Friday, February 18, 2011

Another Google Alert makes my jaw drop!! - Part 5

The decade of 1900-1910 brought about a drastic decline in the life Cordelia had been living. Even while imprisoned she had enjoyed private accommodations and the freedom brought about by sexual favors to come and go from prison as she pleased. But beginning in 1900 all that would begin to crumble.  Once she was moved to San Quentin she lost her comfortable surroundings.  Then a series of events began a slow and steady decline of her life...

On 30 Aug 1900 Cordelia’s beloved father, Richard died suddenly after being kicked in the head by a horse.

In November of 1901 her sister Sadie was declared insane.

The Mountain Democrat (Placerville, California)

Nov 30, 1901 – Miss Sadie Brown, the sister of Mrs. Cordelia Botkin, the alleged poisoner of Mrs. John P. Dunning, whose escapade in climbing into the cab of an engine and driving a horse attached to a milk wagon until it was exhausted, has brought her prominently before the public in Santa Rosa, has been adjudged insane.

31 Apr 1904 Welcome, who had obtained a divorce from Cordelia , died in Stockton, California.

Welcome A. Botkin Dead
Gained Notoriety Thro’ Wife

Los Angeles Times – Welcome A. Botkin, divorced husband of Cordelia Botkin, died this morning at No. 125 Ellis Street. Death was due to heart failure and digestive complications. He had been ailing for several months, and the end was not unexpected. His only child, Beverly Botkin, was with him when his end came.

Through notoriety gained by his wife, Botkin attracted almost as much attention at the first trial of the poisoner of Mrs. Deane and Mrs. Dunning as the woman herself. At the time of her arrest he was possessed considerable means, which was consumed in securing legal aid for the defendant. After his money was gone and Cordelia Botkin had been convicted, he quietly secured a divorce, which was granted about two years ago.

Botkin was 67 years of age. He had been in the employ of the Armour Packing Company for many years and had represented their interests in nearly every large city in the West. For the past decade he had been stationed in California.

Cordelia has petitioned the court to let her attend Welcome's funeral but the request was denied.

31 Apr 1905 her only child and son Beverly died


SAN FRANCISCO, May 2. 1905 – Mrs. Cordelia Botkin convicted of the murder of Mrs. John P. Dunning of Dover, Delaware, by means of poisoned candy sent through the mail was today permitted to leave the county jail in charge of a deputy sheriff, so she might view the remains of her only son, who died a few days ago. She placed a few roses on the coffin and gave evidence of deep grief, but did not lose her self control.

17 Apr 1907 John Dunning, the man she killed for died of a brain tumor:

In early 1910 Cordelia’s health takes a turn for the worse and she appeals for parole.

Mrs. Botkin Pleads for Parole

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 12, 1910 – Mrs Cordelia Botkin, serving a life sentence at San Quentin for having sent a box of poisoned candy to Mrs. Dunning of Delaware, wife of a man with whom Mrs. Botkin’s name had been associated, had been associated, has applied to the Board of Prison Directors for parole. Her case was considered today at the regular meeting of the board at San Quentin. “Mrs. Florence Roberts, a well-known prison worker, known as “Mother Roberts” is exerting herself in Mrs. Botkin’s behalf.

Since the death of Mrs. Botkin’s son Beverly and her sister, Mrs. Botkin has grieved so much that she is a hopeless invalid.

An effort is being made to take her to spend her remaining days with her mother and faithful sister, Miss Dora Brown, who live at the modest cottage at the old homestead at Healdsburg.

Dunning, for love of whom Mrs. Botkin committed the deed, is dead, as well as all members of Mrs. Botkin’s family. Mrs. Botkin has been in various prisons for this crime for more than twelve years and the once handsome woman is now a broken hearted crushed wreck of femininity, two weak to leave her bed.

7 Mar 1910 Cordelia dies in Prison

Denton Journal: “Mrs. Cordelia Botkin, serving a life sentence at San Quentin, Cal., died on Monday, March 7.”

A journalist for the Oakland Tribune quoted the cause on her death certificate as “softening of the brain induced by melancholy.”

I spoke with the cemetery in Healdsburg where Cordelia is buried alongside her mother and father.  It seems her stone is covered over with grass and ground cover and needs to be unburied.  I've posted the memorial on FAG and have requested a photo.  I've explained in my request that the stone is buried and that I am hoping some adventurous soul will take on the project of uncovering it. 

It seems almost amazing to me that a woman so infamous in life would be so forgotten in death.

Now that I've come to know Cordelia's life story a little better, I wonder what life was like for Welcome and Beverly.  Their stories are next.........



    This is a terrific series!

  2. Brilliant, Lisa! Can't wait to hear your next tale :-) Jo

  3. Fantastic. I've been looking forward to each installment of your story, more than my favorite tv shows! :)

  4. Lisa, I bet this series has everyone polishing up their Google Alerts skills. What a find!!

    One question: I'm wondering if that death cert might actually say "Hemorr." rather than tumor? short for cerebral hemorrhage (stroke)?

  5. Excellent point, T.K.! I couldn't decipher it myself but a small article in a Philadelphia newspaper listed it as a brain tumor so I went with that. After looking again I think you may be right......

  6. Thanks for introducing Google Alert for family research. As TK mentioned, I am one of the newbies to Google Alerts thanks to your posts.

    Don't you love the "bad ancestor" documents? Jail and prison records are some of my favorites.

  7. I guess I feel sorry for her. Sometimes I believe the worse is from our own making. Her story sure reinnforces the idea to me. Great story telling.