Researching a name like Narmore…
ought to be easy, right? You would think so, and the further back you go the easier it gets because all the variations in spelling seem to dissolve into one – Narramore.
My great-grandmother was Mollie Normour or Naremore or Narmor or Narramore. I started researching her in earnest any number of times, but each time was more frustrating than the last.
Actually there are other misspellings of the surname, but I forget the others. Listen, my children, for you are going to hear (or read) of the tragedy visited upon six of the most helpless of them all. And, it relates to the Narmore (and variant spellings of the same name) descendants everywhere.
I was researching the family of Narramore which connected to my Narmore lineage. Every minute since I discovered this unthinkable event, I have worried over these six little ones. Your line of Narmore’s may not even be connected with this line, but the story is a tear jerker at any rate. Get a tissue, you will wad it up, I promise you.
First, let us target the only happy part of the tragedy. In 2002, August 4th to be exact, a granite memorial marker was placed and dedicated to the six Narramore children in the Riverside Cemetery in Barre, Massachusetts. The ceremony was attended by approximately three dozen. In the audience was the town historian, members of the Barre Historical Society, local politicians, and the Massachusetts Secretary of State. The six precious souls were laid to rest in pauper’s graves without even a gravemarker. The group gathered to remember the six slain children . The crowd dignified the existence of these six little souls with the gathering and placed a fitting memorial marker to document their short little lives. Two musicians played a flute duet for the occasion.
On 21 March 1901 in Coldbrook Springs, sometime in the early afternoon, Lizzie Naramore killed her six children one by one. She began with the oldest and proceeded one by one to the youngest child. One by one she banged and chopped these precious souls to an unrecognizable condition using a club and an ax in the kitchen of the family home. She then, took a knife to slice her throat, but the cut was not severe enough to cause death.
Elizabeth Ann “Lizzie” Craig Narramore made a plea of guilty in Worcester Superior Court to the murder of her eldest child, daughter Ethel Marion Narramore, age 9. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Mrs. Narramore was sentenced to life in the state hospital in Worcester. After serving a short five year sentence in the asylum, on 30 November 1906, she was decreed to be sane and released.
I have done considerable research on this family and their forebears. Elizabeth Craig Naramore was a native of St. Andrews, New Brunswick, which is in Canada. Promotions for the area say that “everything about our town is special, including our status as a National Historic District, one of the oldest and loveliest in the Maritimes. St. Andrews is a treasure trove of beautiful architecture, unparalleled scenery and rich marine life; and our streets remain steeped in turn-of-the-century charm”. St. Andrews sounds like a place one would hesitate to leave.
At the age of 19 she met and married Frank Lucius Narramore, born in Winchester, New Hampshire, but of Baldwinville, Massachusetts. It appears her friends and family were opposed to the match. Frank and Lizzie married 25 Oct 1890 in Templeton, Massachusetts. The couple removed to Coldbrook Springs, near the town of Barre in central Massachusetts.
Mrs. Naramore was described as a hard worker and a loving mother. Husband Frank Narramore, who worked at the nearby Parker Lumber Company, was a well paid worker but also dependably undependable, abusive, and a womanizer. While Frank wasted the money he earned, Lizzie and their six children lived in poverty.
The children were young. These angels’ names were:
Ethel Marion Narramore, age 9;
Charles Edward Narramore, age 7;
Walter Craig Narramore, age 5;
Chester Irving Narramore, age 4;
Elizabeth Narramore, age 3; and
Lena Blanche Narramore, age 12 months.
A little distant in time, but before the massacre, Lizzie reached out to the Overseers of the Poor in Baldwinville for assistance. When the overseers visited the Narramore home they determined that the Narramore’s situation was dire to the extreme. Because of the dilapidated condition of the home and the absence of food for the children or family, the decision was made to take the children away from the parents. Five of the children were to be placed with foster families and the youngest, an infant, would be sheltered at a poorhouse in Holden, Massachusetts.
Before the authorities were able to take her children away Lizzie made preparations and then killed them one by one and then tried to kill herself. She survived the suicide attempt though there was a cut to her throat. Lizzie Narramore made a plea guilty to the murder of her oldest child Ethel Marion Narramore. There was never a trial for the murders of the other children.
Elizabeth Naramore was committed to the state mental asylum. After her release she left central Massachusetts to work as a clerk in a Boston department store, returning once in 1907 to visit the graves of her children. Frank Naramore left Barre after the children’s funeral and the subsequent trial of his wife. There are reports that he was never heard from again; and for sure the townspeople likely never wanted to hear from him again. In hindsight, he was in plain sight. In 1930 he was a roomer, at age 67, in the household of Charles H Voller with Voller’s wife, and two daughters. They lived on the last house on Congress Street in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1931 he was in the city directory in Worcester and listed as a carpenter. He died in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1936, but no grave-site has been found.
At the funeral for the children, the Reverend Charles Talmage, pastor of the Barre Congregational Church, gave an impassioned speech which placed the blame for the situation squarely on Frank Narramore as an abusive father and the community at large for turning a blind eye to all but criminal home situation for those six precious souls. I don’t know, but I do fairly believe that I would have taken an ax and a club to a no good for nothing husband rather than my precious kids.
Below is the newspaper article about it in the Arizona Republic; published 22 March 1921.
Arizona Republic, Article: “An Insane Mother Sacrifices Her Offspring”, daily newspaper, front page, 22 March 1921.
Bradford L. Miner. (2002, June 30). A final tribute ; Six slain children will be forgotten no longer. Telegram & Gazette,p. A1. Retrieved 18 July 2014, from Massachusetts Newsstand. (Document ID: 130795151).
Bradford L. Miner. (2002, August 5). A town bears witness ; Barre memorial honors six slain children: Telegram & Gazette,p. B1. Retrieved 18 July 2014, from Massachusetts Newsstand. (Document ID: 146878981).