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It always bothers me when I learn that someone has died alone. Even more so when I learn that they died days before the body was discovered.

And so it was with Martha "Mattie" Williams, older sister of my great grandfather, Jo Desha Williams.

But not only did she die alone, two days before her body was discovered, strangers to her family organized her funeral because my great granddad and his oldest sister, Minnie, did not - would not? - attend.

Indeed, from the telegrams from Hubert Wise notifying them of Mattie's death, it seems Minnie was only concerned with the estate.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm reading this chronology the wrong way.

You decide.
Telegram #1 - received in Little Rock, 15 Apr 1930, 10:18 p.m.
Extra=Chigaco ILL 1009p
J W Williams 2310 Ringo Street Little Rock Ark
Regret to tell you we found your sister Mrs Fisher passed away suddenly this evening, I have taken charge and will follow instructions left in letter by her. Have also notified Mrs Shinn nightletter following.
Hubert Wise 4738 Kenwood Avenue


Telegram #2 - received in Little Rock 16 Apr 1930 12:55 a.m. (This was Wednesday. Mr. Wise discovered the body late Tuesday night.)
NL=Chicago ILL
J W Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Dear Mr Williams not hearing from Mrs Fisher since I took her home Sunday evening and getting no response by telephone I went out this evening and with the janitor opened the apartment and found Mrs Fisher laying on the floor. I fetched Dr. Thompson who said death had taken place Sunday night. Mrs Fisher has left written instructions to be laid by her husband in Elmwood Cemetery. Also undertaker and service she desired. Will have autopsy performed and coroners inquest will be held in morning. Have enjoyed such close friendship with Mrs Fisher for many years. We shall do everything possible to carry out her wishes and shall await your instructions.
Hubert Wise


This makes me wonder if she committed suicide. I now will have to try and get her death certificate.
Telegram #3, from Minnie Williams to brother J D Williams, received in Little Rock on 16 Apr 1930 at 7:14 a.m.
NL Collect=Washington DC
J W Williams
2310 Ringo Street Little Rock Ark
Please go to Chicago for me and look after Matties affairs. I was looking for her to be with me. I am not able to go. Hope to bear it. Her furniture has just arrived but not her personal belonging have to be looked after.
Minnie

Telegram #4, from J D Williams to Hubert Wise, 16 Apr 1930
Little Rock Ark 4/16/30
Hubert Wise
4738 Kenwood Ave
Chicago Ills
Received message and nightletter. Carry out completely her instructions. This was her desire indicated to me after her husband passed away. You take charge of all her possessions of every nature including all funds held by her and follow instructions in regard to burial. We will be satisfied with what ever you do and thank you so much for your kindness and attention to this matter. Under the existing circumstances do you think it advisable for me to come. If so advise immediately. We know everything is in safe hands. May God bless you for your kindness to us.
J D Williams

Telegram #4, Received in Little Rock on 16 Apr 1930, 7:17 p.m.
Chicago ILL 710p
J H Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Dear Mister Williams thank you for your message of love and confidence placed in us. Have arranged for funeral service Friday at one thirty from Lawrence Undertaking Parlors in exact accordance with yours and Mrs Fishers request. It is not necessary for you to come. Every detail taken care of. Letter follows giving full particulars. Lovingly
Hubert Wise

And so Mr. Wise sent J D Williams the order of service for Mattie's funeral. I have not transcribed it, but you should be able to tell from the account that Mattie's friends put much time and effort into organizing her service.
 photo funeral service-page-001.jpg
 photo funeral service-page-002.jpg

Wire from J D Williams to Minnie Shinn, dated 16 Apr 1930
Little Rock Ark April 16/30
Mrs Minnie C Shinn
624 Rock Creek Church Road
Washington D C
Night letter received - have been waiting to get notice from Mr Wise. He advises - Dear Mister Williams thank you for your message of love and confidence placed in us. Have arranged for funeral service Friday at one thirty from Lawrence Undertaking Parlors in exact accordance with yours and Mrs Fishers request. It is not necessary for you to come. Every detail taken care of. Letter follows giving full particulars. Lovingly
Hubert Wise - Now Minnie I could not change their plans - Mattie [illegible] as to all details planned by her as being executed and all belongings will be properly handled steel yourself and you can bear this burden and all will be well - will go later if necessary to wind up affairs better than now - desire to remember her as in life - not in death - now that all details are so well taken care of - the Good Lord has blessed us by her passing in the midst of loving and Christian friends - let us be thankful it is this way - will advise you by wire and mail the b[illegible] just as soon as received.
J D Williams
Address - 2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Phone 4-6343

Telegram #5, received in Little Rock on 19 Apr 1930 at 5:24 a.m.
NL=Chicago ILL
J W Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Your dear sisters remains were placed beside her husband this afternoon. Service was expressive of her life - dignified graceful and loving. Many beautiful floral pieces indicated the high esteem in which she was held by many friends. Her last wishes have been carried out to the letter an obligation I consider very sacred. Will you please notify law department First Trust and Savings Bank thirty eight South Dearborn street Chicago immediately authority to pay all bills presented by myself? Letter follows explaining this request. Similar request made to Mrs Shinn.
Hubert Wise

Wire from J D Williams to the bank, granting power of attorney to Hubert Wise, dated 19 Apr 1930
Little Rock Ark - - 4/19/30 - -
Law Department - First Trust and Savings Bank
#38 South Dearborn St
Chicago Ills
Power of Attorney is hereby granted to Hubert Wise to act in my place - Pay all bills and accounts incident to the death and burial of my sister Mrs Mattie Williams Fisher out of any funds held by your bank in trust by her and this wire is your authority to honor the checks as issued by him for that purpose on the said funds as held by our bank.

My sister Mrs Minnie C Shinn Washington City D C the only two legal heirs to her estate including myself.

Witness my hand and seal this date Little Rock Arkansas.

J D Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Phone 4-6343

Wire to Minnie Shinn from J D Williams, dated 26 Apr 1930
Little Rock April 26/30
Mrs Minnie C Shin
624 Rock Creek Church Road
Washington D C
Just arrived home - am sending Special Delivery letter all correspondence from Mr Wise and others - they acted wisely. You do not need legal services - stop that expense for statement will be sent you of all expense - you will receive all over that amount - I have waived my rights by wire to bank last week. We are lucky indeed to have such good Christian friends to do this for without pay - compose yourself - dont worry - all will be well. You are alright and in safe hands for Matties will or request will executed exactly like she directed - You will receive balance some over two thousand without any legal action on your part.
J D Williams
2310 Ringo St Little Rock Ark
Phone 4-6343

That last one sounds to me like Minnie was going to sue Mattie's friends - who organized and attended to all the details surrounding her death, without asking to be compensated - to ensure she got every dime left over from the estate of the sister she wanted to attend her in her old age.

But she couldn't go to the funeral.
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Dee Burris Blakley

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