Update - infanticide at Mineville
In the 30 years this column has been running, the story that has received the most attention ever was in the May 7 and 14, 2011 editions of the Adirondack Journal. It told of the headless bodies of two babies, girls about seven months old and thought to be twins, who were found hidden May 5, 1911. The two babies were discovered near a stump by several boys playing ball at the mouth of the abandoned Old Bed mine at Mineville which had been deserted for many years. A boy whose last name was Sharrow said that the bodies were carefully and neatly sewed up in a cloth sack.
Dr. R.T. Saville, who lived close by, was of the opinion that the children had been dead for about three weeks before they were found. Their heads could not be located although a thorough search was made in the area where the bodies were found. An inquest was held by Coroner Marshall and no verdict was returned. Police searched desperately in an effort to solve these heinous murders and a vague reference in the newspaper was made that there was suspicion that pointed strongly to a woman as the guilty person and that they believed that the mystery would soon be solved. I could find no further reference to the case in later issues of the Warrensburgh News.
I enlisted the help of Barbara Whitford at the Richards Library who is skilled at computer research. She found no information in other Adirondack newspapers that the case had ever been solved, but she uncovered additional interesting pieces to the puzzle.
Within a short time after the discovery of the decapitated Mineville girls, the bodies of two other infant children were found in Northern New York, one in a suitcase near Plattsburgh which had evidently been thrown from a train and another near Port Henry, less than a week old, that had been cast up on the shore of Lake Champlain. No clues were ever found to help solve these inhuman crimes and to bring the perpetrator to justice. It is an unsolved case lost in the mists of time, not unlike that of Jack the Ripper, with all the people involved dead and gone and many untold secrets buried along with them. I’d like to hear from anyone that has any further information.
Old Bed mine comes alive
An interesting side story to the murders involves the spooky Old Bed mine, a dark and dangerous place. It was just a little over four years after the bodies were found there that the old open pit mine came alive at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday in September 1915. Because no one was around at that time in the morning probably saved a lot of lives as the earth shook and the entire west bank and a portion of the south side, comprising many thousands of tons of rock and dirt slid off into the bottom of the mine.
Through this great tremor, the Port Henry Iron Ore Company’s stone hoisting house on the south side of the mine sagged at least six inches on one end and was on the verge of sinking into the mine. The building used by Witherbee, Sherman & Co. for making concrete blocks had slid within a few feet of the yawning opening and was in danger of destruction. The highway along the south side of the mine was carried away and railway tracks were twisted and moved which would later have to be replaced.
Cracks appeared in the earth near the mine and small slides began to occur. When the big cave-in originally happened the four inmates of the mine hospital, located near the mine, were greatly frightened and were removed to another building, but the hospital did remain standing. All the horses and wagons in the company barn were taken to a place of safety and it was believed that the barn would have to be later moved to secure new site. Another new large crack appeared on the surface and bystanders had no doubt that the worst was yet to come. It is here that the story closes.
Now, about 100 years later, that crack in time and space is closed, leaving us wondering at the secrets that were lost there.
Carrie Doring rests in peace
In the July 9 issue of the Adirondack Journal, I wrote about the death of Carrie Doring, the much-beloved servant of Mrs. John L. Russell, whose summer home in Warrensburgh, built by her husband after 1866, was Bonnie Brae Villa. It was located behind the present day U.S. Post Office until it burned March 13, 1980. The barn, which once housed John L. Russell’s magnificent show horses, is still standing. Before Captain John L. Russell bought it after he came back from the Civil War, it was a small farm house owned by J.R. Berry and Russell rebuilt it into a Queen Anne style mansion, the new kitchen area being the original structure. Starting in 1934 the house was renamed “Chalet Swiss” when it was owned by Hilda and Willie Muller.
The Warrensburgh News once described the house as “Bonnie Brae, with its impressive background of mountains, trees, massive lawn, curving driveway, bell tower, fountain and carriage and car port, sporting five fireplaces, round windows, elegant barns and expansive grounds, the Bonnie Brae was a study in local historical architecture.” It was a dark day in Warrensburgh history when 60 or so firefighters from three companies battled the blaze which razed the building at 203 Main Street, noted for its large bell tower marked with the letter “R.” for Russell. I was there when that bell tower crashed to the ground in a mass of flames.
Miss Doring, 70, who died of heart trouble, was buried on the Russell lot in the Warrensburgh Cemetery. In the July 9 article, I wrote that she did not have a gravestone, because there was none listed in a grave inventory. About a month ago, however, I indeed found her grave on the corner of the Russell lot at the cemetery under a neat little stone simply engraved “Carrie.”
Later, I received a letter, from Jane Gale who suffered a bad fall and a badly sprained wrist, and now lives in a nursing home in Cohoes. The family originally lived in Troy. I recognized her name as I had seen it many times conducting research on the Russell family. She is the great-granddaughter of John and Mary Russell, and the granddaughter of their daughter, Mary Russell Archibald and the daughter of Mary Louise Archibald Gale. I have Jane’s birth announcement in my Russell scrapbook. The heading says, “A Little Gale “ and states that she was born Sept. 28, 1926 to Mrs. Alfred Warren Gale at the Brady Maternity Hospital in Troy.
Jane Gale wrote that When she was a child, her grandmother Mary Russell Archibald who lived in New York City visited her parents in Troy during July, and the three of them would drive up to Warrensburgh to put flowers on the graves, including Carrie’s. After placing flowers for the family, Jane Gale’s grandmother would say, “now let’s put flowers on Carrie’s grave.” Jane Gale’s mother, John L. Russell’s granddaughter, often shared her recollections of visiting and talking with Carrie in the kitchen when she visited her grandparents.
I am honored to have heard from Jane Gale, a member of a great family whose ancestors are buried in our local cemetery. Carrie Doring was a domestic servant for the Russell family for 33 years — and she is now listed in the cemetery roster at the Richards Library, as I did it myself.
Readers are welcome to contact Adirondack Journal correspondent Jean Hadden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-2210.