Saturday, December 21, 2013

Scandalous Saturday/Johanna Shea

     Today's blog is about a crime committed in 1877 Auburn, New York against a young girl named Johanna Shea.  Johanna, or Hannah as she was known, was the daughter of Thomas Shea and his wife Mary O'Hora.  Mary was born in 1846 to John O'Hora and his wife Catherine McGarr in Ballyraggan, Kildare. Mary's father John was the brother of my great-great-grandfather James O'Hora, and her mother Catherine was the sister of my great-great-grandmother Maria McGarr O'Hora.  Got that?  The McGarr sisters married the O'Hora brothers.

     Mary was brought to America as an infant during the famine, and after marrying Thomas Shea lived in the town of Owasco near Auburn, New York.  Her uncle James and Aunt Maria lived right next door to her there.  She died in 1872, quite possibly in childbirth, leaving behind her husband Thomas and three children.  Hannah, the oldest was only nine years old at the time of her mother's death.  Thomas remarried the following year, a woman named Jane, and had several more children.

     Nothing else remarkable seemed to happen in this family until early 1877. This article is from the Auburn NY Journal:
An Amorous Old Man Comes To Grief 
   Alvin Goodell, a man 65 years of age, an old resident of Moravia, and a man of property, was arraigned before Justice Edmonds, charged with assault upon the person of a little girl, Hannah Shea, aged 12 years [she was actually closer to 14] and daughter of Thos. Shea living in the eastern part of the town.  Goodell lives alone, and enticed the girl into his residence, detaining her overnight. A suit for civil damages has been instituted against Goodell by the father of the girl.

     I cannot imagine how terrified this young girl must have been, and I would rather not imagine what this demented man may have done to her.  It appears Alvin Goodell was always what the neighbors would have called a little odd.  The Gazetteer and Business Directory of Cayuga County for 1867-68 lists a "Dr." Alvin Goodell of Moravia, healing spiritual medium and shoe dealer.  Strange combination, and I would think the residents of rural Cayuga County would most likely have been practitioners of the "old time religion" rather than spiritualism, but you never know.  Alvin paid for all his property some way and spiritualism was popular in America during that period.

     The civil suit against the "doctor" went forward and Hanna Shea was awarded $5,000.  Goodell, who was out on bail at the time, skipped town rather than pay up or risk further incarceration.  

     Never fear however, Hannah got her money in the end--Goodell's property was put on the auction block in order to pay her.  At that auction, Hannah's father Thomas spent $1,460 to  purchase the brick buildings on the corner of South and Main St. in Auburn seen above.  Left click on the photo and you can see the name Shea's over the green doorway of the building on the right, and also on a larger black sign over the awning of the same building.  A little poetic justice there.  I luckily found the postcard picturing the building on Ebay, which I search regularly for items pertaining to my ancestors.

     In January of 1878 Alvin Goodell was apprehended in St. Louis and returned to Auburn where he was put on trial. Found guilty of criminal assault, he was sentenced to eight years in Auburn Prison.  Not nearly long enough.  Hannah grew up, married a man named John Rahrle and had a daughter of her own.  She passed away in 1942 in Auburn.

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