Thursday, June 02, 2022

June 2, 1888: Fourth Known Stop on Dr. Hagenow's Trail of Death

"The long catalogue of deaths through malpractice in Mrs. Hagenow's lying-in hospital was increased yesterday. The parties implicated in the Anna Doreis case -- Mrs. Hagenow, Dr. Dodel, and Undertaker Dierks -- are the ones concerned in this...." --"More Malpractice," San Francisco Chronicle, August 29, 1888

A Mysterious Death

A death certificate signed by Dr. Xavier Dodel stated that 28-year-old Abbia Richards died on June 2, 1888, at 12 Nineteenth Street, San Francisco.

Dodel gave the cause of death as peritonitis and filed it with undertaker Theodor Dierks. Health Office officials, however, found the whole thing suspicious. The original name on the death certificate, Maria Schmidt, had been crossed out and Abbia's name added. Health Officer Barger and Coroner Stanton visited Dierks, who at first refused to discuss the matter but who finally said that at about 10 p.m. on June 2, a man identifying himself as Mr. Richards had come to the undertaking establishment, saying that he needed to arrange a burial for his wife, who had died at Hagenow's hospital several hours earlier. He said that her maiden name was Maria Schmidt, and that he and his wife had moved to Stockton Street from Port Costa about three weeks earlier.

Dierks and his bookkeeper, Charles Mueller, promptly brought the body back to their establishment. Although several men had gathered at the funeral establishment on June 4, the day of the burial, only one man attended the funeral.

Barger double-checked the address on the death certificate and found out that there hadn't been a death at 12 Nineteenth Street. The death had occurred at 19 Twelfth Street -- a maternity hospital operated by Dr. Lucy Hagenow. This was the same location as the death of Anna Doreis case a year earlier.

A headshot of a plump white woman just past middle age, with piercing eyes, a sharp nose, and tiny pursed lips. She wears a dark hat, sailor collar, and wire-rimmed glasses
Dr. Lucy "Louise" Hagenow
During the inquest, Hagenow and Dodel were brought from the city prison, where they were being held for the June 26, 1887 death of Anna Dories, to the morgue. Hagenow admitted that Abbia had died at her practice but denied having perpetrated an abortion. She insisted that Abbia had already attempted a self-induced abortion and she was just taking care of her because she didn't have the heart to send her away.

Dodel admitted that he had signed the death certificate, but made vague references to two other doctors that he refused to name as having had some involvement somehow.

Abbia's body was exhumed for autopsy. As the investigation went on, a creepy and conflicting picture emerged.

Abbia's Dubious Guardian

Napa Insane Asylum
A man named William E. Moorcroft, identified as "the guardian of the deceased Abbie Richards," told the coroner that his ward had been only 19 years of age, not 28. Moorcroft was living with Abbia and her mother; sources conflict as to whether Abbia's mother and Moorcroft ever married. Abbia's mother, according to the San Francisco Examiner, "was addicted to drinking, and, the neighbor's [sic] say, was neglected and ill-treated by Moorcroft. The neighbors also said that he guarded little Abbia with a jealous eye and paid more attention to her than was proper. The mother was finally sent to the Insane Asylum at Napa, where she now is, and Moorcroft was appointed as Abbia's guardian."

According to Moorcroft's testimony, his ward had become sick in Port Costa and gone to San Francisco, where her guardian had "supported her as well as he was able to." However, suspicions had been raised that Moorcroft had been "criminally intimate with her and responsible for her condition when placed in the hands of Mrs. Hagenow."

Moorcroft testified that he got a telegram from Abbia on May 29, telling him that she was at Hagenow's maternity hospital and that she wanted him to come to her right away. He said that when he arrived at Hagenow's establishment and asked for Abbia Richard, the French cook asked him if he was Mr. Moorcroft. When he said he was, he was permitted to come in. 

Moorcroft said in his testimony that Hagenow had scolded him soundly for arranging for two outside doctors to come to her hospital to consult on Abbia's care. "What do you want to bring doctors in my house for?" Hagenow reportedly told him. "I have gray-haired practitioners and you go after boys. You let me alone; the girl is all right."

He testified that he returned to Port Costa and that the next news he got was a message that Abbia was dead. He said that he went back to Hagenow's and was told that the body was a Diercks' undertaking establishment. He said that he wasn't permitted to see the body. He said that he had protested when Diercks said that Abbia would be buried under the name of Maria Schmidt.

Moorcroft testified that Dr. Dodel was at the undertaking establishment and demanded $50 before he would sign the death certificate. Moorcroft said that he paid Dodel $25.

Detective Rogers went to Port Costa to learn more about the circumstances surrounding Abbia's death. "The people at Port Costa... were not satisfied with the verdict of the Coroner's jury, and thought that if an investigation were made it would be found that Moorcraft [sic] caused the girl's death." The detective had several letters stating that Moorcroft admitted that he was the one who had gotten Abbia pregnant, and that he had been the one to send her to Hagenow. However, further investigation into one of the self-incriminating letters Moorcroft had written "only to his use of liquor and dissipation, and his regret for such a life, and promises to do better."

Whether Moorcroft was guilty or not, his connection to the scandal led to him being fired from his job as superintendent of the Nevada Warehouse and Dock Company.

Tillie Boyd's Testimony

Tillie Boyd, who had known Abbie well since childhood, said that Abbia had come to stay for a visit beginning on May 13. Tillie testified that she hadn't known that her friend had even been pregnant. She had, though, gone with Abbia to the office Dr. O'Donnell for rheumatism and headaches. Abbia had met privately with the doctor and had come away with six powders and an instruction to take one each morning. Tillie said that the powders "did [Abbia's] head good."

Afterward, Abbie went to Port Costa, to her guardian's home. She came back to San Francisco five days later. On May 29, Abbia told her friend she was going to a lady doctor's house. 

On June 2, Tillie said, Moorcroft came to Tillie's house, told her that Abbia was very ill, and wanted her to accompany him to Hagenow's hospital. Tillie testified that she didn't go with Moorcroft because she wasn't familiar with Hagenow's practice. This seems like a very odd reason to not accompany your sick friend's guardian to visit her.

"The next thing I heard was that she was dead," Tillie testified. "I had no idea what as the matter with her. To the best of my knowledge Mr. Moorcroft always treated Abbie well."

Two Physicians' Testimony

Dr. George M. Terrill "stated that he was visited one night by a man whom he now knows to be Moorcroft, who desired him to go to Mrs. Hagenow's hospital and see a girl who was very sick." Moorcroft wanted two doctors to examine the girl, so Dr. John Morse was called in to assist. Moorcroft rode on the carriage box on the way to Hagenow's hospital.

Morse and Terrill saw Dodel there, with Abbia "in a dying condition." They advised Hagenow to give her stimulants, but didn't examine her. One or both of them reported that Dodel told them that Abbia was dying "of malpractice," meaning a criminal abortion.

The Social Worker's Testimony

Special Officer Holbrook of the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children testified that on several occasions they'd had cause to investigate Moorcroft's treatment of his ward. In 1887, Abbia had come to him saying that "her guardian was going to Port Costa and wanted her to go with him as his mistress. The society took care of her for a while, but she soon disappeared," and the next Holbrook heard, Abbie was living with Moorcroft again.

The Board of Health

Secretary Williams of the Board of Health testified that he issued a burial permit upon a death certificate for 28-year-old Maria Schmidt, signed by Dr. Xavier Dodel. Several days later a worker from the Dierks undertaking business came to the office, stating that the dead woman's name was actually Abbie Richards. The board issued the corrected burial permit, but Williams' attention was struck by Dodel's name on a certificate for a death at Hagenow's address, since those were the same signatory and address involved in the Annie Doreis death earlier in the year.

The Undertaker

The inquest also looked into the relationship between Hagenow and Dierks. The San Francisco Chronicle noted that Diercks "has been favored with all the 'quiet' funerals from [Hagenow's] establishment." He perspired profusely on the stand, frequently mopping his face with his handkerchief. "He didn't like the questions of Coroner Stanton, and glared at him at times as though he wished he might bury him with or without a permit."

"Diercks went on the stand to clear himself of the strongly settled conviction that he has been an accomplice in the Hagenow crimes, but only succeeded in further criminating himself. He was confused and contradictory and in his eagerness to show the jury that he had done nothing wrong in the premises, he only tangled himself further in the skein of evidence showing that everyone connected with the deaths of young girls at the Hagenow Hospital and the disposal of their bodies was guilty of a crime."

Diercks said that a man named Frank Corde, who had accompanied "Mr. Richards" to the funeral home agreed to pay the $100 in funeral expenses. The man identifying himself as "Mr. Richards" turned out to be Moorcroft. 

Diercks also said that Abbia was the first dead patient he'd removed from Hagenow's establishment and that there had been two subsequent cases.

One of the outcomes of the investigation into Abbia's death was that Theodor Diercks was arrested and charged with falsifying records. He faced a potential sentence of a fine of $1,000 and an imprisonment of 1,000 days.

Who Was Frank Corde?

Frank Corde, who had accompanied Moorcroft to the undertaker's establishment, was a cashier at Waterman & Co. He testified after Diercks and contradicted much of what the undertaker said. He said that Moorcroft did not identify himself a Mr. Richards. He said that he had objected to the dead woman being buried as Maria Schmidt and said he wanted her buried under her real name. 

He testified that Moorcroft said that Abbia had $60 in cash, a gold watcha nd chain, and several rings. Corde went to Hagenow's hospital to ask for them, and said that Hagenow told him that she knew nothing of those possessions. 

Corde further testified that Diercks came to him on the morning of the funeral to say that Dodel wasn't going to sign the death certificate unless he was paid $50. Corde said he told Diercks no, and advised Moorcroft not to pay it either. 

Uncertain at Autopsy

Two physicians, Dr. Blach and Dr. Carpenter, said that when they performed the autopsy they were able to identify several puncture wounds. News coverage conveys different conclusions as to what they found. One article says that by the time Abbia's body was examined, it was too far decomposed to determine if abortion had been the cause of death. This might explain why Hagenow was never convicted. However, another article states that "she died from malpractice."

More San Francisco Deaths

Hagenow had already been implicated in the August 21, 1887 San Francisco abortion death of Louise Derchow, as well as for the suspicious death of Emma Dep at Hagenow's maternity home.

Hagenow insisted that she did not perpetrate abortions but only provided aftercare to young women who had already injured themselves. "What am I to do when they are brought to me in a dying condition? Shall I turn them out to die? That would make me inhuman."

A More Welcoming Home

Hagenow eventually relocated to Chicago, an area much more congenial to abortionists, and began piling up dead bodies there as well. She was implicated in numerous abortion deaths, including:

The End of the Road

Though Hagenow was sentenced to prison for the death of Mary Moorehead, when she appealed the Supreme Court of Illinois ordered a new trial in 1929. The judge, noting that there was no new evidence, dismissed the case, telling Hagenow, "You had better make your peace with God, Lucy Hagenow. I do not think your months on earth are many."

Hagenow, the Associated Press noted, was nearly deaf and "may not have heard. She muttered something, and shambled laboriously from the room."

As near as I can determine, Hagenow died September 26, 1933, in Norwood Park, Cook County, Illinois. Her occupation on her death record was given as "midwife."


No comments: