Saturday, May 18, 2019

Professional Malpractioner.

In July 1890, a man came into the 126th Street Police Station in Harlem, New York City, to report a conversation he had overheard in an elevated train. A young man and woman sitting near him were talking about the mysterious disappearance of Miss Goodwin from the Storm King flats on East 126th Street. They believed that she had been foully dealt with by “professional malpractioners.” The woman said that a friend told her that Miss Goodwin had died and within twenty-four hours she was buried, and another young woman was wearing her clothes and jewelry.

“Malpractice” was the euphemism the New York papers used for abortion, and at the time, a death by malpractice was considered manslaughter. The police decided to investigate. At the Storm King flats, they learned that Annie Goodwin had been living with the family of John Traphagen for the last two years, but she had been missing since July 2. 18-year-old Sadie Traphagen, a close friend of Annie Goodwin, was reluctant to talk to the police but through her, they learned that Annie had previously lived with her sister Mamie and her husband George Halliday who also lived on 126th Street. After questioning Mamie Halliday and Sadie Traphagen, the police were able to piece together the story of Annie Goodwin’s short life.

Annie had been somewhat wild and restless growing up, and when she was 18, she left the restraints of her father’s house and went to live with Mamie and her husband. Annie had a good job as wrapper cutter in a Manhattan cigarette factory and was living comfortably, but Mamie was concerned about her sister’s lifestyle. She would often stay out until three in the morning, and some nights, she did not come home at all.

Annie Goodwin was considered a rare beauty, “…a bright faced, laughing girl of medium height, with a well rounded figure, very dark eyes that sparkled with fun, a mouth that echoed the spirit of her eyes musically, a nose with just a roguish hint of an upward turn, and dark hair worn in a wavy bang.” She caught the eye of Augustus “Gus” Harrison, a young, independently wealthy man-about-town. Though he was not much to look at, small and thin with a wispy blonde mustache, Annie was flattered by his attention and became infatuated with Gus Harrison.

Mamie did not like Harrison and did not believe his attentions toward Annie were honorable. The late nights out increased and when he came to call, he would sneak in a bottle of wine, trying to hide it from the Hallidays. Finally, Mamie confronted Annie, telling her to cease associating with Harrison—he must stop coming, or she must go live somewhere else. To which Annie responded, “Very well, I will go somewhere else.”

She went to live with the family of her friend Sadie Traphagen, just one block west of the Hallidays, and stayed there until her disappearance on July 2, 1890. At first, Sadie said that she did not know where her friend had gone, but under intense questioning, she revealed that Annie had gone to a boardinghouse on 127th Street, kept by Mrs. John Collins. 

There, the police learned that Annie had hired an attic bedroom for a week on July 2 but only remained there until July 4. That night at about ten o’clock, Mrs. Collins told them, Dr. Henry G. McGonigal drove to the house in his carriage, a two-wheeled gig, and took Annie away. The police were familiar with Dr. McGonigal; he had been arrested several times in connection with mysterious deaths but had managed to evade punishment. They were sure that Dr. McGonigal was the cause of Annie Goodwin’s disappearance. 

They went at Sadie Traphagen again, and she admitted she had been aware that Annie was in trouble. She learned that on July 4, Annie was taken from Mrs. Collins’ place to the apartment of Mrs. Fannie Shaw on East 103rd Street. On July 9 or 10, Sadie received a letter from Annie asking her to call at Mrs. Shaw’s. She went and found Annie sick in bed. On July 14 she went again, and Mrs. Shaw told her that Annie had died and Dr. McGonigal had removed the body.

Dr. McGonigal called at Sadie’s house several times in the days that followed. He asked if she had any papers with the dead girl’s handwriting and requested that Sadie write a note to Mamie, imitating Annie’s handwriting, over her forged signature, saying she had gone to New Jersey and would return in a month or two. Sadie refused. 

The police paid a call on Fannie Shaw. She was a 38-years-old, “hideous looking creature,” being treated for blood poisoning by Dr. McGonigal. Reluctantly, she told a story that mirrored what Sadie had said. The doctor was treating Annie Goodwin in her apartment until the afternoon of July 12 when the girl died. Dr. McGonigal said he would take care of it and around 2:00 Sunday morning he carried the body, wrapped in a quilt, over his shoulder, downstairs and drove it away in his gig.

Checking with the Bureau of Vital Statistics, the police found a recent death certificate bearing the name of Dr. H. G. McGonigal. The document said that Jane Wilber had died from rheumatism of the heart on July 11, the day before Annie Goodwin’s death, but at the address given on the certificate no one knew Jane Wilber and the police concluded that it was a false name. At the undertaker shop of Cornelius Merritt, the books showed that instead of Jane Wilber, they had buried a man named John Wilber at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Astoria. The police believed that he had buried Annie Goodwin under a false name.  Merritt pled ignorance saying he had taken McGonigal at his word and given the body to his workmen without examining it. 

This was evidence enough, and the police rounded up everyone involved. They arrested Dr. McConegal and Fannie Shaw for murder, and Augustus Harrison as an accessory. Sadie Traphagen, Cornelius Merritt, and several others were held as witnesses. In Dr. McGonigal’s office, the police found about 30 glass jars containing “evidences of malpractice” preserved in alcohol.

The police believed that they had a nice, tight narrative now where Gus Harrison, the author of Annie’s misfortune, hired Dr. McGonigal to perform the operation, and when Annie died, McGonigal had her buried under a false name. The newspapers took it even further; citing the pre-dated death certificate, the New York Herald called it “…evidence of a conspiracy to kill as complicated and as boldly carried out as the most fantastic scheme of murder in a French tale.”

The story took another turn when the police learned that Gus Harrison was not Annie’s only romantic interest. Mrs. Collins told them that a young man named Drew visited Annie in the brief time she stayed at Mrs. Collins’s boarding house. The newspapers, trying to get in front of the police, speculated that the man was T. Oscar Drew, who had checked into the Harlem Hotel at least a dozen times, accompanied by a lady. This was the wrong Drew. Sadie Traphagen told police that “Drew” was the nickname of Andrew L. Fanning who had frequently called on Annie. She said that Annie was in love with Gus Harrison, and when she learned she was in trouble, she begged him to marry her. He absolutely refused. Once Annie accepted this, she was ready to marry Drew Fanning after she had “gotten out of trouble.” 

Andrew Fanning turned himself in when he learned that the police were looking for him. He said that he had met Annie Goodwin on the street about six months earlier and had fallen desperately in love with her. He had proposed marriage, and she accepted. But the Annie Goodwin that Fanning knew was quite different from the one everyone else knew. He believed her to be innocent and pure, almost prudish. She would chastise him if he let slip an unrefined word, and at the theater, he saw her blush at an off-color remark. Fanning would frequently visit her at the Traphagens’ and became disconsolate when she suddenly disappeared. 

On July 4 he received a note from Annie:

Dear Drew—Come to me at once. I am very sick at No. 152 East 127th Street.   ANNIE.

He found her in her room, suffering dreadfully, and wanted to go at once for the nearest doctor. She said she would have no other physician but Dr. McGonigal and gave him the doctor’s address. Fanning brought the doctor to her and left. He never saw her again. 

Andrew Fanning was arrested as an accessory and held on $2,500 bail. 

The Wilber body in St. Michael’s Cemetery was disinterred (it is unclear whether the grave was marked, John or Joan). Half naked, she lay face down in the coffin as if she had been thrown in. Sadie Traphagen and Mamie Halliday both identified the body as that of as Annie Goodwin.

A coroner’s jury heard testimony from everyone involved and charged Dr. H. G. McGonigal and Fannie Shaw with manslaughter. Augustus Harrison was charged as an accessory.  The focus was on Dr. McGonigal and at his trial the following September he was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison but received a stay pending appeal. He remained in the Tombs until the following April then was released on $5,000 bail. This was the extent of his punishment for Annie Goodwin’s death. It would not be his last arrest for death by malpractice.

“Annie's Slayers,” Evening World, July 24, 1890.
“McGonegal Gets Out of Tombs at Last,” Evening world, February 11, 1891.
“Dr McGonigal's Trial,” Sun, September 24, 1890.
“Dr. M'Gonigal,” Sun and New York Press, July 27, 1892.
“Dr. M'Gonegal's Bail Placed at $20,000,” New York Herald, August 2, 1890.
“Found Him Guilty,” Evening World, October 4, 1890.
“Jury No 2 Holds the Murder Plotters,” New York Herald, July 29, 1890.
“Murder First, Then False Burial.,” New York Herald, July 23, 1890.
“Murder Out,” Evening World, July 22, 1890.
“No Direct Proof of Pretty Annie's Murder,” New York Herald, July 25, 1890.
“Principal Actors in a Murder Plot,” New York Herald, July 26, 1890.


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