Roxalana Druse: The Forgotten Central New York Murder Case

On the morning of February 28, 1887, a crowd gathered in front of the Herkimer County Jail in Herkimer, New York to witness what would be Herkimer County’s first and only execution. The person scheduled to die by hanging that morning was Roxalana Druse, a forty-four year old woman charged with the first-degree murder of her husband, William Druse of the Town of Warren. The witnesses watched as Roxalana, escorted by her spiritual adviser, the Reverend Dr. George Powell, Sheriff Delavan Cook, and Undersheriff A.M. Rice walked to the gallows that were set up behind the jail.

Roxalana, or Roxy as she is known to local residents, originally hailed from Sangerfield who met her future husband, William Druse on a hop-picking trip. William, a farmer who was eighteen years her senior, married Roxy in 1864. They had two kids, a daughter named Mary and a son named George. Roxy later commented that the only time that her husband was considered a “decent man” was on their wedding day, for what followed after that was twenty years of abuse, pain, anguish and ultimately murder.

The Druse farm was located in the town of Warren near the town of Richfield Springs on the Herkimer/Otsego county line. This area had what was described as poor farmland. The family was in debt and not very highly thought of. William was reported to be an ill-tempered, abusive, eccentric and lazy individual whose ideas of “quality family time” included beating Roxy with a horsewhip; choking her; threatening to kill her; and chasing her with whatever object he could find as long as it could be used to kill someone.

On the morning of December 18, 1884, William Druse was reported to be yelling at Roxy for something and reportedly threatened her with an axe. She told the kids to get out quickly. Then a gunshot rang out. The kids next heard their mother call out to Frank Gates, who worked on the farm to shoot someone. He complied and finally the kids witnessed Roxy severing their father’s head with the same axe that he threatened her with.

What happened to the body next was and still is debated to this day. It was reported that Roxy attempted to burn the body in the parlor stove which emitted black smoke from the chimney which could be seen by neighbors in the surrounding areas. There was also an age-old myth that Roxy tried to feed her husband’s remains to the pigs outside but it was only a myth, for no testimony in her trial later on stated that there was any evidence that animals got a hold of the body.

For nearly three weeks as the holidays came and went, no one really noticed that anything was amiss at the Druse home. Roxy told curious neighbors that her husband was in New York City, until finally one of them found an axe in a mill pond just north of Richfield Springs. By the end of January 1885, the entire Druse family was in the county jail charged with first-degree murder.

Roxy’s trial began on September 24, 1885 and lasted only two weeks. Her defense attorney used the defense that Roxy killed her husband in self-defense, citing Roxy’s history of abuse at the hands of her husband. However, the prosecution’s case proved to be too strong and probably the evidence that condemned Roxy was the forensic evidence that included her husband’s bone fragments and a blood-stained floor board that was extracted from the house.

At midnight on October 3, Roxy Druse was convicted of first-degree murder and three days later was sentenced to hang. The original date of execution was set for November 25, but the appeals process put the execution on hold. Her daughter Mary pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison (only to be pardoned ten years later) and her son George was released into the custody of a legal guardian.

In addition to the appeals process, outcries from women’s rights groups and religious organizations across America helped to keep the execution on hold. The state legislature even debated about whether or not to pass a law that exempted women from facing the death penalty in capital murder cases. But in the end, the governor decided not to intervene and set Roxy’s execution date for February 28, 1887.

Finally on the proposed date, a mournful Roxy mounted the gallows that were imported to Herkimer from a nearby town as opposed to another myth that Roxy was in fact hung from a hook located in the back of the jail.

“Oh, dear!,” Roxy exclaimed sadly as the deputies put the black hood over her head.

After that, the trap door was sprung and Roxy fell through it. It took her fifteen minutes to strangle to death in what many would have called a “botched execution.” Towards the turn of the century, lawmakers debated about whether or not hanging was actually cruel and unusual punishment and looked for a more “humane” method of capital punishment. In many cases, Roxy’s execution more or less paved the way for the invention of the electric chair three years later.

While Roxy’s case may have been a landmark case mainly because it dealt with such issues as domestic violence, women’s rights and what constitutes as self-defense, the case was soon eclipsed in local and national popularity nearly twenty years later by Chester Gillette’s murder case in 1906. While Chester’s case went on to inspire the novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser as well as the 1951 film A Place in the Sun and an opera, Roxy’s case faded into local legend.

Advertisements

2010

Well, here it is, folks. Today is officially the first day of 2010. That means 2009 has officially bit the dust as well as the last decade where I basically came of age via relocation, getting involved in a community project, and a shift towards what I hope will be a new career.

I started the first two years of this past decade back in my old neighborhood of Tivoli where I had a job at Grand Union. Back then, that company was going bankrupt and were about to be taken over by the Stop and Shop grocery chain. At first I was uncertain as to whether or not all of the Grand Union employees would be picked up. In order to prepare for the worst, I ended up taking a side job at McDonald’s in Kingston. That didn’t work out as planned. I started there on New Year’s Day in 2001 and I only lasted about four weeks. They were bad as far as scheduling went. My last week there they had me scheduled for nine hours, which was not enough to get by.

Eventually, I didn’t have to worry about being laid off from Grand Union as Stop and Shop automatically retained all of the employees, including me. And so there I remained for about a year and a half until my family ended up relocating to Central New York, partly because of the rising costs of living down there and the amount of people that were moving up from the city after 9/11. After I moved out, it took me about a month before I got another job, which was as an overnight employee at Wal-Mart in Herkimer. And that’s where I’ve been ever since.

Not that my job took up what I’ve done during the previous decade. I moved around about a couple of times. A year after moving to the Mohawk Valley, I rented an apartment in Ilion for about a year before moving into my current house in Herkimer. And prior to moving to the area, my Internet activity was very limited to the public libraries, starting while I was still living in Tivoli and I mainly used it to stay up on the latest movies that were in development. It was a habit I later took up while I was in Ilion and when I first moved into Herkimer.

Then came my involvement in the Chester Gillette Centennial commemoration events. When I first heard about the case, I began researching the case and as a result, I created an email account and my life and career as Blackcatloner officially began. While I continued working on the case and participated in the centennial events, I began to respond to the call of the Internet as far as blogging and social networking went. Even then, I was still operating out of the public library and later at the library at HCCC for a little over a year. However it would be 2008 when my Internet career would really begin to take off.

By that year, I finally got Internet hookup at my house which meant that I can do more than just blog. I can also do videos. Very late in 2007, I became involved with YouTube and was starting to make videos at that time. I started with cat videos before doing live videos. I also added Twitter and Facebook to my online activities and before I knew it, I have found my true calling.

Anyway, as far as my outlook on this year goes, last year was basically spent soul searching in terms of both my career and my life. This year I’m hoping that this will be the year that everything finally comes together because I do deserve it.

Blackcatloner Forever


I’ve spent some time trying to come up with a story to mark the 100th blog on this site, “The Adventures of Blackcatloner” and I decided that I would salvage this story from my old blog site on the soon to be extinct Yahoo 360. This story answers the question in which how I came up with my prestigious and rather unique username, Blackcatloner. Well anyway here goes.

Prior to the fall of 2005, I had been surfing the web primarily to check out upcoming movies and other things. In 2005, when I became involved in the Gillette case, I asked the public library in Herkimer if I could set up an email address there because I did not have a computer or Internet access at that time. I decided to set up my email account with Yahoo because it was free to set up an email address. When it came time to select my Yahoo name, I was a little confused. I wanted something that was dark and mysterious mainly because of the fact that I am dark and mysterious. Then I remembered that one of my favorite groups was the 80’s band the Stray Cats. That mixed with the fact that I had two black cats and the fact that I have been a loner pretty much all of my life got the wheels set in motion. As soon as I knew it, I typed in “blackcatloner.” The reason I had to type it in as one word was the fact that email addresses could not be broken up into three separate words unless separated by an underscore.

At that time I was only creating an email address for a project but little did I realize that I was creating a whole new identity for myself. And the rest is history.

Then three months after opening my email address, I started my career as a blogger on Yahoo 360 with the site that was originally called “The World of Blackcatloner” but I later called it “Ultimate Blackcatloner.” While I was blogging, I became integrated into the whole Internet social networking scene which at that time included Myyearbook, Myspace and some other sites, and it’s led to some pretty wild and exciting adventures and of course chances are I posted them online. The more I blogged and integrated myself into the social networking scene the more my popularity increased. In time I would add making videos on YouTube and even furthering my adventures on Twitter to my resume.

I have no regrets about my time on the Internet. My time on the Internet has been a very pleasant one. As long as it continues to be fun, I will be around for a very long time. There’s still so many more adventures from my past, present and future to be had so I can post them up on either here, YouTube, or Twitter. Not bad for someone who is truly “one lone cat against a big bad world.”

And so ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. My 100th blog on this site is now officially in the books. I hope you had a great time reading it as I had writing it. It’s never the end. It’s only the beginning.

July

Blackcatloner goes Warhol, courtesy of Photobucket.

Wow. Where did the summer go? I pretty much missed the entire month of July as far as blogging goes. I’ve been really busy with quite a few things, such as my work on my book. I have been working on that at the Historical Society mainly on Saturdays since they are open on Saturdays during the summer. I have also been working on some ideas for YouTube videos because I haven’t posted any new videos on there in a little over a month. Don’t forget I am still new to the world of Internet video making, but I am starting to find my footing.

Of course, it’s not like I have been idle these last few weeks. For one thing, I finally tried my hand at BlogTV and it was almost a near disaster. Thankfully, towards the end I started to get the hang of it and I did end up with at least one new subscriber for my YouTube channel. I haven’t really been able to do another show, partly due to technical difficulties and the fact that both timing and the weather have not been on my side. That and the fact that I had to go out and buy another tripod. So hopefully, soon, I will be able to go back and do another show, probably in the next week or two.

On the first week that I was at the Historical Society during their summer hours, I decided to bring my camcorder along because I had to film a lecture that I was planning to put on my Chester and Grace site, but once I got it home and uploaded it to the computer, it didn’t come out. An hour of footage and all I got was a white screen. I tried to break it down with the Movie Maker but it was no good. In the end, I had to get rid of the whole thing.

Also in July on opening night as a matter of fact, I went to see “The Dark Knight” in Little Falls. It was really awesome and lived up to the hype as being the biggest film of the summer mainly because of Heath Ledger as the Joker. It has also done excellent box office. It broke the record set by “Spider-Man 3” the year before and now people are saying that it has a shot at dethroning “Titanic” as the biggest film of all time. That is quite an accomplishment for a “Batman” movie.

I got an extra day off from work last night. I had arranged to take a personal day off from work so I could go and see a play. However, I ended up not going because of the fact that the play I wanted to go see was actually in Utica. So I just took advantage of the day off, even though I have to go back tonight, and you know how I feel about.

So, that is pretty much it from my end. I know I have been away for a while, but I hope to have some more things up soon.

Let There Be Internet

Hello, everyone. I have just hit another big milestone in the road of life. The other day, I have finally got internet installed at my house. That means that soon I will be operating my whole Internet empire without having to leave the house every morning. Not that I won’t miss it, but I won’t have to worry about hiking up the hill to go to HCCC and I can operate Myspace without any problems, like a No-Myspace rule.

And the good times just keep on coming. I have also received as a belated birthday present from my sister and brother-in-law a new digital camcorder and it works really good. As soon as I am fully internet-ready, there’s a very strong possibility that I will be posting some real videos on there soon.

I didn’t do the Heart Run this year partly because the weather was bad and that something else came up, specifically another Gillette event. This time, it was in Barnes and Noble in New Hartford. It was my first time in there and it was really nice in there. I should probably go back sometime.

In closing, I sure have come a long way since November 2005 when I first set up my email address on Yahoo, therefore giving birth to Blackcatloner. Every day, it seems like I am making leaps and bounds in the technology department and like McDonald’s, “I’m lovin’ it!”