The New York World — Wednesday, August 28, 1889
She Smiled Upon Him for Money for Her Favorite to Spend.
HE SUPPLIED A WHOLE FAMILY.
A Young Nabob Who Essayed the Part of the Chevalier des Greux.
Partner in Love with “Josh” Mann.
The Tragedy at Atlantic City the Climax to a Long Career of a Reckless Village Beauty Who Came to the Metropolis to Ensnare Men of Wealth and Honor — Wonderful Infatuation of the Man Who Now Claims to Be the Husband of This Pretty “Manon Lescaut” — He Follows to the Cell Where She Awaits a Probable Charge of Murder.
It is the story of a beautiful, passionate, reckless, unscrupulous woman. It begins in the annals of a quiet neighborhood, borders upon the bagnio, revolves about a violent attachment wherein the want of money is the one source of discontent, and ends in the disgrace of the man of family, of reputation and of millions, who fell into the net spread for him. To tell all of its details would take one to the beginning of the nation, recalling honored names of the last century and a tragedy which startled New York when it was scarcely more than a village. There is embraced every trait of character. There is portrayed every human passion. There is proof that human nature does not change with the ages and that the way of the transgressor is hard now as ever. The forces long have been in operation which resulted in the tragedy at Atlantic City Monday.
“I can only say that I am astonished. Mr. Hamilton is the last person in the world I would have suspected of such an entanglement. That he should have yielded to it, as he seems to have done, appears incredible.”
So say the most intimate friends of Robert Ray Hamilton. He is a man of refinement — a cultured, studious man. He has not even enough of the manners of the man of the world to suggest the idea of his being a politician. His name and his fortune, together with his attainments, made him naturally a conspicuous figure in society; but he was not regarded as a “marrying” man nor as one who was reckless in his pursuit of pleasure. He was, even to his intimates, socially a quiet bachelor and an honor alike to the name he bore and the district he represented for eight years in the State Assembly. There is no other explanation than the weakness of human nature for his relation to the scandal of the day which brings him in an hour to appear the wreck of his former self.
II. EVA PARSON’S DAGGER.
Just around a corner, only three or four blocks from the Marshall Flats, where Robert Ray Hamilton last resided in this city, is the shop of a tradesman who has more than once trembled before the dagger of “Eva Parsons.”
“I am married now,” he said yesterday to a World reporter, “and in telling you that I know of the woman in this case I do so in the belief that I am not to be reinvolved with people and places I only knew as a young man too careless to appreciate the penalty. Ten or eleven years ago a man was shot in Waverly, N.Y. It was a lover’s quarrel and the woman’s name was Eva Parsons. Somehow she escaped punishment for her deed and a few months later I met her in Elmira, where I resided. She was a most attractive woman, but already lost to regard for reputation. She had taken the name of a man with whom she had lived in her native town, a small place in Pennsylvania near the New York line, the name of which I have forgotten. I was clerk in a store at a small salary and was without the means to take her from her surroundings and give her such an establishment as I should have been glad to give her. So I left Elmira and came here. She followed me. We lived together in this city and it was on account of my infatuation for her and her pursuit of me that I lost two good situations. Finally I managed to get into business for myself and we lived a year or so very tranquilly.”
Here the tradesman paused and gave a little shudder as though he had called to mind some incident of his life with Eva Parsons that was not so happy.
“What happened then? The dagger?”
“That’s it exactly — the dagger. Somewhat literally and a good deal figuratively. The first time we quarreled seriously I found that her temper was terrific and her profanity something indescribable. I stood my ground in spite of her profanity, but when she whipped out a bright little dagger and jabbed at me with even more energy than she had put into her oaths I beat a retreat. I made up my mind it was time to get clear of the woman. I left her and discovered soon after that my immediate successor was ‘Dotty’ — Joshua Mann.”
“There is some mystery about the manner in which she fell in with her supreme affinity. You didn’t bring forward ‘Dotty’ to occupy the vacuum which you were about to create, did you?”
“No, I did not. She left me to lead a reckless life with a Mme. Fairfax and in other places. I cannot say where she met Mann.”
“Were you every troubled by her afterwards?” the reporter asked.
“Yes. I had to appeal to the police for protection. One day I got desperate and called in Capt. Williams. He had a conversation with her and I haven’t seen her since.”
III. THE FAMILY OF “DOTTY.”
“I have known for some time of the Swintons, who were so intimate with Robert Ray Hamilton and the woman who is said to be his wife,” said a gentleman yesterday to a reporter of The World, “and it was at Mrs. Swinton’s that I first saw Eva Hamilton, or, as she was then known, Eva Mann.
“Mrs. Anna T. Swinton, who is now a woman over sixty, was living at the time, about four years ago, in Waverley Place. Her maiden name was Dryden, and she came of a good family in Baltimore, where her father was known as Major Joshua Dryden. He got his title, I think, from being a chaplain in the army during the war of 1812. Mrs. Swinton was married three times — first to a Dr. Kyrie, by whom she had one daughter, now an actress. Upon Kyrie’s death she married a Mr. Mann, a member of Julian’s Band, which was a famous organization in this city forty years ago. But this marriage she had a son, Joshua, who now figures in the affair at Atlantic City. Mann died and then she was married to Frederick Swinton, who was connected with the office of the State Printer at Albany. Mrs. Mann became Swinton’s housekeeper and in time he married her. After living some time in Albany the couple moved to Philadelphia, where Swinton committed suicide — for what reason I cannot say, though I know he was a man of intemperate habits, and he probably ended his life while in his cups.
“When old Major Dryden died he left some property to his daughter, Mrs. Swinton, which she soon squandered. When I first met her she was making dresses for a living, at the same time pushing a claim she had in court against the Swinton estate on Staten Island, a claim which her late husband had left. At Mrs. Swinton’s I first met Eva, known to some in the house as Eva Brill, though others spoke of her as Eva Mann, the wife of Joshua Mann, the son by the second husband. Joshua was known as “Dotty.” I have tried often to learn something of Eva’s early life, but always without success, as she kept her early history to herself. I was given to understand, however, that her home had been somewhere near Port Jervis, N.Y., and ‘Dotty,’ who had once visited that part of the State, spoke of the kind treatment he had received from Eva’s father and mother.
“All during that time Eva was known as Dotty’s wife. They did not live in the Waverley place house, but somewhere uptown, Eva living in one place and ‘Dotty’ in another. Eva claimed that she had been married to ‘Dotty,’ though the young man’s mother doubted it. Whether they were married or not, Eva seemed to hold something over his head. However, they had the appearance of being man and wife. ‘Dotty’ had been a salesman in a Philadelphia woollen-goods house, but Eva made him give it up, and ever after she kept him well supplied with money. Eva also gave money to Mrs. Swinton, but she made the old lady pay it back by making dresses for her.”
“Where did Joshua, or ‘Dotty,’ as you call him, first meet Eva?” asked the reporter.
“I think they met in Philadelphia, and they came to this city to rooms on the west side, where they began housekeeping,” was the reply.
“Though I never met Robert Ray Hamilton,” continued the reporter’s informant, “I knew from the date of my first meeting with Mrs. Swinton, ‘Josh’ and Eva that he was supporting the young woman. He lived uptown, and I was told that when he called upon Eva, ‘Dotty’ found it convenient to be absent. As long as Hamilton kept ‘Dotty’ supplied with money the other young man was content. Mrs. Swinton often told me of the infatuation that Hamilton had for the young woman, but when I told her how disgraceful the relations were between them she said she was afraid of Eva, and so was ‘Dotty.’ Eva seemed to know something about ‘Dotty,’ for she said one day that if he did not do as she wished him she would have him arrested.
“Once the family went to live in a flat in West Fifty-fifth street, Hamilton still supplying the funds. While they were living together there Mrs. Swinton’s daughter by her first husband had a quarrel with her husband, and she left him and went to live with Eva and ‘Dotty.’ In order to recover some valuables the husband claimed that his wife had taken, he had his wife and Eva brought before Police Justice Patterson, in the Yorkville Police Court. In the court-room the husband yelled out that “Eva was the mistress of Robert Ray Hamilton!” Judge Patterson at once committed him in default of $700 bail and, after keeping him in prison for three days, he was sent to the Island, where he was kept for four days, until released by friends. It was said at the time that Hamilton and Patterson, who are of the same political organization, had conspired to punish the husband for the charge he had made in court by sending him to the Island. Since that time I have never seen any of the parties.”
IV. THE RETREAT IN JERSEY.
The Mann crowd, as known to the people of Passaic, consisted of Joshua J. Mann, as he called himself; Evangeline E. Mann, Matilda Gurney, a Scotch servant, and William Cameron, the Scotch coachman. An examination before the Passaic Police Court brought their affairs into such notoriety that they were forced to leave the town. The examination occurred before Justice Norton June 23, 1887, when the coachman, Cameron, having been terribly beaten and kicked, making him a sorry sight, made a complaint against Joshua Mann for assault and battery. Against Evangeline Mann he preferred two charges — one for assault and battery and one for assault with a deadly weapon.
The Justice, after hearing Cameron’s story, sent a policeman in quest of the accused parties. The officer had a great deal of trouble in trying to persuade the woman to go with him, and he says that several times he thought his life would be pounded out of him. However, he succeeded in lodging her safely in the Justice’s Court. Upon hearing the charges read by the Justice she flew into a frantic rage and threatened to tear him to pieces unless he stopped the delivery of the same. The Justice says that in all his experience he has never seen such a human tigress.
The examination resulted in every step in bringing out damaging testimony. Cameron testified that he had been beaten in a most brutal manner by both Joshua and Evangeline. The subtle servant strove to screen her mistress and swore in direct contradiction of the coachman’s testimony, but enough was drawn from her to corroborate Cameron’s statement, and also to show what a very respectable gentleman in New York, who was a frequent visitor, kept up the establishment. It appeared also that Joshua man was not the husband or brother of Evangeline.
Joshua’s mother lived with them part of the time. From her it was gleaned that Joshua was no relative of Evangeline, but that he had been fascinated by her a long while ago, and in his blind devotion was a slave to her whims and fancies. The old lady also admitted that a gentleman of great wealth in New York supported Evangeline and paid her bills wherever she went. Evangeline lived in superb style at Passaic. She had horses, carriages and almost every evidence of wealth, her diamonds being the talk of the town.
The prisoners were released on bail, Henry Burger becoming their security. Shortly after their release Evangeline struck up an acquaintanceship with a rather handsome young man of Passaic, named Doll. The two for awhile were inseparable and spent money extravagantly. When the time came for the Grand Jury, at Paterson, to deal with Cameron, Mr. Doll accompanied Evangeline to the jury-room. She was a fine looking woman and must have made a good impression upon the Grand Jury, for the Cameron case was thrown out. Soon after Evangeline left Passaic and Doll, and never was seen there again.
The neat cottage occupied by the Manns in Passaic is said to have been rented by Robert Ray Hamilton, who, after the Police Court scandal, ordered the house to be closed. Before they returned to the city “Eva” and “Dotty” went sleighing one night, and when they came back “Dotty” was found to be badly bruised on one side of the head. “Eva” said that he had fallen out, but in this city it was believed that she beat him and threw him out. However, he was in a very bad way and Hamilton went to the cottage and attended his beside for weeks. After the Manns came to the city again they went to Europe for a short time.
V. WAS HAMILTON MARRIED?
Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 27. — Mrs. F.J. Swinton, at the request of The World correspondent, submitted to an interview this afternoon, in which she gives away the secret of the whole affair.
“I have been twice married,” she said. “My first husband’s name was Mann. I have two children — Joshua Mann, who has been connected with the affair by the published reports, and a daughter sixteen years old. I afterwards married Prof. Swinton, who was for many years and until his death the paleontologist of the Smithsonian Institution and the United States Geological Survey at Washington. He died in the Government service in 1875, leaving me in comfortable circumstances. Time took our little fortune away from us and I became housekeeper for one of the leading families in New York’s world of fashion on Fifth avenue. I left their service and went to live at №111 West Fifteenth street, depending for a livelihood upon my son and my dressmaking trade.
“It was while there, about four years ago, that I met Mrs. Hamilton, who was then Miss Evangeline Brill.
She was residing at a fashionable uptown boarding-house and was supported, she said, by her parents, who were very wealthy and resided at Passaic, N.J. My son undoubtedly was Miss Brill’s first and most devoted lover. I knew he was with her frequently, but whether their relations were more intimate than what I supposed they were, from what I saw myself, I cannot say. He was not the man to hold up his end against Hamilton, however, in a battle for a woman’s heart. Hamilton had both good looks, wealth, and influence behind him, and for his wealth, more than anything else, I suppose she married the man she did, although she has to-day the warmest feelings for my son.
“The first I knew of Hamilton’s marriage to Miss Brill was about four months before the birth of their child. She came to me one night and said:
“‘Pshaw, granny, there is no use keeping this from you any longer. We are married, and that’s the end of it.’
“Hamilton was a member of the Legislature up to May 15 last, and used to come down from Albany every Friday night and stay until Sunday with his wife. After the session adjourned he concluded to go West. His friends made too much sport of his marriage, and he concluded to put an end to it by getting away. They were disappointed in the climate of California and returned to Atlantic City eight weeks ago. They first registered at the Windsor and then at another big hotel, but did not like hotel life and went to the cottage where the affray occurred. During their absence from New York Mrs. Hamilton lost forty pounds of flesh, and when they came to Atlantic City they wrote me to come here from New York and take charge of her wardrobe and alter her garments to fit her. I came down two weeks ago with my son Joshua, and all of us have been on the most congenial terms since our arrival. We all went to the opera together Saturday night, which shows that Mr. Hamilton had nothing against my son. Sunday night a week ago Gen. Schuyler Hamilton visited his son and daughter-in-law in Atlantic City. He registered at the Chalfonte and left for home after having persuaded the couple to locate again in New York, where they were to go last Sunday. The day after the General left he sent his daughter-in-law a very affectionate letter, showing that neither she nor her husband had been cast off by the General’s family.”
Mr. Hamilton was seen by the correspondent in company with Lawyer Samuel E. Perry. He was under great mental stress, and was totally unnerved. Lawyer Perry had enjoined upon him not to say anything for publication, and when the correspondent accosted him he refused to talk.
“You have nothing to say, then, Mr. Hamilton?”
“It is reported that you are not the same Robert Ray Hamilton, of New York, who was for eight years a member of the New York Legislature from the Murray Hill district,” said the reporter.
“That is a base lie!” exclaimed Hamilton, who momentarily lost his head. “I am Robert Ray Hamilton, of New York, and did represent the Murray Hill district in the New York Assembly.”
Lawyer Perry then interfered.
“Let me alone,” was the answer. “I do not want to allow any chance of misrepresentation.”
Perry again expostulated. Then the correspondent asked: “Were you legitimately married to Mrs. Hamilton?”
“I was,” answered Hamilton.
“Have you received any dispatches from your New York friends?”
“I have, and they contain proof of my identity.”
VI. THE TRAGEDY AND THE TRIAL.
Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 27. — The trouble between Hamilton and the woman he calls his wife began at 3.30 Monday morning, at which hour both happened to awaken, when they began discussing their financial affairs. An expressman was due at 7 o’clock to remove their baggage preparatory to their going to New York. Hamilton had promised her $6,000 a year for pin money and to defray her expenses at home, he being in Albany for a great part of the time. This amount she has received in regular installments to the present time, but as she was more anxious to return to New York he suggested that if they located there and he remained home her endowment allowance would no longer be forthcoming. Quick tempered and passionate, she began to quarrel with him, and threatened to leave him forever. Hamilton was very stubborn and the battle began. After half an hour’s war, at 4 o’clock, the nurse appeared and endeavored to step between them, but was ordered to leave the room. She left and did not return for several hours. She went to the Verona and had Mrs. Swinton go over to the Noll and endeavor to pacify Hamilton.
At 7 o’clock an expressman came, but was ordered away by Hamilton. His wife then insisted on sending for Gen. Hamilton to settle the affair and have her allowance assured before he left. Mrs. Swinton pacified them finally, and left at 9 o’clock, at which time Mrs. Hamilton was sitting on her husband’s knee. They then began drinking whiskey punches, and soon were in each other’s hair. At 11.30 Mary Donnelly, the nurse, returned, and was upbraided by Mrs. Hamilton for having gone away and for leaving the child. A discussion ensued, and Mary was discharged. She then, in the presence of Mr. Hamilton, denounced Mrs. Hamilton as a woman of the town and said that she cared more for “Josh” Mann than for her husband, to whom she was unfaithful. The two women then indulged in a fistic encounter, in which Mrs. Hamilton received the worst of the battle, being cut on the cheek and having her left eye blackened by a blow. Mary was strong as a bull, and had the fight lasted much longer Mrs. Hamilton would have been beaten insensible. The latter was enraged, and, picking up the dirk, she plunged in into her assailant.
She said as she struck the nurse:
“You she-devil, you have abused me enough and you’ll never strike me again You are a drunken hound.”
The husband, hearing the noise, rushed into the room and jumped between the two. He was cut in the right leg and left arm in the tussle. The bleeding nurse ran downstairs and fell helpless on the sofa in the parlor.
The first witness called in the crowded courtroom was the husband of the woman in custody. On being examined by Justice Irving he testified under oath as follows:
“My name is Robert Ray Hamilton. I am a native of New York City, but for five months I have not been living there. I have no city address at present. I am a lawyer by profession and a member of the New York Bar. I am thirty-eight years of age. I am the husband of the prisoner at the bar.”
“How long have you been married to her?”
“That question I refuse to answer, by advice of my counsel.”
“Were you present when this assault occurred at the Noll cottage yesterday afternoon? If so, please state what you know about it.”
“I was present at the time the stabbing was done with a dagger in the hands of my wife. The victim, Mary Donnelly, has been employed by us as a nurse for the past eight months. She accompanied us to California and back, but was discharged by my wife at 9 o’clock yesterday morning, about three hours before the affair occurred. The reasons for her discharge I am advised by counsel to reserve for the present.”
“How long has Evangeline Hamilton been your wife?”
“That question I refuse to answer.”
“Have you any children?”
“One child eight months old, of which she is the mother.”
Samuel E. Perry, counsel for Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, then arose and said:
“I have no cross-examination to make, inasmuch as the defense to be set up by the two prisoners is a good one and should not be given away until the last moment. When the case is called for trial it will assume an entirely different phase, and the assault will prove to have been justified by the circumstances surrounding the case.”
William Biddle was next called and testified:
“I am an officer of the Police Department of Atlantic City. About noon yesterday I was called to №135 Tennessee avenue. On reaching the second floor I saw Mrs. Hamilton in her room. She seemed very much incensed and excited, and there was blood on her hand. The moment she saw me she threw up her right hand and in a tragic expression of countenance and attitude she said:
“‘I sent for you. I want that woman downstairs arrested. She is Mary Donnelly, and I will appear against her at the police station.’
“I went downstairs and into the back room, where this other woman was lying on a cat, her clothes covered with blood and her face pale as death. I sent for a physician, but before he arrived I asked her who had stabbed her. She yelled to me as if frantic with rage:
“‘You know who did it. It was that — — — — upstairs. I want her arrested, and if I live I’ll cut her stomach out. If I die she’ll hang for this.”
“I went back upstairs and found Mrs. Hamilton putting on an over-garment to cover her dress, which was stained with blood. I asked her if she did the cutting, and she said:
“‘I did it, and I’m sorry I didn’t finish her.’”
“Did she say why she wanted the nurse arrested?” asked the Court.
“Yes; she said that the girl was drunk and had been making trouble and was a dangerous character.”
Dr. Crosby, who has been attending Mary Donnelly, testified:
“About 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon I was summoned to dress the wounds of Mary Donnelly. The wound was rather deep and might have caused her death had it been an eighth of an inch deeper. As it is her condition is dangerous and decidedly critical. She might live a week, but her death in less than an hour would not surprise me.”
Mrs. Elizabeth Rupp was sworn and testified that she knew nothing of the people or the trouble further than hearsay. She helped to separate the two women with the assistance of Mr. Hamilton, but her knowledge of the case would justify no further testimony. She stated that Hamilton and his wife registered at her cottage about two weeks ago.
Sergt. Loder, of the Central Police Station, testified that Mrs. Hamilton admitted having dealt the blow when she was brought to the station-house. She said that she did it in self-defense, but regretted having done it.
Mrs. Hamilton was remanded to jail at May’s Landing without bail to await trial Sept. 10. Hamilton himself and Mrs. Rupp were placed under $600 bail each, to secure their attendance as witnesses.
VII. CARRIED TO A CELL.
Atlantic City, N.J., Aug. 27. — At 2 o’clock in the afternoon Constable Williams called out “Time’s up” through the bars of Mrs. Hamilton’s cell. The tearful prisoner sprang from her hard couch in a nervous tremor and piteously exclaimed:
“Oh, must I go to jail?”
Her husband, who was out on bail, had been devoted in his attention to her all morning, not leaving the cell-door even for an instant. A colored porter had brought her a valise filled with articles of apparel, and when she stepped from the cell she was arrayed in a striking costume, consisting of a natty white sailor hat, trimmed with dark-blue ribbon; a rich skirt of striped blue and white satin and a dark blue directoire coat. She leaned heavily on her husband’s arm and walked through the rear door of the police station, accompanied by Constables Williams and Pettit. When she reached the platform of the depot, she suddenly turned to her husband and impulsively embraced him.
“Good-by, Ray,” she sobbed, and he held her in his arms and wept bitterly.
It was not his intention to go with her to the jail, but his heart failed him and he hurriedly procured a ticket and joined her on the train. The constable allowed him to sit by her side and he put his arm around her neck and whispered in her ear.
“You know I told you before I left New York that if you did not discharge that nurse there would be murder committed,” she said, and then in a forgiving vein, “but don’t worry about me, Ray; they’ll not keep me in jail long.”
He husband then suggested that he had time to run over to the doctor’s office and learn the condition of the wounded woman, but the prisoner seized him by the sleeve and prevented him.
As the train began moving slowly from the depot Lawyer Perry and Mrs. Swinton, who were in the group, hurried from the cars. Hamilton and his wife were targets for the curious glances of the many passengers in the cars; but they were oblivious to all their surrounding, not even paying heed to the two constables. When they reached the portals of the county jail at May’s Landing and Sheriff Johnson conducted them along the gloomy corridor Mrs. Hamilton’s sobs were most distressing. She bid her husband an affectionate adieu at the cell-door and dropped heavily on the bench. She will have the best treatment possible while in jail and will be surrounded with all the luxuries which her husband can procure.
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 www.davidblixt.com. Sign up for David’s Mailing List here and get free books and more!