Tuesday, March 23, 2021

March 23: Many Witnesses Point Fingers UPDATE WITH NEW SOURCES

Summary: Mary Noble, age 38, died from a botched abortion on March 19, 1867

Mary Noble, age 38, lay dying at her home at No. 54 Dominick Street in New York's 28th Precinct on March 23, 1867.  A police superintendent telegraphed coroner John Wildey to notify him so that he could hurry to the home and get a deathbed statement. Sadly, Wildey arrived to learn that Mary had died at 2:20 p.m. The chance to get a statement was passed.

The coroner spoke to the witnesses and learned that Mrs. Noble, a native of New Jersey, had been living at the home with George Wait Carson and her son, Wallace, who was about 18 years old.

While a physician performed an autopsy, the police arrested Carson. He told them that he had known Mary for about three years, first meeting her at her home in Jersey City. He moved in with Mary and her two children. When Ayers had returned from the war, Carson had moved out, but after a few months Ayers and Mary were unable to reconcile so Ayers moved out and Carson moved back in.

When Mary got pregnant, she and Carson had moved to the home on Dominick Street with her son, Wallace, who was about 18 years old. Carson said that the move had been to hide the pregnancy and arrange an abortion. 

Some time in February, about two weeks after the trio had settled in, Mary told Carson that she had been to a "Dr. Dubois," whose wife arranged an abortion for a $25 fee, (about $450 in 2021) with the first $10 paid in advance. 

Two or three days later Mary kept her appointment with "Dr. Dubois," who made an abortion attempt, done by attaching a battery to her body with leads and using some sort of instrument internally. When this failed to have its desired effect, Mary returned to "Dr. Dubois." A second attempt was made using some sort of internal injection of water. 

On February 21, Mary was suffering chills. Carson said that he fetched the doctor, who looked in on her for about five minutes.

On February 24, Mary expelled the fetus, which Carson put in a jar. He kept the fetus for about a week before he "boxed it up and threw it in the water-closet."

Mary had chest pain on the 29th. Carson again went looking for the doctor, but couldn't find him. He left a note indicating that Mrs. Noble needed him. 

"Dr. Dubois" attended to Mary several more times, but after a while refused any further care. It was at that point that Mary summoned Dr. McClelland, who was given all the facts and who in turn summoned Dr. Wood.

"Dr. Dubois" was actually William. F.J. Thiers. Police Captain John F. Dickson went to Thiers' premises at 627 Third-avenue with the coroner. The home was "sumptuously and comfortably fitted up."  Dickson found abortion instruments in a bureau drawer there. He also found "an immense collection of letters ... in relation to malpractices." Thiers also kept a receipt book indicating his patients, all of which police hoped would prove criminal intent in performing the abortion on Mary. 

Four women who were present there admitted that they were there for abortions. One woman, Maria Jones, later signed an affidavit before a judge stating that Thiers had perpetrated an abortion upon her on March 23.

Three different death certificates arrived at the registrar's office in the ensuing hours, each one incomplete. One of those was actually presented four times, at odd times, each time by a different person. The registrar stuck to procedures. He would not issue a burial permit unless the death certificate was complete. It must especially note the cause of death and be signed by either a physician or coroner.

Finally coroner John Wildey took charge of the situation. He preformed a post-mortem examination. "There is no doubt but that there has been foul play," he wrote to the registrar. Wildey noted that he had issued a burial permit and would notify the registrar of the outcome of the inquest.

The registrar protested but was outranked. Mary's family got their burial permit even though the law had not been followed and no legally completed death certificate had been filed.

Ayers, for a year or two. He testified that the split had been due to her being  He was notified that she was sick with neuralgia -- which she was prone to -- and that he'd headed to the city to see to her, only to arrive too late. He said he learned of the real cause of her death -- an abortion -- from the coroner."

He testified that he'd not known about the pregnancy until his mother took ill. His mother had asked him not to tell any relatives she was sick. It's not clear then, who told his father and uncle of Mary's illness. Wallace testified that he first learned of the abortion when he read about it in the newspaper.

Leander See, who was married to Mary's sister Emma, had received a telegram on Thursday that Mary was ill. He went to her, and she "told him she could not live, and that she had had an abortion produced."

Dr. John McClelland testified that he'd been called to care for Mary in her final sickness. He testified that Mary told him "that a miscarriage had been brought on by an eclectic physician, and that he had used instruments."

The coroner's jury concluded that Mary had died from pyemia, "resulting from an abortion produced by the prisoner, Wm. F.J. Thiers, alias Dr. Dubois. They further hold Amelia Armstrong, alias Madame Dubois, as accessory before the fact." Carson was tracked to New Jersey and arrested as well.

daughter, Josephine,

Newly added sources:

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