The Strange Case of Etta Dorsilla Wright — How Far Should You Dig?


IN 1894 I found this strange news article and once I got going, there was no stopping. This event has not been recorded on any other genealogy I can see and Friends of the Sandbank Historical Society had no information on her first marriage– nor did other genealogy places—this should do it.

October 1884

Morphine was very easy to get in those days. Raw opium contains some 20 alkaloid substances, one of which is morphine, in a typical yield of 10%. Morphine was first isolated in 1805 by Friedrich Sertürner, an apothecary’s assistant in Paderborn, Germany, however its basic structure was not correctly determined until 120 years later. In the 1800s morphine (known then as laudanum) was a popular panacea and was available from grocers and markets. 

By 1895, morphine and opium powders, like OxyContin and other prescription opioids today, had led to an addiction epidemic that affected roughly 1 in 200 Americans. Before 1900, the typical opiate addict in America was an upper-class or middle-class white woman drug.

So this may have taken me a day to find out everything about this story, but this is what I love to do.. So I kept digging.


The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
26 Oct 1894, Fri  •  Page 7

Both those stories were pretty vague so I kept digging in the Watertown area and here are two articles from the Watertown, N. Y. Newspapers I found below. Article 1-

The Watertown Herald. (Watertown, Jefferson County, N.Y.) October 27, 1894-(etta’s R initial is wrong)

So what happened to Etta? She remarried– 4 years later in 1898 to Thomas Vincent a Brit from Bath, UK who was a farmer in Picton. He passed away at 72 in 1943 from a heart attack and his son who is not mentioned alongside Etta’s name ( possible he had a child and his wife died) does not even know Etta’s maiden name on the death certificate, so who knows. ( see * below)

Well, ‘who knows’ turns into a daughter -Jean Helena Wright- who was born to Etta “Wright”, June 25 1895 with “Father” crossed out (Pierce’s child?– see* below–If you notice Helena filed this delayed birth certificate in 1974. Delayed birth certificates provide additional information that an original certificate does not.). Daughter, Jean Helena later took the last name “Vincent” from Etta’s second husband Thomas Vincent and she married Merill Wilson Hagerman in 1921. She was buried at age 92 in 1992 in Glenwood Cemetery in Picton. Etta Dorsilla Pierce Vincent died at the age of 84 in 1947.

Second article

The Ogdensburg journal., October 27, 1894, Page 2, (etta’s R initial is wrong)

More history-

Extracted from “Pioneer Life on the Bay of Quinte”, 1905, pages 888-894: Friends of the Sandbank
“Joseph Wright married Jane E. Storms, and settled on lot 74, Lake Side, North Marysburg. He was by trade a
master carpenter and built many of the best houses and barns to be found in North and South Marysburg, and
adjoining townships. His skill led to his employment at other places, including the State of New York, but after his
marriage he devoted himself principally to farming, although he built the residence now occupied by his widow and
son, Vincent Wright. He died universally respected in 1889, and the farm is now managed by his son Vincent, who
had taken over the main charge of it before his father’s death.

He married Jane E. (Melissa?) Storms #76391,52 b. 1843,12 d. 1920 in North Marysburgh, Prince Edward County,
Ontario,12 buried in Cressy Cemetery, North Marysburgh, Prince Edward County, Ontario.12
1915: At death of son Vincent, name is shown as “Melinda STORMS”. Verify.

  1. i. Arthur Wright #94026 b. 21 September 1876.
  2. ii. Etta Dorsilla Wright #101073 b. c. 1862.
  3. iii. Vincent Hill Wright #76389 b. 1864

A daughter, Etta Dorsilla Wright, married Thomas Vincent. Etta was shown as widowed on her 1898 marriage record—so the couple may have later married…Partner (unidentified) Pierce #174766. Then came the marriage to Thomas Vincent.
Mr. Vincent was born at Bristol, England, and came to Canada when a mere child. He has proven himself a
successful farmer, and at present owns one hundred acres in a high state of cultivation and beautifully located for a
home overlooking the Bay.”

Name:Etta Pierce[Etta Dorsilla Wright]
Birth Year:abt 1866
Birth Place:Cressy
Marriage Date:15 Nov 1898
Marriage Place:Canada, Prince Edward, Ontario
Father:Joseph Wright
Mother:Jane Storms
Spouse:Thomas Vincent
*death certificate of husband Thomas Vincent

*daughter Jean Helena Wright born in 1895 8 months after her husband James Pierce died of an overdose. If you notice Helena filed this delayed birth certificate in 1974. Delayed birth certificates provide additional information that an original certificate does not. Was she named after her father James/ Jean??

Morphine Abuse

The Gazette
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
23 Mar 1895, Sat  •  Page 6
The Modesto Bee
Modesto, California
04 Apr 1894, Wed  •  Page 1
The Modesto Bee
Modesto, California
04 Apr 1894, Wed  •  Page 1
1894 London O ntario
American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record, v.36, no. 6 March 25, 1900
Cube Morphine, seen in this 1900 American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record ad, was the cure-du-jour for all things painful. First synthesized in the opening days of the 19th century by Friedrich Wilhelm Serturner as a more effective pain reliever than regular opium, cube morphine became wildly popular among injured Civil War veterans. Morphine’s popularity led to its downfall in medicine as its addictive properties became clear – giving morphine addiction the moniker “Soldier’s Disease” after the soldiers who became widely addicted. 

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s