Beware of Ginger Man: A Story of Death and Sex

I was flipping through my computer files looking for something and came across a Washington Star clipping from 1878. It seems I was looking for articles mentioning George Glorius, Glorious George, of Sq. 519 in Truxton Circle. George plays a bit part in the article.

The article is about a case involving the death of a young woman who lived at 229 Q St. NW (another TC address that no longer exists) who died after getting an abortion. The article, titled “Poor Sophie Major. The mournful story of her seduction and death.” is just as click baity as mine. This was 1878, and the term yellow journalism had yet to be coined.

The red head, or ginger, in this story is John W. Hurley, a gas fitter and plumber who worked at 925 Massachusetts Ave NW….. another address that no longer exists. In the article he’s described as “tall, slender, red-haired young man, said to be somewhat “wild” in his habits….” He’s the guy who got Ms. Olivia Sophie Major pregnant. The unnamed newspaper author wrote, “Such as termination of the life of one fitted to adorn life and to be a useful member of society, seems very hard, especially when it is known that her seducer walked the streets of Washington last night unharmed by the avenging hand of retributive justice, unimpeded by the process of the law. There are crimes quite as foul as that murder, and in the eye of Heaven John W. Hurley’s soul is not free from a stain as deep of a hue of crimson.”  They published his name, where he worked, his red hair, do you think the paper was trying to rile up a mob against him? He walked the street unharmed by retributive justice, as if calling to the reader to go out and harm Mr. Hurley in the name of justice. His crime? Knocking up Olivia Sophie Major (1859-1878) and not marrying her. There was another mention in the article hinting at a desire for violence against him.

It seems Ms. Major was seen by several doctors. When she discovered she was pregnant and couldn’t get Mr. Hurley to marry her, she became distressed and suicidal. The first doctor was Dr. Richard G. Mauss, the family doctor. Dr, Mauss, who was aware of the situation and knew the family, called Dr. W.H. Triplett to see Ms. Major when called in for pain and soreness around her abdomen. Between Drs. Mauss and Triplett, she saw Dr. Woodworth.

Ms. Major had answered an ad a Mrs. Pierce for an abortion. Mrs. Pierce passed her along to Dr. Woodworth whose offices were on the 700 block of 7th St NW. There he performed the abortion for $50. I have no idea what that is in today’s dollars. Initially, she reported that there was no pain, but later she began hemorrhaging, which was painful.

Long story short, she died. Dr. Woodworth and Mrs. Pierce were judged to be at fault by a jury that included George Glorius. Glorius, lived only a few blocks away at 317 or 319 R St NW.  Her church Grace Methodist Episcopal were on the fence about giving her a christian burial. It seems the family and Mr. Hurley wanted to keep it quiet, but a newspaper reporter following the corner’s inquest was snooping around and made it all public. Which is why I have this story.

The red-headed John Hurley went on to live his life. In the 1910 Census, he was living at 1133 8th St NW with his wife Catherine (Kate), his mom and four older children, owning his plumbing business. He last shows up in the 1930 Census.

It doesn’t look like the Major family hung around Truxton Circle or DC long after this tragedy. I can find her father, David B. Major, a carpenter in city directories and the census up until about 1880 at 229 Q St NW.  The odd family tree on Ancestry that had David Major didn’t even mention the existence of Olivia Sophia. The latest is an 1881 city directory entry with both David Major senior and junior. The family disappears from the record after that.

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