|Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2003 - 5:09 pm: || |
In the course of my recent newspaper research I found this article including a letter sent from Annie Chapman's sister which gives detailed info about her and her brother. I thought it might be of interest. This is from a Canadian newspaper dated January 1892. Any comments welcome.
Manitoba Daily Free Press (Winnipeg) January 9 1892
(Contributed by the W.C.T.U. of Winnipeg)
The following communication was handed to a white ribboner by a gentleman who was a member of the church mentioned below, and who would guarantee the authenticity of the letter. The local W.C.T.U. are very anxious to see unfermented wine banished from the Lord's table in all the city churches, and are entreating ministers and Christian workers of all denominations to mkake the communion table safe for the young people of Winnipeg.
The letter is as follows:-
"Dear Sir, - As a Christian member of your congragation, may I ask if it would be possible for you to have "unfermented wine" at the Lord's table?
I shall spend no time in apology for asking this, but just give my reason and leave it to you. When you have read this think what course Jesus would take and ask: 'Lord what would'st thou have me to do?'
Just before I was six years old, my father cut his throat, leaving my mother with five children, three girls older, and one younger than myself. My eldest sister took to drink when she was quite young. Fourteen years ago I was converted. Twelve years ago I heard a sermon on 'Christians and Total Abstinence.' I signed the pledge with two of my sisters and we tried to persuade the one given to drink to give it up. She was married and in a good position. Over and over again she signed the pledge and tried to keep it. Over and over again she was tempted and fell. At last, of her own accord, she went into a home for the cure of the intemperate, her husband paid 12p. per week and she stayed one year. She came out a changed woman - a sober wife and mother, and things went on very happily for a few months. Then her husband had a severe cold, but his duty compelled him to go out, so to fortify himself against the cold, he took a glass of hot whiskey. He was careful enough not to have it in her presence for fear it should be a temptation. He drank it and came to kiss her before starting. In that kiss the fumes of alcohol were transmitted and all the old cravings came back. She went out soon after her husband and in less than an hour was a drunken mad woman. Poor thing! she never tried again, she said it was no use, no one knew the fearful struggle, and that unless she could keep out of sight or smell, she could never be free. For years we wrestled with God in prayer for her, never doubting that he would give the needed strength some day. She could not keep sober, so she left her husband and two children, one a dreadful cripple through her drink. She has had eight children, six of these have been victims to the curse. Her husband allowed her enough to live on while he lived, but he died two years after she left him. A white-haired, broken hearted man only forty five. We never knew where she lived, she used to come to us at home now and then, we gave her clothes and tried in every way to win her back, for she was a mere beggar. She said she would always keep out of our way, but she must and would have the drink. I need not follow her history for if you read the life of "Annie Chapman", one of the worst victims in the terrible Whitechapel murders, you read the end of my sister's life. Yes, sir: all through that terrible time I sat unknown in Halkin St. Church on Sundays, praying that God would give us grace to trust Him, for my sister's end after all our prayers, shook my faith to its very foundation. I don't question God's dealings. He is too wise to err, too good to be unkind. Now, sir, you would think the drink demon had got enough out of our family, but my only brother, aged 28, inherits the curse. It was he who had the painful task of identifying my murdered sister and of laying her in the grave. Instead of sobering him it seemed to goad him on, for just one month from the date of her death he was turned out of his situation at a minute's notice for drinking and using money not his own. He was manager in a city warehouse. Some kind friends got him a situation in Oxford St. He was in it one month, took to drink again and absconded with some money, leaving a young wife and two little ones quite penniless. We sought him everywhere for a week, till on the Saturday his wife received a letter telling her that he had surrendered himself to the police at Gloucester and was to be brought to London and tried at Marlbro' street on the morning she received the letter. At the bottom of the letter were these words:
'Oh, my darling wife, it is all the cursed drink, for God's sake don't let the children touch it.' His sentence was three months hard labour at Millbank, and he is undergoing that now. I went to the prison begging to see him but was refused. There is only one gleam in this dark cloud, as I looked up at the iron bars and strong walls of his prison I thanked God that while they shut him in they shut the drink out. I pray that Jesus may break the chains of drink while these prison chains bind him.
Dear Mr. Patterson, I know you are brave in the cause of right, and I want you to think of the danger it would be to my brother to come with me to your church with the strong smell of alcohol on the Lord's table, and like that fatal kiss to my sister meet his end from that time. It is easy to get 'unfermented wine' I know you deacons might object, and some of the church members. I never touch the wine and I hold my breath while it passes, for I am afraid of it. I know the grace of God is powerful to keep, but Noah was righteous enough to be saved, when all the world was drowned, yet the grace of God did not keep him from drink and its fearful results, and ever sionce that time it has had its victims, even from the very church. I know my case is an exception, but who would think as I sit with the congregation on Sundays, that I bear the scars of drink in its threefold curse of suicide, murder and theft. There may be other brothers and sisters like mine there. Oh, make the church at least safe for them, least they find a path to hell from the Lord's table. When I come to that table it is to wrestle with Jesus, who would not snap the bruised reed. But it has been laid on my heart to unite action with prayer, so I have written this story to you, a most painful task, but it may be one way of glorifying God out of all this darkness.
You might preach a sermon as you did about feeding the lambs, and if you think fit to use any part of this terrible true story, you may do so. I don't want to be known, so you will try not to let enquiries be made, because we are so scorned, even by Christians and there may be some who think I ought not to come to God's house. My sister and I have my murdered sister's children to keep and we don't want them to know it, also my aged mother knows nothing of it. I know you will take this to God in prayer, and oh, I do hope you will hear Him ask you to removethe curse from the people and begin at His sanctuary.
We that are strong enough to beat the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves, for even Christ pleased not Himself.
(Copy of a letter received by Rev. James Paterson, Presbyterian minister, Chelsea.)
Post Number: 13
|Posted on Friday, March 07, 2003 - 3:58 pm: || |
bizzaro, but very useful.
Be nice to know what warehouse Chapman's brother was working at.
And if he just happened to have been beaten up and thrown down the stairs of that warehouse by a certain clerk for commenting that this certain clerk was always staring at himself in the mirror, as a consequence of which he was so severly injured that he was laid off work and never really recovered from the experience.
Could have been the drink, or the flight down the stairs I suppose.
Whatever, a good insight into the paranoia about having a quiet pint in the Victorian age.
Post Number: 2
|Posted on Friday, March 07, 2003 - 4:43 pm: || |
Hi Chris. We can take it that the letter was written sometime in 1892 and then reprinted in the Free Press on 9 January of that year. What can the contents of the letter tell us about its authenticity?
The letter writer states: "Just before I was six years old, my father cut his throat, leaving my mother with five children three girls older, and one younger than myself."
Annie Chapman's parents, George Smith and Ruth Chapman, did indeed have five children, four girls and one boy. If the letter is authentic then it must have been written by the fourth child, Mirium Ruth Smith who was born in 1858. She states that her father committed suicide "before I was six years old," which would be around 1864. Her father, George Smith did indeed die, cause unknown as far as I know, sometime around 1864 so that seems right.
The letter also states, talking about Annie: "she left her husband and two children, one a dreadful cripple through her drink. She has had eight children, six of these have been victims to the curse. Her husband allowed her enough to live on while he lived, but he died two years after she left him. A white-haired, broken hearted man only forty five."
Annie and her husband, John Chapman, did separate and she may or may not have left him with their three children, not two as stated. However, the eldest child, Emily Ruth Chapman, died very soon after, or just before the break up of the marriage in 1882, so it is possible that only two of the children were alive at the time of the separation. Alternately, Annie's brother Fountain Smith testified that the two had separated three years before her murder, or 1885, and so only two of the children would have been alive then.
In newspaper reports at the time of Chapman's murder Annie Chapman's son was described as being a cripple but there is no real evidence to show whether this was true or not.
There is absolutely no evidence that Chapman had any more than the three children that she did have so stating that she had eight, six of whom supposedly became alcoholics, is incorrect but this may have been an attempt to add an extra warning about the evils of drink and how it can effect the next generation.
John Chapman did indeed give Annie some small amount of money to live on after their separation but he died either four years after the break up, if it had happened in 1882, or only one year after, if it had happened in 1885. He died in 1886 at the age of 42 not 45, (he may have had a broken heart but he died of a bad liver). This may also be seen as a quibbling point as his sister-in-law may not have known exactly how old he was.
The letter mentions an "only brother," who had age 28 inherited "the curse" only a month after identifying his sisters body. He is described as having a wife and two children.
Annie Chapman's only brother, Fountain Hamilton Smith, did identify the body of his sister and was a witness at the inquest. He was 27 years old at the time of Annie's death and was married but I don't know about his later life or any children other than he died in 1933.
The letter states: "My sister and I have my murdered sister's children to keep." Mirium Ruth Smith did indeed live with her older sister, Georgina, in 1892, and for the rest of their lives, and they did look after Annie's children. Interestingly the letter also states that: "my aged mother knows nothing of it." Their mother Ruth was still alive in 1892.
All in all it seems as if it could be genuine, (he says cautiously), if one disregards the small mistakes, which seem to be in the same ball park as the known facts, and the bit about Annie having eight children.
Post Number: 8
|Posted on Friday, March 07, 2003 - 9:13 pm: || |
In Victorian England, if a woman had children out of wedlock, I would think it would be hidden. Annie was a prostitute. Did Victorian prostitutes occasionally get pregnant? If they did, how did they handle it?
|Posted on Friday, March 07, 2003 - 6:56 pm: || |
I would just like to add the opinion that I think the post by Chris above is impressive in it's factual content, and was excited when I read it.
I think that although we know that Annie and John had 3 children, there was a real possiblity that she could have had more that died as children?
It's difficult to tell if the letter, as it seems written by Mirium Ruth Smith, was dated for 1892 or 1888/9 which would make more sense to confirm the information. If we make it the latter the information is increadibly accurate. Fountain Smith in late 1888/89 could be said to be 28 (birth date 25th Feb 1861), and would have only 2 of his 4 children born by that time.
A check of the Millbank Prison records at PRO, or newspapers for his trial could confirm the details?
The accuracy of the timing of the father's death and number of children 5, plus 2 of Annie's children staying with the sisters and the elderly mother is amazing.
I think that John Chapman's age at death was officially given as 44, although he was probably 42? But he could be considered to be 45?
Annie's son John Alfred Chapman was a cripple as proved by the 1891 census entry that said "paralysed from infancy". Another fact!
All in all, my belief is that this could be a major find about Annie Chapman and her family, and another great find by Chris Scott.
It could be that it was a letter written by Mirium in late 1888 or 89 and only published in 1892?
But if it was written in 1892, I think there is enough information to check it's authenticity via research. Especially about Fountain.
Well done Chris!
|Posted on Friday, March 07, 2003 - 5:21 pm: || |
From other research Ive done we can date the letter substantially earlier than 1892. I have found a reference to the letter and a resume of part of its contents in a US paper (the Marion daily Star from Ohio) dated May 22 1889. This article reads as follows:
Marion Daily Star (Ohio) May 22 1889
A WHITECHAPEL VICTIM
The Story of Annie Chapman as Told by Her Sister
London, May 22.
The history of one of the Whitechapel victims of Jack the Ripper is a sad illustration of the fearful power of inherited alcoholism. It appears that there were four of five children in the family. The parents were intemperate. It is the sister of the poor creature who tells the rest. The unhappy woman had unfortunately inherited the craving, and before she was 14 had taken to drink. The others became converted, and did all in their power to cure their sister, but it was of no use. The sister at length married comfortably and children were born. But the craving for drink grew greater and greater and at length she was sent to a home for enebriates (sic), where she stayed for a year. She left apparently, said the sister, a changed woman.
Soon after, however, her husband caught her a severe cold and before going out one morning drank a glass of hot whisky, taking care, however, not to do so in the presence of his wife. Then, as was his custom, before leaving he kissed his wife. At once the fumes of alcohol passed into her, and in an hour she was a drunk and roaring woman. She went from bad to worse, and at last left her husband and children, one of them a cripple through her drunkenness. The husband died two years ago a white-haired and broken-hearted man, though only 45 years of age. "Need I add," said the sister in a letter, "what became of her? Her story is that of Annie Chapman, one of the recent Whitechapel victims. That was my sister."
Hope this helps in considering this letter
Post Number: 6
|Posted on Saturday, March 08, 2003 - 1:08 am: || |
Does the Woman's Christian Temperance Union
of Canada (or of Manitoba) keep records on
its membership that are available to the public,
or is it like Alcoholic's Anonymous?
I just wonder if there could be a follow-up on
these articles - possibly finding out what became
of Annie's sister.
|Posted on Saturday, March 08, 2003 - 6:18 am: || |
Many thanks for all the comments and glad the letter is proving of interest.
Diana, I am only guessing but I would have thought that for a Victorian prostitute, specially of the Whitechapel level, pregnancy was an occupational hazard. I would imagine there was backstreet abortion available with all its attendant dangers.
Jeff, I will certainly check out the WCTU and see if I can find anything
If anyone wants a copy of the scan of the original article, let me know and I will mail it as the file size is too large to post here
|Posted on Saturday, March 08, 2003 - 6:21 am: || |
Just a quick note to let you know the WCTU has its own website at http://www.wctu.org/
|Posted on Saturday, March 08, 2003 - 6:27 am: || |
Just one last note for the moment - one reference in the letter that intrigued me was the writer's reference to "that terrible time I sat unknown in Halkin St. Church on Sundays," as i had never heard of Halkin Street.
It is actually in a very "up market" part of London. It is a short street running from Belgrave Square to Grosvenor Place which backs on to the gardens of Buckingham Palace. Makes me wonder what someone of Annie's sister's class would be doing attending a church in this part of London.
|Posted on Saturday, March 08, 2003 - 6:48 am: || |
I have managed to find yet a third reference to the Chapman letter and this one identifies who the letter was originally sent to - a Reverend John MacNeill. The article is in the Atlanta Constitution dated June 9th 1889 and reads as follows:
The Atlanta Constitution (Georgia) June 8 1889
A WHITECHAPEL VICTIM
The True story of One of the Murdered Women
In his speech at the Presbyterian synod, says the Pall Mall Gazette, the Rev. John MacNeill created a sensation by telling the following tale:
He was speaking of temperance and said that last Sunday, when he preached a temperance sermon at the tabernacle, he received a letter from a lady on the danger of the use at communion of unfermented wine.
The lady in her letter told a sad story of an inherited passion for drink. There were four or five of them - several brothers and two sisters - the children of intemperate parents. Her sister had unfortunately inherited the craving, and before she was fourteen had taken to drink. The others became converted and did all in their power to cure the sister, but it was of no use.
The sister at length married comfortably and children were born. But thecraving for drink grew greater, and at length she was sent to a home for inebriates where she staid (sic) for a year. She left apparently, said the sister, a changed woman. Soon after, however, her husband caught a sever cold and before going out one morning drank a glass of hot whisky, taking care, however, not to do so in the presence of his wife. Then, as was his custom, before leaving he kissed his wife. At once the fumes of the alcohol passed into her, and in an hour she was a drunk and roaring woman. She went from worse to worse, and at last left her husband and her children, one of them a cripple through her drunkenness. The husband died two years ago, a whitehaired and broken-hearted man, though only forty-five years old.
"Need I add," said the sister in her letter, "what became of her? Her story is that of Annie Chapman, one of the recent Whitechapel victims. That was my sister!"
Post Number: 7
|Posted on Saturday, March 08, 2003 - 11:26 pm: || |
Two points to bring out.
1) In 1889 the owner and editor of The Marion
STAR was Warren Gamaliel Harding, future 29th
President of the United States. Harding was
born in November 1865. According to Andrew
Sinclair, THE AVAILABLE MAN: THE LIFE BEHIND THE
MASKS OF WARREN G.HARDING (Chicago: Quarangle
Books, 1965, 1969), p. 14: "After failing as an
insurance agent, Harding worked in a newspaper
office in Marion as a reporter. Soon, with two
associates, he bought up for $300 a mortgaged
newspaper called the STAR, and was in business
as a newspaper proprietor at the age of nineteen
years." So he bought it in 1884, and was editor
when the item appeared in it five years later.
2) Reading the material on Annie Chapman's family
makes me aware of an interesting problem that may
have bedevelled the police throughout their
investigation in Whitechapel. Annie's brother
had spent time in Millbank. Another of the
victims, Catherine Eddowes, had a cousin who
was hanged for murder in 1867 or so (according
to another thread on these boards). The point is
that the number of potentially cooperative witnesses to the Ripper's crimes was cut down by
family traditions of not trusting or being able
to trust the British police. Usually this view
is mentioned with regard of suspicions of the
Russian Jewish immigrants, who disliked police from their experiences in Tsarist Russia. Actually, it was very likely to have been true of
native born English denizens of Whitechapel at
|Posted on Friday, March 14, 2003 - 3:52 pm: || |
I've managed to find the piece in the Pall Mall Gazette for the 1st May 1889 mentioned above, and it was shorter than the account in 1892. On page 6, column 1.
THE LIFE HISTORY OF A WHITECHAPEL VICTIM.
A STRANGE SAD TRUE TALE.
In his speech at the Presbyterian Synod yesterday evening the Rev. John MacNeill created quite a sensation by telling the following tale: He was speaking of temperance, and said that last Sunday (when he preached a temperance sermon at the Tabernacle), he received a letter that had been written by a lady on the danger of the use at communion of fermented wine. The lady in her letter told a sad story of an inherited passion for drink. There were four or five of them several brothers and two sisters, the children of intemperate parents. Her sister had unfortunately inherited the craving, and before she was fouteen had taken to drink. The others became converted, and did all in their power to cure their sister; but it was of no use. The sister at length married comfortably, and children were born. But the craving for drink grew greater and greater, and at length she was sent to a home for inebriates, where she stayed for a year. She left apparently, said the sister, a changed woman. Soon after, however, her husband caught a severe cold, and before going out one morning drank a glass of hot whisky-taking care, however, not to do so in the presence of his wife. Then, as was his custom, before leaving he kissed his wife. At once, the fumes of alcohol passed into her, and in an hour she was a drunk and roaring woman. She went from worse to worse, and at last left her husband and her children, one of them a cripple, through her drunkeness. The husband died two years ago, a white-haired and broken-hearted man, though only forty-five years old. "Need I add," said the sister in her letter, "what became of her? Her story is that of Annie Chapman, one of the recent Whitechapel victims. That was my sister!"
|Posted on Saturday, April 26, 2003 - 10:31 pm: || |
Hi, having researched my own family history in London going back to 1709, I have discovered that there was a very high mortality rate for children. When the letter says "six of these have been victims to the curse", it is highly probably that 5 were still born due to alcoholism and there would be no record of the births. Still born children were put in mass unmarked graves at the time so there would be no head stone either. The sixth child could have been born a cripple due to the dreaded drink. I would therefore not dismiss the authenticity of the letter on this point.}
|Posted on Tuesday, April 29, 2003 - 12:44 pm: || |
yes in my own research i have found also that a high number of pregnant women in the 1800's gave birth to still born children.
Also i have had thoughts that maybe annie's sister visited church in halkin street as she felt she couldnt face attendind a local church, at this time in history EVERYONE who new a murder victem was a suspect and looked on in a suspicious manner.
Use of these
The views expressed here in no way reflect the views of the owners and
operators of Casebook: Jack the Ripper.
Our old message board content (45,000+ messages) is no longer available online, but a complete archive
is available on the Casebook At Home Edition, for 19.99 (US) plus shipping.
The "At Home" Edition works just like the real web site, but with absolutely no advertisements.
You can browse it anywhere - in the car, on the plane, on your front porch - without ever needing to hook up to
an internet connection. Click here to buy the Casebook At Home Edition.