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The Andrea Yates Epidemic of 1901

Home | Rediscovered Crime News | The Andrea Yates Epidemic of 1901

As sad as this story is, in the course of my research for other vintage crimes I come across many similar accounts of parents murdering their children (known as filicide) due to depression, religious fervor, or other reasons. In most of these cases, poverty drives their depression. With just some light searching done of newspaper archives for 1901, I found 4 different cases.

Rosa Wurzer, Pt. 1: Crazed by Poverty, Mother Kills Her Six Babes

(Uniontown, WA, Saturday, Feb. 23, 1901) Six children were murdered by their crazed mother at Uniontown, Wash., the crime being unusual in the method employed. Mrs. Rosa Wurzer, a widow, threw her six children, two boys and four girls into a well thirty feet deep and with but two feet of water at the bottom.

Then she jumped into the well herself and ‘held the little ones’ heads under the water until all were drowned.

Neighbors found Mrs. Wurzer in the well with her six murdered children, and putting a rope around her body, drew her out. She is violently insane and is restrained with difficulty.

Mrs. Wurzer’s husband died one year ago leaving her in destitute circumstances. She has been supported by the county which allowed her $15 a month and by the charity of her neighbors. Brooding over her circumstances drove her crazy and she was determined to kill her children and herself, but the shallowness of the water in the well prevented her attempt to end her own life.

Rosa Wurzer, Pt. 2: Murderess of Six Children Makes Escape

(Uniontown, Wash., Sunday, Feb. 25, 1901) Mrs. Wurzer, the insane murderess escaped the vigilance of guards Sunday night and went to the home of Peter Jacobs and broke a window, frightening the inmates considerably and then visited the residence of Mr. Koester.

All had retired but Mrs. Koester who was sitting at a table writing a letter. Upon hearing a knock at the door Mrs. Koester asked who was there. The reply came “Please let me in I want to toll yon something.” Mrs. Koester unlocked the door and the insane visitor clad only in her night drops, seized her with both hands. Mrs. Koester screamed and ran to the room where her husband was asleep. He sprang from the bed, caught the crazy intruder and called his brother. Together they led the poor woman back to her home.

She escaped from her watchers by climbing out through the window.

Coroner Mitchell and Deputy Sheriff Hamilton arrived at the scene of the Wurzer tragedy at 8 a. m. The coroner’s verdict was that the children came to their death at the hands of the mother.

Upon preparing them for burial, fingermarks were found on the throats of all, indicating that they had been strangled before being thrown into the well. The ruddy color of the skin and the absence of the flow of water from the mouths during the preparation for laying out would seem to indicate that they were dead before being cast into the water. The necks of all except one were broken. Mary, aged 6, has a deep gash in the top of the head and a two inch cut over the left ear. In addition Rosa [not the mother] has a broken shoulder and Anna a broken thigh and arm. Besides these there are numerous bruises, probably caused by the thirty foot drop into the well.

Last evening the unfortunate little one lay in six coffins in the sitting room of what was their home.

I couldn’t find any follow-up stories on a trial/punishment for Wurzer but she may have been sent to an insane asylum.

Inflamed by Religious Frenzy, A Maddened Pittsburgh Woman Throws Children Into River

(Pittsburgh, PA, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 1901) Mrs. Maggie Deithorn, aged 26 years, walked out on the Twenty-second street bridge early today with her two children, aged two and four years, and when in the cantor of the structure quickly picked up the little ones and threw them into the Monongahela  River. Before she could follow, she was arrested. Boats put out at once and rescued one of the children, but the other was drowned. The woman was evidently demented. She told the police that the act was an inspiration from heaven.

She has been under religious excitement for several weeks and has been almost constantly praying. The boy, who was rescued, was taken to the South Side hospital. It is thought he will die from exposure. The body of the girl was recovered.


Mother Murders Children with Morphine

(St. Louis, Michigan, Monday, May 20, 1901) Mrs. Elmer Quimby, wife of a farmer living five miles south, gave her two children, a boy of 7 and a girl of 9, two large doses and both children died early today. Mrs. Quimby took 18 grams herself but it acted as an emetic [causes vomiting]. She will recover. Family trouble is the alleged cause.


Mother Throws Her Little Ones Into a Well and Leaps in Herself


Woman Had Only Recently Been Released From an Insane Asylum as Cured, But It Is Evident Insanity Returned.

(Cleveland, Ohio, Friday, Sept. 27, 1901) At Little York, 15 miles from here [Cleveland], Mrs. Perry Curtis, wife of a farmer, today drowned her three small children in a well and then committed suicide by jumping in the well. Following are the names and ages of the dead:

  • MRS. PERRY CURTIS, 38 years.
  • ROSA CURTIS, 2 years.
  • ANNIE CURTIS, 6 years.
  • HAROLD SCUDDER, 9 years.

The latter was Mrs. Curtis’s stepson. Mrs. Curtis was released from Massillon Insane Asylum recently as cured. Eugene Roberts, a neighbor, discovered the insane mother’s crime when he attempted to draw some water from the well and to his horror found It literally filled with dead bodies.

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