long hatpin run through the whole.  There was also a crumpled paper bag, from Stubbin’s Bakery with some crumbs in it. This tree is on the bank of the swimming pool, and the girl could have stepped off into water plenty deep enough to drowned her. The tracks of the girl led directly to the place, and were unaccompanied by other tracks.”—Quote from George Clough in New York Times.  

(* It was later reported the handkerchief had the letter "K" embroidered on it.)

Now this would be great if the information is true but upon researching into this deeper, I found myself asking more questions about just who Clough really is and how and why he came up with all this information?  

First of all, the young lady's body was found late in the afternoon. The Coroner stated her body had been in the water 3-6 hours. As you continue reading this story, you will see that there was a witness who reported seeing her alive around 1 o'clock in the afternoon. So if she was dead anywhere between 3-6 hours and her body was found around 4-5 pm, there was not much sunlight left in the day for anyone to go "investigating" after police finished up for the day. In fact, if Clough was being honest that they had actually gone back hours later, they would have been wandering around in the dark. In that case, it was highly unlikely that they found anything at all. Also, how were they were able to track the lone female footsteps after the police had canvassed the area in the mud and snow, hours before? That isn't even logical.

By the next day, the body had been identified as Miss Ella Newton, step-daughter of George Newton, and daughter of Lucy Newton, of New York. Newton was a tailor and had married Ella's mother when Ella was only a baby. According to the 1880 Census, Lucy and Ella were both originally from Massachusetts, while Mr. Newton had came from England, but were now all residing in New York.
Cortland NY Standard, 1892

Ella's step-father came to Mount Vernon, identified her body and had her returned to New York for burial.  Upon inquest into her family life, it was mentioned by neighbors that Ella was a model girl who was "quiet, unassuming, pretty...and a devout Catholic." The family lived at 1787 Amsterdam Avenue in New York, just above his tailor shop for the last six months. Ella had a good relationship with her step-father but had a very complicated relationship with her mother. As several  papers reported, Lucy Newton was a very heavy-set, harsh and unpleasant person. She was overbearing, controlling, verbally and possibly physically abusive. She had complete control on her husband's business affairs, the household and most of all, her husband. 

According to Mrs. Alfred Newton, the Ella's aunt, there had been an argument between Ella and her mother on Sunday, December 4th, which prompted Ella to walk out of the house and over to her aunt and uncle's home. Ella's aunt told her that she was welcome to stay as long as she liked but Ella was determined to go out and find a job and make it on her own. She spoke of the argument she had with her mother, and that she wanted to go to Tarrytown or Mount Vernon to find a job. She stayed the evening of Sunday, December 4th, and after helping serve breakfast the next morning, she decided to leave. Her aunt begged her to telegram her mother, at least letting her know she was alright. She even gave Ella $.25 cents but Ella never sent any telegram.


It appears that once Ella left her aunt's home at 455 Seventh Avenue, New York, she rode the train 18 miles up to Mount Vernon. According to a man by the name of Mr. Kearn, Ella went directly from the train station to his tailor shop in town. Two years previously, her aunt had sent Ella there to work as a seamstress, although Ella didn't take to the job as well as she had hoped and quit. She came back hoping that Mr. Kearn could employ her again. Unfortunately, he told her business was slow and he had no jobs available for her. He did refer her to a lady by the name of Mrs. Meyers who ran the local employment agency.

Upon arriving at Mrs. Meyers' office, she was sent to call on Mrs. George Bard at 129 Sixth Ave. Mrs. Bard had inquired with Mrs. Meyers for a nurse. Not knowing her way around town, Ella went back to Kearn's to ask for directions to the address on Sixth Avenue and went off on her way. When Ella arrived, Mrs. Bard refused to hire her after being unable to provide a home address at Mt. Vernon. Ella returned back to Mrs. Meyers and explained what happened. She left disappointed shortly before 1 o’clock in afternoon, not saying where she was going. Only hours later, her body was discovered in the creek.  

So what happened to Ella Newton?

Coroner Frederick Drews was convinced that it was murder from the beginning, although autopsy physicians, Dr. Smith and Dr. Wiess were convinced it was suicide. One strange note though, Dr. Smith argued that Ella had been assaulted before her death, while Dr. Wiess claimed that he saw no sign of any sort of assault. At least a half dozen "Hawkshaws" (or detectives) got into the mix of this investigation hell bent that Ella had been murdered and were determined to help solve the case.


What about the rope that was wrapped around Ella's waist and anchoring her body in the creek?  The autopsy physicians reported that the rope was bound so tight that it left bruising around her waist under her dress.
According to a man named Sailor Jack, he and other “seafaring men” swore that the fashion that the rope had been tied to the stones could have only been done by a man or person with experience in sailing. The knot used was a typical seaman’s fashion used to anchor or secure a boat. They believed a young lady, such as Ella, who was raised indoors as the daughter of a tailor, would not have had any knowledge on how to tie the rope in such a way.   

Newspaper account reads: “There was a splice in the rope near the body such as sailors put in ropes . The whole formed an anchor such as sailors use in boats hereabout. But no such boat has lost its anchor,  as found up to this time.” 

The New York Times reported that the police mentioned they believed Ella had been assaulted, murdered and her body was moved in a boat and placed there to appear as if she walked up to the bank and jumped in. --- they were NOT convinced it was a suicide at all.
Police were searching every possible lead they had, which led them initially to James Meyers, Mrs. Meyers’ son. James was a 22 year old, 300 lb loafer, who spent most of his time drunk in saloons or passed out in the back of his mother’s employment office. 

Then there was the possibility of two African-American men by the names of Walter Landrine and Joseph Aaron Pugsley who both lived in Pugsley Hollow in New Rochelle just  a town away. 

The police arrested the three men and held them overnight under suspicion of murder, but all three were able to secure alibis for themselves which allowed their release. James Meyers claimed he was with his mother Monday afternoon, and his mother swore that it was true.  Landrine claimed he was working, loading potatoes until after 5 p.m. Monday night, while Pugsley’s odd alibi put him at Flynn’s Saloon in New Rochelle around the time of the murder.

The police continued on in their search for suspects, eventually suspecting two more men, a man simply known as “Mr. White,” and James Rafferty.  White was the keeper of the Sportsman’s Retreat, a saloon that was located only a half a mile from where Ella’s body was found. It was also located on Post Road which was on the Street Car Line where they thought Ella may have gotten off on Monday afternoon. It was assumed she may have inquired about employment at the Saloon and became the object of attention from some very vile men who may have followed her upon leaving. 

According to White, he was very upset to hear what had happened to Ella and even stated that if he found out who did it he would physically harm them.  Rafferty was only a suspect because of his big mouth. It seems that while drunk he made up some stories, including that he spent the night with Ella at the Mott House in Newburgh, which raised suspicion. But it was impossible that Ella spent any time with this gentleman in Newburgh because she had spent the prior evening with her aunt and uncle in New York.  More than likely he had read about the items found on her, including the letterhead of the Mott House when her body was discovered. So trying to sound important he probably made up lies about being with her.  Neither men were arrested or held on suspicion.

What about the handkerchief with the letter "K" embroidered on it? The only person mentioned in this story with a K in his name was Mr. Kearns who Ella visited twice that day. Could she have gone back to his home after leaving Mrs. Meyers? Did he possibly give her a handkerchief to wipe away tears of disappointment in not being able to secure herself a job? This is still a mystery.


During the inquest, Mr. Clough testified that he had previously worked for Simpson, Hall & Miller’s Co. in New York. He also stated that a fellow employee of the establishment, a gentleman named Albert Dimmock of Woodlawn, ran into him on the train 3 days before the inquest and the conversation of Ella Newton’s death arose. Dimmock told Clough that he knew Ella quite well and that she would regularly visit him at the store. District Attorney Hunt recalled the card found on Ella’s body from Simpson, Hall, Miller & Co., so he subpoenaed Dimmock to testify in the inquest. During the inquest, Ella’s step-father, George Newton, claimed that he didn’t believe that Ella made any trips to Simpson, Hall, Miller, & Co. at any time, but that Albert Dimmock once lived above their tailor shop at 1787 Amsterdam Avenue only about six months earlier. He also mentioned that she was friendly with Dimmock’s family and that she would spend time regularly at their home and even mentioned her planning to visit them in Woodlawn in the future. 

Upon testifying, Alfred Dimmock, a salesman for an agent office of Simpson, Hall, Miller & Co., claimed he had seen Ella often at her father’s tailor shop. He also said his wife was fond of her and after moving to Woodlawn, she wrote Ella a letter asking for her to come visit them and possibly work for them. He claimed that the card found on Ella’s body had been sent with the letter and the information on the back of the card was the instructions for her to meet them at the 125th Street Station on Harlem Road for the “6:46 departure on Saturday, October 22.” He said that he didn’t think she got the letter, because she didn’t show. He also provided a letter from his employer, Charles Casper claiming he was working in the New York sales office on December 5th, providing him a much needed alibi.

Ella’s step-father, George Newton, stated for the papers that he knew nothing of any proposed trip to the Dimmocks. This actually contradicts what he had stated before, that Ella would spend time with the Dimmocks when they rented the house above his tailor shop and that she planned to visit them. He also made a strange statement in regards to his feelings towards Dimmock. “ I have no feeling against Dimmock other than that expressed here tonight, that he deceived us in planning to take Ella away. We are friends and will be.”
Dimmock’s stated in the inquest that it was "an outrage" to bring his name into Ella's death. "I know nothing about it, and never had twenty words in conversation with the girl in my life.”— This also seems to be contradictory to what he told Mr. Clough on the train. 

According to the New York Times, a boy named John Mandy of South Mount Vernon testified that he saw a hack (taxi carriage) that went down the Invermere Road the day of Ella's death. He also claimed that he saw a girl standing near the coal sheds as if in waiting for someone. He said the hack stopped and a man proceeded to get out of the carriage and was speaking to the girl, who he now believes was more than likely Ella. 

Despite this new clue into the murder of Ella Newton, something or someone seemed to be able to make it disappear. In fact in all my researching, I have never found such a story that the Coroner, the Police Chief and the District Attorney were certain that it was murder, yet in every step of the process others were attempting to discredit that theory. In this instance, by running with Mr. Clough's ideas they were taking the word of an ordinary citizen over the results of the original police investigation. An exception to this was the claims of another police officer, H.C. Beckwith, who went on the record claiming that he took Ella's shoe and went back to the scene of the crime a day later and followed the steps in the snow and mud that led him directly to where her body was found, stating that no other footprints were visible. Again, that is impossible, being that the day they discovered her body, there were many people walking around that area and the crime scene was basically tainted with foot prints after that time. Just like Mr. Clough who made such preposterous claims about going there hours after the police and finding her lone footprints in the snow and mud, this police officer's account is not only physically impossible but I would say is a lie. But why?

Was he paid off to make Chief Foley look bad?  Foley was adamant when Clough came the first time with his theory of finding Ella's coat and hat in the hollow tree that it was not there when he  investigated the scene. It had obviously been planted there later. Why was a fellow officer going by what Mr. Clough stated instead of his superior? 

Either way, the theory that anyone discovered "lone footprints" made only by Ella near the creek is not possible, unless the men who pulled her body from the creek, the police who investigated the grounds, Mr. Clough and his friend, and Officer Beckwith were hovering off the ground or flying because each and every one of them would have left sets of foot prints in the mud and snow. 

No, my friends, there is something terribly wrong with this story and sadly it gets worse...

On December 22, 1892 , despite the urging of District Attorney Hunt, Coroner Drews and Police Chief Foley, along with many other private detectives convinced that this was a murder, the inquest jury came back with a very odd verdict.  They didn’t rule it a suicide, but neither did they rule it a homicide. Instead, it was ruled that she “drowned by a person or persons unknown to the jury.”-- 

It was a big upset to everyone who had worked so hard to seek justice for Ella. With all the twists and turns to this story, I still find it quite odd that the man, G. Clough, who strangely claimed to have found new evidence to support the suicide theory, happened to be friends with Dimmock, who had lived just above Ella's parents tailor shop in New York.  How could so many people be so adamant that she was murdered, yet the jury chose not to lead to that conclusion? Could they have been threatened? Paid off?  

Could Ella's parents have been involved in any way? What about the envelope and the card found on her body? It appears as if Ella eventually received the letter Dimmock's wife had sent months earlier. Could she have found the letter at home, and upon asking her mother about it, that brought on the terrible fight that forced Ella to leave? We may never know for sure.

And now we are left with that unsettling feeling of uncertainty. Just who killed Ella that day? Who was the man she met near the coal shed? What did they speak about? How did she end up at the bottom of the creek with a rope wrapped around her waist, tied to stones in the fashion of a seaman's knot? Most importantly, why were so many people making such a stink to just brush Ella's death under the rug as a cut-and-dry suicide? Was there no compassion for this beautiful young lady? 

Ella died December 5th, 1892, nearly 122 years ago...and still we may continue to wonder forever, just who killed Ella, and most importantly, why?

(Copyright 2014- J'aime Rubio, Dreaming Casually Publications)

Friday, September 12, 2014

History Repeating Itself- The Death of Mabel Steele & Nadine Purdy

UPDATE: To read more about this story, please check out my book "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered" now available on Amazon! 

There's an old abandoned home near Interstate 80 and Hwy 65 in Roseville, California that has a sad and very tragic past. The facade of the building, left in arrested decay, holds only fragments of what once was. The home once belonged to the Purdy family. Rancher, Chester Stanley Purdy lived there with his adopted daughter Nadine in the early 1950s. After his wife Edith "Ida" Purdy passed away in 1940, at some point they moved from Klamath Falls, Oregon down to Roseville, California.

According to newspaper accounts,  Nadine, who was 24 yrs. old, suffered from some sort of mental disability. I am uncertain whether she was completely "mentally retarded" as the article claims or whether she just suffered from schizophrenia or mental illness. Either case, in his old age Chester was told by family members that Nadine needed to be put into an institution for her condition. Chester didn't want that for Nadine. He and his wife had taken care of Nadine from the time she was born and she knew no other life. Perhaps Chester was aware that he was not going to be around much longer, and he knew that in the event of his death that the family would go against his wishes and commit her to an asylum.

Sadly, he must have convinced himself there was no other option for Nadine, as he wouldn't allow her to be institutionalized. So, on January 27, 1954,  when Nadine was out in their yard, he shot her in the back of the head with his 410 gauge shotgun.  Chester was arrested by Sheriff Charles Ward, and put in jail for the murder of his adopted daughter. If the story wasn't bad enough, it turned out that just after completing the first day of his testimony in the trial, Chester Purdy fell ill and died that following Thursday at Placer County Hospital. Cause of death, partial heart attack and pneumonia.

Long Beach Independent, 1954
The entire case was dropped since he could no longer be convicted for her death. The entire ordeal  was a shock to the whole community of Roseville at the time and the story lingered, while the home eventually sat abandoned.

In his own mind, I am sure Chester felt it was a mercy killing because he couldn't see her suffer in an asylum, even though he didn't have the right to take another persons life. Perhaps though, the idea wasn't a new one. It seems that it had all happened once before, only 24 years earlier.

The First Mercy Killing- September 14, 1930

When I was researching the story about Nadine Purdy's death at the end of Stonehouse Court in Roseville, I noticed that Nadine was not Chester's biological daughter.  The census records I found in 1940 stated that she was their daughter, but that two other children were living with both Chester and Edith as well. Their names were Fredrick and Maeotta Steele. As I kept looking for a birth record for Nadine, I decided to do some more genealogy research on Edith, since one of the articles in the newspaper claimed that Nadine was Edith's sister's child. After finding Edith's parents and siblings online through my genealogy websites, I found a sister who died in 1930. Her name was Mabel Steele.  On her family tree listed a husband and three children, Frederick, Maeotta and Glenna Nadine.

It appears that soon after Glenna Nadine's birth, Mabel and her husband Glenn separated. Glenn basically left her and took their two oldest children and disappeared. Because he literally kidnapped the children from Mabel, she went frantic and had some sort of emotional breakdown. Not being able to care for her newborn baby, her older sister Edith stepped in and took the baby, changed her name from Glenna Nadine Steele to Nadine Purdy, and brought her home to the Sparks, Nevada area to raise her with her husband Chester.

Mabel's other sister, Ruth Weimer then had Mabel committed to the Sanitarium in Glendale. She was later transferred to the State Hospital at Norwalk and remained there for about a year before being released to Ruth's care in August of 1930.

LA Times, 1930
On the afternoon of September 14, 1930, tragedy struck the home at 418 W. 37th Street, in Los Angeles, California.  After an extremely emotional outburst between the two sisters, Mabel lay dead on the couch in one of the rooms, while a smoking revolver lay in Ruth's hands. Mabel had been shot three times in the neck and two extra rounds had been fired that lodged in the ceiling. Everything happened so quickly and before long Ruth was arrested for the murder of her sister.

The Morgue & Inquest

Shortly after the murder, the inquest was to be held at the morgue. Ruth was taken there and was allowed to see her sister's body one last time before the inquest started. Detective Lieutenants Condaffer and Ryan escorted Ruth to the morgue and held her by the arms as she "convulsed with sobs," when seeing her sister's corpse.

"No one can ever hurt her again, can they? She will never suffer anymore, will she?" Ruth asked the Detectives in a highly emotional state, almost as if she didn't realize the seriousness of what she had done. "I know I killed her. But I loved her just the same; I only did it to end her suffering because her husband took her children away."- (quoted from the LA Times, Sept. 17, 1930)

At the inquest a family friend and attorney, Benjamin Sheldon advised Ruth not to testify. Although off the record she did make several statements. When asked why she did what she did, her only reply was, "Did you ever see anyone you thought would be better off dead? I thought she would be better off dead, and that I would be better off dead, too. There are lots of things worse than death."

Ruth Weimer (LA Times)
Later when the case was on it's way to court, Ruth claimed she no longer had any recollection of the events that took place when she murdered her sister. That she remembered up to the time the death occurred but could not explain why or how she came to the decision to kill Mabel.  Attorney Benjamin Sheldon requested to reduce the charge of murder to manslaughter, given the strange circumstances of the case, however the Judge denied the request.  Somewhere down the line Benjamin Sheldon stopped acting as Ruth's attorney, and Nathan Freedman became her defense counsel.

The Trial

Judge Wood advised Ruth to plead "not guilty by reason of insanity", however she resisted. She was adamant that she wanted to plead "not guilty." It seems it went back and forth but she later did go with the insanity plea, but she claimed she suffered from "a temporary fit of emotional amnesia which inspired her to kill her sister out of sympathy to end her suffering."

Judge Fricke was assigned to oversee the trial and Deputy D.A., George Stahlman was acting prosecutor in the case. The D.A. wanted to prove that Ruth had planned to kill her sister, that she had animosity for her, for having to tend to her sister and put up with her mental illness. During the trial nothing but good character witnesses gave strength to the defense's case that Ruth was a good sister, who loved and cared for her sister selflessly.

Ruth and Mabel's niece, Evelyn Rains testified that she saw her aunt was not acting normally, and that she heard the gun shots go off and that Ruth attempted to shoot herself after shooting Mabel, but that the bullets just missed her head, lodging in the ceiling above. Rains claimed she called for Russell Smith, who had been outside at the time of the shooting. When he made it to the room where Ruth was, he discovered her searching for more bullets so she could reload the gun and commit suicide. It took Smith and another gentleman to detain Ruth until the authorities could arrive. She kept saying, "The worst part is I missed myself!"

When Ruth finally took the stand in her own defense, the courtroom was silent, waiting to hear Ruth's recollection of the events prior to the murder.  She stated that she was bombarded with constant prayers for death by Mabel, and that it had started even prior to her being released from the sanitarium. After her release to Ruth's care, Mabel continued with her cries of suffering and hallucinations. She mentioned Mabel's attempts to end her own life by poisoning herself and also trying to leap from an upstairs window just after her release from the sanitarium.

When it came down to the last events she remembered up to the moment she lost control, she asked the Judge to make her other sister Edith leave the courtroom. She didn't want her to hear what she was about to say to the court.

During her testimony, Ruth claimed that shortly after lunch, while she was ironing where she could keep an eye on Mabel, that her sister walked over to the piano for awhile and played some music and even asked her to join in. Ruth then accompanied her for awhile, playing a few duets together and had a good time, then Ruth continued with her ironing again. Then at one point, Mabel got up and walked right up to Ruth and stared at her and said, "I am dead already, can't you see the red blood streaming from my side? Don't you see the flesh falling from my bones?" Ruth claimed she tried to massage Mabel's feet and convince her that she wasn't really hurt, but it did no good. She was suffering from terrible hallucinations and they were getting worse.

"She said she wished she was dead. I said, 'you do?' she said, 'yes.' I rather wished I was myself. I went upstairs, I put her on the couch and said 'stop this noise and stop crying.' She said she wished she was dead. I said, 'do you really wish it?' She said, 'yes.' Then I went upstairs and got the gun and brought it down. I said, 'you wish you were dead? Then you are going to be dead!' She threw up her hands and I shot her three times before she crumpled. I pointed straight at her and shot, then pointed it at myself, but neither of the bullets hit me. I aimed to kill her. I couldn't stand to see her suffer year in and year out. She is out of her misery anyway. I don't care. My life is not worth much without her. She was the dearest thing I ever had on earth. You wouldn't understand."

The first evening of deliberations, the jury could not come up with a unanimous decision so they were sequestered to a local hotel nearby for the night. The next day, they resumed deliberations, eventually acquitting Ruth of all charges. According to a jury member, the original ballot was, 8- Acquittal, 4- Manslaughter. She was never in danger of being charged with murder. At the end though, they all decided that because of Ruth's openness about the whole story, that they felt she was sincere about the mercy killing.

According to the Los Angeles Times, this case set precedent being the first ever case in California to successfully use the amnesia defense in a murder trial. In the end, Ruth Weimer showed no animosity to the prosecution or the judge at any point. In fact, she had nothing but respect for them for just doing their job. When asked  about the entire thing, Ruth stated that she was very grateful and thankful to the jury and that wherever her sister Mabel was, she knows she is happy now.


After learning of this heart wrenching story of a sister who knew of no other way to end her mentally ill sister's constant suffering but to take her life, it only leads me to believe that poor Chester Purdy may have come to the exact same conclusion himself.

Although neither Ruth nor Chester had a right to end a life, in their minds they felt that was the only way to end their loved ones suffering. Murder is wrong no matter how you slice it. Sadly though, many times when crimes such as these are committed, reasoning has been thrown out the window and logic has been tossed aside as well.

Did the Weimer's and the Purdy's later believe that Mabel became more ill after her stay at the mental institution? Did Chester Purdy worry that Nadine would suffer the same fate if she was committed? Who knows. Perhaps the very thought of that led him to stop it before it could start. We will  never truly know what went on in his mind that day when he shot and killed Nadine.

In my opinion, this entire story is tragic for all who were involved. Ruth Weimer had to live with herself the rest of her life knowing she killed her own sister. Chester Purdy didn't live long after Nadine's death, but I am sure it would have haunted him the rest of his had he lived. The rest of the family must have all suffered from both deaths, being so similar in nature. In the end, history sadly repeated itself and both daughter and mother died the same tragic way, at the hand of a family member who just wanted to end their suffering.

Rest in Peace, Mabel, Nadine, Chester, Edith and Ruth....

To read more about Mabel Steele as well as many other strange and mysterious accounts of the past, purchase your copy of:

 "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered." 

(Copyright 2014- J'aime Rubio)

Thank you to my friend, Joan Renner -- the wonderfully talented archivist, historian and writer from the fabulous blog, Deranged L.A. Crimes. Thank you for your astounding help.

Also a big thank you to Ken Fisher from the Roseville Historical Society for giving me the lead to this story and pointing me in the right direction!

Daily Independent Journal, 1/29/54
Roseville Press Tribune 1/27/1954
Albuquerque Journal 1/28/54
U.S. Census, Family Search,
LA Times Articles: (1930)
9/15, 9/16, 9/17, 9/20
10/10, 10/14
11/20, 11/21, 11/24, 11/25, 11/26, 11/28, 11/29
12/1, 12/2, 12/3, 12/4, 12/5, 12/6, 12/7

Photos of Purdy House: Copyright of J'aime Rubio and R. Boulware (2014) All Rights Reserved.
Photos from various newspapers, sourced.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Real Bathsheba Sherman- True History vs. "Conjured" Fiction

In my work as a historian and history writer/reporter, I have written for newspapers, magazines, personal blogs and I have also published two books. I have become, what I would like to call - "a voice for those who no longer can defend themselves." Since those dearly departed can no longer shed light on their real stories and tell us themselves, it is up to the historians, who are basically history detectives, to do the work and use some "elbow grease" to dig for the answers and tell the stories for those who are no longer here.

I have become strongly attached to many of the stories of those people that I have investigated over the years. In many cases, I set the facts straight in stories that may have been gossiped about for so many years, that the tales have become a well spun tapestry of fiction rather than fact. In other cases, I have written about people who have never been written about before, finally giving their stories a chance to be told, so they are not forgotten. I am a strong believer that no one should ever be forgotten, and that everyone deserves for their story to be told.

In an earlier blog that I posted nearly two years ago, I mentioned a movie "Preston Castle," (aka "The Haunting at Preston Castle,") that was filmed at the historic Preston Castle in Ione, California. Being that I actually researched the history of the Preston School of Industry which Preston Castle was constructed for, and I published a book on its true history and some of the forgotten events that took places there, I was very upset to hear that the movie promoted itself as "based on true events" when in fact there was nothing "real" about the film or their so-called historical facts. In fact, the information they provided in the movie, only made it worse for people to separate fact from fiction in regards to the history of the school, due to the many errors and history revisionism in the film.

What upset me even more than the fact they used Preston's name in their film and made up false history, they used the name of the head housekeeper (Anna Corbin) who was murdered there and added additional erroneous information to the movie in regards to Anna. There was no ward at Preston named Bobby Wells, and he did not kill Anna Corbin. Just as the Ghost Adventures episode that made allegations that Anna's spirit was there and would haunt the castle and even allegedly "possessed" the lead investigator on the show, this movie also disrespected Anna's memory and personal character.

It just seems that there is no end to the lengths in which Hollywood, or people in general, will go to make a buck these days. So many times they take the story of a real person and desecrate their memory, completely disrespecting the person, knowing all too well that the person or persons they are attacking cannot speak up about it.  As upset as I was about Hollywood ruining Anna's memory, I have become just as upset, if not more so, about the character of Bathsheba Sherman in the movie, "The Conjuring."


The movie, "The Conjuring," is said to be "based on a true story" which was documented in the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, although Andrea Perron, the daughter of the family the movie is depicting, has written three books on her experience in the home as well.

In the movie, Bathsheba Sherman was said to have been a witch who worshiped the Devil, sacrificed her baby to Satan and then hung herself from the tree in the back yard.  In the movie, her spirit allegedly terrorizes all who live in the home, also causing all the different tenants over the years to kill their own children and allegedly possessing Carolyn Perron.

None of the information in regards to the history of Bathsheba is true.  History is history, and the facts are the facts. The stated history that has been thrown around over the last 40 years is not real, and it appears to me that the tales have been "conjured" from someone's overactive imagination rather than uncovered from actual historic files or archives as claimed.

I am not saying the home isn't haunted, honestly I don't know, and I don't care about that. I care about facts and historical evidence, and there is not one single piece of evidence to corroborate with the Perron family or Lorraine Warren's allegations as to the history of Bathsheba Sherman, the property or the many unexplained  deaths or "fatal events" they claim took place on the property.

This blog is to share with the world the "TRUE FACTS" regarding the history of Bathsheba Sherman and a few other interesting facts about Burrillville, Rhode Island's history.


c/o brianz190
I have been spending a lot of time researching the history of Burrillville and any historic information regarding the life of Bathsheba Sherman. I have found some amazing facts that will totally conflict with the alleged history that Lorraine Warren and Carolyn Perron claim to have found.

Bathsheba Sherman was born in 1812 to parents,  Ephraim Thayer and Hannah Taft. Ephraim's first wife was named Bathsheba Pain, so it seems that his daughter was named after his first wife. She was NOT an Arnold as Andrea Perron claims in her book, she was a Thayer (and a Taft). Bathsheba never worked on the property of the Old Arnold Estate, nor did she care for a child that died on the property.

Bathsheba married rather late in her life according to the time period, as she was in her early thirties when she took her wedding vows to Judson Sherman.  According to my research, Bathsheba had four children, but three of them died very young. Given the time period, this is nothing abnormal, as many died from childhood diseases back then. Their only surviving son, Herbert Leander Sherman was born in March of 1849.

Census records from 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880, show that Herbert was still living with his parents. In the 1880 Census, it also shows that a 15 yr. old girl named Charlotte Talbot was living in the home as well. Herbert's first marriage was to a young lady named Georgianna. Sadly, the marriage didn't last long, as she died at the young age of 22. She is buried with the rest of the Sherman family at the Harrisville Cemetery. Her headstone epitaph reads:

"Why should we grieve for one so pure,
 Our loss to her is gain,
 Her happiness is now secure,
 Our sorrows still remain."--

Herbert married for a second time, to a Miss Anna Jane Phair on December 4, 1880. The pair had two sons, William (born 1881) an Fred (born in 1883). Sadly, William died in 1900 at the age of 9.


For the record, there have never been any sort of records or historic documentation that I could locate in regards to any child of Bathsheba's having died from a knitting needle to the head,  being sacrificed to Satan, or any sort of scandal in the community placing blame on her. There are no records of any strange deaths or alleged wrongdoing of any type either. The three children of Bathsheba and Judson Sherman who died are buried right across from Bathsheba and Judson in the Harrisville historic cemetery.

  • Do you really think that the townspeople would have allowed Bathsheba to be buried in the cemetery next to her husband and children if they thought that she was a witch?
  • Do you think that the church would have given her a funeral or even mentioned her in the obituary of the newspaper had she been so hated in the community? 

From my research in various stories, it is not uncommon that when someone died, that any sort of scandalous events or even rumors that took place in one's life would be mentioned in their obituary, that was sort of expected. If she had committed such atrocities you would think that it would have been mentioned, but there was none.

If you research the property maps of the area, the 1895 map shows the land and the properties broken up by each family that owned all the land in the area.  The names Sherman, Arnold, Taft, Mowry, Germain, Aldrich and others can be seen all over the map. You see, in that small town area, most of these people were related to one another.  The town was also very Christian, having established not one, but several churches in it's early years: The Freewill Baptist, First Baptist, Episcopal, Berean Baptist and the Laurel Hill Methodist churches.  This close-knit community where many were often related to one another, was full of God fearing people and the Shermans were one of the larger families in the area. In fact, Sherman Farm Road still exists today and is one of the larger roads that goes through town.

When Bathsheba died on May 25, 1885, the Rev. A.H. Granger, a Baptist minister, gave the eulogy and even the newspapers mentioned her passing, which by the way was caused from paralysis due to a stroke. There was never a note on her death certificate making any sort of claims that she turned to stone. As far as the respectful obituary in the newspaper, that is not something you would think a Christian community would do for someone they suspected of being a witch that murdered and sacrificed her own children to the Devil. No, Bathsheba was not a witch, nor was she a murderer and it is very shameful that anyone would say such things, which constitutes slander.

When she died, she was interred next to Judson who had preceded Bathsheba in death several years earlier. She had remarried, this time to Benjamin Green, although when she was buried she was put with her first husband and children in the cemetery at Harrisville. Being buried with your first wife or first husband was a common practice and still continues to this day in many cemeteries.

In her will, Bathsheba was adamant that along with giving her son a small amount of money, that the property would be used to educate her grandson and that when he reached the age of 21, and that the balance of the monies left would be turned over to him. It appears as if she had her will drawn up before the birth of the second grandson.

  • Does that sound like a mean or wicked person to you? A grandmother who wanted her grandchild to have the best education and inherit her money?

One thing I would like to clarify, if you hadn't realized this yet, the Sherman property is NOT the Arnold Estate that the Perron family purchased on Round Top Road. Bathsheba never lived on the Old Arnold Estate. The Sherman property, if you look at the map to the right, was southeast of the Arnold Estate.


Unfortunately, I don't believe so as there is NO evidence to support those allegations whatsoever.  The information on the deaths that Andrea Perron's mother, Carolyn claims to have uncovered did not happen on the property at all.  There has never been any documentation proving that any sort of murders, suicides, hangings or drownings took place on the property.

Some of the people that have been mentioned as having died on the property, such as John Arnold or even his wife Susan who hanged herself, didn't actually happen on the property.  Susan's death, happened in 1866 at their home. According to the newspaper clippings, Susan had been planning the act for some time. When her husband was visiting with a neighbor, she went upstairs, locked herself inside the room and hanged herself from the hook in the wardrobe by a thin cord. The article also mentions that she had a loaded gun, a knife and even a vial of mercury. What caused her to take her own life? Who knows. But the point is that none of those events occurred at the Arnold Estate on Round Top Road.

Other allegations that have been mentioned by Lorraine Warren, was the story of a girl who was murdered in the pantry of the Farmhouse named Prudence Arnold. The facts are that she was killed by a man known as William Knowlton, but it was not on the property either. The facts are that Prudence died at the Anan Richardson House, just north of the Massachusetts-Rhode Island line which is on Route 7. Prudence did not die at the Arnold Estate in Burrillville, Rhode Island.

Edwin Arnold, the owner of the Arnold Estate, froze to death while walking home on Sherman Farm Road in the cold winter. He was found by a hunter on Smith Aldrich's farm. If you look at the old map again you will see that the Aldrich farm was nowhere near the Arnold Estate as it is in the lower right corner, and the Arnold Estate is in the upper left corner. It was said that his body wasn't found for nearly three months, but again, it was not at the house, nor was it a murder or suicide. The other was a man by the name of Jarvis Smith, who fell asleep in a barn and died allegedly somewhere on the property. It was stated he came back from the bar, more than likely he was intoxicated and fell asleep and succumbed to the elements.

Whether other family members over the 8 generations of people who have lived in the home have died from sickness, natural causes or old age, that is an entirely different story. The odds are that people have died in the home at some point, but there are no documents of murder, suicide or drownings at the home or on the property.


To the west, going towards the edge of the state, there is a private cemetery in Buck Hill that holds four graves. Many in the area claim it is the grave of a woman named Laura Sherman. Again, this is NOT on the Arnold Estate or the Sherman Farm Estate either.

During my research of the history of Burrillville, I found the story of another interesting tale about the Old Paul Place or "The Old Paul House." It was said to be in ruins even at the time the book "Burrillville: As It Was, As It Is" was written in 1856. The home, or "castle" as it was referred to as, was said to have been originally built and lived in by the Ballou family. Years later, Paul Smith and his family took up residence on the property.

" Not far from the center of the town, is a house, fast crumbling down, which has long been known as the above title ("Old Paul Place"). It was originally the residence of an ancient family of Ballous, a common name in this town.  A little to the east of the old castle are four graves where they were buried.

It was afterward occupied by Paul Smith. The old man met with many misfortunes which gives the place a romantic interest. His wife was insane for many years. She was confined in a lonely room, and with none of the appliances with which modern science and philanthropy soothe and improve the stricken mind, she sank into hopeless idiocy. One of the sons, an athletic young man,  was engaged in a foot race in Slatersville, when he burst a blood-vessel and died in a short time.

Several families have resided there since Paul Smith died, but the edifice is at present forsaken,  the moss-grown roof has partly fallen, the massive chimney is breaking down,  and the wild wind shrieks through the crazy fabric like the pitiful wail of its ruined mistress.  The forest is growing up all around it,  and timersome * do not like to frequent the place after nightfall. The raven croaks hoarsely from the open gable,  and the twilight bat flits undisturbed through the forsaken and desolate apartments."---- "Burrillville: As It Was, As It Is" (Horace Keach, 1856)

 meaning: easily frightened

Could this story have inspired part of the idea of the Bathsheba tale? Quite possibly. Not only does it speak of the mistress of the house becoming insane, but it speaks of the fact that many in the area were easily frightened by old, scary houses. This old tale could have been passed down through the years and perhaps parts of that, mixed with the old tales of the four Sherman graves on Buck Hill, those details could have made for one big ghost story.


Norma Sutcliffe, the owner of the home on Round Top Road, has been living in the home for nearly 30 years.  I found a video of Andrea Perron and Norma where they speak of the haunting of the house, although at the time Norma seemed unaware of a detailed history of Bathsheba. She comes across as if she agrees that the home is haunted, and that she had experienced paranormal incidences, but later she posted her own video on youtube, claiming that the home is not haunted and stating the research she has done and documentation to back up her argument about the history of the home.

Arnold Farmhouse (1880s)
Why she went along with the "haunted" aspect of the house in the beginning and then back pedaled her story, we may never know.

Perhaps, once she saw the attention the home was getting, she regretted speaking about it and wanted her privacy back. I don't know, and honestly, I don't care.

Nevertheless, that doesn't change documented evidence that disproves the "witch" theory.

Like I said, this blog isn't to investigate whether this 300 year old home is haunted or not, it's about the history.  I have to give Norma credit for searching for the history of the home, and showing her research on Bathsheba to set the story straight with documented facts.


Perhaps the Perrons experienced something paranormal at that home. We cannot say for sure, because only they know the truth to that. I have had my own frightening experiences in my lifetime, and I know many people who have experienced such terrifying experiences of living in a haunted home.  This blog is to prove the true history of Bathsheba Sherman and set the record straight about her story and the stories of alleged deaths and suicides on the property that have been attached to the home.

I am not interested in the paranormal aspect of the home in any way. The home could be haunted, it is very old, but the Perron family could have also brought something with them when they moved in, or picked up an item that was "attached" to a bad spirit. Either way, again, I am not here to get into all that. I am here to state the facts on the history of the property, and the history of Bathsheba.

When examining this story there comes a point where you must use common sense and draw your conclusions based on factual evidence, not just the history that someone hands to you and says is factual. You have to verify that the information they are giving you is in fact, real. So I say to you, check this information out, do your own research on the story, search for the documents, the evidence, find the truth.

The facts that I found:
  • Bathsheba was NOT a witch. There is nothing documented that makes any claim of her being a witch.
  • Bathsheba was NOT a baby murderer. Again, no such allegations or records claiming such a thing exists.
  • Bathsheba DID NOT live on the property at any time. Records do exist that prove she never lived on the property.
  • Bathsheba DID NOT hang herself from tree, in a barn, in an attic...anywhere! Records do exist that prove that she did not commit suicide, but instead died of paralysis from a stroke at the age of 73.
Anyone who speaks badly of this woman, a person who cannot defend herself, should be ashamed of themselves. These fabricated stories are the reason Bathsheba's headstone has been destroyed by vandals who now believe she is an evil entity possessing mothers to kill their children, and terrorizing the house.  Most of the blame also should fall on the shoulders of  those who blame all these paranormal experiences on Bathsheba in the first place, and any and all who continue to perpetuate the erroneous information that continues to defame and slander Bathsheba's name. She was just a regular person. She never even lived on the property, yet she will forever be tied to the false history of the home in urban legend and folklore that made a lot of money to those telling the story.

  • How would you like it if your great grandmother's story was randomly picked from an old directory and a huge elaborate and slanderous story was conjured up to ruin your family name and disrespect her memory? Well that is exactly what happened to Bathsheba. 
  •  How do you think her family must feel? Stop and think about that for a second and really let that sink in. 
  •  What if a hundred years from now, someone decides to write about you, and makes you out to be an evil spirit possessing people, someone who committed atrocities against your own children...would you like that? I don't think so.  
What has been done to Bathsheba and her family is wrong and it must be fixed. That is why I am writing this blog. I know that I will not reach everyone out there, but I know that my blog gets a lot of traffic, so I know it will make its rounds through the internet and Bathsheba's name shall be vindicated. For all of those people who will dismiss this article and blindly believe the information in the movie, I say to you, show me ONE piece of evidence that proves she was this horrible person, that she was a witch. You can't, because no such evidence exists. Some people might enjoy a scary story, but you have to take them with a grain of salt. Most often than not, the stories aren't true, no matter how intriguing they are.

Remember, believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see.  In reality, 9 times out of 10, the stories you read or hear will not be accurate. It is up to you to find the truth. Please do your research before believing things you see in a movie or read in a book. If they aren't citing their sources from actual documents that really exist, then there is something wrong and the information cannot be deemed as credible. Be smart, do your homework, and then once you have all the cards on the table come to your own conclusion. Remember, fact is often better than fiction.

For even more in depth research, documentation and interviews backing up Bathsheba's true story, please check out her chapter in  my book, "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered." 

(Original Copyright 7/15/2014- by J'aime Rubio)

Thank you to both Norma Sutcliffe & Kent Spottswood for all your insight and help with making sure my research on the history of Bathsheba and the Arnold Estate was thorough and accurate.

Thank you BrianZ190 for photos of Bathsheba's grave and related family members, (findagrave contributor).

Some of my many sources:
Various newspaper clippings
Marriage, Birth, Death records
Census Records (1850,1860,1870,1880,1900)
"Burrillville: As It Was, As It Is"- Horace Keach (1856)
--info from "Black Book of Burrillville" (from Norma Sutcliffe's youtube video.)
U.S. National Register for Historic Places

To purchase your copy of "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered" which includes one whole chapter dedicated to unveiling the truth about Bathsheba Sherman's life, as well as ALL the documented history that disproves Andrea Perron and the Warren's claims about Bathsheba Sherman, you can pick up your copy on Amazon today: