Saturday, December 14, 2019

A New Old Case

While updating my post on the 1891 abortion death of Tillie Thor, I stumbled across an earlier victim of Dr. Franklin Brooks: Jennie Franklin.

On Tuesday, August 22, 1865, the residence of Dr. Franklin Brooks was draped with the black crepe of mourning. Behind Brooks' doors lay the body of Jennie Franklin. The tale of how she came to be there is difficult to unravel.

Jennie had been born in Boston, "of poor but reputable parents," according to the August 22, 1865 Chicago Tribune. She took factory work near her home until she was nearly 16 years old, "then, in consequence of her seduction by some worthless, and, unfortunately, nameless wretch, left home and came to Chicago... In this city, falling into the company of a keeper of a notorious house of prostitution... kept by a woman named Earley…." During her tenure at the house of ill repute, Jennie was brought "to reside with 'Madame' Beaufort, the keeper of a female hospital," evidently for the purpose of an abortion. 

Jennie went home to Boston, but was unable to settle back in at home so she returned to Chicago, where she was kept by Harvey Crews of Joliet, Illinois, a minister's son, in a different ill-reputed house kept by Mrs. Stewart. When she again became pregnant, Jennie sought out Crews in the company of her friend Sarah Collier, who also lived at Mrs. Stewart's house. Harvey wouldn't even acknowledge that he knew her. "Believing that it was her situation alone that caused her lover to desert her, she determined to get rid of the imagined cause of her trouble," Jennie went to her Mrs. Earley, who later testified that she'd accompanied the girl in a search for a Dr. Rogers. When unable to located Rogers, they went to Brooks. 

Mrs. Earley said that she bought some burn salve from Brooks, then waited while Jennie went into the back for a private consultation with him. Mrs. Earley's testimony about what happened next is unclear. Jennie evidently remained at Brooks' house while Mrs. Earley went home. Evidently some time went by before one of the other residents of Mrs. Stewart's house cane by to tell Mrs. Earley that Jennie was sick and had had a baby. 

The friend Mrs. Earley referred to was probably Sarah Collier. Sarah testified that she'd known Jennie since she'd moved out of Madame Beaufort's place after her abortion. Jennie had evidently been up and about after the abortion, because Sarah testified that she'd encountered her and had been told about how the doctor at whose house she was staying "had delivered her of a six months child a week ago last Monday." Jenny wasn't feeling well and was fortifying herself by drinking brandy, though Sarah said that Jenny hadn't appeared to be drunk, just unwell. Louisa Morris, another resident at the boarding house, said that Jennie had also told her that "she had been sick and staying at the house of a doctor, who had caused her to get rid of a child."

Sarah testified that while Jennie was at Brooks' house, Harvey Crews came to the Stewart house looking for her. Sarah held the belief that the reason Harvey wouldn't see Jennie when she'd gone to tell him about the pregnancy was that his minister father was there with him and he didn't dare acknowledge the relationship. He told Sarah that he was willing to do anything to help her. It was then that Sarah went to Mrs. Earley's house and demanded to know where Jennie was.

Even Jennie Beaufort -- aka Madame Beaufort -- reported that Jennie told her she'd procured an abortion, performed by a doctor in whose house she was boarding. Madame Beaufort admitted to having some knowledge of abortions and that she told Jennie "that she was in a terrible condition and would die."

A few days later, Mrs. Earley said, Dr. Brooks knocked on her door asking where Jennie's friends lived. She told him that Jennie had boarded with Mrs. Stewart and had no friends except the other girls there. Brooks asked about Jennie's relatives, and Mrs. Earley told him that they were in Boston. It was then that he told her that Jennie was dead. He blamed her death on diarrhea and "bloody flux" brought on by drinking brandy.

Mrs. Earley chided him, she said, for not coming to fetch her so that she could sit with Jennie and offer her a familiar presence as she died. Brooks said that this wouldn't have been necessary since he'd been seeing to it that she had good care. Brooks' wife, Eunice, later testified that she and her mother-in-law had cared for Jennie, who was the only patient that had ever stayed at the house. She insisted that the girl was being treated for bowel inflammation and bloody diarrhea. 

Brooks evidently first intended to bury Jennie secretly, then decided that it would look less fishy if he put on all the obvious signs of mourning, including crepe draped on the house and an elegant coffin for the dead girl. He went to Mrs. Stewart's house to announce Jennie's death.

An autopsy was performed on Jennie's body by Dr. Charles Storck. He found extensive inflammation, evidence of a pregnancy of at least three months, placental remains, and considerable blood, all consistent with an induced abortion. Brooks insisted that Jennie had come to him sick with diarrhea and bowel inflammation and that she was staying at his place to be treated for those issues. He said she hadn't even told him that she was pregnant. She hadn't seemed to be in any danger until shortly before her death when he'd called Dr. Constant in to consult with him.

Dr. M. E. Felker testified that Jennie had come to him seeking an abortion. He had tried to dissuade her and accompanied her to visit Dr. J. Adams Allen, who had also tried to dissuade her and offered to help her. Dr. Allen testified that he'd suggested that Jennie pass herself off as a war widow. Dr. Felker said that Jennie insisted that she had $20 and that Mrs. Earley would help her to arrange an abortion. Dr. Felker assisted with the postmortem examination, and said that there was no evidence whatsoever of bowel inflammation, only inflammation of the womb.

The Chicago Tribune waxed eloquent about the unfortunate girl. "She was a fragile looking girl about seventeen years of age, with dark hair and eyes, and a pale and almost sorrowful expression of countenance. From her appearance she did not seem to have led a public life of shame, but to have been the flower plucked … for momentary pleasure, and then cast ruthlessly aside to perish as so many had done before her."

Brooks, on the other hand, was described as "a short, thick-set man, with dark hair and eyes and with very heavy black whiskers, almost hiding his entire face. He possessed the suave air, and genteel appearance, usually exhibited by quacks and has long been known as a professional abortionist.

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