SUMMARY: Mary Schneller, age 23, died July 8, 1888 after an abortion perpetrated in Portland, Oregon.
Portland, July 8 – To day the Morgue was visited by hundreds of persons, drawn thither through motives of morbid curiosity to look at the body of the young woman who died suddenly yesterday in the office of Mrs. Dr. Murray-Blumauer. Many came in the hope of identifying the girl. Among those calling was a sister of the dead girl, who had no idea whose body lay at the Morgue. She was dreadfully shocked on recognizing the body as that of her sister, Mary Schneller. Her grief was inconsolable for several hours.”
The Mysterious Death
Dr. Frances Murray-Blumaer told authorities that a young woman had come to her office at around 10:00 on the morning of July 7, asking for treatment for hemorrhage of the lungs. Dr. Murray gave the young woman some ice to help her to be more comfortable, and told her to lie down until she finished caring for another patient. The young woman lay down for while, then left the office, returning at 2:00 p.m.
Again Dr. Murray gave the young woman some ice and said she’d be with her shortly. Upon finishing with another patient, Dr. Murry called to the young woman but got no response. Going to the waiting lounge, Dr. Murray found her bleeding profusely from the mouth. With ten minutes the young woman was dead.
Dr. Murry said she had no idea who the patient was but noted that she had spoken with a German accent.
The Portland Oregonian gave a description of the dead woman:
The woman was about 27 years old, of good form, fair complexion, and had light brown hair, light gray eyes and sharp features. She wore a green dress and basque of the same color, and a light red bonnet with brown velvet trimmings and feathers of the same color as the bonnet, No. 5 button shoes, light brown veil and brown gloves. Nothing was found among her effects that would indicate her identity. She had a large, white, silk handkerchief, embroidered with roses, worked in green, red and yellow colors. In one corner of the handkerchief was a letter”W.” She also had a small, red, leather purse, which contained 10 cents and several postage stamps.
The Woman is Identified
Hundreds of people came to the morgue to view the body, some out of morbid curiosity but some to try to identify the young woman. One of those who came by identified the body as that of her sister, Mary Schneller. Mary’s sister was shocked and for several hours inconsolable.
Mary was 23 years old, originally from Middleton, Washington County. The circumstances of her death suggested an abortion, and an inquest found that she had also suffered hemorrhage of the lungs.
Dr. Murray was originally implicated in Mary’s death, then brought charges against two men, John D. Wilcox and C. H. McIsaac, for blackmail in relation to the case. They had, Dr. Murray-Blumauer said, offered to retract allegations they had made against her in exchange for a payment of $1,500.
Further muddying the waters, Mary’s family filed a civil suit of $5,000 against Dr. Murray-Blumaur. “The complaint alleges that through malpractice Dr. Murray killed the said Mary Schneller. This case will undoubtedly bring before the court very damaging evidence accumulated by detectives employed by the Daily News to investigate the death of Miss Schneller,” according to the Salem Statesman.
Mary had moved to Portland about 10 years earlier, first working as a household cook, then as a hotel chambermaid. She left her employ at the Globe Hotel three months prior to her death and went to Wallua to work in a hotel there. She returned to Portland, intending to marry John Mebus, a railroad brakeman.
Correspondence between the two of them indicate that Mary wanted to get married but John refused. “He was on the way home from playing a game of baseball this evening when met by a reporter. When told whose body it was at the Morgue he exhibited no signs of feeling or emotion.”
There was evidently evidence tying Mebus up with Mary’s death, since he was arrested and charged with manslaughter.
Dr. Murray-Blumauer had been born in 1837, and died December 14,1923 in Portland from “senility.” She was a practicing allopath, and had graduated the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1873. (Directory of Deceased American Physician, 1804-1929)
Though evidently not prosecuted, she was sued by Mary’s family.
- “Dead in a Doctor’s Office,” Portland Oregonian, Jul. 8, 1888
- “An Unfortunate Girl,” San Francisco Chronicle, Jul. 9, 1888
- “The Mystery of a Woman’s Sudden Death Partially Revealed,” Sacramento Record-Union, Jul. 9, 1888
- “The Mary Schneller Case — A Libeler Fined a Round Sum,” Sacramento Record Union, Jul. 10, 1888
- “The Wilcox Blackmail Affair,” Albany (OR) Daily Herald, Sept. 13, 1888
- “Suit to be Brought Against a Doctress for Malpractice,” Sacramento Record-Union, Oct. 9, 1888
- “Mary Schneller’s Death,” Kingmark (SK) Daily Courier, Oct. 16, 1888
- “Mrs. Dr. Murray,” Salem (OR) Statesman, Oct. 19, 1888