The Court Holds the Verdict of Murder in the First Degree Incompatible With the Evidence---A History of the Crime

HIAWATHA, KAS., March 5---Mrs. Maggie Bradley, convicted of murder in the first degree, was granted a new trial today by Judge Thompson on the ground that the indictment did not justify the verdict. The woman has been released on bail.

The conviction of a woman in Kansas for first degree murder is very rare. The crime was the deliberate poisoning of a child of Mary Curley. Mary Curley is a young woman, half-witted, without an education and first cousin of the defendant. About ten years ago she went to live with Mrs. Maggie Bradley as a domestic. She remained at the Bradley house until in September, 1880, when it was discovered that she was about to become the mother of a child, whose father she claimed was Charles Bradley, a son of the defendant. Young Charles was engaged to be maried to his fiance heard of the charge.

To stop the scandal Mary Curley was sent to the poor house in Jackson county and there her child was born in November, 1889. Mary remained at the poor farm at times working for neighboring farmers, until July, 1891, when she started with her child to the home of the Bradleys. She arrived late in afternoon of July 31, and was met at the door by the defendant, who secreted her in a room until after dark, when she and her child were taken to Pierce Junction by Frank Bradley, another son of the defendant, with the intention of sending them to the poor farm again. They missed the train and returned to the Bradley home. Mary and her child were taken to a room upstairs for the night. To avoid any suspicion should Mary's child cry, Mrs. Bradley placed her own baby in the bed with them.

Several hours later Mary awoke and found her child in intense pain. Previous to the departure for Pierce Junction, Mrs. Bradley had given the child a piece of bread to eat. At 4 o'clock in the morning, Mrs. Bradley, for some unknown reason, entered the room. She was told that the child was sick, but replied that there was nothing much the matter with it and that it would be better in the morning. The following day was Sunday. The child was not better. Mrs. Bradley entered the room with a red liquid in a glass and forced the child to swallow it. The child soon after became worse and suffered agonies. Mrs. Bradley remained at home while the other members of her family went to church. Against the pleadings of Mary, she gave the child another dose of "medicine." This time it was in a tin cup and Mary noticed a white substance floating on top. The defendant said it was ash-water. The child grew rapidly worse and died at 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

Mrs. Bradley took Mary to the front parlor and locked her in. She then secured a soap box, carried the child in it to a potato patch near the house, and there dug a hole by the high hedge. The box was too short for the infant so she doubled its little legs toward its head, covered it with a cloth and buried it. Before burying it, she had taken the infant's clothing off and put on a dress belonging to her own baby.

Mary was kept locked in the parlor until after dark, when Mrs. Bradley and one of her daughters took her in the spring wagon to Pierce Junction and placed her on board a west bound Rock Island train. She changed cars at Topeka and went to the home of one Mrs. Kinney at Manhattan, to whom she told her story. Later she returned to the poor farm in Jackson county and told the superintendent that her child had died from the effects of a kick by a horse, as she had been instructed to do by Mrs. Bradley.

In a few days she returned to the Bradley farm and demanded the body of her child. She was driven away by the defendant. Again she returned. To get rid of her Mrs. Bradley drove her to Horton and put her out in the street. A kindly disposed colored woman told Mary to see the sheriff at Hiawatha. This she did. The coroner was notified, a jury summoned and led by Mary Curley, the party arrived one evening at the Bradley farm at midnight. Mr. Bradley was called and all passed to the place where the child had been buried. The earth was upturned but nothing but a mouldy flour sack of the brand of flour used by the Bradleys was found.

All returned to the house. The defendant met the party. She deemed most emphatically that Mary ever had a child and said she was crazy. Mary said she could find some of the child's clothing if permitted to go upstairs. The defendant suddenly became chilly and went after a wrap. Mr. Bradley, Mary Curley and two men followed her. Acting Coroner Hess and other passed out of doors. As Mary reached the top of the stairs, Hess saw a bundle of clothing fall from a window and heard the window close. Frank Bradley endeavored to secure the bundle but was prevented by Hess. The clothing was that of the dead child.

The following day Mrs. Bradley and her son Frank were arrested, charged with the murder of the child. At the preliminary examination, Frank was discharged and his mother was bound over. The case was called in the district court before Judge J. I. Thompson in February last and continued six days. The jury, after being out fifteen hours, returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree.

Maggie Bradley is 41 years of age and was born in Ireland. When 5 years of age her parents came to America. The thirty-six since then she has passed in Doniphan and Brown counties. Her husband is a well-to-do farmer.
(Kansas City Star ~ March 5, 1892 Submitted by Lori DeWinkler)


HIAWATHA, KAN., November 17---The jury in the Bradley murder case brought in a verdict of not guilty. The murder is one of the most mysterious ever heard of in this part of the country. A little child of a simple woman, Mary Curley, disappeared. The mother accussed Mrs. Bradley of killing the child because the father of it was her son, Charles Bradley.
(Topeka Weekly Capital ~ November 24, 1892)



The Mother of the Slain Boy, There to Claim the Body, Brought About the Arrest of the Officer---the Officer's Statement

HIAWATHA, KAS., Jan. 31---A frail women of 60 years, her face tired and sad, her clothes severely plain, came to Hiawatha yesterday for the body of her dead son. Members of her church in Larned, her home town, gave her the money to buy her ticket here, she said. The woman was Mrs. Anna Wallace, and the boy, whose body she sought, was Ernest Wallace, shot and killed last Tuesday night by Sheriff N. T. Moore in an attempted jail delivery. This morning the woman left for Cowgill, Mo., with her son's body.

This afternoon a complaint charging Sheriff Moore with murder in the first degree was filed by Couty Attorney Ed Archer. The sheriff was arrested and later gave bond for $3,000. His preliminary trial was set for February 1.


A couple of weeks ago, Ernest Wallace, a boy of 22, untied a horse from a hitch rack on the main street here and rode the animal to Wichita where he sold it. He was caught in Kansas City and brought here where he confessed the theft and was taken to the county jail.

Tuesday Sheriff Moore was told by John Selvey, another boy prisoner, that Wallace and another alleged horse thief were planning escape. That evening at meal time the sheriff waited in an outside hall while his jailer carried supper to the prisoners.

Wallace and his accomplice, Albert Phillips, attacked their jailer and attempted to gain their liberty. The sheriff rushed to the cellroom corridor and shot both men. Wallace, shot through the back and top of the head, died two hours later. Phillips, shot through the breast, still is alive.

A coroner's jury after a lively dispute over the evidence, brought in a verdict exonerating the sheriff. The dead boy's mother spent all of yesterday investigating the killing of her son. She talked to the members of the coroner's jury. Some of them did not seem satisfied with their own verdict. Early this morning before leaving for Cowgill, Mo., to bury her boy, Mrs. Wallace talked to her brother, H. F. Mohn, about things the jurors and other Hiawatha citizens had told her and this afternoon the brother asked that the sheriff be charged with murder.


The Sheriff made this statement:

"To the Public: I feel very sorry for the unfortunate affair at the jail, but thought I was doing what was right. If I knew then what I know now I certainly would have avoided it. I have a mother, wife and two children and brothers and sisters, and all are sufferers. If I have overstepped or violated the law I should be punished. I do not feel guilty and invite any investigation of my unfortunate act."
(Kansas City Star ~ February 1, 1914)


HIAWATHA, KANSAS, Aug. 1---The Rev. T. P. Stewart, United Brethren minister, was held on a charge of murder today following the death of his wife, following a family quarrel. The minister admitted hitting his wife over the head with a plank, but claimed she had attacked him with a razor.

"For thirty-five years I have been preaching 'Thou shalt not kill,' and now I am charged with killing my own wife," Stewart said in his cell.
(Trenton Evening Times ~ August 1, 1923)



As the Masses of Circumstancial Evidence Pour In, the Theory of Murder Gains Adherents in the Kansas Town

HIAWATHA, KAS., Aug. 11---A flood of circumstantial evidence, indicating Luther Hixson was murdered, is rolling in, and this little city is on the eve of a probably disclosure of its worst scandal. Two persons already are under the shadow of crime. "Toots" Hixson, as he was known in three counties in Northern Kansas, was one of Hiawatha's best liked young men and the community is beginning to demand an invesitgation that will sift the truth from the masses of rumor and gossip which clog the case.

There are three theories which must be considered in an analysis concerning how Hixson came to his death. Poison killed him. There is no doubt of that. Either he died by his own hand, by accident, or he was murdered.


The suicide theory has no adherents among the dead man's intimates. He was young, in good health, and his busiess was considered prosperous. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Hixson, are wealthy and among the prominent families here. Luther Hixson was not deeply in debt. He had borrowed $300 when he bought a confection store from Arthur Wyatt, but the elder Hixson had given security and it seemed unlikely financial matters were pressing. Still the discovery of a promissory note in Hixson's pockets by J. S. Meed, coroner, undertaker, lends a puzzling aspect to this theory.

The note was signed by Harrison Bros. of Mound City, Mo., and was a promise to pay $790.80 July 28 to Haas Bros., jewelers, of Hiawatha. At the time of his death, Hixson was a traveling phonograph salesman in the employ of Haas Bros. Since Hixson's death it has been learned the note is a forgery. There is no such firm as Harrion Bros. in Mound City. But the stigma of crime is in no way attached to the name of Luther Hixson in this affair. He had made no attempt to present the note to his employees and it does not appear to be in his handwriting. Those who have seen it say three persons may have aided in the forgery.


In his dying statement, Hixson denied he had taken any drug which could have brought death either through arsenic or strychnine poisoning. The discovery of arsenic in the stomach and the positive symptoms of strychnine poisoning refute the theory of accidental death. The case is brought to where murder must be considered. All Hiawatha knows a probable motive. It has been written in crimson letters in the town's affairs many months.

With the motive must be coupled the facility of opportunity and it was there also. Returning to the events immediately preceding Hixson's death, his illness of a few days before is recounted. His eyes seemed puffy, his stomach upset. Arsenic, in mild doses, would produce exactly these symptoms in a normal man. The day before the end Hixson drank a small dose of castor oil. this, so far as is known, is the only medicine administered by himself until the end.


Monday morning, August 2, Hixson, according to his beautiful young wife, was ill when he awoke. He drank one cup of coffee. Mrs. Hixson was in the arbor, behind the cottage, washing. Beside her played her baby son, George William. Helen Pautz, a neighbor girl, stood talking to Mrs. Hixson. A man working in his yard next door saw Hixson coe out of the house and seat himself on a bench. The neighbor saw Mrs. Hixson return to the house with her small son. Then Hixson fell forward in a convulsion. Mrs. George Norris, his mother-in-law, came to his assistance and when the neighbor asked if he could help, Mrs. Norris replied, "No, he'll be all right in a little while."

Helen Pautz had rushed out to bring in the Rev. E. E. Erffmeyer, and when the minister arrived he found Hixson in a frightful stiffening. The minister, assisted by the Pautz girl, succeeded in carrying Hixson into the house and Dr. W. G. Emery came immediately. Hixson's wife and her mother remained in another part of the house while the physician attempted to stimulate his patient with artificial respiration. Throught it all Hixson was conscious.

"Toots, did you take any poison," asked Dr. Emery.

"No, I did not", replied the dying man.

"Did you take any emetic or any kind of medicine today?"



There was little confusion at the house of Mr. and Mrs. George Norris, parents of Mrs. Hixson, with whom the Hixson's lived, at the time of the tragedy, or even at the funeral. The wife speaks calmly and with dry eyes of her husband's death.

"I am satisfied it was strychnine poisoning," said Dr. Emery, and J. S. Meed, the coroner, who attended the body, and Prof. Arthur Hixson, a Columbia university chemist, brother of Luther Hixson, concur in this.

A few months ago, Hixson bought a policy from a Kansas City accident and health insurance company. A few days afterward he asked the Hiawatha agent why his policy was not sent and was told it had been addressed to his residence here. Later another policy was sent from the Kansas City office to Hixson's house, but he complained of his failure to receive it. Then the agent delivered another duplicate of the policy to Hixson in person. The policy bears the figures, "5,000" in large letters across the face of it. The terms of the contract are printed in smaller and much less obvious type.


Hiawatha awaits the report of the analysis of the viscera of the state university laboratories. This report is expected today and upon its receipt the coroner's jury will be recalled for an investigation of witnesses.

Mrs. Luther Hixson, her mother, Mrs. George Norris, Arthur Wyatt, who formerlly owned the candy kitchen which he subsequently sold to Hixson, the Pautz girl and others will be examined. W. F. Means, county attorney, had promised to dredge the cesspool of scandal in an effort to find the truth.
(Kansas City Star ~ August 11, 1920)


A Wealthy Kansas Farmer Probably Murdered in His Field

Hiawatha, Kas., Sept. 14---The body of John Evans, a wealthy farmer of Brown county, was found in a burning straw stack yesterday afternoon on his place three miles norhteast of here. The supposition is that a band of tramps or Indians killed him and threw him into the straw stack, then burned it. His dinner roll was found under a tree near the straw stack, where he had eaten dinner.

Evans was 42 years old and had always lived with his parents. He owned a quarter section of land and had limited credit and a great deal of personal property. He was liked by all his neighbors.
(Kansas City Star ~ September 18, 1897)


A Kansas Mother Kills Herself and Her Children, Having No Food For Them

HORTON, Kan., Feb. 1---News reached here this evening of a horrible act of an insane woman who has been living on a farm several miles west of here. Mrs. Henry Wysong was left a widow two years ago with three children dependent on her for life. The fear of starvation so preyed on her mind that she attempted to kill her children and herself. The eldest, a boy of twelve, got away from her after she had cut his throat with a knife, and he then ran to a neighbor's giving the alarm. He was almost exhausted from the loss of blood. The neighbor hurried to the house and found the place in flames. The woman had killed the remaining two children, and after inflicting mortal wounds on herself, she set fire to the house. The boy who escaped will live.
(Chicago Herald ~ February 2, 1891)


Kansas Woman Jailed for Taking the Life of an Illegitimate Grandchild

ATCHISON, Kan., Sept. 6---Justice Hess, of Everest, yesterday held Mrs. John Bradley without bail for the murder of the infant of her cousin, Mary Curley. The child was the illegitimate offspring of Mrs. Bradley's son, Charles. Two years ago, the condition of Mary Curley and the general knowledge that young Bradley was the cause of her trouble threatened to break his marraige engagement with Julia Gravey. Mrs. Bradley accordingly sent her unfortunate kinswoman away. The young woman wandered fromn place to place and her child was born in the Jackson County poor house. Early in August she returned to the Bradley farm, and a few days later, while the two women were alone in the house, Mrs. Bradley poisoned the child and buried it near the house, using a rough box as a coffin. She then drove the Curley woman, who is simple-minded, away. She wandered about but could not resist the maternal instinct to return to the grave of her child and the story came out. Mrs. Bradley is now a prisoner in the Brown County jail for this crime.
(Chicago Herald ~ September 7, 1891)


Mrs. Laura Ramsey, an aged woman living in Sabetha, was choked to death by some unknown person Monday night of last week.  She lived alone and the neighbors on seeing no life about the house Tuesday morning broke into the house and found her dead on the floor.  Suspicion points strongly to her son, with whom she had some financial difficulties recently.
(Holton Recorder ~ Thursday ~ February 8, 1900 ~ Page 8)


Thomas Ramsey was arrested in Sabetha Monday afternoon on a warrant charging him with the murder of his mother, Mrs. Laura B. Ramsey, who was found dead in her house Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 30.  The complaint was sworn by Jame Shintaffer and John Sherrah, brother-in-law of the accused.  The arrest was made by Sheriff Campbell who brought his prisoner to the county jail the same evening.  The preliminary hearing has been set for Feb. 14, and will be before Justice Graham, of Sabetha.  County Attorney Nold thinks he has a strong case against Ramsey.  The evidence is circumstantial.  A finger stall was found near the dead woman, which it is said, had been seen on Ramsey's hand a few days before.  Ramsey is about 48 years old and has a family.  He is a laborer but owns a small farm.---Seneca Tribune.
(Brown County World ~ Friday ~ February 16, 1900 ~ Page 2)


Sabetha Man Convicted of Murder in Second Degree

Seneca, Kan., March 16 --- Thomas J. Ramsey of Sabetha was convicted of murder in the second degree today.  Ramsey'e mother, Mrs. Laura Ramsey, was found murdered in her solitary home over a year ago.  At his preliminary Ramsey was acquitted.  He was re-arrested later and his trial set for this term of court here.  New witnesses gave damaging testimony.
(Topeka Daily Capital ~ Sunday ~ March 17, 1901  ~ Page 3)

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