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A Case of Abortion?
Ellen Amila Reser
The following information and story came from:
A special thanks to Diana (Shedden) Peppersack
for tracing down most of this information.
Ellen Amila Reser was born January 2, 1853 in Plato Center, Illinois, the daughter of Anthony and Phylecta (Soule) Reser.
She came west to Marshall County, Kansas with the rest of the Resers and Sheddens in the fall of 1870. Ellen was about 17 years old at the time.
Ellen married Thomas D. McCampbell May 8, 1872. Although the place of their marriage has not been established, they were probably married on her father's and mother's farm in Reserville, Kansas or at least in Reserville. On their license she gave her age as 22 not 19 and Thomas gave his age as 24 not 25. They obtained their license April 22, 1872 in Marysville, Kansas, 16 days before they were married.
Thomas D. McCampbell was born October 1846 in Jerome Township of Union County, Ohio, the son of William and Grace McKee (Beard) McCampbell.
In 1869 the William McCampbell's family came from the Dutch Creek Township of Washington County, Iowa (that is where they were counted in the 1860 census) and probably later Keokuk County, Iowa. They settled in Vermillion Township of Marshall County, Kansas.
Before coming to Kansas, Thomas had enlisted in Company H, 47th Regiment, Iowa Infantry May 14, 1864. He was one of 992 soldiers that served with the Iowa volunteers in Helena, Arkansas and eastern Arkansas. They were mustered out in Davenport, Iowa, September 28, 1864 after serving 100 days. He was 18 years old at the time.
According to the 1870 census for Kansas, Thomas was living with his parents near Barrett, Marshall County, Kansas. He was listed as being 22 years old with pathfinder listed as his occupation.
After their marriage, Thomas and Ellen (Reser) McCampbell resided about seven miles southwest of Barrett's Mills in Marshall County which may have been close or even in Reserville, Kansas.
Now the story:
On Sunday, July 14, 1872, Thomas McCampbell took his young wife to Centralia, Kansas which was in Nemaha County. He placed her in the care of Dr. John S. Hidden. In those days the small towns normally did not have hospitals per se. The patients from out of town would normally stay at the doctor's office or at some residence in the area. It was stated that she was in apparent good health.
Nowhere did it state why Thomas had taken his wife to Dr. Hidden and left her there in his care? or why Centralia? - and not Frankfort? or Blue Rapids? which were much closer. (Centralia is located about 16 miles due east of Frankfort, Kansas).
Ellen Amila (Reser) McCampbell died there in Centralia on Tuesday, July 16, 1872, only 19 years old. Ellen and Thomas had only been married about 68 days
Thomas McCampbell did not see his young wife until the next day, Wednesday, July 17, after she had died.
The post mortem examination was under the direction of John Frazier, the Marshall County coroner. In the company of Doctor Hidden, Thomas took her body to the Elliott Strong residence which was about two miles east of Frankfort, Kansas. Elliott was the husband of Catherine (McCampbell) Elliott who was the younger sister of Thomas McCampbell. From there they took the remains to Frankfort for examination. The physicians who made the examination and testified at the hearing were the following:
The other doctors at the hearing testified to the effect that there were no signs of any treatment for ulcers and that her death was caused by an abortion performed by Dr. Hidden.
Neither the testimony of Thomas McCampbell or her father, Anthony Reser, showed whether the deceased was with child or not, although Anthony Reser signed an affidavit on July 20, 1872 claiming that John S. Hidden killed his daughter, Ellen (Reser) McCampbell, in performing an abortion or miscarriage. To my knowledge this is the only paper showing Anthony Reser's signature.
The post mortem hearing established reasonable grounds that Dr. John S. Hidden did kill Ellen McCampbell on July 16, 1872, while performing an abortion. A warrant was sworn out for his arrest on July 20, 1872.
Dr. Hidden told reporters that two of the physicians who made the examinations are his bitter and unrelenting enemies. That they were worthless quacks and envious of his success and have endeavored with all sorts of low cunning to undermine his reputation and practice.
Dr. Hidden had gone to Marysville with his attorney, Mr. Edgar, for the purpose of taking the necessary steps to have another post mortem examination made by more skilled medical men that were not tainted with prejudice in the case. He was arrested there and put in jail. He posted a $5,000 bond and released until his case came before the District Court.
There was a great deal of excitement in the area caused by the case and when Dr. Hidden called some of the doctors doing the post mortem "quacks", these doctors demanded that their professional standing be fairly stated.
The August 22, 1872 issue of the Blue Rapids Times provided a summary of two of the doctors' lives:
The District Court set a date of October 23, 1872, to hear the case in Seneca, Nemaha County, Kansas. This was the county in which the murder took place and where Dr. Hidden lived and practiced, which probably didn't hurt his case. There was to be a Grand Jury.
The following subpoenas were issued:
There was no clear statement of the outcome of the case or what actually transpired during the trial from the District Court records or newspapers. The only record came from the November 1, 1872 issue of the Seneca Courier newspaper which read:
From several members of the Grand Jury, we learn that in the case of Dr. J.S. Hidden there was a unanimous vote of innocence on the Doctor's part in the charge of abortion for which he was held.
The last write up in the December 6, 1872 issue of the Seneca Courier newspaper really didn't clear the matter up as it stated as follows:
One strong fact in the Doctor's favor was that he was cleared on the sole testimony of the prosecution - - the defense not having been permitted to have a hearing before the Grand Jury at all. With an acquittal under such circumstances the doctor may well feel proud. No one acquainted with him believed Dr. Hidden guilty in the first place, and his enemies are now compelled to acknowledge that this case clearly proves him innocent in a professional point of view.
Probably the main reason he was acquitted was his biography, that follows:
The present town of Centralia has a park named "Hidden Park" named after Dr. Hidden.
Ellen (Reser) McCampell was buried in the Reserville Cemetery which is located south of the Marshall County line in Pottawatomie County. Her name is also listed on the Reser monument in the Udina Cemetery in Kane County, Illinois where Anthony Reser and Phylecta (Soule) Reser were buried.
Thomas McCampbell then married Mattie R. (Simantha) Harris December 16, 1873 in Keokuk County, Iowa. Mattie was born in June of 1856 in Ohio. At the time Thomas was 27 years old while Mattie was only 17 years old. They were the parents of one daughter:
It appears that the Thomas McCampbell family came back to Kansas before 1880 as he appears in the 1880 census of the Vermillion Township of Marshall County as a border with Daniel Dhiel but his wife and daughter, Grace, were listed as living as a border in the home of Andrew Bolby. Living in the same rooming house with Thomas McCampbell was an Albert Harris which may have been Mattie's brother, Alva Harris. No occupations were listed for any of them. They may have just came to the area and had not had time to find suitable housing.
An ad appears in the February 12, 1886 issue of the Frankfort Bee that Thomas McCampbell was proprietor of City Bakery, a restaurant and confectionery.
The 1885 census for the area listed Thomas as an insurance agent living with his wife, Mattie, and their daughter, Gracie. Her brother, Alva, was also living with them as was a George Wood, a 77-year-old gentleman.
The 1900 census listed Thomas as being a carpenter. Living with him and his wife was Alva Harris, the brother of Mattie. Alva was born in October of 1853 in Ohio. The 1900 census indicated Thomas and Mattie McCampbell were married 25 years and that she was the mother of one child. Their daughter, Gracie, was not living with them but was still living.
By 1910 all three had moved to Kansas City, Missouri where the two men were listed as being carpenters. It appears that they were living at 2505 E. 24th Street.
After the death of his wife, Ellen (Reser) McCampbell, Thomas had a varied life -- pathfinder, (unknown in Iowa), proprietor of a bakery and restaurant, insurance agent, and carpenter.
No other record has been found about Thomas McCampbell after 1910.
The write up of this case leaves more questions that need to be answered but probably never will be: