by Florence Markoff

The story of how she helped catch a murderer.


Colonial-era buttons.
Image source: hcaauctions.com.

You are about to hear of an incident that happened many, many years ago. It shook the state of Rhode Island to its very foundations. The story was repeated time and time again, and the one who enjoyed telling it the most was the Widow Nash, who lived on Tower Hill Road in the town of Kingstown.

Now the widow was a good woman. Her reputation spread far and wide. Travelers all knew that her house on Tower Hill Road was always open to anyone that needed lodging and food. One day, in the dead of winter, two men (Jackson and Carter by name), came to her door. Jackson was sick and needed help. The widow received them graciously. She fed them, and even sewed a button on Jackson's jacket. When he felt too weak to comb his hair, she did that, too. While doing it, her attention was attracted to a peculiar lock of hair. It was snowy white—so different from the rest of his hair, which was jet black. The widow commented on this peculiarity, and as the two men left her house she jokingly said to Jackson, "If anything should happen to you, I'll be able to identify you by that white lock of hair!"

The travelers left, promising the widow they would come back soon and again enjoy her hospitality. She promptly forgot about them, until ugly circumstances recalled their visit.

One day, as it happened, she was in the village where she joined a crowd that had gathered around a body just taken from the water. She couldn't believe her eyes. There it was—that peculiar lock of hair! Her trembling fingers searched along the front of his coat and, sure enough, there was the button she had sewed on. She remembered her joking words: "I can always identify you by your lock of hair."

Suddenly, the widow became famous. The authorities asked for her assistance, her testimony helped apprehend the murderer, and justice was done with speed.

Now, if you're ever traveling along Tower Hill Road about about a half-mile outside Wakefield way, you may come across a monument called the Carter Jackson Monument. On its four sides is inscribed the story of that dastardly act that happened so many years ago. The story has since been told over and over again of one of the most famous South County ladies of her time... the Widow Nash.

Find out more about the Jackson-Carter Monument.

Providence resident Florence Markoff (1927-2017) was a speaker, performer, storyteller, and radio personality.

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This article last edited December 21, 2015

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