Rotten to the Corr: Mother Throws Baby Down a Well


Content Warning: Some of these news articles are a bit horrifying to read. The fourth one, however, is somewhat humorous, in a demented sort of way.

A Mother Confesses That, Angered by Her Husband’s Cruelty, She

She Tried to Implicate the Father, and Left Home Before the Body Was Found.


Mrs. John Corr, who for a number of years has resided in Marion Center, is today an inmate of the county jail, charged with the drowning of her little daughter, not quite two years old. The deed, according to the woman’s confession, was committed at midnight on Sunday night. Sometime later she fled from Marion, after first trying to fasten the guilt upon her husband. A few hours after the body was recovered, she was captured about a mile from Marion by Constable Frampton, and brought to town.

The first intimation that the residents of Marion Center had of the crime was from Mrs. Corr herself. About 5:30 she called at the home of a neighbor and stated that her husband had thrown her daughter, Sadie, in the well and drowned her. As the woman is considered slightly demented but little attention was paid to her story. The neighbor attended to his household duties, and then went to Mr. Corr’s shop, where he sleeps, the husband and wife not having occupied the same apartments for a long time. The neighbor asked Mr. Corr if he had been over to the house that morning and upon being told that he hadn’t, related the story Mrs. Corr had told him.

Mr. Corr went over to the house and there met his daughter, Annie, aged 6. He asked the child for her mother and was told “mamma has gone to Indiana.” He then said “where is Sadie, and received the reply “mamma threw Sadie in the well.” Mr. Corr and the neighbor then went out to the well and peered over the edge. It was about five feet down to the water, and the body of the little one was plainly discerned at the bottom. A number of neighbors had gathered by this time and the body was taken out by J.H. McGinity and W.T. Martin by means of a rope. It was almost stiff, and bore the appearance of having been in the water several hours.

Coroner Miller was notified early on Monday morning and went out in the afternoon and held an inquest. A number of witnesses were examined. The evidence produced related principally to the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Corr and the finding of the body. Nearly every witness swore that when not drinking Mr. Corr was a peaceable citizen, and was always kind to his children. On the other hand, his wife was considered of unsound mind, easily excited and, when in that condition very violent. In accordance with the testimony the jury rendered a verdict that “Sadie Corr, on the night of March 24, in a well on the premises of John G. Corr in Marion Center, came to her death by drowning, at the hands of some person, we believe the said person to be Mrs. Ada Corr, the mother of Sadie, who in our opinion, is of weak mind.” The jurors were D.A. Ellis, A.M. Long, H.M. Fleck, O.E. McGregor, J.B. Kinter, and C.B. Griffith.

Yesterday morning Humane Agent Thompson called on Mrs. Corr in the jail to talk with her regarding the crime and the disposition of the other two children. She made a confession, saying it was brought about through worry and excitement.

“On Sunday evening” she said, “my husband and a strange man came to the house. They had been drinking and tormented me. Corr laid out a lot of work which he said I must do the next day. after they left I went into the house and sat up until almost midnight. Then I took Sadie in my arms and told Annie I was going to drown her. Annie plead with me not to do it, but I hurried from the house to the well and threw Sadie in. I don’t care whether they hang me or not. Hanging would be a relief from the misery I have always lived in.”

Citizens of Marion say Corr had not been drinking for a week before the crime. They say that when excited she was capable of almost any crime. Last summer their house took fire, and it was the general belief the woman started the flames in the hope of cremating her children. She frequently went away from home without providing for the care of her children, and it is thought she wanted to start on another trip and took this means of getting rid of the baby.

The woman is known to a number of people in this vicinity, having frequently visited in or near town. The humane agent is now completing arrangements for having the other two children, aged 6 and 4 years, sent to St. Paul’s Children’s Home, in Pittsburg.

Indiana Evening Gazette (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Mar 27, 1895



Deliberately Drowns Her Babe, and Says She Was Prompted to the Terrible Act by the Cruel Treatment and Suggestion of Her Husband — The Slumbering Two-Year-Old Infant Cast Into the Well to Awaken in a Death Struggle — One Faint Cry Was All the Mother Heard, and Then She Fled Into the Darkness.

Ada Corr lives in Marion. She is the wife of John G Corr a tailor, who has lived in Marion for about 20 years.Ada’s maiden name was Clawson, and she was a daughter of Ephraim Clawson, who lived in Center tp near Jacksonville, and who died eight years ago. Ada’s mother died four years since, and three years prior to her mother’s death Ada married Corr. The couple have lived in Marion since their marriage. Three children were supposed to be the offspring of the marriage, aged respectively six, four and two years. Anna, the older of the children, is said to be a bright, attractive and vivacious child. Jessie, the next oldest is a pleasant featured girl, but the baby Sadie, while not mishapen, had little to commend it in the way of beauty. Sadie would have been two years old on the 24th? of June, and at the time of its death was a nursing at the mother’s breast.

On last Sunday night, between 11 and 12, the mother lifted Sadie from a rocking chair in which she was sleeping, carried her to the open mouth of a well, a few feet from the house and threw the child down into the water. The mother stood over the opening in the well-platform and heard her child strike the water, heard a wailing cry come up from the dark abyss into which she had cast the infant and then, without re-entering her home, where her  two other children were sleeping, fled out on to the street, the wailing echo of the dying little one’s ___ _____ yet sounding in her ears.

The first place she went to and within a few minutes after the commission of the ___ was to an aged neighbor named Low ___. Arousing him after some delay she told the terrible story, but he had heard of other troubles in the Corr family and did not believe or at least paid no heed to the awful story told by the mother. She then went to another neighbor named Uncapher, but her tale was not credited. From there she went to the home of two aged McClosky sisters but was unable to gain admittance. From this latter place she wandered aimlessly about until nearly daylight, when, chilled to the bone by the raw night air, her ___ covered with mud, and her scant attire (scarcely covering her nakedness) wet through by the falling rain, she took refuge ___ set of the public school building. There the unhappy and demented woman crouched in a corner for two hours, or maybe longer. Two little girls came to the schoolroom and kindled a fire in the stove and the mother rushed to get warm. To the amazed and frightened girls she told the story of her awful deed and they fled to their homes with the awful intelligence.

When the woman’s chilled limbs had been partially restored by the warmth, she ___ ____ incline to the top of Rochester st?.

[several lines I can’t make out, poor copy]

“…On the road here, I met a man with some carpenter tools in his hands. I didn’t know his name, but I stopped and told him about Sadie being in the well and he turned back and walked as fast as he could toward Marion and said he would get the child out. Then I went into Me____? and they gave me some breakfast and some dry clothes to put on, and I told them about drowning Sadie.”

“In the afternoon,” continued Ada, “Mr. Frampton come and took me to Marion. He told me he was the Constable. He took me up to our house and showed me Sadie lying ____ and I had never seen but one corpse before and that was my mother. Sadie’s ears were blue and black and the sides of her cheek were blue. I never saw a dead child before and I thought the water had made the marks on her neck and ears when she was strangling in the well. Sadie was living when I dropped her in the well. She was sleeping when I picked her up from the rocking chair. When I dropped her in the well the water splashed and the baby began to cry. I thought it was better for her to be out of the world. She was sickly, and John [Corr] always treated her bad.

He said she belonged  to Jim Brown. On Sunday night when he came to the house from his shop, about 10 o’clock, John was raging drunk, ____ down the bed, and took down the stove and said he was going to break up housekeeping. Sadie was lying on the floor,  and he kicked her and said she might as well be poisoned and that she would be better out of the world than in it. John did not give me anything to eat except cracked w___ and sometimes a few eggs. He said I was harder to keep than a farmer. After he left teh house and had torn everything up and told me I ought to go out and work, and I told him I could not work with a baby at my breast he said the baby was not his anyhow. I thought about it for a long time after he left the house, and I thought if I would have to go out and work the  baby might as well be dead as not and so I just took Sadie out of the chair and took her and dropped her in the well..”

_____ is the mother’s story, but not all of it. She left Corr last fall and went to live with John Lewis? in Brushvalley and there Dan Lewis Jr., got to know her and wanted to marry her. She was told she would be able to get a divorce if she could stay away from Corr for two years, and she intended to do that but, “John,” she continued came and took me and the baby back to Marion and he wouldn’t allow my sisters or a man to come near the house. He would get drunk whenever he had a chance” said the woman, and then he would beat and kick me. Yes, she said, without a tear but with a down cast look, “the baby is better off where it is, and so am I and I never want to see John again.”

Mrs. Corr has four sisters nd two brothers living and none of these suffer from dementia.

The woman is about five feet in height, of slender and delicate build and of rather homely appearance. She uses good language and is fairly intelligent and save from her singular disregard of the enormity and nature of her awful crime might be thought sane.
When she was committed to jail on Monday night she had not a stitch of underclothing ____ ____ and her feet were [unable to read this part] Mrs. _____ has provided the unfortunate woman with comfortable apparel and this morning Mrs. Corr said to the  MESSENGER reporter, “My sleep last night was pleasant _____ and refreshing.

………Humane Agent Thompson is looking after the welfare of the two remaining children and they will be properly provided for by his society.

Indiana Weekly Messenger (Indiana, Pennsylvania) > 1895 > March > 27


Mrs. John Corr Expresses Sorrow Over Her Deed.

Sadie Corr, the 2 year old child who was drowned by her mother at Marion Center, on Sunday evening, March 24, was buried in the Presbyterian graveyard at Marion on Tuesday. Services were held in the Presbyterian church, Revs. Forseman and Huffman officiating. The funeral was largely attended.

All arrangements for the future comfort of the other two children have been completed. Yesterday Humane Agent Thompson took them to Pittsburg and they are now inmates of St. Paul’s Children’s Home.

Mrs. Corr is now sorry that she murdered her daughter. A gentleman from Marion Center visited her in the jail last week, and she eagerly asked for details of the funeral, and of the disposition of the other children. While speaking of her dead daughter the woman broke down and wept bitterly. She says she much prefers jail to her home, as it is cleaner and she is more comfortable. Her trial will probably come up in June.

Indiana Evening Gazette (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Apr 3, 1895


The Infanticide, Now in Jail, Asks Her Husband’s Permission to Marry.

Mr. Lewis, of Twolick, is Preferred Above a Holy Roller Preacher and Two Indiana Young Men.


Marriage may or may not be a failure; the fact, one way or the other, has not yet been fully demonstrated, but Mrs. John Corr, who is confined in the county jail charged with the murder of her infant daughter, evidently thinks it isn’t, for regardless of the fact that her marital relations with Mr. Corr are said to have been anything but pleasant, she stands ready to shake off the fetter which bind her to John and hitch on to another fellow upon whom her heart’s best affections are now apparently bestowed.

The story of Mrs. Corr’s life with her husband is not of the kind which would usually tempt a woman to cast herself a second time into the matrimonial whirlpool. It tells of abuse, neglect, want and debauchery, all of which, the woman says, finally drove her to the commission of the crime for which she now languishes in jail. Nevertheless, regardless of all that she is, to use her own words “dead gone” on another fellow, and has written to her husband asking his consent to her union with him.

From Marion Center, where the husband lives, comes the story that John has received no less than four letters from his wife asking that he consent to the marriage. She evidently thinks that is all that is necessary to make her marriage possible, and the letters are full of appeals for her husband’s sanction. She goes even farther, and asks John, in the event of his sanction, to buy her a new hat and dress in which to “sport about on her wedding day.” Warden Miller says Mrs. Corr has her eye on a number of admirers, but he has never yet been able to discover which of them has the inside track. Feeling that GAZETTE readers would be anxious to know just who the lady had made up her mind to lead to the altar a reporter called on her in the jail yesterday morning and found out.

Mrs. Corr and Mrs. Matilda Sylvanus occupy the same quarters, and both were present at the interview. Mrs. Corr was shy at first, but Mrs. Sylvanus, upon being promised some carpet rags to while away time on, finally induced her to talk.

Mrs. Corr said she was “dead gone” on a young fellow, and was very anxious to marry him. There were no less than four that she could have, but the one particular apple of her eye was Mr. Lewis, a son of Tucker Dan Lewis, who lives among the sand hill of Twolick creek. Two of her other victims live in Indiana, and the fourth is a Holy Roller preacher, whose home is down near Apollo. She had a letter from her husband in regard to the matter the other day. John evidently doesn’t object much, for this is what he said:

My Dear Wife:
I am happy to hear of your prospects for getting married. I will do as I always promised to do, if you get another man, to start you in housekeeping and dress you in a good suit to get wed in. You neglected to tell me the name of the fortunate man to get such a fine woman. Tell Mrs. Sylvanus she would make a happy bride for some man when her time expires. Yes, be sure and get married.
Your Loving Husband,

Mrs. Corr sets great store by that letter. It’s her  husband’s promise, she says, and the day of her second nuptials is not far distant. The delicate compliment to Mrs. Matilda Sylvanus brought a glow to that lady’s cheek, but she proudly remarked “She didn’t need any old man a lookin’ after her.”

The only disagreeable feature about this whole business is that Mrs. Corr is willfully deceiving her husband. She has led him to believe that it is the Holy Roller preacher with whom she is going to link her life, and on the strength of that, she says, he has partly given his consent, the dress and the bonnet.

In the meantime, while Mrs. Corr is in jail waiting for her trial and thinking of her love among the sand hills it might be well for susceptible young men to keep away from her cell door for fear they, too, fall beneath her blandishment as have the Holy Roller preacher, the two Indiana young men and Tucker Dan’s son.

Indiana Evening Gazette (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Jul 10, 1895



Resume of the Testimony, Etc. — The Court Adjourns at 4:30 Tuesday Evening to Attend a Soldiers’ Reunion — Case Will Not Be Concluded Before Thursday.

[Excerpts from the article]

The trial of Mrs. Ada Corr for murder began in court on Monday afternoon.

Mrs. M.J. McGaughey was the first witness called for the defense. She lives in Jacksonville and knew Mrs. Corr, who was the youngest daughter of the late Ephraim Clawson, who was a doless character and who lacked mental capacity, two of the children, one of them Mrs. Corr and the other Mattie, inherited the father’s characteristics, Mattie having drowned herself, and neither of them were capable of receiving any education. Mrs. McGaughey was the school teacher where these children attended, and they could not be taught; their minds seemed altogether incapable; and Mrs. Corr was decidedly weak-minded. She might be classed as idiotic.

Mrs. Elizabeth Lowman lived near Jacksonville and knew the Ephraim Clawson family, of which Mrs. Corr was a member. The father was peculiar and was not smart, and neither was Mrs. Corr, or Mattie, the one who drowned herself. Witness had known Mrs. Corr from her infancy, and she was always weak-minded and simple. When she got angry she became frenzied, and didn’t know at all what she was doing.

Jonathan Ray knew Mrs. Corr’s father and the family. He testified to the peculiarities of Ephraim Clawson, who bragged about his strength and how he could work, but Ephriam didn’t work very much. The witness knew Mrs. Corr and thought she had little mind.
At 4:30 p.m. the court adjourned until 9 a.m. Wednesday, Judge White announcing that he was going to Johnstown on the evening train to attend a soldiers’ reunion.

Indiana Weekly Messenger (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Sep 18, 1895  18


NOTE: The title of the next news clipping is misleading; Mrs. Corr does not go free, she goes to the insane asylum.

Conclusion of the Testimony and the Verdict of the Jury.


Major Irvin McFarland, who was a former coroner of the county, and was at Harbison Carr’s, in Armstrong tp., where he held an inquest on the body of a girl named Mattie Clawson, who is was found had committed suicide by drowning. She was about 15 or 16 years of age.

Mrs Ida Cochran, a sister of the defendant, who resides in Center tp., and frequently talked to her, had noticed that her mind was not right, and she gave several circumstances which gave her this impression.

Jail Warden R.N. Miller testified to numerous conversations with Mrs. Corr while in jail, and he thought she was weak-minded or simple, and had no intelligent conception of the difference between right and wrong.

[excerpt of other witness testimony, in brief]

Archy Fuller: Testified to Mr. Corr’s drunken habits and noise at Corr house
Peter Clawson: Didn’t think her mind was good.
Albert Cunningham: same
D.M. Clawson, her brother: unimportant
John Laughlin: similar
David Clawson: not much to the point
Alex Ray: same
Mrs. S. J. Cunningham: thought she had unsound mind
Dr. A.F. Purinton: Saw Mrs. Corr in jail, conversed, not of sound mind
Dr. M.M. Davis, jail physician: Low order of intelligence, didn’t know difference between right and wrong, could not be held responsible for her acts
David J. Clawson: appeared docile, not in right mind
Mrs. R.N. Miller, wife of Jail Warden: childish, didn’t know difference between right and wrong
John Downey, childhood acquaintance: The boys made a good deal of sport with her

C.R. Griffith: Did not see furniture or stove broken or smashed up, thought Mrs. Corr was not of a strong mind
David Wood: Weak-minded
E.H. Griffith: NOT insane or crazy
Miss Nancy McClusky: didn’t know about mental condition
‘Squire Ryckman: not insane
Dr. A.H. Allison: never spoken to her
J.M. Work, Esq.: Mrs. Corr had complained once to him that her husband had treated her badly. Not insane, but weak-minded.
Jack McMillen: Not crazy
J.E. Uncapher: Not crazy, but weak mind
J.A. Kinter: Not crazy
Mrs. Mary Colkitt: Seemed more like a child than woman, ignorant, was not allowed to talk to her (per Mr. Corr)
Mrs. Wm. Stormer: Didn’t visit their house because it wasn’t in good order
Mrs. Eva Bovard: Not insane, wanted her to make her house more homelike.
Mrs. J.A. Kinter: Not crazy, but a silly woman, feeble-minded.
N.W. Stewart: Feeble-minded
J.H. McGinty: Mrs. Corr talked to witness about the drowning, and said it was a terrible thing to do, and she said she didn’t care what they do to her. Saw Corr the evening before the drowning; he was sober. With all the intercourse witness had with her he could not adjudge her insane, but thought she was weak-minded, judging from her actions.
H.J. Thompson: Not insane
Mrs. Harvey VanHorn: Weak-minded
O.A. Ellis: Had heard of “high jinks” at the Corr house. Mrs. Corr not a notable housekeeper. Saw Corr and the machine agent the evening before the drowning and thought they were sober. Not insane
Dr. W.E. Dodson: Nothing unusual in her behavior. Excitement might cause her to lose control of her mind.

Dr. W.E. Dodson recalled: Nearly idiotic
Kinley Hunter: no opinion
L.N. Park: not insane
Joseph Simpson: not insane. He was in the Corr house the morning after the drowning, and didn’t see a broken-down bed or overturned stove. The evening before he saw John Corr at 7 o’clock, was perfectly sober. John Corr, when drunk, gets ugly. There was a tramp and a sewing machine agent with Corr the evening before drowning.
Abram Avey: Not insane
Aaron Lang: Not insane, but weak-minded
Charles Ellis: same
D.H. Bee: normal

The verdict was handed to the court on Friday morning, and was in these words:

“We the jury find a verdict of not guilty for the want of sufficient evidence and we find her to be insane.”

The verdict seemed to meet the approval of the entire audience. Mrs. Corr sat in her usual seat, and looked curiously about the court room when the jury entered. She paid no heed, nor did she seem to comprehend the fact that the twelve men filing into the jury box to render their verdict held her life and freedom in their hands. Even after the formal announcement by Prothonotary Peelor of the verdict she sat quiet and without emotion. Mr. Cunningham, of her counsel, informed her of the import of the verdict, and she sat as impassive as she did through the whole trial. She was taken back to the jail. The MESSENGER reporter accosted her on the way, and remarked (to see the effect it would have on her) “not a hair of your head is to be harmed, Mrs. Corr.” She gave a vacant look for an instant, and responded, “I’m all right, I guess.” In the jail she was warmly congratulated by her fellow prisoner, Mrs. Sylvanus, but from her appearance and demeanor one would think she had just come home from a pleasant journey which might have ended in a verdict consigning her to the gallows.

Indiana Weekly Messenger (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Sep 25, 1895


THE OVERSEERS of Marion Center took Mrs. John Corr to Cambria county on Monday and left her in care of the Poor Farm. Mrs. Corr, it will be remembers, was tried here for the murder of her child and was acquitted on the ground of insanity. She was sent to Dixmont and was a charge on Marion Center. Corr, shortly after the trial, located in Cambria county, where he has gained a residence, and as he has not secured a divorce his home is also that of his wife, and Marion is thus relieved of its burden.

Indiana Weekly Messenger (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Jul 21, 1897

Read more about John G. Corr in my previous post, “Tailor Made, With a Hatchet

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One Response to “Rotten to the Corr: Mother Throws Baby Down a Well”

  1. Tailor Made, With a Hatchet « YesterYear Once More Says:

    […] Once More Life as it was reported back then « Chaska and Corabelle: Painted Red Rotten to the Corr: Mother Throws Baby Down a Well […]

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