The Ghost of Mildred Brewster.

By Connie Cain Ramsey

 University of Vermont Special Collections

University of Vermont Special Collections

 

 

The Ghost of Mildred Brewster.


If you happen to visit Montpelier’s Washington County Courthouse you
will notice the building’s brick, four-pillared, Greek revival design and
elegant curvilinear stairway leading to the upstairs courtroom. You may
also notice the flood of 1927’s high water mark just above your head in the
lobby. You will not, however, notice the courthouse's most omnipresent
inhabitant, Mildred Brewster, because she’s invisible. Mildred is a ghost.


I was able to, over the phone, speak with court workers and solicit stories
about things going bump in the day, reports of inexplicable sounds of glass
shattering, of voices in conversation in an empty courtroom and things
strangely found out of place. The staff chalks these events up to the ghost
of Mildred.


But upon my visit, I found the staff’s sudden silence and eerie reluctance
to talk about the ghost of Mildred much more frightening than their stories.


A Restless Young Lady


Mildred Brewster grew up in the late 1800's in rural Huntington, Vermont,
the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Wesley Brewster. Her mother died at a
young age. Her father, Wesley, was a prominent and successful farmer,
amassing a fortune of $30,000., nearly one million in today’s dollars.


Although Wesley did all he could to make Mildred happy, his daughter
was not content on the family farm, and she grew increasingly bored and
restless. Wesley sent Mildred off to nearby Burlington, a relatively
sprawling city that he hoped would entertain and tame her. She attended
Burlington High School but never graduated. She then waited tables in the
city’s bustling downtown area.


Still feeling unfulfilled, Mildred returned to Huntington and taught school,
but quiet Huntington was still not for her, she needed another move.
Mildred decided to try Montpelier, so at 20 years of age she travelled to
Vermont’s capital city where she boarded at the same home as a young,
handsome granite worker named John "Jack" Wheeler.

 

The Love Triangle


Jack Wheeler, age 22, had already fallen for a 17-year-old local girl named
Anna Wheeler, who shared his surname but the two were unrelated.
Undeterred by Jack’s feelings for Anna, Mildred began to show signs of
affection toward Jack, he took note but reportedly paid no attention. Soon
Anna and Jack were engaged, but this only encouraged and deepened
Mildred's quest for Jack’s affections. The love triangle grew in intensity,
until one late May day in 1897. Anna and Jack were to attend the
Decoration Day Celebration in nearby Barre, Mildred was not invited by
Jack and was furious.


Mildred went to Anna's home early that morning, begging Anna to give up
her betrothed, telling Anna that she herself had a claim to Jack. Anna
refused. The two ladies then walked side-by-side toward the Jack’s
home. Along the way Mildred pulled out a pistol and fired point blank
into Anna's head before turning the gun on herself.
By the end of the day Anna was dead and Mildred was clinging to life.


Mildred on Trial for Murder


The gravely-injured Mildred made a slow but sure recovery. She was
indicted on a charge of murder but was too ill to be present at the
indictment. Instead, she was confined to a room at Montpelier's Heaton
Hospital, with the bullet still lodged in her head.


A Grand Jury was formed, but there was trouble during the proceedings.
Mildred was not present and the illegal presence of a stenographer during
the testimony of a government witness prompted Mildred's lawyers to ask
for an invalidation of all findings. The Vermont Supreme Court, as well as
lawyers for both sides convened at Heaton Hospital in January,
1898. Mildred was there, but sat silently and wheelchair-bound. Three
weeks later, the Supreme Court ruled that the trial could continue.
The following May, a somewhat healthier Mildred Brewster arrived at the
Montpelier courthouse, accompanied by her faithful father. The packed
courthouse was overflowing with sobbing, sympathetic women as the
tragic, triangular tale of Mildred, Anna and Jack was laid out for all to
hear.


An expensive and excellent defense team, a hopelessly heart-broken and
maimed defendant, combined with the tears of hundreds of women in
attendance created a national spectacle and media attention.


By the end of the trial the twelve male jurors were persuaded to be
compassionate toward Mildred. On May 5, 1898, Mildred was acquitted of
Anna’s murder by reason of insanity, a rare defense at the time, and sent to
Waterbury State Hospital.

 

Mildred Remains Restless


Mildred had been confined to the Waterbury State Hospital for ten years
when a childhood friend and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Ross of
Hartford, Vt., petitioned for her guardianship. Mildred was released to
them in the spring of 1908, but her freedom was to be short lived. The
Rosses observed signs of Mildred’s stubbornness, amorous proclivities,
and the type of behavior that got her into trouble in the first place, and
returned Mildred to the hospital a few months later.


She remained at The State Hospital for an additional eight years until
Judge Frank L. Fish, gave custody of Mildred to a former Waterbury
Hospital nurse who had once cared for her, and now resided in
Bellingham, Washington. County Sheriff Frank Tracy accompanied
Mildred on the cross country trip.


Mildred Never Heard From Again?


Records of Mildred at the Washington County Courthouse and Vermont
State Hospital have been sealed, and Mildred has never been seen or heard
from in Vermont again... … or has she?


Jack Ramsey contributed to this cronicle.

Sources:
http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn93063544/1916-11-09/ed-1/seq-8/ocr.txt
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1913&dat=18980504&id=KdAgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=zGoFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2614,59
78256
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9B0CEFDA1638E733A25753C3A9639C94669ED7CF
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9D00E5D71E3DE433A2575BC2A9679C94699ED7CF
http://genealogytrails.com/ver/1908vermont2.html
this last one opens up a ton of newspapers from all over the country, there is a lot of contradicting info, I used the most
common stories and tried to be positive
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/search/pages/results/?state=&date1=1836&date2=1922&proxtext=mildred+brewst
er&x=18&y=15&dateFilterType=yearRange&rows=20&searchType=basic


As printed:
http://bfpne.ws/1u49M45