Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Love and Suicide: A Tragedy in Bovina

On the afternoon of Saturday, July 1, 1882, Albert Adee had just come home to his farm near present day Scutt Mountain Road in Bovina after making a trip to Bloomville.  He had with him a letter addressed to his hired girl, Emma Monroe, from her friend and Albert’s brother, John D. Adee.  As he handed the letter to the 16 year old, he noted that there appeared to be a ring in it and told her that John must have sent one.  When she opened the letter, however, the ring she found was not a gift to her but a ring she had given to John.  Albert tried to convince her it was new and not the same ring, but Emma said this was not the case and if he didn’t believe her, she would show him the accompanying letter.  He declined to read it.  Flushed, Emma then said that tea was ready and that they better sit down and eat. 

Instead of eating with Albert and his wife, Martha, Emma proceeded to find a pencil and went to her bedroom.  Albert and Martha had their tea and then sat out on their front stoop.  Albert saw Emma come out of her room and go into the adjoining room where Adee’s hired man (and his cousin) John S. Adee slept.  Meanwhile, John was just starting out to bring in the cows for milking.  A short time after, Albert and Martha heard a gunshot.  Albert first thought it was John shooting but when he saw that he was continuing to head out for the cows, he realized that the shot had come from inside the house.  He and Martha ran to the hired man's room where Albert had seen Emma go.  They found the room full of smoke with Emma on the floor breathing her last.  She had a revolver wound in her chest and John S. Adee's revolver in her left hand.  Albert put her on the bed and yelled out to John to come to the house, but there was nothing anyone could do.  After a couple of gasps, Emma died. 

The next day, a coroner’s inquest took place at Adee’s where details of this tragedy were recorded.  The members of the jury included John Hilson, Michael Miller, E.A. Dean, David Oliver, Thomas Gordon, Ira Worden,  and J.A. Hill.  Their verdict was that she came to her death by a pistol shot fired by her own hands.  Albert, Martha, John S. and John D. Adee all provided testimony in the inquest, as did a doctor and Emma's brother, Charles Monroe.

Emma had come to the Adees from Worcester, NY on the 18th of March to work for six months as a hired hand.  She had come there on the suggestion of John S. Adee, who had been a neighbor of Emma’s in Worcester.  Almost immediately, she became involved with Albert’s 21 year old brother, John D.  John and Emma saw each other occasionally, about every two weeks, until the end of June.   At some point in the relationship, Emma had given to John a ring that Martha remembered seeing her wear when she first came to Bovina.  John was seen wearing the ring, but his parents were opposed to his seeing Emma.  On June 29, he wrote a letter to her ending the relationship and returning the ring.  As well as finding this letter in Emma’s apron pocket, Martha found a short note to herself:   “Dear Martha – John has given me the mitten, and I cannot live without him.” 

John D. explained that he was not engaged to Emma and never heard her make any statements or threats that would have led him to expect her to commit suicide.  He last visited Emma two weeks before her death.  He was planning to see her again the day after the suicide but because of his parents’ strong opposition to the relationship decided to cancel the visit and stop seeing her. He heard about her suicide about three hours after it happened. 

The doctor explained that Emma died almost instantly from the wound – the bullet went right into her heart.  Her brother Charles Monroe identified the body and brought his sister back for burial in her home town.

Everyone agreed that Emma’s suicide seemed totally out of character and were at a loss to explain why she took such an awful step.

Albert Adee and his wife left Bovina later that year after the end of their three year lease on the farm and settled for two years in Bloomville before moving to Hobart where they spent the rest of their lives.  They were married for over 50 years.  Albert died in Hobart in October 1931.  Martha died in June 1936. Both are buried in Hobart.  Albert’s brother John D. Adee left Bovina within a year or so of the tragedy and was living in Iowa in 1885 with the Storrs family.  That same year, he married the family’s 17 year old daughter Libbie.  John and Libbie settled in Marion, Iowa and had been married 47 years when Libbie died in 1932.  John survived his wife by almost a decade, dying in 1941.  We don’t know why John left Bovina when he did, but it does seem possible that the suicide of Emma Monroe was the catalyst that led to his heading west. 

I discovered this story through a set of on-line newspapers and found further information in the coroners' records at the County Clerk's office.  The Hudson Register of July 16, 1882 published a report from the Kingston Freeman concerning this tragic death of this 16-year old entitled "Shot Through the Heart - Love and Suicide."  Here's the full article:

A girl sixteen years, named Emma Monroe, from South Worcester, Otsego county, who has been at work for Albert Adee, who resides between Bloomville and Brushland, since last March, committed suicide last Saturday afternoon at Mr. Adee's house by shooting herself with a revolver.  The ball went nearly through her heart and she died immediately without saying a word or uttering a groan.  Coroner Gladstone, of Andes, held an inquest on Sunday.  The jurymen were John Hilson, Michael Miller, E.A. Dean, David Oliver, Thomas Gordon, Ira Worden, --- Norton and J.A. Hill.  Their verdict was that she came to her death by a pistol shot fired by her own hands.  It appears that she had been keeping company with one John D. Adee, and on that day she had received a letter from him saying that he should discontinue his visits.  This made her feel so disappointed that she went to her room and wrote a letter to Mrs. Adee, the wife of the man for whom she was working, informing her that she had received a letter from John D. Adee, and that he had "given her the mitten", that she loved him better than she did her own life, etc.  She closed the letter by saying they need not call in a doctor as it was of no use, if she succeeded in carrying out her intentions.  This letter was in a pocket of her apron.  She went to an adjoining room in which there was a revolver belonging to a hired man, put in one cartridge, and then shot herself as above stated.  Monday her friends took her body to South Worcester for interment.  She is said to have been a good girl, and it is queer that she killed herself for such a cause. 

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