The Eva Hamilton Scandal — Part Three

The New York Times — Wednesday, 4 September 1889


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A story was told in Inspector Byrnes’s office last night which places three conspirators — Robert Ray Hamilton’s wife, Mrs. Swinton, and Joshua T. Mann — under a caesium light. It establishes the fact that the child which Mr. Hamilton believed to be his offspring came from a midwife’s, and was foisted on him basely and heartlessly. It gives more of the shameful history of Swinton, Mann and company, and is so convincing that Mr. Hamilton is said to have come to his senses and will endeavor to atone for his folly by allowing the law to proceed against Mrs. Swinton and “Josh” Mann for palming off the child on him and for conspiracy.

It appears that a counter-conspiracy against Mr. Hamilton was gotten up by friends who thought too well of him and his name to allow them to be any longer sullied by contact with the creatures who got him into their clutches. Among these friends were Elithu Root and Charles A Peabody, Jr. Thursday last Mr. Root called on Inspector Byrnes and asked him to meet him at the residence of one of Mr. Hamilton’s friends to discuss his associations with Mrs. Swinton, Eva, and Mann.

Inspector Byrnes met Mr. Root, his partner, Mr. Samuel B. Clarke, and others, and, at their request, consented to “sift fine” Mrs. Swinton, Mann, and Eva. He started in with the belief that Mr. Hamilton was forced to marry Eva by her statement that her honor and the child’s were at stake; in other words, he believed her and acted like a gentleman. Learning that she said that she gave birth to a girl in Elmira on the 17th of December, 1888, and that she was attended by Dr. Burnett Morse, a physician of good repute, Mr. Byrnes sent Detective Sergeant McNaught to Elmira. He reported that Eva lived in Elmira in a hotel and in boarding houses with Josh Mann and that they passed as a married couple. Dr. Morse remembered that he attended her for cramps of the stomach, but he was sure that she did not at that time give birth to a child, and there were no indications that she was likely to become a mother.

McNaught went over the evidence carefully, and finally procured affidavits to establish what he had learned. As soon as Inspector Byrnes had these affidavits he, as had been arranged with Messrs. Root and Clarke, who probably had an understanding with Mr. Hamilton, telegraphed to Mr. Hamilton to come on from Atlantic City. Mr. Hamilton responded at once. Friends and detectives met him Friday night at Jersey City, and he went unrecognized to Mr. C. A. Peabody’s, at 13 Park Avenue. Inspector Byrnes saw him there, proved to him that Eva lied in her story about her confinement, and promised to show him that he had been basely deceived in regard to the child which he believed to be a Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton was greatly agitated, but he said firmly that, although he loved his wife dearly, if he had been deceived he would not hinder in the punishment of all who were in the plot.

Mrs. Swinton evidently felt uneasy, for on the same evening that Mr. Hamilton went to Mr. Peabody’s she and “Josh,” as Mrs. J.W. Brown and son, registered at the St. Charles Hotel in this city and occupied one room. Inspector Byrnes had by this time learned enough to warrant him in arresting mother and son, but he waited until Sunday night, when he sent Detective Sergeants Hickey and McNaught to the hotel with instructions to “bring them in.” They were not in their room, but had left word that they would return for letters. At noon on Monday Mrs. Swinton came to the hotel, dined, and left under surveillance. She went to 335 West Twenty-ninth-street, a flat house, and, as word had been sent to Police Headquarters that Mann would turn up during the day, she was arrested by Hickey and Detective Sergeant Crowley, taken to the Central Office, and put in a cell to ponder. Three hours later “Josh” fell into the clutches of the detectives at the West Twenty-ninth-street house, and he was put in another cell. They chief detective, as he puts it, does not worry smart prisoners by questioning until they have had an opportunity to reflect and examine the place in which they are locked up. Yesterday, after they had been remanded at the Tombs, their situation was explained to them, and they were given an opportunity to make a statement.

Both made confessions, and part of Mrs. Swinton’s was read to the reporters. She said, in substance, that about the 10th of last November Eva told Mrs. Swinton that she wanted a layette and that it must be as fine as money could buy and ready by the 14th or 15th of December. She explained that Josh and she were going to Elmira, and that a friend of “Ray” had got a girl into trouble and that when the child was born it would have to be taken care of until a home could be found for it. Eva did not return from Elmira until about Christmas. Mrs. Swinton then lived at 51 East Thirty-first-street and Eva went there with “Josh.” The layette was incomplete and Eva was angry. No shops that they usually patronized were open, but they (the women) hurried to the Bowery, and in a store kept by a Hebrew bought what was lacking, including a cap and a cloak. The purchases were given to Mrs. Swinton, and Eva left her, saying, “You hurry home and I’ll go and get the baby.” Eva appeared at the house with a girl four of five days old. It was fair and wrapped in a green shawl.

On the same day in the evening Mrs. Swinton engaged board at 105 East Twenty-eighth-street for Mrs. and Mrs. Mann and an infant. “Josh” and Eva went there with the child and remained there a week. Meanwhile Eva furnished a flat at 208 East Fourteenth-street and they moved into it. A day or two after the infant was sick and died under the care of Dr. Kemp of 263 West Twenty-third-street. It was buried as Alice Mann, the child of George and Alice Mann, and Dr. Kemp certified that the cause of death was inanition, due to lack of nourishment. On Jan. 4, before the child was buried Eva went to a midwife and got another baby girl and took it to the East Fourteenth-street flat. It became sick like its predecessor, and Mrs. Swinton remarked that “it would not do to send for Kemp,” so it was carried to 51 West Twenty-third-street, and Dr. Gilbert of 401 West Thirty-third-street was called in. It died on the 14th of January, and was buried as Ethel Parsons, twenty-five days old, child of Walter and Alida Parsons. Adair & Aldred of 359 Fourth-avenue buried both children.

Eva was in despair over her “luck” and hastened to get a third child. She had to have “an order” for one at a midwife’s, and when it was brought she was in a rage because it had dark hair and “looked like a Dutch baby.” She remarked that “Ray” had even (sic — “seen”?) the first child, and it would never do to “spring this one on him as he knows the difference between a blonde and a brunette.” Besides, Eva had an aversion to the babe at first sight, couldn’t like it, and couldn’t kiss it. It would have to “go back.” Next day it was stowed away in a cradle and Eva went to hunt for a fourth child. She found one that suited her and that could be used to hoodwink “Ray,” but she had to pay $10 for it. This is the child that came with Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton to Atlantic City. When Eva got to the house with child №4 the “Dutch baby” was crying, and Eva got in a passion. She compelled Mrs. Swinton to take it back to the midwife and told her to say that she had no use for it, as the lady who adopted it had died. Mrs. Swinton had a war of words with the midwife, who did not believe her story, but they finally came to an understanding on Mrs. Swinton’s paying $5.

So much for the legitimacy of the child that Mr. Hamilton believed to be his, and which was the main link between him and the adventures and the main cause of their marriage. The marriage, according to Inspector Byrnes, took place at Paterson, N.J., on the 7th of last January. Mrs. Swinton’s statement is that Hamilton believed that he was the father of child №1 and listened to her tearful entreaties to legitimize their offspring. The certificate was not at Police Headquarters last night, but the witnesses were Edward Dryden, an insurance agent of Broadway, Paterson, and Mrs. Swinton’s brother. The child was christened in a New York church, and “Josh” and his mother were godfather and godmother. Mrs. Swinton has evidently thrown Eva overboard, for she tells how “Ray” hugged Eva and kissed child №1 when he first saw it at 208 East Fourteenth-street. Mrs. Swinton goes on to say that for the past four years Eva represented that she was married to “Josh.” Early in March Eva gave him a check for $2,000 on the Union Dime Savings Bank, and “Josh” opened an account with it at this bank in his own name, but in April Eva learned that he had down out a large sum. She went into one her fierce tantrums, got a cab, was driven to the bank, demanded to see the President, and made an affidavit that “Josh” was her husband and that he was demented and incompetent. It was, however, discovered that the story was unserviceable, as “Josh” had only a few dollars to his credit. Mrs. Swinton made the statement that before going to Elmira “Josh” obtained $500 from Eva, and that when she married “Ray” she was merry had having fooled him, and said that as soon as she got her hands on the jewelry and place left by his mother, which he promised to her, she would turn them into money. Although it is hardly necessary, Mrs. Swinton felt constrained to say that since 1885 “Josh” and Eva’s relations were those of man and wife.

“Josh” comes out in a statement which is characteristically vile and cowardly. It has the sole merit of being brutally frank. He says he first met Eva in 1881 in a house in Thirty-first-street. He describes her attractions. He admits that he was favored while she was protected in a flat by another man, and that they “quarreled and fought and quarreled and fought, but always made up.” During the last year he had bled her to the tune of $3,000. He knew of the imposition practiced on Hamilton and that the child at Atlantic City was neither his nor Hamilton’s.

Inspector Byrnes says he has verified all the statements in this horrible story, but he is mute on the question of bigamy. He says, however, that when Eva and “Josh” were at Elmira last year her brother was arrested for larceny at Towanda, Penn., and they went there to try and release him. They testified at his trial, and swore that they were man and wife.

Dr. Gilbert has made a statement to the effect that when he attended child number two both Eva and Mrs. Swinton urged him to do his utmost to save it, and Mrs. Swinton said a large moneyed estate depended on its life, and it would be worth $100,000 to Eva if it lived. Inspector Byrnes can produce the mother and midwife for every one of the four children, and he states that Robert Ray Hamilton has done with “the gang” and will let the law take its course, but does not hint what his future attitude toward Eva will be.

Mrs. Swinton was allowed to leave Police Headquarters yesterday afternoon with two detectives to go for letters and transact private business. She was recorded as a dressmaker and “Josh” is put down as a salesman. It is probable that they will give little trouble to the courts by pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy and substituting children.

Mr. Charles A. Peabody, Jr., the lawyer who represents Mr. Hamilton’s interests, as well as being one of his best friends, was seen last night at his home, 13 Park-avenue. Mr. Peabody did not wish to talk about the case, but intimated that the action against Joshua J. Mann and Mrs. Swinton was largely owing to Mr. Hamilton’s friends. The former were arrested, he said, for having formed a conspiracy against Mr. Hamilton. When asked what Mr. Hamilton’s intentions were in regard to the adventurers now in May’s Landing jail, Mr. Peabody said he did not know, and if he did, would not feel at liberty to say.

Mr. Hamilton slept last night at Mr. Peabody’s house. To the pedestrian passing by the residence gave the appearance of being closed for the warm season. The Summer doors were still up and the front was well darkened. Undoubtedly Mr. Hamilton has been spurred up to take decisive steps against the two conspirators by his friends in the city, who feel that his infatuation for the so-called Mrs. Hamilton made him blind to the little scheme that was being worked to get possession of his property, and that they finally succeeded in persuading him to fight the thing through and appear as the complaining witness against Mann and Mrs. Swinton.

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Atlantic City, N.J., Sept. 3 — Mrs. Hamilton was made happy to-day in her prison at May’s Landing by having the baby, Beatrice, brought to her. Mrs. Rupp of the Noll cottage, accompanied by S.E. Perry, took the little one over to May’s Landing. Mrs. Hamilton evidently anticipated their arrival and spent fully an hour at the barred window looking anxiously toward the station. She manifested great joy when she pressed her child in her arms and kissed it rapturously. She had also a warm greeting for Mrs. Rupp and made eager inquiries about the wounded nurse’s condition. Mrs. Rupp brought the baby back to Atlantic City to-night.

It was learned to-night that Mrs. Hamilton’s physician has expressed considerable alarm at her nervous condition. She daily becomes more irritable and has fits of melancholy, and he is of the opinion that she will soon succumb to nervous prostration and be confined to her bed.

The wounded nurse, Mary Donnelly, was found at the Noll cottage at 11 o’clock to-night. She was averse to talking at first, but when she was informed that Mrs. Swinton and Joshua Mann were in the custody of Inspector Byrnes at New York, she said:

“They went there, did they? It is about time that their schemes were nipped.”

The baby, Beatrice, she said, had been represented to her as the offspring of Mrs. Hamilton. She was engaged as wet nurse when the child was but three months old, and went to California in that capacity.

On one occasion she admitted she heard Mrs. Hamilton say to a friend from Passaic that the child was not hers. As far as Mrs. Donnelly knew, the child Beatrice might be Mrs. Hamilton’s, but she felt “purty certain” that Robert Ray Hamilton was not its father.




David Blixt is an author, actor, and fight director based in Chicago, where he’s allowed to co-exist with an awesome woman and a pair of really cool kids. His new book, WHAT GIRLS ARE GOOD FOR: A Novel of Nellie Bly, is available now on Amazon Kindle and print. Follow David on Twitter @David_Blixt, on Facebook here, and on his website at Sign up for David’s Mailing List here and get free books and more!

Actor. Author. Father. Husband. In reverse order. Latest novel: WHAT GIRLS ARE GOOD FOR.

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