06 October 2020

Spooky SLC: Reverend Frances Hermans, part 2

Continued from previous post

Artist illustration of Rev Francis Hermans disposing of
Henrietta Clausen’s body in the church furnace, SL Trib 1930-03-13
After human remains were found in the Scandinavian M. E. Church furnace in May 1896, the SLC Police became involved and they found the decomposing torso of Miss Clausen buried in a corner of the Church’s dirt floor basement, bloody overalls belonging to the Reverend, two false teeth from Miss Clausen in the furnace, and a blood-stained wood barrel in the basement.

The door of the furnace was only 10x6 inches and it was thought that the barrel was used as a butcher block to dismember the body so it would fit into the furnace.

The Police further searched the Church and two trunks in Reverend Hermans’ study were found with clothing and other items belonging to Miss Clausen, and also to another missing Swedish immigrant, Miss Annie Samuelsen.

Bottles of poison, chloroform, and other drugs- some of which produced abortions- were also found in the Reverend’s study. Miss Samuelsen’s aunt admitted that her niece had “improper relations” with the Reverend and that he had produced an abortion shortly before her disappearance.

According to members of the Church, after the disappearance of Miss Clausen, the other missing woman, Miss Samuelsen, had become his favorite. They grew intimate were soon to be married; she went missing the previous January and soon after the Reverend pawned her gold watch and ring. Police suspected that Miss Samuelsen had also been poisoned by the Reverend and her body dismembered and either burned or buried elsewhere.

It was also discovered that Reverend Hermans had embezzled $7K of church funds (~$217K in 2020 dollars). He had been married 3 times and in each instance his wife died under mysterious circumstances. Two of his three children also died in unusual circumstances. And the sister of his 2nd wife went missing. His 3rd wife, Martha, died in SLC in 1895 and had a life insurance policy for $500 ($15K in 2020 dollars).

Reverend Hermans never returned to SLC and was never apprehended for his crimes.

The Scandinavian M. E. Church was demolished in 1906 and an apartment building was constructed in its place. A new apartment complex built in 2016 now occupies the area.

The Evidence, Images from SL Herald 1896-05-24, 1896-05-26, 1896-05-27

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