A Twisted Wheaton College Love Story

The Day Book, January 11, 1912, published the following tragic story:

Sylvester E. Adams, 717 S. Winchester Ave. married, shot and killed Miss Edith Smith Young, Wheaton College graduate and teacher of the co-operative school near Wheaton, and then committed suicide, Wednesday afternoon, in the Wheaton school house. Adams’s illicit love for Miss Smith, which she spurned because Adams was a married man, was the cause of the tragedy. Miss Smith had been acquainted with the Adams family for five years and often visited Mrs. Adams, with whom she was very friendly. The shooting occurred just after school had been dismissed and some scholars were still leaving the building and were witnesses to the tragedy. Adams entered the schoolroom and walked up and spoke to Miss Smith. He grabbed her by the wrist. She struggled. Then Adams shot her through the brain.  He turned the weapon on himself and inflicted a similar wound. Both died instantly.

Letters which led to the crime, and which indicate how Miss Smith rejected the advances of the married man — The girl’s letter, found in Adams’ pocket:

Chicago, Dec. 26, 1911 — Mr. Adams: I always thought that you were a gentleman, but I am almost persuaded that you are not. I cannot and will not meet any married man in any place without his wife’s consent, and Mrs. Adams, being a friend of mine, makes it even more sure. Take my word for it, I have respected your honor more than you have mine. If you wish my respect you must stop this pestering me. I have not told any one about you, and it will be yourself that will be the first to blacken your reputation. No talk with me will help either of us. So please let me think as well of you as I can. I can overlook the past, but I may not the future. You must be a man for your wife’s sake. May God and the angel friends help you. Respectfully, E.

In the same pocket was a crumpled envelope bearing the name of Miss Smith, and inside was Adams’s reply. This reads:

If you do not meet me something is going to happen. A.

Mrs. Adams says, “I know that poor girl was not to blame. My husband must have lost his mind. He must have lost his mind. Mr. Adams and I were married nine years ago. He has always been attentive to me. Our neighbors called us ‘lovers.’ I can’t understand it. He must have been insane.” Mrs. Adams exhibited a letter from Miss Smith in acknowledgement of a Christmas gift received from the widow. In this the school teacher sent Mrs. Adams her love, but did not mention Adams. “This,” said Mrs. Adams, “was the first time the girl had not spoken of the dead man.”

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