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Anna Josephine Steinriede / John Irwin Elopement Scandal 1885

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Yazoo, Mississippi. Memphis, Tennesseemap
Surname/tag: Steinriede
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The following describes a scandal involving Anna Josephine Steinriede of Yazoo, Mississippi, the wife of Dr. J. J. Steinriede, and a John Irwin. This scandal was reported in newspapers nationwide with one article being recirculated in as far away as Scottlad [1]


Sometime in 1884, John Steinriede hires a Mulnato Coachman named John Irwin whilst they were living in Yazoo City[2]. While most newspapers list him as being around 21[2][3], in a later interview Anna refers to him as "a boy" and states that he was born on her grandparents plantation[4] echoing several statments made throughout the scandal that he was raised by Dr. Steinriede's family[3]. In additon, 7 years prior to the scandal around 1878, an african american maid named Fannie Banks was also hired by the Steinriedes[2]. Immeditately Prior to the scandal, the Steinriede's had moved from their Yazoo, Mississippi home to 206 Union Street, Memphis, Tennessee[2].

Scandal Timeline

  • On April 8th or 9th, Anna gets into an argument with her husband, Dr. J. J. Steinreide, after which she leaves her house, sells her gold watch, and has John Irwin escort her to the train station for departure to St. Louis, Missouri[4][2] . At the train station the two separated[5]. Fearing that Dr. Steinriede would kill him, Irwin would leave Memphis shortly thereafter [4][5][6].
  • On April 10th, 1885, a newspaper article gets published in the Memphis Public Ledger which kicks off the public part of the scandal[2]. The newspaper details that a rumor had been spreading back in Yazoo, Mississippi, where the Steinriede's had been living at that time, about Anna having inappropriate relations with her african american coachmant, John Irwin. The newspaper detailed how one particular (unamed) female neighbor purported to have seen Irwin "bathing the badly bruised face" of Mrs. Steinreide [2]. The newspaper details that, once these rumors had reached Anna, she convinced her husband to move their family to Memphis which they did sometime early in 1885 [2]. The newspaper goes on to detail how on Wednesday, April 8th, a lady caller in Memphis saw Anna and John Irwin "rooming together" and then called upon Dr. Steinriede for an explanation. Dr. Steinriede was then said to have confronted Anna about her and Irwin to which was proported to have said "if you believe it, you had better leave me". Following this, the newspaper details how Anna told the maid that she was leaving for St. Louis and then left. The newspaper goes on to detail how the next day Dr. Steinriede had a warrant for the arrest of John Irwin written up, but when the officer went to go serve it, Irwin was not at the Steinriede home. Instead, the newspaper says, they found Fannie Banks who told them about John Irwin's wild and agressive ways, how Anna had once given him a pair of diamond earrings for spending money, and how he had threatened Fannie with death if she ever told anybody what was happening between him and Mrs. Steinriede[2].
  • In an interview towards the end of the scandal, Anna claims that, on the night she left, while she bought a ticket for St. Louis, she ended up boarding the wrong train and so ended up in Springfield[4], According to this same interview, after staying there for a while, she traveled to St. Louis where she pawed off a Velvet Dress and Bonet[4]. Aparently, she had friends from school living in St. Louis at the time[5].
  • While in St. Louis, she met up with John Irwin and stayed some number of days(see note below) at the residence of one of his relatives, a Lucy Dickenson, at 7507 South Ninth Street in St. Louis Misouri [4][3]. On April 18th, detectives trace the couple to Lucy Dickenson's residence but they had already left, aparently for Springfield, Illinois where Dr. Steinriede was then enroute to[3] [7] [8]. In reality, the couple had traveled to Chicago[9]. While Some newspapers claimed she left St. Louis to flee the police[7] , Anna later claimed that when she was unable to find work, Irwin suggested they go to Chicago where he had some friends[4]. Note: the earliest newspaper article on their stop at the house of Lucy Dickenson claims that they arrived on the 14th and then had left sometime before the 18th[3], another newspaper article claims they had stayed there three days and then had left on the night of Thursday, April 16th[7], and some later newspaper articles claim that the couple had arrived in Chicago on the morning of Wednesday, April 15th [9][10]. As the idea that they arrived in Chicago on Wednesday, April 15th is the most common later in the story, that is what is assumed to be the correct date.
  • Throughout the early parts of the scandal, newspaper articles suggest that Dr. Steinriede wanted only for Anna to return home [7][7].
  • On the morning of Wenesday, April 15th, the couple takes up a residence at a "boardinghouse run by colored people" on 3rd Avenue in Chicago[4] under the names Mr. and Mrs. Williams and claiming to be husband and wife[10]. The landlady at their boarding house eventually grew suspicious of the couple and on April 20th, confronted Irwin about it and told him they could not stay at the boarding house any longer[10].
  • An interview with the landlady was published on April 21st and detailed the previous story in addition to the fact Anna and Irwin had supposedly separated and that private detectives knew where Anna was had been trailing her around the city[10]. Dr. Steinriede was also said to have been notified and be on his way to the city[10]. The idea that Irwin and Anna separated for good at this juncture is supported by several statements made by Anna and her Husband later [11][5].
  • A newspaper article published the next day on April 22, detailed Anna's movements around the city and detectives efforts to track her[12]. This newspaper article details that the previous day's newspaper article had scared Anna very badly and that she aparently told a ticket clerk that she would leave the next day for Cincinatti. The article goes on to name Detective Enders and Robert Mitchell, deputy clerk of the criminal court, as the ones who discovered them on 207 Third Avenue. The article ends by mentioning that Detective Enders suspected that Anna would return home in memphis soon. This supposition is later oft quoted in other newspapers[13].
  • Also on April 22, Dr. Steinriede makes a statement to the press stating that he had never thought of restoring Anna to his home circle and that he only went to St. Louis to "save her from further degredation"[14]. He also states that he did not have any interviews with the press and that "statements regarding my motives and future doings are idle suggestions of their own fancies"[14].
  • There is a large gap in new information on the scandal between April 22nd and May 6th. It is unknown what Dr. Steinriede did when he arrived in Chicago or if Anna actually traveled to Cincinatti (despite several newspapers at the time claiming that she did[15]).
  • On May 6th, Anna goes to detectives in Chicago and tells them that She had become destitute and that she wishes to return home to her family. In an interview in the interocean, she recounted her series of event for the scandal detailing how she did not elope with Irwin and, in fact , she encountered him in St. Louis by accident and that he simply acted as her escort in the places she traveled[4]. She states that she left her husband because of his continual abuse of her which she described as having begun immediately after they were married and from which she sought to escape after he hit her on the head with his revolver the day before she left. The newspaper article describes how Anns showed the interviewer scars on her arms left by Dr. Steinriede in a failed attempt to cut her throat. She claimed that it was their neighbors notice of this terrible abuse, not rumors regarding her and Irwin, that prompted them to move to Memphis in the firstplace. She also claimed that "[Dr. Steinriede] had been guilty ot a worse crime than that and he made no secret of it to me"[4]. A later Memphis newspaper, seems to expand upon this statement when it says "She claimed that her husband had been guilty of criminal relations with different colored women in his own house and taunted her with her inability to prevent him"[11]. While it's unknown wether or not this expanded statement was made independently by the newspaper editor or if it origininated from something Anna said in a different interview, it's worth noting that Dr. Steinriede's adopted son Clyde, whose descendants claim was the son of Dr. Steinreide and his maid[16], was born just a few months after the scandal on 18 Aug 1885[17](At this time, the only known female servant of Dr. Steinriede was named Fannie Banks so it's possible she was Clyde's mother[2]). Still, Clyde was consistently said to have been born in Missouri so it's possible this is simply a coincidence.
  • On May 1st, Dr Steinriede returns to Yazoo, Mississippi and leaves his children with relatives there before returning to Memphis on May 7th[18].[19].
  • On May 7, Dr. Steinreide acknowledges his wife's desire to return home and sends funds to secure her passage home.[20].
  • On May 11th, Anna returned to her home at Memphis, Tennessee[21]. In his statement to the press regarding her return home, Dr. Steinriede stated, "My wife tells me she has been the victim of designing people and I believe it newspaper gossip notwithstanding"[22]. Below this, the newspaper adds the adeddum "Dr Steinreide perhaps forgets that it was himself who gave the information concerning his wife’s conduct which appeared in the Ledger shortly after Mrs Steinreide departed for St Louis".
  • On May 13th, John Irwin, then going by the alias Bill Fly, is heard from and requests that Dr. Steinreide pay for his fare to be brought back home to face justice. Dr. Steinreide declines his request[23][24][25]. In one article detailing Irwin's post-sandal activities, the following statement is found: "...it is thus that this man [Dr. Steinriede] remains in patience await the arrival of the negro who should be hanged to the nearest lamp post for his conduct. But as the Doctor seems to be firm in the belief of his wife’s innocence despite the fact that it was he who hurled the first stone, it is safe to say that the negro will also be forgiven should he return, for he, too, must be innocent of the crime charged by Dr Steinreide, if he admits now that he was mistaken concerning bis wife"[23]. It's unknown what became of Irwin after this article as no more mentions of him have been found after this point.
  • On May 15th, Dr. Steinriede makes a statement concerning the entire situation.[5]. In it, he claims there was no affair between John Irwin and Anna and that Irwin had made proposals to Anna that she rejected the night they separated. He also claims that there was a marriage arrangement between John Irwin and Fannie Banks. In addition, he makes mention of an unnamed woman who was the catalyst for the entire affair. Apparently, Dr. Strienreide claims that he didn't approve of this woman's relationship with Anna and so told Anna to break off the friendship. When Anna tried to do so, this woman came to Dr. Steinreide to "tell her tale" and, upon relaying this tale to her, Anna leaves the house in anger, thus kicking off the entire affair. Editors of the Memphis Daily Appeal later made a scathing review of his telling of events[26]


  1. "A Lady Eloping with a Mulantto Coachman", The Courier and Argus. Dundee, Tayside, Scotland. 11 May 1885, Mon. Page 3. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/50512961/a-lady-eloping-with-a-mulantto-coachman/
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 "OFF-COLORED FANCIES", April 10, 1885. Public Ledger, Memphis, Tennessee. Page 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/48152442/off-colored-fancies/
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "A Colored Coachman Elopes With the Wife of a Physician", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Missouri, 18 Apr 1885, Sat, Page 2 https://www.newspapers.com/clip/48155434/a-colored-coachman-elopes-with-the-wife/
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 "Mrs. Steinriede", The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, 06 May 1885, Wed, Page 8. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/68833254/mrs-steinriede/
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "Dr. J. J. Steinreide Makes a Statement Concerning His Wife", Memphis Daily Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 15 May 1885, Fri, Page 4 https://www.newspapers.com/clip/48156630/dr-j-j-steinreide-makes-a-statement/
  6. "John Irwin Heard From", Public Ledger, Memphis, Tennessee, 13 Apr 1885, Mon. Page 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/48725540/john-irwin-heard-from/
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 "Steinreide's Sorrow", The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio, 19 Apr 1885, Sun, Page 1 https://www.newspapers.com/clip/48155480/steinreides-sorrow/
  8. "A Runaway Wife", Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, 19 Apr 1885, Sun, Page 3 https://www.newspapers.com/clip/48156421/a-runaway-wife/
  9. 9.0 9.1 "In the Wicked City", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Missouri, 21 Apr 1885, Tue, Page 4 https://www.newspapers.com/clip/48155651/in-the-wicked-city/
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 "Hiding in Chicago", The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, 21 Apr 1885, Tue, Page 8. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/68849417/hiding-in-chicago/
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Dr. Steinreide's Wife", Memphis Daily Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 09 May 1885, Sat, Page 1 https://www.newspapers.com/clip/48156588/dr-steinreides-wife/
  12. "The Memphis Elopement", The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, 22 Apr 1885, Wed, Page 7. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/48155768/the-memphis-elopement/
  13. "Mrs. Steinriede Homeward Bound", Herald and Review, Decatur, Illinois, Thu, Apr 23, 1885, Page 1, https://www.newspapers.com/article/herald-and-review-mrs-steinriede-homewa/126794352/
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Dr. Steinriede: Makes an Explanation Concerning His Erring WifeDr. Steinriede: Makes an Explanation Concerning His Erring Wife", Memphis Avalanche, Memphis, Tennessee, 22 Apr 1885, Wed • Page 6. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/72127587/dr-steinriede-makes-an-explanation/
  15. "Mrs. Steinreide Left for Cincinnati", Memphis Daily Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 23 Apr 1885, Thu, Page 4 https://www.newspapers.com/clip/48652157/mrs-steinreide-left-for-cincinnati/
  16. First hand information remembered by J. Brazell (Clyde Albert Steinriede's grandaughter) on September 17, 2020
  17. "Texas Deaths, 1890-1976," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K3ZL-VHF : 13 March 2018), Clyde A Steinriede, 22 Aug 1958; citing certificate number 52006, State Registrar Office, Austin; FHL microfilm 2,115,591.
  18. "Dr. J. J. Steinreide Arrived with Children", The Yazoo Herald, Yazoo City, Mississippi, 01 May 1885, Fri, Page 3. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/71488366/dr-j-j-steinreide-arrived-with/
  19. "Dr. J. J. Steinriede Leaves Children with Relatives and Returned to Memphis", The Yazoo Sentinel, Yazoo City, Mississippi, 07 May 1885, Thu, Page 3. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/71488443/dr-j-j-steinriede-leaves-children/
  20. "Dr. Steinriede Receives news of Wife's Desire to Return Home", Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, 07 May 1885, Thu, Page 8 https://www.newspapers.com/clip/48156533/dr-steinriede-receives-news-of-wifes/
  21. "Mrs. J. J. Steinreide Returned from her trip", May 12, 1885. Fort Scott Daily Tribune and Fort Scott Daily Monitor. Fort Scott, Kansas. Page 1. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/47695931/mrs-j-j-steinreide-returned-from-her/
  22. "Mrs. J. J. Steinreide Returned from her trip", May 19, 1885. Weekly Public Ledger. Memphis, Tennessee. Page 1. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/47695896/mrs-j-j-steinreide-returned-from-her/
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Strange Steinreide", Weekly Public Ledger, Memphis, Tennessee, 19 May 1885, Tue, Page 1. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/48725152/strange-steinreide/
  24. "Wild John", Weekly Public Ledger, Memphis, Tennessee, 19 May 1885, Tue, Page 3. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/48726180/wild-john/
  25. "John Irwin, hero", Memphis Daily Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 14 May 1885, Thu, Page 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/103481839/john-irwin-hero/
  26. "Steinreide's Card", Weekly Public Ledger, Memphis, Tennessee, 19 May 1885, Tue, Page 3. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/103482224/steinreides-card/

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