Poisoned New Year’s candy

Posted 12/22/21

WARWICK –  Thirty-seven-year-old George Melville Webb entered into his second marriage on April 24, 1905. Owner of the Ideal Printing Company, located on Eddy Street in Providence, George …

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Poisoned New Year’s candy


WARWICK –  Thirty-seven-year-old George Melville Webb entered into his second marriage on April 24, 1905. Owner of the Ideal Printing Company, located on Eddy Street in Providence, George lived in Warwick near Pawtuxet with his wife Minnie (Brown), who had also been married once before.

On New Year’s Day of 1909, Minnie’s 14-year-old daughter, Florence Oakes, who lived in a boarding house in Massachusetts for reasons unknown, was visiting her mother. At about 9:00 that evening, Minnie and Florence were sitting at the table in the parlor when a man rang the doorbell. He stood about 5’4 and  was clad in a heavy overcoat with a winter cap pulled down over his ears. He asked if Mrs. Webb was home.

When Minnie informed the man that she was Mrs. Webb, he handed her a box and then de-parted. Minnie shut the door and took the box into the parlor. Up-on opening it, she noticed there was a note attached and pro-ceeded to read it. Someone had written, “Dear One, Please ac-cept a small gift from one who thinks of you often. For you only. Wishing you a happy new year, from an old sweetheart.”

The note was tied to a contain-er of candy and she opened that as well. There was something suspicious about the chocolates inside. It appeared as if a white substance had been spread over them and Minnie pointed it out to Florence. The teenage girl laughed over her mother’s para-noid reaction and asked if she could have one of the candies.

Minnie refused to let the choc-olates be eaten. She explained to Florence that a fortune teller had recently warned her that she must beware of a woman who was jealous of her and intending to ruin her life.

Minnie went to another part of the house to show George the note and candy before she threw on her cape and raced outside to chase after the messenger who might have information regard-ing whom the box came from. Before long, she returned to the house, having been unable to find him.

Minnie contacted the police and, the following day, the chocolates were examined by a chemist who discovered that the two candies at the top of the box had both been slightly crushed and two grains of arsenic had been inserted into each.

While police went on the hunt for the messenger who had de-livered the box to the Webb home, Minnie suggested that the sender of the poisoned gift might be the same person who   had sent her husband an un-signed letter several months earlier as the writing looked much the same on both missives.

The letter had been addressed to George and was of a romantic nature. Mailed on February 12,  the writer explained that she wanted to visit the house and she listed a number of sugges-tions as to how George could purposely anger Minnie so that she would seek a separation from him.

The letter even stated that the sender had come onto the prop-erty and looked through the windows, being very impressed by the contents of their home. In the days preceding the letter, Minnie had been entertaining company when one of her guests  saw a man and two women peeking through the kitchen window.

Minnie believed that this was the second attempt that someone  had made at poisoning her. Two months earlier, a jar of milk was left on her doorstep. The milk man had not yet made his rounds and the jar was not her usual order so she threw it away.

George knew more than he was willing to tell the police or the public, and maybe even his wife. He stated that he would give all the details only after an arrest was made.

No records have been found concerning an arrest or an ex-planation by George. However, he and Minnie divorced. George was living at the Warwick Poor Farm when he became ill from heart disease in 1933 and died on Oct. 19 of that year at the State Infirmary. He was buried in the poor farm’s cemetery.


Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.


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