Miss Ida V. Branch, 23, daughter of James Branch of Smithfield, Va., was said to be the belle of the village and had many admirers including her betrothed, a Mr. Ferguson, the son of a neighboring farmer. By January 1877, certain indications in the appearance of Miss Branch aroused a suspicion on the part of her father that the intimacy between Miss Branch and Mr. Ferguson was of an improper character. After her father voiced his suspicions, Ida protested the accusations and swore that her intimacy did not exceed that of the strictest propriety.
After his suspicions persisted, James sent Ida to stay with her sister in Charlottesville where her physical condition necessitated a physical examination. The examining physician confirmed James’ suspicions. Ida again proclaimed her innocence, and another doctor was called upon to provide a second opinion. This exam revealed the presence of an ovarian tumor, and it was suggested that she go to Baltimore for treatment.
Upon reaching Baltimore, the tumor grew rapidly, and an operation was necessary. The doctors told Ida that she would die within days, but surgery might save her life. She agreed to the surgery with the request that, should she die, a postmortem would be performed to establish her purity and innocence. A 44-pound tumor was removed.
Ida survived surgery but only lived for several hours. Her body was brought back to Virginia for burial.