19 January 2017

Arsenic Used (an Attempt at Hoodoo?)

Mississippi Hoodoo-DoctorWhile conducting some other historical research, I came across the following newspaper article.  As someone with an interest in "folk medicine" and herbalism, I found the item interesting.  While I claim no expertise on the subject of Hoodoo, that is indeed what the article reminded me of.

Using the definition provided at ConjureDoctor.com, Hoodoo is

Southern folk magic grounded in centuries of African American heritage within the southern United States. Hoodoo is often known by other names including: conjure, rootwork, root doctoring, laying tricks, working roots or doing the "work". It is important to note, that contrary to what some authors may write in their books, Hoodoo is NOT Voodoo (Vodou). Hoodoo blends together the magical technology of Congo slaves that were taken from Africa in the slave trade, combined with Native American herbal knowledge, bits of European folk magic and Jewish mysticism.

Here's the article.  I'd love for anyone who has studied this more than I to weigh in on the subject.  Am I correct in drawing a correlation to Hoodoo?

Houston Home Journal (Perry, Georgia)
29 November 1888 – pg. 3 [Viewable online at South Georgia Historic Newspapers.]

Arsenic Used.

On Tuesday of last week Mr. Charlie Dasher and a Mr. Hicks were poisoned by drinking coffee at the home of Mr. S. F. Dasher, at Myrtle.

Immediately after drinking the coffee, the gentlemen named became deathly sick.  As soon as possible medical attention was secured, and it was ascertained that they had swallowed arsenic.  Further investigation revealed the fact that the arsenic was in the coffee they drank, no other person at the table having taken coffee: no one else became sick.

Suspicion was directed to Kate Allen, a negro woman, whom Mr. S. F. Dasher had threatened to whip for raising a disturbance on his premises.  Evidently Mr. S. F. Dasher was the person saught [sic] to be injured.

On Friday Kate Allen, and her cousin Henrietta Allen, were arrest[e]d and placed in the jail at Perry.  They confessed that it was through them that the poison was administered, but claimed that they did not know it was poison, but thought it was only a "conjure" powder that would "down the fuss."

Henrietta Allen placed the poison in the coffee while she was in Mr. Dasher's kitchen visiting the cook, a sister of Kate Allen, who gave it to her.

Kate Allen declares that she received the powder from "Dr." Ransom, a negro man, known among the negroes as an "Indian doctor." He is a travelling character, and was in Houston several years ago.  The negroes regard him with great veneration, and think his power to cure diseases and "conjure" people without limit.  He was arrested in Macon Tuesday, and county Bailiff Tuttle went up after him yesterday.  This so-called doctor is believed to be only the paid agent [of] another negro who treasures a "grudge" against Mr. S. F. Dasher.

It is almost certain that the really guilty party will be apprehended and brought to justice.  The two women were before the Houston county court yesterday, and were committed to the Supreme court for trial.

Messrs. Dasher and Hicks have about recovered from the effects of the poison.

*Image credit:  Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. (1926). Mississippi hoodo-doctors. Retrieved from The New York Public Library Digital Collections. No known US copyright restrictions.