Emeline Meaker

Sunday has become my day that I reserve and spend the day, and evening working on here on my Blog.  Sadly I have not been extremely successful today as I have allowed myself to get trailed in different directions for a while.  But, I decided that today I would go through a pile I have of cases in which I have already done the research on.  Sometimes it happens that I do the research, because that is the easy part, and I either do not feel like doing this part (the typing up and pulling it together) or it did not end up being a case that grabbed me.  So I went through those today and this is the first of such posts I will work on today, hopefully I will get through more than one.  The harder thing about doing things that way is that the case is not necessarily fresh in my mind so I apologize if these seem a bit more out of character for me.

This case falls into the category of cases in which it is such an old case that there either is not a lot of information on it or much of it was conflicting and could not be confirmed.  However, it still remained an interesting case.  The first conflicting information is the name of the perpetrator.  It seems that she went by her middle name, Emeline, but her first name may very well have been Lucille (or shortened to Lucy). She became the first woman legally executed by the state of Vermont.  Her crime?  But murder of course, but not just any type of murder.  She was convicted for starving, beating and eventually poisoning a 12 year old girl.

So who was the 12 year old girl?  Well that is something else that is at debate. We do know that her name was Alice and she was a relative of Emeline's husband, Horace (I found a report that said his name could have been Samuel). Most reports say that Alice was Horace's niece but I cannot confirm this.  At any rate, either around or in 1879 Alice and her brother Henry were living in an orphanage.  Their father had died and which was often the case the mother had placed the children there as she could not support them.  Someone working, likely for the orphanage or the state, approached Emeline and Horace about taking the children in and they would receive a $400 stipend. Now first let me state that while reports state that the person who did this was a "welfare worker." Well, that is likely who would be in charge of something like that now but in 1879 the word "welfare" was not in anyone's vocabulary hence I am truly unsure the title of whomever made them this offer.  Secondly, while most reports state that Emeline and Horace were asked to take in both children I cannot confirm that they in fact took both children, nor can I confirm if the $400 was just for Alice, for both children, or if this was a "per child" sort of thing.  At any rate $400 in 1879 was a very large amount of money.  

Horace and Emeline were unique in a way, even for their times.  It was reported that Horace had a "hearing impairment" while Emeline was deaf, or at least was in 1883 at the time of her conviction.  I could not confirm how long either of them suffered from this.  They also had several children, but their eldest, who was 20 years old at the time of the crime, Almon (his real first name was Lewis), was what people called "weak minded."  This most likely means that he was either mentally retarded or something of the like as it was considered in that time period.  We also know that it appears that it was apparently fairly commonly known that Emeline was abusive towards Alice but obviously little was done, that is until no one saw her anymore in 1883. Emeline began telling people that Alice had ran away.  It is likely that many people believed that since they knew how she was being treated but the authorities decided to look into it. What they discovered was worse than they could have imagined.

High up on their list of people to talk to was 20 year old Almon Meaker.  He fairly quickly confessed as to what happened and let them to Alice's body. According to Almon his mother had ordered him to obtain a lethal dose of strychnine. Emeline then poured this into a drink and forced Alice to drink it.  To ensure that she did, Emeline put her hand over Alice's mouth and made sure she swallowed.  She and Almon then buried her body at another location.  Almon went with the authorities and showed them where Alice was buried and he was then forced to hold the body in the back of the wagon for a three hour return trip back.  Once recovered they did apparently find that Alice had been poisoned with strychnine as Almon had said and if she had not already, Emeline was arrested.  

Emeline protested her innocence, through the very end.  Initially both Emeline and Almon were sentenced to die, by hanging in those days.  Almon's sentence was later commuted because authorities felt that he had been forced to comply and dominated by his mother. Today it is unlikely that Almon would have received the death sentence at all considering his apparent mental intelligence. It appears that people protested Emeline's sentence but solely based on the fact that she was a woman, and less because of her crime.  Prior to her execution she passed a note asking to see the gallows prior to her hanging.  On March 30, 1883 the state of Vermont executed her. She had written a note to be read continuing to proclaim her innocence.  

The story goes that neither Horace or any of their other children went to any of the court proceeding or her hanging and that no one claimed her body after. About ten years after her execution Almon died in prison himself of tuberculosis.


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