Boston Harbor in the 19th century. Courtesy: New York Public Library
Boston Harbor in the 19th century. Courtesy: New York Public Library

This story centered on the brutal murder of a woman in Boston in July 1885. Her body was found over a number of days in four pieces, all in the Charles River. Police initially believed the victim to be a woman named Nellie Halsey. Then it was supposedly Rose Gilbert, whose husband was a butcher. However, around Aug. 19, Boston police charged Frank Mitchell with the murder of his wife, Ellen. He pleaded not guilty.

Continue below, or catch up beginning with Part 1. There’s also Part 2 and Part 3.

Boston Harbor in the 19th century. Courtesy: New York Public Library
Boston Harbor in the 19th century. Courtesy: New York Public Library

According to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Frank Mitchell was a plumber living with his wife at 191 Endicott Street. A piece of Brussels carpet had been found with the body. On Aug. 18, the Eagle reported: “Circumstances point strongly against him.” It also said carpet found in Mitchell’s house matched the piece of carpet “exactly.”

A story in The Boston Globe referred to Mitchell as “The North End Diego.” It also revealed potentially damning evidence and witnesses that would go against his not guilty plea:

On the piece of carpet found with the body, and that found at Mitchell’s home the day of his arrest were found peculiar bits of hair. Yesterday these hairs were found to be identical with the hair of a hall dog belonging to Mitchell, and which was in the habit of sleeping on the carpet.

This revelation was considered somewhat significant as showing that the body of the murdered woman was undoubtedly cut up and packed in parcels in the house after the murder was committed. In the afternoon a man was learned of in Charlestown who late on the night of Mrs. Mitchell’s disappearance, saw a man on the Charles River dump a large bag over the bridge.

Further, there was a purported witness to the murder:

The most important information was developed during the evening, and had a hearing on the time the murder was committed. A young and estimable dressmaker, on the night of the woman’s disappearance, went to the house of a family residing opposite the Mitchell’s domicile, to finish a dress. She worked late, and between 11:30 p.m. and midnight had her attention attracted to a quarrel in Mitchell’s apartments. She heard both Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell’s voices in apparent anger, and could clearly see Mrs. Mitchell trying to force her way into her husband’s chamber.

The latter was resisting, and finally seemed to get the best of the scrimmage and disappeared, apparently pushing his wife out of sight into another room. Suddenly the voices ceased, and the silence that followed was finally broken by the sound such as might be expected by a person sustaining a heavy fall. This information is all the more important, as it goes to contradict Mitchell’s assertion that he had not seen his wife after 8 o’clock that night.

On Aug. 28, Eagle cited a story from The New York Herald:

The Charles River Tragedy

New Links in the Chain of Evidence Against Mitchell

Boston, August 28.

The Herald this morning publishes a story that the carpet found in Mitchell’s house, and resembling that about the corpse of the murdered woman found in the Charles River, was sold some time ago by the propietor of Young’s Hotel to a junk dealer in Lawrence, Mass., and by him to Mitchell; also, that two men in the North End have admitted having been in intimate relations with Mrs. Mitchell, and that they could testify to a peculiarity of her person which is destined to play an important part in the trial which is to come.

An indictment came down on Sept. 12. Frank Mitchell was the prime suspect, and there would be no more suspects in the case in the future.

Next up: In Part 5, I’ll reveal the end of the case of the murdered woman in the Charles River.

Bonus Content

In the same Aug. 18, 1885, edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, I noticed a tragic story some of you might find interesting.

The headline read, “Tortured By An Unskillful Surgeon: Terrible Sufferings of a Boy Who Was Thrown From a Wagon.”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle published this article in its newspaper on Aug. 18, 1885.

The article identified its original publishing as Marshall, Illinois, on Aug. 18. The story began, “One of the most horrible cases of suffering on record is reported from McKeen, six miles east of here. On Aug. 6, David Black, aged 11 years, was thrown from a horse and his arm broken in two places. An unskillful physician set the arm, leaving one of the bones protruding from the flesh. Mortification set in and soon spread to the body. The mortifiedarm was left exposed by some means and last Wednesday worms began working at the flesh of the living boy. After suffering the most awful agony for five days and having his arm nearly eaten away, the sufferer died Sunday night and the remains were buried at once. The surgeon has been warned to leave the country.”

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