Monday, April 4, 2016

Louie Dawes and the Bigamous Dane

by Kelli Huggins, Education Coordinator

In early 1892, Louise, or Louie, Dawes of Elmira married John Madsen who was originally from Denmark or Sweden.  Dawes was about 40 years old and she had never previously married. She met her husband through her brother who was an acquaintance of Madsen.  Madsen was new in town and told the family about his 1,600 acre ranch in California and his mansion with 11 rooms. He promised to marry Dawes and then take the whole family to his California estate. 

The pair got married on a Sunday and Madsen borrowed $90 from the family to buy their train tickets west. He left the following letter:
"My dear darling- I will not be back before noon, so wi tak the 1-45 treen, hav every ting retty.
Your Hospon,

He didn't come back.

Madsen was arrested in Albany and the police seized money, diamonds, and jewelry.  There it was revealed that his real name was John Anderson, a.k.a. the “bigamous Dane,” who allegedly had twenty or more wives. 

The bigamous Dane
He was brought to trial in Cleveland, OH by a Ellen Purcell, who Andersen married in St. Louis and deserted at the Forest City House on Christmas Day, taking over $1,200 of her money. Dawes and her family made the trip to Cleveland to attend the trial.  In courtroom Dawes came face to face with her former husband and didn’t speak but Andersen’s face turned “ashen white and walked with a nervous step to the prisoner’s dock” The prosecutor painted Anderson as a con artist who took advantage of virtuous women like Purcell and Dawes.  The jury took only 15 minutes to decide he was guilty of bigamy and larceny.

Dawes never married again, but she lived a long and busy life. She was a member of many local clubs and organizations and lived at least into her late 90s.
Dawes at her 96th birthday party.

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