Family Tree


Eliza Brannon - Daughter of Ichabod Crane

It will be remembered that on the 20th of July last, Mrs. John M Brannan, wife of Captain Brannan, of the U.S. Army, mysteriously disappeared.  Her husband was then at Key West, Florida on duty, and Mrs. Brannan was residing with her mother, the widow of Col. Crane, of the U.S. Army, at Chelsea, Staten Island.  Mrs. B. remained at the North by advice of her brother, Doctor Crane, of the army, who suggested this course as indispensable to the restoration of her health, which had been seriously impaired by a fever contracted while she was with her husband in Florida.  One result of the fever had been the rendering of her subject to severed and prostrating headaches, which occurred frequently, and often compelled her to take to her bed.

When Mrs. Brannan disappeared, she was in the 31st year of her age, and had been married to the Captain since the 16th of September, 1850.  The only issue of their marriage is a female child named ALIDA, now about 7 years old, who resided with her mother at Mrs. Colonel Crane’s, and is now under the care of that lady.

It appears that on the morning of the 20th of July, Mrs. Crane, Mrs., Brannan, her brother William and the child ALIDA rode together from the house of the former to the steamboat landing, called the Chelsea Landing.  There the two ladies separated from the child, (Mrs. Brennan kissing her daughter, as was her invariable custom when they parted), and took the 8 o’clock boat for New-York.  Mrs.  Brennan left her mother in the City to visit a friend, agreeing to meet her on the boat which was to leave for Chelsea at 3 1/4 o’clock P.M. that day.  She was seen at the Port Richmond Ferry by Mr. George Vreeland, an Express Agent, shortly after the boat had left, having arrived to late, and was again seen at the same ferry that evening at 7 0’clock,, under circumstances hereafter stated.  Mrs Vreeland knew her well, was recognized by her at that time and observed that she seemed disappointed.  As she did not meet her mother, nor return home that night, her absence soon occasioned anxiety; and when so much time had elapsed as made it apparently certain that she was not to return, measures were tab to discover what had become of her.  To this object, her brother, Dr. Crane, sedulously devoted himself, enlisting the services of police, of detectives and others; inquiring at the various places where cars or steamboats left, and otherwise investigating whatever might possibly furnish a clue to her whereabouts.  Rewards for this purpose were offered by the Doctor,  and also by the Supervisors of the County of Richmond; but no information as to what became of her was obtained.  Various rumors as to her having gone away voluntarily, 2nd being at different places stated, were then current, as many of a similar nature have been since.  All of them have been investigated and found groundless.

While the efforts to gain some account of her were progressing, a Mr. Pickersgill, who on the day of disappearance, resided on Staten Island communicated the following facts:

Mr. Pickersgill left New York that evening for the Quarantine, by the 7 o’clock boat.  Just after the Port Richmond boat had passed out of her slip a lady dressed in full mourning, and attired as Mrs. Brannan is proved by her mother to have been that day, came to the ferry and finding that she was too late, exhibited some agitation.  The boat for Quarantine had then moved from the wharf, and persons who noticed the lady apprized her of the fact that was the last boat for the island that night  The boat was backed to the wharf, she came on board and passed into the cabin - the collector having informed her that she could get a carriage at Quarantine to take her to Port Richmond.  These incidents and the fact of her being unattended, Drew Mrs Pickersgill’s attention to her.  He observed near her, at one time, a man dressed in black, whom he first supposed was acquainted with her, but this opnion soon abandoned, as they did not converse or communicate with each other in any way.  When the boat reached the Quarantined landing, she passed off it alone, and walked towards a livery stable close by, kept by a Mr. Matthew Carroll, being followed at a short distance by the man in black.  She spoked to Mr Carroll, left him, and went to the driver of a public hack or carriage then standing in front of Mr. Carroll’s stable.  Immediately after she entered the vehicle.  Then the man in black, after apparently speaking to the driver, also got in and took a seat beside her, but they did not communicate with each other.  Just about this time, a driver of Carroll’s named Daly, had started off with his carriage, in which were two servant women, who had come down in the seven o’clock boat.  One of the women had forgotten a hat-box, and Daly was obliged to return with his vehicle and get it.  He then set out again following the carriage in which the lady and gentleman were seated and which was but a short distance in advance of him.  It appears that these hacks are used in the same manner as stages or omnibuses, and it is common for persons going in the same direction to ride in them together, although not acquainted with each other.  The carriages separated at a point distant about a third of a mile from the landing, and went in different directions; that containing the lady and man taking the road to Port Richmond - a part part of which is through a dense wood.

This revelations being made by Mr. Pickersgill, a complaint was on the 31st of August, 1857, made before Justice De Forest, of Tompkinsville, Staten Island, and an investigation had.  Pickersgill was examined,Mr. Matthew Carroll, his son John Carroll and all the drivers and employees of Carroll, as well as the other persons who on the day or evening in question had vehicles at the landing.  But it was not discovered who drove the carriage containing the lady and man, nor what had become of driver, horses, vehicle or passengers.  The elder Carroll, however, testified to the important fact that, on the arrival of the 7 o’ clock boat that evening, a lady dressed in black, came to hime, and asked him how much he would charge to take her to Port Richmond, and before he had answered the question inquired of him whether he knew Colonel Crane.  He answered in the negative, adding that he knew the Colonel’s son, William.  She then left him and he never saw her again, nor was he aware of ever having seen her before.  There was no means by which a vehicle could leave the island that night, the last boat from it having them gone and there being not bridge or carriageway between any part of the island and an opposite shore.

Nothing in this state of facts warranted the Justice in holding any party, and now warrant was issued by him.  Captain Brannan having obtained leave of absence, arrived in New York on the 21st day of September, traveling with all possible dispatch, but having been compelled to wait until he procured leave.  He forthwith set on foot new inquiries, ad engaged the services of George w. Matsell, Esq, late chief of Police, to aid in solving, if possible, the mystery which then shrouded the fate of Mrs. Brennan.  The Chief with the Captain ad other persons called to his aid, explored the region of Staton Island over which she would have passed on her way home, made a thorough search of the woods, dug in many places where the appearance of the the earth indicated that a grave might be found, and had the ponds in a neighborhood dragged, but all to no purpose.  From that time to the present, having  procured his leave to be extended, he has devoted himself continually and indefatigably, to search for the person of his wife, or some information as to her fate, having in the effort the advice and assistance of Lot. C. Clark and James T. Brady, the former of whom is a well-known counsellor-at-law, residing on Staten Island,  the operations thus carried on were key secret, in the hope that something might thus be accomplished, and all the while rumors, such as have already been mentioned, were rife in the community.  Notne of them however, has proved to e in any particular correct, and beyond the established facts that Mrs. Brennan went to Staten Island in the 7 o’ clock boat, on the evening of the 20th of July, there spoke to Mr. Carroll as stated, and got into a public carriage, nothing whatever as to her whereabouts has been ascertained.

When the efforts so made proved thus fruitless, Captain Brannan, by advice of his counsel, on the 27th day of January last instituted a new complaint before Justice L. H Haggerty, or Port Richmond, on Staten Island, alleging his belief that his wife had been murdered.  On this a thorough investigation has been had under the direction of Alfred DeGroot, Esq.,District Attorney of Richmond County, aided by Mr. Matsell and Meesis, Clark and Bradi.  Pickersgill, the two Carrols, all the drivers and employees before mentioned, and every other person who might possibly threw light on the case, have been examined.  And on this occasion Mrs Crane, Capt. Brennan, and Dr. Crane have given their testimony.

Mrs. Brannan was a lady of refined education and demeanor, religious in feeling, fond of literature, of a domestic disposition, affectionate and devotes as taught, mother, sister, and wife.  Her relations with her family and society were such as to preclude the ideas of her voluntarily separating herself from her husband, child and kindred, and keeping the in utter ignorance as to whether she was living or dead.  At the time of her disappearance, and for some time previously, she had contemplated, and was making arrangements for a visit to Maine, and thence to the White Mountains with her child and her friend Mrs. Anderson.  to this visit the looked forward with pleasure.  She had also, by correspondence with her husband, settled upon joining him at Key West in the Fall, which was deemed the season most suitable for that purpose, in reference to her health’ and in view of this event the had purchased furniture for her intended home at Key West, some part of which had even then been shipped.  She had about her person when she went away, only the garments she wore, a parasol, a watch and chain, her wedding ring, a diamond, the gift of her husband, and a purse containing a small amount of money.  She had to reticule, traveling-bag, valise, or other article for a similar use.  All her other apparel, trinkets, letters, and personal effects, were, are are, in her mothers house at Chelsea.  These facts exclude the belief that such a wife, mother, or daughter, would secretly abscond.  They seem to leave no other explanation of her fate than that her one ended on Staten Island during the night of the 20th of July.  Whether she was assassinated for the sake of the articles in her possession, or to conceal violence attending an outrage of her person, or whether she died from the terror consequent on an attempt to curate her person, are questions which cannot a present be answered.  The suggestions made thoughtlessly or otherwise, intimating that Mrs. Brennan is yet alive, emanate from those who know nothing whatever about her.  If there be any person who can state, under oath, a single fact calculated to show what has become of her, it is earnestly desired and solicited the such person’s name and address be forwarded to Mr Matsell; and the proof thus rendered will at once be taken.  But there is nothing whatever, not known to warrant the belief that anything can be so stated which will not confirm the theory that she has been murdered.

Published: February 16, 1859 Copyright © The New York Times