Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder Mystery of Mary Rogers

Clothes in the Thicket

Mrs. Frederica Loss ran a tavern called Nick Moore's House in the woodlands near Hoboken, New Jersey, not far from where Mary Roger's body had been brought to shore.  Mrs. Loss's business savvy had turned the tavern into a success and she had been able to buy several plots of land nearby and raised her three sons in relative comfort.

On August 25, 1841, two of her boys were collecting sassafras bark for their mother when they entered a thicket and found various articles of women's clothing, including a handkerchief monogrammed M.R.

After her boys brought her the clothes,. Loss held onto them for a few days before alerting authorities, possibly unsure what the clothes meant to the ongoing investigation.

Once known, this development re-ignited the story in the newspapers, and soon reporters and curious onlookers were coming across the Hudson in droves to see the thicket and to take refreshment at Mrs. Loss's tavern.

The Herald reported: "(the clothes) had all evidently been there at least three or four weeks.  They were all mildewed down hard…the grass had grown around and over some of them.  (The scarf) and the petticoat were crumpled up as if in a struggle."

Mrs. Loss being interviewed (Nathan MacDicken)
Mrs. Loss being interviewed
(Nathan MacDicken)

Loss's memory was apparently much improved by her sudden notoriety, as she suddenly remembered Mary on her last day alive and was soon giving statements about her now-clear recollections.  Loss stated that Mary and a man of "dark complexion" came into her inn about 4:00 on the afternoon of Sunday, July 25, and the landlady served them refreshments: liquor for the man and lemonade for Mary.  After finishing their drinks, the couple left arm in arm (Mary first bowing respectfully to  Loss) and walked off into the dusk.

Sometime later that evening, Loss heard a scream from nearby and, thinking it was one of her sons in trouble, ran off to fetch him from a neighbor's house, where she found him safe and unharmed.  She apparently forgot about that scream until the furor about the found clothing (and the sharp increase in her tavern's revenue) refreshed her memory.

The Herald proclaimed this as proof that Mary had been murdered by a gang, while the Evening Tattler argued the opposite, calling into question Loss's convenient recollection of Mary at her tavern -- and declaring the thicket where the clothing was found to be "the depository of the garments, by interested hands, long after the disappearance of Mary C. Rogers."  The Tattler additionally found it hard to believe that those garments went undiscovered for a month.  Because a pair of lady's gloves was found among the clothing -- but Mary's hands already had gloves on them when her body was taken from the Hudson – historian Raymond Paul would later conclude that the clothes had indeed been planted after Mary's murder by somebody who didn't remember or didn't know of this suspicious duplicity.

For several weeks the newspapers reported on the clothing, the lack of leads in the case, and the sudden celebrity of Frederica Loss.  But her fame was short-lived and, although she would be front page material once again a year later, she would first have to give the spotlight to another bizarre death connected to the Mary Rogers case.

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