“A terrible case of sudden death occurred in the city on Tuesday, but whether it is the result of suicide or a craving for drink is a matter to be determined by the Coroner’s Inquest which is to sit this evening.”
Hamilton Spectator. May 12, 1876
It was a shocking discovery – a home’s cook found dead under peculiar circumstances.
The testimony at the coroner’s inquest, and verdict of the coroner’s jury follow:
“An inquest was held before Coroner White in the morning at 11 o’clock. The jury, having been sworn, proceeded to view the body.
PAULINE HENWOOD, being sworn, said : Deceased was our cook; she had been in our employ since last Wednesday; she was a steady and good servant till Saturday night, when, having gone out, she brought some liquor home with her on her return; on Sunday, she was intoxicated and I had her taken to her room; I took a half gallon jar of whiskey from her on Sunday morning, there was a good deal in it; I do not know how much; she was sick all day Monday; she got up several times, but I always sent her back to bed; I last saw her alive about 12:30 last night; she was perfectly sensible; this morning, about 7:30, the deceased was not in her room, and then she came downstairs, and saw a light in the inner surgery, and also saw what she thought was a night dress; she came up and told me; she did not go in; I came down a few minutes afterwards, and on entering the surgery found the deceased in the position in which the jury saw her; everything in the room was then as it was when the jury saw it; the lamp was burning and the bowl beside it; there was liquid in the bowl; I do not know the nature of it.
PATRICK EARL, labourer, testified – The deceased was my daughter; she was twenty-five years of age; she was born in the county of Clare, Ireland, and was, by religion, a Roman Catholic; has generally been employed as a house servant; have not seen her alive since she went to Dr. Henwood’s; saw the body viewed by the jury this morning, and recognize it as that of my daughter, Bridget Earl; she was in the habit of drinking liquor at times; never heard her express a wish to die, or desire to take her own life; deceased did not come to my house on Saturday night last.
C.F.BULLEN, M.D., sworn : Examined the body of deceased which was received by the jury; found it that of a well-nourished young woman; there were no external marks of violence, except a small cut on the lower lip, which have been caused by some blunt instrument; in company with Dr. George Mackelcan made a post mortem examination of the body this afternoon; examined the brain and found it and the membrane very much congested, it was otherwise healthy in appearance; the lungs were healthy, with the exception of some old adhesions; the liver was very much enlarged, soft, and easily broken down; the heart was healthy and of the usual size, but had a clot of fibinia in one of the large vessels; the stomach was almost entirely empty; it presented no traces of inflammation; the small intestines showed signs of recent inflammation; the kidneys were healthy. Am of the opinion, from what I have heard of the evidence and from that and the examination I have made, that the deceased died from the effects of an overdose of colchicum.
DR. MACKELCAN corroborated the evidence of Dr. Bullen.
The jury consulted a few minutes and returned the following verdict : “That the deceased, Bridget Earl, came to her death, on the morning of the 9th instant, from the effect of an overdose of the tincture of colchicum, administered by her own hand : and your jury are of the opinion that when the deceased took said draughts, she was not cognisant of its effects.”
The streets of downtown Hamilton in 1876 were always the source of colourful incidents and encounters, such as the following:
“A source of considerable amusement the evening before last was the appearance of a gentleman walking down James street with three loaves of bread under his arm and a pound of butter in his hand. He appeared perfectly indifferent to the jests of the little boys in the street who asked him for a “bite,” and finally disappeared into a photograph gallery, where his “wittles” would probably constitute part of a picture.”
Down on Stuart street west, near Hamilton’s major railway station was the appropriately named, Station Hotel. The hotel had a very eccentric guest whose story was interesting although the conclusion was very familiar to many eccentrics passing through the city:
“It is a fact that habit is second nature., and if a man becomes accustomed to a particular mode of living, he gets to like it and feels uncomfortable out of it A man who spends six months among the mountains of the West hankers for the same life when the season comes round again and lumbermen have informed us that the voyageurs who spent all their lives in the back woods or on rafts, sleeping in bunks or hammocks in little shanties on the lake shore or in the woods, eating fat pork and brown bread, and drinking black coffee with whiskey in it, become attached to the life and will scorn any other.
About ten o’clock last evening, a tramp stopped at the Station Hotel on Stuart street and asked to be furnished with a room. He was shown one, and, as was supposed, went to bed. Early this morning, a member of the household went upstairs to wake the stranger, and was horrified to find the floor and furniture covered with blood, the window hoisted and one of the panes broken. The guest was gone, as were also three of the quilts. The inmates were aroused, but nothing was known of the affair, which was about to sink into a mystery, when the hero of the bed room was observed coolly marching out of the back yard with the bed quilts under his arm. Several of the boarders in the house followed him, and had him arrested. On being brought into the house, he presented a frightful appearance; his throat, chest, face and head were cut as if with broken glass and his clothes were saturated with blood. It is supposed that he did not observe that a window stood between him and the outside, and that he stuck his head through the pane. He was found by a woman next door lying very comfortably in a stable with the quilts wrapped around him. His Worship the Police Magistrate sent him to the Central Prison for twelve months.
Finally, as was the case regularly, a selection of items from one of the Dundas weekly newspapers was reprinted for readers in Hamilton:
“Dundas ‘Standard’ Items”
SWINE – The hog crop is abundant in Dundas. For the sake of the public it would be advisable to fence it in.
A DISPUTE – There is a dispute between two parties regarding a magnificent field of wheat, the property of Mr. Thomas Hatt. One asserts it is the best in the Province, while the other maintains it is the best in the Dominion. We can’t decide the question.
REMOVED –The Montreal Telegraph Company have removed their office from the Post Office to Enright’s next door, east of the entrance to the livery stable. Mr. John Barrett, for a number of years operator at the Great Western station, Dundas, has been appointed to take charge of the new office, and both as regards efficiency and general popularity no better appointment could have been made.
A ROW – The west end of the town was the scene of a protracted row on Saturday afternoon. Two men, named Grady and Picard, had been imbibing too freely, Grady particularly, and having discovered some grounds of dispute, each set to work to pound his views into the other. The operation lasted the greater part of the afternoon, and in the evening Grady’s face was a landscape in which the crimson tints largely predominated.