Saturday, July 21, 2018

Insane Jealousy.

Mildred Brewster
Mildred Brewster was the daughter of a wealthy farmer near Montpelier, Vermont. In 1897, 18-year-old Mildred decided to leave her father’s home and move to the city to make her own way. She found a job working for a tailor and took a room at a boarding house. All was going well until she met and fell in love with Jack Wheeler, a young granite-cutter who boarded at the same house. Wheeler knew of Mildred’s affections for him, but, he would later say, he did not return them.

Jack Wheeler was engaged to another wealthy farmer’s daughter named Annie Wheeler—they had the same last name but were not related.  When Mildred learned that he planned to take his fiancĂ© to Barre, the end of May for the Decoration Day celebration she became incensed. She paid a visit on Annie Wheeler and told her in no uncertain terms to leave Jack Wheeler alone. Mildred said she had a prior claim on his affections and if Annie did not give him up, Mildred would kill him.

Annie Wheeler
Annie Wheeler paid her no mind and continued preparing for her trip but when she left her house later that day Mildred was waiting outside. They walked together for a short way then Mildred pulled out a revolver and shot Annie point blank in the head. She then turned the revolver on herself and put a bullet in her right ear. Both women were unconscious when found and were taken to the hospital. Annie died soon after; Mildred survived.

Doctors removed the bullet from her head, but when Mildred regained consciousness she was upset that she was still alive and asked her father for her revolver so she could finish the job. She also asked him to retrieve some letters from her room so they wouldn’t be stolen. He was too late. This letter signed Mildred Brewster, found in her room, may have been meant as a suicide note:

Don’t blame love-sick girls, for they were made thus loving. A handsome girl is something; one real good, willing, self-sacrificing, more; but one who loves almost to distraction—most. Take those lukewarm, indifferent, loveless beauties, you who would become a marital martyr. She is the premium wife whose fervid, glowing, whole-soul, devoted love knows no limit; who is spellbound, magnetized, entranced, beside herself when beside her lover; whose love, torrent-like, sweeps all before it, making all possible allowances for imperfections in the loved one and magnifying to the highest degree his desirable and loving traits of character.  
Mildred Brewster
This tragic tale of unrequited love became somewhat less romantic when the lawyers took it over.

Mildred Brewster was indicted for premeditated murder and her trial scheduled for November 1897. Her lawyer, William A. Lord entered a plea of not guilty which was soon rescinded when Lord decided to challenge the indictment on the grounds that a stenographer had been improperly present when the grand jury deliberated. The matter was to be decided by the state Supreme Court which met the following January.

Mildred was still convalescing in the hospital when the Supreme Court was ready to hear the case, so at the request of both attorneys the session was held in her hospital room and she listened to the arguments from her bed. The Supreme Court made their decision the following March, they found nothing wrong with the indictment and Mildred’s trial was rescheduled.

When the murder trial began on April 4, 1898, in Montpelier, Mildred was well enough to attend but sat in a plush rocking chair. Her plea was not guilty by reason of insanity. The state’s case was straightforward, there was no question that Mildred Brewster shot Annie Wheeler and there was evidence that the murder was premeditated. She had purchased a revolver in Barre several days before the murder and on that morning had been seen practicing with it.

The defense presented testimony from Mildred’s friends and family describing her moods that would change quickly from jolly to morose, and erratic behavior such as locking herself in her room and talking of suicide. They also gave evidence that other members of her family were insane. The strongest testimony came from Dr. F. W. Page of the Waterbury Insane Asylum who examined Mildred’s mental condition and wrote a 4,000-word report—every word of which was read in court. He concluded that Mildred was insane and not responsible for her actions. 

She told Dr. Page that she had not intended to kill Annie Wheeler but had bought the revolver to kill herself because of the way she was treated by Jack Wheeler. He had seduced her, she said, and she had given herself to him under promise of marriage. She decided to kill herself when she learned he was engaged to another.

Though Jack Wheeler testified under oath that he never returned Mildred’s affections other testimony would indicate that Mildred’s accusations were not idle fantasies of a madwoman. Mrs. Goodenough who ran the house where Mildred boarded testified that Jack Wheeler had visited Mildred before moving into the house himself and often went to her room uninvited. From the condition of the linen, she believed they were sharing a bed. Other boarders testified to seeing the couple together. Juan DeCollaines, who knew both Mildred and Jack Wheeler, testified that Wheeler had told him that he had promised Mildred something he was sorry for and he would just as soon marry her if it wasn’t for Annie. DeCollaines said that Wheeler had gotten Mildred in trouble and implied that she had gone to a doctor to see about an abortion. The defense also read several letters sent by Jack Wheeler to Mildred which indicated that their relationship was more than casual and expressed his jealousy at seeing her talk to another man.

In rebuttal, the state introduced 15 more witnesses to show that Mildred and the members of her family were perfectly sane. The jury, however, persuaded by Dr. Page’s extensive report and sympathy for Mildred’s shabby treatment by Jack Wheeler found Mildred Brewster not guilty by reason of insanity. She was sentenced to the State Insane Asylum at Waterbury.

“Begged For Her Revolver,” Boston Herald, June 1, 1897.
“The Brewster Trial,” Argus and Patriot, April 20, 1898.
“The Brewster Trial,” Argus and Patriot, April 27, 1898.
“The Brewster Trial,” Argus and Patriot, May 4, 1898.
“Court In A Hospital,” St. Albans Daily Messenger, January 27, 1898.
“Expert Testimony,” Boston Journal, April 22, 1898.
“A Horrible Tragedy,” Argus and Patriot, June 2, 1897.
“Indictment All Right,” Boston Journal, March 2, 1898.
“Insanity Theory Saves,” Boston Journal, May 6, 1898.
“Jack Wheeler Testifies,” Boston Herald, April 12, 1898.
“A Jealous Girl's Act,” Alexandria Gazette, May 29, 1897.
“Mildred Brewster's Fate,” Boston Herald, April 7, 1898.
“Mildred Brewster's Letter,” Boston Herald, April 9, 1898.
“Mildred L Brewster,” Boston Journal, November 19, 1897.
“Miss Brewster's Trial,” Boston Journal, April 5, 1898.
“Moods of Mildred Brewster,” Boston Herald, April 15, 1898.
“More of Insanity Theory,” Boston Journal, April 20, 1898.
“Of Unsound Mind,” Boston Journal, April 14, 1898.
“Prosecution Rests,” Boston Herald, April 13, 1898.
“Rebuttal Evidence,” Pawtucket Times, April 26, 1898.
“Retracted Her Plea,” Boston Journal, November 25, 1897.
“Shot Rival and Self.,” Boston Herald, May 30, 1897.
“They Acted Peculiarly,” Boston Herald, April 16, 1898.
“Trial of Mildred Brewster,” Boston Herald, November 22, 1897.
“Validity of Indictment,” Boston Herald, November 23, 1897.


Venks says:
July 21, 2018 at 2:16 PM

I dont think she is insane,know what happened to her later?

Unknown says:
July 25, 2018 at 9:46 PM

I can find no Grave Memorial information for Jack Wheeler, Annie Wheeler, or Mildred Brewster, at Find A Grave.

Ernest Brown says:
July 29, 2018 at 1:29 PM

"Mildred Brewster spent the next decade after her trial at the Waterbury State Asylum for the Insane (Waterbury State Hospital), where staff gave conflicting reports about her sanity. She was released in 1908 for a short time into the custody of a childhood friend but she was returned just a few weeks later. She spent another eight years there before being released again, this time into the custody of a nurse who had cared for her and now lived in Washington State. Mildred received a sheriff escort across the country to the Seattle area where she lived the rest of her life until she died at age 65. She never married."

RobT says:
March 4, 2023 at 5:18 PM

Annie Wheeler and Mildred Brewster both have Memorials on Find a Grave. Annie Wheeler is Memorial# 191606836. Mildred Brewster is Memorial# 234394663.

shellyj says:
April 15, 2024 at 6:06 PM

i wonder what happened to jack nothing on find a grave did he move after or did he stay in the area

Post a Comment