Bunce, Carrie; Iowa, born about 1867

February 13, 1873 (Anamosa Eureka, 3rd page, 4th column, midway)

A Child Killed by an Overdose of Medicine

Last Monday Coroner V. C. Williston held an inquest at Fairview over the body of Carrie Bunce, a little daughter of Dr. D. A. Bunce, who came to her death by an accidental over-dose of medicine at the hands of her father.

Eli Heald, John Caffee and W. F. Arnold were sworn as jurors and proceeded to an examination.

Maria Kidwell sworn–Says Bunce called at John Gill’s February 8th to get some medicine from Dr. Adair for his child; said it was very sick, and told the kind of medicine he wanted; said it was very dangerous if not properly used; said he had sworn seven years ago that he never would use it again but thought he would get it now; he thought he could break the fever quicker with that than with anything else; said he had very near produced death with the same medicine before; said he had given three doses of the medicine and was in the act of giving a fourth when he found the child dying; gave dose every two hours–ten drops at a time.

Sarah Adams sworn–Testified as follows: I was called in at four o’clock on the 9th; Bunce told me he had given the child three doses of medicine; then he felt her pulse and thought she would stand two more doses, and came with the medicine in a spoon to give the child another dose. I told him the child was dead and asked him if would give a dead child medicine. The defendant (Bunce) said it was the medicine that killed the child and not the disease; that he knew the effect of the medicine–had used it often. His family found fault with him for giving the kind of medicine he did–knowing the effects of the medicine. Bunce told them if any of them ever threw it up to him he would hurt them.

Mary Pierce sworn–Corroborated the testimony of Sarah Adams.

The testimony of other witnesses was the same as the above.

Paulina Foster sworn–States that Bunce told her that the medicine he gave the child was the cause of her death–not the disease. Bunce also stated that the medicine he gave was aconite spirits of nitre and gelseminum, ten drops a dose every two hours. Witness lived with defendant.

L. A. Heald–Says that Bunce told her that he gave the child two or three doses but being very sleepy he laid down, fell asleep and overslept himself; was awakened by a strange noise, got up immediately and found the child was dying. Bunce meant to give another dose as he thought the child needed it.

Mary Merrill sworn–Agreed with the evidence given by L. A. Heald.

Orsmus Bunce sworn–Said he had no idea, from the former or subsequent actions of his father, that he gave any medicine to injure the child–that she was the only one of the girls he seemed to think much of.

Royal Bunce sworn–Said he saw his father give the medicine–gave three doses, each ten drops; had no idea that his father had any wrong intent in giving the medicine; the threats made by his father were nothing more than every-day occurrence, and the reason his father did not want the death of his child thrown up to him was that he had enough to bear already.

Benjamin Rinard sworn–Testified that Bunce told him he had given the child three doses two hours apart, 10 drops at a dose; that he was very tired, laid down and overslept himself and when he awoke the child was dying. I asked Bunce if the medicine was poisonous; he said it was–also that he had discovered this kind of medicine some seven years ago, but thought he could break the fever quicker with it and used it for that child.

Sarah Bunce sworn–Says that D. A. Bunce has practiced medicine off and on for about thirty years and never had any other physician practice in the family but her husband. He had used this same medicine before; she thinks the medicine killed the child; says also that she thinks it was carelessness on the part of her husband; that if he had not gone to sleep and left the child as long as he did the child would not have died. He gave the child three doses of medicine two hours apart–first ten drops, next two doses six drops each. Witness further stated that Bunce was mad or out of humor and was talking quite loud when the boys told him that he had better cool down, that he had done mischief enough. Then Bunce said he did not want that thrown up to him–he had enough to bear without having that thrown up to him. Witness said of her own knowledge she did not know whether he gave the medicine he represented or not–had his word for it.–[Bunce then produced a bottle of medicine that witness says she thinks is the bottle that he gave medicine from.] Witness further states that she has no idea that her husband gave the medicine with any intent to injure the child.

D. A. Bunce sworn–Says gelseminum is a medicine used by the majority of physicians in fevers of all kinds except hectic fever; also used for inflammations. It is used in form of fluid extract and is considered a deadly poison in over-doses. In adults of plethoric constitution a dose is 20 to 30 drops from half to one hour apart, but I never have used that amount in any case. The dose decreases in age and strength of the patient from an adult to a child. The effect it has on a patient in over-doses is prostration and dilation of the pupil of the eye, twitching of the muscles and tendons, great prostration of the nervous system. Generally when used according to the text books it is a nice febrifuge. I gave the medicine here spoken of to my child, the first dose ten drops and in two hours a second dose of six drops, and in two hours more another dose of six drops. That is all I gave her. I believe that the medicine and the disease together killed the child.

The jury found that the deceased came to her death by medicine administered by the hand of her father, D. A. Bunce, but without willful intent to produce death.

Wikipedia article on gelsemium.

[While this is a tragic story and inquest, it gives the names of several family members. I have attached the story to Carrie Bunce’s record, ID# LDK3-1QM, on familysearch.org here.]

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About Kindra

Executive Director for Quaker House, bringing a little bit of peace through counseling and support to military members and their families.
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