Kate Blood: The True Story

There is a legend in Appleton about the grave of Kate Blood. Some say that when the moon is just right, you can see ghostly blood oozing from the stone. The reason? Kate is said to have killed her husband with an axe. Sometimes her children, too. Whether or not you think the stone oozes blood is for you to decide, but the murder part is easily debunked. Just look at the dates on the stone – with her husband outliving her, he could not have been her murder victim. (Other versions of the story call her a witch, avoiding the problematic dates.)

Many people have heard this legend and it has been written about in the newspaper, books, and on YouTube. But the true story of the Blood family is just as interesting as their last name.

Henry L. Blood was born December 27, 1813, in Oxford County, Maine to Giles and Fannie Levake Blood. He went to public schools and in the summer helped his father on the farm. Reaching adulthood, Henry and his father switched to the more profitable businesses of lumber and iron in Maine.

April 25, 1838: he married Catherine Southmayd and had a few children, including Kate.

In 1843, they moved west to Mackinac Island, Michigan and operated the Wescott House hotel. In 1846, they moved again to Green Bay and ran the Astor House. Son Frederick Blood was born in the Astor House in August 1848. The next move was to Appleton in March 1849. Later sources say that by July 1849, Blood oversaw mail transport between Green Bay and Neenah. The route between Appleton and Neenah was achieved by rowboat. It is unclear to me who was living in Neenah and receiving mail… was Winnebago Rapids even established yet?

There are some stories that say Blood worked with Rev. Reeder Smith to buy Appleton land from Green Bay owners to secure a spot for Lawrence University. This would explain Blood’s movement from Green Bay to Appleton and his involvement with the school, but the records I’ve seen seem to point only at Smith. Charles Breunig, in the official book-length history of Lawrence, credits Blood only with helping clear a road and allowing workers to sleep in his “shanty hotel.” This deserves more research, by somebody else.

He was Lawrence University’s first treasurer (1851-1864), as well as a trustee and member of the executive board. Blood built the first “shanty” or “frame house” (definitions vary) in Appleton where the First National Bank stood circa 1895. The word “shanty” in the sense means a wooden structure of boards rather than logs.

July 1853: Henry was on a committee to throw an Independence Day party at Thomas Hanna’s National Hotel. 400 people were invited. Others on the committee included Theodore Conkey, George Lawe, Julius Buck, Robert Morrow and other notable pioneers.

November 15, 1853: Blood was the chairman of the Outagamie County board of supervisors, as well as the chairman of Grand Chute. Also on the county board were BH Beaulieu of Kaukauna and NM Hephner of Center, among others. At this meeting, Blood was chosen along with Beaulieu and Milo Coles to “settle with” county treasurer Robert Morrow. (When is this in relation to the Morrow v Grignon feud?)

July 1854: Blood was again on an Independence Day committee with Julius Buck, NM Hephner of Center, and Andrew Clinton Black of Kaukauna, among others.

January 1855: Catherine Southmayd Blood died in Appleton. Henry later married Mary Brown and had four more children.

March 1855: Blood served as Amos Lawrence’s agent in Appleton for selling 7,000 acres of land in Brown and Outagamie counties, much of it along the Fox River.

September 1857: Was part of a group who met at the Crescent Hotel in an effort to convice the railroad to come through Appleton. Any railroad would do, but they especially hoped for one running from Green Bay to Madison, with Appleton a stop on the way. Later histories credit Blood with getting the railroad to town.

March 1858: was head of an old settlers meeting at the National Hotel. Also there were Julius Buck, Samuel Ryan, John Johnston, William Warner, John Parish and Thomas Hanna. The focus of the meeting was to say farewell to Dr. SE Beach, who was moving to Kansas.

September 1864: Blood took over ownership of the Johnston House hotel from JF Johnston, who was moving to Minnesota Junction. (Unclear to me if Johnston House is the same as National Hotel.)

November 8, 1864, Blood was chosen as one of Wisconsin’s electors, and personally carried the votes to Washington, DC, securing Abraham Lincoln’s re-election.

May 4, 1872: Kate Marcia Blood married George Michael Miller at the Blood residence, Rev. O.B. Thayer officiating. He was the son of a Methodist minister, Rev. Allen Miller. The newspapers wrote fondly of this union, saying that Miller had won for himself “one of Appleton’s fairest daughters” and “a lady of rare accomplishments.” The attention was due in part because Miller was an editor at the Appleton Post!

In the fall of 1872, Henry Blood’s latest hotel, the Levake House, was destroyed by fire. Blood operated a sawmill in Shiocton for two years, then sold out his interest and returned to Appleton.

Stricken with tuberculosis, she went to Lawrence, Kansas to recover in December 1874. She died there within weeks at age 23 and her body was brought back to Appleton by train. Her obituary was longer than the main news stories. She left behind her husband and 2-year old daughter. Kate was buried at Riverside Cemetery. Today, the spot seems hidden, but in the 1870s it was prime real estate – a spot overlooking the river. Her stone reads “Kate Blood” rather than “Kate Miller,” and no doubt the rumors never would have started with her married name. (Questions about the history probably wouldn’t come up as often, either… so it’s an indirect win for Appleton-area historians.)

Henry Blood died in Appleton on February 21, 1888. He left behind his third wife, as well as children Fred, Frank and May.

December 1916: George Miller underwent an operation for stomach trouble and died after his body went into shock. He was 70 years old. In addition to working as a newspaper editor, he had briefly been a postmaster (four years) and operated a lumber company with George W. Gerry. He was prominent in Appleton.

Kate Blood Miller had a daughter, Zana Miller. She never married and worked as a librarian, primarily at the Neenah Public Library.

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