Sunday, February 21, 2010

Josie Langmaid-"The Murdered Maiden Student"

On October 4, 1875, 17-year-old Josie Langmaid was absent from school – The Pembroke Academy in Pembroke, New Hampshire. When her parents learned that Josie never arrived at school, they organized a search party. At 9:00 that night they found the mutilated body of Josie Langmaid in the woods near the academy. The following morning they found her head, half a mile from where the body had been. The gruesome discovery tore the community of Pembroke apart.

Date: October 4, 1875

Location: Pembroke, NH

Victim: Josie A. Langmaid

Cause of Death: Clubbing and Decapitation

Accused: Joseph Lapage

"The Suncook Town Tragedy" -
Paul Clayton

Josie Langmaid was late for school the morning of October 4, 1875, she had been waiting to walk with a friend who never showed up. 17-year-old Josie usually walked to school with her brother Waldo who was a year younger. They both went to The Pembroke Academy, about 2 ½ miles from the Langmaid home. She left alone that morning but never arrived at school.
That afternoon, when her parents learned that Josie had not been at school they contacted their neighbors and within half an hour, everyone in the adjoining towns of Pembroke and Suncook knew that Josie was missing. A search party of at least a hundred men was organized to search the woods between the Langmaid home and Pembroke Academy. After dark the search continued, the men carried torches to light their way. About 9:00 that night Josie the corpse of Josie Langmaid was found, about half a mile from the school. In the flickering torchlight, the men could see that her clothing was torn and bloody and her body had been mutilated. Her head had been severed and carried away. Later, at the post mortem examination, it was determined that she had been raped and her vagina had been partially cut away.

The next morning the search continued. About half a mile from the spot where the body was found, the search party found Josie’s head, wrapped in her blue oilcloth cape. . Her face had been cut, and there was a mark on her cheek where the killer had dug in his boot heel. On the road nearby they found a broken, bloodstained, 3-foot-long wooden club.

The citizens of Pembroke and Suncook were outraged that a crime so heinous was committed in their midst and they were overwhelmingly frightened that the monster who committed it was still at large. A detective from Boston was brought in to help the local police and towns throughout the east began rounding up tramps on suspicion. A man named John Meyer was arrested in Lowell, Massachusetts, he had blood on his shirt and scratches on his face, and he had come by train from Suncook the day Josie was murdered. Another tramp was arrested in Raymond, New Hampshire, and a third in Pittsfield, New Hampshire. Charles Moore, the only black man in Suncook was arrested on suspicion, only because he was black.

The first serious suspect the Pembroke police went after was a man named William Drew. The 24-year-old Drew lived with his wife in a shack in the woods, not far from the Langmaids. He had a reputation as a ne'er-do-well who allegedly made improper remarks to young women when he got them alone. Drew got word that the police were after him and left his home. He was arrested while walking on the road toward Concord, New Hampshire, and had to be protected from a lynch mob before being locked safely behind bars.

The damning evidence against William Drew was provided by Miss Belle Lake, one of Josie Langmaid’s teachers. She claimed that Josie told her that Drew had insulted her in the street and when she threatened to tell her father, Drew responded “Don’t you tell him; if you do I will murder you and cut you into inch pieces.”

William Drew was sent to the Concord Jail for his own safety. Soon after Charles Moody, a friend of Drew’s was arrested as an accessory.

On October 8, the Suncook Selectmen received a wire from the Selectmen of St. Albans,
Vermont. The wire explained that a year earlier, Marietta Ball, a young schoolteacher, had been raped and murdered in St. Albans under circumstances similar to the Langmaid murder. They were certain that the killer was a man named Joseph Lapage but did not have enough evidence to bring him to trial. Authorities in St. Albans had reason to believe that Lapage had moved to Suncook.
Investigationers determined that all of the original suspects – the tramps, the black man, and even William Drew and his friend – had alibis for the time of Josie’s murder. Belle Lake’s testimony against Drew had been a lie, possibly motivated by her personal animosity against him. Joseph Lapage was the only suspect that remained.

Joseph Lapage lived in Suncook with his wife and four of their five children. He was originally from Quebec and spoke very little English. Lapage worked as a woodcutter for a man named Joe Daniels who provided wood to power the steam engines in Pembroke’s mills.

On October 13, members of an investigative team commissioned by the Attorney General of New Hampshire arrested Joseph Lapage at his home. In his house they had found a bloodstained coat, and the heel of his boot matched a tracing made of the heel mark on Josie's face.

The French community of Pembroke was livid, claiming that Lapage had been arrested only because he was French, just as Charles Moore had been arrested because he was black. Joe Daniels, a leader in the French community, stated that Lapage had been with him at the woodlot the whole day of the murder, but Lapage had already told police that he had been lost in the woods that morning, unable to find his way to work. On October 28, a grand jury indicted Joseph Lapage for the murder, rape, and mutilation of Josie Langmaid.

Trial:  January 4, 1876 - Concord, NH

The trial was largely one sided in favor of the prosecution. In addition to the circumstantial evidence against Lapage, a number of witnesses came forward who had seen Lapage on Academy Road, carrying a club or an axe, the morning of the murder and the Saturday prior.

Lapage’s sister-in-law, a woman named Julianne Rousse, came from Canada to testify. She told the court that five years earlier, Joseph Lapage had threatened her with a club and raped her in a cow pasture. He had been wearing a homemade mask. She pulled off the mask and recognized him. The mask was significant because a similar mask had been found near the spot where Marietta Ball was killed.

Lapage was found guilty of first degree murder. His attorney appealed the verdict on the grounds that the testimony of Julianne Rousse was not relevant to the crime for which Lapage was being tried. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed and the verdict was thrown out.

Lapage was tried a second time and again found guilty of murder in the first degree.
Verdict:  Guilty of first degree murder

Waldo Langmaid was devastated by his sister’s murder. They had been very close, and Waldo blamed himself for not being by her side that morning. In November 1875, Waldo came down with typhoid followed by pneumonia. He died on December 15, 1875 and was buried next to his sister.

March 14, 1878, the day before his execution, Joseph Lapage made his last confession to two Catholic priests of Concord’s French community. Before they left, the priests convinced Lapage to confess his crimes to the secular authorities. He admitted to raping and killing both Josie Langmaid and Marietta Ball and on a map he traced the route he took to the site of Josie Langmaid’s murder. He had not followed Academy Road but taken a shortcut across lots. Those who had testified to seeing him there had either been mistaken or deliberately lying. Lapage then pointed on a map where he had hidden some of Josie’s possessions. They were found where Lapage indicated, proving conclusively that Lapage was her killer.

Joseph Lapage was hanged in Concord, New Hampshire on March 15, 1878

The town of Pembroke erected a monument to Josie Langmaid near the murder site. It includes directions to the spots where the body and head were found.


"Executed on the Gallows" - The New York Times, March 16, 1878


The Trial of Joseph LaPage, The French Monster, Philadelphia, 1876.

Wigmore, John Henry, Select Cases on the Law of Evidence, Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1932.

Cox, Rowland, The American law times reports, Volume 4, New York, Hurd and Houghton, 1877.

Keeler, S. C, The Murdered Maiden Student: A Tribute to the Memory of Miss Josie A. Langmaid, Electrotyped by Crum & Ringler, 1878

Most of the information for this summary comes from the excelent documentary video,
THE MURDER OF JOSIE LANGMAID - written and produced by Fritz Wetherbee for the New Hampshire Public Television series New Hampshire Crossroads


Ballad Lyrics (from Mudcat Cafe)


Tom Wilhelm says:
February 21, 2010 at 6:18 PM

Drew did some disturbing acts. I'm surprised he actually confessed to his crimes.

Robert Wilhelm says:
February 22, 2010 at 1:39 PM

Joseph Lapage confessed to the murders at the urging of his priest. He was probably fearing the afterlife.

Anonymous says:
March 3, 2010 at 4:36 PM

Fascinating. I wonder if the stone markers are still there. I had never heard of this case. The ballad is haunting. Someone ought to collect all of these type songs and make an album.

Robert Wilhelm says:
March 4, 2010 at 12:49 PM

I haven't seen it, but the memorial is still there, not far from Pembroke Academy which is still in operation.

Paul Clayton’s album “Bloody Ballads” is an excellent collection of murder songs, but unfortunately it was never released on CD. There is a good compilation called “People Take Warning! Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs 1913-1938” but it is a 3 CD set with only 1 CD of murder ballads. I agree, it’s time for someone to re-record these songs.

Anonymous says:
April 15, 2010 at 10:03 PM

The memorial is in clear view--on the right as you head south on Academy Road, toward Pembroke Academy (which is then on your left).

The memorial is almost directly across the entrance to Three Rivers Middle School.


Unknown says:
May 25, 2010 at 6:01 PM

very sad

Anonymous says:
June 13, 2010 at 8:30 PM

As I pull out of the driveway of the school, leaving my daughter behind, the monument is a visible reminder of how quickly our lives can change.

Anonymous says:
November 1, 2010 at 8:09 PM

I am doing a project about this and this may be the most sad thing I have EVER read about.

Anonymous says:
December 8, 2010 at 4:39 PM

It must have been terrifying to think there was a murderer in the small town of Pembroke. It's so peaceful here. Most of the time.

Anonymous says:
December 9, 2010 at 5:44 PM

Joseph creeps me out. It gives nightmares!

Anonymous says:
May 11, 2011 at 7:11 PM

i live in pembroke and my school, Three Rivers Middle school, is right across the street from the towns local grave stone (the larger one). This story is sad for locals.

Anonymous says:
December 15, 2011 at 4:28 PM

i'm doig a project on josie and this site is ery helpful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

Anonymous says:
December 15, 2011 at 4:29 PM

i'm doing a project on josie, i have to do a bibliography. who made this artical?

Robert Wilhelm says:
December 17, 2011 at 8:18 AM

Robert Wilhelm

Caroline says:
March 1, 2012 at 3:47 PM

"Joseph creeps me out. It gives nightmares!"

I know what you mean, Anonymous. His stare is so icy... Those are the eyes... Takes your breath away, and not in a good way. If he wasn't pure evil, he sure looked it.

FarmGirl says:
December 21, 2012 at 11:38 AM

I grew up in the house where she lived. When I was younger I didn't understand, but this was the reason I was never allowed to walk to school.

Unknown says:
May 21, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Random, was the house haunted at all? I've always wondered. .

Anonymous says:
November 14, 2014 at 12:12 AM
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Robert Wilhelm says:
November 14, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Please note: Off topic, self-promoting comments will be removed.

The Warty Hogg says:
September 22, 2015 at 3:46 PM

About 9:00 that night Josie the corpse of Josie Langmaid was found, about half a mile from the school.


Unknown says:
November 2, 2015 at 9:04 PM

If anyone has any information about this Joseph LaPage and his wife and kids names I'm trying to find out more about if I am somehow a descendant of his. Please let me know, you can add me on Facebook or instant message me through Facebook messenger, I would very much appreciate any information you have on his wife and kids and his parents. Thanks for your time in advance. My name is Bruce LaPage Jr. Thanks again

Tessa says:
April 26, 2016 at 3:56 AM

I love the old picture of Academy road.

Tish says:
May 30, 2016 at 11:35 PM

Thx for sharing. Great story and comments

Tish says:
May 30, 2016 at 11:35 PM

Also, she was a beautiful lady. Very striking.

Tish says:
May 30, 2016 at 11:35 PM

Also, she was a beautiful lady. Very striking.

Emily says:
July 11, 2016 at 9:35 PM

Lepage not Drew.

Emily says:
July 11, 2016 at 9:39 PM

I found the monument and the stone hub where her body was found. I couldn't make it to the second hub where Josie's head was recovered though, too overgrown. Her story moved me.

Emily says:
July 11, 2016 at 9:40 PM

I found the monument and the stone hub where her body was found. I couldn't make it to the second hub where Josie's head was recovered though, too overgrown. Her story moved me.

Suncook Youth Soccer (Tanya Davis) says:
October 6, 2016 at 4:19 PM

It is still standing and so is Pembroke Academy. The Junior history class reviews the case and tours the site every year.

Unknown says:
July 29, 2017 at 10:04 AM

Could you contact me

Unknown says:
February 22, 2018 at 11:20 AM

Hi. I am trying to find the source of the Adacemy Road stereoview for my next book. I will need to order a good quality copy.
I am addicted to this blog!
Thanks in advance :)

Robert Wilhelm says:
February 22, 2018 at 4:10 PM

Marcelle Cinq-Mars, The Academy Road image came from this website:

Unknown says:
February 22, 2018 at 7:46 PM

Thank you very much! :)

Allison Alexander says:
September 16, 2018 at 3:37 PM

Although it wasn't her fault I wonder if the friend who never turned up felt any guilt

Unknown says:
February 9, 2019 at 11:34 AM

Josie was my great-great-great-grandfather's niece. Super tragic because Josie's mother predeceased her, and Josie's littlest brother and sister died in infancy. After her brother died of typhoid, that was the end of that part of the family. Josie's stepmother had a few children. But the family moved to Minnesota... too many bad memories in Pembroke.

gantonowicz says:
February 9, 2019 at 7:08 PM

Sad. When we drive by the grave site, memorial, or the farm house we think of her.

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