Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mystery on Coney Island - 1845 - Mrs. Lemira Harris - SOLVED!

(Additions to this blog entry evening of 4/26)

The next article comes right after an article about a young man who died of lockjaw.

MORE MYSTERY.--The body of a young woman was found yesterday near the Coney Island House. She must have been a victim to violence of some kind or other, from the fact that she was buried in her ordinary dress, and apparently hurried into her grave with the greatest rapidity. She had on a brown silk dress.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Saturday, August 30, 1845

The Coney Island House appears to have been to a hotel, per The American Experience. Or more specifically, per one of the signs on Coney Island circa 2007:

Built in 1829 in West Brighton Beach, the Coney Island House was the area's first hotel.

Sounds like a rumor got started, because the actual body found didn't match the initial story at all.

A SLIGHT MISTAKE.--The "mystery" said to have transpired at Coney Island turns out to be more "mysterious" than was at first reported. Although the lover of the marvellous cannot be gratified by the fact that the body found in the sand was that of a young and beautiful lady, in a "brown silk dress," their wonder will be likely still to "grow" that a revolutionary hero, or one of Kidd's piratical company, should have so long remained a hidden treasure on the Island. The following is the official report of the coroner of Gravesend in relation to this "mysterious" event:

"The coroner of Gravesend was called to view the body (reported to be that of a female,) found on Coney Island in a sand hill near the house of James Cropsey. From the evidence presented, it appeared that the remains were those of an old revolutionary soldier ; or more probably one of Capt. Kidd's men, left to take care of the Pirate's treasures supposed to be deposited in the sand hill. The bones of the body were all found, and a part of the skull was quite bleached, having lain above ground, exposed to the action of the weather. Deceased had on a pair of boots made in the fashion of the last century, having very sharp toes, &c. The oldest inhabitants of the neighborhood never heard of any one being buried there. Under these circumstances the jury rendered the following verdict : The decayed remains of a human body, this day found on Coney Island, are those of some person unknown, of whose fate or manner of death we have no knowledge or information. Inquest taken this 30th day of August, 1845, before me, James Cozine, Coroner."

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday, September 1, 1845

Yes, more pirates on Coney Island!

An article over a month later seems rather sad.

CURIOUS CASE.--A young man was in Brooklyn yesterday making inquiries relative to an account of a female said to have been found buried at Coney Island. The Brooklyn paper containing it had found its way to Vermont, and induced his visit. The female in question it will be recollected, turned out to be the relics of a revolutionary soldier. The object of the young man's inquiries was in this wise. His sister, Mrs. Lemira (wife of Sylvester) Haris, a ...(illegible)... the country every direction has been scoured. She had a trunk of clothing and $50 in money with her, and was destined for Manchester, Vt. to visit her parents. The affair is involved in the most impenetrable mystery.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Saturday, October 18, 1845

Isn't that sad? A brother searching for his missing sister?

I was so curious as to what in the world happened to this woman...was she killed? How sad for her family searching for her, just trying to find closure. I'd Googled before posting this, trying to find some hint, but couldn't find a thing. Then right after this posted this morning, I searched Google one more time, and look what I found! She seems to have gone missing August 13; this article is from early September (and appears to have been published numerous places):

MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF A LADY.--On the 13th instant, (now two weeks since,) Mrs. Lemira M. Harris, wife of Mr. Sylvester Harris, of Coeymans, and daughter of Mr. Martin Sloenm, of Manchester, Vt., took passage from Coeymans on board the American Eagle, with the intention of passing the night with relatives or friends in this city or Troy, and of proceeding the following morning in the stage to Bennington.

Having acquaintances here and in Troy, and having occasionally made short visits here and there, no alarm was experienced by her husband and family at Coeymans, or her parents at Bennington, until by mutual letters and inquiry her departure and her non-arrival were ascertained.

Since then, the most anxious search has been made by her husband and father, and no trace of her has been discovered. The last that is known of her is that she was on board the American Eagle steamboat, and that she probably reached this city. Every place between this and Bennington has been thoroughly searched.--There are now the worst apprehensions for her fate.--There is scarcely a doubt that she has been murdered, or has been abducted and is held in concealment.

Mrs. H. was a highly respectable resident of Coeymans; about 23 years of age; of good appearance; and had with her about $50 in money, a gold watch, and a large trunk of clothing.--[Argus.

[We have reason to believe that these apprehensions, so far as the life of the Lady referred to is concerned, are quite groundless. If, as is understood, another individual, of the other sex, with whom the Lady was acquainted, has also disappeared, it is probable that they will ultimately be heard of together.]

--The Cabinet, Tuesday Evening, Sept. 2, 1845

from http://www.fultonhistory.com (you can search for "sylvester harris" lemira)

So in a footnote, this 1845 newspaper as much as published for the world to see, "Mrs. Harris skipped out on her husband with another man." Wow.

Suddenly I wonder if the family looking so earnestly for her were not just seeking closure and/or Lemira's return...but if they were also seeking vindication of the family's honor. This was 1845 and I have no idea what Lemira's family was like, but I'm sure some families would have rather had a dead daughter than an adulterous one.

On the other hand, the article doesn't really bring closure; it just raises more questions as to if Lemira might be alive.

But a year later, in a nearly illegible little note in the Albany New York Evening Journal (and perhaps elsewhere):

Decisions in Chancery.

Made by Hon. Amare (?) J. Farmer, Vice-Chancellor of the Third Circuit, Sept 18, 1846....

Sylvester Harris vs. Lemira Harris. Amos Dean for compt. Decree dissolving marriage contract.

--Albany New York Evening Journal, Saturday Evening, Sept. 19, 1846

from http://www.fultonhistory.com (you can search for "sylvester harris" lemira)

Again, this was the 1840s. Divorce. WOW.

So that's kind of a sad ending...but the same newspaper issue had a headline "Trial of E.M.C. Spencer for the Murder of his Wife." So I don't know--I think it could have been a lot worse!

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