John White Webster.

The trial of Prof. John W. Webster, indicted for the murder of Dr. George Parkman, at the Medical college (North Grove street) on the 23d of November, 1849. Supreme judicial court, before Chief Justice Shaw, and Associate Justices Wilde, Dewey, and Metcal online

. (page 8 of 24)
Online LibraryJohn White WebsterThe trial of Prof. John W. Webster, indicted for the murder of Dr. George Parkman, at the Medical college (North Grove street) on the 23d of November, 1849. Supreme judicial court, before Chief Justice Shaw, and Associate Justices Wilde, Dewey, and Metcal → online text (page 8 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

floor from the faucet of the hogshead. About two-thirds
of two barrels of pitch pine kindlings were gone. When
I was last there the barrels were nearly full, As I went
up stairs I observed spots which I had never seen be-
fore. They did not look like water.

I tasted them and they tasted like acid. As I got into
his back private room I found the same kind of spots
there. I then went down and got out as I went in, by
the window. I told my wife about these things. I no-
ticed that the Cochituate water was running all the week.
I noticed this, as Dr. Webster had previously said that
he did not wish the water to run, as it spattered his floor,
besides the noise annoyed him. I never knew the water
to be kept running before this time, except to draw war
ter. I did not see Dr. Webster again that day, nor on
Ihanksgiving day.

On Thursday asked me to get grape vines and box out
of the cellar. There was a bunch of grape vines, an
empty box, and a bag of tan which had lain at the cellar
door since Monday. I cannot swear the tan was received
that week or not.

There was nothing in the box. I attempted to put the
things into Dr. Webster's room several times, but could
not. I was mistaken when I stated before the Coro-
ner's Jury, that I got the order on Mr. Foster for
the turkey, on Tuesday — the day was Wednesday.
Thanksgiving day I went down to Mr. Hopkins'.s wharf
and got a piece of lime for Dr. Webster, which he asked


me for on Tuesday; he wanted a lump as large as my
head. It is nothing unusual for him to have it. I have
procured it for him every vrinter.
At 2 o'clock P. M. the Court adjourned.


The Court and Jury came in at 3^ o'clock.

EPHaAM LiiTTiEFiELD. Examination Resumed. — I was in
the cellar in the forenoon of Thanksgiving Day, Thurs-
day, for the purpose of getting the grape vines out of the
cellar, as the children liad picked them ofi' and scattered
them all over the house. In the afternoon 1 went to work
at the walls — to dig holes through the walls that led un-
der Dr. Webster's privy. I should think that it was about
8 o'clock. I wanted to get under there to see if anything
was there, to satisfy myself and the public, as whenever
I was out of the College some one would say Dr. ParK-
man is in the Medical College, and will De found there if
ever found anywhere. 1 never could go out of the build-
ing without hearing such remarks.

^All the other parts of the building had been searched,
»nd if nothiug should be Ibund in the privy, I could con-
yince the public that Dr. Parkman had not met foul play
in the College. I went down the front scuttle, with a
lamp, to the back side of the building, wheie Mr. Fuller
and I went the Tuesday before. Tiie tools I used were a
hatchet and mortising chisel. I worked an hour or an
hour and a half, but found I could not make much pro-
gress with the tools I had. I got out two courses of brick
and then gave up the job tor the night. Nothing further
occurred on that day. I was out that night until I o'clock
the next moruiug, at a ball at Cochituate Hall, given by
a Division of the Sons of Temperance. There were twen-
ty dances, and I danced eighteen out of twenty. On Fri-

fool of you this lime. Says she, two gentlemen called here
and I thought one was Dr. Webster, but they proved to
be Mr. Kingsley and Mr. Starkweather. They rang the
bell and called for you. I went out and talked with them
on the front steps.

Mr. Kingsley asked me what private place there was
that had not been searched. I told him where the place
was, and Mr. Kingsley said, '' Let us go into his room."
I told him it was locked up, and we could not enter.
They then went away. J saw Mr. Trenholm, police offi-
cer, and being well acquainted with him, I told him whaS
I was doing, and that I should get through in twenty min-
utes or half an hour, and if he would come back I would
tell him the result. As 1 was going into my shed I met
my wife, and she said, ■' You have just saved your bacon,
as Dr. Webster has just passed in." I stood talking with
Mr. Trenholm some time until Dr. Webster came out,
which was a little before 4 o'clock. He came out into the
shed and spoke to both of us. He said that an Irishman
had offered to change a $20 bill, on the Cambridge side of
the bridge, to pay his toll of one cent. They Thought it was
an extraordinary thing for an Irishman to have a $20
bill, and so they kept it. He said the Marshal had been to
him to ascertain if he knew to whom he had paid such a
bill. He said he could not swear as to that, and then he
went oil". I left Mr. Trenholm ; he was to come back in 20
minutes or haif an hour. I went under the building again,
requesting my wife to keep a close watch on the door.
I took the crowbar and knocked the bigness of the hole
right through. I did not use the chisel and hammer. I
had drilled a hole with a crowbar before 1 went up. There
are five courses of brick in the wall. I had trouble with
my light, as the air drew strongly through the hole. I
managed to get the light and my head into the hole, when

day I got up a little before 9 o'clock. BIy wife called me 1 1 was not disturbed with the draft. I then held my light
a little before 8, and wanted me to finish digging through | forward, and the first thing which I saw was the pelvis
the walls. I did not get up when she called me. of a man, and two parts of a leg. The water was running

We were at breakfast, and Dr. Webster came into the down on these remains from the sink. I knew it was no

kitchen. He came in and took a paper up. Says he
there any more news ? — do you hear anything further ot
Dr. Parkman? He said that he had just come from
Dr. Henchman's apothecary shop. Dr. Henchman said
a|womau had seen a large bundle put into a cab, that she
had taken the number of the cab, that they had found the
cab, and it was all covered over with blood. I said that thete
were so many flying reports about Dr. Parkman that we
did not know what to believe. Dr. Webster then went
up stairs. Some men were employed by me to bring some
busts from Dr. Ware's lecture room into the anatomical
room. They were put underneath the seats, which were
raised considerably above the floor. Dr. Henry J. Bige-
low was there.

[The witness pointed out upon the model the localities.]

I asked Dr. Bigelow if he knew there was suspicion
about Dr. Webster. As near as I can recollect, he said
that he did. I told Dr. Henry J. Bigelow that I had
commenced digging through the wall, and I understood
him to say go ahead with it. I told Dr. Bigelowall about
Dr. Webster's keeping his doors shut from me. I under-
Btood Dr. Bigelow to tell me to go ahead. In a few min-
utes I went into the Demonstrator's room, and there
found Dr. J. B. S. Jackson alone, at work. He is a Pro-
fessor. I told Dr. Jackson that I was digging through
the wall, and he said, " Mr. Littlefield, I feel dreadfully
about this, and do you go through that wall before you
Bleep to-night." He did not give me any directions about
Becrecy. He asked me if I found anything, what I intend-
ed to do. I told him I should go to Dr. Holmes. Says
he, " don't you go there, but do you go to old Dr. Bige-
low, in Summer street, and then come and tell me. If
I am not at home, leave your name on my slate and I
Bhall understand it."

In the afternoon, about 2 o'clock, I went and asked Mr.
Leonard Fuller if he could lend me a crowbar. He said
he could, and went and got it, and asked me what I
wanted to do with it. I told him I wanted to dig a hole
in a brick wall to carry a lead pipe, to let the water pass
in. He replied, '• I guess you do." He said no more,
and I took the crowbar and left. He spoke in humor. I
suppose he suspected what I was doing. I went to the
house and locked every door, so that Dr. Webster and no
one else could get in. Dropped the latch of the front
door, put my wife to watch the doors,and to let no one in
unless she saw who it was; it is a dead latch upon the
front door. I told her if Dr. Webster came to the door
not to let him unless she went into the kitchen and gave
four raps on the floor to warn me ; if anybody else came,
not to disturb me.

I went down under the building and went to work ;
probably 1 worked half an hour. I blistered my hands
with the crowbar, and went to the kitchen and got a pair
of thick gloves to put on, and went down again; worked
a spell longer, and findin" I could not make much pro-
gress with the crowbar,! went to Mr. Fuller and got a
cold chisel and a hammer. Both Fullers were present,
and appeared disposed to accommodate me. I went to
work again and got along pretty rapidly. I got out 3^^
courses the length of the wall. Soon I heard a running
and a rap four times upon the floor, and I came up as
Boon as I could from under the building. When I got up
into the entry, I met my wife, and she said I have made a

place tor these things. I went ujj and told my wife I was
going down to Dr. Bigelow's; I told her what I had dis-
covered. I locked the cellar door and took the key in my
pocket, so that no one could get down until I returned. —
My wife spoke to me first when I came up, after I discor-
ered the remains.

[The Counsel for Government proposed to ask witness
what was his own condition and appearance when he
came up after the discovery of the reniauis, which led his
wife to ask him what "was the matter." The Counsel
for defence objected, and witness was allowed simply to
state his condition.]

1 was very much afiected. I locked the door and went
as soon as I could to Dr. Jacob Bigelow, Summer street.
He was not at home ; the girl came to the door, and I told
her to ask Mrs. Bigelow if she knew where the Dr. was,
as I wished to see him very much. Mrs. Bigelow came to
the door, called me by name, and asked me what the
matter was. I then went right down to Dr. Henry J.
Bigelow, in Chanoey Place. I found him in, and told him
what I had discovered. He told me to come along with
him to R. G. Shaw, Jr. 's, in Summer street- We went
clown to Mr. Shaw's ; went into his study, and there found
Mr. Shaw. I did not call at Dr. Jackson's until after I
had beeii to Mr. Shaw's.

The Marshal came in to Mr. Shaw's, and I told him the
same thing that I had told the others. The Marshal told
me to go right back to the College, and he would soon be
there. I went to Dr. J. B. S. Jackson, wrote my name
on the slate, and then went to the College, and got there
before any of the other parties. I found Mr. Trenholm,
and he told me that he had been down and made some
discoveries. The Marshal got there in ten or fifteen
minutes after I got home. Dr. Bigelow also got
here. Mr. Clapp came before them, I believe. The hole
was about half way between the plastering and the
round. The aperture is about 18 inches one way, and
perhaps 10 or 12 inches the other. The dirt was thrown
up a foot more on the east side than on the west side. —
From the laboratory floor to the ground was about a foot
deeper than from the cellar floor to the ground. Any
thing from the privy hole might fall right down on one
side. The remains were a little on one side of the hole
leaning rather to the sea-wall than to a line let fall per-
pendicularly from the hole.

[The witness explained to the jury, by means of a dia-
gram of the lower part of the Medical College, the posi-
tion of the walls, privy, and remains.]

There was no aperture through which anything could
flow in or out with the tide. The water flows into the
vault in consequence of the walls being strained by the
pressure of Dr. Webster's coal Sometimes the water re-
mained in the vault, five or six feet deep, alter the tide
had fallen. My wife got a key and let Mr. Trenholm into
the cellar, so that he could get at the remains. Alter the
remains had been brought out, I went, with others, into
the laboratory, and towards the furnace. I put my hand
into the furnace, and took out a piece of bone. I don't
recollect whether I went in Dr. Webster's private room
before he came or not. Mr. Trenholm was ordered by
the Marshal to watch until the party should bring Dr.

The front door bell rung and I went out of the shed door



and saw the steps all covered with j^entlemen. An officer
said to me, we have got Dr. Webster there, and he is very
faint. I opened tlie door and Dr. Webster came in, ap-
parently supported b) two per.'ioiiS, oneoneaclii-ide. Dr
Webster spoke to me and said, they liave arrested me and
have taken me from my family, and did not give me a
ehance to bid them good uij^lit. fhey wanted to.^oiu'o
the ifoture room, and I unlocked the door and let them
Dr. Webster was very mucli ajjitated — sweat imidi— trem-
bled— did not appear to have the use of his less. Thought
that he was supported by the otiicers altogether. When I
unlocked the door, all passed in. I wi-^nt down ro the
door of bis back pri \ate room. They asked me for the key
of the door. I told them that I did not have it— that Dr.
Webster always had it. Dr. Webster said that they took
him away in such a hurry, that he had no chance to take
his keys. Some one said, force the door. Either Mr.
Starkweather or Mr. Treuholm went round by the cellar
and up the stairs, and iielped rae break the door opeii.
When Mr. Tukey and I vveut into the laboratory to riie
furuaci-' previous to rhis, I weut in by the laboratory
stairs door, which had been left open for tlie first tim ■ by
Dr. Webster that afteriioo ;. When I went i-./Und witii
Mr. Tienholm or Starkweather I ivent by the usual way.
When I got into the back private room, they wautial to

to into the other private room where the valuables were
ept. I told the .1 that I never iiad a key of it and Or.
Webster made the same answer as to the key that he did
in relation ro the other door. I was asked whei-e the ke.\
of the privy was, and I told them they must ask Dr. Web-
ster, as T never saw the iiiside of it in m)' life Dr. Web-
ster said, " ther:^ (he key haiii^s upon the nail." Mr.
Starkweather handed the key down to me. Mr. frenholm
and I weut down tiie laboratory t,o unlock the privy door
I found it would not fit Mr. Trenholm said, " let me
have it.'' I went up and told Dr. Webster this is not the
key ; it don't fit. •■ I.r.-f me -ee h," said Dr. Webster I
did, aiid he said '■ this i.s the key of my wardrobe; but the
other is up there somewhere."

They hunted round for it but could not find it, and
then I uuiier.stooii Dr. Wi^bster to say he did ijf)t know
where It was. The privy door wa- broken open. I was
hunting round for a hatchet, when the door from the
back private room to the little room was about to he
broken open. I could not find the batchet where it
usually bung. I asked the Doctor where the hatchet was ;
he said it was down in the laboratory, in the sink or on
the floor. 1 went down and found it and brought it up.
The hatchet was a shingle hatchet— had a ring in the han-
dle. I found it where Dr. Webster told me it was. Theie
was a hatchet found in Dr. Webster's drawers, in his lit-
tle private room. As one of the officers was undoing it.
Dr. Webster said that it was new and never has been
taken out of the paper. We passed down stairs and broke
open the privy. I can't say whether Dr. Webster was
with us or not at the time.

When he got down into the laboratory he asked for wa-
ter. I got a tumbler and handed water to him. He got
the water up in his hand, and trembled and snapped at it
as a mad dog would; he did not drink any. One of the
officers took it and passed she water to him; he got some
in his mouth but it appeared to choke him. Some one
asked where that furnace was where the boiies were. The
inquiry was put to me ; I don't know who it was. I went
to the furnace, unkivered it, taking ail the minerals which
were upon the cover I put my hand into the furnace and
took out a piece of bone v/hicli appearea to be the socket
of some joint Mr Pratt was there; somebody else took
out some. Somebody spoke- don't distuib the bones. Mr.
Parker, District Attornev, and ilr. tjustavus Andrews
were there.

1 think it was Mr. Pratt said don't disturb the bones.
After this we wentxlown under the building and brought
the remains up. Mr. Trenholm, Mr. Olapp and myself,
went down for the remain-. The party all walked into
the front cellar where the remains were deposited. Dr.
Webster was led in when the others came in, and stood
within five oj six feet ol the remains. I heard S. D. l^aik-
er ask Dr. (iay if were the remains of a human
bod) . Dr. Gay said he sJiould think they were. Dr.
Webster appeared to be very much agitated — sweat very
much — tears run down his cheeks as fast as they could
drop The party then went off. Mr. Adams, Mr. Fuller,
Mr Rice, and Mr. Trenholm, were left in the charge of
the College that night. I think that there were four offi-

1 received six season tickets from Dr. Webster, and sold
three at SIS each. The money fo.- Kidgeway's ticket I
paid over on Saturday morning. Tlie other two I paid
over previously to that. 1 jecognize the slippers as Dr.
Webster's. I have seen these, or a pair like them, for a
year or two. There was blood on them. I never saw
the saw (exhibited to the witness) until Saturday after
Dr. Webster's arrest. I was present when it was taken
down from a rack as you pass into the little private

[The saw was exhibited to the jury, the counsel lor
the government coutexiding that there were indications
of blood upon it. It was put into the case.]

I have seen the clasp knife found in the tea chest, or
one like that Dr. Webster showed it to me the Mon-

day before Dr. Parkman disappeared. He said, "What
a fine knife I have got." tie handed it to me and I ex-
amined it. He said he got it to cut corks with. I said
I should think that it was just what you would want.

I never saw it before Monday. I did not see it after
until it was found in the tea The Dr.'s usual work-
ing iiress was a pair of cotton overalls and an old coat;
the overalls were blue. Since the arrest I have not seen
the overalls. He had them on the first day the officers
came to the College — Monday or Tuesday. Tne overalls
I cannot say how old or new they were. I always saw
him have a pair on when he was about his work. I don't
know that the Dr. had the keys of any other doors than
tho^e to his own doors and to the dissecting room. I nev-
er knew him to have any. I knew that a bunch of skele-
ton keys were found in Dr Webster's door on, Saturday
m his little back private room. I knew that towels were
found in the privy vault — a diaper roller and two crash
towels There were marks of '"W." on the crash towels.
riie diaper roller I had known for two or three years. It
was the only one of that kind that Dr. Webster ever had.
I wiped m\ hands ■.m it that Friday, when I went up
and told Dr. Webster that I could not get any blood at
tiie Hospital. I washed some glasses i'l^" Dr. Webster and
wiped my hands on that towel, as it laid upon the table.
I do not recollect whether the rollei' was marked or not.
lie had never had any other there. I had waslied it agood
many times, and others had washed it, eouueuted with
the buildiiig.

[The skeleton keys were produced, and a cotiversation
.-j.arceJy audible took place between the counsel for the
nrosecuiion and the defence, in relation to theii introduo-
iion into the case. The counsel for the government finally
v\ ithdrew them.]

I was present when the towels were found. They were
tbund in the vault where ttie remains were. I did not as-
sist in taking them out. I have known no parts of any
consequence, of human subjects used in Dr. Webster's
apartments. I have got a small piece ol muscle for hitn,
as large as a finger, for the purpose of experiment. I
ueverknew him to be engaged in uTiatomical expci-iments.
1 have heard noises in his room, when tiring ofl pistols by
the galvanic battery, or exploding bladders filled with
gas. I have been in his room when these experiments
were performed. I should think that this (roller was ex-
hibited) is the one which came from the vault. It is now
in the same condition as when it was taken from the
vault. I have never seen the, one on which I wiped my
hands since that time, until the roller was taken from the
vault. Dr. Webster had a numlier of crash towels.

At6| o'clock, P. M., the Court adjourned to 9 A. M.,
next morning.


Saturday, March ,23, 1860.
The Court came in this morning shortly after 9 o'clock.
The Jury were called, and the proceedings commenced.

EiPHRAiM LiTTLEFiELD, Oross Examined. — On Monday, the
19th of November, when the interview took place between
Dr. Parkman and Dr. Webster, it was not dark out erf
doors. Lights were burning. ' The interview took place
in the upper laboratory. Dr. Parkman said, " are you
ready for me to-night?" "No, I am not, Doctor," re-
plied Dr. Webster. He either accused Dr. Webster of sel-
ling something that he had sold before, or said something .^
about a mortgage. He made a gesture with his hand, and ..•,
said, " Dr. Webster, something must be accomplished to- „(
morrow." Dr. Parkman appeared to be a little riled — .
somewhat excited. 1 left Dr. Webster in the room when
I left.

On Friday, Nov. 23d, when I took the broom, I cannot
say whether 1 took it from behind the door or not. I
know 1 placed it behind the door after I was done. The
sledge was left by masons who did some work lor Dr.
VVebster the year before. He had a flue torn down and
built up. I don't know that the sledge was sent in from
Cambridge. I mean to say that both faces of the sledge
were rounding. I never did anything with the sledge. I
never searched for the sledge until after Dr. Webster was
arrested. I never thought of it before. There is another
sledge there weighing two or three pounds, with one
round face; I presume it belongs to Dr. Webster.

To Mr. Bemis.—l don't know that the small sledge is
called a geological hammer.

Resumed.— 1 generally dine at 1 o'clock, at the time
Dr. Holmes's lectures begin. I was detained on a particu-
lar day to examine the tickets at Dr. Holmes's lecture-
room door. The students held the tickets m their hands,
showed them, and passed in. The students usually wish
to get the front seats. I should think that it took fifteen
minutes to take the tickets, as some of the students usual-
ly stopped in Dr. Webster's room some little time alter
the lecture was over. I did not get to sleep while on the
settee in Dr. Ware's room. On Friday afternoon I thiuk
I heard some one walking in the laboratory.

I stood at the door leading from the store-room into the
laboratory. I heard the water running. I can t say
what particular object I had tor listening. 1 called to
mind my listening at the time, and have recollected it



ever Bhice. I say the noise might have come from the
dissecting room, as well as the laboratory. When Dr.
Webster came down, about 5^, he must have seen me.
He did not speak to me; he blew the light out. I went to
a party that night, but before going I tried the doors af-
ter Dr. Webster came down. I wanted to get in to clean
up. I did not lock the dissecting room door, as it locks
of itself There were no lights in the dissecting room, but a
fire in the stove which enabled me to see. I tried Dr. Web-
ster's doors three times that afternoon. After locking the
dissecting room door, I tried all Dr. Webster's doors ex-
cept his lecture room door. The doors have no slides.
There is a door made with a slide in it which is fasten-
ed on the inside. That door was not open when I
tried to get in. I was at a ball on Thursday night.
I remained until 12 J o'clock; came home alone. I shall
not answer the question if I have played cards in Dr.
Webster's room. If you refer to this winter, I can say
no. I used to do his work in the afternoon, I used to
draw the water oflT after Dr. Webster left, at night, when
It was cold enough, so as to keep the pipes free. My fam-
ily used to use the water in the day time, at Dr. Webster's
request. I put on another pipe to draw the water oiT,
previous to Dr. Webster's arrest, and he forbade my do-
ing it. I have changed my testimony in respect to the
day when I got the turkey. I stated before the Coroner's
Jury that Dr. Webster gave me an order tor the turkey
on Wednesday, about 4 o'clock. I did not say before the
Coroner's Jury that it was before or after I had made a
search. I said the order was given afterwards, if I said

Online LibraryJohn White WebsterThe trial of Prof. John W. Webster, indicted for the murder of Dr. George Parkman, at the Medical college (North Grove street) on the 23d of November, 1849. Supreme judicial court, before Chief Justice Shaw, and Associate Justices Wilde, Dewey, and Metcal → online text (page 8 of 24)