This is the story of Hattie Blackburn Stone and the murder of her husband, 2 sons, and mother-in-law.
Thanks to Susan Fabian for sharing her family's story and doing all the great research you did! If you want to learn more about Susan, you can check out her profile on the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) website at https://www.apgen.org/users/susan-v-fabian
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Welcome back my criminal genies to the Criminal Genealogist Podcast. I hope you enjoyed episode one of this new season about Mike Globenfelt. After I recorded, I found more records for 2 of his brothers who also got in trouble with the law. What the heck was going on with that family?
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Alright, let’s get started! Today’s episode was sent to me by fellow genealogist Susan Fabian. You can follow her at…links in the show notes. https://www.apgen.org/users/susan-v-fabian
Susan is a FABULOUS researcher and made my job easy because she did all the work. I need more episodes like this one. This is about her great-great-grandmother’s brother John’s son Edward and his family. Yep, that is a mouthful so follow me for a minute to get this relationship visualized - I will put a quick tree in the show notes so you can actually see what I am saying.
Her 2xgreat grandmother was Julia Stone Von Hagel and Julia’s brother was John Henry Stone. John and his wife Mary Emma Johnson had a son named Edward Stone. Edward’s relationship to Susan is 1C3R. So Edward and Susan’s great-grandparent are 1st cousins and Susan is 3 generations removed. Our story today is about Edward and his family.
Edward Arthur Stone was born 3 Sept 1888 in Havre de Grace, Harford County, Maryland. He was the son of John Henry Stone and Mary Emma Johnson as I stated earlier. He had 5 known siblings, all sisters - 2 older sisters and 3 younger sisters. But something on the 1900 census caught my eye, the two older sisters (born in the same year so perhaps twins?) and his 2 youngest sisters (also possibly twins) are not on the census. It states that mom had 9 children but only 2 living. This broke my heart. Edward’s parents had been married for 20 years by 1900 and Edward was 11 at the time of the census and his younger sister was 9. The 4 other known sisters must have died prior to this census and 3 other children too. Already complete devastation for this family.
In the 1910 census, the only child at home with the parents was the same daughter from the 1900 census, May Stone and no further children had been born. Living next door was Edward with his wife Hattie and their 1 year old son Edgar.
Edward wed Harriet “Hattie” Virginia Blackburn on 1 May 1908 in Rising Sun, Cecil County, MD. Hattie was born February 1892 in Maryland, likely in Havre de Grace to parents John Blackburn and Margaret (LNU). John was a cemetery sexton, meaning he was in charge of the cemetery. Maryland counties did not start keeping birth records until 1898 so no birth record exists for Hattie's 1892 birth to know the exact date.
The couple had two sons, Edgar Ellsworth Stone was born 23 April 1909 and George S. Stone was born 26 January 1914, both in Havre de Grace. Edward’s father, John Henry Stone died 2 February 1919. In the 1920 census, his widow and Edward’s mom, Mary, was living with Edward, Hattie and sons.
(all deaths in Havre de Grace)
Some thought that Hattie was an unfortunate person to have her husband and sons all die within 2 years of each other and all of them had mysterious symptoms. But Edward's sister, Nellie "May" Stone Baker had suspicions and reported this to the police.
It was a tenant at the Stone home that found the arsenic hidden in a shed. Family members were disinterred and arsenic was found in their bodies. Records revealed that Hattie had taken out life insurance policies on family members and soon after, the person died. Evidence of gambling debts was one of the suggested reasons for this life insurance fraud. More investigation found that Hattie was keeping a boyfriend at a house down the street and they had plans to run away together.
Hattie was sentenced to prison and served from 1929 to at least 1940 where she was found in the census at the state prison. Thank goodness for newspaper reports about the tragedy and the trial because the court records for the county for the 1929 forward period no longer exist. Although prison records may exist, they must be followed from the time of incarceration. The prison records for 1929-1935 no longer exist, so although records after this date may survive, there is no way to find Hattie without the first record set (according to the Archivist at the Maryland State Archives)
According to those various newspaper articles, Hattie was sentenced to 18 years and was denied parole several times. If she served her full sentence, she would have been released in 1947. I did search through the census records for 1950 in the district where the prison was and did not find her listed as an inmate. Since the 1950 census has not been 100% indexed, Susan hasn’t been able to search for her since Hattie’s whereabouts at that time are unknown. And Susan read or heard a rumor that Hattie and a prison guard fell in love and when she was released, they married. She has never found any records as proof of this rumor but if she did get married and took off, who knows what name she would be under to find her. By then she would have been about 58 years old.
Hattie was convicted of 2nd-degree murder. She was adamant about her innocence throughout the trial and her requests for parole. I’d be curious what options were to convict her of and why 1st degree murder wasn’t an option. If she did this, then it was premeditated but perhaps in 1929/1930 this wasn’t the law yet. I’ll have to do some Maryland law review.
Going back to those newspaper articles - there were over 400 articles from 1930 to 1940. This was big news across the country. Earlier, I stated that Hattie had a boyfriend down the street. Some articles indicated that he was a lodger in their home, but no census records show any lodgers. It’s possible that he moved in after the husband died or rather was murdered but we don’t have a census record to verify that. This is one of the reasons that newspaper articles need to be verified and corroborated just like any evidence you find in your research.
Another conflict is the 1920 census that shows Mary Stone was divorced but she was widowed. There are no known divorce records and they are buried together so likely they were not divorced prior to his death in 1919.
The family is all buried at Angel Hill Cemetery in Havre de Grace, MD. There were rumors that Hattie was buried in the same cemetery in an unmarked grave, but no proof of that either. In fact, it’s not known when she died, where she was or where she was buried. The one person that I feel for the most is Edward’s sister, Nellie May Stone Baker. She lost 8 siblings, her parents, and her nephews all before she was 40 years of age. Mae appears to have had only one child, Emma Mary who was married and living with her parents on the 1950 census along with her husband. Emma was 39 and her husband was 37 and there were no children living with them. Mae and her husband both died in 1971 and Emma died in 1980; it’s unclear whether she had any children.
It’s times like this where I appreciate people like Susan who keep her family’s history alive because there is likely no one else to tell Edward’s story. Whether you are a family historian or a professional genealogist, thank you for doing what you do.
I hope to have an update about Hattie for a future follow up episode to find out what she did after prison. Luckily, she was too old to have had more children to do more harm. Well at least to her children. Until next time my criminal genies, remember records don’t lie but your ancestors might.