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Back to the North Wood: Bizarre testimony no help in woman's death case

12:54 PM, Sep. 13, 2013  |  Comments
Rhonda Whetstone
Rhonda Whetstone
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Born in 1886, Amelia Faber was a mere 26 when her life ended.

Amelia lived on West B street and graduated from McKinley High School in Marshfield. While in Marshfield, she worked at Henry Schumacher's Drug Store. Later, while attending Oshkosh Normal School, she worked for Schumacher there. She graduated both schools with highest honors.

Although the facts of the relationship that developed between Schumacher, 36, and Amelia never really came to light, it seemed the two were involved romantically, even though Schumacher, who spent the previous year living in Oshkosh, had a wife and two children in Marshfield.

In September 1912, Amelia was working as assistant principal and German teacher in Amherst, but one week into first semester, she went home to Mrs. Peterson's boarding house where she lived, complaining she was ill. On Friday, Schumacher arrived to see her.

The Stevens Point Daily Journal reported that soon after Schumacher arrived from the Northern Asylum where he worked (now known as Winnebago Mental Health Institute), he took charge, even excluding Mrs. Peterson from being in the room, although she could hear Amelia's agonized groans from within.

Schumacher remained there until Sunday, Sept. 24, leaving when Amelia's mother arrived from Marshfield and a physician was summoned, but it was too late for Amelia.

As soon as word reached Stevens Point, Sheriff Guyant, the coroner and two doctors hastened to Amherst to make a postmortem examination. While there, they also examined some of the circumstances connected to Amelia's sickness and death, and their conclusion was that death was due to peritonitis and blood poisoning, the result of an "unlawful operation."

They also found four unsigned love letters to Amelia addressing her as "wifey."

Schumacher was arrested, taken to Stevens Point and charged with manslaughter. He told his wife he was being arrested for practicing medicine without a license.

Schumacher waived examination, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, bail was fixed at $2,500, and he was jailed.

It was this plea that incorporated the most bizarre testimony by the defendant. Even though seen by many at the Peterson home, he insisted he had not been there.

Schumacher said he left Oshkosh by train but when stopped at the Stockton station, a man on the platform called to him for help, and he went out. He said the man was a doctor who wanted Schumacher to assist him in caring for a man who was "cutting up." Schumacher then described the doctor, including clothing, glasses, color of hair and even color of the horse with which they left the station.

Schumacher said they drove to a farmhouse, then on to Amherst where the doctor bought medicine at Beidlemar's Drugstore, returning to the farmhouse where they spent the night handling a confinement case. Schumacher said on Saturday, the doctor again drove him to Amherst where he caught the No. 11 train to Marshfield.

Schumacher said he did not even know Amelia was in Amherst and then remarked that he had "not written Amelia any letters - not within the last month!"

While incarcerated, Schumacher was visited by Amelia's siblings, and both came away feeling he was crazy.

In early October, the district attorney summoned Dr. Rogers of Stevens Point and Dr. Aden Sherman, superintendent of the Northern Asylum where Schumacher had worked, to examine the defendant.

Sherman, along with two other doctors, Sheriff Guyant, Mrs. Peterson and Amelia's mother were called to testify at trial.

It was Dr. Sherman's opinion, after a second examination, that Schumacher was insane at the time of the abortion and for a time after, but by date of trial in April 1913, he was once again sane, although in a very weakened state due to incarceration.

Schumacher's wife attended all of the hearings and trial, being aware that the punishment for an illegal abortion resulting in the death of the mother was a mandatory four years, and possibly up to seven years, in state prison.

Schumacher was defended by attorneys Andrews of Marshfield and Hanna of Stevens Point. Testimony for him was limited mostly to character testimony from a number of Marshfield men. His lawyers also argued that he arrived after Amelia had performed the abortion herself, so there was little he could do.

On Wednesday, May 14, 1913, the jury ruled and the Marshfield Times headlines read, "SCHUMAKER (sic) LOSES FIGHT IN CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL."

Amelia's young life was tragically over, Schumacher's was forever ruined, and the real truth of who performed the abortion never would come to light.

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