Ida Shaddock

Summary: Ida Shaddock, age 17, died March 31, 1891 after an an abortion believed to have been perpetrated by Dr. Samuel Hall of San Francisco.

A Mysterious Death IdaShaddock.jpg
On March 31, 1891, a sickly young woman boarded a train out of San Fransciso, aided by a dapper middle-aged man with enormous muttonchop whiskers. The man had accompanied the young woman on a ferry on the way to the depot.

Soon after boarding the train, the young woman fainted. During the trip she was looked after by a young man named Mr. Pietre. One passenger on the train indicated that the young woman was unresponsive and that her eyes were rolling wildly.

At Benicia, California, fellow passenger James Riley helped the young woman to leave the train and get into a carriage.

She died in the carriage just a few minutes later. Her body was taken directly to the morgue for examination.

Investigators found letters in her possession signed by locomotive fireman John “Jack” McCarville (sometimes identified as Jack M’Carville). The letters indicated a romantic attachment, but didn’t indicate any intimate involvement between McCarville and the woman, who was identified as 18-year-old Ida Shaddock of Colusa, California. The man who put her on the train was eventually identified as Dr. Samuel Hall.

Mr. Pietrie was questioned about the situation but was released when police concluded that he hadn’t been involved.

Cause of Death Dr. H. Janeway, who had been a passenger on the train, observed the autopsy on Ida’s body. The physicians found massive infection and damage from a sharp instrument used to perpetrate an abortion. The injuries were so extensive, and in such a location in her body, that Dr. Janeway and other physicians including Dr. Edward Gray said that it was highly improbable if not impossible that Ida could have caused them herself.

The San Francisco Call noted in coverage of the doctors’ testimony that “A day before her death it would have been impossible for her to have left her bed of her own will, and her removal hastened teh end at least twenty-four hours and must have caused her untold agony. The slightest motion would have given her excruciating pain. Gangrene set in three days before her death. The body was well nourished and showed no signs of any previous disease.”

Ida and Jack Jack_MCarville.jpg
The young couple had met when he’d been working on a train that Ida sometimes rode. They became very attached to one another quickly, and were soon engaged. Ida, however, kept postponing the marriage.

In December of 1890, Ida wrote to Jack that she was very ill and needed to go to San Francisco for treatment. In this letter, she postponed their planned January wedding into the following September.

Jack visited Ida at her home on New Years Eve, upset about the change in wedding plans. Ida was adamant.

A few weeks later Ida wrote to Jack saying that she was returning to San Francisco for a few days. Five days later she sent another letter saying that she had returned home. The two seldom saw each other during this time because Jack was working extra hours to save up money for the marriage. He wrote to her frequently, but she seldom replied.

On March 1, she sent another letter saying that she was again ill and going to San Francisco for treatment. She didn’t give Jack an address to write back to her. He received the following letter from her on March 24 (errors in original):

Dearest Friend, I guess you think I have deserted you by this time, but not so at all. Well, dear, I had to come again to the city. I have been down since the 8th. I have been dreadful sick, but am up now, and the doctor thinks that I will be able to go home in about seven days, which I hope will be true, for I am awful tyrid of stay here. I would like to write you all of the particulars, but I do not thing it best, for fear the letter would be mislaid or read by some one else, so we had better wait til I see you. I have not told any one but the folks at home. I guess they will be surprised when they see me. I do hope I will soon be able to be at home. Well, dear, I must make this letter short, for I don’t feel well enough to write much. Send your letter to sister, for I will be there before long if I have to run off in the night. I have thought lots of you in the last two weeks. This is all from, ever yours, Ida.

The next news Jack got about Ida was a telegram from her father about her death.

Jack’s Loyalty After the news broke of Ida’s cause of death, Jack went to the office of the San Francisco Chronicle to insist that she was being misrepresented in the press. “He denied vehemently, and with tears running down his cheeks, that the little country girl he had wooed and won could ever have strayed from the straight and narrow path.”

He told the reporter, “I don’t care what they say about me, but it’s what they say about her. I tell you, she could do no wrong. I won’t believe that she was ever in a condition to have been murdered as they say she was.”

Even when presented with the autopsy results, Jack stood firm in defense of Ida’s virtue. He admitted that he hadn’t seen her since January, but “I know where she was up to within two or three days of her death, and I’m going to find out what all this means.”

He gave the reporters the address where Ida had gone on her first trip to San Francisco, room 57 in a hotel called Russ House. After a week or two she’d been moved to room 241. The staff at Russ House, clerk Frank Hubbard and chambermaid Ella Brown, said that Ida had “conducted herself with the utmost propriety” until her departure on March 21. She left then, leaving a valise behind. She returned to Russ House the next day for her valise, leaving no forwarding address.

Jack, however, traced her to Dr. Hall’s house at 441 Seventeenth Street. “Farther than this McCarville could not trace her, but he believed, as does her father, that the girl had stayed with Dr. Hall’s family, undergoing treatment for some female complaint of a trivial nature, until she started home.” While she was there, her father sent her a registered letter with some money.

Ida’s Background Ida was evidently seen as quite a paragon in her own small home town.

A trustee from Ida’s school district, outraged at the coverage of her death, sent a letter to the San Francisco Call. The letter first noted that the doctor who had done her autopsy hadn’t even gotten her age right, saying that she was 25 when she was only 17. (Her gravestone marks her as 18 years old.)

Ida’s mother had died a year prior to Ida’s death, leaving Ida to help her father to care for “a small sister, a young, crippled brother and a sister somewhat older but very sickly. Ida was devoted to the family, faithful in school duties and always ready to be of assistance to a neighbor who might need her. It was the oft expressed wish of good children in the school ‘to be as good as Ida Shaddock.’ If the physicians could mistake about her age the neighbors think could there not be some doubt as to the correctness of their other conclusions. ‘We all hate to think poor Ida could do anything wrong.'”

Hall’s Original Story After speaking with Jack, C. B. Harton, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, went with Jack to Hall’s house. He described the following scene:

“Dr. Hall,” said a Chronicle reporter to the physician in the latter’s parlor about 10 o’clock last night, “do you know this picture?”

Accompanying the question the doctor was handed a cabinet photograph of Ida Shaddock.

McCarville was seated near the doctor, and as the latter took the photograph he got up and went toward him, his fists clenched, his brows contracted and his face as pale as death.

Dr. Hall took the picture, looked at it closely, held it up to the gaslight, and then, turning slowly toward the reporter, said:

Yes, I know it.”

“Whose picture is it?”

“It is a picture of a young woman whom I knew in her lifetime as Ida Shaddock,” answered Dr. Hall.

The silence that followed the answer was broken only by the deep, heavy breathing of the man who stood with clinched fists by the mantel, glowering down upon the physician.

“I first met this girl,” continued the doctor, again critically examining the picture, and speaking in slow, measured tones, as if thinking twice before uttering a word. “I first met this girl on Saturday, March 21st, or Monday, March 23d, I won’t be certain which, but I think the latter date, at my office, 426 Kearny street. She called on me and told me she was to become a mother before long.”

A groan interrupted the doctor’s remarks, and poor McCarville, standing by the mantel, dropped his head upon his arm.

“She asked my advice,” resumed Dr. Hall in his smooth, low, monotone, “and I told her to await the natural outcome of such a condition. She then told me she was a stranger in this city, and without friends, and didn’t know where to go. She said, “Do you know where I can go until my baby is born?”

Again the groan from the heartbroken man, with his face hidden in his arm at the mantel, interrupted the physician’s story. Dr. Hall glanced up and then went on:

“I told her yes, I knew or thought I knew where she could stay until she was all right again, but that she would have to wait until the next day until I could consult my wife. She went away and came back the next day, and I sent her out here to my house. She stayed one day and night, and then suddenly left. Where she went I don’t know. I’ve never seen her since.”

“Did Miss Shaddock receive any letters while at your house, doctor?” inquired the reporter.

“Registered letters?” hoarsely added the man at the mantel, without raising his head.

“Ye-es,” replied Dr. Hall, “she did. She received two registered letters while she was here, I believe. I am certain she did.”

A minute later and the reporter and McCarville were bowed out of the house. Once on the sidewalk the latter turned and, gripping the arm of the newspaperman with such a grip as only a man half mad can give, McCarville fairly hissed: “Did you hear him say it? I said she was only at his house one day; that he’d only known her two days and yet she got two registered, mind you, registered, letters at his house?”

Jack pointed out that there would have been no time for anybody to get Ida’s address and get a registered letter to her in such a short time. He also noted that Ida’s father had sent her only one registered letter. Who had sent the second one?

Hall’s Official Statement On April 7, Hall handed in a typewritten statement to the police, admitting that he had treated Ida. He said that she’d come to him on March 21 and asking for a place to stay until she had her baby. At his invitation, she had gone to his house the following day. The letter indicated that Ida told him she’d been treated by a doctor in the country but she’d come to him because she wasn’t getting better. She delivered the dead baby on March 22 at around midnight. Hall said that he gave the baby to a stranger to bury. On on Monday, March 30, he said, Ida insisted that she wanted to go home.

Hall said that that the next day he’d accompanied Ida on the street car, bought her a ticket, accompanied her on the ferry, then turned her over to Mr. Petrie, whom he had just met as he put Ida on the train. Hall insisted that he had not known that Ida was dangerously ill.

When asked why he hadn’t come forward with this information sooner, Hall said that since he never read the newspaper he hadn’t even known that Ida had died.

Hall’s History Hall had been arrested in an abortion case fourteen years before Ida’s death, and had made his escape through a bathroom window. He was found again the next day but was released for lack of evidence. Eight years later he was arrested again after a young woman from Berkeley died at Hall’s practice the day after arriving.

S_H_Hall.jpgThe Arrest Dr. Samuel Hall was arrested and charged with murder in her death. At first he admitted that she’d given birth to a stillborn child at his house, but denied any criminal culpability in her death. Then he admitted that he had performed an operation on her less than a week prior to her death.

When asked for a statement after his arrest, Hall told a reporter, “I have nothing to say, except that I am the victim of the basest ingratitude. A true statement of the facts in this case over my signature has been given to the public, and I can say nothing more.”

Detective Rogers, who was handling the case, told reporters, “I think we have secured enough evidence to convict Hall. For several weeks I have been at work on the case, but not until now could we hope to prosecute a charge of murder with any degree of success. There will no doubt be more developments further on.”

An Assault

John McCarville, a railroad engineer who was Ida’s fiance had gone to Hall’s practice to confront him about putting the dying young woman on a train with nobody to look after her. A young man, later identified as Hall’s son, was also in the office. John said that Hall had said, “This is the fool who is stirring up all the trouble about the girl’s death,” then attacked him. The young man then joined in the attack and John fled from the scene.

Hall pleaded guilty to the assault and paid a $20 fine.

Hall also lambasted reporters, going after one personally, saying, “You’re the *** or one of them that have been stirring up all this stink. You’re a liar. You’ll take back what you said about me or I’ll take it out of your bones. Just wait until I get you up in my office.”

The reporter calmly replied, “I’m not the kind of people you want in your office, doctor, but I’ve no doubt you would ‘do’ me if once you got me there.”

Hall bunched up his fists and moved toward the reporter but was restrained by his son before he was able to physically assault the man.

People living near Hall reported seeing so many mysterious women coming and going that they’d suspected that Hall was up to unsavory business.

The police chief said that in spite of his tirades against reporters, Hall seemed pleased to have his name associated with the abortion case because it amounted to cheap advertising that would bring him more business.

The Trials Hall was tried twice for murder in Ida’s death. The first trial ended in an evenly split hung jury after twenty-two hours of deliberations. The second, three years after Ida’s death, ended in an acquittal after the jury had deliberated for four hours. Hall had obtained over sixty continuances between the two trials, and during that time many key witnesses had moved away or died.

Father John C. Shaddock semi-literate blacksmith:
I see by Coronor King letter that I got last night stating that you have and album and photograph in your possession and I wand you to forward them to me immediately as I know what my dotter was docktered for as she had been docktered here before she went to the city, then such slanders started on her, you will see by the Examiner of to-day what was the cause of her death and the longer it sturd up the worse it is all you fellows want is to make a grate blow so to get money. I am a poor man have but a living furthermore I know the cause of her death and I wont give a sent if I had money. I want those things sent to me for she had nothing that belongs to anybody there.

Police concluded that this letter indicated that Ida’s father had known that she was pregnant as well as about the abortion.

During a police investigation, however, Mr. Shaddock said that he hadn’t known Ida was pregnant and believed that when she’d left for San Francisco on March 8, she was going to be doctored for some gynecological disorder.

He testified that indeed Ida had gone to San Francisco for medical treatment, taking $60 with her and later writing for an additional $50, which he had sent her, because “they” would keep her watch if she didn’t have the money. Mr. Shaddock couldn’t say who “they” were.


  • IdaShaddockSan_Francisco_Chronicle_Fri__May_15__1891_.jpg“A Doctor Arrested for Murder,” Los Angeles Herald, Apr. 28, 1891
  • “Hall’s Examination,” San Francisco Chronicle, 15 May, 1891
  • “Dr. Hall Arrested,” San Francisco Chronicle, Apr. 9, 1891
  • “Dr. Hall’s Trial,” San Francisco Chronicle, Apr. 21, 1891
  • “Dr. Hall in Prison,” San Francisco Chronicle,” Apr. 28, 1891
  • “Ida Shaddock’s Death,” San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 3, 1894
  • “Pretty Ida’s Lover,” San Francisco Chronicle, Apr. 6, 1891
  • “Beauty’s Blight,” Decatur (IL) Morning Review, 31 May, 1891
  • “Ida Shaddock’s Death,” The Record-Union, Apr. 8, 1891
  • “Is Not Guilty,” San Francisco Call, Feb. 10, 1894
  • “Failed to Agree,” San Francisco Morning Call, Sept. 26, 1891
  • “Held for Murder,” San Francisco Call, Jun. 7, 1891
  • “Will Hall Be Tried?” San Francisco Call, Oct. 1, 1893
  • “Shaddock Mystery,” San Francisco Call, Apr. 9, 1891
  • “Ida Shaddock,” San Francisco Call, May 7, 1891
  • “Ida Shaddock’s Death,” San Francisco Morning Call, 14 May, 1891
  • “The Ida Shaddock Case,” San Francisco Call, 21 May, 1891
  • “Partially Heard,” San Francisco Call, 12 May, 1891