Death by Eggnog

Posted by | December 20, 2013

This post by Mary Dean Carter, Local Records Archival Assistant for the Library of Virginia, ran on that library’s Out of the Box site today. It is reprinted here with permission.

 

2306__320x240_winedrinkingsanta400_itDuring the holiday season we are warned to avoid overindulgence.  There are many temptations around this time of year—turkey and stuffing, grandma’s pecan pie, and, perhaps, even eggnog.  Sadly, we often hear of folks who would have done better to take a more moderate approach during holiday festivities.  Addison Williams was one such person.

On 25 December 1872 in Bedford County, VA, Williams paid a visit to the home of Cornelia and Charles Abram.  He arrived “about light” and was given a dram of whiskey by William Ogden.  Ogden then made a gallon of eggnog, and Williams “drank a glass and repeated several times.”   Everyone present “drank eggnog freely,” but Williams enjoyed it most of all, drinking more than the rest of the party.  He “left the house and threw up,” only to come back and take another drink.  Afterwards, Williams “left in a run, as in a prank,” never to be seen again. Williams “had commenced showing he was under the influence of liquor,” but no one at the party thought him too drunk to make it home. As one partygoer put it, “…as I thought he was going so well it was useless for me to go with him.”

Unfortunately, Williams could have used a little assistance. He was found on Christmas morning “dead and frozen” mere yards from his house.  The resulting coroner’s inquisition determined Williams came to his death as a result of “being exposed to the cold after drinking a large quantity of mean whiskey.”

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The testimony and investigation into the death of Addison Williams, dated 18 January 1873, can be found in the Bedford County Coroners’ Inquisitions, 1813-1899.  The collection is open for research and available at the Library of Virginia.

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