Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Tragic Case of Cassie Haggerty, a Pelham Manor "Servant" Who Died in 1897

By all accounts, Cassie Haggerty was a beautiful 22-year-old "servant girl."  Cassie, however, was not well.  In early 1897, she had some type of "lung ailment" as one report put it.

Cassie had a friend named Mary Sweeney.  The two women, who lived in New York City, learned of a couple who lived in Pelham looking to hire two servants.  The couple, Mr. and Mrs. H. S. Whiting, lived in Pelham Manor.  

On Thursday, January 7, 1897, the two women applied for the positions and were hired.  The following morning they began working in the Whiting home.  Cassie was a "waiting maid."  Mary was a cook.  It appears that the two women were hired for a one-month trial period.

There are numerous differing accounts of what happened during the following six days.  It seems clear, however, that things did not go well the first few days. 

Things came to a head early on the morning of Tuesday, January 12.  Mrs. Whiting awoke expecting her breakfast, but there was none.  She bundled up and tramped downstairs to the kitchen where she found Cassie Haggerty and Mary Sweeney quarreling with no breakfast made.  To make matters worse, Mrs. Whiting thought Cassie Haggerty seemed intoxicated.  

Though accounts differ, it appears that Mrs. Whiting was furious with Cassie and called her to account for the supposed intoxication.  Cassie responded saying she was done and would return to New York City immediately.  Mrs. Whiting told her "the sooner she left the house the better she [Mrs. Whiting] would be pleased."

Cassie packed her things and reportedly trudged into the cold headed for the Pelham Manor Train Station to return to New York City.  She appears to have gotten no farther, however, than the clubhouse of the Manor Club.  

That night, Constable James Burnett was at the Manor Club.  Burnett held a host of positions.  In addition to being a Constable, he also was a janitor at the Manor Club.  The evening of Tuesday, January 12, he went to the woodshed behind the Manor Club to get wood for the clubhouse.  

The shed was dark.  As Burnett stepped inside, he heard a moan.  He discovered Cassie Haggerty lying in the cold darkness of the woodshed.  According to one of many, many accounts:  "She shivered with the cold, her eyes stared wildly up at him, her hands were hot and the skin rustled like parchment."  Cassie then spoke:  "I'm a servant," she said with a laugh.  "A servant dying of cold and exposure.  They said I was drunk.  Who knows?  They may be right."

Burnett also thought she was drunk.  Nevertheless, he coaxed from her not only her name, but also the name of Mrs. Whiting who had employed her.  All accounts agree that Burnett took the poor girl back to the Whiting house.

Some accounts say that Mrs. Whiting was home.  Others say that she was out of the home and returned later to find Cassie Haggerty in bed being cared for by servants.  In any event, accounts agree that Mrs. Whiting told the Constable that she would not house and care for an intoxicated girl and that he should lock her up for intoxication.

Pelham Manor did not have a working jail at the time.  Instead, it used an empty engine room of the firehouse as a village jail.  Burnett took Cassie Haggerty to the firehouse that stood along today's Black Street.  He started a fire in a stove that stood in the room and locked her inside.

First thing the next morning, Burnett hustled off to the firehouse to check on Cassie Haggerty.  When he opened the engine room, she lay motionless on the floor.  According to one news account:  "He found a corpse.  She had died alone."  She died overnight sometime late on Tuesday, January 12 or sometime early on Wednesday, January 13, 1897.

The story of poor Cassie Haggerty wasn't over, however.  Local Doctors, Flemming and Carlisle, performed an autopsy and Coroner Banning of Mount Vernon conducted an inquest.  The autopsy revealed that the "real cause of death was pneumonia" and that "not the slightest trace of alcohol was found in the girl's stomach."  Instead, it was hypothesized, "the girl had taken an overdose of quinine for a cold that eventually turned into pneumonia, and caused her death."

Newspapers throughout the United States wrote of the callousness of turning the poor, sick servant girl out into the bitter cold of a January night.  Within a short time, Mr. Whiting built a grand new home in Larchmont.  He and his wife moved there, leaving forever the little Village of Pelham Manor.


*          *          *           *          *

A Servant Suffering With An Over-Dose of Quinine, Supposed to be Drunk, Was Set adrift to Die Alone and Neglected.

In Pelham Manor's shanty of an engine house, now used as an apology for a lock-up, was found the dead body of Cassie Haggerty, twenty-two years old, on Wednesday morning, the 13th inst.  She had been arrested for supposed intoxication, on the evening previous, on complaint of her employer, Mrs. H. S. Whiting, of the same place.

It appears that Mrs. Whiting had hired two servants in New York city not many days before.  On Tuesday morning, Mrs. Whiting found no breakfast ready, inquired into the cause of it, and found the servants quarreling in the kitchen.  Mrs. Whiting, upon seeing the girl, supposed that she was intoxicated, and called her to account for it, whereupon the girl said she would return to New York, which she later attempted to do.  It is said that she proceeded on her way to the railroad station, and got as far as the Pelham Manor club house where she rested.  She was found there by Constable Jas. Burnett, in a helpless condition, and later conveyed her back to Mrs. Whiting's home.  The cook, Mary McSweeney, took the girl in and cared for her by putting her into a bed.  Mrs. Whiting had gone to New York in the meantime and did not return until the evening, and then insisted that the girl was intoxicated.  It is alleged that Dr. Washburn was summoned, and agreed with Mrs. Whiting.  It was then that Constable Burnett was sent for and he arrested the girl for intoxication and locked her up for the night in the discarded engine house and airy place at best.  The next morning the policeman found the dead body of the girl stretched upon the floor.

Coroner Banning, of Mount Vernon was notified and he is holding the inquest.  Drs. Flemming and Carlisle held an autopsy, which revealed that the real cause of death was pneumonia, not the slightest trace of alcohol was found in the girl's stomach.

It is now supposed that the girl had taken an overdose of quinine for a cold that eventually turned into pneumonia, and caused her death.  She should have informed her employer as what she had done, and it is more than likely the sad termination of her life would not have occurred."

Source:  A WOMAN FOUND DEAD -- AFTER A NIGHT IN A LOCK-UP -- A Servant Suffering With An Over-Dose of Quinine, Supposed to be Drunk, Was Set adrift to Die Alone and Neglected, The New Rochelle Press, Jan. 16, 1897, Vol. XXII, No. 33, p. 1, col. 3.  

Alone in a Fire-Engine House, She Passed Away in the Bitter Cold Night.
Her Former Mistress Would Not Take Her In When the Policeman Said She Was Sick.

The New York World tells the following true story.

While delirious with pneumonia, Cassie Haggerty, a pretty servant girl, twenty-two years old, was turned out of the house in which she had sought shelter Tuesday night, handed over to Constable Burnett, of Pelham Manor, and died of her malady in the lock-up at 4:30 a.m. yesterday.

Cassie and Mary Sweeney were engaged as servants by Mrs. H. S. Whiting of Pelham Manor, Thursday, and entered upon their duties Friday morning.  Mary Sweeney was engaged as cook and Cassie as waiting maid.  They did not like the place, and decided to leave.  

Cassie's trunk arrived from New York Tuesday and she determined to remain until her month was up.  But later in the morning she felt so ill that she told Mrs. Whiting she would leave then.  Mrs. Whiting told her that the sooner she left the house the better she would be pleased.  In fact the girl acted so queerly that Mrs. Whiting thought she had been drinking.  Cassie went down to the kitchen to inform the cook of her intention, and behaved so peculiarly while there that the cook said:

'Cassie, you act so funny that if you were in any other place than this little village I would think you were under the influence of liquor.'

The girl laughed and answered:

'Maybe I have been drinking -- who knows?  What do these people care for [a] poor creature like me?  I have taken too much quinine.  You see, I dare not let this mistress of ours know that I was ill with lung trouble when I came here, or she would have discharged me at once.  I cannot go on any longer.'

She kissed her fellow-servants and walked down the gravel path as if to go to the railway station.  Hours passed by; morning changed to afternoon, afternoon to evening.  In Pelham Manor they have one constable, James Burnett.  When he is not arresting tramps he fills his time in attending to the Manor Club house.

Groping around in the woodshed outside the kitchen of the Manor House on Tuesday night, he was stopped by the sound of a moan. 

He bent forward, peering into the darkness, and presently came upon a woman lying huddled in a corner of the shed.  She shivered with the cold, her eyes stared wildly up at him, her hands were hot and the skin rustled like parchment.

'I'm a servant,' she said, with a laugh.  'A servant dying of cold and exposure.  They said I was drunk.  Who knows?  They may be right.'

Burnett learned her name and the name of the woman who had employed her.  Dr. Washburn, of Pelham Manor, an intimate friend of the Whiting family, came into the club-house at this juncture.

'Looks like alcoholism,' he said.  

At last, as the easiest way out of the difficulty, Burnett led the girl back to Mrs. Whiting's house.

'They'll turn me out?' she said.  'Don't take me.  I can't face them again.'

Mrs. Whiting had not returned from a shopping expedition in New York when Burnett and the girl reached the house.  Mary McSweeney, the cook, laid the girl in her own bed.

Mrs. Whiting returned soon and told Burnett to lock her up.  

And so the unhappy creature, too weak to protest, was led out into the bitter wind.  Burnett took her to the fire-engine house, which also serves as a police station.  He lit a fire in the stove and with an encouraging word left her.  

With the first light of day Burnett hurried over to the lock-up and bent over the prostrate figure.  He found a corpse.  She had died alone."

Source:  TURNED ADRIFT TO DIE -- CASSIE HAGGERTY, ILL WITH PNEUMONIA, REFUSED A SHELTER -- Alone in a Fire-Engine House, She Passed Away in the Bitter Cold Night -- Her Former Mistress Would Not Take Her In When the Policeman Said She Was Sick -- DOCTOR SAID SHE WAS DRINKING, The Hartford Herald [Hartford, KY], Jan. 27, 1897, Vol. XXIII, No. 4, p. 1, col. 4.  

"She Was Turned Away to Die.

Cassie Haggerty, 22 years old, a domestic employed by Mrs. H. S. Whiting of Pelham Manor, was found dead on Wednesday in the Pelham Manor fire house which also serves as the village lock-up.  The girl left her home Tuesday morning and appeared to be under the influence of liquor.  She later returned to the house where she was examined by Dr. Washburn, who said she was intoxicated.  The girl was locked up in the station house that night and the next morning was found dead.  Drs. Fleming and Carlisle of this city held an autopsy and pronounced the cause of death as congestion of the lungs, a primary stage of pneumonia.  Coroner Banning was notified and had the body removed to Van Arsdale's morgue and will hold an inquest to-night in the City Court room."

Source:  She Was Turned Away to Die, The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Jan. 15, 1897, No. 1776, p. 1, col. 6.

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