I finally was able to make some time to start plowing through the documents I received when another Bay Area genealogist gave (read: foisted off on) me a collection of materials (my "treasure chest") she had decided she was never going to be able to focus on. The collection, which had been donated to a local genealogical society, apparently was begun by a woman who thought that someone had been murdered for an inheritance, way back in 1919. There's no information on how she fell into the story to begin with, but she had done some research of her own to add to the original documents that were there.
The first thing I did was sort out all the documents to see who I'm dealing with. As I mentioned previously, it's apparent that these items have changed hands a few times. While I have made a note of how everything was grouped when I received it, there didn't seem to be much logic to it, and obviously related items were often nowhere near each other. I therefore created my own groupings based on the individuals involved. I've decided to work on one person at a time and go through the documents for each person in chronological order. I figure by the time I work my way through the entire package, we might have an idea of what actually happened!
I'm starting with Emma Schafer, as everything seems to revolve around her. The first document describes the beginning of her life. Unfortunately, the first page does not appear to be in evidence, but pages 2 and 3 have survived. The document is typed and the paper is at least somewhat aged, though I can't tell how old it is. The paper is some type of bond with no watermark. It was typed in triplicate, with the second and third copies being accomplished with carbon paper (does anyone besides me remember typing with that?). There is no indication of who typed it or when. My transcription follows:
She was hardly ever sent to school but kept at home were [sic] she had to work all day long. The poor, unlucky child became a little slave on her own property, a little unhappy drudge in the household. She received neither education nor instruction, went around in dirty rags and later, when other children were born to her mother, she had to take care of them instead of going to school. Three children were born to Curdt and his wife from the time of their marriage and 1883.
When little Emma Schafer arrived at between thirteen and fourteen years of age, LOUIS CURDT began to assault her whenever he could find her alone in the house, the outbuildings or in the fields, and went farther and farther, even to abuse and rape, using his superior strenght [sic] and his brutally satyric instincts. The child complained to her mother who would then take her to a friend's house, a Mrs. Kraemer, and leave her there for a while, but needing her to take care of the children, and believing in the protestations of her husband that hereafter he would behave, she would take her home again, not because of her love for her but to use her as a drudge, a servant. Thus Emma SCHAFER remained ignorant and uncultivated in the extreme.
It is during these times that Elizabeth Curdt, ably assisted by her husband, impressed upon the mind of little Emma, that one half of the property belonged to her,- the mother -, and that she has the use of the other half during her natural life. In this manner Emma was informed that she could not get anything of her father's estate until after the death of her mother.
From this time on, there existed a Conspiracy to defraud and despoil EMMA M. SCHAFER of her property.
During the night of October 31st and November 1st, 1883, LOUIS CURDT entered the bed-room of Emma Schafer and compelled her, by threats and physical and brutish force, to submit to his filthy contact. Emma called for help and her mother then called in a neighbor, a Mr. Becker, still living in Overland, Mo., who took EMMA to his house. The following morning he took her to Clayton to have a complaint entered against Curdt, who was arrested the same day and later released under bonds. From that time on until her marriage, which took place on the tenth day of November, that is only a few days after these happenings, Emma Schafer lived with the Kraemers, near Clayton.
Immediately after the arrest of CURDT, his friends, especially a saloon-keeper of Clayton, FORTIN, and others, tried to find the means to get EMMA out of the way, out of reach of the Court as a witness for the prosecution. They were lucky enough to meet a young alien, from Lorraine, then Germany, who consented to marry the young girl and to take her out of the country, to Lorraine, in Europe, out of reach of the Court. ELIZABETH CURDT paid all expenses and promised to help them to start a bakery business in Lorraine. Thus Elizabeth Curdt disclosed her partnership in the CONSPIRACY, and stuck to her criminal husband against her first child.
NOVEMBER TENTH, 1883, Marriage of EMMA M. SCHAFER and EMILE PETIT, of Lorraine, Europe, were made man and wife in the presence of witnesses and the mother of the bride, who had to be present on account of the age of the bride, SIXTEEN YEARS & ELEVEN MONTHS. The ceremony was performed by Judge Jeremiah RYAN, Justice of the Peace at CLAYTON, Mo..
During all these proceedings EMMA SCHAFER acted as an automaton, having nothing to say and nothing to do but obey her mother's wishes. For years she was trained to obey and never to complain. She was led before the Justice of the Peace as an inoffensive victiim would be led to the butcher-shop.
A few days later EMMA SCHAFER, now Mrs. PETIT, and her young husband were bundled up and sent to Europe, at Mrs. Elizabeth CURDT's expense, and this fine fellow Curdt was saved and the Penitentiary cheated out of a boarder and human justice baffled.
) Guardians and Curators shall make final settlement of their Guardian-
( ship or curatorship upon cessation of their authority, whether by......
( ........................................... or the marriage of female Wards; and for the
( purpose of such settlement, such Guardian or Curator shall make a just
( and true exhibit of the account between himself and his ward, and file
( the same in the Court having juristiction thereof, and cause a copy of
( such exhibit, together with a written notice stating the day on which
( and the Court in which he will make such a settlement, to be delivered to
( his ward, or in case of the MARRIAGE OF A FEMALE WARD, to the ward
( and her husband,.........................................................................................
N. B. Nothing has been done concerning the obligations above mentioned. There has been no settlement whatsoever from Guardian or Curator.
Well! How's that for an introduction to the situation? Because I have glanced through the other documents, I can hypothesize that the missing page 1 might discuss Emma's parents' marriage, her birth, the death of her father, the disposition of her father's property, and her mother's subsequent second marriage to Louis Curdt. Considering the final paragraph about guardians and curators, there might also have been mention of a guardianship. From where we come in, however, it's a rather lurid tale.
No documents pertaining to the court complaint were in the collection I was given, but theoretically it would be possible to obtain copies of them from St. Louis County (the location of Clayton) or possibly the Missouri State Archives—unless, of course, the CONSPIRACY mentioned above took the time to destroy all paperwork associated with the case so as to cleanse the reputation of Louis Curdt. I suppose that even if they had done that, court dockets should still show the complaint having been recorded. A situation such as this probably was in the newspaper, also. And there are several other individuals mentioned who could be researched to verify their existence in the area at the time. So even though the story seems as though it could be overly dramatized, it can probably be checked for accuracy against documentation from the period.
They say the first step is the hardest. More documents to come!