Annie Dorman mystery, 10/10/1897

staff_reporter Member Photo

Clipped by staff_reporter

Annie Dorman mystery, 10/10/1897 - LITTLE more ttan a month ago the township of...
LITTLE more ttan a month ago the township of Upper Darby, in Delaware county, and the section of West Philadelphia bordering on it was shocked to hear of the finding of the body of Annie Dorman, "one of the best-liked young women in the whole country round, a girl who was known to have the sweetest of dispositions and a prospect that was brighter than many girls at her age. . She had lived at the-homestead of her. half-brother, John Dorman. whose house looked out on the main turnpike road leading up from Sixty-third street into the county, and there, where she had filled her position as a sort of domestic for those who were related tc her by ties of blood, she was found one afternoon in the early part of last month lying stiff and cold in one of the rooms of the second floor and with every appearance at first blush of having taken her life. To the quiet country folk about the place who knew the girl, who went with her to church where she stood as a spotless pillar, and who knew enough of her inside history to be satisfied that she was pure and had everything to look forward to and nothing to. be unhappy about, the news .came with startling intelligence. They first asked themselves if it could foe true, then weighed it over and over in their minds all the while awe-stricken and finally, in a burst of indignant feeling, rejected the thought that Annie could have taken her life, and declared boldly that she had met foul play, and the hand that turned the barrel of a rusty old-time cocking revolver into her pure heart had been that of another. This "was the thought and the conclusion they arrived at in their first blind feeling of indignation, and this was the belief that was gaining ground until the Coroner of Delaware county, who lives at Chester, and one or two detectives from this city, who were called in, arrived on the scene and were shown the room where the girl was found dead; the manner in ' which the- body-h-ad been -discovered was fully described, .and then the friends of Annie began to believe she had died a suicide.. It Is to lay before the public for the first time certain facts that have not as yet seen the light of day, as it were, facts which are offered not as proofs of a petty theory, but rather an absolute unquestioned, evidence, every whit of which is borne out by a searching investigation made of the premises, of the testimony gleaned by the police officials of Delaware county and thorough study of the case from beginning to end, for all indications which may mean the solution of the mystery of the pretty girl's death, that this story is now told. That there is a mystery profound and apparently unsolvable is evidenced by the hesitation that was first displayed by the Coroner of the county, by the divided opinions of the persons who have given the subject any serious thought and by the conflicting stories that are already beginning to be circulated about a pure, sweet bit of young womanhood who was never before the day of her fearful death known to have a care in the world or one whom she could call enemy. She was found lying in the room with her head toward the window that looks out on the road that leads by John Dorman' s homestead, and a rusty revolver with the five chambers empty was laid by her side. She had been seen alive or was known to be moving about the hous-e at 3 o'clock that afternoon. At half past four or a littl-3 after that John Dorman says his lit-jtle children ran to the barn where he was to tell him that "Annie was dead." He ran to find; the truth and then went for the stable boss of the tMilbourne Mills, and the examination of the room where she was found, was made. t Two bullet holes were shown In the ceiling, one in the footboard under the window which looked out to the road, and of the other twro bullets that had been m the rusty old revolver, one had shattered the Jaw and the one that ended her mortal career had stilled the beating of the heart. A doctor who was close by heard shots about 4 o'clock, and a-little boy who has a chicken coop near the premises, declares he heard the same shots a ehort time before. No one was seen to enter the house and no one was seen to leave; and so the only conclusion those who had worked on the case could arrive at was that the girl had fired the five shots herself, and that for an alleged petty peevishness a disagreement with Mrs. Dorman she had taken the life which, until that moment, was so full of hope and promise. That the facts, however, far from warrant this conclusion, will be Shown : by a glance at the testimony as it is told by the pl3ln statements in the case and by the answers made by men who have worked on the case, and who, although not appearing on the surface to be interested, are surely but slowly working on the theory of murder and winding their nets in the hope of ensnaring one who is answerable for the death of one of the flowers that bloomed beyond the line In Delaware county. These men believe Annie was murdered, that the motive was assault. and that the girl, pure as she was, died In one of the most terrible battles ever known for the defense of her maidenly honor. f Ietyearsal of pacts Kow Annie Dorman's Body Was Found and the Incidents Lead-ing; Up to the Discovery. i That the jury of readers may better understand the case of the killing of her step-brother, John Dorman, ... , v ;-s t "more than a month ago, near Sixty-third and Market streets, in Delaware county, It is necessary to rehearse some of the incidents that occurred on the afternoon on which her body was found, and events leading up to that interesting period. Annie, to begin with., was employed as a servant or nurse for the babes about the house of her step-brother, John Dorman, and had occupied that position off and on for a period of about five years. She was at the time of her untimely taking off about IS or 19 years old, and one of the prettiest and shapeliest girls in the neighborhood. She was known to be possessed of an even and sweet temperament, was always cheerful and never known to have a care or trouble that could make life unworthy of itself. She was happy in the possession of the affections of an honest young man who lived in town, who paid court lo her, and above all she was known to be virtuous and was a favorite among the members of the congregation who attended the Sarah D. Cooper Methodist Church. She never spoke of feeling dissatisfied with her lot. and beyond a few little spats with Mrs. Dorman. was never known to have had words w-ith any living creature. So much for Annie's antecedents. On the day her body was found, In the second-story front room of the house, which stands just back from the turnpike leading up and into the county from the line at Sixty-third IMS n ni tef t i ill ii i ii ii ii n i v j d t"ir . f i 1 1 ii ii i - - - ft & K man and Market streets, she was apparently as cheerful as ever she nad been in her life. She was minding the babes as usual about 1 o'clock in the afternoon when Mrs. Dcrman, her step-brother's wife, was making ready to go into town. John Dorman himself at that moment was in the house, making out papers for his wife to take to the bank. He finished the task at 1.15 in the afternoon, and after handing his wife the papers went out to the farm to work, after asking her to look up certain matters in town. Mrs. Dorman left the house about 2 o'clock. Annie was then alone with the four children, when an hour later Mrs. Myers, the wife of the stable boss of the Millbourne Mills Company, which has Its big building just at the county line, at Cobb's Creek, came in and said she was going to Woodside Park. Mrs. Myers tcld Annie about her prospective pleasure trip to the park, and about 3.10 left the house, after bidding good-bye to the girl and leaving her apparently in the best of humor and minding the youngest child in the hallway. At 4.30 that afternoon, or an hour and twenty minutes after Mrs. Myers left the house, Annie Dorman was found dead by one of the children! John Dorman, her half-brother, was a few minutes later notified, and he went to the second-story front room of the house, and found the body stretched out ;n the floor. He then went for Al Myers, the stable boss at the Millbourne Mills, and the two returned and made-an examination. ' They found a rusty old revolver, with five empty chambers, lying close to the girl's hand. Two bullets had entered the ceiling, .where the marks showed and one in the washboard beneath the window, where it OST people are accustomed to look for good weather In September and October, if at no other time of the year. Tet it is a fact that October is pre eminently the month of storms and that the period beginning with the middle of September and ending with November frequency records more loss and . damage by weather disturbances than any other portion of the year. The bad prominence which October has achieved in the records of the weather bur au, in spite of the fact that very oft n four-fifths of its days are fair, is chiefly due to one kind of storm, which has come to be known as the West India cyclone As far back . as civilized man has sailed along the Atlantic coast certain things have been known about , th? West India hurricane. It was known that they usually swept the seaboard of the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mex co, though they sometimes extended far inland. It was known that they traveled very rapidly and were an especial menace to seamen, both because of their unexpected appearance when vessels were not prepared for them and because of the high and unsteady winds which were their chief characteristic. When they traveled inland they also caused much injury to crops by the excessive downpour which usually accompanied them. This was about the extent of the knowledge on this subject down to the establish- e PdDrmM Was MMraered" i ' i f :.'': had pierced the curtain. Of the. father two. one had shattered herJaWnd the "last one hud entered '"her '"'heart. They then noted the condition? of the girl's clothing and her surroundings. The clothing was smoothed down, and the dress at the top was opened, showing the bosom and -. -the' big scorching mark in the chest. There was apparently no disturbance about the room, the crib under the (Bhelf where the old revolver had lain, unused for two yecrswas unsoiled. -and the chair close at hand had not "been removed. : . ... ' ' No one had been known to entejf or depart, no solution could be offered, and so the two men were - forced.- to believe that Annie had for some reason taken her life. . 3l, r.s Poor )A&RAM OF THE PLEASANT AUTUMN MONTH HAS A BAD RECORD ment of the weather bureau, and it was scarcely to be reckoned practical information, for mariners and farmers knew no better than before when to expect them, and the gulf and ocean beaches continued to be strewn with wrecks caused by these fierce gales. A single storm ' sometimes wrecked half . a dozen sailing vessels and damaged many more to the extent of thousands of dollars. From their very nature their greatest injury was done to shipping. The first thing done by the weather bureau was to make a record of each of these storms, from their own reports when it was on land, and from those of sailing masters when it was at sea. From these records the general course of the storm.' wh Its rate of progress and wind velocity, was plotted on a chart and kept for reference. Then the meteorological' experts began to study the origin, and nature of this aerial monstemuntil today its birthplace and habits are perfectly known, and its probable course can be mapped out in adance. This information may be briefly summarized: - . HOW CTCLONES ORIGINATE.' ' The West India cyclone originates in the Carribbean Sea about latitude 10 degrees, in what is known as the northern belt of equatorial calms. This is a region where evaporation takes place very rapidly, and where there are, therefore, constantly ascending columns of moist air. The 51?e Did Jfot A Careful Survey of the Facts Shows That There Was No Motive and That the Gun Was Inaccessible. , Was it suicide or was It murder? Did Annie Dorman take her life in that second-story front room, with that -rusty Old revolver; or was she confronted by some one whom she recognized and 1 n 00n CRIB POOR place of this air is taken by the colder and denser air, which rushes in from all sides to fill the vacancy. Tre result is a whirling motion of the atmosphere an. embryo cyclone. Mrst of these aerial whirl" g;g3 die in being born,-but occasionally one grows ard is carried along by the easterly winds prevailing in this section as an eddy is carried on the surface of a river, growing in size and velocity until it emerges into the Gulf of Mexico a' full- fledged hurricane. HOW CYCLONES OPERATE. From this point the storm grows rapidly in power, and its diameter Increases from a few miles until it is sometimes 500 or even 1000 miles in extent. Its destructive power comes, not from its forward movement, but from the gyratory motion .of its winds, which revolve at a rate of from o0 to 00 miles an hour around a centre that is theoretically perfectly calm. The motion of these winds is always negative, that is opposite to that of the hands of a clock.The knowledge of this fact alone is of grat value to sailing captains, as they can tell from observing the direction of the wind in encountering a hurricane what part of the storm area they are in and how to handle their ships in the rapidly changing wind conditions which they will meet. To the Inexperienced person it might seem that the-centre of the storm was its safest spot, but in .reality it is the most dangerous, for the winds coming from all directions cause heavy and very unsteady seas, threatened with exposure and was shot to death while defending her honor? The facts will have to answer. In the first place if she committed suicide, there must have been a motive. The facts do not warrant that belief that there was a motive, and there is nothing to show that the young girl ever had any inducement to take her life. In the first place she was always cheerful. It was stated by everyone about the farm that on the day of her death, she was as cheerful as ever. Mrs. Myers left her in good spirits, and ' the Dor-mans themselves declared that her life was an even one and there was nothing to make it so unpleasant for their relative as to induce her to take her life. She had every prospect in life. Annie Dorman was Just in the period when everything is sweet and beautiful in life. when she was being paid attentions by one who loved her, when she had everything before her, nothing to be ashamed of In the past, and with every prospect of her future being a happy and bright one. If she had little spats with Mrs. Dorman about household matters and could not put ip with- them any longer, there were hundreds ready and willing on farms near-by to offer her employment. She had nothing to fear on that score. .- Annie was of a religious temperament. She was a pillar of the church where she attended and the one who felt her loss deeply, when the news of her death became generally known, was the pastor of the Sarah D. Cooper Methodist Church In which she was looked up to as the model. '".-'..'. The facts, do not warrant the belief that Annie Dorman had a motive for killing herself.. - Go a step further and grant that she had a motive, although the facts do not warrant the' belief, and could she Irom the nature of the wounds, the surroundings, and. the character of the gun with ttdDrmm f and a ship speedily becomes unmanageable under their buffeting. From the gulf the cyclone will follow the path of least resistance. This may take it along the gulf coast and up the Mississippi Valley, where, it is likely to rapidly expand and to lose some of its power. More frequently, however. It is deflected to the east and travels up the I Atlantic coast, with its centre a little '. way out at sea. It may leave the coast off Cape Hatteras and start on a trans-Atlantic voyage or it-may travel north to New England or even to Newfoundland before turning east. Its forward motion gradually increases as it moves along, and it is usually not more than two days in sweeping the whole eastern coast of the country. . CYCLONES IN OCTOBER. - One. curious fact about West India cyclones brought out by the records of the weather bureau is that they occur later in the 'year than formerly. At one time they were most frequent in August, later, it was September, and now October brings the greatest number. This forward movement will appear fom the following table for the past decade : , 1885-90 1891-96 June' ........ ft 1 .Tulv 2 2 August lO - September 15 s October , . ... ... 10 15 A Waited AVarnln. -, How many a summer evening Might be passed in comfort snug, . If mosquitoes showed a signal : Like the harmless lightning bug. . - Washington Star. , which the shooting was done, have taken her life? She could not. It was impossible in every way for her to have killed herself, according to the methods indicated in the room where the body was found. In the first place to get the gun with which she is believed to have killed herself, she would have had to reach to a shelf, a distance from the floor, that taxed the energies of a man several inches taller than herself. She could never have done it without stepping on something. She could never have done it otherwise. The shelf stood out from the wall on the west side of the room about the distance up that would require the reach of a man about 5 feet 7 inches in height. A grip rested on the shelf, and back of it was the old revol- ver. Beneath the shelf was a crib with the sheets and quilts nicely spread out. At some distance from the, crib was a chair that might have -been used as a stepping block by anyone not tall enough to reach the shelf. - Annie Dorman was about five feet in height. She could never have reached for the gun in, the first place, without either stepping on tho crib or-the chair. The distance was too much. The chair was not disturbed and the strangest thlrg that has' yet been developed, and which is made public here, for the first time, on the word of an. ofilcial now working - on . the case, is . that the crib beneath the shelf and on which Annie would have had to stand, was unsoiled. It. was therefore impossible " for Annie to have reached that gun or if she did not to have left some trace of having climbed after it. . ' Leaving aside- this important evidence and granting she did get the gun of her own exertion, could she have used It. ana would she hav used it in the manner indicated by the bullet holes in the celling, in the washboard, in the shattered, jaw and the marks on the chest over the heart? She could not have used. it. in tho first place - - - - Chief Berry, of the Chester police force, one of the most energetic official now woiklng ur the case, declares that it lequired all the might of his grip to pull the rusty old trigger and his finger was taxed to the utmost in reeocklng the piece. " And could Annio Dorman have pulloi that gun and recocked It live times, and once while her jaw was shattered and an artery severed? Would she have chot wildly three times twice to the ceiling and ence to the washboard? Would aha rather not have pointed the revolver at ence toward some vital spot? Annie Dorman would have done so had she contemplated suicide. She had no motive. She could not have reached th gun, ana she could not have used it, hai she obtained it. It Uas furder There Was Every Evidence of the Hand of Another in the Character of the Wounds. . It was murder. There was every evU dence on the face of the discovery. There was a motive in the open dresa showing the pure white bosom and in the queenly charms of a young girl who was known -by some one known-to her. and who watched all the time, to b alone in the house and with only a bab or two about her. There was every evidence of another' hand in the smoothing down of the dress after death; of a struggle in the manner In which the bullets flew before doing their final and fatal work; , and in tha grip of a man's hand that alone could have putied that rusted old trigger and recocked It five times. Only a man, fired with a fearful pits 5on, recognised by the object of his brutality and threatened with expostir, could have fired those shots and with intent to kill. It was only a man of sufficient height who could have reached for the gun ih the first place and out who knew the habits and customs of tha inmates of the house and knew where the pistol was kept, half hidden as it was beneath the grip. It was terrible fear of exposure by that pure girl approached in her maidenly loneliness that prompted the deed. How. was it done? Annie was alone. Some one who had been watching and knew Annie knew"" that she would ba alone until probably 4 or 5 o'clock-some one who saw. Mrs. Dorman go out and feared not for-the intrusion of thoaa working on the farm. - It " was some on familiar with the 'pTace. The person, a man, entered the housa between 3.30 and 4 - o'clock and appro aobed Annie Dorman either on th stairway or perhaps found her in th room where she was discovered dead. It was in that room or that shelf that the rusty old revolver-lay and the man knew it. . T. It . was ..for a. purpose- that this - man entered, and the quick, pure soul -ot tha girl who attended the Sarah D7 Cooper Methodist ' Church and .whose . purity , was proved .by .the medical examination-after death, at once detected the foul- -ness of that intention. " She halted him. I She probably pleaded -wlth-him and then threatened him. It was some ona whom she knew and ' the aggressor recognized this.' lie had gone too far, and . he cared not, like -Tarquln, - mow-how- much - farther -he- went. He -urai maddened alike by desire and the fear of exposure that must come. . It was a terrible stake. . . - He must compel silence and the gun was the thing, old and rusted as It was, that on the spur of the moment suggested itself. It occurred to him on th instant and half believing that an exhibition of it might frighten the girl either into compliance or refusal to divulge, the man sprang toward the shelf, easily reached it, for he was of sufficient height, and came toward Annie. Then she flung herself on him. Then began the battle for her honor and her life. Then it was that the shots were fired by that terrible grip, speeding away- to the celling and the washboard and finally-lodging In the Jaw, shattering it and causing Insensibility. It was then too far the pure girl knew all and would tell all if she woka from that unconsciousness;, and tha murderer with one shot still left In tha old gun put all fearful possibilities beyond doubt by firing it aa she lay inta her very heart. The murderer then placed the rustjr gun by the girl's side, smoothed down the dress to hide evidences of a struggle, but like all takers of life left th one mute piece of evidence In the shape of the exposed bosom. There can be no doubt that Annie Dorman was murdered. People Killed by Jealoaay. The physicians say that the entertainment of jealousy has a disorganizing effect upon the body, and certainly it im disturbing to the mind. A Jealoua wo-' man may have been as lovely as a May morning, but Jealousy upsets" her. . . Jealousy guarantee biliousness. Biliousness makes bad temper, cross words. These, too, are disturbing lo the cools, and she sends bad food to the table. The man can't eat it, and his buslnes goes wrong ell day. A Jealous, b'llroia woman is a bad mother. She upnets tha children, and money has to bo paid out for medicine for tnern. Domestic Jealousy becomes in time venr dangerous, prof cssional or business Jeai-. ousy kills. The woman who whUoera a. cc-svenient detrimental, word about an associate into the ear of her natron or employer may benefit for a day. In tha' end, he concludes she U untrustworthy, ' ; A Gtmlnr Gentlewoman. She's a lovely, gentle womnn . ., . Every one will tell you that; . , BeMde, you can see for yourself , That she wears a birdless hat. '

Clipped from
  1. The Philadelphia Inquirer,
  2. 10 Oct 1897, Sun,
  3. Page 25

staff_reporter Member Photo

Want to comment on this Clipping? Sign up for a free account, or sign in