On the same late October day the Lewiston Evening Journal published an account in 1873 of the discovery of a headless skeleton near the Switzerland Road, people began telling the paper what they recalled about Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lowell and events that might explain her disappearance in 1870.

The former city marshal, Oscar Douglass, said he learned in the summer of 1870 that Lizzie had disappeared.

He said he “made inquiries of the facts and searched as far as I could” to find her, looking for a couple of months before he gave up.

“I obtained not a particle of information of her whereabouts,” Douglass recalled.

But some had long had suspicions.

In the first hours after the grisly discovery of a body in the woods, the Journal tracked down a few people who remembered Lizzie and her husband, James M. “Jim” Lowell. Among them were two friends of Lizzie: Lydia Blethen and Sophronia Blood. Both said Lizzie’s marriage was not a happy one.


“She told me her husband had abused her and chased her with a pistol,” Blethen told the Journal.

Lizzie’s sister Charlissa Willett and brother-in-law William Willett later talked about a time in 1869 when they got a visit from the couple at their home in Bradley, just northeast of Bangor.

They remembered Lizzie throwing a fit over something and Lowell flinging a bowlful of water in her face to snap her out of it.

Later that night, Lizzie yelled from their room, “Come and get this knife!”

William Willett took a light and went to the door.

“Jim, have you got a knife in that bed?” he asked.


Lowell said, “No, she is out of her head. She is foolish.”

So Willett went back to his own bed, only to hear Lizzie call again, “Do come and get this knife, for he is sticking me, or cutting me.”

As he entered the other room again, Willett heard something strike the floor and slide up against a wall. Lizzie’s brother-in-law picked it up, said nothing, carried it to his own bed and “laid it under my hip” until morning, he said.

Charlissa Willett said Lowell had a brass-handle, switchblade knife about 5 inches long that he was somehow using to leave Lizzie’s arms black and blue.

When William Willett gave it back the next day, Lowell told him, “See what a nice knife I have bought me. I have bought this knife to protect myself with.”

In response, Willett said, “I am afraid of all such knives.”


Blood said Lizzie, on the outs with her husband, had boarded with her for a time in Lewiston while she worked in the card room at Hill Mill and then again more recently while she kept house.

Lowell “used to come around once in a while to see her,” Blood said, “but as I could not give himself and wife a room all the time, he did not stop nights at my house except occasionally.”

She said Lowell was a teamster and had lived with his wife over a stable on Park Street.

“One day Lizzie came in to me crying and showed some finger marks on her neck and arms,” Blood said, adding that Lizzie told her, “That old devil choked me.”

“I saw other signs that they were not living happily together” as well, Blood said.

Abby Gerry, whom Lizzie stayed with in Auburn not long before her disappearance, said Lowell came by once waving a pistol and threatening her.


James Gerry recalled a time in May 1870 when Lowell came by the house on Turner Street in Auburn in his carriage, hoping to take Lizzie for a ride. She declined, he said, and he struck her across her head and shoulder with a whip in response.

Then he chased her into the house, Gerry said, stopping only after he asked Lowell what the trouble was.

“Nothing,” Lowell responded, then left.

Blood, who owned a Canal Street boarding house, said Lizzie “came back to the house” after going to see what the fire had done to the Central Block earlier on that mid-June Sunday.

Lizzie “told me that she met one of those circus fellers whom she knew and talked with him for a time, and that her husband came along and saw her talking with him, and was mad. That he had just been in her room ‘a-jawing’ her,” Blood said.

“He’s ugly as the devil,” Lizzie said that day about her husband, according to Blood.


Blood said Lowell showed up outside about 7 or 8 o’clock, before it got dark, with his horse and wagon, calling for his wife to go for a ride.

“She dressed herself in a black silk dress, a new one she had got, a velveteen cape and a white silk hat, Blood said.

The dress had black silk and bead trimming and its buttons “were as big as an old-fashioned cent, and covered with beads,” Blood said

She said she always locked her boarding house doors at 10 p.m. and realized that Lizzie had not returned by then so she stayed up another hour. Then Blood gave up and went to bed.

“When I got up next morning, I went down and found Lizzie wasn’t there,” Blood said, “and she had not been in her room for the night. I didn’t know what to make of it.”

That same morning, she said, Lowell came by.


“Where’s Liz?” she asked him.

“Left her at 10 o’clock last night,” Blood recalled Lowell saying.

“You didn’t do any such thing,” she responded. “I waited for her till between 10 and 11 and she didn’t come here at all. Now, Lowell, I want you should tell me where she is.”

He answered, “Well, if she is not here, I don’t know, but perhaps she’s gone off to Portland with that circus fellow I saw her with yesterday.”

After the body’s discovery, the coroner came by Blood’s place with a Journal reporter in tow. Ham Brooks, the coroner, showed Blood pieces of the dress, buttons and boots picked up in the woods and asked her if they rang any bells.

As Blood studied the objects, she grew more sure of what she saw.

“The more I think of it, the more I think that’s the lace Lizzie wore,” Blood said.

It didn’t take great imagination for authorities to recognize they needed to find Lizzie’s husband.

This is the fourth chapter of a serial that will run every Sunday for much of the year. Follow the mystery here.

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