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Roxalana DRUSE

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Dismemberment
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 18, 1884
Date of arrest: January 16, 1885
Date of birth: 1847
Victim profile: William Druse, 60 (her husband)
Method of murder: Beating with an axe
Location: Herkimer County, New York, USA
Status: Executed by hanging on February 28, 1887
 
 
 
 
 
 
photo gallery
 
 
 
 
 
 

Roxalana Druse (1847 – February 28, 1887) was the last woman hanged in the state of New York. Her botched execution resulted in the decision to replace the gallows with the electric chair in 1890.

Druse beat her husband William Druse to death with a axe but shooting him first with a .22 caliber. The murder continued with the help of her daughter Mary who supposedly wrapped rope around her father's neck and pulled him to the floor and her nephew Frank Gates who said that Roxalana forced him to shoot William or she would shoot him. She then chopped up the body with the assistance of her daughter and burned the pieces. Druse alleged her motive was that her husband was abusive to her and was not supporting the family for he left for a amount of days after an argument.

Execution

When Druse was sentenced to death, Herkimer County, New York state used suspension hanging for executions.

The process jerked the prisoner upwards by a weighted rope instead of the body dropping downwards through a trap door. But as Druce was a small woman, the force failed to break her neck leaving her to die agonizingly by strangulation.

The scene was so upsetting, officials decided to switch the primary method of execution in the state to the electric chair.

 
 

Roxalana Druse

When William Druse first met Roxalana Teftt in 1863 he was struck by her attractive figure and completely lost his head to her; twenty-one years later he was struck again, this time by the axe she wielded – as she beheaded him!

Dominant by nature, Roxalana ruled the roost. With their teenaged daughter Mary she entertained men after William had gone to bed, giving rise to much gossip among the neighbours, as did the commotion caused by the couple’s repeated rows.

Matters came to a head, in more ways than one, when, during a furious argument, Roxalana handed a revolver to her 14-yearold nephew, Frank Gates, and told him to shoot his uncle.

Whether too scared to disobey, or in order to protect her from being attacked by her husband, he did so, both shots only inflicting flesh wounds. William collapsed on the floor, but Roxalana, seeing he was still alive, picked up the axe from where it lay by the stove and struck him on the head. Not content with that, she then aimed at his neck with such force that she severed his head completely.

Where any other woman would have been aghast at what she had done, or sought medical assistance, Roxalana calmly picked up the head and, rolling it up in her apron, she put it to one side.

Then she and Mary proceeded to dismember the decapitated corpse, using the axe and a kitchen knife, throwing the body parts and limbs into the already lighted stove. Apparently loath to part with what was left of her dearly beloved, she dumped the head in a sack of wheat which was stored in the corner of the room, after which she and nephew Frank disposed of the weapons in a nearby pond.

However, the young boy could not keep silent about what had happened that awful night, and word reached the authorities.

Roxalana was arrested but, under questioning, remained silent, as did Mary. The testimony submitted by Frank, the presence of ashes and charred bones in the stove, and the discovery of William’s head, were so overwhelming that defence in court was futile and she was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.

As the following months went by, appeal after appeal was heard and rejected. The media had a field day, some being against capital punishment per se, others calling for the execution of the perpetrator of such cold-blooded slaughter. Meanwhile, in the

condemned cell, Roxalana had outbursts of bad temper, even ordering the priest, there to give her spiritual support, to leave her alone.

It was not until 28 February 1887 that the scaffold was made ready in the grounds of the gaol and the executioner detailed to attend. Hardly surprisingly the prisoner had slept but little, and on rising, dressed herself in what was described in the newspapers as ‘a narrow satin skirt, having a tight fitting basque.

The hem of the skirt was ruffled, her sleeves having white ruching at the cuffs, repeated at the neckline, where she had pinned a bunch of roses’.

As she was led out to the yard it became obvious to the official witnesses and large number of reporters that her cold, almost remote attitude had finally been overcome, for tears ran down her cheeks and she trembled almost uncontrollably. Mounting the scaffold steps she paused and, as the priest said his final words of support, two deputies advanced, one of them swiftly slipping the black hood over her head. Even as muffled shrieks commenced beneath the tightly drawn fabric, the signal was given and as the noose tightened its stranglehold ‘there was a rattle, a jar and a strangled cry’, and Roxalana’s lifeless body swayed from side to side in the cold winter’s wind.

Obsessed with jealousy, Mary Bolton suspected that her meek, ordinary looking husband was having secret affairs with other women, and she attacked him on several occasions, but eventually her uncontrollable emotions got the better of her. Going into his office one day in June 1936 she pointed a revolver at him, then proceeded to fire every round into his body. Somehow he managed to drag himself out into the corridor and exclaimed to horrified colleagues: ‘Keep that woman away from me!’

Totally unconcerned, his wife walked past him saying scornfully as she did so, ‘Take no notice of him – he’s just putting on an act!’

Found guilty of murder, Mary Bolton was given a life sentence and committed suicide in prison some years later.

Amazing True Stories of Female Executions by Geoffrey Abbott

 
 

Roxalana Druse

On February 28th, 1887, forty year old Roxalana Druse was hanged in New York for murder. (The last woman hanged in New York State before the electric chair replaced the gallows in 1890.)

Roxalana Druse and her retarded daughter Mary beat her husband John (aged 72) to death and then chopped up his body boiling down the remains. They lived in a frontier cabin in Little Falls New York. They were caught because her 12 year old son informed the police that his father was missing. The alleged motive for the crime was that her husband worked her too hard. She was hanged but her daughter was given a prison sentence.

At her execution, Roxalana was jerked upwards by a weighted rope (instead of being dropped through a trap door) and this failed to break her neck. She took 15 agonizing minutes to strangle to death on the noose. The scene so upset the officials that it was decided to alter the method of execution and this led to the introduction of the electric chair in 1890. (She was the last woman hanged in New York State.)

TRIAL OF ROXALANA DRUSE IN HERKIMER

Roxalana Druse lived in the town of Warren, Herkimer County, New York. Roxalana has gone down in the history of Herkimer County as being the first woman to be hung from the old jail, on the second floor of the old jail. On the back of the jail, people can still observe the boarded up door from which the person being hanged would come out at the time of the hanging. Over this door can still be seen the hook from which the rope was attached for the hanging.

Roxalana was found guilty of killing her abusive husband with an axe with the help of her 14 year-old nephew. She spent the next day chopping him up with the help of her 19 year-old nephew, while a nephew and her son played checkers. She then burned the chunks in the kitchen stove, and poured his ashes in the pig sty. She believed no one would ever know to what magnitude she went to cover up her murder and hoped it would never be disclosed.

Roxalana was a frail, shivering woman as she stood on the scaffold in the jail yard as the State Militia in high bearskin hats kept back the crowd while her execution took place.

Whether she was the first, the last, or only woman hanged in New York State is still open to discussion. The old jail is still there on Main Street at the Four Corners, jail tours being conducted by the Herkimer County Historical Society.

The above accounts were compiled from various excerpts and writings at the village of Herkimer library, the Herkimer County Historical Society and from the internet.

 
 

The Notorious Roxana Druse/Druce Murder Case, Part 1

The First Execution in Herkimer County, NY

Reportage from the The Franklin Gazette, Malone, NY

Contributed by Joanne Murray

*****

Mrs. Druce Sentenced

From: The Franklin Gazette (Malone, Franklin Co., NY) Friday, October 9, 1885

Utica, Oct. 6 - Mrs. Druce, who murdered her husband, with the aid of her son, daughter and nephew, in Warren, Herkimer County, last December, and cut up and burned the remains, was today sentenced by Judge Williams to be executed Wednesday, November 25. No woman has been executed in central New York for over forty years.

The courthouse was crowded by people of both sexes and all ages. At nine o'clock Mrs. Druce was escorted into the court room by officer Wilson. She looked haggard and worn. On the opening of court, Counselor Luce made a motion for a new trial, which was denied by Judge Williams.

The prisoner was told to stand up. She arose and Judge Williams pronounced the sentence.

Mrs. Druce never flinched or showed any emotion until she was passing out of the court room, when she burst into tears.

Counselor Luce will secure a stay of proceedings and appeal the case on a motion for a new trial.

*****

From: The Franklin Gazette (Malone, Franklin Co., NY) Friday, July 9, 1886

At the general term of the court held at Utica last week, the appeal of Mrs. Roxana Druce convicted of the murder of her husband in Herkimer County was decided adversely and she was sentenced to be hung August 19th.

*****

Mrs. Druce Resentenced

From: The Franklin Gazette (Malone, Franklin Co., NY) Friday, November 12, 1886

Utica, NY, Nov. 8 - In the Court of Oyer and Terminer, at Herkimer, today, the case of Mrs. Roxalana Druce, convicted of killing and afterwards burning and boiling the body of her husband, came up before Justice Williams, upon the motion of District Attorney Sheldon, the Court of Appeals having confirmed the conviction by the lower courts. The news of the motion soon spread and the court room was crowded. When the condemned woman was brought into court by the sheriff, she looked pale and nervous. After the motion by the district attorney, the court recounted briefly the story of the revolting crime and the subsequent trials.

The murder was committed in the town of Warren, December 18, 1884. The trial began September 21, 1885, and sentence was pronounced October 6 that the murderess be executed Nov. 25, 1885. An appeal was taken, first to the Supreme Court and second to the Court of Appeals, both reviewing and finding no error. The court asked the usual questions of Mrs. Druce, as to why sentence of death should not be passed upon her, to which she replied: "I have nothing to say". The court then fixed the date of her execution for December 29, 1886. Mrs. Druce then broke down and wept bitterly. Her counsel will appeal to the governor to commute the sentence.

*****

Mrs. Druce, The Murderess

From: The Franklin Gazette (Malone, Franklin Co., NY) Friday, December 24, 1886

Herkimer, Dec. 18 - No case in the history of New York State has attracted the same interest as the cold-blooded murder of William Druce by his wife Roxalana Druce, in Warren, Herkimer County, in December 1884, on account of the horrible brutality of its details.

The murdered man was what might be called a shiftless, lazy, good-for-nothing farmer, who was possessed of some property. His slayer is a frail, little woman of about forty years, who, from appearance would not hurt a dove. Her companions in the crime were her daughter Mary, aged nineteen, her son George, and a half-witted nephew, aged thirteen years. The two boys turned State's evidence.

Mary on her own confession, is confined in the penitentiary at Syracuse for the term of her natural life, and the inhuman wife and mother is counting the hours when the hempen rope will encircle her neck, with a faint hope that the Governor may commute her sentence, and that hope grows dimmer as the days pass by. At the trial a year ago the counsel for the prisoner based their only hope on the plea of self-defense, but owing to the brutal disposal of the remains of the murdered man the jury did not for an instant take it into consideration.

The story of the crime, as proven on the trial, is that the mother and daughter slept in the parlor and the boys and the victim slept upstairs. On the morning of the crime Druce came down and built the fire and went about doing the chores at the barn while the women soon after arose and began preparing breakfast.

The boys and the two women sat down to eat as soon as it was ready and had finished their meal when the father came in. In the mean time the mother had told the boys not to go far from the house, as she might want them. A quarrel arose between Druce and his wife about some groceries that had not been paid for, and Mrs. Druce went into the pantry. When she came out soon after she carried a loaded revolver beneath her apron. Mary, her daughter, had procured a rope during the quarrel, and at a signal from her mother she threw it around the body of her father and tipping him backwards in his chair, tied him to the floor.

Mrs. Druce immediately placed the revolver close to his head and fired. After the first shot was fired the boys came into the room and Mrs. Druce directed Frank Gates to shoot, which he did twice, each shot taking effect. Not satisfied with this, the wife procured an ax and began chopping off her husband's head, her husband pleading for his life, saying "Don't, Roxy, don't."

After the husband and father was killed the two boys were instructed to close all the doors, and then they were sent upstairs and told to remain quiet. Mrs. Druce and Mary, with the help of a man who is free at this writing, proceeded to cut up the body, part of which was burned in the fire and part fed to the pigs. The part put in the stove was afterwards taken and hid, some in a millpond and some in a sap house a few miles distant.

Suspicion did not become awakened until about a month after Druce disappeared, the neighbors supposing he had gone away, as he was frequently in the habit of doing. Frank Gates first told what had become of Druce while on a visit to his father, who resided a few miles from the Druce place. A Coroner's jury was immediately summoned and the above facts elicited, whereupon the four were arrested and confined in the Herkimer jail, where they were indicted by the Grand Jury in May 1885.

The trial of Mrs. Druce began Sept. 29, 1885, and lasted over two weeks. The jury, after being out about two hours, returned with a verdict of guilty. Her counsel immediately appealed to the Supreme Court and Court of Oyer and Terminer, and the same judge before whom she was tried again Nov. 8 this year, re-sentenced her to be hanged Dec. 29.

In her sleep she is oppressed by the horror of her condition and is very restless, beads of perspiration standing out on her forehead and her hands clutching nervously. Her latest assertion and one that the superstitious people of this community are afraid she will carry into execution, is that if she is hanged she will return in spirit and haunt all those who have had any part in the affair.

Only fifteen days yet remain before the execution will take place and already Sheriff Cook is making preparations. The death watch has already been placed over the condemned woman. With as many murderers as has been convicted and sentenced in this county, all of whom have thus far escaped, this frail little woman will be the first to suffer the full penalty of the law if the Governor does not interfere.

*****

From: The Franklin Gazette (Malone, Franklin Co., NY) Friday, February 25, 1887

It is understood that Governor Hill will take no further action in Mrs. Druce's case, and that she will be executed at Herkimer next Monday.

*****

From: The Franklin Gazette (Malone, Franklin Co., NY) Friday, July 9, 1886

At the general term of the court held at Utica last week, the appeal of Mrs. Roxana Druce convicted of the murder of her husband in Herkimer County was decided adversely and she was sentenced to be hung August 19th.

*****

From: The Franklin Gazette (Malone, Franklin Co., NY) Friday, March 4, 1887

At noon on Monday the law which calls for a life for a life was fulfilled at Herkimer, and Mrs. Druce expiated upon the gallows the awful crime of which she stood accused. As the first execution in Herkimer County, and because of the fact that the criminal was a woman, the hanging has created great excitement throughout the county and the state. The ends of justice, the warning to evil doers, and the lesson of the sacredness of life, were all the better subserved by the great solemnity of the event. The spectators were strictly limited to the number provided by the new statute, and the demeanor of the officials, the victim, and her advisors, was free from any semblance of sensationalism.

*****

Killed and Burned Her Husband

From: The Hunterdon County Democrat, 3 February 1885 (Flemington, New Jersey)

William Druse, a farmer in moderate circumstances, living in the town of Warren, Herkimer County, three miles from Richfield Spring, N.Y., has been missing for a month. He had had frequent quarrels with his wife, and for several days it was rumored that his wife had murdered him, cut and burned the body and placed the bones in a swamp. An axe, owned by Druse, was found rolled in paper at the bottom of Weatherbee's pond, on Saturday last.

A nephew of Mrs. Druse, named Gates, aged 18 was "squeezed" by the neighbors and confessed that she had shot her husband while he (Gates) and her son were out of the house. Upon Gates' return, Mrs. Druse put a rope around his neck and compelled him to fire into the body. The remains of the murdered man were then burned and the bones which remained were buried. The odor of burning flesh was noticed in the vicinity of Druse's house December 18. It is said that the woman has admitted her guilt. Mrs. Druse has a brother in New York.

**********

The Notorious Roxana Druce/Druse Murder Case, Part 2

The First Execution in Herkimer County, NY

Reportage from Various Out-of-County Newspapers

Contributed by Marie McDonald

*****

The Druse Trial.

From: The Plattsburgh Sentinel, Friday morning, October 9, 1885 (Clinton County)

Mrs. Druse Convicted of Murder in the First Degree at Herkimer.

The trial of Mrs. Druse for the murder of her husband December 18, 1884, closed at Herkimer at 12:30 a.m. Monday. The jury, after a trial lasting nearly two weeks, brought in a verdict of murder in the first degree. Mrs. Druse, who was sitting beside her counsel, heard the verdict apparently unmoved, but afterward said a great wrong had been done her, that she was not guilty of premeditated murder and had been unjustly convicted. The murder was the most brutal known in that part of the state and Mrs. Druse will probably be the first woman ever hanged in Herkimer county.

TO BE HANGED NOVEMBER 25.

On Tuesday morning Judge Williams sentenced Mrs. Druse to be hanged Wednesday, November 25, 1885. Mrs. Druse never flinched nor showed any emotion until she was passing out of the court room when she burst into tears. Her lawyer will secure a stay of proceedings and appeal the case on a motion for a new trial.

THE CRIME.

William Druse, the murdered man, lived near Richfield Springs and disappeared mysteriously December 18, 1884. Stories of the unhappy domestic life of Druse and his wife caused rumors of foul play, and these were given foundation by the discovery in a pond of an ax which was identified as having been sold to the missing man. Mrs. Druse appeared as much mystified over her husband's disappearance as any of the other residents, and frequently sent dispatches to New York and other places inquiring for him. Frank Gates, eighteen years old and a nephew of Mrs. Druse, lived with the family.

After persistent questioning by neighbors Gates finally made a confession, and with Mrs. Druse and Mary was arrested. Gates declared that at breakfast time December 18 Mrs. Druse sent him and her seven-year old son out of the house. A few moments later Gates heard a pistol shot, and Mrs. Druse called him in. He saw blood on her husband's neck. The woman told him to "finish him up" or she would shoot him. He shot the man, and the wife seizing an ax, cut up the body.

Gates further asserted she put the head into the fire, boiled the body and fed the flesh and entrails to the hogs. Two stoves were kept going, burning the bones and other parts of the body, Gates attending to the fire. Neighbors noticing the offensive smoke called at the house and were denied admission. Newspapers were tucked over the windows. Temporary insanity was the defense made by Mrs. Druse at the trial.

*****

Heading: News of the Week

From: The Plattsburgh Sentinel, Friday morning, October 16, 1885

Mary Druse, who helped her mother to kill, cut and burn her father in Warren, Herkimer county, pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree and was sentenced to the Onondaga penitentiary for life. George Druse, the young son, and Frankie Gates, the nephew of Druse who assisted in the murder, were discharged.

*****

Heading: News of the Week

From: The Plattsburgh Sentinel, Friday morning, November 12, 1886

- Mrs. Druse, the murderess, was Monday re-sentenced at Herkimer by Judge Williams to be hanged Wednesday, December 29.

*****

Heading: Local All Sorts

From: The Franklin Gazette, Friday, December 17, 1886

Mrs. Druse, the Herkimer county murderess, is said to be so confident that Governor Hill will commute her sentence that she gives no thought to her spiritual condition. She is reported as saying the other night to her guard: "By -- -, if I'm hung I'll haunt you all in my night clothes."

*****

Mrs. Druse Reprieved to February 28.

From: The Plattsburgh Sentinel, Friday morning, December 24, 1886

Mrs. Druse, who was to have been hanged the 29th for the murder of her husband, William Druse, at Warren, has been reprieved by Gov. Hill till February 28.

*****

From: The Franklin Gazette, Friday, January 7, 1887

Governor Hill's action in the Druse case is very highly commended by Republican papers. The Utica Herald in commenting upon the case says: "What criticism can be urged against the position taken by the executive? If public opinion demands that sex shall be respected by the hangman, let public opinion assert itself by demanding a change in the statute. The commonwealth should not shrink from legally what it requests the executive to do without justification of law. This is Governor Hill's argument in brief, which is unquestionably strong as well as adroit. More than a third of a century has passed since a woman was executed in New York. A good many murders have been committed by women in that period. The tender hearts of jurors or the clemency of executives has preserved the guilty from the gibbet. Capital punishment has become a dead letter so far as women are concerned, and public opinion approves. The question may as well be faced whether it is worth while to retain on the statute books a law, general in its application, whose execution public sentiment requires to be decided by the sex of the offender."

*****

From: The Franklin Gazette, January 28, 1887

A bill has been introduced into the Legislature abolishing capital punishment and substituting imprisonment for life to the case of women found guilty of murder in the first degree. Though this bill will not apply to Mrs. Druse, it is assumed, that since the Governor referred the petition for commutation to the Legislature, that should the bill become a law, he would permit it to be operative in saving the Herkimer county murderess from the gallows. Public opinion is by no means agreed touching this point, whether or not this pass. Doubtless an opportunity will be presented, that those who care to will be allowed to present their argument in such a shape as will reach the Legislature. The friends of the cause are now furnished with an objective point for their activity.

- Utica Press.

*****

Mrs. Druse to Hang.

From: The Plattsburgh Sentinel, Friday morning, February 25, 1887

Mrs. Druse will undoubtedly hang at Herkimer next Monday. Nothing can be learned of the report of the experts who visited the murderess in jail last week, but it can be stated that Governor Hill regards the case closed so far as he is concerned. The defeat of the Hadley bill in the Assembly last Friday settled the fate of the unfortunate woman.

*****

From: The Elizabethtown Post, March 3, 1887 (Essex County)

Mrs. Roxalana Druse, the Herkimer murderess, was executed in the jail yard at Herkimer, Herkimer Co., N. Y., at noon on Monday last. But few witnessed the execution, as a recent statute limits the number to, we believe, 25 beside the officers.

The following is a brief history of the case:

On the 18th of December, 1884, William Druse, a farmer, residing in the town of Warren, near Richfield Springs, Herkimer county, mysteriously disappeared, and suspicions of foul play began to be whispered about the neighborhood. The family consisted of William Druse and Mrs. Druse, the daughter Mary, aged nineteen years, the son, George, aged ten years, and a nephew, Frank Gates, aged fourteen years. Mrs. Roxalana Druse, the wife, was apparently as anxious as any one to find her husband, and the murder story was considered by some as a cruel slander; but there were hints of the sudden death of a former husband, and an ax being found in a pond near the village, wrapped in paper, and identified as one of a make known to have been sold to William Druse, started the story afresh, although Mrs. Druse was all the time searching for him, several times sending dispatches to New York and elsewhere. As the excitement grew, the neighbors plied Frank Gates with questions, until he finally, on January 16, 1885, confessed the crime. Gates and Mrs. Druse were arrested and taken to a neighbor's, where the woman also confessed.

HOW THE MURDER WAS COMMITTED.

She said a quarrel had occurred at the breakfast table on the morning of the homicide between Druse and herself. The deceased was still at the table, and during the quarrel of words she went into another room and took a loaded revolver which was there, and putting it under her apron, returned and whispered to the boys to go out of doors, which they did, leaving herself, the daughter Mary, and Druse in the room. Mary then placed a rope around her father's neck while he was at the table, and Mrs. Druse fired the revolver once or twice at him, wounding him, and he fell over sideways in his chair while she, being unable to make the revolver go off again called to the nephew Frank, who came into the house, together with the boy George, when she gave the revolver to the nephew, and, under a threat of killing him, compelled him to fire it off two or three times, and the deceased, being hit by the shots, rolled off the chair upon the floor, and then she seized an ax and hit her husband on the head with it, he exclaiming: "Oh, Roxy don't," and she continued hitting him on the neck until she chopped his head off—severing it completely from his body. Mrs. Druse then caused the head, as well as the body, to be taken into the parlor, and during that day and evening

The Body Was Cut Up With An Axe

and burned in the stove. She threatened to kill the boys if they told what had occurred, burned all her husband's clothes and made every possible effort to conceal the crime, causing the ashes in the stove where the body had been burned to be taken up and thrown, into a swamp, and the revolver and ax to be thrown in a pond, and had telegrams sent to friends in other places making false and misleading inquiries as to her husband and compelled the boys to tell everyone that her husband had gone away from home, she herself telling her neighbors falsehoods of every description as to her husband's whereabouts. During the evening, while Mrs. Druse and Mary were burning the body, in the parlor, the two boys were amusing themselves by playing checkers in the adjoining room, where the murder had been committed, thus showing the unconcerned and utter lack of feeling of the whole family. Mrs. Druse had previously made threats against her husband and boasted that she would be rid of him someday. The revolver had been procured and brought into the house under peculiar and suspicious circumstances, indicating felonious purposes. These and other facts, almost too horrible for description, marked the case as a plain one of deliberate and premeditated. There was scarcely a single mitigating circumstance surrounding it.

Found Guilty of Murder

Mrs. Druse was indicted for murder in the first degree and her trial began before Judge Williams at Herkimer, September 21, 1885 and lasted nearly two weeks. The defense attempted to prove that Druse abused his wife and had threatened to kill her and Mrs. Druse was temporarily insane when she committed the crime. The jury returned a verdict of guilty at twelve o'clock on Saturday night, October 3, 1885. Judge Williams sentenced Mrs. Druse the following Tuesday, October 6, to be hanged November 25, 1885. The conviction was appealed, both to the General Term of the Supreme Court and to the Court of Appeals, and was affirmed by both courts. Both courts held that the verdict fully justified the evidence, and refused to interfere with the sentence of the law. Mrs. Druse was again sentenced to be hung December 20, 1885. An appeal was made to Governor Hill as a last resort to commute Mrs. Druse's sentence, which he refused to do, but on December 22, the executive granted a reprieve until the 28th of February, in order that the legislature, if it felt disposed, could change the law regarding capital punishment as far as it affected women. The bill was introduced in the last assembly by Mr. Hadley, but was defeated Friday, February 18.

*****

Hanging of Roxalana Druse.

From: The Plattsburgh Sentinel, Friday morning, March 4, 1887

Her Terror Shown at the Last Moment.

Mrs. Roxalana Druse was hanged at Herkimer, N. Y., on Monday, for the murder of her husband. After sleeping an hour about midnight, Mrs. Druse wrote letters of thanks to Sheriff Cook and Deputy Sheriff Bartley Manion. She also wrote out a request to the Sheriff that he would give her body, after death, in to the charge the Rev G. W. Powell for Christian burial. Again she lay down and fell into troubled sleep from which she awoke in hysterics. A visit from Irving Terry, superintendent of Onondaga Penitentiary who brought the farewell message of Mary Druse, proved very exciting to the condemned woman. She wept most of the forenoon until the time for the hanging. She went to the gallows leaning on the arm the Rev. Mr. Powell and knelt under the rope while Mr. Powell offered prayer.

Mrs. Druse maintained her composure until the black cap was drawn over her head, when she shrieked so loudly that her voice could be heard in the street outside of the jail yard. The trap was sprung at 11:48 a.m. and the woman was pronounced dead at 12:03 p.m. The body remained hanging for twenty six minutes and was then taken down. The physicians stated that the neck was not broken and that death was due to strangulation. Only twenty-five persons witnessed the hanging. The streets in the neighborhood of the jail were crowded, however, with people, who had come from far and near, drawn by a morbid curiosity. The approaches to the jail were guarded by the 31st Separate Company, National Guards, and by the sheriff's deputies. The body of the dead woman was placed in the vault at Oak Hill Cemetery.

Before her death Mrs. Druse, in compliance with the request from her daughter that she should not leave a blot on her name, made the following affidavit:

I, Roxalana Druse, in my last moments, do hereby solemnly swear and affirm that my daughter, Mary Druse, who is now confined in the Onondaga Penitentiary, had nothing whatever to do with the killing of her father, William Druse, or with the disposition of his body. This statement I have repeatedly made and always adhered to at the inquest, and since my confinement. My daughter, Mary Druse, is absolutely innocent, and was in no way connected with her father's (William Druse's) death.

VIOLENT GRIEF OF MARY DRUSE.

Mary Druse, who is serving a life sentence in the penitentiary at Syracuse, for complicity in the murder of her father, when told that her mother was hanged, broke down and the feelings which she had up to that time held under more or less restraint, were manifested in a frantic outburst of grief. Within the last week her sufferings have been terrible, and fears are entertained that she may lose her reason as the result of the fearful strain under which she has been laboring. She said that she had neither "hand, act, nor part" in her father's death, and that she was as innocent of it as a child unborn. Her story in most respects was similar to that obtained in her mother's confession, except that she denied all knowledge of the burning of the body. She called heaven to witness that she knew nothing about the burning of any part of it, and she denied with equal emphasis that she had, as charged, held the rope around her father's neck. The authorities are a unit in the belief that she had no part in the murder, and it is thought that a petition for her pardon will soon be sent to the Governor.

*****

Heading: Note and Comment

From: The Fort Covington Sun, July 7, 1887 (Franklin County)

A HERKIMER correspondent claims that the ghost of Mrs. Druse now haunts the cell in the Herkimer jail in which she was last confined, and tells of moans and murmurs and cries of "Oh! Oh!" such as Mrs. Druse uttered when the black cap-was drawn over her head.

*****

From: The Plattsburgh Sentinel, July 3, 1891

Governor Hill has denied the petition for a pardon for Mary Druse, sent to prison for life at the time her mother, Mrs. Roxana Druse, was sentenced to death for the murder of William Druse, the husband and father. The petition was made on the grounds that there was no distinct proof that the prisoner was implicated, and that furthermore she was not given an opportunity to say a word in her own behalf.

 
 

THE DRUSE BUTCHERY

The Most Horrible Murder, on Record. William Druse, of Warren, Killed, Butchered, and the Body Burned in Stoves. The Wife Daughter, Son and Nephew Arrested for the Crime.

Herkimer county, during the past few years, has been gradually coming into prominence as the scene of horrible murders. The annals of criminal history contain many] terrible grimes, but it was thought that every known method of committing a homicide had long since been exhausted. It remained for the little to town of Warren to produce another feature and she has responded in a way that leaves nothing to be desired by people of a morbid turn of mind or lovers of the horrible.

The details of the crime are almost too terrible for contemplation, but that the ends of justice may be attained, and a full knowledge of the facts placed before the public, I deem it best to present a true and unvarnished statement of the affair.

In an old dingy yellow farm house, about a quarter of a mile from the main road, and near the village of Little Lakes, on the 18th day of last December, was committed one of the most horrible murders known to the annals of crime.

Wm. Druse, a farmer 60 years of age, was shot, and his body hacked to pieces by an infuriated wife and her children. Wm. Druse disappeared from home on the 18th day of December. The day following his house was locked up, none of the family seen about, and forth from the chimney poured a dense black smoke, filling the air around the place with a very offensive odor. A number of the neighbors noticed the smoke at the time, and as days rolled by, and Druse's absence became manifest, curious surmises were made in regard to his whereabouts. Surmises became rumors, rumors finally became facts, and at last it was openly asserted that Druse had been murdered.

At this stage of the proceedings, district attorney A. B. Steele, of Herkimer, was sent for, and on his arrival made acquainted with such facts as the neighbors had gleaned. Mr. Steele immediately caused the arrest of Frank Gates, nephew of the deceased, and by dint of severe cross-questioning, succeeded in compelling the youth to confess his participation in the murder.

The district attorney at once telephoned to Dr. L.O. Nellie, one of the three coroners of this county; that gentleman arriving on the scene early Friday morning, January the 16th. As the boy's confession implicated others, orders were given for the arrest of Roxy Druse, the wife, Mary Druse, a daughter, George Druse, a son, and on Saturday, Roxy Druse's brother-in-law, Chas. Gates.

The boy's confession is substantially as follows: he states, that Roxy after the old gentleman was through the morning chores, sent the two boys, Frank and George out of the room, and coming up behind Druse while he was seated at the breakfast table, fired one shot from a revolver into the back of his neck; two more shots were also fired by her, but their location at present is uncertain; she then called Frank in and placing the pistol at his head ordered him to complete the deed, threatening at the same time should he refuse, to kill him at once, he took the revolver and fired one shot into Druse's back.

The supposition is, that Mary, the daughter, was at this time holding a rope that was fastened around her father's neck, and that she was the one that dragged him from the chair to the floor. After the last shot was fired Frank brought Mrs. Druse an ax, with which she struck her husband twice on the head, he exclaiming at the same time, "Oh, Roxy, don't! " The second blow probably killed him. as he never spoke again. The woman then severed the head from the body, and, as she said, threw it into the kitchen stove.

After the murder Frank brought from up stairs a large tick filled with straw, and assisted Mrs. Druse in placing the body of her dead husband upon it, and together they carried the corpse into the parlor. Frank and George were then sent down to the brush lot after a sharp ax. They returned with the article and gave it to the woman. The boys were kept busy bringing shingles with which hot fires were built in both the parlor and kitchen stoves. The murderess then took the sharp ax, a razor, a jack knife, a board and a chopping block. She carried these into the parlor, and there proceeded to dismember the body.

The arms were first cut off, and then the legs; she chopped the limbs into small pieces and .threw them into the parlor stove. The body was then placed on the block and hacked and cut until she was enabled to get all the pieces into the kitchen stove. Frank says the ashes and pieces of burned bone were carried by his aunt and himself the next day to Ball's swamp, distant about half a mile from the house.

The Druse family now under arrest, consist of Roxy Druse, about 45 years of age: The woman has black hair and eyes, pinched features, sallow complexion, and sharp hooked nose. She is about five feet four inches in height. Mary Druse, the daughter, is about 20 years old; George Druse, 10 years, and Frank Gates, a whole family in crime. They were first taken to the residence of Jeremiah Eckler, about one-quarter of a mile distant from the scene of the murder. By the boy'sconfession Coroner Nellis was able to discover the nearly destroyed remains in Ball's swamp. He then impanneled the following coroner's jury:

Chas. McRorie, foreman; Charles Pett, Chas. Bond, Geo. L. Rathburn, Alonzo Filkins, Rozelle Warren, James Hall, Frank Springer, and Chester Armstrong, all of the town of Warren. Coroner Nellis summoned Drs. A. D. Getman and W. P. Borland, of Richfield Springs, to examine the remains. These consisted. of the contents of a small box, a mass of dirt, wood ashes and small pieces of bone, all frozen together in a solid mass. There were about 18 to 20 small pieces of bone, from one inch to two inches long. The two patellae or knee caps, were found, as also the upper end of the left tibia or lower leg bone, showing two articular surfaces, thereby proving conclusively that the bones were human.

Mrs. Druse's brother-in-law, Chas. Gates, is claimed by some to be implicated, as she asserts that he assisted in the killing, firing several shots from his own revolver, and that the officers would find two kinds of bullets in the ashes, apparently forgetting she fact that lead would not long exist in a bullet form where there was a very hot fire. Drs. Getman and Borland were examined in regard to the ashes and bones being human. They testified that in their judgment the remains were those of a human body:

The coroner's inquest was until Saturday noon, the 17th, held in the Eckler cheese house. At that hour the coroner adjourned to the town hall at Little Lakes, in order to accommodate the large crowd that the proceedings had brought into town. District attorney A. B. Steels assisted the coroner in the examination of the witnesses. As the testimony is voluminous, and would take up more space than a work of this kind would warrant, I will condense the evidence into

A GENERAL STATEMENT.

Jeremiah Eckler.

Has lived in Warren 28 years; knew the deceased; knew that he was missing, and on December 18th saw black smoke pouring out of the chimney, and perceived a very bad odor. The forepart of January he asked Mrs. Druse where William was? She said; in New York; they quarreled frequently.

Charles Pett.

Live near; knew that Druse was missing; saw dense black smoke on December 18th pouring out of chimney; went there first last Saturday; saw stoves; went there again asked where Druse, and told her of the reports that he had been murdered; she said they were false; saw new paper on walls; asked Gates boy where William was; he said, gone away; told Mrs. Druse a boy had found an ax; she said she supposed that the other tools were under the snow; on Thursday went to Herkimer and .brought the district attorney, A. B. Steele, to my house.

Wm. Eckler.

Son of Jeremiah Eckler: Remembers smoke; color dark, bad smell, like burned meat; have heard no threats made by Mrs. Druse against her husband.

Fred Vrooman.

Found an ax in mill pond, near the bridge, (ax shown); it is the same ax; it was wrapped in a copy of the N. Y. weekly Tribune; no name on paper; got it out next day.

Alonzo Filkins.

Knew Druse; went to house. Thursday afternoon, after a hay knife he borrowed; knocked at the door, but could not got in; newspapers up at windows; heard talking inside; could not see in; went last evening about 9 o'clock, and found burned remains in Ball's swamp; carried them to Chas. Pett's. The party who informed us went direct to place and pointed out the substance we brought away; it was lightly covered with snow. Frank Gates worked at Druse's for his board.

The district attorney then asked Frank Gates if he was willing to tell all that he knew in reference to the murder, without any promise on the part of the people. He answered, " Yes, sir," and was told to proceed, which he did as follows, substantially.

Frank Gates.

Last summer Mrs. Druse and Mary wanted to hire me to shoot Druse; they said they would give me a good many dollars for doing it; I told them I would not; there was nothing more said, but this winter Mrs. Druse and William had a good many words. On Thursday before Christmas, in the morning, William asked me to get up and build the fire; I did so. Mrs. Druse and Mary then got up. William went out and did the chores; asked if I should help; said he would do them himself; when he came in to breakfast, he sat down to the table; I was nearly through; Mrs. Druse told me to hurry up; I did so; I asked her what she wanted; she told me and George to go out doors and not go far from the house; heard a noise three or four times, and then she came and called me; she had a revolver, and she handed it to me and told me to shoot William or she would shoot me; she put the revolver against my nose as she told me this; I did so; he was sitting in a chair or on the floor; I was excited, could not tell which, and then she took the revolver and shot until the loads were all out; then she took the ax and pounded William on the head; William said, "Oh, Roxy, don't!" then she chopped his head off, and sent me and George up stairs after a straw tick; she dragged him on to it, and she told me I should help drag him in the parlor, and she asked me to come in there; I told her I couldn't; then she sent me and George down to the brush lot after the sharp ax; we came back, she took it in the other room and shut the door; told me and George to go up stairs, then she called us down again, and sent us after some shingles to the hog pen; she built up a hot fire in both stoves, then had me look out the north window, and Mary out of south window; then she took a block in the parlor and a board and chopped him up, as I suppose she did, and put him in the fire. Then afterwards told me to put some shingles in the kitchen stove. I saw a large bone, and the next day she took the ashes up and put them into a tin spit box which Rudolph Van Evra had used, and put some of the ashes in a bag; then she told me to hitch up the horse, as she was going to Mr. Gates; we all went. When we got into Mr. Ball's swamp, about two rods from the track, she told me to carry the ashes; I did so, then went to my house, taken sick and stayed there until Sunday, when I came back. Mrs. Druse told me to get the new ax and saw the handle off; I did so, and Mary burned the handle; then I went to Richfield Springs with Mrs. Druse; when we got back to Weatherbee's mill pond, she threw the ax in; when we got up a little farther, she told me to take the revolver and throw it intothe pond; also the jack knife, or I would be sorry if I didn't; she threw the razor blade side of the fence. I did throw the revolver and knife in the pond. Last night I went with Mr. Filkins, district attorney, Clarence Marshal and Daniel McDonald to Ball's swamp where I left the ashes; I showed the ashes to the men; they put them in a box and brought them to Mr. Pett's ; I saw the box on table to-day in this room; I went again to-day with Marshall, McDonald and two strangers, said to be Doctors; they got all the ashes we could not find last night; I then went to the pond and showed them as near as I could where the revolver was, then came home; the revolver was found in the pond; I did not see the revolver only as Mr. Marshall put it in his pocket; there was a newspaper around them when it was thrown into the pond; I saw it when it went in; I would know the axe; it was a new ax with small nicks in it, when I brought it from the woods; sawed the handle off next to the ax, about an inch from the ax; the handle was wedged in; think he bought the ax at Richfield Springs; think Druse put the wedge in at Mr. Pett's; don't know what paper was around the ax; examining the ax, I think that is Druse’s ax.

District attorney - What makes you think so?

" Because it looks like the ax I sawed the handle off from. All axes do not look alike. I know this ax by the nicks in the blade, and the handle being sawed off. Think the ax had no rust or stains on it when I brought it; it has spots on it now.”

Was shown a revolver; "That is the one, sir; I know the revolver by the stamped handle and cylinder. The revolver was loaded when thrown into thepond; don't know who loaded it; I know it was loaded, because I saw It. Mrs. Druse told me she got the revolver last fall; she did not say what she got it for."

When I went out of the room at the time Mrs. Druse called me back I left in the room Mrs. Druse, Mary and William; he was eating his breakfastwhen I went back; his back was towards the outside door. No one else had been there that morning that I know of. Mary was in the kitchen, walking backward and forward between the buttery and parlor door. When I came back in the house, I noticed blood on the back of William's neck, and on the floor; I saw the blood before I fired the revolver. When Mrs. Druse called me, I think he was sitting in the chair, his head was leaning over; I think Mary had the rope around his neck when I came in and was holding him; when I shot the revolver off William made no noise.

By district attorney - Supposing Mr. Pett to be William, show us how you pointed the revolver? Witness points at Mr. Pett with left hand. District attorney-Were you frightened? Ans. "I was when I shot the revolver off; don't know what Mary was doing; Mrs. Druse was behind me; she talked fast when she told me to shoot; but not much faster than usual. George was in the door,;I think. After I shot the revolver off; Mrs. Druse took it.

When I went out of the house I did not know they were going to kill Druse. I did not know what to think when she told me to go out and not go faraway. When Mrs. Druse took the revolver I don't know how many times she shot him; she shot him after I did; I think it hit him.

District attorney - What makes you think she hit him? “Because I could find no holes in the floor or wall."

District attorney - O, then you must have hit him? “Yes sir."

" Did you look to see ? "

" Yes, I looked in the wall."

" What made you do that?"

" Because I wanted to know if he was hit."

Druse fell on the floor; I did not see him fall, I saw him afterwards; his head was near the stove leg; he fell over to the left, his face was towards the stove leg; I saw the top of his head from where I stood. She cut his head off before I went after the sharp ax; she cut it off with an old ax. She said she put his head in the stove first. I don't know where Mary was when she cut the head off; George was up stairs; George did not cry; Mary did on the start. Don't know where the rope came from; I think it was used as a clothesline; Mrs. Druse said she burned the rope up; she said she burned up his vest, inside coat, black overcoat; hat, pants and boots. The bone I saw was in the kitchen stove; it measured about three inches thick, and about fourteen inches long; Mary had the bone; there was some flesh on the ends. I heard them cutting in the parlor; Mrs. Druse was there alone. There were brass buttons on the under coat. Mrs. Druse said she saw Mr. Filkins pass; there were newspapers at the windows. I have only heard Jerry Eckler testify. No one has told me what any one else has sworn to to-day. My father told me William Elwood came to the house and rapped; no one answered. They did not want any one to come in and see what they were doing (evidently not). They were cleaning up the floor. They had big fires to burn Druse up. They had the big boiler on the stove to heat water; I don't know who filled the boiler, think Mrs. Druse did. I saw water only in the boiler, nothing else. They did not boil any part of the body that I know of. I smelled a bad smell, like meat burning. Mrs. Druse quarreled that morning. I heard Bill say there would be some arrangements made before night. Mary talked low to her mother; Mrs. Druse blowed too; I could hear what they said; I don't know what Mrs. Druse wanted to get rid of Bill for; I heard her say once, " I wish he was gone, because he's so ugly." He was ugly sometimes; she was ugly too; sometimes. I heard them blow each other at times--I mean scold. They did not sleep together; she said she had not slept with him in ten years. Rudolph Van Evera has also slept there; he slept in the farther room up stairs, and they in the front room. George and I slept together. Mary slept with her mother.

Never saw Van Evera carry Mrs. Druse up stairs, nor Mary either; don't know of their being up stairs together. My uncle was here from New York one night. My mother and Mrs. Druse are sisters. The knife handle Mrs. Druse burned; Mrs. Druse knew they would know it was his knife; there was blood on it, but she washed it off; she burned up the razor handle; I think it was all right before; don't know why she burned it; she had no saw, she cut him up with the ax, jack-knife and razor.. I think I saw blood on her hands; she washed her hands in the kitchen, and then threw the water in the swill pail. The hogs fed themselves that day, in the barn. I could not see the barn from the window I watched at; Mary could from her window. My father came there that night at dark, or a little after; Mrs. Druse let him in; I was there, don't know where he came from; he came in at front door, that opens into the kitchen; the door was not locked, it had been locked nearly all day; father rapped, Mrs. Druse went to the door, she told him to come in; he most always rapped when he came; he sat down and asked for William, if he was at home; she said that he had gone to Mose Elwood's. Father said Will Elwood was down there to-day and rapped but could not get In. He (Elwood) said that he thought Bill had killed them all, and locked himself in, or ran away. My sister said I was not at school, and father came to see where I was. I did not tell him what had happened; I was afraid of Mrs. Druse; she said the first one that told would get shot, and that was the reason I did not tell father. Father was not in the parlor that night; the boiler had been put away; no paint had been put on the floor; water was got from the cistern; I drew it at Mrs. Druse's request; that was after I got the ax.

I told Mr. Pett that William had gone to New York; I told Mr. Filkins also-Mrs. Druse told me to; I told them he went on Sunday. Mary and Mrs. Druse had not breakfasted when Bill was killed; the revolver was not shot off after I came back with the ax; did not know father's revolver was there that day, he had one; Mrs. Druse did not want me to go home; my brother said his orders were to get me; he said some men at Mr. Pett's wanted tosee me; Mrs. Druse did not hear this, she had the door locked I think. William had a model of a steamer, which they burned up; they burned it so no one would find it; they said he took it to New York with him.

Last summer they asked me to shoot William, but I saw no revolver; they did not tell where the revolver was bought; I don't know whether the carpeton the parlor floor was taken up or not; I saw no blood on the carpet; carried the ashes away next day; a new piece of oilcloth has been put in theparlor. I was at Jerry Eckler's the day of the murder, to buy a bunch of matches to make the fire with; I got them; I went over after Mr. Filkins and Elwood was there; Mr. Eekler did not ask me about the smell; I gave the matches to Mrs. Druae; Mr. Eakler would take no pay for them. I went to Mr. Pett's too, before that, for matches; there was no one at home; Irving Eckler came there on the morning of the murder for an augur; he did not get it; Mr. Druse said it was over to Mr. Eckler's. Never told of the matter, was afraid Mrs. Druse would shoot me; no other reason.

The room casing and wood work in the room have been painted, and the side walls papered, since the murder, and paint put on the floor to hide the blood stains. There had been no talk of painting before. Father noticed the smell and asked me what it was; I told him nothing. We had two lights that night; they were notbright lights. They got the paint in Richfield Springs and the paper at Little Lakes.

William Elwood

Knew Druse, knew he was missing; called at the Druse house on that Thursday; could not get in; windows covered with newspapers; noticed heavy smoke. I saw Filkins about twenty rods from the house; I saw Charles Gates and told him that I had called at Druse's, and that either Bill had killed them all, or they were all dead asleep. The rest of his testimony corroborates earlier statements.

George William Stewart Druse

The nature of an oath, was explained to him, by the district attorney, he said he was ten years of age. George described his various relatives and then told the story of the murder as follows: On the morning when the pistol was used, Frank and I went to the corner of the house; Ma told us to go out; Pa was sitting at the table eating his breakfast; Pa did not hear Ma tell us to go out, because she whispered; Ma had a revolver in her hand; there was no one in the house only Ma, Mary, Pa and Frank; don't know where Uncle Charley was, did not see him; we went out; I heard the revolver go off; Ma called Frank in; when the revolver went off I knew what was being done; Ma said she would hurt Pa; Uncle Charley bought the revolver for her; Frank went in and Ma handed the revolver to him and told Frank to shoot Pa or she would shoot him; Frank shot three times. There was a rope around Pa's neck, and blood on the floor; don't know what Mary was doing, think she was in the kitchen; Ma hit Pa on the head with an ax; he said, "oh, don't."

The rest of George Druse's testimony is nearly the same as Frank's, and corroborates his evidence in nearly all particulars. Elisha W. Stannard, Wm. R. Wall, Dr. A. D. Getman, Dr. W. P. Booland, Albert Bowen and Chester Crim were sworn, and their testimony taken down by the clerk.

Mrs. Roxy Druse was called to the stand. She said that she did not wish to make any statements, but declared afterward that Chas. Gates was present when her husband died.

James Miller, Chas. Gates, James Hall, Walter Buckman, Geo. L. Rathbun, Mrs. Lucy Gates, Mrs. Elfeha M. Rathbnrn, Cheater Gates, Mrs. Louise Elwood, Moses Elwood, Idella Gates, Irving Eckler, Wm. Elwood, Albert Bowen, Henry Ostrander, Alonzo Filkins, Moses Elwood, Rudolph Vanevry, Frank Gates, Chas. O'Brien; Daniel McDonald, Chas. Bond, and Charles Gates were the other witnesses examined. Their testimony appears in the Coroner's inquest in the order named.

The verdict of the jury was as follows: " That Wm. Druse came to his death on the 18th day of December, 1884, at the town of Warren, and that one Roxana Druse did on the 18th day of December, 1884, between the hours of seven and eleven o'clock of the forenoon of that day, in the town of Warren, in said county, feloniously and of malice aforethought made an assault upon the body of William Druse then and there present, that the said Roxana Druse did shoot William Druse, and also strike him on the head with an ax, and did sever his head from his body; of which wounds the said William Druse died ; that Roxana Druse did cut and burn the body in the stove, and the jurors aforesaid say that the said Roxana Druse did murder her husband. That Mary Druse the daughter, George Druse the son, and Frank Gates were present, and that Frank Gates did fire one or more shots at William Druse, and that Mary, George and Frank did comfort, aid and abet Roxana Druse in committing the felony and murder."

At the conclusion of the inquest sheriff Valentine Brown, who was present during the entire proceedings before the coroner, placed his four prisoners in a close-covered sleigh and drove rapidly over the snowy hills for the county seat.

The sheriff left Little Lakes about half-past three o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, arriving at the Herkimer jail about seven in the evening. During the trip the murderess evinced a remarkable degree of nerve, and appeared to be totally unconcerned over the situation of affairs. She remarked that “whether it turned out state prison for life, or hanging, she would never live with Wm. Druse again," meaning probably, that she would prefer either, rather than live with her dead husband. Undoubtedly the wish so coolly uttered, will be granted. The other prisoners exhibited no care, the two boys especially, amusing themselves by making jovial comments on objects that elicited their interest along the road.

On arriving at the jail they were met by a curious crowd, but were hurried at once to the general waiting room. After a few moments rest, they were informed that their quarters were ready, and as Mrs. Druse arose to accompany the jailer she remarked in an offhand manner: "Well, I hope I may be able to procure to-night what I have not had before in two years, a good night's rest." The two women were placed in a warm and comfortable room in the upper portion of the building, and the two boys on the upper tier, in the general quarters assigned to the prisoners.

A day or two after the arrival of the prisoners, the writer visited the jail at Herkimer, and accompanied by Henry Brown, was shown to the room of Mrs. Druse and Mary. On entering, we found the mother and daughter seated near the heavily barred window, engaged in close conversation, which was interrupted as we crossed the threshold. After the usual preliminary introduction, we seated ourselves and at once plunged into the object of our visit. Throughout our conversation with her mother, Mary kept her eyes bent on the floor, only raising them at intervals to watch her mother's face. She said nothing during the interview. We asked her if Charles Gates was present when the deed was committed. She replied that he was.

In response to a question in relation to Charles Gates' knowledge of the disposition of the body, she said that he knew more about that than any one else, as he was present and afterwards assisted in disposing of the remains. She also stated that in her opinion Chas. Gates should have been held, as by so doing certain things would have been brought out that could not be gained, otherwise. She was firm in her statement that Gates was present, and reiterated the remark two or three times over.

She appeared cool and unconcerned, and it was evident to the most casual observer that very little love existed between herself and husband. She appeared to consider that in ridding the world of William Druse, she had performed an action that was in the highest degree commendable, and that all right minded persons would sympathize with her as the victim of circumstances and not as a heartless and cold-blooded murderess. After leaving the cell of this female fiend, we turned down stairs, and amid the clanging of innumerable bolts and bars, and the clicking of locks, found ourselves on the south tier in the ground department. From the midst of the throng of prisoners our conductor picked out the two boys, and we called them toward us for a talk.

George Druse is about ten years of age, is short in stature, round, full form, and at the time of our visit was clad in a blue cloth suit and rubber boots. He had a round, full face, indicative of fun and good nature, and taken altogether appeared as a bright, intelligent boy, who little realized the terrible curse which had fallen on the family. He did not have much to say in relation to the affair, the sum of his remarks being about the same as already presented heretofore.

Frank Gates was questioned closely in regard to his connection with the crime. We asked him if his father, Charles Gates, was present when the murder was committed. He replied emphatically, " No." We asked him at what time his father visited the house, he said, "the same evening," and also stated that his father did not learn of the murder of Druse when he called. Frank also said that Mrs. Druse had "scared the life out of him," that he was afraid that she would kill him if he did not do as she ordered; that during the time that Mrs. Druse was cutting up the body she repeatedly threatened to kill him if he breathed a word in relation to the murder.

He said that the terrible scene made him so deathly sick to his stomach that he was forced to go outdoors, where he fainted dead away from fright and horror.

On the 29th day of January the Druses were brought before Judge T. C. Murray, when they waived examination, and were again remanded to jail. Judge Amos A. Prescott of Herkimer, for sixteen years county judge of this county; has been retained by attorney Luce, of Richfield Springs, as associate counsel in the case.

Considerable excitement was manifested on or about March 20th, by the reported finding of the missing head of Wm Druse, in a sap bush located in the town of Warren. The rumor, on investigation, proved to be without foundation. But as suspicious circumstances tended to prove that something had been hidden in the sap house, and then removed, constables Sylvester Wilson and Joseph W. Smith, of Herkimer, visited the place, and on a warrant sworn out before Judge Helmer by district attorney Steels, arrested William Elwood. Elwood protested his innocence, but was brought to Herkimer and placed in jail. During his incarceration Elwood's friends succeeded in securing the services of Judge George W. Smith and J. A. Steele as counsel: Elwood was finally brought before Judge Wm. Helmer, and after a short examination was released on bail of $2,000.

[Editor’s note: See Hearn, Daniel Allen (1997) Legal Executions in New York State: A Comprehensive Reference, 1639-1963. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company: 77. According to Hearn, Roxalana Druse (age 40) and her daughter Mary Druse (age 18) were found guilty of the murder of William Druse. The other Druse children were not prosecuted because of their age. Mary Druse was sentenced to life in prison. Roxalana Druse was hanged at Herkimer on February 28, 1887. Hearn’s sources are: New York Herald, 1 March 1887, and Master Detective, July 1938.]

HERKIMER COUNTY MURDERS by W. H. Tippetts

 

 

 
 
 
 
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