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The Murder of Eliza Ann Ferguson

by Barbara Rimkunas

This "Historically Speaking" column was published in the Exeter News-Letter on Friday, August 17, 2018.

Eliza Ann Ferguson deserved better. Born with the aristocratic name of Eliza Ann Frothingham in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, she was said to be “well educated and moved in a good circle in society” by the Portsmouth Journal. In 1827, when nearly an old maid of 30, she married a journeyman hatter by the name of Bradbury Ferguson. He was a few years younger than she, and may have believed they were the same age. In the spring of 1840, he listed her age, and his own, as “under 40” on the U.S. Census. They were living in Exeter by that time, with their six children.

All was not well in the household. We know from later testimony that Ferguson and his wife quarreled loudly. Ira Hoitt testified that when the family lived on Main Street near the Merrill hat factory, across the street from his house, he often heard Ferguson “abusing his wife – calling her bad nam…

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