Boston in the late 19th century. (Courtesy: New York Public Library)
Boston in the late 19th century. (Courtesy: New York Public Library)

On July 23, 1885, a janitor at a Boston club house noticed something floating in the Charles River. A woman had been brutally murdered and chopped into four pieces. Over the next several days, the remaining body parts were recovered. Boston police at first thought that the victim was named Nellie Halsey. However, they soon changed their thinking to believe it was actually a woman named Rose C. Gilbert. Her husband, Lawrence, was a butcher.

A piece of Brussels carpet had also been recovered with the body, serving as a potential clue. Continue below, or catch up beginning with Part 1 and Part 2.

On July 28, following reports that Rose Gilbert was believed to be the slain victim, the woman was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery. The New York Times reported that the dismembered corpse was placed in a “plain pine coffin” and “buried among the pauper dead.” Gilbert’s mother, identified as Mrs. Hickey, arrived after the burial. She was shown a photograph of the remains, but was not able to identify the victim as being her daughter.

“There is still no report of a woman of middle age being missing in Boston or vicinity,” the Times published.

Another report was also published about a purported “second Charles River murder” victim. In early July, a man who was “pursued by 15 or 20 men” who were described as “a gang of half-drunken roughs” did reportedly cause a man to drown after chasing him across Cragie’s Bridge, according to a story from The New York Times. The case was unrelated to the brutal murder of the woman.

On Aug. 3, new developments in the woman’s death came from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A schooner named Oriole was believed to be associated with the crime. When it arrived in the city, “a piece of the carpet in the galley was missing,” which gave hope that the mystery was about to be solved.

Inspector Burke, of Boston, came to Philadelphia today, bringing with him the carpet in which a portion of the body was wrapped when found. He was taken on the harbor police boat to the schooner, which is lying at anchor off Point Airy. It was found that all the carpet on board differed in texture and figure from that taken from the body.

Henry L. Sparrow, the mate of the Oriole, said that he had been on the vessel since April 3, and that the only carpet on board was that which McIntyre, the former steward of the boat, had put down in the galley, some pieces of which still remained.

McIntyre said that he found the carpet on a wharf in Boston among some rubbish, and had covered the galley floor to save the trouble of washing it up.

The man named McIntyre was reportedly “strongly suspected of the murder.” Police were searching for him at the time.

The biggest development in the entire case came on Aug. 19, when a man named Frank Mitchell was arraigned and charged with the murder of his wife, Ellen. He would be the final suspect.

Next up: In Part 4, I’ll reveal the potentially damning case against Frank Mitchell.

Bonus Content

I stumbled upon the following striking story In the same edition of The New York Times mentioned in the story above, specifically for Aug. 4, 1885. The headline contains quite the reveal. However, I won’t spoil it.

An unknown writer originally published the article out of Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 3. The Times republished the story.

The story began, “A noted convict died in the State prison here yesterday. His name, or rather the name under which he was sentenced, was Charles Neuville. He was sent from Toledo last December for seven years for bigamy. His father was an Englishman and his mother a Russian Countess. He entered the Russian Army on attaining manhood, but that life was too dull for him, and he secured a commission in the English Army through his father. Dissatisfied again he ran away and came to America.”

Then came the big reveal: “He was a young man then, and he had not been long in this country before he had married 15 different women.”

The story continued, “The last one was a daughter of Charles J. Whitney, a wealthy resident of Detroit, and then manager of the Standard Theatre, Chicago. With this young lady he eloped to Toledo. His usual plan was to persuade a minister to marry him in some illegal manner, and in this last case he urged that as a defense, but the court would not allow it. He won the affection of Miss Whitney while employed as her father’s coachman. He had been sick for about two weeks with intermittent fever, and a few days ago told the Warden that his real name was Charles Edward Neuville Ceusinleski (or perhaps Ceusinieski), his Russian title being Count. He always claimed that he had but one wife and that he was always true to her. She lives at Petersborough, Ontario, and the Warden has telegraphed the news of his death to her.”

The headline I didn’t want to spoil before the reveal read, “He Leaves Fifteen Widows.”

The New York Times published this article on page 3 of its newspaper on Aug. 4, 1885.
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