January 1870, Benjamin Carleton, age 44, a man who had boarded with Mrs. Bickford for about a month 4 years prior returned to town after having been in South Grover since leaving. [He most likely boarded in the same house, not her room.] Upon his return he secured boarding almost opposite Mrs. Bickford on Franklin St. near John St. with Mr. William Osborn [actually Osgood according to the
1870 census]. He cared for Mrs. Bickford quite a lot, attempted to court her many times since February, and attended a few spiritual meetings with her. He even proposed marriage at some point, but Mrs. Bickford apparently was not interested for a few reasons. Benjamin Carleton was already a married man and despite his plan to get divorced, he admittedly liked the drink and she did not like that. The actual nature of the relationship beyond this isn’t especially clear. It seems he would visit & leave by 11 pm. Nothing seems to indicate they were ever really upset with each other at any point even when she asked that he not call on her so much, and told him he should go back to his wife. He disagreed but said nothing further to her about his wife.
Mr. Carelton recalled last winter she spoke about being scared as someone came to her door and then went around to the window. She couldn’t see who it was. He had told her it was probably someone who was drunk and wanted to stow himself away. About the middle of August Mrs. Bickford had told Mrs. Morrison a man came in the evening when the house was dark, and all the doors and windows fastened, and tried to get in. Shortly after that incident Mrs. Bickford opened the door to call for Clarence who had been playing outside and saw the man leave the yard. Clarence apparently also saw the man and said he looked as though he was disguised, possibly in black. Mrs. Morrison and Mrs. Bickford had talked of it quite often since, wondering what it meant, and as recently as two weeks prior Celia was growing concerned that somebody would come there injuring her and her child. Mrs. Morrison, also indicatted Clarence would not stay in the house alone and was afraid someone was planning to hurt them. This is said to have prompted Mrs. Bickford to ask her brother-in-law, Mr Shepard, about helping her build a small house to live in Lowell and secure her son an apprenticeship.
Meanwhile..... regarding the administration of his grandfather’s estate, Clarence’s Aunt Eliza had written a letter to the judge:
Campton, July 5th/70
finding meself lacking in judgement & knowledge sufficient for quiet repose, I thought it mint not be amiss for me to approach the judge with my desires. I sopose you are continualy impostuned by such a subject as myself, we find ourselves here dependent on the higher and if you should ever[?] lack I hope the judge of all the Earth will abundantly suply you out of His feelings. I wish to no if an estate renders insolvent is not to be settled up in one year? I cannot get any different answer from anyone as yet – it is jenerly soposed to be, or they don’t see
how he can get an extension, but the year of Joseph Bickford deceased, Estate – of whom Daniel W. Bickford is Administrator, is drawing to a close, before the sale – He spoke of getin an extension which I hope an pray he may not – for it is as much uncalled for as it was for him to come from Mass State to administer on this Estate – what circumstances he rended to you to make it seem nesecary I cannot conceive but his motives were strong an unjust. His account was over seven hundred – which he looked closely after – also the account of Geo. A. Griffin an wife – He got Mr Burrows to agust an alow but he did not dare to trust him with all the instructions. He
could impart but to make it appear that our time and labors was of but little amount He brot up from Lowell a [???] an several interested persons--- rather than to go in to a disgraceful quarrel we gave them most half of our bill – we ofered them twelve hundred over & above the apraisal, pay all bills – which we did , erect a good monument, which we did - and the property was verbally promised to be ours by Daniel after he got apointed (unlawfuly) administrator. But after he got back to Lowell & Mr Goward the author of all & to our woes, the brother in law whom I mention to you-- as not wanting the Grand Children to come in as heirs – he is the gent that
stoped the trade [I?] with brother and us and he is the man whoom Daniel has under pecular circumstances deeded this farm to, the farm has not bin advertised as it should have bin a few hand bills stuck up in Plymouth --and soon taken down as one mint juge, for no one had seen the advertisement not even Blais or Leverett, this is brothers own statements. He came up too days before the sale to show the premises an state the conditions of the sale, forgot that we were here and could with pleasure showed the premises to anyone, but he did not forget to take some hand bills along with him in case they should be needed which was
we wished the sale to be in July or the first of August when our bridge would be finished NY to Boston bourders here but no – as the gatherin was so small we tried to have them ajourn, but no, Mr Moody Merill[son?} formerly of Campton was up on a visit from Boston and would started the sale for 25 hundred if they would put the farm all up together, he would pay rite on the spot every dollar, Daniel asked of you permit to sell the whole farm & no one objected for one I was pleased but only to be disapointed – He came up an [???] it out in to four or five lots but sold it in three besides a mill priviledge seized 50 dollars [?] Daniel bid it off for ten of the whole brot only 12 hundred and 84 dollars - five hundred
sixteen less then me messier would have given an paid every dolar down – I think an Administrator has great advantage if they are allowed to cut up a Farm so that no one knows how to bid on it but themselves – which brother did but could not deed it to himself an so he deeded it all too Francis Goward of Lowell the next Thursday after the sale-- not withstanding there was a deed made out to [?????] in Burrows office which he was to take on Saturday – witness by Frank Goward, Husband told him an John Clark that they would not get it, told them how they served him paid for the farm once bought and partly paid the second time, did not get it , did not believe he would – He went for his deed but Burrows would as could not let him have it.
Brother Albert from Concord was here yesterday – said Daniel told him that there would not be over fifty dolars a piece for the heirs – that is taken four hundred dollars for settling the estate (rather strong) as we were on the premise we offered to do it for nothing – four hundred to be paid out to the heirs – we offered 12 hundred and take the place to get our pay out of – but no – we must throw off our bill 15 hundred an Frank Goward and Daniel must work this farm into there hands and leave only four hundred for the heirs. is there any remedy has Daniel advertised when he is to [surrender?]
his account to you) will you please inform and obige me.
Mrs Geo A. Griffin
Tracing the hours just before the violence......
Mrs. Hannah Noyes, a friend and co-worker of Mrs. Bickford’s reported that Mrs. Bickford had heard noises outside her home again just a day or two before the murder. Mrs. Noyes had told her it didn’t seem safe for her to remain there and Mrs. Bickford told her she would only be there a few more nights & would have another place in days. Mrs. Noyes, states that this was the only time she ever saw Mrs. Bickford rather gloomy. No doubt, Mrs. Bickford’s fear was likely increasing, but by all accounts she was happily anticipating their future.
It is said within a day before the murder Mrs. Bickford received a letter from Mrs. Goward, perhaps by hand delivery as the newspapers report her name was not on the letter list at the post office. Mrs. Morrison saw the letter, but did not read it. Upon receiving this, Mrs. Bickford began preparing for a trip to Lowell and then apparently on to Campton to see about the inheritance her son was to receive, originally expected to be quite a large sum of a few hundred which she planned to put in the bank for him.
She made arrangements with her employer Mr. Charles Stimpson on the morning before the violent event to have her place filled for a few days. Mr. Stimpson states Mrs. Bickford told him someone was around her house the night before trying the windows and door, and swearing because he couldn’t get in. Mr Stimpson states he never saw the least appearance of insanity about her.
Mrs. Bickford also made arrangements for Clarence to stay with the Dean Family by visiting the house of Mr Dean Friday afternoon. It is said she appeared cheerful and happy, making arrangements for three days absence to visit her sister, Mrs John Shepard, at Lowell.
Friday afternoon, just after 2pm, she also went to the bank to gain some money for her trip. Mr. A. B. Jaques, Treasurer of the Savings Bank, testified he told her she could not withdraw funds at that time because the books were closed for dividends. She said she was going out of town and wanted some money for the trip. She seemed earnest about it and after a while he allowed her to withdraw 52.00. She signed an order and left her book, possibly saying she would return the money. He reports she appeared as usual. Her bank account had first been opened in June 1869 with a deposit of 300.00, and at the time about 150 & interest remained.
That evening Mrs. Bickford had two of the Dean daughters over ages 14 & 12. About 8 o’clock, before they went out, Mrs Bickford told her son Clarence to go to bed and she would lock the door. The girls say the back window was up when they were there. Lottie Dean, one of the two daughters of Mr. Dean, said she heard Mrs Bickford lock the door when she left there at half past 8 o’clock, by placing something such as a sled against it as though she was barring it. The door, it is said, did not have an actual lock. Mrs. Bickford routinely braced the door after dark and sat without light, admitting callers when they knocked.
Having arranged for them to be called on in the morning by the Deans, Mrs. Bickford went to bed placing her day clothes at the bottom of the bed & her bonnet at the head.
To be continued...check back next Thursday !
Amylynne (Baker) Murphy