SUMMARY: Leona Loveless, age 17, died on February 11, 1905 after an abortion perpetrated by an unknown person in Ischua, New York.
On February 11, 1905, 17-year-old Leona Loveless died in the Ischua, New York home of Dayton M. Hibner, where she had been working as a domestic for two years. She had gotten the job with the assistance of her grandmother, but over the objections of her widowed father, Abram.
Leona reportedly had been in good health until about 5:15 p.m., when she was found in her room in great pain. She died about fifteen minutes later, and the coroner was notified and an autopsy conducted in anticipation of an inquest. Hibner quipped to the coroner that he was going to blow his brains out and end the matter.
Whether because of this comment or because of other suspicious happenings or rumors, law enforcement sent a guard home with Hibner to stay with him pending the completion of the coroner’s inquest.
Saying he was going to feed his horses, Hibner left the guard at his house and went into the barn and got out a double-barreled shotgun. His first shot, to the chest, took a downward trajectory that wasn’t fatal. He finished himself off with a second blast that took off the top of his head.
Hibner’s 52-year-old wife was left devastated. Dayton Hibner had been her second husband. Her first husband, Mr. Beebe, had died by hanging himself.
“The coroner made discoveries after the girl’s death, which, if proved, would have made the lynching of the suicide among the possibilities had he not taken his own life,” the Lake Shore News noted.
Even getting Leona’s body to the family home in Wolcott proved difficult. Her grandmother, Mrs. Sherman, and her cousin, Maude Legg, only made the journey from Ischua as far as Niagara Falls before being stopped by winter storms. A relative of Maude’s, who had worked for the railroad, managed to arrange a special train for the journey to be completed.
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle described Leona as “an attractive girl” who “had always borne a reputation which was above reproach.”
- “Miss Leona Loveless Dead,” The Lake Shore News (Wolcott, NY), Feb. 15, 1905
- “Fanklinville,” The Syracuse Journal, Feb. 15, 1905
- “Miss Leona Loveless,” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Feb. 16, 1905
- “Blew His Head Off,” The Canisteo (NY) Times-Republican, Feb. 22, 1905
- “Double Sensation,” The Whitesville (NY) News, Feb. 23, 1905