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Bissinger Graves - Murder/Suicide - Reading, PA

The graves of Louisa (Eben) Bissinger and her children, Lillie (9), Mollie (6), Philip (3) and unborn child.

On August 17, 1875, Louisa Bissinger took the Penn Street trolley from Reading to the last stop near Gring’s Mill, walked her children down the Union Canal towpath for two miles and filled a basket with rocks as she walked. Near Union Canal Lock #49 East, Louisa attached the basket of rocks to her waist, clasped her children to her body and threw herself into the Tulpehocken Creek, drowning herself and her children.

A witness heard the screams of the children but he could not swim so did not attempt to save them. Instead he ran to the home of Mr. Grings for help. By the time helped reached them it was too late. Found on Mrs. Bissinger were two love letters from her husband dated August 9 & 10, 1865.

Louisa was married to Captain Phillip Bissinger, a prominent and wealthy man in Reading, PA who was President of the Reading Brewing Co. According to the Reading Eagle, Louisa was distraught over her husband’s infidelity and decided to end her life and those of her children. Rumors had spread for years of Mr. Bissinger courting another woman and his undue respect for his wife. Prior to Tuesday, August 17th, Mrs. Bissinger was in good health and showed no signs of what she was about to do.

The public turned on Mr. Bissinger, blaming him for the death of his wife and children.

Mr. Bissinger wrote a letter to the Reading Eagle and blamed his wife for listening to rumors and claimed he was not having an extramarital affair. He claimed in the letter that his marriage was never a happy one due to differences of character and disposition. Also stating “If only she had left me the children.”

Mrs. Bissinger’s brother, outraged by the letter in the Reading Eagle, gave his own account which spurred Mr. Bissinger to send an apology letter.

It has been reported that you can see the ghosts of the children walking down the towpath at Grings Mill. Others have heard children's cries or seen children walking down the towpath picking up rocks.

Located at: Charles Evans Cemetery, 1119 Centre Ave, Reading, PA 19601

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