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  • Patricia Fanning

Terror at the Tavern,South Dedham 1865 Tragic Murder/Suicide

Susanna Tenney Marston was the wife of Dr. Carlos Marston, a homeopathic physician who had an office in Hartshorn’s Tavern. The family, which included an adopted daughter, Cora, had an apartment in the tavern as well. 

​From all reports, Susanna Marston had a long history of instability and depression. Just prior to the tragic events of September 1, 1865, her behavior became so erratic that neighbors began to avoid her. She was often incoherent and had a distressed look about her. As her condition worsened, a nurse attendant was hired to care for Susanna but Dr. Marston remained concerned. 

The Rev. George Hill of the Universalist Church was a good friend. He visited the Marston’s apartment on the evening of August 31, and the two men discussed what Marston should do about his hopelessly insane wife. It was decided that she must be taken to an insane hospital, a particularly unpleasant environment in the mid-19th century. Perhaps, Susanna Marston, who the two men thought was asleep in her room, overheard the discussion. In any event, after Rev. Hill left, Dr. Marston went to the room of the nurse, told her that both Cora and Mrs. Marston were asleep for the night, and suggested she bolt her door so Susanna would not annoy her during the night. She did. 

At about 4 am, Susanna Marston somehow gained possession of her husband’s blue steel revolver and shot the doctor in the head. She next went to her adopted daughter Cora’s room and shot her too. She then returned to her own room and took her own life. The shots were heard by the milkman making his rounds. He woke tavern owner Dick Hartshorn and they ran to the doctor’s apartment and found the bodies. The nurse, still bolted in, was still asleep. Dr. Fogg was called and he confirmed the deaths, making it official as “murder and suicide.” 

All three died on 1 September 1865. All three are buried in this plot.

The story of the tragedy appeared in newspapers and tabloids including the Boston Traveler, the New York Herald, and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. Local historian and newspaper man, Win Everett, recounted the startling events in the Norwood Messenger in 1934. The drawings seen here were found on the site Murder by Gaslight, The Dedham Tragedy.


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