[APG Public List] Hester Laughlin Pfister and Possible Drug Abuse

Kate Foote kate at comm1net.net
Tue Mar 2 22:39:23 MST 2010

Craig and all,

I must, sadly, admit that I have not followed this thread very closely - and now realize how very, very, intriguing it is. This last bit of information, regarding the ease of availability of "legal" narcotic drugs, adds what I would consider an interesting dimension. I was struck by Ray's post earlier that the method of this death, i.e. gunshot, was atypical as suicide for a woman of that time period - and possibly still today?

On Mar 2, 2010, at 3:39 PM, Ray Beere Johnson II wrote:

  In some ways, the very fact that the method would have been seen at the time as atypical for a woman suggests to me that it was _not_ a murder. After all, wouldn't the murderer be more likely to choose a less remarkable method, one less likely to arouse any comment or question? There was apparently a lot of press coverage - something the survivors would have had strong motives to avoid, and even more so a potential murderer.

These are very good arguments against many types of murder, but not against what would be commonly termed "..a crime of passion." I am not arguing for either murder, or suicide, but I do tend to think that murder can not be ruled out. I just can't get my head around a woman, especially a woman of high social status, committing suicide in this manner. It would certainly have to have been a "spur of the moment" decision. If this woman was well into a serious, and/or clinical, depression, and if drugs were a factor, either of cause or inappropriate treatment, for that depression, than I would think that suicide was something the victim had seriously considered once, or more, before her death. Surely she would have measured the various ways to accomplish this; including the degree of pain, the speed, the availability of "the means", and yes, the messiness. One does not know, for sure, how painful a gunshot of that type would be, and one can not be certain that death would be swift, and (as you have pointed out) the availability of a weapon, to a woman like that, would seem to be unusual. I will concede on this point that since her husband was a military man she may have had a somewhat easier access to a handgun - but would she have anticipated that her very "proper" mother would have a gun in her luggage? As for the messiness, I really feel a woman of her standing (most women, in fact) would greatly disdain the gore involved in a suicide by gunshot. Examine why a person commits suicide? They are depressed, they feel wronged, they want people to feel sorry, or guilty, for the way they were treated. And they fantasize about the grief and pain, and guilt, that would be expressed at their funeral - a very large, lovely, *open casket* funeral.

The only way I can justify a woman using a gun, when she possibly had a nice supply of morphine, cocaine, or whatever other drugs one might use, is if this was not an actual case of depression, but was more a case of a person who suffered from a manic/depressive (bi-polar) disease. Victims of bi-polar disease would be more likely to make a spur of the moment choice for suicide, without concern for the factors above. 

I apologize if this ground has already been covered - these are just some of my immediate thoughts.


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Craig Kilby 
  To: APG APG Public 
  Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 2010 9:32 PM
  Subject: [APG Public List] Hester Laughlin Pfister and Possible Drug Abuse


  Yes, this is a most fascinating family story. Bonnie Kohler wrote to me off list suggesing drug abuse. This rang a loud bell for the following reason:

  The father of the 2nd (and much younger) wife (Ora Brownfield) of Judge Henry D. Laughlin was, well, a drug dealer. Legal in those days. It is through him (Dr. Brownfield) that the judge met Ora.  Dr. Brownfield (my great-grandfather, of whom I know but little) was, according to St. Louis city directories, engaged in the pharmaceutical business (i.e. drugs) and was apparentlly officing with and funded by the Judge Henry Laughlin until the late 1890s.

  The conclusion, albeit specultive for now, is that Dr. Brownfield was dispensing what would now be illegal drugs (morphine, cocaine) and I think this may have had something to do with the subsequent extremely erratic behavior of not only Hester, but her father and brothers as well (I do not know enough yet about Aunt Ora, but I would not be at all surprised if she too did not have a bad drug habit.)

  Oddly enough, I had never thought about these connections until the helpful answers from this wonderful lists. Someone at some time may have said this better than I am about to, but I'll say it my own words here:  AT SOME POINT, ALL THE DOTS DO CONNECT.

  Craig K=


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