News & Tall Tales. 1800s.

San Francisco Gold Rush 1849.

Suicide in a House of Ill-Fame

July 2, 1855, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

Suicide in a House of Ill-Fame.

One of the most distressing suicides which have occurred in New York for many months was committed in the house of the notorious Cinderella Marshall, No. 54 Leonard street, on Saturday evening. The victim was Thomas Baily Russum, formerly of San Francisco, California, where he was a prominent man, held the office of Register, and where he left a wife and two children.

Buying Laudanum and Arsenic
in a chemists shop.
Artist: John Leech

Deceased had been in this city about a year, and was said to have lost money by gambling. His manner of living was said to be extravagant, he lived for a while at the Prescott House, but latterly at the Carlton House.

About two months since deceased became desperately enamored with a girl living at No. 54 Leonard street, and wanted her to marry him, but this she firmly refused, and his mind, which did not appear right before, got quite deranged. On the 21st of April, it will be remembered, he attempted suicide at Miss Marshall's by taking laudanum, but on being conveyed to his lodgings and receiving medical attendance he recovered.

His physician then discovered that Russum was partially insane, and had him properly cared for.

It was thought he had quite recovered, but on Saturday evening it appears that, still deranged and enamored with the girl in question, he went to Miss Marshall's with two loaded pistols in his pockets. He wanted immediately to see the girl alone in the parlor, and wanted her to marry him, declaring that if she refused he would blow his brains out. The girl refused to marry him, and also to see him on this occasion. Miss Marshall seeing that Russum's manner was alarming, sent for Capt. Carpenter, of the Fifth Ward Police.

When the Captain entered the house Russum was sitting in a parlor on the second story with a pistol in his hand. The Captain in a consolatory tone requested Russum to give him the pistol and to accompany him to the Station House and talk his trouble over. The pistol was accordingly given and Russum followed the Captain down stairs until he got within three or four steps of the floor, when he-drew another pistol, which the Captain did not know he had, and with it blew his brains out. The unfortunate man fell at the bottom of the stairway and instantly expired.

Coroner O'Donnell held an inquest upon the body yesterday, and a large amount of testimony was taken, but in substance as given above. Mary Jane Smith, the young woman to whom the deceased was attached, was put on the stand. (She is a handsome girl twenty-five years of age.) Her testimony went to show that the deceased had paid marked attention to her, and offered his hand in marriage on several occasions, which she refused. He told her be had been divorced from his wife. On meeting refusals he manifested anger, and said that unless he was married to her he never could by happy. On one occasion he got angry and handled her roughly, hurting one of her fingers. She did not know whether he was insane before he became acquainted with her. The Coroner's Jury rendered a verdict of "Suicide by a pistol-shot while partially deranged."

The deceased was a native of Baltimore, about 40 years of age. It was understood that deceased would be buried by some friends in Greenwood Cemetery.

By a dispatch from Philadelphia we learn that Russum formerly kept a tailor's shop in that city, and was appointed by Gen. Taylor Collector of the Port of San Francisco, which office he filled until removed by Gen. Pierce.

His wife is a Philadelphian, and was deserted by him about a year ago, when he returned to San Francisco with his eldest daughter, leaving three younger children dependant upon their grandmother. It is reported that he left San Francisco worth $30,000.

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The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.




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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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