Grave of The Kneeland Maids – Gardner, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura
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Gardner, Massachusetts

Grave of The Kneeland Maids

This donated headstone marks the grave of a pair of elderly women who were mysteriously murdered. 

On March 7, 1855, the bodies of the Kneeland Sisters (Miriam, 85, and Sarah Phinney, 75) were found in the home they shared in Gardner, Massachusetts. They were apparently bludgeoned to death with a chair leg (ironic, given Gardner’s title as the Chair City), in a murder that has never been solved.

The bodies were found by a neighbor who came to check on them when cows were seen wandering the property. A sum of $500 was offered as a reward for an arrest. While the sisters were destitute, their family was well known in town and they were taken care of by many. A Mrs. Shattuck supposedly went blind from crying in grief during the funeral. Though the sisters were too poor to afford their own headstone, the local community came together to purchase one for them. 

A man named George Stacey was eventually arrested while boarding a train to Burlington, Vermont and tried for committing the murder. He had asked a co-worker at a chair factory (natch) if he felt that a chair leg would be able to kill a dog. He was also wearing clothes covered in blood, which he claimed was from a nosebleed, which, to be fair, he was prone to. A month after the murders, and while Stacy was in custody, the Kneeland home mysteriously burned down.

After a three day trial, he was acquitted. According to legend, a nephew of the sisters confessed to the murders on his deathbed, and there has also been speculation that the murders were a case of mistaken identity. Another set of sisters, Martha and Sylvia Pearley, who were well off, lived half a mile from the Kneeland Sisters.

In addition to the grave, the nearby Gardner Museum contains the wanted poster for the murders as well as a nightstand with blood splatters from the crime.

Know Before You Go

Behind the First Congregational Church in Gardner