Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Today -100: December 24, 1913: Of currency, bridge-blowing, and secret rooms

The Currency Bill is passed and signed. Yay for the Federal Reserve!

Federal troops in Mexico have adopted tactics previously only used by the rebels, blowing up railroad bridges and telegraph wires, to cut off communications between Pancho Villa in Chihuahua and the rest of the rebels.

Lawyer Melvin Couch, the former district attorney of Sullivan County, NY drops dead at 65 in his office in Monticello, NY. Who else was found in his office? His mistress of 15 years, Adelaide Brance, who had been secretly living in a secret room built into his inner office, never or rarely going out, for three years, except in a desperate search for a doctor when Couch collapsed; as luck wouldn’t have it, the nearest doctor turned out to be Couch’s wife’s brother. Couch also ate and slept in his office, having told his wife that his rheumatism made it impossible for him to climb the hill to their home every day. So he returned home only for Sunday dinners. Brance did all his office work, since he could hardly keep a clerk and secretary. For some reason, his funeral was more sparsely attended than a former DA’s would normally be. Which evidently made one of his friends, a retired jeweler he’d been to school with, so distraught that he committed suicide with a gun Couch gave him, souvenir of one of Couch’s biggest cases as DA, that of Jack Allen, the last man hanged in that county. In fact, the sheriff’s hands were shaking so much that Allen tied the rope himself, saying he wanted to be in Hell in time for supper. Brance was not allowed to go to the funeral, being held in the jail on robbery charges trumped up to hold her in case Couch turned out to have been murdered. Although Brance had almost nothing from Couch (a couple of mortgages worth $650) and he left no will, she will turn down offers of $1,000 for a two-week vaudeville engagement and $3,000 to appear in a film about the affair. The last trace I can find of her was being checked into a sanitarium in January.

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