52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Shadows

Hiding in the shadows was an air of mystery…a murder mystery. She had managed to keep it all to herself, that is, until she was exposed for the cold-hearted woman she was. Caught, put on trial, sentenced to prison.

Her secret lay hidden in marriage certificates, census records, and other resources. A chance Goggle of an ancestor’s name lead to a modern newspaper article from Washington County, Missouri: 1872 Murder Begins in County. Oh my my, Rebecca Eldridge Freeland Eads Leven Howard Boultinghouse…what have you done? And how are you related to my 2nd great uncle Frank?

Miss Becky, as she was called, led a life of living with different men and calling them “husband”. In actuality, she was widowed to a Mr. Eads. When living with Mr. Joe Howard, she helped raise Mr. Eads’s children. One morning in 1872, one of his boys had gathered the eggs from the henhouse. Becky claimed that there should be more eggs. The child related that the dog had eaten three. Accusing the six year boy of lying, she slammed an axe handle across his head. He fell dead. There were two witnesses to the crime. One was a daughter whom Becky took by mule 40 miles away and left her to die in the woods so she could tell no one what she had witnessed. The child survived and was taken in by a farmer. The other witness, Joe Howard, who was her supposed husband was a criminal in himself. Becky made him her partner in crime as he was a horse thief. Together, they fled the area.

Miss Becky fled to St. Louis in 1875. An attractive woman, she lured Frank Boltinghouse, a brakeman for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, into her web. They began living together, and she was with child. Meanwhile, Joe Howard was arrested in another part of the state for horse stealing. When he began to write letters to Mrs. Rebecca Boltinghouse, the police suspected that she was actually Becky Eads. The murder of the boy by Becky had been revealed to the police. Now, the police intended to track her down.

A police detective in St. Louis tracked Miss Becky to the address where Joe had been sending letters. Arrested, she was jailed. Her boyfriend Frank Boltinghouse came to visit her, and together they cried about her misdeeds. It was decided that they would marry at jail. She officially and legally became Mrs. Boltinghouse.

Both Becky and Joe Howard were taken to Jefferson County where the murder actually happened. She was charged with murder, and he was charged with helping her conceal the body. It took two trials and two verdicts to find her guilty…guilty of second degree murder with a prison sentence of 10 years. In 1881, she began to serve her term in Goodspeed Prison. When released from prison, not much is known about Miss Becky. She died in 1900. Perhaps, she took some secrets to the shadow of her grave.

As for Joe Howard, he was later hung for horse stealing by an angry mob in Pacific, Missouri.

My 2nd great uncle Frank Boltinghouse went on to marry a law abiding woman and have a daughter. He died in 1919.

All of this is a mystery just a Goggle away! Convoluted, puzzling…how could a woman be so cruel and conniving!?

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