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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Tues., Dec S", 1885
Mrs. Purvis pleads quality to murder in the Second degree and receives
-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.
CAN’T READ THE REST.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
March 24th, 1893
Letter from Powers to
Nelson and envelope
June 6th, 1893
From C.E. Shannon
Honorable Knute Nelson
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
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
I remain yours truly,
Papers files first with Gov. Nelson- 4 day of December 1894
Sentence changed to 18 years on March 3rd, 1894
Dec 20th, 1897 - Original
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
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.
Born 1848 in Tennesse
Died Feb. 27th, 1928 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Married PURVIS, JOHN, CROUCH, SARAH C 1867-11-07 005/ 00006083 MACOUPIN
shows her living in Macoupin
Living in Granite Falls, Yellow
Sarah is out of jail and living
with her sister in Minnesota Falls, YMC
in Independence Town,
Custer, OK same place as her sister
and Ernest are living with her.
Shows Sarah living in Nebraska
with her oldest son
From 1860 Census
Born in TN 1818
born in VA- 1818
Brother Born in TN – 1840
Married in 1880
born in MO-1843
born in TN-1846
born in IL.-1854
Married in 1880 to
Mother is living with them
born in IL. -1857
Marries Isaac Hoyt- Farmer
1880 Census living in South
Macoupin County, Il.
1895-Living in Minnesota Falls,
Yellow Medicine County
With the two Purvis Children,
William and Ernest
1900- Census- Living in
Independence Town, Custer, OK.
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
William W. Purvis
in Macoupin Ill.
9 years old in 1885
Grand Island Ward 4, Hall, Nebraska
Purvis- born 1880 Sarah
Ernest L. Purvis Obit-
in Macoupin, Ill. 7
married Mahalo E
1930 census shows them living in
occupation is night watch man in Auto factory
Purvis- Born 1905 in MO- night watchman as his father in auto factory
Purvis- Born in 1913 in MO. Show she is a paper sorter at United paper
Purvis- Born in 1917 in Minnesota Virginia
Purvis- Born 1919 in Kansas
Purvis Obit -
in 1922 in Penn. Died June 12th, 1972 in
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,
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.,
and Charles Crouch and Irena C., his wife of the County of Macoupin
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
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
3. Charles Crouch b. 1848 MO m. 26 Aug 1866 Macoupin County, Irena
Catherine Tosh (dau. William Riley Tosh & Mary
4. Sarah C. Crouch b. 1849 (or 1848) TN m. 7 Nov 1867 Macoupin County
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.
Elizabeth Crouch) during the Sarah's incarceration after she was found
poisoned her husband.
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