Suicide at Niagara Falls II — Did she do it?

In the wake of initial reports of Isabella Norvell Miller’s death, the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser reported

“A lady, answering to the description of Mrs. Miller, left this city for the east in the express train yesterday morning, and that there are circumstances leading to the belief that the apparent evidences of suicide are only apparent. Her friends will undoubtedly investigate the matter, and until they ascertain something which they desire to be communicated to the public, we shall do as we would have others do if we were similarly situated, say nothing on the subject.”

Then in The Adams Sentinel, Gettysburg, PA December 10 1849: “In course it was generally believed that she had committed suicide by throwing herself from the bridge over the Falls; but subsequent developments show that it was all a sham to cover an elopement. A man who gave his name as Baker, came to Buffalo a few days -,-before, and on Monday hired a horse and buggy, and returned on Tuesday with a lady answering the description of Mrs. Miller, and started off with her on the morning train. They were arrested at Syracuse, N. Y. a day or two after —This lamentable ‘affair has plunged her relatives into the deepest distress.”

The family spent most of the spring of 1850 attempting to verify if Isabella had died.

On April 24, 1850, John Norvell, U.S. Senator, politician, and correspondent of Presidents, died at his home on Jefferson Avenue in Hamtramck of Erysipelas. Several notices of his death mentioned Isabella’s disappearance and speculated that this event both emotionally and physically had taken is toll on John Norvell. The Adams Sentinel reported on April 29 1850 reported: The Hon. JOHN NORVELL, U- S. District Attorney for Michigan, died at his residence in Detroit, on Wednesday last.— Mr. N. was the father of Mrs. Miller whose disappearance lately, by elopement, has involved in mystery. He had been to Washington, and various parts of the country, in search of her, and arrived at home on the 21st in bad health, and died on the 23rd.

Later in the year, after the death of her father, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported further bad news about the Norvell family:


Within the last twelve months the family of Ex-Senator Norvell, of Michigan, has been nearly blotted out. The first calamity was the sudden disappearance of Mrs. Miller, an only daughter we believe, under circumstances the most painful. Next, the sudden death of Mr. Norvell, on his return from a protracted search for his daughter. A few days since, a son, and the only one, died at Saratoga. A short but sad history of family which a few months ago saw naught in the future but the brightest promises of hope. It has been pretty satisfactorily ascertained, that Mrs. Miller went to Europe. —Cleveland Plain Dealer September 9, 1850

In the end Isabella returned home to her mother, then in mourning over the loss of her husband and a son. An ironic end to the strange story of Isabella’s suicide at Niagara Falls.

About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in American History, Family History, Genealogy, Michigan History, Niagara Falls, Norvell Family History, Social History, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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