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True Crime in 1831, Part 17 - "The Way of the Transgressor Is Hard"

Lucretia's School (BCHS Collection)

After being acquitted in the murder of her husband, Lucretia returned to her home, hoping to resume her life. She would find that it would not be as easy as she would expect. Public opinion held that sentiment against hanging a woman played a major part in the final verdict.

It was believed that she had been imprudent, perhaps guilty, but not, so far as had been shown by legal investigation, of murder. Whatever may have been the extent of her crimes, she had suffered deeply, and while she lived she would continue to suffer. A load of shame had been placed upon her which could never be removed; a stain cast upon her reputation which no time could efface. Henceforth her lot upon earth would be sad and solitary, for the gates of social and kindly intercourse were forever closed upon her. Her folly, her infatuation, rendered her an outcast.

She initially engaged in keeping a Temperance hotel instead of a running a school at her home. When that did not work out as planned, she put the house up for sale.

Newspapers continued to print stories about her. William E. DuBois' transcript of her trial was published and sold by Mentz & Son for fifty cents a copy. A supplement was later issued, in pamphlet form, that detailed Lino's trial. A travelling bookseller took a supply of the recently published book and started up to Bristol in the steamboat, with a view to return to Philadelphia by the turnpike. On his way back, he came to Andalusia. It so happened that he was not aware of Lucretia living there. Accordingly, he presented himself at her home "to know if she would like to buy a copy of Mrs. Chapman's trial." The inmates of the house immediately set up a hooting and hissing and compelled the astonished vendor to back out without delay. He went across to a neighbor, to know what it could mean and soon learned that he had brought his books to the wrong market.

Lino helped tell stories about her as well, to whomever would listen. He seemed reconciled with his awful situation and determined to endeavor to prepare for his impending fate. He also seemed content to continue to spin tales, particularly regarding his ill-fated intimacy with Lucretia, possibly to further ruin her reputation, especially since she had been acquitted. While awaiting his execution, he wrote out his life story in Spanish and then gave it to Sheriff Morris, with the request that he publish it. It was translated and "The Life and Confession of Carolino Estradas De Mina. Executed at Doylestown, June 21 1832, for Poisoning with Arsenic, William Chapman" was published by Mr. Robert Desilver of Philadelphia shortly after the execution. It was available for purchase in his book store for "those who are fond of the wild and the wonderful."

According to Lino's version of history, he knew Lucretia before he arrived on her doorstep after meeting her on a steamboat. She had told him that her name was Miss Wilson and that she was unmarried. They developed an intimacy before he was arrested for stealing a gold watch and a musical snuff box, which he alleged he purchased, and committed to prison. Lucretia embraced this opportunity and carried off all his clothes, watch, the hilt of a sword, which was solid silver, studded with precious stones, and other articles of personal property. After being released from prison, having no acquaintance in the city, Lino determined to go to New York by land, and accidentally stopped at Andalusia, for rest and refreshment, where to his surprise, he recognized in the lady of the mansion, his chere amie from Philadelphia.

She convinced him to fabricate a story to tell William and told him that he would be well provided for if he stayed. After William died, he became suspicious and confronted her. She admitted that she had procured the arsenic after calling upon a physician in Philadelphia and had mingled the poison with William's beverages. She swore him to secrecy. He kept his promise, but threatened to reveal her guilt and villainy after he found her and her sister were being abusive to daughter Mary. He asked her to step aside with him in private into the next room. He told her that if she continued her abuse he would consider his promise cancelled and that he was at liberty to make public her confession of her husband's murder. This may have been the impetus for her providing the letters of introduction to him, for the next day he left for Boston.

Lucretia found herself in an increasingly hostile environment as public opinion continued to turn against her. She was shunned by everybody and abhorred by all. Rumors were circulated that she was an accomplice to her brothers' counterfeiting operations (maybe a story for another time).

She applied for a seat in the stage running to Philadelphia, for herself and children, which was promptly refused. A similar application was made at Dunk's Ferry on the Delaware to be put on board the steamboat but, proving also unsuccessful, she was obliged to start for the city on foot. Several vehicles passed her on the road, of which she asked the owners for permission to ride, alleging as a reason great fatigue and suffering. But everyone, on seeing her face, reined up their horses and drove rapidly off, without replying, shunning the woman as a dangerous pestilence whose touch was contamination and death.

She gave a public notice that she would dispose of, by auction, her household furniture; but on the day named, not a single buyer appeared.

She made application to the captain of a New England packet to be conveyed to a port in Massachusetts. She stated she had suffered an unparalleled affliction, and that it would be an act of holy charity to receive herself and children on more moderate terms than the usual charges. The captain felt interested in her story, and inquired her name. When he heard it was Mrs. Chapman, he lifted up his hands in horror and bade her instantly retire, declaring that all the wealth in the world would not induce him to take her on board, allegedly commenting to her: "The way of the transgressor is hard."

She afterward led a vagrant life, thinking she would profit by her notoriety, lecturing and on the stage, she having been a bright woman. She also cut profiles, or silhouettes, from paper, a profession in the early part of the last century. She went to Newtown, PA for that purpose, but in one instance was ordered out of the house of a prominent citizen.

Her children accompanied her to Newtown as well as to Doylestown, where they also gave musical entertainments.

She headed west in 1834, with her children in tow, and was attached to a group of strolling players. It was reported in November that while in Ohio, during multiple performances, she was promptly hissed off the stage when her character was made known

In 1836, Lucretia was touring through New Jersey with a "travelling theatre" and arrived at Flemington, NJ. They were refused admittance at the most respectable taverns, and had to put up at an inferior house. She planned to give several theatrical exhibitions, at which her children were to perform. The first night they were unmolested, though she met with no encouragement. On the second night, 11 November, a mob gathered about the "theater" and made a great disturbance, calling out "Mina" and hung him in effigy before the tavern door (some reports say the effigy was of Lucretia). She was very composed and came out with a lighted candle to see two men fighting. Someone had taken one of the wheels off of her wagon and hid it. She told the mob if they would restore the wheel, she would admit them for free, but as soon as the door was opened they rolled in two wheels to destroy the scenery. In short, mob-like, they acted foolishly and wickedly to show their abhorrence of sin. She was received even in worse manner at other places, especially in New Hope, PA. A reporter posed this question at the end of an article: "Is there no way to take her children from her and bring them up in a decent manner?"

By 1839 she was again reported as travelling with a juvenile theatrical company in the south, made up mostly of her own children. In July she was in Wilkes County, GA reciting passages from Shakespeare and acting in tragedy (which was noted it was not her first appearance in that character).

It was reported in the May 1840 in the Doylestown Democrat that Lucretia had died recently in Quincy, Florida, near Tallahassee. This has never been confirmed and, like Lino, her final resting place is unknown.


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