Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Beautiful Carrie Andrews

“The Beautiful Carrie Andrews” is a tragic love story about an up-and-coming young singer from the town of Essex, Massachusetts, and her obsessed suitor.  It is one of 14 tales of murderous acts and other bad behavior from my new book Murder and Mayhem in Essex County.

The Beautiful Carrie Andrews
Essex, 1894 

Thomas Oliver Hazard Perry Burnham was a successful bookseller and publisher in Boston, who was born and raised in the Town of Essex, a small, but prosperous, town on the coast of Cape Ann. The Burnhams were an old and prominent family going back to the days when Essex was the Chebacco Parish in Ipswich. Incorporated in 1819, Essex became famous in the nineteenth century for shipbuilding. By the end of the century, over five thousand sailing ships, known for their speed and craftsmanship, were built in the shipyards of Essex. T. O. H. P. Burnham never forgot his roots and on his death in 1893, he bequeathed $20,000—the worth of a new Essex schooner—to the town of Essex to build a new town hall and library.

The town embraced the project with enthusiasm. A site was chosen and the architect Frank Weston was selected in a blind competition. The stones for the foundation were contributed by townspeople and the clock tower was donated by Lamont Burnham. The Santa Maria weather vane at the top commemorates Essex shipbuilding. A dedication ceremony was held on its completion in February 1894.

Scheduled to sing at the ceremony was a bright and vivacious soprano, a rising star from Essex named Carrie Lowe Andrews. Carrie was a beautiful young woman of twenty-five, with dark hair, blue eyes, and a perfect complexion. Her voice was beautiful as well, and her singing was in demand at social organizations around the county. Carrie sang for organizations such as Rockport’s Rechabite Temple of Honor, a temperance group, and the Murray Club of Gloucester, a literary organization. She was to sing a new piece of music at the library dedication on February 15, a song written for her by Arthur S. Kendall, called “The Fisherman,” with lyrics from a poem by Essex County poet, John Greenleaf Whittier.

Carrie had recently been going through some turmoil in her personal life. Up until the previous December, she had been in a romantic relationship with Walter Jansen, a salesman of pianos and sewing machines, who lived in Gloucester. Jansen was thirty-five years old and as a child had come to America from Germany. In 1894, he had been living in Gloucester for three years. He was tall with a dark complexion, dark hair and a sandy mustache; well dressed with an athletic build. They had met each other at the music store where he worked, and Walter fell madly in love with Carrie. She returned his love and they soon became engaged. Friends said they were anxious to get married as soon as possible.

Carrie Andrews was from a prominent, successful Essex family. Her father, Timothy Andrews, was the proprietor of the Essex House, the finest hotel in town. She had two uncles who were distinguished businessmen in Gloucester and Somerville. Although Walter Jansen had given Carrie several expensive presents, including a piano, Timothy Andrews was not enthusiastic about his daughter’s fiancĂ©. Walter Jansen was insanely jealous and objected to Carrie being seen in public with any man but himself. More than once he had stormed out of the Andrews’s house because other gentlemen were present. Her parents did not approve of Jansen and his erratic behavior, but they felt it best not to interfere. They believed that Carrie would eventually break off the engagement on her own.

Carrie took singing lessons from Mrs. Caroline Munger in Boston, and on several occasions, Walter had followed her by train into Boston, to make sure she was remaining faithful. One day, shortly after Christmas, 1893, he followed her to Boston and confronted her in the middle of her singing lesson. He called her out and demanded that they be married at once, before returning to Essex. His brother lived on Dwight St. in Boston and the ceremony could be performed there. Carrie refused, saying she could not consent to be married before June when her musical education would be complete. Then and there, Walter broke off the engagement and demanded that Carrie send back all of the presents he had given her.

This is what Carrie’s family had expected from the beginning and they were relieved that the engagement was finally through. Carrie returned all of the gifts and letters Walter Jansen had given her, and her father sent Jansen a letter telling him to send someone to pick up the piano, but not to come himself. In another letter Mr. Andrews wrote “Dear sir—You broke your engagement to my daughter in a most unusual manner and almost tore the ring from Carrie’s finger. You must take the consequences, do not bother Carrie further.” Mrs. Andrews had a family friend, John Callahan of Haverhill, hand deliver an envelope to Walter Jansen. Inside were Carrie’s engagement ring and a note that just said “Finis.”

But Jansen had a change of heart and asked Carrie to come back to him. She wrote him a letter saying that he did not seem to realize what he has done, and imploring him to give her up. But Walter would not give her up; he was determined to win Carrie back at any cost. He continued to hound Carrie, “making himself very obnoxious to the girl.” But the harder he pressed, the more resolute Carrie and her parents became; they were just as determined to remove Walter Jansen from their lives forever.

On February 2, Jansen consulted with his lawyer, A. M. Donahue, and hired him to enter proceedings against Carrie Andrews, for breach of promise, in court in Gloucester. During his discussions with his attorney, Jansen stated that he intended to shoot his former fiancĂ©. At first, Donahue gave little weight to Jansen’s raging, but as he persisted in his threats, Donahue thought it would be prudent to warn someone. He told Carrie’s uncle, Charles H. Andrews, about Jansen’s threats and Andrews took the information to the Gloucester city marshal, asking that he lock Jansen up. The marshal refused to do so until there was more evidence that the threats were truly malicious and not just casual remarks of a client to his lawyer.

The following day, Carrie went into Boston for her singing lesson. She would probably be rehearsing “The Fisherman” for the ceremony less than two weeks away. Mrs. Munger’s conservatory was on the fourth floor of the Warren Building on Park Street near Boston Common. At 10:50 that morning, Carrie entered the elevator of the building, and shortly after Walter Jansen was seen climbing the stairs.

Carrie was in the reception room waiting for her lesson to begin, while Mrs. Munger was in the classroom teaching some other young women. Mrs. Munger and her pupils heard a frightened cry come from the reception room, “Don’t shoot me Walter. I can’t help it.” A pistol shot was the only reply. The women screamed as three more shots were fired in quick succession. A long moaning sound, a cry of misery, could be heard from the other room, losing intensity as strength left the body of Carrie Andrews.

After hearing another body hit the floor, Mrs. Munger tried to open the door, but found it locked. She rushed into the hall and down the stairs, calling to the janitor that someone in her room had been shot. The janitor ran outside and found a police officer on the corner of Park and Tremont, then the two men hurried to the fourth floor and forced the door open.

In the words of the Boston Daily Globe: “The tasty little reception room had been suddenly transformed into a most sanguinary picture of ruthless slaughter.” Carrie Andrews lay on the floor between two tables against the opposite wall. She had been shot once in the left temple and again in the left cheek, breaking her jaw. Gasping faintly for breath, Carrie was just barely alive when the men entered. A doctor was sent for, but Carrie died shortly after he arrived.

Lying beside her, his feet nearly touching hers, was the body of Walter Jansen. He had two self-inflicted gunshot wounds—one in the back of the head and one to the face. He had also severed an artery in his left wrist. Next to him laid a .38 caliber revolver, and a bloody straight razor.

The funeral of Carrie Lowe Andrews was held at the Universalist Church in Essex on February 6, 1894. Mourners came by train and sleigh from Gloucester, Manchester, Salem, Beverly, Wenham, Hamilton, and Ipswich. As many as possible were seated in the church, and hundreds more braved inclement weather to stand in the street outside. Carrie’s body, wearing a pink dress, lay in an open casket in front of the church—positioned on her side to hide the disfiguring wounds. The casket was surrounded by dozens of floral tributes. A quartet sang “Nearer My God to Thee,” and a soloist sang “One Sweetly Solemn Thought.” The ceremony included prayers, scripture readings, a poem and a beautiful eulogy delivered by Reverend George J. Sanger of the Universalist Church, stressing Carrie’s purity and nobleness, with no mention of her murder. At four o’clock p.m. the casket was carried to the Spring Street cemetery in a procession led by members of her high school graduating class. Members of Carrie’s class also served as pallbearers.

Walter Jansen was buried in Mt. Hope cemetery in Boston. The mental prayers of his grief stricken brother Hans were the only services.

The T. O. H. P. Burnham Town Hall and Library was dedicated as scheduled, on February 15, 1894. Though the ceremony was upbeat, celebrating the beautiful new building and the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Town of Essex, it was also a gentle memorial to Carrie Lowe Andrews. A portrait of Carrie, sketched by Gilman Lowe, hung on the front of the speaker’s desk. The song, “The Fisherman,” now dedicated to the memory of Carrie L. Andrews was sung by Miss Jessie W. Lowe.

More than one hundred years later, the T. O. H. P. Burnham Library still stands on Martin Street in Essex. It still serves its original purposes as library and Essex Town Hall.


Mimi Foxmorton says:
February 18, 2012 at 10:02 AM

That building is to *die* for! Sooo beautiful!
(and who doesn't love a good murder story?)

Anonymous says:
June 7, 2012 at 2:53 PM

We're hosting a road race to support the Essex Public Library on Sunday, Sept 9th, 2012. It would be fun to include some literary theme from the 1900 setting of the book such as actors in period dress reciting from the Wilhelm novel. See The James Joyce Ramble where actors line the race course and recite Joyce. Great fun.

Robert Wilhelm says:
June 8, 2012 at 12:02 PM

Sounds like fun; I'll help any way I can.

G says:
January 19, 2017 at 6:37 PM

I'm still trying to figure out how one would manage to shoot himself in the back of the head, even if he hadn't already slit his wrist with a razor...

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