Canton Historical Society


All Information On This Page
Is From The Canton Town Report
Of 1870, Except The Photo


ca-15.jpg (56253 bytes)
The Sherman School can be seen in the background.  The scene of the crime.
This photo shows workmen laying the water line in Pleasant Street in 1887.



Etta Barstow Stoned By Students At The Sherman School

DISTRICT No. 5. Pleasant Street

Teacher, Mrs. EMMA F. GOULD. This school has been taught by one teacher during the year with the exception of about three weeks at the beginning of the fall term, when it was taken by Miss Etta K. Barstow, Who was, as the sequel proved, in ill health. During her stay in the school the old fight of "which shall be master," was fought over again and though the teacher thought that she should eventually conquer, she without doubt, exerted herself too much, and the worry and want of success which is so trying to one ambitious of reputation or who has high aspirations for an orderly school, undoubtedly brought on a relapse of her disease, being primarily an affection of one of the lobes of the brain, from the effects of which she died. This school has been for many years a hard school to govern, on the first day of the school year, the performance commenced with the overture of "shoo fly," followed by an encounter between two aspirants for pugilistic honors. Mrs. Gould, finally brought order out of chaos, but not without a great deal of trouble from the parents, whose encouragement has done more to give the school a bad reputation than any other cause. Under Mrs. Gould the school has done very well, the order has been good, and the closing examination showed much improvement.

At the especial request of your Committee, and because many erroneous statements in regard to the death of Miss Barstow appeared in the newspapers, at the time of the occurrence, I hereby place before your honorable board a statement of the facts:--On the morning of Friday, Oct. 8th, when about to take the cars for Boston, I was informed that the boys in District No. 5, had killed their teacher. I immediately visited the District in order to obtain such information as I could in regard to the affair, but found the inhabitants of this part of the town extremely reticent; acting however on such information as I was enabled to obtain, I caused the arrest of five boys, a part for disturbing the school and a part for assault on the teacher. They were examined the same afternoon by Trial Justice Grover, and the testimony given by eye witnesses, was as follows. That on the morning of Wednesday the fifth inst, a part of the scholars refused to come into the school house when the bell rung, that they then began slamming the blinds and throwing stones into the entry, using profane and other improper language; that at noon, when Miss Barstow was leaving the school yard, stones were thrown at her, one of which struck her on the back of the head and one on the neck. That she had hard work to reach her boarding place, and when there, fell exhausted into a chair, saying, "Those boys have thrown stones at me." Finding the case beyond his jurisdiction, the Trial Justice ordered the boys to be carried before Judge White, the probate Judge who has charge of juvenile offenders. He sentenced three of the boys upon the charge of disturbing the school, to the State Reform School at Westboro', and remarked that he could do no more than that if they were tried upon the assault. From this decision they appealed, and were tried before Judge Wilkinson, at the December term of the court, for the disturbance, merely. All evidence in regard to the assault being so carefully barred out by the defendants, that jurors who tried the case and were familiar with the facts of the assault, did not recognize this as a part of the same affair. The jury however found them guilty, and the judge put them on probation.

The belief was so strong in many minds that Miss Barstow's death had been caused by the injuries she received at the hands of her pupils, that I was requested to sift the matter to the bottom. At the request of prominent citizens, I called upon Dr. Chas. Buckingham, tire physician who had attended Miss Barstow during her final illness. He informed me that he was unable to account for the cause of her death. That in a practice of twenty-five years he had never seen a similar case; that she appeared to him like a person suffering under the effects of a narcotic poison. If she had received a blow upon the head, it would account for the peculiarities attending her death, which he was unable to account for from the effects of her disease. Deemhg this information of importance, a telegram was sent which caused the interment of Miss Barstow to be suspended, and in company with Drs. Buckingham and Swan, and Mr. B. A. Samuels, I went to Hanover. A coroner's jury was then unpanneled and a post mortem examination was made. But there was no mark or sign of a bruise on or about the body. The verdict of the jury was as follows; "That Miss Etta K. Barstow, came to her death, primarily by diabetes, accelerated by the shock to her nervous system, occasioned by an attack made upon her by James Coffee and others, to the jury unknown."

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