(Revamping the blog. Please excuse the odd headings. Working on it!)

Writing History & Mysteries

When I'm not delving into historical research, I'm planning a character's demise.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bread and Butter Murders 06

Hoag Family Plot - Alabama Center Cemetery, Alabama, NY
SETUP: We left off last time with Henry deathly ill again, and the medicine from the doctor, not working. Two neighbors, Selah Vosburg and Mrs. Bugby, pay a call on Henry to inquire to his health. Polly was the only one home caring for her husband at the time of their visit. (Side note: I explain earlier in the story the similarities in some of the symptoms between cholera and arsenic poisoning.) 

Any quotes are exactly as they appeared in trial testimony.

And now the snippet:

 Selah recalled, “She told us about his vomiting, thirst and pain in his head. We saw Polly give him something to drink and put a wet cloth on his head. She said Henry was subject to spasms and called it Cholera Morbus. I saw nothing peculiar in Henry’s appearance, except one of his ears, which seemed black, as if blood had settled there. Don’t recollect Henry himself saying he had Cholera Morbus.”

Here is where the difference in symptoms of cholera and arsenic in the system first become evident—the pain in his head and skin discoloration was the result of arsenic poisoning. Henry himself did not tell them he had cholera morbus; it seemed as such at the beginning, but as he worsened, he knew that’s not what he had.

This is the first instance, which we know of, where there were witnesses to the fact that Polly had been alone with Henry—now was the perfect time to begin the completion of the final act. 

In 1856, in the rural town of Alabama, NY one woman's family suffered from multiple unexplained deaths. The town folk grew suspicious of the now remarried Polly Frisch. An investigation commenced, bodies were exhumed, an affair—exposed. Polly would be arrested for the murders of her first husband and daughters. Her fourteen-year-old son would testify against her. If found guilty, the punishment for such a crime was the gallows. Bread & Butter is the true story of Polly Frisch who poisoned her family with arsenic and the five trials it took to convict her.

The link to the other Weekend Writing Warriors is here. You're bound to find something to pique your interest.

The Sunday Snippet writer's on Facebook are here. Between the two there is something for everyone. Thank you for any comments you leave me. Much appreciated!

The above excerpt is from Bread & Butter: The Murders of Polly Frisch, a book I co-authored with my friend, Ellen Bachorski in 2000. We are re-releasing it into the modern world of POD and Kindle, etc. with a new cover, fresh edits and new info. Due for release in March 2014.

Thought I'd show you the jacket cover I designed for the hardcover edition. (Got a free hardcover from LuLu, participants choice as to manuscript, for doing NaNoWriMo.) So might as well sell those too now that it's done. :)



  1. I can't believe that I am this caught up in a 150 year old court case...

  2. I still wonder why she did it. She seems to put a lot of efforts into it.

  3. What can possess a person to be so unfeeling, so evil? Not only her husband, but her own offspring?? That just goes against any kind of normal brain function. What a dark page from history! This snippet made me want to hurt Polly.

    You really are a history sleuth!

  4. My gut twisted to read of this evil intent. Certainly we read about it every day in the news, radio, tv but yikes! You are a wonder, Cindy. Thanks for bringing your stories to light.

  5. That woman . . . Whew! Cold-blooded doesn't ven cover it!

  6. I agree with everyone else. The psychology at play here is both chilling and intriguing. Can't wait until the fourth when I can read the whole thing. Your cover looks fantastic!

  7. Oh love it, atmospheric and exciting!

  8. I'm glad you included the blurb, the snippet made far more sense as a recounting of history than as the "whodunnit" that I assumed at first, and all the more chilling for knowing it was a real event.

  9. Truth, stranger than fiction! You bring the whole sad tale to life for us...another fascinating, if grim (because it has to be, I know), excerpt.

  10. Things are not looking well for good old Polly -

  11. Wow--I love it!


  12. Wow, she dragged out his illness and death? Un-be-lievable! Polly must have known arsenic poisoning mimicked cholera? Deceit and cunning know no bounds.

  13. I bet the poor man was alone with his wife pretty often. She had plenty of opportunity, but she didn't match her poison to the supposed illness well enough.

    You manage to make this more disturbing with the matter of fact delivery. Well done, I'm going to go hug a cat or something.

  14. How can people do such evil things? Chilling. Great cover by the way.

  15. Polly want a jail cell? She's bad to the bone, that one. Nice job telling this tale.

  16. What happened in Alabama, NY in the 1850's stayed in Alabama, NY. Until brought to all on the on the internet in the 21st Century. Thanks

  17. The plot thickens yet again...


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Available in paperback and eBook formats

Available in paperback and eBook formats

Now Available At:

Barnes & Noble
The History Press

Carried by over 20 college/university libraries across the county, according to daily updates by worldcat.org, including Columbia University, Oklahoma State, Texas A & M, and Yale University Law Library.


APRIL 2nd,11-1 PM
The Book Shoppe - Medina, NY

APRIL 16th, 2 PM
Barnes & Noble - Pittsfield, MA

APRIL 19th, 7 PM
Tonawanda Indian Reservation Historical Society,
Tonawanda Indian Community Center- Akron, NY

MAY 14th, 1 PM
Seneca Iroquois National Museum - Salamanca, NY

May 17th, 6 PM Warsaw Public Library - Warsaw, NY

AUG 9TH, 7 pm Hoss's Country Corner -2016 Author's Night- Long Lake, NY

AUG 25TH 6 PM Akwesasne Cultural Center - Hogansburg, NY

More to announce as they are confirmed.

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Bread & Butter the Murders of Polly Frisch

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