Derby History Quiz

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New book just realeased: Lydia Sherman:American Borgia

Crime is not usually the topic of the Derby History Quiz, but Lydia Sherman is an exception! Lizzie Borden may have been better known, but she was rather tame when compared to this Derby woman who may be one of the most prolific female serial killers in US history! The courthouse scene pictured above dates back to 1872, and the attractive Derby widow on trial that day would soon be convicted of murder!! She didn't use an axe - poison (arsenic) was her preferred method - and she was was very good (or bad depending on your perspective!) at her trade.

She started her murder spree in New York City where she was married to a new York city policeman by the name of Edward struck. Lydia and Ed had six children. When Ed lost his job, he became expendable to Lydia, and she discovered arsenic and according to the story of the time spent 10 cents on the substance and poor Ed became the first to go. Doctors thought it was the consumption and Lydia had discovered her weapon of choice. Within two years, all six of the children had departed this life, and Lydia moved to Connecticut where she found wealthy - and elderly (80) - Dennis Hurlibut in Shelton. He was a widower, but not for long as Lydia became Mrs. Hurlibut! Within a year, Lydia was a widow, and wealthy.

She found another widower (Nelson Sherman) in need of a housekeeper on the other side of the Housatonic in Derby. It didn't take her long to move from housekeeper to housewife. Shortly thereafter, young Frank Sherman (Nelson's son from his earlier marriage) died of colic - or so the doctors thought even though Lydia knew better! Next to go was Nelson's daughter Ada. A saddened Nelson took to the bottle for comfort, and soon Dr. Bearsdley of Derby was called to treat Nelson for stomach pain, but Nelson was dead within a week.

Lydia's luck was finally running out. Dr. Beardsley questioned the strange string of deaths in Lydia's family and asked for permission to do an autopsy.  Lydia granted the request, and then fled town!! She was quickly tracked down and brought back to Derby for a preliminary hearing. She was eventually tried in New Haven, and in the end she confessed to murdering six of her own children, three husbands and two step children! In fairness to Derby, the first six murders took place in New York and the seventh across the river in Shelton. The press of the time nicknamed her the "Poison Fiend" and the "Borgia of Connecticut."

Correct answers were received from: Mayor Marc Garofalo, Cyndi Poppa, C. F. Douglass, Joan Driscoll, Marsha Pettingill, Millie from Ansonia, Gene Wajdowicz, Paul Comkowycz, Henry Wajdowicz, Gary Lungarini, Kimberley Shelton, Paul Mari, Markanthony Izzo, Jim Bartlett, Joe Laskowski, Eileen Krugel, Dave Petz, Walter Madura, Paul C. Varsanik Jr, Sean Conlon, Walt Mayhew, Helen Clifford,
and Justin Henri.

To see our other earlier quizzes and learn more about Derby's unique history, click here.