In 1854 Harvey Wilson wrote in his diary that there was something unusual about the deaths of David Clinton and Lucinda Adelaide Horton. Lucinda Adelaide died October 20, 1854 at age 7 and her brother died three days later on October 23, at age 11. Both were quickly disinterred from their grave on English Prairie land and re-examined after it had come to light that they may not have died of natural causes.
A county coroner's inquest was held on October 30, 1854. David Horton, their grandfather, was first to be interviewed. He said in 1850, his son, William, tried to sever his marriage from Caroline, the mother of the children, but died suddenly a month after trying to deliver the court papers to her. He had alleged she was having an adulterous affair with their neighbor, Townsend Carpenter, with whom she was living at the time. The papers were never delivered and William's personal property and 383 acres of land were left mostly to the children.
Caroline than married the English Prairie schoolteacher, A.J. Dunning, with whom she had another child and was living with at the time of the children's death. David Horton had seen his grandchildren shortly before they died and said they appeared "sprightly, lively and well".
Neighbor Mrs. Kinsley testified she went to visit after she heard of Lucinda's death and "the boy was vomiting and his fingers were cramped and cold". He had red cheeks, bloodshot eyes and his skin was black around his eyes. Mrs. Carpenter also visited and said Caroline told her she heard someone walking in the house in the middle of the night hours before Lucinda's death. She also testified that Mr. Dunning was "given to intemperance and had an angry disposition."
Another neighbor said Dunning told him about the man in their house who was by the girl, and who jumped out a window and ran away when seen. This neighbor had previously gone to Kenosha with Dunning, who went into the apothecary shop, saying he needed some sleeping aids, but it later turned out he bought rat poison. The doctor testified at first he thought the children had cholera, but there was no fever. Later he suspected poison - alcohol and opium or arsenic.
After more testimony, the inquest jury's verdict was "death by poisonous drugs given by A.J. Dunning." He was arrested, but later released due to "lack of sufficient evidence."
By June of 1855, Caroline filed for, and was granted, a divorce from Dunning, claiming "extreme cruelty and drunkenness". In 1858 she married Joseph Emmus. with whom she had four children - two boys and two girls.
In 1860, Townsend Carpenter and Darius Kinsley donated land for the English Prairie Cemetery. Townsend's own toddler son, Henry, was already buried there, along with the Horton children, whose headstone can still be read.
The 1880 census showed Joseph Emmus living in Leadville, Colorado with only his two sons. The rest of Caroline's story is lost to history. Harvey Wilson's diary lives on in the McHenry County Historical Society.