Remembrances, artifacts of Florence Chandler Maybrick sought
The New Milford Historical Society is working with local author and Ron J. Suresha, town historical properties commission chairman, to research and locate numerous items.
Local historical sources in or from Gaylordsville and South Kent with personal or family memories of a lady who lived here in the 1920s and 1930s, known initially as the mysterious "Mrs Florence Chandler" and later as the anonymous, reclusive "Cat Woman of Kent [or Gaylordsville]” are sought.
Photographs of Chandler and her house during her Connecticut years (provide photographer credit) and missing artifacts from Chandler's home, including these items specifically mentioned in newspapers, magazines, and books of the time are sought: a scrapbook with clippings about trial, a small picture of her beloved Father Mayo, a white lace nightgown, a picture of young girl with curls, stacks of newspapers, a number of yellowed clippings, a photograph album, some scrapbooks, two rosaries, a Bible with a paper prescription insert and an address book.
A few neighbors discovered Chandler but kept her secret until she died.
In 1889 Liverpool, a Mobile, Ala., belle, Chandler Maybrick became one of the most famous women in the world, when she was unjustly accused, wrongfully convicted, and sentenced to death for the crime of poisoning her British husband, James Maybrick, a wealthy cotton merchant 30 years her senior.
The uproar by the public at the injustice on both sides of the Atlantic forced the Victorian court to commute her sentence to life imprisonment, and she served 15 years hard labor before her release in 1904.
She returned to the U.S., wrote a book, and lectured on prison reform, always declaring her innocence.
Poor health prevented her from keeping up with the lecture circuit. After her resources and public interest in her case dwindled, she arrived in Connecticut around 1917 for a possible job as housekeeper, identifying herself only by her maiden name, Florence Chandler.
She managed to have built a 20 x 10 cottage with a 6-foot porch on Old Stone Road, just south of the New Milford/Kent town line for nearly 24 years.
She befriended the nurse, staff, and students at South Kent School and regularly visited its campus.
As her health declined, she became dependent on neighbors and various other benefactors for financial support. The boys at South Kent School often brought her food, firewood, milk, and cat food for her many “children of the mountain.”
When she died in her bed in 1941, she was buried beside her friends at the small graveyard adjoining the South Kent School chapel
A wooden cross stood at her grave for a time was eventually replaced by a small stone marker, inscribed simply: F E C M / 1917 - 1941.
Suresha may be reached through the historical society by calling 860-354-3069.