The Ogress of Reading

SOLEMNLY SWORN
AN EYE FOR AN EYE

OVERSEAS EDITION

The Trial and Execution of Amelia Dyer

This episode comes at the request of a listener across the great pond in the United Kingdom.

We will be exploring the testimony from the trial of Amelia Dyer, who would take in infants and toddlers for adoption for a fee, and then murder the poor children for the profit.

She is said to have once referred to herself as an angel maker. I’ve seen estimates of her carnage at as many as 400 young souls, but she was formally convicted on only one count.

But that was enough for her to pay the ultimate price.

By the way, 10 pounds in 1896 would be 1,190 pounds in 2016, adjusting for inflation, and in current conversion rates, 1,190 pounds is a bit more than $1,500 at the time of this broadcast.
fig-1-pelisse-with-sleeves-and-cape

Vocabulary Word: pelisse

It comes from the Latin for a garment of fur, but in this case referred to a long, loose outer coat made for infants.

 

Mrs. Dyer, The Baby Farmer

(folk song)

 

The old baby farmer has been executed,
It’s quite time that she was put out of the way,
She was a bad woman, it is not disputed,
Not a word in her favour can anyone say.
That old baby farmer the wretch Mrs Dyer,
At the Old Bailey her wages is paid,
In times long ago we’d have made a big fire,
And roasted so nicely that wicked old jade.
It seems rather hard to run down a woman,
But this one was hardly a woman at all,
To make a fine living in ways so inhuman,
Carousing in comfort on poor girls’ downfall.
Poor girls who fell down from the straight path of virtue,
What could they do with a child in their arms?
The fault they committed they could not undo,
So the baby was sent to the cruel baby farm.
That old baby farmer the wretch Mrs Dyer,
At the Old Bailey her wages is paid,
In times long ago we’d have made a big fire,
And roasted so nicely that wicked old jade.
To all these sad crimes there must be an ending,
Secrets like these forever can’t last,
Say as you like, there is no defending,
The horrible tales we have heard in the past.
It seems really awful how her heart could harden,
For when the Bow Street Law Officers came,
They found twenty little bodies a-buried in the garden, And one or two more down the old kitchen drain.
What did she think as she stood on the gallows?
Poor little victims in front of her eyes,
Her heart, if she had one, must have been callous,
The rope round her neck – how quickly time flies.
That old baby farmer the wretch Mrs Dyer,
At the Old Bailey her wages is paid,
In times long ago we’d have made a big fire,
And roasted so nicely that wicked old jade.
Down through the trapdoor quick disappearing,
The old baby farmer has come to her harm,
The sound of her own death bell’s toll she was hearing,
Maybe she went to the cruel baby farm!

 

Clips:

1896-0413-the_times_mon__apr_13__1896_ 1896-0619-little_falls_weekly_transcript_fri__jun_19__1896_-1

The Wicked Working Girl of Fall River: The Trial of the Reverend Ephraim Kingsbury Avery

SOLEMNLY SWORN

Testimony from History’s Sensational Trials

Courtesy of Cornell University Law Library, Trial Pamphlets Collection
Courtesy of Cornell University Law Library, Trial Pamphlets Collection. Click image to access source document.

Some sixty years before the trial of Lizzie Borden brought infamy to the town of Fall River, Massachusetts, the body of Sarah Maria Cornell, a 30 year old mill worker from that town, was found hanging from a haystack pole in the nearby town of Tiverton, just across the Rhode Island border.

The first coroner’s jury ruled the death a suicide, but a note later found in the woman’s boarding house led to the first of two exhumations of the body and the arrest of the Rev. Ephraim Kingsbury Avery for her murder.

It is believed to be one of the first trials of a minister for murder in America, and it was a scandalous one. Newspapers across the country published transcripts on a daily basis, and when it was all over, many booklets—including one by the defendant himself—were published with the complete testimony and arguments of the 27-day trial.

One of several "trial pamphlets" issued on the case.
One of several “trial pamphlets” issued on the case.

The Reverend Avery spent the rest of his life dodging the accusations and his tarnished reputation, in spite of his acquittal. The court of public opinion is not so easily swayed by facts. He embarked on a speaking tour to clear his name, and eventually settled in Lorain County Ohio and lived out his days as a farmer. He died on October 23, 1869.

There were a couple of items of clothing mentioned in this story that had me rushing to the Google. I’d never heard of a surtout or a calash, but here they are:

A surtout, is a military style overcoat. Photo via Pinterest.
A surtout is a military style overcoat. Photo via Pinterest.

[#Beginning of Shooting Data Section] Nikon D2X 2007/09/21 11:38:35.9 RAW (12-bit) Image Size: Large (4288 x 2848) Lens: 60mm F/2.8 D Focal Length: 60mm Exposure Mode: Manual Metering Mode: Multi-Pattern 1/60 sec - F/16 Exposure Comp.: 0 EV Sensitivity: ISO 100 Optimize Image: White Balance: Preset d-0 AF Mode: Manual Flash Sync Mode: Not Attached Color Mode: Mode I (sRGB) Tone Comp.: Normal Hue Adjustment: 0° Saturation: Normal Sharpening: Low Image Comment: Long Exposure NR: Off High ISO NR: Off [#End of Shooting Data Section]
A calash on view at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, also via Pinterest
1024px-A_very_bad_man_-_Ephraim_Kingsbury_Avery

Newspaper Sources:

1833 0327 The_People_s_Press_Wed__Mar_27__1833_
The People’s Press, March 27, 1833
1883 0527 The_Evening_Post_Mon__May_27__1833_
The New York Evening Post, May 27, 1833
Newbern_Spectator_Fri__Jun_14__1833_
The Newbern (South Carolina) Spectator, June 14, 1833
The_Evening_Post_Thu__May_30__1833_
The New York Evening Post, May 30, 1833