Purvis, John & Sarah - Macoupin County Illinois
©2009 Michelle Gatz

Research by Michelle Gatz
Extra Research by Linda R F Arnold

The family of John and Sarah Crouch Purvis

If you more information on John Purvis and/or Sarah Crouch Purvis, Michelle would like to have to build a research file for the Yellow Medicine Historical Society.

Sarah Crouch Purvis

July 21st, 1885- Granite Falls Newspaper

At Granite Falls, July 16, of heart disease, John Purvis, age 55 years.

Aug 1885- Marshall Newspaper

A Granite special to the P.P. says: Mrs John Purvis has been arrested on the charge of poisoning her husband, who had been ailing for some days, died rather suddenly, and on Saturday morning the body was buried over in Chippewa county. Several little incidents, that happened previously to the death of Purvis lead some to believe that he did not die a natural death, and there was considerable talk of instituting an examination before the funeral; but, as the county attorney was absent, the funeral was allowed to proceed.  The talk, however grew into more than a murmur, and on Wednesday the county attorney having come home in the meantime, action was taken on the matter, and the coroner of Chippewa county was notified to come down Thursday morning, which he did, accompanied by Dr. Roger, of Montevideo.  Since the burial of Purvis is had been discovered that two days before his death his wife had purchased half an ounce of arsenic at a drug store, which fact still further tended to confirm the first suspicions, and it was deemed advisable to exhume the body and search for poison.  Early Thursday morning the proper officers, accompanied by Dr’s Stratton and Rogers, and la large number of spectators, went to the graveyard north of town.

The exhumation    

The body of Purvis was taken up and placed in a tent set up for the occasion.  A jury empaneled, and after some testimony a post mortem examination was made.  The internal organs all showed evident signs of poison of some kind. But an entirely new phase of the case was brought forth by the finding of large quantities of quicksilver scattered all through his organs and intestines.  How did it come there was the question.  Finally a jury, on the testimony of the doctors and the evidence before them, brought in a verdict of death by violence, and at 10 o’clock last evening Mrs. Purvis was arrested, and a guard left to watch her in her own house.  This morning she was brought before Squire J.A. Lewis for a preliminary examination.  In the meantime the house has been searched and a


Aug 4th, 1885- Granite Falls Newspaper

No new developments in the Purvis case.  The time set for the hearing was yesterday, but owing to the delay occasioned by the re-disinterment, and analysis will not be completed until the very last of this week. Consequently the hearing will be continued until that time.

Aug 18th, 1885- Granite Falls newspaper

The evidence in the Purvis case was all taken down by a short hand reporter from St. Paul

Aug 18th, 1885- Granite Falls Newspaper

Preliminary Examination of Mrs. Purvis

She is held for trial at the October term of the District court

    The adjourned preliminary examination of Mrs. Purvis occurred on Friday last.  The prisoner was taken to the courthouse; the court deciding that more commodious.  At 10 o’clock the case was called. Mesers, Shannon & McLarty appearing for the defense, and J.W. Arctander and Gorham Powers for the state.

    James A Dodge, chemist at the State of University Minneapolis was the first witness called. He testified to having made a chemical analysis of the liver of Mr. Purvis, deceased, and found therein sufficient arsenic, in his opinion to cause of death.

    Dr. Rogers of Montevideo was next sworn, and give his opinion that Purvis did not die a natural death, and gave his reason for such belief.

    J.G. C. Johnson testified that Mrs. Purvis bought poison of him-referring to his record book- on July 14th.

    Dr. Stratton testified to exhuming the body the second time and procuring the liver which he delivered to the chemist.

    R.R. Hotchkiss testified to having gone to the house of Purvis, shortly after his death. Was present at the post mortem examination and saw the body exhumed and identified it, as the body of John Purvis.

    Frank Dillingham was next sworn, and said he was at the house shortly before Purvis died; saw Mrs. Purvis give him medicine.  Saw Purvis’ body at the funeral, and also at the coroner’s inquest/

    This concluded the prosecution.  The defense offered no evidence. Justice Lewis considering he had sufficient evidence to retain Mrs. Purvis, she was remanded to jail to await the October term of District Court.

    From first to last there was a good deal of interest manifested and the court room was full of people anxious to hear the evidence.

    The prisoner showed no signs of remorse, and seemed to treat the affair with indifference.

    The case is ably prosecuted and defended, and will, no doubt prove very interesting before its close.

    Opinions are freely expressed that the man was poisoned, and the circumstances surrounding the case would indicate, or corroborate sentiments so expressed.

December 1st, 1885- Granite Falls Newspaper

Today court commences, and the usual attendants are on hand, the judge J.W. and others of local notoriety, are here armed with law books and arguments.  The term will be short and the consideration of the two cases will wind up the special session.  We may expect some interesting arguments from the “Legal limbs” in behalf of the two who are to receive judicial justice.  The judge left orders for the sheriff to secure the hall in case of stormy weather, making it much more convenient for all parties concerned.

James A Dodge, chemist for the state, University of Minneapolis was the first witness called. He testified to having a chemical analysis of the liver of Mr. Purvis, deceased, and found therein sufficient arsenic, in his opinion to cause death.
Dr. Rogers of Montevideo was next sworn, and gave his opinion that Purvis did not die a natural death, and gave his reasons for such belief.
J.G.C. Johnson testified that Mrs. Purvis bought poison of him, referring to his record book on July 14th.
Dr. Statton testified to exhuming the body the second time and procuring the liver which he delivered to the chemist.
RR Hotchkiss testified to having gone to the house of Purvis, shortly after his death. Was present at the post mortem examination and saw the body exhumed and identified, as the body of John Purvis.
Frank Dillingham was next sworn, and said he went to the house and saw Mrs. Purvis give him medicine. Saw Purvis's body at the funeral, and also at the coroner's inquest.
This concluded the prosecution. The defense offered no evidence. Justice Lewis considering he had sufficient evidence to retain Mrs. Purvis. She was remanded to jail to await the Oct. term of District court.
From first to last there was a good deal of interest manifested and the courtroom was full of people anxious to hear the evidence.
The prisoner showed no signs of remorse, and will no doubt prove very interesting before its close.
Opinions are freely expressed that the man was poisoned and the circumstances surrounding the case would indicate, or corroborate sentiments expressed.
Tues., Dec S", 1885
Sentence Pronounced
Mrs. Purvis pleads quality to murder in the Second degree and receives life sentence.

-Ole Narkin pays the penalty of his crime with 3 and half years of hard labor.
The adjourned term of the court convened at the courthouse on Tues., Dec., 1st at lOAm, Judge Brown presiding. Mrs. Purvis who has been confined in the county jail since last spring on the charge of poisoning her husband and who plead not quality at the regular term last Oct. was arraigned. Her attorney C.E. Shannon, by her request wished to modify the plea to guilty of murder in the 2nd degree, which was accepted by the court and this ended the trail, so far as she was concerned. Witness for the prosecution were notified by telegraph that they were not needed, and the crowd who had expressed to hear the case tried were sadly disappointed. The case was placed in the hands of the court for final disposal.
Mrs. Purvis was brought in there sentence was pronounced, Stillwater for life at hard labor, "was the decree of the court" Thus ended the two cases that will afford no small part of the criminal history of this county in after years. Mrs. Purvis has relatives here who are respectfully connected and to them as well as her two small children, it wis a trying ordeal. Wednesday evening Sherriff Fortier accompanied by his wife and deputy LeSicer, with the prisoner in charge, started for Still water. Our readers will remember the early history of these two cases and the interest that has marked them from the beginning. Our county has suffered a large expense the special term costing nearly $800.00 It would seem that the time is not for distumt when criminals would shrink from
facing a jury composed of the sturdy yeoman of this county.

1887 Court expenses for trial


In the matter of the estate of John Purvis

Affidavit of Sarah C. Purvis, as to the bill of Henry Howard

Filed August 1886- County of Washington

    Sarah C. Purvis an inmate of and convict in the Minnesota State Prison being first duly sworn and deposes to say. That in regard to the bill of Henry Howard vs John Purvis herewith enclosed amounting to eighty eight and 75/100 the item of house rent and rent of barn, was paid for by her labor by argument and that the item of hauling manure $6.25 is incorrect the work being done after she and her husband left the place also in reference to the bill of John Odson that the item 1 jersey $3.50 was paid for by her with these exceptions she believes the bills to be correct and just.

Signed: Sarah Purvis

Testimony of Henry Howard

I had some dealing with John Purvis in 1884. I had a running account with him ..forward, that account was never settled. My account bill I and Mr. Purvis had together and I paid Stone I paid $100 to Stone for Mr. Purvis.  I sold Mr. Purvis interest in the Hay rake bought from Schnieger and he was to pay in hay. …I hauled it from down at McLarty place about 5 miles. I jelped them thresh for Purvis him on Sweets place  ¾ of a day. I drawed oats from place by threshing to to Mr Sweets. I bought some grass from Hixons and Purvis said to pay. I paid his part of $7.50.

I also gave him wood.


Jan 9th, 1890

On reading the filing the petition of Isaac J. Hoyt- Guardian of William W. Purvis and Ernest L Purvis, minor children of John Purvis, deceased, representing, among other things, that the administrator and has been discharging and that certain real estate was left belonging to said estate which was never assigned by the court, and praying for the assignment of the residue of the assigned by this court.

Wednesday 5th day of February 1890 at 10Am at the Probate office in the City of Granite Falls.

State of Minnesota- Probate Court

To the Judge of Probate in and for said county.

    The petitioner of Isaac J. Hoyt of said County, respectfully represents that John Purvis died at the City of Granite Falls in said County on the 16th day of July 1885.  That at the time of his death he was the owner of the following described real estate situated in said county and State of Minnesota. The SW quarter of the NE quarter of Section 5 in township one hundred and fifteen, Range Thirty nine.

That said real estate has been fully administered and the administrator D. A Luce Learty, was by an order of this court, dated July 5th, 1887. Duly discharged but no assignment of the residence of said estate has ever been made.  That the house described land still remains a part of said estate unassigned and not in any way sold or disposed of.

    That said John Purvis left surviving him a widow, Sarah C. Purvis about 38 years old now residing in the State prison at Stillwater, Minnesota and two minor children, William W.  Purvis aged 13 years and Ernest L Purvis aged 11 years now in the care of your petitioner, who in the July appointed guardian of the personal estate of said minors. That said widow Sarah  C. Purvis in entitled to receive an undivided our third of said real estate and the said minor children the warden of your petitioner are entitled to remainder two thirds.

    Your petitioner therefore prays the order of this court assigning said real estate to the persons to whom it belongs according to the law.

    Isaac J. Hoyt.

December 11th, 1894-Granite Falls Newspaper

Mrs. Purvis arrived here last Saturday, having been allowed a visit for a few weeks on parole,  She is staying with her sister in Minnesota Falls, Mrs. I.T. Hoyt.

Pardon of Sarah Purvis

Original Material


Dear Sir,

Having learned that an application is about to be made for the pardon of Mrs. Purvis who is now serving a life sentence at Stillwater, for the murder of her husband. I write to express my hope and desire that a pardon will be granted her.

I was County Attorney of Yellow Medicine County at the time of her conviction and sentence and I was there and am still satisfied in my own mind that there was a man in the case who was at the bottom of the murder and whose influence induced her to commit the crime it seems to me that the hands of justice have been satisfied and that society would be respectfully safe if she should be released, and permitted to spend the few remaining years of her life with her sisters and her two minor children.

Your servant

Gorham Powers

Petition for her release was signed by:

Gorham Powers- District Judge

Joseph Fortier Ex-Sheriff

John Otis-Clerk of Dist. Court

R.R. Hotchkiss-general Merchant

D.A. McLarty-Attorney at Law

J. Dodsowrth-Bank Cashier

C.A. Bennett- Editor

A.J. Luce-Real Estate

A.J. Volstead-County Attorney

L.M. Jensvold- Sheriff

C.L. Hardy-City recorder

Feb. 23rd. 1893

Honorable M.O. Hall

Dear Sir,

I am in receipt of a letter from Mrs. Purvis at Stillwater asking me to write to someone that I thought would likely had influence with the Governor to help her out she is getting old and feeble, she can’t stand that life much longer. I met one of her boys the other day and I asked if he would like to see his mother yes, he say he and the poor boy said in crying, I wish some body would take interest and get her out. Of Course she has done wrong but she was influenced and she hint tall to blame someone up here out to be in her place, there was a petition last year signed by good many citizens of granite falls, Judge Powers was one of the first signers. It might never reached the Governor would you be kind enough to let me know if you would be inclined to do same thing for her and if need another petition I will see that one will be circulated and sent to you in due time. Wishing you food prosperity, my wife and me sent you and Mrs Hall out best wishes

Yours, Joseph Fortier

P.S. My wife been sick all winter with Rhematis and neuralgls but she is better now and out of bed.

Dear Governor

This letter is from the former sheriff of Yellow Medicine County was sheriff when Mrs. Purvis was confined in jail some six months before sentence. I have always made it a rule not to interfere in any case. If you have not already (missing page)

had a look containing all the names and offences, you can get a …book by asking the prison warder. This would be of great value to you as secondary reference.

In the case of Mrs. Purvis she poisoned her husband caused for the love of a villain boarding with them. She was weak minded woman, ..but very illiterate, could not read or write, she has learned to do both since in prison. She has two boys 12-15 years. I will act on your advice, if should advice there to get up a petition at Granite Falls,

Your M.O. Hall

March 20th, 1893

Letter sent from C.C. Shannon, one of the attorney for Mrs. Purvis asking for a pardon.

March 22nd, 1893-

Warden letter for support-said she was an ignorant woman and easily lead.

March 24th, 1893

Letter from Powers to Nelson and envelope

June 6th, 1893

From C.E. Shannon

Honorable Knute Nelson

Dear Sir,

In regard to the afflication of her Sarah Purvis for a pardon let me suggest that in case you find you cannot consistently grant the pardon you commute her sentence to some fixed time. I realize the fact that you on constantly besieged for pardons and don’t want to be a bore in this matter but there are circumstances in her case which if you understood as well or I do, would have some influence I am sure

Feb. 12th, 1894

Ernest Purvis

Central City, Iowa

Mr Nelson, Dear sir,

I will drop you a few lines concerning the pardon of Mrs. Sarah Purvis that you were acting upon last spring. If you can do anything for her please do it as soon as you can for if she does not get out of prison she will not live long for she is failing in health and I think if she gets out in the free air she will improve in health. She has always had a good name where ever she lived before done what but she never would have done it hadn’t coaxed into it she will leave that state if you will be so kind as let her out I and my brother are large and old enough to take care of her and we will do our best for her and keep her out of harm we hope and trust you that you will pardon her out and we will do all we can for you, well I hope you will have a ready answer for this.

I remain yours truly,

E.L. Purvis

Papers files first with Gov. Nelson- 4 day of December 1894

Sentence changed to 18 years on March 3rd, 1894

Dec 20th, 1897 - Original Letter

Nr Wolfer

Warden Stillwater, MN.

Is it not possible for you to get the governor to call a extra meeting to act on Mrs. Sarah Purvis pardon as we would like to start from here about Jan. the 4th we have the son engaged I would like for her to go along as her time is so near and I cannot ? I’ll as the board could appear if they did she will have to get some place to stay and them make the long trip alone please try to get this adjusted if possible. Let me know what you think about it by return mail if you please

Your truly,I.T. Hoyt

Granted Dec. 27th, 1897

Application To the Board of Pardons- December 27th, 1897

The application of Sarah C. Purvis, 37 years old That on the first day of December 1885 she was tried and convicted in the district court for the county of Yellow Medicine  and there upon sentenced to imprisonment in the MN state prison for the term of her natural life. Commuted by Gov. Knute Nelson to 18 years, on March 3rd, 1894 and that she is now on parole pursuant to such sentence that the name and post office address of the judge before whom she was tried is J.H. Brown, Willmar MN attorney is Gorham Powers that she was indicted and convicted under the name of Sarah Purvis

The petitioner asks that a commutation or pardon for the following reasons

First that I am now on parole and have only two months and a half to serve before I will be entitled to my discharge.

Second-that my behavior since being on parole a period of three years has been such as to give promise of a full reformation.

Third-that my brother-in-law and his family by whom I have been employed as housekeeper since my release on parole, are going to leave the state and remove permanently to the south on Jan. 4th 1898, thus depriving me of a permanent situation and practically unsupported.

Forth- that if allowed to accompany them I will be enabled to support myself and properly care for my two minor children.

Discharged- 5th January 1898

Granite falls, Jan 2nd, 1897

Board of Pardons

Sarah Purvis was convicted upon her plea of guilty of murder in the 2nd degree but she was charged with murder of the 1st degree and was no doubt guilty of that charge.  It is however firmly believed here that she was impelled to do the act by a person with whom she then sustained improper relationship and that it was not her planning nor voluntary act that effected the murder but as the killing of her husband which was done by poison was not accomplished by any immediate compulsion she would of course by responsible for what she did.

Beyond submitting the foregoing facts I do not desire to …in the matter

Respectfully yours, R.J. Vassiak-attorney

Michelle Gatz writes, Well from what the information was, Howard was living with them and planned the whole thing. They did not charge him because Sarah bought the poison. I don't know anything about this Howard fellow will have to do a follow-up. The information I got was from Sarah Purvis parole records from the historical society.

Sarah Purvis

Born 1848 in Tennesse

Died Feb. 27th, 1928 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Married PURVIS, JOHN, CROUCH, SARAH C 1867-11-07 005/ 00006083 MACOUPIN

1880- shows her living in Macoupin County
1885- Living in Granite Falls, Yellow Medicine County
1895- Sarah is out of jail and living with her sister in Minnesota Falls, YMC
1900-living in Independence Town, Custer, OK same place as her sister             William and Ernest are living with her.
1910- Shows Sarah living in Nebraska with her oldest son
William Parents: From 1860 Census
Jefferson-Father- Born in TN 1818
Sarah-Mother, born in VA- 1818
William H. Brother Born in TN – 1840
Married in 1880            
            Mary –wife            
            Mary E            
            Bertie Charles-brother, born in MO-1843
            Josiah-brother, born in TN-1846   
             Sarah C.-TN-1849 Rhoda-sister, born in IL.-1854           
Married in 1880 to Fredrick Nautz            
                    Mother is living with them
                    Mary-sister, born in IL. -1857
                    Marries Isaac Hoyt- Farmer            
        1880 Census living in South Palmyra, Macoupin County, Il.            
No children            
        1895-Living in Minnesota Falls, Yellow Medicine County
        With the two Purvis Children, William and Ernest
        1900- Census- Living in Independence Town, Custer, OK.

No children

John Purvis

Parents: Issac Mary Smith Born in Sangamon, Ill. In 1831
Joined the Army in July 25th, 1861 at Mounds City, IL. 7th Illinois Infantry, Co. B, PVT


Children of Sarah and John Purvis

William W. Purvis

Born in 1876 in Macoupin Ill.  9 years old in 1885

1910 Census-

Living in Grand Island Ward 4, Hall, Nebraska Nettie M Purvis- born 1880 Sarah (Mother)


Ernest L. Purvis Obit-

Born in 1878 in Macoupin, Ill. 7 years old in 1885 Ernest married Mahalo E 1930 census shows them living in Kalamazoo, Michigan His occupation is night watch man in Auto factory James R Purvis- Born 1905 in MO- night watchman as his father in auto factory Sarah N. Purvis- Born in 1913 in MO. Show she is a paper sorter at United paper Mill Nellie Purvis- Born in 1917 in Minnesota Virginia Purvis- Born 1919 in Kansas Ernest A. Purvis Obit - Born in 1922 in Penn. Died June 12th, 1972 in Kalamazoo, MI

John Purvis

Certificate of Disability for Discharge

Private John Purvis Company B of the 7th Illinois Regiment of United State volunteers was enlisted by Capt. Monroe at Mattson Illinois on the 25th day of July 1861 to serve 3 years, was born in Sangamon in the State of Illinois is 30 years of age, 5 feet, 5 inches high, sandy complexion, gray eyes, aburn hair, and by occupation when enlisted a carpenter. During the last two months said soldier has been unfit for duty 100 days.

I certify that I have fully examined the said John Purvis and find him incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of perculality and increased action of heart. Says he has done no duty since 3rd of March last. General hospital Jeff Bk.

Signed Grove surgeon.
Discharged 3rd of December 1862 at St. Louis.

7th Illinois Infantry Co B. PVT, Joined July 25th, 1861 at Mounds City, IL
July 25th to Oct. 31st, 1861 at Matton, Il.
Nov and Dec 1861-not stated
Dec 3rd, 1861 to May 1st, 1862 sick in hospital
June 20th, 1862- sick in hospital
Aug 18th, 1862- absent- was sent to General hospital at Montery Tenn. from April 29th, 1862. Has not been heard from for the last two months.

July 25th, 1861- Mound City- Reported as deserter in accordance with General Order No.71
Jan. and Feb. 1863- Was reported as deserter Aug. 18th, 1862 was then sick at Benton Barracks, Mo. Was discharged Dec. 3rd, 1862

"I was figuring the dates of marriage, sarah got married to John when she was 27, a bit late in life and John never married until he met Sarah and he was 44. Unless Sarah got married in your county and killed her first husband? Wow wouldn't that be something. Could never figure out why she plead guilty, I thought maybe he was abusing the kids but I emailed Kalamazoo Michigan and found out when she died, no one was there for the funeral and they buried her in Potter's field. Strange, her one son was living in Kalamazoo at the time Ernest.
I never could find the trial transcripts. but back then they had to pay money to have that done, and in the Porbate records they did not have a lot of money for items of value."

Following research by Linda R. F. Arnold

FHL Film 1320383 (2nd half of roll)
Macoupin County Land & Property.  Deed Book AW, Pg. 439: 
"Indenture Dated 16 July 1868  Between John Purvis and Sarah C., his  wife;
and Charles Crouch and Irena C., his wife of the County of Macoupin and  Abram
S. Wiser of same;  $311.00  SE 1/4 NW 1/4 and NE 1/4 SW 1/4  Section 22  T11N
R8W [So. Palmyra]   
              (signed)  John Purvis
                             Sarah (mark) C. Purvis
                             Charles (mark) Crouch
                             Irena C. Crouch
Recorded 17 June 1868 10 a.m."
I have the following on this Crouch family (there seems to be two or three distinct CROUCH families in Macoupin County with no direct connection found to each other.)
Jefferson Crouch b. 1818-1820 either in Alabama or Tennessee.   He was "of  Washington County, Tennessee".  His wife was Sarah W. Goin according to Bob Crouch who wrote to me about five years ago. Could Goin be Gowin?
Jefferson Crouch d. 17 May 1879 South Palmyra, Macoupin County and buried 18 May 1879 Etter Cemetery, South Palmyra, Macoupin County (unmarked  grave). 
I show six children for this couple; there may be others, but this is what  I  have:
1. William H. Crouch b. 1840 TN m. Mary E. ____
2. Josiah (or Isaiah) Crouch b. 1846 TN m. Emily C. (Barrow)
    The m. rec for Isaiah and Emily C. Barrow appears  in the IL Statewide
    Marriage index:  m. 24 March 1867 Macoupin  County.
3. Charles Crouch b. 1848 MO m. 26 Aug 1866 Macoupin County, Irena
    Catherine Tosh (dau. William Riley Tosh & Mary Ann  Martin)
4. Sarah C. Crouch b. 1849 (or 1848) TN m. 7 Nov 1867 Macoupin County
    John Purvis
5. Rhoda Ann Crouch b. 1854 IL m. 21 Oct 1876 Macoupin County
    Frederick M. Nantz
6. Mary Elizabeth Crouch b. 1857-1858 m. 31 Dec 1873 Macoupin County
    Isaac J. Hoyt (marr. index gives Isaac T. Hoyt).
Sarah C. Crouch and John Purvis had two sons:
William W. Purvis b. 10 Mar 1876 Macoupin County
Ernest Lawrence Purvis b. 18 Aug 1878 Macoupin County
Sarah's two sons were living with Isaac J. Hoyt (their uncle who m. Mary 
Elizabeth Crouch) during the Sarah's incarceration after she was found to have 
poisoned her husband.

Family Index

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