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DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy

Joe Offer 08 Nov 06 - 09:18 PM
Dave Ruch 08 Nov 06 - 09:47 PM
Malcolm Douglas 08 Nov 06 - 09:58 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Nov 06 - 10:06 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 08 Nov 06 - 10:39 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 09 Nov 06 - 12:14 AM
GUEST,Dale 09 Nov 06 - 12:56 AM
Joe Offer 09 Nov 06 - 03:03 AM
GUEST,Arkie 09 Nov 06 - 10:57 AM
GUEST,zant 02 Jun 10 - 02:12 PM
Dave Ruch 02 Jun 10 - 09:43 PM
GUEST 22 Jan 11 - 04:36 PM
RWilhelm 22 Jan 11 - 04:38 PM
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Subject: DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 09:18 PM

This is an edited DTStudy thread, and all messages posted here are subject to editing and deletion.
This thread is intended to serve as a forum for corrections and annotations for the Digital Tradition song named in the title of this thread.

Search for other DTStudy threads


A friend of mine is researching this song for a radio program, and needs whatever information we can dig up on this song. I have some, but I have to go teach a class this evening, so I'll have to work on it later. Please post what you find on this song.

Here's the DT version, which needs some work on typographical errors.
-Joe Offer-
THE ARSENIC TRAGEDY

Come listen to my tragedy, good people young and old,
It's of a drcadful story to you I will unfold
Concerning a fair damsel, Miss Wires was her name,
She was murdered by her husband, and he hung for the same.

Young Mary, she was beautiful, not of a high degree;
Young Henry Green was wealthy, I'd have you plainly see
And he says, "My dearest Mary, if you will be my wife,
I'll guard, guide and protect you all through this gloomy life."

"Oh Henry, dearest Henry, I fear that never could be
For you have rich relations, I've none so rich as you,
And when your parents come to know, they'd scorn me from their door;
I'd rather you marry some other girl with wealth laid up in store.

"Oh Mary, dearest Mary, why doth torment me so?
"Oh Mary, dearest Mary, why doth torment me so?
For just as long as you deny, so quick I'll end my life,
For I no longer wish to live, unless you be my wife."

So there, believing all he said was true, she then became his wife
But little did she think or know he meant to take her life:
Little did she think or know, or little did she expect
He meant to give her arsenic, the just one to protect.

They hadn't been married scarce three weeks when she was taken ill
Great doctors, they were sent for, all for to try their skill
The doctors came from far and near, but her they could not save,
So then it was pronounced by all she must go to the grave.

Her brother, hearing of the news, straightway to her did go,
Saying, "Sister dear, you're dying, the doctors tell me so;
Now sister, since you're dying and on your bed of death,
Pray, haven't you been poisoned by him you thought your love?"

"Oh brother, I know l'm dying and on my bed of death;
"Oh brother, I know l'm dying and on my bed of death;
Young Henry Green has poisoned me, dear brother, for him send,
For I do love him just as well as when he was my friend."

When Henry got these tidings, he went his wife to see;
She says, "Dearest Henry, was you ever deceived by me?"
Three times she cried, "Dear Henry!" and sank into a tomb;
He gazed on her indifferent ways and silent left the room.

Now he is took to the bloody hills and led upon the stand
To answer for the blackest crime committed in our land,
But he says, "I am not guilty, her friends I do deny;
I am not guilty of the crime for that which I die."

From Folk Songs of the Catskills, Cazden et al
Collected from Elston Van Wagner
note: The events resulted in the hanging of Henry Green in 1845
for the poisoning of Mary Wyatt. This song was apparantly adapted from a
music hall song called Billy Vite and Mary Green, published in 1823; a not-
unusual practice for producing topical songs. RG
DT #666
Laws F14
@murder @poison
filename[ ARSENICT
TUNE FILE: ARSENICT
CLICK TO PLAY
RG
apr96


PLEASE NOTE: Because of the volunteer nature of The Digital Tradition, it is difficult to ensure proper attribution and copyright information for every song included. Please assume that any song which lists a composer is copyrighted ©. You MUST aquire proper license before using these songs for ANY commercial purpose. If you have any additional information or corrections to the credit or copyright information included, please e-mail those additions or corrections to us (along with the song title as indexed) so that we can update the database as soon as possible. Thank You.
Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entries on this song:

Henry Green (The Murdered Wife) [Laws F14]

DESCRIPTION: Henry Green threatens suicide if Mary Wyatt will not marry him (she is unsure about the idea because he is rich and she is poor). Soon after the marriage, he poisons her. She forgives him before she dies, but he is sentenced to death
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1922 (Belden)
KEYWORDS: murder marriage poverty execution poison
HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
1845 - Murder of Mary Ann Wyatt Green (February) and execution of Henry Green (September)
FOUND IN: US(MA,NE,SE,So) Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (11 citations):
Laws F14, "Henry Green (The Murdered Wife)"
Belden, p. 321, "Henry Green" (1 text)
Randolph 157, "Henry Green" (3 texts, 1 tune)
Flanders/Brown, pp. 65-68, "Henry Green" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach, pp. 792-793, "Henry Green" (1 text)
FSCatskills 66, "The Arsenic Tragedy" (1 text, 1 tune)\
Gardner/Chickering 142, "Young Henry Green" (1 text plus an excerpt, 1 tune)
Peacock, pp. 624-627, "The Murder of Miss Wyatt" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Leach-Labrador 100, "Henry Green" (1 text, 1 tune)
Burt, pp. 11-13, (no title) (1 partial text, 1 tune, plus an excerpt from this or a related ballad)
DT 666, ARSENICT*

Roud #693
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Billy Vite and Molly Green" (plot)
cf. "The Murdered Wife or the Case of Henry G. Green" (subject, plot)
Notes: The Digital Tradition editors speculate that this was adapted from the music hall song "Billy Vite and Molly Green." This is conceivable, but a significant stretch -- this song is serious, "Billy" comic; "Billy" involves a supernatural element, and in "Billy" it is the boy who is poor and the girl rich. - RBW
Leach-Labrador notes that "the murder took place in Rensselaer County, New York" - BS
File: LF14

Murdered Wife or the Case of Henry G. Green, The

Murdered Wife or the Case of Henry G. Green, The

DESCRIPTION: "Come young and old attention give and lend a listening ear" as the singer tells of "a gay and sprightly youth who lived in Berlin Town." Henry Green becomes enamored of beautiful singer Mary Ann Wyatt, marries her, then murders her, and confesses
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1937 (Bulletin of theFolk Song Society of the Northeast)
KEYWORDS: murder marriage execution poison
HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
1845 - Murder of Mary Ann Wyatt Green (February) and execution of Henry Green (September)
FOUND IN: US
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Burt, pp. 8-11, "The Murdered Wife or the Case of Henry G. Green" (1 text)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "Henry Green (The Murdered Wife)" [Laws F14] (subject, plot)
Notes: This rather rare broadside on the Mary Wyatt/Henry Green story can be distinguished from the more common ballad "Henry Green (The Murdered Wife)" by the lines quoted in the description and by its length.
According to Burt, Mary Ann Wyatt was a performer in a troupe which staged temperance dramas. Her appearance so excited Henry Green that he joined the troupe to court her. They were married in February 1845.
The marriage was so sudden that Green felt compelled to publicize it with a sleighing party for his friends, at which a former love told him that she had once wished to marry him. Wyatt felt sick the next day, and Green went to get some medicine. He shoved more and more down her throat, and she died by poison.
Burt claims that there are seven different songs written about this story, but cites only this, parts of the Laws ballad, and a single stanza of a third (which might, however, be part of the Laws piece). - RBW
File: Burt008

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions

The Ballad Index Copyright 2006 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 09:47 PM

Joe,

The Catskill singer is more likely Etson (not Elston) Van Wagner. I have at least one oral tradition version of this song from NY State, if not two, but I wont be able to look for another couple of days due to a busy schedule. Try also the book "Body Boots and Britches" by Harold Thompson; he may have discussed the song there.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 09:58 PM

Yes, he did. See Roud Index 693 for various references; mostly from the USA but with some from Canada.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 10:06 PM

The earliest record in the Traditional Ballad Index comes from Belden, 1922, a fragment.

HENRY GREEN

Come listen to my tragedy both people young and old,
And I'll tell you a story that will make your blood run cold.
'Tis of a fair young damsel, Miss White was her name,
Who was poisoned by her husband and he hung for the same.

They hadn't been married scarcely three weeks when she was taken ill.
Great doctors they were sent for to try their power and skill,
Great doctors they were sent for to try her life to save,
But it was pronounced by many she must go to her grave.

Her brother a-hearing of these strange news straightways to her did go
Saying. "Sister dear, you're dying, the doctors tell me so,"
Crying, "Sister dear, you're dying, your life is at an end,
And have you not been poisoned by him you call your friend?"

Belden, H. M., 1940, "Ballads and Songs," p. 321. No score.
Compared with "McAfee's Confession."

Origin in a song sheet? Versions are quite similar, suggesting a printed origin. Usually, the damsel is Miss Wyatt.

Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, Revised ed., vol. 2, no. 157, pp. 120-124, gives three versions, of which this is B:

Lyr. Add: HENRY GREEN

Come listen to my tragedy
Both people young and old,
I'll tell to you a story,
'Twill make your blood run cold.
'Tis of a fair young damsel,
Mis' Wyatt was her name,
She was poisoned by her husband
And he died for the same.

This lady she was beautiful
And of a high degree,
Young Henry Green was wealthy
As you can plainly see.
Says he my darling Mary,
If you will be my wife
I'll guard you and protect you
Throughout this weary life.

Young Mary, believing all was well
Straightway became his wife,
Little did she think, poor girl,
That he would take her life.
Little did she think, poor girl,
Nor little did suspect
That he would take the life from her
He had sworn to protect.

They hadn't been married scarce three weeks
Till she was taken ill,
Great doctors they were sent for
To try their power and skill.
Great doctors they were sent for
To try her life to save,
It was pronounced by many
She must go to her grave.

Her father, a-hearing these strange things,
Straightway to her did go,
Saying daughter dear, you're dying,
The doctors tell me so.
Saying daughter dear, you're dying,
Your life they cannot save,
It is pronounced by many
You must go to your grave.

Young Henry was apprehended
And put into the jail,
There to await his trial
For none would go his bail.
There to await his trial
For the murder of his wife,
And on the cruel scaffold
They took young Henry's life.

Text from Mrs. May Kennedy McCord, MO, 1939; song learned from Mrs. Lena Todd, MO. Music for version A only.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 08 Nov 06 - 10:39 PM

Lyr. Add: THE MURDER OF MISS WYATT
(Mrs. George Decker, Rocky Harbour, Nfld)

1
Come listen to a treachery good people young and old,
Whilst I relate a story 'twould make your blood run cold,
It's of a pretty fair maid, Miss Wyatt was her name,
Was poisoned by her husband and he hung for the same.
2.
Miss Wyatt she being beautiful but not of high degree,
Young Henry Green being wealthy as plain as you may see,
He said, "My pretty fair maid, if you'll become my wife
I will guard you as a parent throughout this course of life."
3.
"To become your wife, dear Henry, you have got my consent,
Before we are long married I'm afraid you will repent,
Before we are long married you will think me a disgrace,
For I'm not so rich as you are, that ofttimes being the case."
4.
They scarce being three weeks married Miss Wyatt she took ill,
Three doctors they were sent for to try their noble skill,
Three doctors they were sent for her precious life to save,
And soon it was pronounced by all she must go to her grave.
5.
Her brother hearing of that news straightway to her did go,
Saying, "Sister dear, you are dying, the doctors tell me so,
Saying, "Sister dear, you are dying, your life is to an end,
Why have you been poisoned by one you thought a friend?"
6.
Young Henry Green was sent for, his dying wife to see,
Saying, "Mary, lovely Mary, have you been deceived by me?"
Three times she called out "Henry!" - and fell back in a swoon.
He gazed at her indifferently, in silence leaved the room.
7.
"Young Henry Green has poisoned me, now my poor heart is broke,
And brother, when I'm dead and gone don't have my Henry hung,
So freely I do forgive him," as she turned upon her side,
"I never will meet my Henry," -she sweetly smiled and died.

Last three verses quite different from most. With score, pp. 624-625, "Songs of the Newfoundland Outports," vol. 2, Kenneth Peacock, 1965, Nat. Museum of Canada, Bull. 197.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 12:14 AM

MacEdward Leach, 1955, "The Ballad Book," pp. 792-793 says, "'Henry Green' is typical of the broadside murder ballads of the Northeast.... The ballad records the murder of Mary Wyatt Green by Henry Green, her husband of less than a week. The murder occurred in February, 1845. For details, and a facsimile copy of one of the broadsides, see Lewis Jones, "Folksongs of Mary Wyatt and Henry Green," BULLETIN (Bull. of the Folksong Society of the Northeast, Cambridge, Mass., 1930-1937), 12. Many verses were written about this affair and published in local papers."

LYR. ADD: HENRY GREEN
(Vermont text, Bulletin XII: 16)

1.
Come, listen to my tragedy, good people young and old;
An awful story you shall hear, 'twill make your blood run cold;
Concerning a fair damsel; Mary Wyatt was her name-
She was poisoned by her husband, and he hung for the same.
2.
Mary Wyatt she was beautiful, not of a high degree,
And Henry Green was wealthy, as you may plainly see;
He said, "My dearest Mary, if you will become my wife,
I will guard you and protect you, through all this gloom of life."
3.
"O, Henry, I would marry you, I would give my consent,
But before that we'd been married long, I fear that you would repent;
Before that we'd been married long, you'd make me a disgrace,
Because I'm not as rich as you, which ofttimes is the case."
4.
"O, Mary, dearest Mary, how can you grieve me so?
I'll vow and 'clare by all that's fair, I always will prove true;
But unless you consent to become my wife, you'll surely end my life,
For no longer do I wish to live, unless you are my wife."
5.
Believing what he said was true, she then became his wife,
But little did she think, poor girl, that he would end her life;
O little did she think, poor child, and little did she expect
That he would end her precious life he'd just sworn to protect.
6.
They had not been married but a week or two, when she was taken ill,
Great doctors were sent for, to try their powerful skill;
Great doctors were sent for, but none of them could save,
And soon it was proclaimed she must go to her grave.
7.
O when her brothers heard of this, straightway to her did go,
Saying, "Sister dear, you're dying, the doctors tell us so";
Saying, "Sister dear, you're dying, your life is at an end."
Saying, "Haven't you been poisoned by the one you call your friend.
8.
"I'm on my deathbed lying, I know that I must die,
I know I'm going before my God, and the truth I won't deny;
I know my Henry's poisoned me- dear brother, for him send,
For I love him now as dearly as when he was my friend."
9.
When Henry heard these tidings, straightway to his wife to see,
Saying, "Mary, my dearest Mary, was you ever deceived in me?"
Three times she called "Dear Henry," then, and sank into a swoon;
He gazed on her indifferently, and in silence left the room.
10.
"Now Henry has deceived me,- how my poor heart is wrung!
But when I'm dead and buried, O don't have poor Henry hung!
I freely have forgiven him-" and she turned upon her side;
"In Heaven meet me, Henry!" and she sweetly smiled and died.

Probably the most accurate of the folk renditions of the broadsides; at least it is the most coherent telling of the tale. No music provided.
Leach doesn't say when the broadsides were printed.
MacEdward Leach, ed., 1955, "The Ballad Book," pp. 792-793, A. S. Barnes and Co., NY; Thomas Yoseloff Ltd., London.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy
From: GUEST,Dale
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 12:56 AM

http://web.lyon.edu/wolfcollection/songs/riddleglenn1258.html
The recording on this page is part of the John Quincy Wolf site at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas.

Almeda Riddle called him Henry Glenn and called her Miss Watt. Sometimes John Quincy Wolf asked people where they got their songs. He did not in this case. If he did, the conversation did not make it to the website.

The lyrics she sang are transcribed below. You can hear her turning the pages

HENRY GLENN
(HENRY GREEN)
Sung by: Almeda Riddle
Recorded in Heber Springs, AR 9/7/61



Come, listen to a tragedy,
Both people young and old.
I'll tell you all a story
That will make your blood run cold.
It happened to a lady fair;
Miss Watt was her name.
She was poisoned by her husband,
And he hangs for the same.

Miss Watt, she was handsome,
But not in high degree.
Henry Glenn was a wealthy man,
As you can plainly see.
He said to her, "Miss Mary,
If you will be my wife,
I'll guard you as a parent
Through all this gloomy life."

"To be your wife, dear Henry,
Why, you have my consent,
But I fear before we're married, sir,
I fear that you'll repent.
I fear before we're married long,
You'll think me a disgrace.
I've not the wealth that you have;
This often is the case."

"Oh, my dearest Mary,
I never thought you'd serve me so,
But by all of creation,
I will be true to you,
And if you still reject me,
I want to end my life.
I want to live no longer
If you won't be my wife."

Believing all his story,
She soon became his wife,
And little did she think, poor girl,
He'd take from her her life.
And little did she think, poor girl,
Or ever she suspect,
That he would take from her
What he'd sworn to protect.

They had not been married long,
Three weeks, when she took ill.
Great doctors, they were sent for
To do their powerful skill.
Great doctors, they were sent for,
But none of them could save.
At last it was pronounced by them
She must go to her grave.

Her brother, hearing all of this,
Straightway to her did go.
Said, "Sister dear, oh, Sister,
You're dying, the doctors tell me so."
Said, "Sister, dear, you're dying sure;
Your life is at an end,
And don't you think 'twas poison
From him you thought your friend?"

"As I lie here on my deathbed
And know that I must die,
Before the great judgment,
The truth I won't deny.
I know that it was Henry.
I cannot tell a lie,
But I love him just the same,
And would not seem him die."

When Henry got the tidings,
His wife he went to see.
Said, "Mary, oh, my Mary,
Were you deceived in me?"
Three times she said, "Dear Henry,"
And sank into a swoon.
He smiled upon her lightly,
And gently left the room.

"Henry poisoned me,
My poor heart, oh, how wrong,
But when I'm dead, dear brother,
Don't have my Henry hung.
I do freely forgive him."
She turned upon her side.
"In heaven come and meet me."
She sweetly smiled and died.

Also found in Randolph, Vol. II, #157, "Henry Green"; Belden, p. 321, "Henry Green."


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy
From: Joe Offer
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 03:03 AM

Henry Green
RECORDED BY MR. BROWN in Jamaica, Vermont, from the singing of Mr. Fred Ballard, who learned it from his father at an early age. Neither the singer's healthy, rugged appearance or his fine rich voice bespoke his seventy-two years. The effect of the strange melody (in the old Dorian mode) was most dramatic.


Come listen to my tragedy,
Good people, young and old;
I'll tell you of a story,
'T will make your blood run cold,
Concerning a fair damsel,
Miss Wyatt was her name,
She was murdered by her husband
And he hung for the same.

Young Mary, she was beautiful,
Not of a high degree.
Young Henry Green was wealthy
As you shall plainly see.
He says, "My dearest Mary,
If you will be my wife,
I'll guard you from all peril
Throughout this gloomy life."

She says, "My dearest Henry,
I fear it will never do,
For you have high relations.
I'm not as rich as you,
And when your parents come to hear
They'll spurn me from their door;
They rather you'd wed some richer girl
With wealth laid up in store."

He says, "My dearest Mary,
Why do you torment me so?
I vow by all that's sacred
I ever will prove true,
And if you longer me reject
I'll take away my life,
For I no longer wish to live
Unless you are my wife."

Believing all he said was true
She then became his wife;
Little did she think, poor girl,
He'd take away her life;
Little did she think, poor girl,
Nor e'er did she expect,
That he would take the life of one
He'd just sworn to protect.

They had been married scarce a week
When she was taken ill,
And e'er it was expected,
His wife he meant to kill.
Great doctors, they were sent for
But none of them could save,
And soon by them it was proclaimed
She must go to her grave.

Soon as her brother heard of this
Straightway to her did go,
Saying, "Mary dear, you're dying,
The doctors tell me so.
O tell me, dearest sister,
Your life is at an end,
O have you not been murdered
By one that was your friend?"

"It's as I on my deathbed lie
And know that I must die,
And as I'm going to my God
The truth I'll not deny.
Young Henry Green has poisoned me.
Do, brother, for him send,
For I do love him now as well
As when he was my friend."

When Henry Green those tidings got,
His wife he went to see.
She says, "My dearest Henry,
Were you ever deceived by me?"
Three times she says, "Dear Henry,"
Then sank into a swoon.
He gazed on her with indifference
And in silence left the room.

An inquest on her body held
According to our laws,
And soon by them it was proclaimed
That arsenic was the cause.
Young Henry Green was sent for
Locked up in Troy jail,
There to await his trial
The court would not take bail.

Young Henry Green was sent for
And called upon the stand,
To answer for the blackest deed
Committed in our land.
He said that he was innocent.
Her friends he did defy.
He said that he was innocent;
Although it had been tried.

Judge Baker read the sentence.
He appeared to be unmoved.
Judge Baker read the sentence.
He said he must be hung.
He said, "When autumn leaves turn pale
And summer days have fled,
He, too, must close his youthful life
And slumber with the dead."


Source: Vermont Folk-Songs & Ballads, edited by Helen Hartness Flanders & George Brown (1931)


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 09 Nov 06 - 10:57 AM

Malcolm Laws also makes several comments about this song. His notes refer to L.C. Jones, "The Berlin Murder Case in Folklore and Ballad", in New York History XVII (1936), pp. 192-205 for a complete account. This is not in the Ozark Folk Center library but there may be copies of this journal in town and we will look for it today. One of our Mudcatters may have access to this.   

I am pleased to see what has been found so far.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy
From: GUEST,zant
Date: 02 Jun 10 - 02:12 PM

My grandmother rocked me to sleep as a baby with this song in the 1930's. I sang it to my children and grandchildren. My lullaby's were cowboy songs and murders...lol I love these old songs. The lady's name in this song was Miss Wyens...but all else the same. (maybe the way we pronouced it..it just sounded like Wyens...lol)


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 02 Jun 10 - 09:43 PM

GUEST,zant - I'm wondering where you grew up, and what other songs your grandmother sang to you?


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 04:36 PM

I've just added a post about the murder of Mary Ann Wyatt by Henry G. Green, on Murder by Gaslight: The Murdered Wife

It's one of the few cases where I learned of the murder before learning of the songs.


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Subject: RE: DTStudy: Henry Green/The Arsenic Tragedy
From: RWilhelm
Date: 22 Jan 11 - 04:38 PM

Not a Guest, my cookie was down.

Robert Wilhelm
Murder by Gaslight


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