Saturday, March 12, 2022

A Deathbed Marriage.

Frank and Charles Zabel lived with their widowed mother in Reading, Pennsylvania. Though in modest circumstances, the family lived happily together. Everything changed on June 5, 1886, when 18-year-old Frank Zabel, for reasons never made clear, fired three shots into his brother’s chest then attempted suicide by desperately wounding himself.

Both brothers were in critical condition, but it was soon apparent that Charles would not survive. Charles was engaged to Salome Reeser; the marriage was to occur a few weeks later. As Charles lay on his deathbed, the couple decided to marry immediately. Rev. Dr. J.J. Kuendig, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, came to the house, and as Salome stood sobbing by the bed, he performed the service. Charles died the following afternoon, leaving both his mother and his bride prostrate with grief so severe that they both required the care of a physician.

The coroner’s inquest charged Frank Zabel with the murder of his brother Charles. Frank was still bedridden, so the police put the house under surveillance until he was well enough for prison. The only explanation the family could provide for Frank’s behavior was that, on the day of the murder, Frank had taken an overdose of a drug used for dyspepsia, which affected his mind, causing him to commit murder and attempt suicide.

The district attorney sent the drug to be analyzed by a chemist to see if the claim was justified. The result of the analysis was not strong enough for him to drop the murder charge against Frank Zabel, but when the case went before a jury the following March, Zabel was acquitted on the grounds of insanity.

“Berks County Murder Cases,” Patriot, December 11, 1886.
“Current Events,” Daily Gazette, June 7, 1886.
“In General,” Delaware gazette and state journal, March 31, 1887.
“Married and Died,” Plain Dealer, June 7, 1886.
“Married on his Death Bed,” National Police Gazette, June 26, 1886.
“News Summary,” Delaware Republican, June 8, 1886.
“The Zabel Tragedy,” Patriot, June 8, 1886.


catladymac says:
March 12, 2022 at 7:44 PM

What on earth was the drug ? Paregoric ? Laudanum?

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