Every day of her 29 years, Nora Coleman had dutifully endured her neglectful mother’s verbal and emotional abuse. She might have continued to put up with it if she hadn’t found herself in a “delicate condition.” But her 67-year-old mother, Sepharna Gleason, hated children and frequently threatened that if Nora should ever give birth, Sepharna would “throw the brat into the fire and watch it burn.” Nora would not tolerate such threats against her unborn child.
So, the evening of February 6, 1918, Nora snuck into her in-law’s house and helped herself to a shotgun. From there, she continued on to her mother’s rural Angola farm and hid the gun behind a tree.
Although the matricide eliminated the threat to her future child, Nora unfortunately miscarried within days of the shooting, perhaps due to the emotional price of facing a first-degree murder charge and its prescribed punishment: life imprisonment or death.
Nora dodged both after a panel of psychiatrists declared her insane, and the judge sent her to the Rest Haven Asylum in Richmond, Indiana, for treatment. When she was released eleven years later, she and her husband divorced, and she returned to the familial home, where she had grown up and grown tired of the incessant, vile abuse by the woman whose life she ended on the back porch of that very house.
I feel sadness for Nora living there all alone, surrounded by the hurtful, haunting memories until she died September 25, 1957. She had no one to turn to for consolation, and that may be why I was unable to find a stone monument for her when I visited Flint Cemetery on August 30, 2020, in rural Steuben County, where she is buried, according to her death certificate. I did, however, find a handsome stone honoring her mother in the same cemetery. Nora had provided the stone, as well as a lovely funeral. Always the good daughter, she wouldn’t have had it any other way.•
Three-year-old Nora “Kittie” Gleason posed with her mother, Sepharna (top), her grandmother (left) and great-grandmother for this family portrait taken in 1890. The joyless scowls on the faces of her sourpuss matriarchal elders are likely indicative of the life little Nora was born into and from which she was determined to escape.
Nora Gleason Coleman is pictured with her husband, Ward, shortly after they were married in January 1917.