Who Hated Roland?
By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
Roland B. Morgan traveled from Elgin, Illinois with his wife and her mother to winter in their country residence. Little did he know he was chasing death.
They named their estate All Bay, and it was situated about five miles across the bay from Pensacola on the Santa Rosa county peninsula. Mr. Morgan owned about 60 acres. Prior to this he had already disposed of hundreds of acres to parties from up north.
Only 40 years before at this site, Union sailors and marines destroyed the Judah, a Confederate ship under modification at the Pensacola Navy Yard. Union and Confederate forces squared off in a battle in a growing civil war. But now all was calm, and the Morgans were planning to live here permanently.
Morgan for many years had been a foreman at the Elgin Watch Factory, and then in Florida was involved in the coal business with the C.N. Russell & Co.
It was the spring of 1903, when he picked up a small square box at the post office from a company called Hammond’s Foods. He went home, and inside was half a pound of what was described as “breakfast food”. He stirred a spoonful into a saucer. His wife and mother-in-law tasted it, and spat it out because it was so bitter. They warned him about the taste but he waved them away, and took a swallow. Fifteen minutes later his agony ended in death. His wife and her mother also came close to death but survived.
The coroner’s jury was still pending when Morgan’s body was interred on his estate. Within a few days, Morgan’s brother-in-law, Charles E. Wilcox arrived in Pensacola from Chicago. He had the body disinterred.
The body was viewed by the coroner's jury at Northup & Wood Undertakers. Morgan’s remains were said to be in a very bad state, and lifelong friends said the man was unrecognizable. His torso, even after so short a time, was blackened and decomposed. He also displayed Rictus Sardonicus an "unfailing indication of strychnine poison."
Due to the suspicion of poisoning, samples from his stomach were sent to Chicago and New York for an expert verification of what had killed the man. Local chemists also examined the stomach contents.
When the powder in the box was tested, it was ascertained there was enough poison to kill a dozen men. At one corner of the box there was a small hole, as though the package had been crushed in the mail.
A story was circulated that a local newspaper man found a postcard written by a man who was said to be on "bad terms" with Morgan. A comparison was made of the handwriting on the package and the card, and they were similar, however the postmarks on the package were indistinct. Within days the story was discounted.
It took a month before results came back for Morgan’s tissue samples, and what came in the box from Chicago. Professor John H. Long from Northwestern University, confirmed that strychnine in large quantities was found in the food and the stomach contents of Roland Morgan.
The mystery deepened as Morgan was said not to have any known enemies. He was a popular man with many friends.
Prior to this Morgan had on many occasions received samples of prepared food through the mail. Had someone poisoned the contents not knowing who would eat it, or had it been planned by someone who knew he frequently received this type of samples in the mail?
Morgan's wife stayed living at the home where her husband had died. She had already endured tremendous heartache when the couple had lost two daughters, Nellie and Katie, within one day of each other in 1881, due to scarlet fever.
By 1920, she had moved back to Elgin, Illinois and lived with her brother Charles Wilcox and his daughter Sarah Creiger and her son Charles.
She outlived her brother and in the 1940 census at the age of 91, she was still living in the same home with her niece. She had never remarried.
The mystery of who poisoned her husband Roland remained unsolved, not only who, but why.
Leave a Reply.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer