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I've written before about looking for one thing, and finding another.

And so it was with Ollie Mable Kinzie.

I was at the Arkansas History Commission in mid-May, plowing through microfilm of old newspapers in 1914, and stumbled upon a very sad story. That story started me on a quest.
SAD SUICIDE OF FRIENDLESS GIRL
"NO HOME, NO MONEY, NO FRIENDS AND CAN'T GET WORK."
Little Rock - "No home, no money, no friends, and can't get work." In that terse, tear stained sentence she had hastily scrawled on a piece of paper which lay on the bed beside the body of pretty Mable Kinzie who had taken her own life in a rooming house at 215 West Third street at 12:00 o'clock Thursday afternoon is told the pathetic story of hardships, loneliness and final desperation that drove the friendless girl to swallow the contents of a vial of carbolic acid.

"I have been wandering friendless and penniless for weeks, and when my money ran out I could think of no other recourse by which to better this scheme of life than destroying it," read the farewell message. "My friends were not friends in times of trouble.The world was sweet when all went well, when I had money and work, but the cup of bitterness has blighted whatever sweetness there is in life for me and this is my time to leave." The letter was addressed to her sister, Mrs. Frank Bentley, at the Barnfield house, Texarkana.

"Miss Kinzie came to my house Monday afternoon," said Mrs. Willie O'Connor, who conducts the rooming house, "and paid me for one night and left her grip in the hall Tuesday afternoon when she went out in search of work. She didn't come back Tuesday night. Yesterday afternoon, I saw a light in the room she had formerly occupied. I knew that it should not be lighted at that time of day and went in the room not expecting to find anyone there.

"I saw Miss Kinzie lying on the bed, and supposing she was only asleep went over to the bed and began to shake her, and then I noticed the paleness of her face and called to her but she did not answer. Then I saw the note and thinking she might be saved I called a doctor who said she was dead. She couldn't have been dead very long when I entered the room."

Source: Southern Standard, Thursday, 14 May 1914.
But even in death, Mable appeared to have no friends.

GIRL'S BODY UNCLAIMED
Couldn't Find Work; In Despair Ended Her life
Lifeless Form of Mabel Kinzie Still at Morgue

The body of pretty Mabel Kinzie, who ended her life Wednesday afternoon at 215 West Third street by swallowing the contents fo a bottle of carbolic acid because she was without funds, friendless and could not obtain work, still lies unclaimed at the Healey & Roth morgue.

In a note to her sister, Mrs. Frank Bentley of Texarkana, she said that her reason for taking her life was, "No home, no money, no friends, and can't get work." This sister was notified and said that her husband, Frank Bentley, would arrive in Little Rock yesterday afternoon to take charge of the body, but at a late hour last night Mr. Bentley had not appeared.

It is said that the girl is a native of Missouri and that her parents are living there now. Wednesday night Bentley did not announce the home of the girl's parents, and it is the belief of the local authorities that they have never been notified of their daughter's death, as no word has come from them.

The verdict of the coroner's jury last night was that the girl committed suicide. The investigation was conducted by Deputy Coroner Frank Martin.

Source: Arkansas Gazette, Friday, 8 May, 1914
So now, I wondered if Mable was one of the people buried in a pauper's grave at Oakland & Fraternal Historic Cemetery Park - at that time, still the City Cemetery.

After waiting for two months for the Arkansas Department of Health to get its act together on the printing of the 1914 death certificate - apparently you have to have a special printer for those, and theirs needed parts, to which I finally said, PRINT THE FRICKING CERTIFICATE ALREADY! - I got it.

The Gazette must have gone to print before Mable's body was sent - probably by train - to Webb City, Missouri on 8 May 1914.

There are two cemeteries in Webb City, which is in Jasper County, the county of her birth in 1892. Her death certificate says she was born in Independence, and that she was 22 years old. The informant for the certificate was her sister, Mrs. Frank Bentley, who didn't know her own sister's date of birth.

One of those cemeteries is the Webb City Cemetery, and the other is Mount Hope Cemetery. I cannot find a grave for her, even using alternate surname spellings, in either cemetery. It's possible the grave was not marked, or it was and an online record of it just doesn't exist.

But I do know who her parents were - Charles Henry Kinzie and Mary A Kants/Koonts, both born in Indiana. I found Ollie Mable Kinzie living with her father and step-mother in the 1910 census in Carterville Ward 1, Jasper Co., MO. I know she had an older brother named John, but I can't find out what happened to him after the 1880 census.
By now, I am very curious about why it took so long for someone from Mable's extended family to claim her body. Why she found herself nearly 300 miles from home, alone in Little Rock, AR, without friends and not a penny to her name.

And I want to find her grave.
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Last year, I posted this entry about Hurrell Burris Tackett, the only son of Willie Burris and John Thomas Tackett.

In that entry, I talked about how Willie, whose older sister was John Tackett's first wife, was living with Ora and John in the 1910 census. At the time, I said I thought Willie may have been in the household due to some illness Ora had that prevented her from taking care of her three children. And then I said...

I can imagine that Willie was a comfort and provided sorely needed help for for her brother-in-law, caring for her nieces and nephew during her sister's illness and after her death.

At the time, I had no idea how true those words were, albeit not in the way I meant.
Ora's death was noted in at least two newspapers of the time - the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock, where she died, and her hometown newspaper, the Russellville Courier Democrat.

There must have been a rush on the Gazette reporter's deadline, because he (yes, in 1910 reporters were male in Little Rock) butchered almost all the names.
 photo Arkansas Gazette 26 May 1910 Ora Burris Tackett.jpg

MOTHER A SUICIDE

After Sending Child From House On Pretext, Mrs. Orra B. Hackett Swallows Dose of Carbolic Acid

After sending her daughter Rheva, nine years old, and Miss Willie Burris, a young woman boarder, to the rear yard with instructions to feed the chickens, Mrs. Orra B. Hackett, 28 years old, wife of J. B. Hackett, 111 West Twentieth street, swallowed the contents of an ounce phial of carbolic acid yesterday afternoon.

The daughter, returning to the house a few minutes later, found her mother lying on a bed, with the fumes of carbolic acid in the room. Mrs. Hackett was unconscious and the bottle was lying at her side. The frightened girl ran screaming to the home of Mrs. T. S. Isch, 1920 Main street, saying that her mother was dying.

Dr. M. D. McLean was hastily summoned, and he worked with the woman in an effort to save her life, but she died within an hour after swallowing the acid.
Gave No Hint of Intentions.

Mrs. Hackett bought the acid at the drug store of C. N. Miller, 2301 Arch street. She told her daughter that she intended to use the poison on her chickens. She gave no hint of her intentions to end her life. Despondency, due to ill health, is supposed to have been the cause.

Mrs. Hackett's husband was down [t]own at the time his wife took the fatal dose. He was frantic with grief last night over the surprising tragedy in his home.

An inquest was held last night and a coroner's jury returned a verdict that death was due to carbolic acid poisoning, self administered. The body will be sent to Russellville this morning for burial.

Source: Arkansas Gazette, 26 May 1910
What's wrong with the Gazette article...
She was Ora B. Tackett.
He was John T. Tackett.
Their daughter was Reba Tackett.
Excerpting from the Courier Democrat, published 2 Jun 1910, with a note referring to the original appearing in Thursday's daily, on 26 May 1910.
...sent her child and a young lady boarding with them to feed the chickens yesterday afternoon...Mrs. Tackett has been in ill health for some time and despondency due to bad health is supposed to have been the cause.
What's wrong with both articles?

This was John Thomas Tackett's story. He didn't want anyone to know that his 28 year old wife committed suicide because he was messing around with her 17 year old sister. I looked for "Errata" in the Gazette for the rest of the month, and never found it. Being J. B. Hackett was just all right with him. Likewise that everyone thought there was an unrelated boarder in the house, instead of his underaged sister-in-law.

His daughter, Reba, had an entirely different one, as told to her granddaughter.

I received an email from that granddaughter five months ago.
I am the granddaughter of Reba Mae Burris Tackett Otto from Russellville, AR.

She was the daughter of Ora Burris who according to my grandmother died when her father fell in love w/her sister Willie. She took my grandmother to the store in a wagon. Grandmother went into the store and asked for carbolic acid from the store keeper. Even then, an adult was supposed to sign for it but Ora called out from the wagon that it was okay that grandmother purchase it. Ora and grandmother went home and Ora went to her bedroom and took the acid and grandmother said that she still could hear her mother's cries. Willie's Mom said to come back home and after a brief period, Willie married John Thomas and they had Hurrell...

...Grandmother said that when her father and Willie married, Orval did not like Willie b/c of what happened to his Mom and Willie's part in it and so his father sent him packing w/a mule from the farm. Orval married and he and his wife lived in Spearsville, LA until their death.
Note: Orval Tackett was 14 years old at the time of his father's remarriage to his aunt.
What I don't understand is why Susan Rebecca Dalrymple Burris - Ora and Willie's mother - went along with John Thomas Tackett's version of events. They were well known enough in Russellville that everyone there would have known that Willie had been living with Ora and hubby for a while.

I think it's probably a good thing daddy William Matthew Burris was already dead. Otherwise, Willie might have gotten the hiding of her life when she was summoned home, and well...

John Thomas Tackett's life probably wouldn't have been worth living.
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The end of Ruth's life is, unfortunately, the part for which the greatest amount of information survives, both in terms of family anecdotes and written documentation.

For years, all I knew of Aunt Ruth was what I as a young child had taken from snippets of adult conversation I overheard. In my mind's eye, I pictured a stern, no-nonsense woman in sensible shoes - one with a good head for business, but not much heart for people.

This photo, taken not long before her death in 1959, seemed to support that vision.

Photobucket


However, that's not what the evidence - sketchy as it may be - shows.
After her husband's death in 1948, Ruth's role in the Brandon Company changed, but she remained a vital part of the business until her death.

The 1949 Polk's Directory for Little Rock.North Little Rock shows the principals of the business as as Walter N Brandon (this was Walter Jr., Ruth's step-son) President, Mary P Brandon, Vice President (Walter Jr.'s wife) and Ruth B Brandon, Sec/Treasurer.
Two letters found among my grandmother's personal effects after her death in 1998 painted vastly different pictures of Ruth Balding.

The first was a letter from one of Ruth's sisters to another in 1957, relating the first sister's disgust with Ruth's behavior on a recent visit to her sister's home. In it, the sister said (among other things), "You've let her get by with everything just because of that disease she has and she's making herself obnoxious to everybody." She closed the letter with, "If you repeat any of this, I'll deny it."

The disease Ruth had was called lymphatic leukemia in the 1950s. Today, it is called lymphocytic leukemia, and given the amount of time between the 1957 letter and her death on 30 Dec 1959, I think it's possible she had chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Ruth executed a will on 12 March 1956, almost 18 months before the letter referenced above. Whether she decided to make a will because she found out she had incurable cancer (as it was considered then), or simply because she felt it was time, I don't know. Today, median survival of patients with this form of leukemia is 8–10 years, compared with 5–6 years in series reported in the 1970s.

In her will, Ruth directed that the stock she owned in the Brandon Company be sold, with her step-son, Walter N Brandon, Jr., having the first option to buy it. She also directed that her home, automobile and personal effects be sold, and with the proceeds from the sale of the stock, all net proceeds were to be divided - with one third going to her mother, and the remaining two-thirds divided equally among her siblings.

At her death, Ruth would continue to provide for the welfare of her family.
The second letter was from Ruth to the sister who authored the 1957 letter, and was written five months before her death, in July 1959.

I had the distinct impression as I read the letter that somehow Ruth found out that at least two of her sisters were talking about her behind her back, and one of them had a major axe to grind.

In the letter, Ruth related a story to her sister about one of their brothers who, in 1948 (the year Walter Brandon died and Ruth became a fairly wealthy widow), had borrowed several thousand dollars from Ruth - interest free - to start his own business. As of the date of Ruth's letter, her brother had yet to repay a penny to her, although his business was thriving, and he had purchased two new cars and a boat. He also borrowed money from their mother for his business, and Ruth had insisted that her brother pay their mother interest on that loan, due to Hattie Balding being on a fixed income.

I wondered why this letter was in my grandmother's personal effects at the time of her death. It was not addressed to her. It had been forwarded by the sister who received it to one of their brothers almost one month after Ruth's funeral in 1960.

My aunt was able to provide the explanation for that. Apparently my grandmother had advocated unsuccessfully for her brother (the subject of Ruth's letter to her sister in 1959), the executor of Ruth's estate, to forego taking the 6% of Ruth's estate as her executor, since he still owed the estate the entire debt described in the 1959 letter. Their mother's share of the estate would be reduced by his administrator's fee.

According to my aunt, my grandmother was the lone voice crying in the wilderness. Her brother was unmoved, and the rest of her siblings refused to back her up.

The family photo from which I cropped the picture of Ruth above now seemed to make more sense.

Photobucket


I had often looked at that photo and felt that Ruth was quite separated from her family. In fact, she seemed to me to be poised for flight in her very sensible shoes.
Not long before her death, Ruth fired her housekeeper.

But she couldn't get rid of her. The woman wouldn't leave Ruth's home. Not only that, but the former housekeeper threatened Ruth.

Ruth called one of her nephews to see if he would come over and make the woman leave. He did, by telling her she had two choices - to leave under her own steam or with police escort.

Afterward, Ruth was still fearful of the threat. She retrieved a revolver owned by her late husband, and asked her nephew to load it for her.

On 18 December 1959, Ruth went to see her personal physician. What they discussed is unknown, but I think it is reasonable to believe her illness would have been part of that discussion. That was the last time her doctor saw her alive. From my sister's recollection of conversations with our grandmother (Ruth's younger sister), Ruth was in extreme pain due to her illness for quite some time before her death.

Shortly before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 30 December 1959, Ruth Balding Brandon climbed the stairs to her bedroom in her home on South Battery Street, tied herself into her rocking chair, and shot herself in the left chest. Her nephew felt incredible guilt.

Ruth was the first born of her siblings, and the first to die. She was 56 years, 7 months, and 22 days old.

She was buried in the Balding family plot in Roselawn Memorial Park in Little Rock on 1 January 1960.

From the sermon preached at her funeral, I note the following:

...We thank Thee for her strong sense of duty, her strength of will
and the fidelity with which she performed the tasks of life.
We thank Thee that in the world of business she lost nothing
of her high ideals and made no compromise of her womanly character...
We thank Thee for the heart of compassion that was within her
and which overflowed with countless deeds of generous love and
thoughtfulness. We thank Thee that these qualities of character
were not intermittent or transitory but the expression of a
steadfast purpose, followed through a lifetime.


I wish I had known her.
I'll meet you on the other side, Aunt Ruth.

Feel free to leave virtual flowers at Ruth's Find a Grave memorial, by clicking here.


Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
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No photo.

This death notice has bothered me ever since I found it while scrolling through microfilm at the Arkansas History Commission a couple of weekends ago.

The article appeared in the Southern Standard on 17 Feb 1877.



Photobucket


A SIX YEAR-OLD BOY'S SUICIDE

A six year-old son of Dr. A. R. Eaton, of Elizabeth, N S, committed suicide, on Saturday, by shooting himself in the breast. It seems the little fellow has been despondent during the last few weeks, owing to the death of a sister, who had been his constant companion, and on more than one occasion threatened to kill himself. His parents endeavoured to cheer him and divert his thoughts, but to their efforts he replied that he wanted to be an angel and live with his little sister. On Saturday morning his mother chided him for something, whereupon he went away apparently much affected. Shortly after this Mrs. Eaton heard the report of a pistol, and rushing up the stairs was met by her son, who pointed to the bullet wound in his breast, said "Don't cry, mamma: I won't die; the bullet didn't hit my heart." He retained his consciousness until the bullet was extracted, when he died. - Boston Globe
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As a child growing up, there were occasions at my maternal grandparents' house when the talk turned to family members.

If there was discussion of members of the Williams family, it was inevitable to hear Cedric's name.

Cedric was the Williams family's black sheep - a ne'er do-well, an embarrassment. He drank too much, couldn't keep a job for long, had toasted two marriages.

Even in death, Cedric just couldn't get it right.


Cedric Hazen Williams was born on 29 Jun 1892 in Russellville, Pope Co., AR to Jo Desha Williams and Maxie Leah Meek. He was the second child of five, and until the birth of his younger brother Paul in 1894, was an only child.

Photobucket
Paul and Cedric Williams, about 1899


He never knew his older sister, Mildred Imogene, as she died on 28 Jan 1890, well over a year before his birth.

I've always mused that Desha Williams must have had some say in his first two children's names. After the death of his own mother in 1876, Desha was raised by his older sister, Mildred (called Minnie) and her husband, Josiah Hazen Shinn. I wonder if he chose those names for his children to honor his sister and brother-in-law.

If Desha and Maxie hoped that Cedric would follow in Josiah Hazen Shinn's footsteps, they were sorely disappointed.


I have to consider the time in which they all lived, and in which the tragic accident befell young Cedric.

A wagon rolled over his head when he was 10 or 11 years old. Imagine the terror of a parent to have such a horrible thing happen to a child.

But the child recovered. The physical wounds healed.

They must all have breathed a sigh of relief, and given thanks.

They just didn't realize that a traumatic brain injury was for life, and things would never be normal again.

And neither would Cedric.


Cedric married for the first time in 1915, and he and his wife had a daughter, Charlotte.

Photobucket
Cedric, Kathleen and Charlotte Williams, 1918


Things did not go well at home, and apparently not at work either, because Cedric asked his younger brother, Joe, for a large sum of money. His brother refused to give the money, and the brothers grew apart.

Cedric married again. He and his second wife had two sons.

But things had not been right since that day long ago when the wagon rolled over his head. The alcohol he consumed to take away the pain wasn't working.

Cedric attempted to take his own life, and failed.


On Thursday morning, 23 Aug 1951, Cedric was alone in Crosbyton, TX, at the Lawson Hotel, where he swallowed sodium cyanide, one of the most rapidly acting of known poisons.

It took the Williams family less than 24 hours to regain enough composure to keep Cedric from embarrassing them again.

Photobucket
Arkansas Gazette, 24 Aug 1951


Cedric Hazen Williams, Traveling Salesman, Dies
Prescott, Aug. 23 - Cedric Hazen Williams, aged 59, former traveling salesman for Grunden Martin Manufacturing Company of St. Louis, died unexpectedly of a heart attack Thursday morning at Crosbyton, Tex.

He was a native of Russellville and a lifelong Arkansan, having also lived at Little Rock, Prescott and Texarkana.

Survivors include his mother, Mrs. J D Williams of 2310 Ringo Street, Little Rock; two brothers, J D Williams, Jr. and P M Williams of Little Rock; his wife, Mrs. C H Williams of Prescott; two sons of the home, and a daughter of Oklahoma City.



Sometimes things just aren't as they seem.

See you on the other side, Cedric.

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Dee Burris Blakley

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