the Pocasset murder (1879)


the Pocasset murder

re the Pocasset murder – Falmouth Enterprise 5-22-1987

selected newspaper articles about the Pocasset murder – updated March 2021


NY Times 5-6-1879

NY Times 5-6-1879 (2)

Boston Globe 5-6-1880

Boston Globe 5-1-1883

Boston Globe 11-30-1883

Boston Globe 12-5-1883

Boston Globe 12-6-1883

NY Times 3-17-1887.


See attached, downloadable Word documents (above).

Plus, see text below (which includes a summary/abstract).




Five year old Edith Burgess Freeman (b. July 27, 1874) was murdered in 1879 by her father in their home on the town of Pocasset on Cape Cod in what has been described as a “ritual killing.”

In this article, I have attempted to uncover the facts about the case. It was well publicized at the time, but seems to have been largely forgotten.

See attached downloadable Word file (above).

I became interested in the case, which I had never heard of until recently, because some of my mother’s distant ancestors and their relatives were involved. The murderer was the son-in-law of my mother’s great-grandmother.  And, my mother’s great-grandmother defended the actions of the son-in-law, Charles F. Freeman (the murderer); and of her daughter Hattie (Ellis) Freeman (my maternal grandfather’s aunt), who initially supported her husband, a religious fanatic, believing that his actions were justified on religious grounds.


– Roger W. Smith

   August 2016; updated March 2021



Charles F. Freeman and his wife Harriet R. (Ellis) Freeman with granddaughter.

Harriet R. (Ellis) Freeman

The Freeman house in Pocasset

1 thought on “the Pocasset murder (1879)

  1. Sephen Best

    Your article about “The Pocasset Tragedy” is fascinating. I too have been researching the subject for almost the past year, not because I have any family connections, but because I have been a summer resident of Pocasset for 60 or more years, and I had never heard about this until a friend of mine had a chance meeting with a person who lives in the shed that is the only remaining part of the Freeman home.

    I enjoy researching unusual topics, and since all this happened within a couple of miles of home, it really caught my attention.

    I haven’t had a chance to look at your article in great detail, but I should mention that Pocasset is today in the town of Bourne, Sandwich and Bourne having split in 1884. There is also some confusion when it comes to Cataumet and Pocasset.

    Find A Grave claims that little Edith is buried in the Pocasset Cemetery. I am 99% sure that is not the case. The Pocasset Cemetery is a considerable distance from the Cataumet Methodist Church where the funeral was held. The Cataumet Cemetery is directly across the street. However, the Cataumet/Pocasset names had not settled as we know them now. You may have noticed that both the Cataumet and Pocasset cemeteries are thoroughly indexed online. The curious element is that little Edith is not listed in either one — there is no written record of her burial place. Furthermore, there is no grave marker! I have wondered — did Alden Davis never complete the white marble marker he is said to have started? Was it stolen by souvenir hunters? Was little Edith simply buried in a plot already owned by one of the 2nd Adventists? After all, most of them are buried in the Cataumet Cemetery, and the Freemans didn’t have much money. Was the community too embarrassed to list Edith’s burial site in cemetery records?

    The 2nd Adventist saga involved some of the most prominent families of the area, and there was considerable embarrassment when little Edith didn’t rise after 3 days. I was just about to jump in the car and take a few pics of the Cataumet church and graveyard to sent to Charles Freeman’s great granddaughters, who knew nothing of the Pocasset Tragedy until I tracked them down a few days ago. I hoped they might have some insight to some unanswered questions. So far, they are as amazed as I was when I first heard about this. I’ll be happy to send you pics if you would like them.

Leave a Reply