Monday, January 30, 2023

January 30, 1904: A Doctor in Franklin, Illinois

In late January of 1904, Estella "Stella" Murgatroyd lay ailing at the home of her parents, Francis "Frank" and Sarah Murgatroyd, just outside Jacksonville, Illinois. 

Stella was described as "a young woman of unusual capabilities" who "in the duties of the home and in the church ... displayed qualities that indicated decision and lofty purpose." Stella had been a member of Ebenezer church, and active in church societies.

She was a young woman whose reputation would have been shattered by an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. And, as we'll see, her situation was even more shameful.

Stella's Sickness and Deathbed Statement

Her father said that Stella had left home on the afternoon of Thursday, January 21, and had returned home at around 5 p.m. She began to develop a fever the next day at around noon. After that she began to get chills and seemed seriously ill. 

Mr. Murgatroyd had asked several times if he could summon a doctor for her, but Stella refused. Finally he'd summoned Dr. J. A. Day without Stella's consent. Dr. Day consulted with Dr. Frank P. Norburg and Dr. F. J. Pitner. The men were suspicious so they questioned Stella pointedly. She made a declaration just before her death on January 30, witnessed by Frank P. Norburg and Dr. Day:
I, Miss Estella Murgatroyd, a single (unmarried) lady, 27 years of age, do hereby, and in the presence of witnesses, solemnly declare that I was [pregnant by John Pate] and on Jan. 21, 1904, about 2:30 o'clock p.m., Dr. W. C. Manley operated upon me at his office in Jacksonville. I furthermore declare that upon the morning of Jan. 24, 1904, Dr. J. A. Day was called to attend me and he afterwards on the same day called and consulted with Dr. L. P. Norbury over my condition. I declare furthermore that Dr. L. P. Norbury and J. A. Day had no association whatever in the operation.
John Pate's Involvement

The three doctors who cared for Stella signed a death certificate giving her cause of death as "septic endocarditis and peritonitis." The post-mortem examination verified the cause of death as abortion complications.

The fact that Stella was pregnant outside of marriage would have been shameful enough. Her situation was even worse, though. Her baby's father, John Pate, was married to Stella's sister, Annie. After Stella's death, Pate made himself scarce to avoid the police.

An inquest was held February 1 through 5, 1904. 

During the inquest, Dr. Day testified that he had concluded that Stella was moribund from the first time he was called in to attend to her. She'd told him about the abortion and said that beforehand she'd been assured that there would be no danger to her from the procedure.

Dr. Day testified that John Pate, who had paid him $25 for Stella's care, had named Dr. William C. Manley as Stella's abortionist in a conversation they'd had. This corroborated Stella's deathbed identification of W. C. Manley. Pate told Day that Stella had threatened to kill herself unless she was able to arrange an abortion. Day asked Pate if he'd seen Dr. Manley boil the instruments before using them and Pate had answered in the negative. Pate said that the abortion was performed at the office Dr. Manley shared with Dr. Corrill while Corrill was in an adjacent room. 

When Dr. Day told Pate that he'd have to give a true cause of death on the death certificate, he said, Pate tried to convince him not to do so on the grounds that his wife and children would throw him off if they found out the truth.

Dr. Norbury testified that after Stella had given her dying declaration, she'd asked him not to show it to her mother, since this would cause a lot of trouble in the family.

Other Testimony

William Fuller, who was Pate's business partner, testified that Pate was not at their business the afternoon of January 21, when the abortion was committed. He'd left their barn at about 11 in the morning and didn't return until about 4 in the afternoon.

Robert DeFreitas, who had been a classmate of Stella's, testified that at around 2:00 on the afternoon of January 21 he'd encountered Stella outside the building where Dr. Corrill had his office. They spoke briefly before Stella entered the building and headed upstairs towards Corrill's office. 

In case there was any doubt as to which of the two second-floor destinations Stella was heading towards, Mrs. George W. Scott, who lived in the apartment across the hall from Corrill's office, testified that Stella had not visited her that day.

Pate himself was still at large and his wife said that he'd disappeared without telling her where he was going. He had withdrawn $200 from the bank and was believed to have boarded a south-bound train. The sheriff was confident that he'd be easily found because he had a severely injured eye and a patch of white in his otherwise dark brown hair.

No Ill Effects for The Culprits

Dr. Manley was arrested. A warrant was issued for Pate as an accessory. 

Frank Murgatroyd harbored no warm feelings towards his son-in-law. One newspaper notes, "He showed plainly that he was in a bitter state of mind towards Pate and that the latter will be in danger of bodily injury if he ever gets into Murgatroyd's presence unprotected."

I've been unable to determine the outcome of the case, but it seems unlikely that either man was convicted because the 1910 federal census records show each man still living with his wife and children in Jacksonville. Evidently Pate's wife and children didn't throw him off after all. How he escaped retribution from his father-in-law is unknown.

Watch The Guilty Brother-in-Law on YouTube.


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