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Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Dedham Tragedy.

Finding the Bodies
In September 1865, the family of Dr. Carlos Marston rented rooms in a house that had previously been a hotel in South Dedham, Massachusetts. The family consisted of the doctor, a forty-year-old homeopathic physician; Susannah, his wife of fifteen years; and their 10-year-old adopted daughter Cora, whose natural mother had been Susannah’s sister. They slept on the second floor, while on the first floor Miss Susan Hill, an invalid being treated by Dr. Marston, had a room.

The Marston Residence
At around 2:00 am, the morning of Friday, September 1, Miss Hill was awaked by the sound of a scuffle from the room above, followed by a thud, as if someone had fallen to the floor, then a pistol report. She ran out to the stairs, but afraid to go up she called loudly asking if everything was alright. She received no response, but a few moments later Mrs. Marston appeared in the darkness at the head of the stairs and said in a calm but firm tone, “Be still—go to your room—or I’ll blow your brains out!”


Miss Hill went back to her room, got dressed and went to find help. All was quiet when she returned with some of the neighbors. They went upstairs and found Dr. Marston and his wife in the bedchamber, lying together, both dead. On the floor of the adjoining apartment, they found little Cora lying dead as well. The smell of chloroform hung in the air— it appeared that Mrs. Marston had applied the drug to her victims before shooting them. She shot Cora once through the back and once through the head. She shot her husband through the head then lay down beside him and shot herself twice though the body.

Susannah Marston had a long history of mental illness. At the time she and the Doctor first met, she had been subject to fits of depression and those who knew her in Dedham characterized Mrs. Marston as having a morbid and melancholy disposition. In recent years, her behavior had become so erratic that neighbors would avoid her. About five weeks before the murders she had suffered an attack of the measles, and although she recovered physically, it seemed to have aggravated her mental state.

Cora Marston
The week of the murder she had acted strangely. She was prone to get up at night and wander outside in the dark. On Tuesday night, she stayed out for half an hour and returned saying that she “had been over to East Walpole to get some cool water.” The same night she attempted to apply chloroform to Cora, and when questioned, she claimed that she had been washing her head with bay rum. On Wednesday, she was prostrated and confused; she did not appear to know where she was and indulged in strange utterances. Thursday, she seemed to be better but still had a wild and haggard look.

Earlier in the week, Mrs. Marston had expressed a desire to handle her husband’s revolver. He emptied the pistol and locked it in his trunk, but apparently, she knew where he kept the key.

The night of the murder Mrs. Marston had been extremely restless and told her husband that she was going to sleep with their daughter. Dr. Marston grew nervous and to downstairs to advise Miss Hill to lock her door as he was fearful that his wife might do some damage. Miss Hill had fears of her own and told the doctor to lock his own door; his wife would kill him before morning if he did not watch out. But the doctor did not heed her prophetic warning.

Sources:
“The Dedham Tragedy,” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, September 25, 1865.
“The Dedham Tragedy,” New York Herald, September 3, 1865.
“The Late Tragedy at South Dedham.,” Saturday Evening Gazette, September 2, 1865.
“Terrible Tragedy at South Dedham,” Boston Traveler, September 1, 1865.

3 comments :

esotericnight says:
May 25, 2017 at 6:54 PM

Did this happen in 1865 or 1868? The story says 68 but the sources say 65.

Robert Wilhelm says:
May 26, 2017 at 7:26 PM

You're right, 1865. I will fix that.

VoyagerG says:
August 24, 2017 at 1:59 AM

This is so awful. The poor family. :(

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