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Legends and Tales of the Mountain Kingdom: Rossland’s Jack the Ripper connection

The Maybricks

I love folk music, there is no doubt about it, and did you know Rossland has as folk musician who has written songs about Rossland’s history and legends?  His name is Wayne Krewski and you can see his work on this web site.  I highly recommend taking a look through there because there are a lot of, nuggets.

One such nugget that seemed to have a lot of juicy potential was the story of Jimmy Fuller, previously Jimmy Maybrick, who had a couple of rather infamous parents who had tragic stories. Jimmy himself came to a tragic end while working at the LeRoi Mine as an assayer.  After doing some research, I knew this was a piece of Rossland legend that had to be told.

Jimmy’s father was James Maybrick Sr., born in Liverpool in November 1838, one of a pack of seven sons born to engineer William Maybrick and his wife Susanna.  James became a very successful cotton merchant, and led the life of a playboy.  In 1874, he sailed to the States to open a branch of his company in Norfolk, Virginia.  Though rumoured to have a wife back in Liverpool, James acted the playboy in Norfolk all the same and started taking up with the madam of a local brothel.  While in Virginia, James contracted malaria, and in order to get some relief for the symptoms, a doctor prescribed him quinine.  That didn’t do much, and stronger stuff was prescribed: arsenic. Arsenic is addictive and James became addicted, and this addiction that would indirectly lead to his demise - and a huge scandal.

In 1880, James was sailing to Norfolk from Liverpool on the Baltic when destiny intervened and he met the lovely socialite, Florence Chandler, often called Florie, and also--questionably--Bunny.  Their romance was swift and shortly after meeting, Florie moved in with James and within a year they were married.  He was 40 and she was 18.

In 1882, James Chandler Maybrick, nicknamed--again questionably--“Bobo”, was born to the couple, and four years later, daughter Gladys Evelyn came along.  In 1884 the couple moved back to Liverpool full time, but the marriage was crumbling.  James Sr. was having at least one affair and not bothering to hide it at all. Not to be outshone in that arena, Florie took up with someone too--namely a cotton broker named Alfred Brierley.

James’s addiction to arsenic caused him to have mood swings and he was reportedly violent towards his wife.  After a horse race that was attended by the Prince of Wales, where Florie was caught holding hands with Alfred, James beat her so badly she had two black eyes.  Suddenly, just weeks later, James became very ill, and on May 11 he died.  A coroner’s inquest ruled it as death by arsenic poisoning and all of a sudden Florie was accused of murdering her husband.

This came about due to some meddling by Nurse Alice Yapp, who had witnessed Florence soaking arsenic-laced fly papers in water, ostensibly to make face cream.  Also, Nurse Yapp intercepted a letter Florie had attempted to send to Alfred, and the contents of it shocked her so much that she felt she needed to bring James’s brothers into the picture.

To make a long story short, there was a very sensational trial that made the news both nationally and internationally, and the judge and jury were reported to be extremely biased against Florie, who had a lawyer who was considered less than competent.  It came out that Florie might have come from a family with a history of offing husbands with poison: her mother was suspected of killing both Florie’s father and her second husband with poison. Florie was sentenced to death, but that became so controversial that it was eventually commuted to life in prison, and she served 15 years.  In 1904, she received a royal pardon.

But another angle to this tragedy was the fact that James Jr., or Jimmy, and his sister, Gladys, were never to see their mother after her arrest or indeed, ever again.  They went to live in the home of James Sr.’s doctor, who testified for the prosecution in Florie’s trial. I can’t figure out why the kids when with him and not with one of James’s younger brothers, but eventually Jimmy changed his surname and emigrated to Canada as Jimmy Fuller.  He wound up in Rossland working for the LeRoi Mine as an assayer.  He became engaged to a Rossland gal named Marion Martin and was apparently a likeable guy.

But on April 10, 1911, Jimmy’s life came to a tragic end.  He committed suicide by ingesting cyanide while eating his lunch at work, possibly confusing a beaker of the poison with a glass of water.

But was it an accident or did Jimmy purposely poison himself? And if so, why?

To shed light on that, we can now get into the Jack the Ripper connection.  In 1992, a diary purported to be that of James Maybrick Sr. came to light, and in it James Sr. claimed he was Jack the Ripper.  You can read a quick Wiki about this diary and all the efforts that went into authenticating it here.

Then, in 1993, a pocket watch was brought forward by a man named Albert Johnson. The watch had J. Maybrick engraved on it, as well as the words “I am Jack”--and the initials of all five of the known Jack the Ripper victims. The watch went through a series of tests to verify its authenticity and it was concluded that the engravings on it were not put there in more recent times, indicating that the engravings were most likely put on it decades before Albert Johnson produced it and that it was possible the engravings were made in the late 19th century.

Though all of this happened over 80 years after Jimmy swallowed the cyanide, the diary of James Maybrick had been floating around Liverpool for years.  People talk, people speculate, people gossip.  While Jimmy would have been a young boy of seven or eight at the time of the Ripper murders, what might he have observed of his father?  What gossip might he have overheard?  Did he know about the diary?  Did he know about the watch?  Did Jimmy, at the young age of 29, decide to check out (“mistaking” beakers of cyanide for a glass of water?  Seriously?) because he didn’t want to pass on bad blood to any offspring he and Marion might have, knowing his own family’s history?  Did his guilt at knowing a very dark secret about his father finally get to him?

Who knows!  We can only wonder and speculate ourselves.  But you cannot deny that this is a very curious connection between Rossland, an infamous family, and quite possibly one of the greatest unsolved serial murders in history.

4. The Big Book of Virginia Ghost Stories, By L. B. Taylor, Jr., via Google Books