No. 444
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
October 18, 2019

Society Women Turn Burglars.

A Widow and Her Pretty Daughter Caught Thieving in Men’s Attire in Tecumseh, Mich.
April 13, 2015
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On this date in 1902, Jim Buchanan was tried, convicted, sentence, and immediately executed in Nagocdoches, Texas … with his full assent. Barely a week earlier, a word had been received of a “prosperous farmer”, Duncan Hicks, found murdered with his wife and his daughter near the village of Attoyac. Although Buchanan was swiftly arrested […]
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Executed Today - 10/17/2019

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By Jo Anne Giovino with photography and research by Barbara Morrissey and Kristin Pepe *(All rights reserved, August 2019) Although …

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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 7/31/2019

Via Newspapers.com The love lives of some people are...complicated. Especially when ghosts are involved. The "St. Louis Post-Dispatch," August 4, 1909: Mrs. Bessie Mendelsohn of 4457A Cottage avenue said Wednesday she was feeling fine spiritually and otherwise, now that her divorce suit against Jacob Mendelsohn, who has a spirit affinity, is on its way to trial in the materialistic
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Strange Company - 10/16/2019
Jeff and Joe Soapy Smith buries Joe Simmons The Illustrated Police News April 9, 1892 (Click image to enlarge) oe Simmons was a tall, slender gambler known to many as “Gambler Joe” Simmons, a member of the Soap Gang who managed Soapy Smith's Tivoli Club in Denver, 1890, and Soapy's Orleans Club in Creede, 1892. According to William Devere’s poem "Two Little Busted Shoes," Simmons
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 3/25/2019
John Delaney met Mary Jane Cox in October 1886; she smiled at him as they passed each other on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, and he turned to follow her. She was 17-years-old, he was 15. Mary Jane did not refuse his advances outright, but gave him her address and told him to write to her. Their relationship progressed quickly, and eight months later, Mary Jane told John she was pregnant, and he
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Murder By Gaslight - 10/12/2019

In this photo, some of the letters look red, others are definitely pink. No matter what colors the letters are, this gorgeous glowing sign for Neil’s Coffee Shop on 70th Street and Lexington Avenue is proof that New York bars and restaurants still feature the city’s iconic iridescent neon store signage. Neil’s is an under-the-radar […]
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Ephemeral New York - 10/13/2019
[Editor’s note: Guest writer, Peter Dickson, lives in West Sussex, England and has been working with microfilm copies of The Duncan Campbell Papers from the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia. The following are some of his analyses of what he has discovered from reading these papers. Dickson has contributed many transcriptions to the Jamaica Family […]
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Early American Crime - 2/7/2019
Surf Swimming at Hawaii, Sandwich Islands. | Amateur Photography.

Society Women Turn Burglars.

Society Women Burglars

A Widow and Her Pretty Daughter Caught Thieving in Men’s Attire in Tecumseh, Mich. [more]

Mrs. Alice Church, a comely widow, thirty-eight years of age, and Bessie Church her daughter, eighteen years of age, were arrested recently in Tecumseh, Mich. In the act of committing a burglary. They were dressed in men’s clothes.

The two women moved in the best society, were members of the church, active in charitable work and eminently respectable as to conduct. The women confess their guilt, stat that they have committed a score of burglaries and will gladly accept any punishment that is meted out to them. It was at first believe that they were insane, but that theory has been abandoned.

Mrs. Church and her daughter have live in Tecumseh several years. Both dressed well and the girl is not only unusually bright, but quite handsome. They numbered among their friends nearly all the best people in Tecumseh. They lived modestly and stated that their income came from the life insurance of the late Mr. Church. Mrs. Church was popular with the beaux of the town, but it was observed that she froze them with dignity when they became too demonstrative.

Early in the summer the home of a prominent family was entered one evening and some jewelry and wearing apparel were taken. No trace of the burglars could be discovered. About the time the incident was dropping out of the public mind another house was entered. Some money and jewelry was taken from this house, and, as before, the family were absent the evening of the occurrence. The station was watched and all the roads out of town guarded, but now burglars were arrested. The town police were puzzled.

The burglaries followed each other in quick succession during July and August. The whole town was excited. Strangers were eyed with suspicion and citizens lay in ambush night after night without accomplishing anything.

All the houses were entree in the same manner through the back door or a window opening on a porch. Occasionally groceries and food were taken. This led to the belief that the burglars were tramps. There was a secession of night work during September but early this month the burglaries resumed. The houses were entered usually during the absence of a family, but in many instances houses were robbed in which several men were sleeping.

Last week the home of the late Judge Stacey, occupied by Mrs. Stacy and her daughter, was broken into and robbed of goods valued at $500. A reward was offered and a score of amateur detectives set to work and beyond arresting a few trams who were clearly innocent nothing came of it.

Relatives then decided to take turns watching the house. About 1 o’clock the other morning one of the watchers observed what he supposed were two men approaching the house. He got a shotgun and waited. The burglars lifted a window and boldly entered. The man with the shotgun decided to wait until they entered the dining-room, when he could get a better light on the targets. The tow figures entered the dining-room, and as the watcher aimed the gun the light fell on the face of Widow Church. He could barely believe his eyes. It was Mrs. Church and her daughter dressed up in men’s clothes.

He lowered the gun, approached and arrested both. They screamed, but recovered their composure, and in the presence of Mrs. Stacy confess to all the burglaries.

The women had a preliminary examination, at which the whole town was present. They were held for trial. It is said that they stole to keep form starving, and that a false pride prevented them from telling their friends of their condition.


Reprinted from National Police Gazette, November 4, 1893.