March 22, 1848: Dr. Valorus Perry Coolidge of Waterville is convicted of murder and sentenced to hang for killing Edward Mathews on the night of Sept. 30, 1847, in Waterville and robbing him of about $1,500 that Mathews had just withdrawn from a local bank to lend to the debt-ridden Coolidge.

The case became a regional sensation because after Mathews’ body was found on Oct. 1o of the previous year, Coolidge was one of four people who conducted an autopsy of the body, during which he tried to cover up evidence of his crime.

Coolidge told his medical assistant, Thomas Flint, about Mathews’ death but misrepresented the details, claiming that Mathews had died unexpectedly of natural causes. Flint remained silent until a second examination of Mathews’ body, held Oct. 3 without Coolidge present, revealed a fatal concentration of prussic acid in the victim.

After Flint testifies for the prosecution, Coolidge is convicted. A long, melodramatic ballad titled “The Waterville Tragedy; or, Death of Edward Mathews by Dr. Valorus P. Coolidge” is posted in public places.

Coolidge’s sentence soon is reduced to life in prison. But then the Maine State Prison warden finds letters in which Coolidge conspires with an accomplice to murder Flint, again using prussic acid, and to make Flint’s death look like a suicide. Shortly afterward, prison officials report finding Coolidge dead in his prison cell. His brother claims the body but insists it is not that of Coolidge, fueling decades of public speculation about what happened to him.


March 22, 1947: The nine-member Patten Academy Eagles boys high school basketball team wins the unofficial New England Class B championship at Boston Garden, beating Boston Latin in overtime, 35-32. The Patten school has 88 students, including just 29 boys; Boston Latin has about 1,800 students.

The Eagles earlier won the Maine state finals against Gould Academy, of Bethel, also by three points – 36-33. Before that, they edged out Fairfield’s Lawrence High School, 43-42, to win the Eastern Maine Class B crown.

The 1946-47 Patten team is inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016, with a few of the surviving players attending the induction ceremony.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at:

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.