The Kidnapping of Annie Redmond

In Spring, 1888, newspapers announced that six-year-old Annie Redmond was missing. She and her friend Otto had been playing in a lot near her home at 26th and State. They were approached by a stout woman in a yellow dress and black hat.

“Is your mother home, little girl?” she asked.
“Yes,” said Annie.
“Come along with me and I’ll buy you some candy,” said the woman.

She was missing until the next winter, when it came to light that she had been stolen by one Mrs. Josie Gurley and her husband. Though they were grown, their parents tried to protect them in prison; Josie’s parents shooed reporters away, while her husband’s parents loudly shouted “that’s the woman who’s been leading my husband astray!”

In the trial, the story came out: the kidnappers had taken Annie and, the papers said, “abused her shamefully.” (and for a paper in 1889 to say a child had been abused, it must have been bad). She was kept in a Throop street cellar with her arms tied to her side, and occasionally dressed as a boy.

Annie took the stand herself to testify.

“Do you remember the lady who took you away?” asked an attorney.

“Yes, it was Mrs. Gurley….she said she would give me some candy and pennies, and I went with her down state street. But she didn’t give me any candy.”

“Was Mr. Gurley at home the first day?”

“yes sir. He told me to call him papa, and they told me to say my name was Flora Delia Gurley. They said they would lick me if I told any other name.”

“Did they lick you?”

“Yes, and they put boys pants on me, too. They called me Tommy then….and said I mustn’t ever say my name was Annie Redmond.”

“Did the man tell you that?”

“Yes, sire, and they tied me to a post in the cellar, and there were dogs there, and I cried, too. And they put pants on me at Grandma Parson’s in Englewood, too. And they called me Tommy, too. Both of them whipped me. Mrs. Parons whipped me, too. They always kept me indoors. I washed dishes, too.”

“Did you wash the floor?”

“Scrubbed it.”

“Did they ever let you go out?

“‘Cept when I was sent to the grocery store on Halsted Street or when I went to the drug store.”

“What did you go to the drug store for?”

“For brandy.”

 Mr. and Mrs Parsons, with whom the couple lived, admitted that they put her in pants, but said it was “to punish her.” “She was an awful, wayward child,” said Mrs. Parsons. She was kept in the cellar “So she wouldn’t worry Mrs. Gurley. She was always doing something wrong. Once she brought Mrs. Gurley the liniment instead of the medicine.”

The Parsons apparently didn’t realize Annie had been kidnapped, and were actually let go without trial. Harvey Gurley, the husband, was also apparently duped. He had married Josie only recently, and she had told him once that she was going to bring a former stepdaughter home. When her mother said that she was “joking” about ever having been married, Harvey asked Josie why should would say such a thing, and she admitted that she’d never been married – she had an illegitimate child. The next day she brought Annie home and told her husband that she was her daughter.  He admitted he’d whipped her a couple of times, and tied her in the basement to scare her, but this wouldn’t have been considered illegal at the time. He was genuinely baffled to find out that the child had been kidnapped.

Josie Gurley was given the remarkably light sentence of five years in prison. There was never really much follow-up about the story of Annie Redmond. There was no “ten years later” story, no story on the affair when Annie got married years later. Once the trial ended, the story did, too.

But there were a couple of twists. When her sentence was announced, Josie made an odd remark about Annie’s father, saying “I have not told one-half about John Redmond yet.”  She may have been lying, of course, but three years later, John Redmond went nuts and murdered Dr. FM Wilder. He came to be known as “the crazy blacksmith,” and his own story will require a whole new post.

And three years after that, the story was revived again when it the crimes of H.H. Holmes came to light. There was never anything to connect Holmes with the story, and he denied any knowledge of it, but plenty of people noticed that Annie had been kept within spitting distance of the “murder castle” site, though construction on it was just beginning at the time, and not much of Holmes’ whereabouts from 1888 are really known (which helps fuel the theories that he was Jack the Ripper).  Exactly which drug store she was sent to is not known, but it’s quite possible that it was the store Holmes took ownership of on Sixty-Third Street.

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