KILLED BY HIS WIFE.
A Nephew Confesses His Part in the Awful Crime — The Body Boiled, the Hogs Fattened on it, and the Bones Burned to Ashes.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS, N.Y., January 16. –
Wm. Druse, a farmer in moderate circumstances, living in Warren, Herkimer County, has been missing for several weeks. Inquiries were made, and Mrs. Druse said she supposed her husband was in New York, where she has a brother who works in a West street grocery and produce house. Mrs. Druse has apparently worried over her husband’s absence, and has telegraphed in various directions to find him. During the past week ugly rumors have been circulated. Neighbors told of seeing black smoke pouring from the Druse chimney and smelling a terrible smell, as of meat burning. The excitement grew, and neighbors told Mrs. Druse of the stories that were afloat about her husband’s disappearance. Mrs. Druse resented the imputations and threatened to prosecute any one who circulated slanders about her.
The matter died away somewhat, but suddenly grew again to greater proportions, it was said Mr. Druse had been murdered, his body boiled in lye and the bones buried. The neighbors called again and noticed new paint on the floor and wood-work of the room. Search for the remains was made with increased vigor.
The family consisted of William Druse; his wife, Roxy; a daughter, Mary, aged eighteen; a boy, George, aged ten, and Frank Gates, a nephew of Mrs. Druse, aged fourteen. An ax, known to have belonged to Druse, was found in a pond wrapped in paper last Saturday. Finally, by close questioning, the nephew was induced to make a partial confession that Mrs.Druse shot her husband while he and her son were out, and that she afterward compelled the boy to shoot his uncle a second time.
The case was immediately reported to the authorities. The District Attorney and Coroner are conducting an examination into the case. Frank Gates, the nephew, made an artless confession showing that the crime was committed December 1?, and that Mrs. Druse compelled him to shoot her husband the second time, and to aid her to dispose of the body. They boiled it and fed the flesh to hogs and burned the bones, the ashes of which they buried in the swamp. The boy says the woman cut her husband’s head off and put it first in the stove. The boy acted as fireman, and had a terrible time destroying the evidences of the crime. The neighbors who noticed an unusual smoke and odor were refused admittance and papers were kept over the window.
Richwood Gazette (Richwood, Ohio) Jan 22, 1885
Murdered by His Wife and Family.
Utica, N.Y., Jan. 29. — The Coroner’s investigation into the death of William Druse, of Warren, Herkimer County, was concluded yesterday. The jury found that deceased was shot and killed by Roxanna, his wife, aged forty, and that Mary J., the daughter, aged twenty; George W Druse, son, aged ten and Frank Gates, Mrs. Druse’s nephew, aged fourteen, were feloniously present and gave aid to the woman.
Oshkosh Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Jan 30, 1885
THE MURDER OF WILLIAM DRUSE.
RICHFIELD SPRINGS, N.Y., March 18. –
Readers of THE TIMES will readily recall to mind the details of the murder last December of William Druse, of Warren, near this place, by his wife, daughter, and nephew, who are now in Herkimer Jail awaiting trial. The case excited universal interest from the boldness of the method adopted to conceal the crime by chopping up and burning the body in the household stoves by the mother and daughter assisted by Frank Gates, the nephew, who furnished the fuel and carried the ashes and charred bones into a swamp near the house. District Attorney Steele, of Herkimer, believed that all of the body was not burned, as no pieces of skull, bones, or teeth were found in the ashes with the charred bones, although the former were carefully sifted. The District Attorney was not satisfied with the verdict of the Coroner’s jury, as he believed Mrs. Druse had male accomplices in the disposition of the body. This theory would seem to have been confirmed to-day by the finding of a human head in the maple sugar house on the farm of Palmer Wood, near the scene of the tragedy. A man named Casler, working on this farm, went to the woods to prepare for maple sugar making, and while clearing out the furnace of the evaporator found therein a human head with the hair cut off, which is supposed to be that of William. Menzo Elwood lived on this farm at the time of the murder, and was under arrest for several days, but was discharged at the conclusion of the Coroner’s inquest, no direct evidence having been found against him. The District Attorney, however, believed he carried away the head or some portion of the body in some bags of buckwheat, which he took from Druse’s house shortly after the murder.
The New York Times (New York, New York) Mar 19, 1885
A WOMAN TO HANG.
Mrs. Druse Sentenced to Death at Utica, N.Y.
UTICA, N.Y. Oct. 7 — Mrs. Druse, who murdered her husband, with the aid of her son, daughter and nephew, in Warren, Herkimer county, last December, and cut up and burned the remains, was sentenced by Judge Williams to be executed on Wednesday, November 25. No woman has been executed in central New York for over forty years.
The court house was crowded by people of both sexes and all ages. At 9 o’clock Mrs. Druse was escorted into the court room by Officer Wilson. She looked haggard and worn. On the opening of court Counselor Luce made a motion for a new trial, which was denied by Judge Williams. The prisoner was then told to stand up. She arose and Judge Williams pronounced sentence. Mrs. Druse never flinched nor showed any emotion, until she was passing out of the court room when she burst into tears. Counselor Luce will secure a stay of proceedings and appeal the case on a motion for a new trial.
The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Oct 7, 1885
A JUROR MADE INSANE.
UTICA, N.Y., Jan. 4. — Among the jurors who served in the recent trial of Mrs. Druse, at Herkimer, for the murder and burning of her husband, was Adam Bellinger, a highly esteemed farmer living at Manheim. Mr. Bellinger is of a sensitive temperament, and the horrible details of the crime threw his mind out of balance. Symptoms of insanity have frequently been noticed in his actions since the trial, and he has finally been committed to the lunatic asylum in this city.
The New York Times (New York, New York) Jan 5, 1886
Albany, N.Y., Dec. 23 — Governor Hill has postponed the execution of Mrs. Roxalana Druse until February twenty-eight to give the legislature an opportunity to modify the law of capital punishment in special cases. Unless the existing statute is changed the governor says the woman must hang. Aided by her daughter, two sons, and a nephew she beheaded her husband and burned the remains. While the mother and daughter were performing the latter ghastly work the boys were playing checkers in an adjoining room.
The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Dec 23, 1886
Mercy Asked for a Merciless Woman Who Brutally Murdered Her Husband.
NEW YORK, Dec. 21. — Governor Hill has been beset by petitions from women and clergymen in all parts of the country asking for the reprieve or the commutation of the sentence of Mrs. Roxana Druse, condemned to be hanged in the Herkimer jail a week from Wednesday for the brutal murder of her husband. A strong plea for a reprieve was made by the Woman’s League of Chicago and a powerful appeal was made in her behalf by Rev. R. Heber Newton in this city Sunday. The Governor has begun an examination of the matter, and it is asserted positively that Mrs. Druse will not be hanged on the day stated.
Stevens Point Gazette, The (Stevens Point, Wisconsin) Dec 25, 1886
A NEW YORK HANGING.
Cranks and Curiosity Seekers Bother a Sheriff.
ALBANY, N.Y., Feb. 25 — In the house the bill providing that but twelve reputable citizens, seven deputy sheriffs, two physicians, county judge, district attorney, county clerk and surrogate, and two ministers of the gospel shall be permitted to witness the execution of a murderer was passed without opposition. The bill was read through before Mr. Hall could get in an amendment he had prepared allowing representatives of the Associated Press and United Press to be present. The bill was sent to the president, who immediately signed it. Thus the law will apply to the execution of Mrs. Druse who will be hanged at Herkimer next Monday. The sheriff is receiving daily all sorts of requests for admission to the hanging on all sorts of pretexts. Cranks are coming forward with unique propositions. One offers to sacrifice his life to save a woman’s neck; another wants to act as executioner for $10. Spiritualists send solemn messages from the other world that all the powers of earth will be overthrown if the thing is not stopped. Curiosity hunters want Mrs. Druse’s shoes, shoestrings, buttons, hairpins, remnants of calico dresses, etc. Mrs. Druse’s chief trouble at present is the card sent out by her neighbors saying she ought to be hanged. The approaching doom of the unfortunate woman causes much excitement in Herkimer county, and indeed throughout the state.
The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Feb 25, 1887
EXECUTION OF MRS. DRUSE AT HERKIMER.
The Trap Sprung at Precisely Twelve O’clock — The Murder of a Husband the Deed Committed — Her Daughter Accessory — Her Preparations for Death.
HERKIMER, N.Y. Feb. 28 — Precisely at twelve o’clock the trap was sprung, and Mrs. Roxalana Druse was hanged.
The crime for which Mrs. Druse suffered was the murder of her husband in December, 1884. After the services last evening Mrs. Druse remained up until 11:30. Deputy Sheriff Marion, with Mr. and Mrs. Watterman, the death watch, induced her to lie down, and she had about an hour’s quiet sleep. She awakened with a start and upon rising began to write letters as calmly as she had at any time during her incarceration. In one of the letters she thanked the sheriff for his kindness to her and asked that her body might be given to her pastor for Christian burial. After writing she laid down again and fell into a doze. She was attacked with hysterics in violent form and it required considerable effort on the part of the watchers to arouse and calm her. During the night she ate one of the heartiest meals she had eaten since she was placed in prison. She had about two hours’ rest before four this morning, but did not sleep soundly at any time. One of her first visitors this morning was Superintendent Irving Terry of the Onondaga penitentiary, who brought a farewell from her daughter Mary, who is a life prisoner. This visit had a most affecting effect upon Mrs. Druse. Rev. Dr. Powell visited Mrs. Druse about nine o’clock and did all in his power to calm her and prepare her for the awful moment. Every road leading into the town was dotted with sleighs, crowded with fur-coated men and not a few women, and the crowd in the village increased on the arrival of every train, and in spite of the extreme cold men, women and children stood about the streets surrounding the jail. The execution was witnessed by twenty-five persons, including the officials.
Mrs. Druse maintained her composure on the scaffold until the cap was drawn over her, when she began to moan and finally screamed so loudly that she could be heard in the street adjoining the jail. The trap was sprung and after she fell she made but one convulsive movement. Yesterday morning Mrs. Druse made a confession to Dr. Powell, her spiritual adviser, in which she declared that Charles Gates instigated her to commit the murder and says that he provided her with a revolver. She declared that she fired the first shot, Gates fired the three succeeding shots from the windows. She confessed to having cut up her husband’s body and that Gates took the body away and burned it. She related that she killed Druse because he treated her so cruelly and brutally.
Mrs. Druse signed an affidavit in which she affirmed that her daughter Mary now confined in the Onondaga penitentiary had nothing to do whatever with the killing of her father.
Mrs. Druse killed her husband and tormentor believing, as she alleged, that her life was continually in danger, and, as she claimed, in a kind of self defense. After killing him she chopped the body to pieces and tried to cremate the remains. The direct testimony in her case showed premeditation. It was claimed by some that the woman was a victim of her husband’s brutality and was driven by domestic griefs and cares to a state of insanity and had no idea of killing her husband with a murderous motive. By direction of the governor, however, she was examined by a medical commission a few days ago and pronounced sane.
In one of her last interviews prior to hanging, Mary Druse, the daughter, now in prison for life, said: “Oh, how happy it would make me to see mother. I have a little money, and will gladly spend all of it necessary to make this farewell journey. I have not seen my mother since I left her in Herkimer sixteen months ago. I little thought then that this would be the end. My mother is so dear to me. She was always so kind to me. When mother used to be sick it was never long before I was sick, too. I have heard father say if mother dies it won’t be long before Mary follows her. I feel that this is true. I do not care to live. I am not strong and feel that my life is nearly over.”
“Is there anything you want your mother to say before she dies?” was asked the weeping girl.
“I know, solemnly replied Mary, “that my mother can make a statement that will set me free, but I have not asked her to make it, and I shall not ask her. I trust my mother. She ought to say this, and I feel that she will,” said the girl, with a filial devotion that rose superior to the awful crime for which her mother has been condemned to die.
“If I could only see my mother,” exclaimed the sobbing girl, “it would be some comfort to me. I do not know what the governor will do, but how can he refuse a poor girl a request to kiss her mother goodbye before she dies so dreadful, so horrible a death? Oh how awful is it. I have always had such horror of the gallows. A death on it seems to me so agonizing I cannot bear to think of it. Yet no one can imagine what I have suffered during the last two years since mother and I were arrested.”
The the girl spoke in a whisper scarcely audible: –
“I’d rather stand on the gallows than to live, but I hate to have mother –” and the whisper died away into silence, broken only by the wretched daughter’s sobs.
“I shall miss my mother,” Mary next said. “Oh, no one can understand how great a comfort she has been to me all these days of imprisonment, and how can I live without her?” Again and again Mary exclaimed, “Oh, why doesn’t she say something? She could say something.”
HERKIMER, N.Y. Feb. 28 — In every pulpit here Sunday allusion was made to the Druse hanging, and the hope was generally expressed that the proceeding would be averted. Mrs. Druse passed most of the day in tears. She contended that she was in reality innocent of the murder of her husband. Telegrams were sent from here by scores, requesting the governor to commute her sentence. Mrs. Druse Sunday made her will, bequeathing her body to her clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Powell, and her cabinet organ to her daughter, Mary, who is in the penitentiary serving out a life sentence for her participation in her father’s murder. Her son, George, had a parting interview with his mother and she was much affected. Last night a service was held in her cell by the Rev. Mr. Powell.
The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Feb 28, 1887
Mrs. Druse, in her confession just before the hanging, declared that she did not feed any portion of her husband’s body to the hogs. This was a mitigating circumstance which ought to have had great weight with a jury of grangers.
The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Mar 2, 1887
MRS. DRUSE HANGED.
Execution of the New York Woman Who Killed Her Husband and Burned His Remains — She Shrieks in Terror on Facing the Final Noose — Story of Her Revolting Crime.
Herkimer, N.Y., March 1. — Mrs. Roxalana Druse, who shot her husband dead, then, with the help of her children, cut up his body, boiled the fragments, and then tried to dispose of them by burning them up, was hanged at noon yesterday. Only twenty-five persons were allowed to witness the execution, although a vast crowd was gathered about the jail. After the services Sunday evening Mrs. Druse remained up until about 11:30 p.m. Deputy Sheriff Hartley Manion?, with Mr. and Mrs. Waterman, the death-watch, induced her to lie down.
During the night Mrs. Druse ate one of the heartiest meals that she has eaten since she was a prisoner. She had about two hours of rest after four a.m., but did not sleep soundly at any time.
Rev. Dr. Powell visited Mrs. Druse about nine a.m., and did all in his power to calm her and prepare her for the awful moment.
At 11:30 o’clock the sheriff’s jury was ordered into the jail-yard, while Sheriff Cook, Under Sheriff Rice and the deputy and physicians proceeded to Mrs. Druse’s cell, where she sat weeping. Sheriff Cook began reading the death warrant and respite of Governor Hill. At 11:37 a.m. Mrs. Druse’s pulse was 80, at 11:42, just before the march to the gallows was commenced, it raised to 90. To those who offered to assist Mrs. Druse in arising Dr. Powell said: “She will bear herself well, and does not need any assistance.”
Sheriff Cook and Under Sheriff Rice led the procession, followed by Rev. Dr. Powell and Mrs. Druse, and the physicians and deputies in order. Mrs. Druse was dressed in black cashmere with lace edging on the sleeves. She wore a small shawl over her shoulders that was loaned to her by Mrs. Cook. At 11:53 Mrs. Druse and Dr. Powell knelt on the floor of the scaffold under the rope. Dr. Powell offered prayer.
When the prayer was ended Mrs. Druse cast her eyes upward and caught sight of the hanging noose, which she had not noticed before, and a convulsive tremor shook her slight frame. She also sobbed gently at intervals.
She was then asked if she had any thing to say, when she referred to Dr. Powell who thanked all those who had been kind to her, and implored all her enemies to forgive her, as she forgave all. Dr. Powell then pressed Mrs. Druse’s hand and left the jail-yard.
The executioner then stepped forward and pensoned? her arms and legs together. The noose was adjusted and the black cap drawn down over her face. At this point the prisoner again showed signs of collapse and began to scream and shriek at the top of her voice in a hysterical manner, but the drop of the 213-pound weight choked her cries in her throat and the body of the murderess, when whose awful crime has shocked the entire country, was sent flying upward about four feet, shooting forward to the right and settling back to within a foot and a half of the platform. Her death was apparently easy, and life was pronounced extinct in fifteen minutes after the drop fell. The body was cut down and placed in a neat imitation rosewood coffin, and turned over to Rev. Dr. Powell. The remains were taken to Oak Hill cemetery, and placed in a vault, where it will rest until its final disposition is determined upon.
Before her death Mrs. Druse made an affidavit in which she swore that her daughter Mary, now serving a life sentence for the crime was in no way implicated in the father’s murder.
STORY OF THE CRIME.
The Druse family consisted of Mr. William Druse, a farmer of moderate means, his wife, Roxalana, her daughter, and a nephew named George Gates. December 18? Druse asked the boy Gates to get up and build the fire, which he did. Mrs. Druse and her daughter arising at the same time. After breakfast Mrs. Druse sent George, her son, out of the house, and then calling the nephew handed him a revolver and told him to shoot Druse or she would shoot him. The boy then fired at Druse, and the woman, snatching the pistol from him, fired at her husband until it was empty. She then took an axe and pounded him over the head, afterward decapitating the body. The boy and George Druse were then compelled to build a large fire in both stoves and were set on watch at the windows while the body was being burned. The flesh, after being boiled and burned off the bones, was given to the hogs. The boy stated that the next morning all he saw of Druse’s body was a large bone and even that was eventually placed in the stove by the daughter Mary. The ashes and a few remains were then put into a bag and a tin box and thrown into a neighboring swamp, the axe and pistol being consigned to a pond, where they were afterward found.
The inquest was closed January 14, the jury finding that “William Druse was shot and killed by Roxalana, his wife, aged forty years, and that Mary J., the daughter, aged twenty, George W. S. Druse, the son, aged ten, and Frank Gates, the nephew, were feloniously present and gave aid and comfort to the woman.
The entire family was arrested, but the boys escaped on account of their youth. Mrs. Druse and her daughter were promptly convicted, the former being sentenced to death and the daughter to State prison for life. No reason was ever given for the crime save a desire to be rid of her husband.
Sevens Point Journal, The (Stevens Point, Wisconsin) Mar 5,1887
The ghost of Mrs. Roxalana Druse, the woman hanged at Herkimer, N.Y., is said to visit her late cell nightly and scare all the prisoners in jail by her unearthly moans and cries.
The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) Jul 6, 1887
The governor pardoned Mary Druse, who was serving a life sentence in Auburn, N.Y., for the murder of her father in Herkimer county ten years ago. Her mother was hanged as the principal in the crime.
Stevens Point Journal, The (Stevens Point, Wisconsin) Jul 6, 1895