The Poisoner’s Tool Chest


A journeyman joiner in Kelso, having procured some arsenic for poisoning rats, mixed it amongst oatmeal, and laid it in his tool chest. His wife accidentally finding it, and not knowing the meal contained poison put it into their porridge on Monday morning last. Her eldest child who was about three years of age, upon taking the porridge, said they were bad, and would take no more, but she and a child she was nursing took a few spoonfuls of them, which they had no sooner done, than they were seized with violent reaching [sic] and vomiting, attended with a heat and pricking pain in the stomach. The husband coming in soon after for his breakfast, she told him what she had done, when he exclaimed, “You are all poisoned!” He immediately run [sic] for a doctor, who made use of every proper means to expel the poison, which was happily effected, as they are now in a fair way of recovery.

— from The Pennsylvania Packet Friday, Nov. 18, 1785, courtesy of Jeff Burks

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23 Responses to The Poisoner’s Tool Chest

  1. kendewitt608 says:

    I for one could have done without this tale

  2. Eric R says:

    Close call.

  3. pogo930 says:

    Interesting picture, I would like to know story whence it came from. It is definitely a child’xs coffin,

  4. pogo930 says:

    Fingers aren’t working this AM. LOL Interesting picture, I would like to know the story whence it came from. It is definitely a child’s coffin.

  5. Jeff Faulk says:

    Is that coffin… dovetailed together? It certainly looks like it at one of the corners…

  6. Is that a coffin? Or is it the saw till/tool chest from where she found the oats (which would make the story even more fitting)? I remember reading an article one time on someone using a coffin as something else…until it was needed. I forget where I read it, but I do remember he used it to store his records in it…If memory serves me correctly, I believe this person lived in Kentucky…and hopefully still does! This article scares me. My wife is always brewing up some new cleaner of some sort…and I am one of those creatures that eats everything in site when hungry..its only a matter of time before I slip or she slips. I just hope she doesn’t slip on purpose!!

    • tsstahl says:

      In my research on caskets, I found it is common to use a coffin, or casket as other furniture until needed. Bookcases and clocks are common. I saw a casket being used as a foundation for a twin size bed. Another was turned on it’s side as a buffet; three sliding door were installed (still looked too casket-ish for my taste). Personally, I plan to use my casket as a wardrobe.

      Maybe you could use yours to store cleaning products. 😉

  7. skilledno says:

    Some do their best work when the rest of the world is going to hell 🙂

  8. diondubbeld says:

    Love the happy ending! I was thinking the worst.

  9. Ruben "Rube" Villanueva says:

    The 5 or 10 second rule are a no go at my house so at least I do t have to worry about my wife pulling food out of my toolbox and feeding it to my kids. I usually have a 1 hour rule depending on what it is. Gotta keep my immune system working.

  10. There has to be more to this story, right? Like maybe the guy had a history of hiding food from his family in his toolbox? Some sort of compulsion, maybe. I just can’t imagine that his wife, surely a sensible woman, would think that feeding children random food from the workshop was a good idea. Not, at least, without inquiring why he had it there. Based on what I’ve read about 18th century medicine I am also not buying the happy ending.

  11. shopsweeper says:

    The may be the almost, nearly last straw for me.

    First you refuse to blog entries that will help with my combination Carrion Terrier / Purple Martin BirdDoghouse project.
    Now you talk about near death situations when you KNOW that near death is one of my biggest fears (along with those big freestanding harps and that liquid that runs out of old potatoes).

    If you don’t shape up I will spend more time bothering all the other Woodworker/Writer/Publishers/Bloggers and not pester you as much. Fair warning.

  12. Paul Murphy says:

    I have had a similar experience. Being poisoned, even by accident, isn’t fun.
    I went to the emergency room, and the doctor came in to see me. He sauntered in and got real smug, asking me (laughing), “Ha ha ha, tell me why you would drink that poison?” When I explained the circumstances, he changed his demeanor. Accidents really can happen. I was just fine, and I wasn’t going to suffer any long term effects. The moment of ingestion on the other hand…

  13. “A journeyman joiner from Kelso” is an EXCELLENT first line for a limerick. Thanks! Now I have something pleasant to think about as I spend the rest of the morning doing hack work with plexiglas, green treated SYP, and a cordless drill.

  14. To me this story smelled fishy, despite the oats.

    So question 1: Why would you put rat poison in your tool chest? If the rats are getting in there, close the lid and patch the hole in the corner.

    Question 2: Why would your spouse be looking in your tool chest? I don’t think my wife has ever looked in my tool chest for anything, and it’s in our house, not in a separate building.

    Question 3: Who would look in a tool chest, see oatmeal and think, “There’s breakfast!” without wondering why the heck there are oats in the tool chest.

    Someone call Columbo.

  15. What is that round thing sticking out of the back apron? And why is the child’s teddy bear on his benchtop?

  16. gblogswild says:

    There once was a journeyman from Kelso
    whose oats could only smell so
    His wife took a spoon
    and fed it to the goons
    and made everyone expel so.

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