The Gruesome Murder of Pearl Bryan

The story of an innocent Indiana socialite who became the victim in one of America’s most brutal murders

Heather Monroe


Pearl Bryan in life, public domain photograph

Pearl Bryan was born on October 25, 1872, in Greencastle, Indiana. She was 11th of twelve children born to Alexander, and Susan Bryan. Alexander was a successful stock breeder and dairy operator. The Bryan family was well-to-do and traveled in the most elite social circles of their community.


The people of Greencastle found 20-year-old Pearl pretty and charming. A newcomer to town was especially fond of her — 27-year-old aspiring dentist, Scott Jackson. He and his mother, Sarah, moved to Greencastle in 1895 after Scott ran into trouble by embezzling from his college.

Scott formed a friendship with William Wood, Pearl’s cousin. William introduced Scott to his pretty, single, cousin. The two formed an intimate relationship, and Pearl became pregnant by the end of summer.

Pearl wanted desperately to marry Scott and have their baby, but Scott said no. He was on his way back to college and expressed to Pearl that she needed to have an abortion.

Scott returned to college, and Pearl kept her condition secret. Scott wrote letters to William with messages for Pearl. These were not expressions of love, but instructions and recipes meant to induce a miscarriage. Pearl wrote back to explain the methods weren’t working.

Pearl was beginning to show when Scott visited for Christmas. He knew something needed to be done quickly. He asked Pearl to arrange a trip to Cincinnati, where he would “take care of her.”

Pearl believed Scott would marry her in Cincinnati. She told her family she was going to visit the Fisher family in Indianapolis. Instead, she set off for Cincinnati on January 28, 1896.

Pearl arrived in Cincinnati and went to the Ohio College of Dental Surgery to find her beau. Unable to locate Scott, she checked herself Pearl rented a room in the Indiana House in downtown Cincinnati under her sister’s name, Mrs. Maude Stanley.

She located Scott via messenger, and the two made plans to meet. Scott arrived with his roommate, Alonzo Walling. Scott let Pearl know…



Heather Monroe

Welcome readers! Heather Monroe is a genealogist and writer who resides in California with her partner and their nine children. •True Crime• History• Memoir•