The Crimes of Jesse Pomeroy
Born on Nov. 29, 1859, in Charlestown, Massachusetts, Jesse Harding Pomeroy developed what was then referred to as a “humor” when he was an infant. Though he recovered from the unspecified ailment, his right pupil had been scarred at birth and would be covered in a thick film for the rest of his life.
Pomeroy’s childhood struggles remain debated. Some historians are adamant his father, Thomas Pomeroy, a Civil War veteran who worked in the Charlestown Naval Yard, was abusive. Others maintain that he and his older brother, Charles, had rather mundane upbringings.
Jesse Pomeroy was five years old when his neighbor claimed he stabbed a cat to death and threw it into the river. One of his teachers said he was “peculiar, intractable, not bad, but difficult to understand.” Pomeroy hated being corrected and ultimately became a loner who devoured pulpy novels on the savagery of frontier life.
Pomeroy’s father reportedly beat him with a horsewhip on a regular basis and ordered him to strip down naked. And his mother, Ruth, said a serious case of pneumonia in October 1871 had left him “not so well.”
His crimes began that winter.