The notion that Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lowell might still be alive led to a number of supposed sightings over the years.

For instance, the Portland Daily Press reported May 17, 1879, that David Stevens, an Oxford County man locked up in 1878 at the State Prison in Thomaston for bigamy, claimed that he saw a woman “who was undoubtedly Mrs. Lowell living as the wife of a man named Spalding in Saginaw, Michigan.”

The Lewiston Evening Journal said Stevens wrote four long pages about what he had seen in the Midwest that related to Lowell.

Stevens said he learned she had come from Maine and had a husband there. She supposedly kept “a house of ill-fame” in East Saginaw.

Pabst beer garden in Milwaukee, Wis. Wisconsin Historical Society

In 1876, Stevens said, he met Spaulding and the woman at a beer garden in an unnamed western city.

They quarreled, he said, and Spaulding called her ”Liz Lowell” and told her to go back to her husband.


Stevens said the woman acknowledged that she was Lizzie and did not deny the tale told by Spaulding. His description of her, the paper said, “tallies exactly with Mrs. Lowell.”

Moreover, it said, Stevens “tells a perfectly straight story and gives names of Western people who he says know the Spauldings and who can confirm all he says.”

Since Stevens was due to be released soon, the paper dismissed the possibility his story could be fake since it wouldn’t benefit him.

“Of course, no one will believe Stevens until he has been corroborated, but his story is a remarkable one and deserves investigation,” it said.

Mrs. Eben Austin of Livermore, a former Michigan resident, told the city marshal, “I know that woman. I have seen her in Michigan. I have heard her called Liz Lowell.”

Her husband confirmed the tale.


He said he had heard Spaulding tell his wife in Michigan, during an argument, “You had better go down to the state of Maine and get your man out of the state prison!”

A detective in Saginaw showed a photograph of Lizzie around town, at the request of Lewiston authorities, and found that many people saw a resemblance between the missing Maine woman and the woman tied to Spaulding, who was no longer around.

The Journal looked into the issues surrounding the claims and concluded the Michigan woman probably looked something like Lizzie and likely had the same name.

In other words, it said, it appeared to be a case of “mistaken identity.”

It urged authorities to “probe to the bottom” and clear up the mystery.

Lewiston police occasionally looked into other such claims, even after James M. “Jim” Lowell’s 1874 conviction for murdering her. They always came up dry.


The Boston Herald said in 1879 that Lowell, who had already confessed to the Androscoggin County sheriff in a little-noted episode after his conviction, “is now in hopes of finding his wife and getting a speedy release.”

Lowell was more honest elsewhere.

When a census taker showed up at the Thomaston prison in 1880, making note of Lowell’s presence among the inmates, he recorded that the prisoner had identified himself as a widower.

When folks weren’t searching for Lizzie, they were looking for her skull.

In May 1881, somebody claimed he had found it.

“Headless no longer,” a headline in the Lewiston Evening Journal said. “The Skull of Lizzie Lowell’s Skeleton Believed To Have Been Found.”


The story said that a workman named Day, employed by farmer Ed Wakefield, was clearing a field and working on its fencing when he “saw something sticking up among the dead leaves and dirt which looked round and smooth.”

At first, Day thought it was a rock.

“But to satisfy his curiosity,” the paper said, he gave it a kick.

Day “was startled to see a human skull roll out in full view,” the paper said.

The workman apparently had no idea of the drama that had played out nearby on the Switzerland Road. He figured nobody would ever know where the skull came from.

But as soon as Wakefield saw it, the farmer said, “That’s Lizzie Lowell’s skull.”


He took the skull down to Lisbon Street “and in less than an hour, the news of the discovery spread up and down the street,” the Journal said, “causing no small excitement.”

Androscoggin County Sheriff Thomas Littlefield also served as Auburn’s mayor.

After all, the paper said, no one who lived in Lewiston at the time of the trial could forget “the horrible and mysterious circumstances” of the crime that left Lizzie dead.

Androscoggin County Sheriff Thomas Littlefield expressed his belief that the skull must have been Lizzie’s. One of Lizzie’s sisters said she, too, thought it was her Lizzie.

If nothing else, the find got everyone stirred up about the case again.

“Talk about town has been about nothing else,” the Journal said, “and the discovery awakened a great interest among the attorneys at the courthouse. It seems to practically dispel all chances of the probability of Lowell’s claim that his wife has been alive.”

In the only known story where a newspaper recognized Lowell had confessed to the killing to Littlefield, the Journal speculated that Lowell had deliberately cut the head off and hidden it.

This is the 25th chapter of a serial that will run every Sunday for much of the year. Follow the mystery here.

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