A Little Poison in Your Tea

The building at 321 Rock Landing Road in Haddam Neck is one of Haddam’s most distinguished properties.  Built in 1813, along the river at the boat landing, the building was later embellished with a mansard roof and full façade porches. The basement featured a commercial store run by the Brainerd, Arnold and Selden families. In 1846 Captain Charles Russell bought the house and ran an Inn from the premises

One interesting story regarding the property took place in October 1888. Mrs. Serena Russell, Captain Russell’s widow was living here alone and had hired a local boy, Alfred Rich, age 17 to do odd jobs for her around the house. Newspapers report that Rich made a pot of tea for Mrs. Russell laced with Paris Green with the intention of poisoning and then robbing her. Unfortunately, he used too much poison, and she vomited it up violently immediately. The doctor was called and there were lingering effects, but she survived. Paris Green was a highly toxic poison that was used as an insecticide and pesticide as well as a pigment. Rich was eventually caught, arrested, and jailed in Haddam. During his trial family members noted that he had been seriously ill at age 14 of typhoid fever and was never the same afterward. His lawyer used the insanity defense. He was found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison.