Thursday, December 4, 2008

Who killed Miss Delia B.?

The place was Sugar Hill. The year was 1908. The day was July 24. Miss Delia B. Congdon’s lifeless body was found on her pantry floor. She had been beaten with a sharp instrument. Miss Delia was a deaf mute who lived in the home she grew up in. When her parents passed away they willed the home to Miss Delia so she would always have a safe and familiar place to live. Miss Delia suffered a bout with scarlet fever at the age of 8 and as a result lost her hearing and most of her speech. At the age of 41 years, 3 months and 13 days her life ended in a tragic way that, to this day, is still somewhat of a mystery as to who actually did the horrific deed. Who killed Miss Delia B.?

Fast forward. The place is Orford, New Hampshire. The year is 2008. The day is August 2. A woman at a flea market is handed an old and mysterious envelope containing the yellowed newspaper clippings about a murder and the manhunt that pursued. Hand-written in pencil on the front of the envelope are the words: The paper slips in account of Miss D.B. Congdon East Wallingford VT. The woman stands there holding the envelope and shudders. She knows this story but how did these faded clippings make their way over time into her hands?

I am the woman standing there at the flea market holding the fragile envelope that contains the brittle news clippings. I remembered, as a little girl, listening to a tale of murder and intrigue on Sugar Hill from accounts told by my parents. Later in life I remember learning more about the murder of Miss Delia from a brother who researched the history of Sugar Hill and its neighboring hamlet of Centreville where we grew up. Why now, had these clippings surfaced? Where did they come from? Who took the time to clip and preserve them in this now frail envelope?

Later that evening as I lay in my make-shift bed in the van, which I drove to the flea market, I pulled from my purse the well worn envelope of news clippings. I gathered my pillow and a flashlight and settled in to read the news from the past. As I gently pulled the clippings from their paper time capsule a thunder storm raged outside the van. Lightning flashed repeatedly illuminating the night sky and making visible the cemetery next door. My thoughts were racing with eager anticipation of what more I could learn about the demise of Miss Delia that my brother hadn’t told me.

The clippings were in no particular order but, fortunately, the person who so carefully preserved them had taken the time to write some dates on them in pencil. As I began to read Miss Delia’s story began to eerily unfold before my very eyes.

To be continued....

No comments: