THE FOLLOWING STORY BY WARREN BRODERICK BEGINS WITH THIS EDITION OF THE NEWSLETTER AND WILL CONTINUE AS A SERIES THROUGH FUTURE EDITIONS
Truth Stranger Than Fiction: The Tragedy and Triumph of
Lany Wager Rose (Part 1)
WARREN F. BRODERICK
The vast majority of sex crimes that occurred in 19th Century America probably went unrecorded, with the exception of a few high-profile murders of prostitutes and deaths that resulted from botched abortions. Domestic abuse and incest were never documented because of the shame involved and divorces (mostly kept from the public by confidentiality restrictions) were generally granted only on the grounds of adultery and abandonment. Sex crimes that occurred in isolated rural areas were rarely made known to the residents of urban communities where newspapers were published. In this context it is truly remarkable that the abuse of Lany Catherine Wager, a young woman living on a dead-end road in rural Pittstown, achieved such notoriety in the Lansingburgh area in 1851.
Magdalena Catherine Wager, known as “Lany” or “Laney,” of Palatine German descent, was a daughter of William Coonradt Wager and Catherine (Bailey) Wager, and was born on December 17, 1831 on their farm on Piser Hill Road in western Pittstown. The family belonged to the Lutheran Church in Melrose and moved to Johnnycake Hollow Road, near the current Tomhannock Reservoir, in 1836. William purchased 22.8 acres of land there which included a modest wooden farmhouse; this dirt surfaced road, which now runs between Ford Road and LeLoup Road, dead-ended at that time. Lany’s mother, Catherine died on February 20, 1847 and her father remarried Sarah, the widow of Silas Stark, in August of 1848. William Wager, who could neither, read nor write, lived on his farm until his death on February 8, 1877; Sarah died there on October 5, 1878. Both are interred in Elmwood Cemetery, Schaghticoke.
In June of 1851 a pair of self-styled “Indian doctors” named William Avery (alias William May) and Lewis Livingston, who claimed to hail from Arkansas, visited the area professing to treat any malady for a price. The so-called doctors were well dressed and traveled in a fine carriage. Avery was very well spoken and Livingston was or pretended to be a deaf mute, communicating by sign language, cards and a chalk board. They boasted to have learned many secret remedies from living with western Indian tribes, a common claim in an era when medicine in America remained largely unscientific and often practiced by traveling confidence men who duped poorly educated residents with various forms of quackery. Sarah Wager sought advice from the doctors for a minor undisclosed ailment and brought along Lany who had been sickly for some time. The doctors had visited the households of John G. Clickner and “Squire” Charles Fake in the same general neighborhood.
Lany Wager supposedly suffered from small lesions or ulcers on her womb, clearly not malignant nor as large as the Indian doctors pretended, if any existed at all. As one might imagine gynecological problems were treated poorly, if at all, in America at this time, and the subject of much folklore and superstition. The supposed doctors diagnosed the serious nature of her illness merely by feeling her pulse. Avery and Livingston told the Wagers that Lany’s ulcers could be removed using metal instruments they possessed and that they had performed this operation before; Dr. Alson Hull later testified that such a procedure was medically impossible at that time “consistent with the life of the patient.” But these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” had other plans for Lany. Because they claimed Lany’s situation was too serous to use the metal instruments the doctors determined a “natural insertive method” was preferable, and both men raped her a number of times on June 25th and 26th, 1851, under the pretence of administering her medical treatment. They even demanded another dollar from her parents for an additional vial of oil needed to massage and lubricate Lany in preparation. The “treatments” took place on a bed and chair in a locked and shrouded bedroom. Sarah Wager listened from outside the room for fear Lany might be in pain but rather than crying heard “strange noises” from the bed which she did not like. Following the treatments Lany could scarcely rise or walk from her chair. Her suspicion now aroused, Sarah sent Lany’s younger sister (probably Mary, aged 17 and unmarried) into the room to inquire as to what had transpired.
Lany later testified that following a couple of these “natural treatments” she became aware that the doctors had intentions beyond merely “applying” their medicines to her womb. She stated that she had never before had “connection” with any man and once the doctors forbade her to tell anyone about how they had cured her of the ulcers she realized their nefarious intentions and informed her parents. Lany Wager was no simpleton. She was merely a naïve, trusting country girl who had never dated a man. She could read and write and clearly attended the local one-room school for a number of grades. Her testimony at the “trial” of the so-called doctors was very forceful and articulate.
A warrant was secured for their arrest but they had already left Montgomery Hall in Saratoga Springs where they were staying and (Avery in the company of a “young lady” he claimed to be his wife) but they were apprehended soon thereafter in Troy and brought before Justice Isaac Ransom in Lansingburgh for a “criminal examination,” the equivalent of a modern grand jury. Marcus L. Filley conducted the examination for the court and both Sarah and Lany Wager gave detailed and consistent testimony. The defendants made no statements before the Justice’s Court. They were committed to Rensselaer County Jail for trail on charges of rape and conspiracy. But no such trial would ever take place.
Copyright 2013 by Warren F. Broderick. Reproduction of all or part of this article requires the author’s written permission.
End of Part 1. To be continued.........
Truth Stranger Than Fiction: The Tragedy and Triumph of
Lany Wager Rose (Part 2)
WARREN F. BRODERICK
It seems that her father, William Wager, had filed a civil suit against the perpetrators to recover the $11 he had paid them. Once his money had been repaid by the doctors they were granted bail of $250 each by Judge Ira Harris of Albany, apparently unaware that they had been remanded without bail for the criminal trial as being flight risks. The so-called “Indian doctors” fled, never to return. In the interim Justice Ransom had received a number of communications from other parts of the state concerning their dastardly activities. A gentleman in Bainbridge, Chenango County, claimed they absconded with his teen-age daughter, May/Avery professing she wished to become his bride. Complaints from other victims locally who received their unique treatments for female medical issues abounded, but the doctors were nowhere to be found. No one has yet determined if the doctors were really from Arkansas or if they even used their real names. The veracity of any of their claims is highly unlikely.
The local press condemned the actions of Judge Harris and their attorney, Samuel Stover, and branded the doctors as fiends incarnate. But in a few weeks news about this notorious case had disappeared from their newspapers. William J. Lamb, Editor of the Lansingburgh Democrat, determined to memorialize the crimes by publishing a small 15-page pamphlet entitled Truth Stranger than Fiction . . . The pamphlet sold for 12 ½ cents and the Lansingburgh Historical Society owns a copy. The only other known copies are held by the New York Historical Society and the American Antiquarian Society.
Editor Lamb published the “horrid details” with “considerable reluctance” in order that “their perusal will place the public upon their guard against all traveling [sic] pretenders and prevent their successful practicing of such horrid impositions in the future.” He added that the case “was without parallel in the criminal history of this country.” Research conducted to date has revealed any additional information on the Indian doctors and their activity. Of course no one knows what other names they used in their felonious masquerade.
On their way to jail following the initial committal May/Avery remarked that they had accomplished their intended purpose, and that “the girl was a d—m fool to tell, for who would marry her now?” But Lany Wager would survive and prove the perpetrators so very wrong.
Most have assumed that Lany Wager did not live much longer and remained a “spinster” because of her health problems and the stigma held by many rape victims in America in this era. She remained at home until the late 1850s when she moved to Troy to board with her cousin, Francis Wager, and his family on North Fourth Street. By 1868 she had returned to Pittstown and was now the wife of Mynard (or Minard) Rose. They resided on Brundage Road in the same house as the family of a cousin, Charles F. Wager, in 1870. Mynard Rose, born in 1807, appears to not have been previously married before meeting Lany. Lany’s younger sister, Nancy, born in 1842, had previously married Mynard Rose, Jr., a son of Edward Rose, a nephew of Lany’s husband.
Mynard Rose Sr. and Lany had a daughter, Minnie, born in 1868. Minnie Rose married Merritt Haviland (1863-1951) and died on February 24, 1900; Merritt afterwards remarried Harriet Roberts. Merritt and Minnie Haviland had a son, Walter, born February 25, 1895, and a two daughters, Colista May, born in 1893 and Emma, born in 1896. Colista May married Frank H. Reed and Emma married Frederick Wier. It is not known with absolute certainty if any descendants survive today but I have spoken with a possible great-great-great granddaughter.
Lany Wager Rose died March 16, 1901 in Pittstown. She and her husband, Mynard, who had predeceased her in 1874, are interred in the Methodist Episcopal Cemetery in Tomhannock. The Pittstown Town Clerk, Jessie A. Pruyn, recorded her occupation as a “lady” possibly suggestive of her laudatory character, since she certainly was not a wealthy woman. One wonders, 50 years after suffering an unspeakable crime, if local residents remembered her ordeal and how she triumphed over it. Her father, William Wager, died in 1877, and his estate reveals that in 1863 he had set aside a legacy of $300 for Lany “if not paid before his decease.” Had he finally regretted paying the “Indian doctors” the $11 to unwittingly allow her to be subjected to a sexual assault under the pretences of giving her medical treatment?
Copyright 2013 by Warren F. Broderick. Reproduction of all or part of this article requires the author’s written permission.
The Tragic Life and Death of
Charles W. Hasbrouck
Warren F. Broderick
Charles William Hasbrouck seemed
to have a promising future when he was born to Peter Hasbrouck and Ann
William Montgomery’s estate
totaled more than $42,000 and Charles Hasbrouck, as Executor and principal
heir, received circa $30,000, including the apothecary store on the corner of
State and Elizabeth Streets (
On July 22nd of the
previous year Charles Hasbrouck purchased lots 235 and 236 on the west side of
The Hasbrouck world was shattered when their lovely little daughter, Jennie, passed away on the first of February, 1859. Two days later she was interred in the Trinity Episcopal Churchyard cemetery located on the same street where the family resided. Her grave was marked with a small marble marker with a tiny lamb on top. The exact cause of Jennie’s death was not recorded and did not have to be determined at that date. The state of medicine at the time remained very primitive and child mortality was high by today’s standards. For some reason or reasons Jennie’s death devastated her parents more so than most. She was their only child and possibly her mother could not bear another. Or did the administration of some medicine from her father’s apothecary store hasten her demise? Or did Charles feel responsible for failing to give his daughter medication?
The Hasbroucks never recovered from their little girl’s death. They could no longer live in their beautiful new home. By 1860 they had moved to a modest apartment in the apothecary store. In 1862 they sold their former home to George Dauchy. Lucinda was said to never appear in public again except in her mourning dress and shrouded her face from view behind a black veil. She wandered the streets of Lansingburgh so attired and often visited the grave of her little girl. She wasted away and departed this world on May 9th, 1867, still only 41 years of age. “Humbly and lovingly” her husband committed “the faultless woman and faithful wife who lingered long at Marah’s bitter well” to a place in Trinity churchyard alongside her daughter. Charles wrote in Lucinda’s obituary in the Lansingburgh Gazette:
“Even when the opening rose was bursting into beauty in her cheerful home, the sunshine of that home departed and a shadow has fallen there which the light of long life will never prevail to overcome. . . . The remaining years allotted to her survivor will be alternately sad and rejoicing to know that there was one on earth of late, so gentle, so lovely, so beloved as she had go e to the company which is gathered of the beloved of all nations and at all times in that beautiful country, that far away country where there is no night . . . “
He concluded in praying that a reunion would be near “under a sky where trouble and temptation never come and where clouds of sorrow never roll.”
The life of Charles Hasbrouck
continued to spiral downward. The loss
of his wonderful wife and child, whom he idolized, “seemed to strangely
dishearten him,” recalled a local newspaper editor, “and intemperance, that
rock on which many a fair barque has been stranded and wrecked proved to be his
ruin.” After losing his property and his
apothecary business and squandering what remained of his inheritance, Charles
boarded at the tavern of his Uncle and Aunt, George and Sally McAuley at 630
State Street (Second Avenue). He was
given a part-time job as a street inspector by the Village of Lansingburgh,
likely out of sympathy for his many misfortunes. In 1876 or 1877 Charles admitted himself to
the celebrated New York State Inebriate Asylum in Binghamton. He returned to Lansingburgh in the summer of
1878, “a reformed man and with a strong desire in his hearth to lead a Godly,
upright life.” In spite of his life
filled with tragedy, he had not given up all hope and composed this brief poem:
"Now deemed the irrevocable past
As wholly wasted, wholly vain.
If rising on its wrecks at last
To something nobler we attain.”
But the world of Charles Hasbrouck suddenly came to an end. On September 26th, 1878 he traveled to Albany to visit his brother-in-law, James S, Wood. Shortly after breakfast he took a seat in Mr. Wood’s parlor and suddenly fell to the floor, expiring in a few minutes. Physicians pronounced it a case of apoplexy but there had been no obvious signs that a major stroke was about to strike him down.
The news of his death both saddened and stunned his friends in Lansingburgh as he had seemed to be in perfect health the previous day. The Editor of the Lansingburgh Gazette commented that Hasbrouck
‘Was a man of great ability, and with his endowments ought to have stood high in the estimation and respect of his fellow men. He was quite gifted as a poet, and some verses which he has written are very pathetic and beautiful. Now that he has gone, not a few will shed a tear over the grave of a man who had a tender heart for all mankind.’
The Editor of the Lansingburgh Courier, remarked that
‘Residents will recollect Mr. Hasbrouck as a genial, courteous gentleman who was always ready to lend a helping hand to a fellow creature in distress. His faults will be blotted out by the good deeds he has done, and none will remember him with aught but the kindest feelings.’
The funeral of Charles W. Hasbrouck took place at Trinity churchyard on Saturday morning, September 28th, 1878 at 10 AM. Few attended the burial and his open casket was viewed in the churchyard. His appearance was strikingly lifelike, having every semblance of a person in calm repose. He had requested only that a poem of his be read at his funeral. The poem, “Trinity Cemetery---the Old Church and the New,” had been composed in 1875. The “old” church was a wooden structure constructed in 1804-1805 which had burned on December 23, 1868, and replaced the following year by the current Gothic Revival stone structure. The Hasbroucks belonged to the Trinity congregation and Charles had served on the Vestry between 1844 and 1846. The second half of the poem dealt with Charles Hasbrouck’s sorrow over the loss of his dear wife and daughter:
The Tragic Life and Death of Charles W. Hasbrouck (continued)
Warren F. Broderick
‘By the little brown chapel, O ere I go hence,
How I still love to linger and lean on the fence,
And call back the tears I so gushingly shed
O’er the half-hidden graves with the branches o’erspread;
O, keeper of jewels, O love undefiled
When I turned broken-hearted from mother and child.
The child was so fair, was an
To toss it high up in its innocent glee;
It seemed like a cherub so lovingly lent,
And it was! And I knew when the message was sent
O’ I hated to give up this jewel of mine,
For I know not my God, ‘twas a plaything of Thine.
Seven long years I have stood alone,
And heard the red robin o the burial stone;
Seven long years by the half-opened gate,
Have I turned back and looked for my beautiful mate;
And my home! Oh, I have none, but the door is ajar,
And I listed and think she’s not gone far.
My sun is declining, my years nearly told,
The air is so bleak, and my hands are so cold
I can scarcely untie this white little box,
With the marriage ring hid in the dark raven locks;
And this far-away letter I hold on my knee,
“T’was sealed with pure kisses and written to me;
O’ sometimes I’m childish, and then again wild,
Since the mother went out to look for her child!
Come when thy gay heart is bounding the lightest,
Secure the high prize, the dearest, the brightest;
Ere the flowers thy hands are exultingly holding,
Shall fade with the years that thy life is unfolding
And pleasure had taken her flight, and a spell
Shall have broken the vase at Marah’s deep well.
O’ God of my youth, I am fast growing old;
The day is dreary; I am lonely and cold;
In humility’s garb, in this beautiful spot,
With all my sins forgiven, my follies forgot,
When darkness and trouble are thick overhead,
I would hide away softly with Trinity’s dead.
‘Tis Twilight! Night’s shadows are stealing along,
Faintly the elm bows echo my burial song;
By the two little headstones, O, cover my rest
Though so humble and lowly, and so wintry drest;
They will change their white garments when spring comes around,
And the dear little violets will start from the ground.’
Charles Hasbrouck was interred next to his wife and child along the north boundary of the churchyard but his grave was never marked until now. While Charles and Lucinda Hasbrouck were clearly devastated by the loss of their little daughter, the extent of their grief appears striking given they lived in an era when doctoring and medicine were still rather unsophisticated and unscientific and many persons suffered premature death from cholera, consumption, and other diseases. Likewise deaths of children rarely merited press coverage beyond simple obituaries. Death certificates were not required by law until 1881 and causes of death were not investigated unless foul play seemed blatantly evident.
Copyright 2012 by Warren F. Broderick. This cannot be reproduced without the author’s explicit written permission
The following article by David Marsh will continue in future editions of the Newsletter.
THE TRACYS: WEALTH, PHILANTHROPY AND SCANDAL
You will recall an earlier article in our Newsletter about Keating Rawson, the Irish immigrant who established a malt house and tannery in Lansingburgh, was instrumental in bringing the Roman Catholic Church to this region, and purchased the land at 107th Street for the Old Catholic Burying Ground. Rawson had a business partnership with John Tracy, another Irish immigrant. In 1820 Tracy married Sara Rawson, Keating Rawson’s daughter. The couple lived briefly in Manhattan, but established themselves in Lansingburgh where John Tracy expanded the malt house business. He continued to have business connections in NYC, selling malt to a number of brewers in the Hudson Valley region.
Sara and John Tracy had five children. Edward was the oldest. It is important to note that Keating Rawson’s will had named an Edwin as a grandchild, not an Edward. It may have been that this first child of the Tracy’s born in 1824 was named Edwin at birth, but became known as Edward later in life. He is known as Edward throughout his adult life and in all of his business affairs.
In 1827 Sara Catherine Tracy was born. She was followed by Eustace Rawson Tracy in 1831 (named for Annie Eustace Rawson, her grandmother). Anna Eustace Tracy, also named for her grandmother, came along in 1832. John Keating Tracy was the last born in 1833. He died less than six months after his birth. Sara, with no “h”, is the translated Irish spelling but this same lady’s name is found in many places with a final “h”.
Sara Tracy was a student at a Sacred Heart Convent School. These were schools for young women started by an order of French nuns; the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. The first school in the eastern US was started in New York City in 1840. French language was a major part of the core of instruction. Later a school was established in Albany around 1859. The Albany school in later times became the Kenwood Academy of the Sacred Heart. It merged with an Episcopal school to become the Doane Stuart School and has separated from that merger just recently. It is unclear whether Sara attended the school in Albany or in New York City where she had Tracy relatives.
An 1839 Catalogue of the Lansingburgh Academy names Sara Tracy as a student. Miss Harriet White would have been her teacher and the Rev. Ebeneezer Maltbie, Principal of the Lansingburgh Academy. The Trustees and officers of the Academy in 1839 include many well known Lansingburgh business and professional men. Among them were the Rev. Phineas Whipple, Frederick Leonard M.D., Jacob Lansing, the Rev. P. F. Phelps, Elias Parmelee, and John Taylor M.D. Many of Sara’s fellow students were children of the officers and other prominent Burghers. The names include Blatchford, two Filley boys, a Knickerbacker, several Lansings, a Powers, a Treadwell, several Hawkins, and a few Yates children. Twelve year old Sara was in the company of children not only from Lansingburgh but as far away as Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Georgia and communities in the Hudson and Mohawk Valley area. The Lansingburgh Academy, which building we know as the Lansingburgh Branch of the Troy Public Library, had become well know as a place to educate young Americans. Sara would later become a teacher in the Lansingburgh Academy.
Sara C. and Anna Tracy were educated at the Albany Female Academy. It began in 1819 and was the first American female preparatory school. That institution was located near the present Academy Park, north of the present NYS Capitol and west of the present Albany City Hall. While attending the Academy, Sara lived in the home of a French professor and his wife. Sara was part of what we would call today a language immersion program. All of the instruction as well as the non-curricular activities were done in the French language. It was meant to produce fluency in the language, and also with learning European French culture, while studying the philosophy, science, mathematics, geography and literature of the time. Anna was part of a different program which emphasized the same subjects but taught them in English. Albany Female Academy was a boarding school and drew students from eastern New York State and adjacent New England. The Albany Female Academy became the Albany Academy for Girls, now part of The Albany Academies.
Anna Eustace Tracy met and married William Cagger. He was the brother of Peter Cagger, a prominent lawyer and Democrat politician in New York State. William Cagger had been a business man in Albany and later was employed at the New York Customs House. The Caggers made their home in a very fashionable part of Brooklyn. He died in 1880 while working at the Customs House.
Anna and William had one son who lived to adulthood. Their son, William, began his working life as a clerk for a glass manufacturer that produced containers for the pharmaceutical industry. He stayed with the company and eventually became the owner.
He was an avid sportsman and member of several yachting clubs. He never married. By 1895 he became ill with cirrhosis and retired from the glass business. He had income from a number of investments, some of which he acquired when his uncle Edward Tracy died in 1898, leaving him $50 000.
To be continued……….