Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Possible Mystery Solved in Niles Canyon

I am a huge fan of urban legends, and when I first heard of the "White Witch of Niles Canyon" or the "Vanishing Hitchhiker"  tale I was very intrigued about how it all originated. If you have read my first blog on the subject, which I wrote nearly three years ago, you would see I never did find any documentation of a lady dying out in Niles Canyon. The only thing I found were more legends, and one death of a gentleman who worked on the railroads named William Harris who died after falling from a trestle on May 23, 1906.

Although I am sure there have been many car accidents up that winding canyon road, and more than likely many deaths over the years, I still could never find that one story that would tie to the "origins" of this urban legend that has circulated each generation in Niles and the surrounding areas.

One day when I was visiting Sunol, Niles and Pleasanton, a friend of mine told me to look up Lucinda Lowery, and that he had been told by an old caretaker at the cemetery in Pleasanton that she had died many years ago after being run over by cars.  When I got home I started a search, sure enough I found in the Pleasanton Memorial Gardens Cemetery index a "Lucinda Lowery" who purchased deed # 61, in Lot: 178 at the cemetery on September 24, 1895. It also showed that either the date of death or date of burial was September 24, 1895, the same day she purchased the plot. Something else stood out in the index, the wording, "killed by cars." After further research I found that the asterisk near her name on the list meant that cemetery employees added her name to the "deceased" years later. This meant her first name was not in the original book, it only showed Lucinda as the purchaser of the plot, not necessarily the one buried there, meaning that the person buried there may not be Lucinda after all. Still, I wanted to know for sure.

I started doing some online research and found several people literally copying and pasting verbatim the story from a "Halloween" themed article claiming that a lady with the last name "Lowery" had been on her way to a wedding and that the horses pulling her carriage were spooked by two of the first automobiles in town, and that she was thrown off the carriage, and run over by one of the cars.

That sounded interesting enough, right? I mean, it seemed so detailed...but did this actually happen?

For the record, besides the cemetery plot/deed index mentioning Lucinda Lowery's name and a "death by cars" noted under it, I had not found any records that show a lady with the last name Lowery (Lowerey, Lowrie, Lawry, etc) being killed.  Let me add though that just because I haven't found it, doesn't mean it didn't happen, but the likelihood of two people with the same last name having a similar tragedy in the same local area sounds a bit far fetched.

So who was Ms. or Mrs. Lowery? Well, I kept trying to search for her in Alameda County records, to no avail.  Then I found a Mr. John Lowrie (spelled different) who had a huge house and ranch near Niles in the mid 1850s.  He was a prominent man who had a lot of farm land in Niles, Centerville and Newark. He was so rich he paid to have a drawing of his home put in the 1878 Atlas of Alameda County. Interestingly, he and a business partner Samuel Marston, took their ship "Lady Anne" up to Alaska in 1882, where they struck gold while mining. Unfortunately on their way home their ship sank, taking not only their newfound treasure, but also their lives. According to historical write-ups, they were never heard from again.

John Lowrie's House (Atlas of Alameda, 1878)
When I saw the drawing of Mr. Lowrie's home I was instantly pulled into the picture. I imagined perhaps this girl in the urban legends, "Ms. Lowery", could have lived there. Maybe she was his daughter? Maybe she was the girl standing on the porch in this picture? Sorry to disappoint but she wasn't. According to records, John didn't have a daughter named Lucinda.

So I was at square one again.--

I kept digging and in another index of deaths in Alameda, I came across another Lowery who died in September 4, 1895. Could this be a coincidence? I think not! According to records Samuel Lowery (also spelled Lowry) was killed by the 91 train near Pleasanton. He was run over by the rail cars. According to the September 7, 1895, issue of the San Francisco Call, it stated that he was working as a farm hand for John D. Smith. The next issue of the San Francisco Call answered some more questions.

"The Coroner's jury in the case of Samuel Lowery, the man killed by a train near Pleasanton, were unable to determine whether it was a case of suicide or not. Coroner Baldwin has received a dispatch from the wife of the deceased, who is at Ballard, Washington., stating that she has no money and asking that the remains be buried here."--- 9/8/1895- S.F. Call

What I think happened was either (a) the town buried Samuel in a grave at Pleasanton Memorial Gardens and put Lucinda's name as the deed holder, or (b) she had to pay directly or even perhaps travel down to California and purchase the plot herself, thus the gap in time between Samuel's death and his burial.

I had wondered if maybe she had traveled to Pleasanton and purchased the plot, immediately taking her own life in order to be with him. (Trust me, it has been done). Of course the notion is a bit silly, sad, and morbidly romantic....but not the case.  In reality Lucinda didn't meet her demise in Niles Canyon, Pleasanton, Sunol or anywhere else in Alameda.

When Samuel died, Lucinda was pregnant with her first and only child. I believe that Samuel had come to California to work, perhaps in order to save for his pending family. Unfortunately, he was never able to see his son born or be reunited with his wife. Lucinda was now a 28 year old, penniless widow with a baby on the way. I can only imagine the fear, grief and shock she must have felt to be put in that position at such a time in her life, and during that era. As the years went by, city directories show her living at a boarding house on 3rd Avenue (corner of Shilshole) in Ballard, Washington. (1897 & 1899/ Seattle City Directory)

The 1910 Census shows her working as a cook, raising her son Alfred, who by that time is now a young man. By 1920, she is still a cook and Alfred is now working as a logger, helping to contribute to the household. On July 11, 1924, at the age of 57 years, Lucinda Lowry, left this world and passed on. She was buried in Section 6; Lot 38; Grave 7-A, at Bayview Cemetery in Bellingham, Washington.

So in ending, do I think that Lucinda Lowery is the girl everyone has been talking about over the years? Has her story and that of her husbands been seriously mixed up and turned into something completely different than the actual events that took place? More than likely I would say so, but now we know she didn't die in Niles or even in California for that matter.

Just as in my past article about the "Vanishing Hitchhiker," there has been many stories surrounding Niles Canyon and Sunol for many years, even going back into the 1920s, 30s and 40s teenagers have passed this story around over and over for so long. Who knows where the real story stopped and a new urban legend began, there is no way to tell.

Is it possible that another girl with the same last name died out on the road near Sunol and Niles? Anything is possible. However, as I always say, until I see evidence that proves this, I will have to just take this urban legend with a grain of salt and enjoy the fact it is a creepy story to tell your friends when you are driving through Niles Canyon on a dark night.

My biggest question now would be what happened to Samuel? Did he commit suicide, was it an accident, or was he murdered? Also, whereabouts on the train tracks did he die? That is a death you know for certain happened in the canyon on its way to Pleasanton, just like the death of William Harris who fell from the trestle in the canyon.  Next time you go out there, please think of  the real Lucinda Lowery, and the tragedy she experienced losing her husband. Also, don't forget about the real victims of Niles, Samuel Lowery and William Harris, and the tragic end they both faced along that treacherous track in Alameda County.

To learn more about all the urban legends surrounding Niles Canyon, as well as many more mysterious and bizarre tales, please purchase your copy of "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered" today on Amazon! 


(Copyright- J'aime Rubio 2015)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The History of Aden C. Hart (Hart Mansion History)

It's that time of year again, when people start looking online for creepy, haunted houses to go drive by or explore. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that one of my earlier blogs Hart Mansion Secrets, which went in depth about the history of the home at 2131 H Street in Sacramento, would get so much traffic over time. What is sad to me though, is that despite the fact I have debunked the whole "haunted" theories that have circulated the internet (and even news segments on television), the public just seems to love to ignore facts and instead believes pure fabrication. It is a disgrace not only to the history of the home, but to its inhabitants over the years.

The man who had the gem of a manor constructed was Aden Cavins Hart. He hired Alden Campbell to design the home, which if you really take a good look at, has a very interesting and seemingly intentional off-plumb design. Facing the home you see that the front door and porch is not even with the pillars, nor is the steps going up. Upstairs porch has a few windows that are not evenly aligned with the home, making the exterior quite unique. Naturally, everyone is used to things being symetrical to look normal, thus the reason perhaps people get an odd feeling when staring at the home is because their brain sees the
asymetry, and subconsciously thinks it looks a bit "off." Personally, I find the home quite gorgeous and if given the chance I would love to live in it!

The current owners, the Amoruso family, have held this home in their family estate for over 60 years. They are the second owners of the home, after the original owners, Aden and Alice Hart.  I have spoke with Peter Amoruso for several years about this property. The home is NOT HAUNTED and is NOT called the Martinez House.

This beautiful, stately manor is the Amoruso family home, and one that they love and plan on keeping. From my research online I see there has been a lot of busy-body nuisances within Sacramento who have tried their best to cause problems for the Amoruso family, claiming the home is an eye sore, that it is unsafe, neglected, abandoned or downright in "danger of demolition." If you ask me, it is a bunch of nosy people unecessarily involving themselves in other peoples business with too many rules and regulations for homeowners.

The home is not structurally unsound, nor is it a danger to anyone. It just needs some TLC to maintain it's beauty for another 100 years. But of course there always has to be someone out there making a stink about something.  Bottom line is that the home is lovely and is a historic part of Sacramento, and one that belongs to the Amoruso family and no one else. I stopped by there yesterday and took some photos, and it appears the Amoruso's have been busy working on the home, and it is looking terrific so far! With that being said, I strongly suggest anyone who wants to view the exterior of the home, to show respect when driving by or stopping to take photos.

History of the Original Owners

Aden Cavins Hart was born on May 7, 1868, in Colusa County, California, to parents James Hart and Sarah Owen Cavins. His older brother, E. C. Hart, grew up to become a Judge on the Third District Court of Appeal and Senator. Aden was not new to the Judicial System, it was in his blood. His two uncles were judges in Indiana,  Chief Justice Rhoades and Judge A. G. Cavins, as well as his grandfather, S.K. Cavins who was a prominent Attorney in the same state. It seemed though Aden had other career plans in mind. His heart was in medicine.  Hart attended and graduated from Stanford University of Medicine (Cooper Medical School) and returned to Colusa to start his practice. He married Alice Harvey-Chase and took in her son (from previous marriage) as his own, Lloyd Chase. The two never had any biological children of their own.

Before 1900 he moved the family to Sacramento and went on to become one of the most prominent of surgeons in the area. Besides his work as a surgeon and physician, he worked diligently helping to form and organize various medical groups which preceded the Sacramento Society for Medical Improvement, to which he was President.

Hart did not solely rely on the education earned at Stanford, but took the opportunity to travel the country and abroad to continue his education by way of real experience in the field. He was close friends with the Mayo brothers who founded the Mayo Clinic, as well as being strongly associated with Johns Hopkins Hospital.

By 1926, Hart was elected an honorary member of the American College of Surgeons, in recognition for all his services over the years. Besides the work he did around Sacramento County, he always found time to help charities as well as being a member of several fraternal orders such as: Sacramento Commandery No. 2 Knights Templar, Union Lodge of Masons No. 58, the Ben Ali Temple of the Shrine, and Sacramenton Chapter No.3 Royal Arch Masons.

When Dr. Hart retired, he and his wife, Alice moved to San Francisco to be closer to their son Lloyd, and his family. Dr. Hart passed away in the bay area on August 27, 1954. Alice died a few years later in 1957 and both were interred at East Lawn Cemetery in Sacramento.

Honoring a Pioneer

When I do a simple "Google" search on this home once a year, I always find post after post about the home being haunted. Not only that but I find so many times that people are disrespecting the memory of Dr.Hart and his family. There have been many lies spread about Dr. Hart, claiming that he was a murderer, that he did experiments in his basement, killed his family, etc. Not one single bit of any of those preposterous stories is true. I am thoroughly disgusted with people who continue to spread such erroneous and slanderous information about a man who was pioneer in Sacramento history.

When looking into the history of this home, please show respect. Dr. Hart and his family were decent, upstanding people of this state and should be remembered as such. Dr. Hart did so much in his life, spending most of his life helping others. He was one of the original founders of Sutter Hospital and gave a lot of time helping charitable organizations. He was not an evil, murderous, mad scientist as some of these unbelievable internet sites claim.  As I always tell people, do not believe anything you hear and only half of what you see. Fact is always better than fiction, and it is important that when telling the history of a person, place or thing, that you actually do the research before regurgitating the same old information blindly. You owe it to the person you are speaking about to tell their story correctly, and with respect.

Section 6; Lot 22 @ Eastlawn Memorial Cemetery

To Read More About the Hart Mansion: CLICK HERE-- HART MANSION SECRETS

(Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio)

All photos are the property of J'aime Rubio-- copyright protected.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Petra Johnston's Traveling Headstone

Petra de Jara Johnston
Several months ago, I  traveled to Half Moon Bay, California, to visit the famous Moss Beach Distillery. On my way there, I noticed two cemeteries that were right along the main road, side by side. Both looked forgotten and neglected, as if life and time had continued to move forward around it. That little speck of land confined within the fencelines remained a part of the past, forgotten and neglected. The first cemetery I passed was the Odd Fellows Cemetery, while the second was named Pilarcitos Cemetery. After finding a parking spot nearby, I walked up the sidewalk to the entrance of the abandoned cemetery and curiously opened the gate to enter this "forgotten land."

Wandering around the cemetery, among the dry overgrowth of weeds, it appeared the ground was cracking and splitting all around the area. Cement plots were broken in half, probably due to uneven earth underneath, while monuments had either fallen or been broken on purpose by vandals.  Trash along the backside of the fenceline along with a tent farther back showed signs of homeless making camp in this forgotten place. I took several photos of the headstones and graves at both cemeteries and eventually went on my way to Moss Beach for the evening.

After returning home from my trip, I continued to think about that cemetery and all the forgotten people buried there. I started to do some research on the interments at the Pilarcitos Cemetery when I came across this haunting photograph of a woman, Petra de Jara Johnston.  The story surrounding Petra seemed to be something out of a mystery novel, intriguing me even more. Years ago, her headstone was vandalized or broken in half, and the top portion literally disappeared. For years it seemed that no one knew where or why it was taken, until recently.


Petra de Jara was born on October 23, 1833, in Mexico, but at some point moved to the Bay Area of Northern California. By the time Petra was 19 years old she became the young bride of successful San Francisco saloon proprietor, James Johnston on April 10, 1852.

A native of Melrose, Scotland, Johnston was born on October 7, 1813, and immigrated with his family to the United States in 1818. After first moving to Pittsburgh, PA, the family later settled in Gallopolis, Ohio, where James would be raised.  By the time the Mexican-American war had begun, James enlisted. He later traveled to California to start a new life in San Francisco, being one of the millions of "49'ers."

It is stated that James went into the mining industry at first, and after striking it rich he found himself co-owner of the El Dorado Saloon in San Francisco, quickly making a name for himself. He eventually started investing in various properties including his purchase of 1,162 acres of the Miramontes Rancho de San Benito land grant that he purchased from the heirs of Juan Jose Candelario Miramontes. He later convinced his brothers to join him in the area, thus the Johnston family name soon became familiar in the Half Moon Bay areas history.

It was on that land that James had the beautiful saltbox styled house constructed that would soon become the family home, now known as The James Johnston House or The White House of Half Moon Bay. Construction on the house began around 1853 but was not completed until 1855, when the family finally moved in. The young family of four consisted of James, Petra, James Jr. (1852), and Alice (1854). While living in the home Petra gave birth to three more children, John (1856), Francis (1859) and Adelaida (1861).

Sadly, on November 16, 1858, their eldest daughter Alice passed away at the age of four years. It is unclear what ailed the young girl, but she was laid to rest at the Pilarcitos Cemetery. I can imagine that Petra never fully recovered from the loss of her child. In 1861, while giving birth to her 5th and final child, Petra suffered complications. The baby, Adelaida, passed away either during birth or a short time after. Petra followed soonafter as well, and both were buried next to Alice at the Pilarcitos Cemetery.
Photo Credit: Maude

It seems that the loss of his wife was too hard to bear, so James left the children in the care of Petra's mother, Ursula. James then moved back to San Francisco for the remainder of his life, and his children were raised by their grandmother at the home in Half Moon Bay. The 1860 Census had shown James to be one of the wealthiest in the County, having a value of over $100,000 in real estate and personal property at the time.

Not even twenty years later, James had managed to lose his fortune completely, while his brothers seemed to find success and go on to prosper within the area. Sad and indigent, he chose to take his life in a hotel room on October 2, 1879. He was buried in his family plot at the Odd Fellows Cemetery which is literally separated by a fence, adjacent to the Pilarcitos Cemetery.

Part of the Mystery Solved

Last October, a contributor who goes by the name "RCH" on Findagrave, posted a remarkable photo on Petra's memorial. It was the missing piece of Petra's headstone! It ended up at the Green Valley Cemetery in Sonoma County, a whole 100 miles away!  How he found it and the answers as to who put it there is still unknown. I had reached out to "RCH" but received no reply. I spoke briefly through email correspondence to "Maude" the person who originally posted Petra's memorial but was unable to reach her to do an interview on this matter.

I really wanted to see that Petra's headstone be brought back to where it belongs, at Petra's grave site. I made a few emails to the Sonoma County Historical Society, where I was finally able to contact Mr. Jeremy Nichols. Thankfully he was able to get in touch with the cemetery and make plans to return the headstone back to Half Moon Bay.

Photo Credit: RCH
Recent Plans!

After speaking to Dave Cresson with the Half Moon Bay History Association, who was happy to hear from me, it seems apparent that the effort to bring back Petra's headstone may be able to happen after all. Hopefully with the combined effort of Mr. Cresson and Mr. Nichols, along with the Half Moon Bay Review, and quite possibly the Johnston House Foundation, they will be able to save, restore and preserve this piece of local history once more. I have had a blast researching the life of this woman, and trying so very hard to get the right people in touch with one another to make sure that Petra can have her headstone back in one piece again. It would be such a lovely thing if this also could bring the community together and possibly inspire others to make an effort to restore the Pilarcitos Cemetery alltogether. It is such a beautiful, small cemetery and it is such a shame to see it in the condition it's in today.

I will keep everyone posted on any updates and if and when Petra's headstone makes it way back home!

UPDATE:  The Half Moon Bay Review did an amazing piece "THE MYSTERY OF PETRA'S GRAVESTONE" on this story in their paper on August 5, 2015. (CLICK HERE TO GO THAT ARTICLE)

Thank you to Dave Cressom (Half Moon Bay History Association), Jeremy Nichols (Sonoma County Historical Society) Clay Lambert (Half Moon Bay Review), John Ryan at the James Johnston House (Johnston House Foundation), "Maude" (Dayna) and "RCH" on Findagrave.

Photos: from Findagrave (Maude & RCH)

(Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio)

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Mystery Behind The Babes In The Woods, 1934

--A Horrific Site, The Three Girls Bodies --
As a parent, I would do anything to protect my children by any means, no matter what. Most parents would agree with me when I say that loving parents would walk through fire to keep our babies safe. I think that is why this story really punched me in the gut when I came across it, leaving my mind still trying to understand what really happened that day in November in the woods of the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania.

One of the saddest of deaths I would say are the ones that involve children. Children are the symbol of innocence, purity and hope. The death of a child is a death unwarranted. They haven't grown up to make mistakes yet, they haven't even lived.  So anytime I come across a story about the deaths of innocent children, I think it affects me even more. This case would be no exception.

On November 24, 1934, John Clark and Clark Jardine were out in the woods on their way to chop some firewood, when they discovered a green blanket in the thicket. At first they believed that a hunter had killed a deer and covered it, planning to come back later to get it. As the two woodsmen approached the blanket covering a large mass, they lifted the fabric to reveal three little girls who appeared to be sleeping.  One of the men told the newspaper that he didn't realize at first that the girls were dead, and it took a few seconds for them to realize it. Quickly they rushed to town to call the authorities and news spread like wildfire of this horrendous discovery.

The identities of the girls eluded the people of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and for a time being, the rest of the country as well. Newspapers reported the horrific finding all over the nation, drawing people from all over to come to view the bodies, hoping to identify the children. Miss Mary Parker, the superintendent of the Children's Home of Baltimore County, Maryland flew to Carlisle to see if the three bodies found were some of the girls who had went missing from her orphanage, but no one could identify the children. Who were these three little girls? Where did they come from? And how did they die?

As mysterious as this was, things got even stranger when just about 135 miles away, the discovery of the bodies of the girls' father and his niece were found in a shanty near the railroad. They had both been shot in an apparent murder-suicide. This only added to the puzzling case that continues to baffle investigators to this day.

The Beginnings

The real story begins long before this tragic event. In fact, it begins with a young lady named Mary Isabel Hayford.  It was March 28, 1921, when Mary Hayford married Roland Sedgwick of Bountiful, Utah. Soon after their marriage she gave birth to a daughter, Norma. Somewhere down the line the marriage didn’t work out, and Mary filed for divorce in 1922, taking Norma with her.

By 1924, Mary had remarried, this time to Mr. Elmo Noakes, of Thistle, Utah, later having two children of their own, Cordelia and Dewilla. Before marrying Mary, Elmo had enlisted in the Marines at Mare Island on April 20, 1920 and was honorably discharged by April 19, 1922. He apparently traveled back to Utah prior to his marriage to Mary. During their marriage the couple moved around a lot, as seen in public records, going from Utah to Indian Valley, Plumas County, California and then back to Salt Lake City again living at  69 West 1st Street, which interestingly appears to be where the huge property of the Church of Latter Day Saints buildings are now.

Mary Noake's Death Certificate
On July 10th, 1932, Mary Noakes passed away at Salt Lake General Hospital after suffering from "Septicemia Hemolytic." The doctor who performed the autopsy concluded that her death was caused from a self-induced abortion. Mary Isabel Noakes was only 28 years old.

I had to wonder why she wanted to abort the unborn child? Maybe Mary reasoned with herself that she was sparing the child a life during the Great Depression. Maybe she thought that it was putting her other three children first, or maybe she was afraid of upsetting Elmo because it was speculated that he didn't want to have any more children. Those are questions we will never be certain to know the answers to.

After the death of his wife, Elmo decided yet again to move, this time back to California. Mary's first husband Roland attempted to gain custody of Norma from Elmo, but was not successful. Conflicting stories claim that because Elmo left the state, little could be done. While the other story claimed that the judge allowed Elmo to keep Norma, given the fact that he had physically raised her for the last 10 years and that he was more or less her "father." Little did Roland know that only two years later he would truly lose his little girl, forever. (Some articles claim that Mary was a widow when she met Elmo, but records prove that isn't true. Roland, Mary's first husband and Norma's biological father, died in 1969.)

After moving back to California, Elmo settled in the small railroad town known as Roseville, just north of Sacramento. Moving in with his sister, Elmo was able to find a job at the Pacific Fruit Express Company, while she watched the girls for him. Things seemed to be looking up for Elmo and his daughters, and by July of 1934, he moved out of his sisters home and into his own 2-bedroom house with the children at 511 Grove Street. The home was nothing fancy, built in 1916, but good enough for him and his little girls to make a new start. Unfortunately, that would not turn out to be the case.

A New Start Interrupted

After moving into his new home, Elmo's sister was unable to watch the children like she used to, so her 18 year old daughter, Winifred Pierce volunteered to help out. Eventually Winifred quit school to be a full time nanny to the girls during the day, and then would walk back home to her mother's house in the evening.  Winifred was said to be a happy young lady, but extremely self-conscious of her appearance due to a deformity on her foot.

Around the same time that Winifred started watching the children, rumors started to spread around the family that there were improper relations going on between Elmo and his niece. After looking into this story further, my personal opinion is that one of Elmo's sisters may have started this dreadful rumor and persisted at causing troubles for Elmo. It is my belief that one of Elmo's sisters were the ones who either started it, or allowed it to spread. Elmo's oldest sister Pearl, (and mother of Winifred Pierce) was adamant that there was never any sort of sexual or improper relationship between her daughter and her brother and it seems she spent many years trying to clear her daughter's name of further slander.

According to Elmo's brother, Robert, he stated that there had been problems with family for many years, and that he basically didn't hold it against Elmo for just disappearing like he did. In fact, Robert had done the same thing a few years earlier to get away from the grip of his meddling family members.  So it seemed to Robert that Elmo had just enough of someone in the family the day he up and left without a word.

What was strange wasn't the fact he left without telling his family, but the way he left. He didn't pack up his belongings and move, nor did he give a notice at his job. No, Elmo purchased a blue 1929 Pontiac sedan from Sacramento Car Dealer William Sutton on October 31, and then on November 11th he left. The oddest thing about it all was that he left without much money, he even skipped out on picking up his paycheck from the last two weeks work, meaning that he was leaving Roseville basically broke.

Let's stop and think about this whole thing for a second. That doesn't sound like he was moving away, it sounds like he was running from something...but what? 

Well, according to Russell Pierce, Elmo's nephew, not only were the rumors about Winifred and Elmo going around but the question about whether Elmo was fit as a parent came into discussion. Could it have been speculated that he was being abusive or neglectful? I believe that those questions must have arose, because Robert Noakes was adamant in his interview to the papers after this dreadful incident took place, he stated that Elmo "never raised a hand towards the children. I don't think he killed them as they say. He loved them. He was as good to them as any could be."
His statements lead me to believe that someone had questioned Elmo's ability as a parent, and possibly someone told him that they would have the children removed from the home.

Maybe after losing his wife, the thought of losing his kids was too unbearable for him, so he did the one thing that a desperate person would do, he ran. I also think Elmo was suffering from some sort of depression because of his erratic behavior of driving clear across country in just a matter of days with the girls. Personally, I think that Winifred saw Elmo making rash decisions and knew the girls were the ones who would suffer. Perhaps she asked him, "Who will watch the girls when you work? You don't want strangers watching them, do you?"-- and that is where I believe that when he was leaving that day, she decided to join him, not for herself, but for the kids. Maybe she didn't want to leave the kids with him alone for fear of his emotional state.

Yes, the newspapers had a field day unfairly depicting Winifred as this young harlot who had her sights set on Elmo and that the kids were just "in the way." It didn't help matters that her own aunt made such horrid accusations about her in the newspapers only adding more fuel to the fire. One of Elmo's other sisters went on record stating "I warned Elmo not to have anything to do with her. Winnie could make him do about anything she wanted him to do."---

Norma, Cordelia, Dewilla
The rest of the family had other opinions, all claiming that Winifred was not that type of girl and that there was absolutely nothing going on between Elmo and his niece. Either Winifred was able to pull the wool over everyone's eyes except her aunt, or the aunt was a trouble-maker looking to ruin several people's reputations. So which was it?

For two weeks the family in Roseville heard nothing. Pearl Pierce waited anxiously to hear from her daughter, or her brother, in hopes that everything was alright. Then the newspapers started to report about the bodies of three little girls being found in the woods in Pennsylvania and the connection that authorities started to make on a murder-suicide within the same state. Immediately relatives started speculating and that was when the feud started.

The Family Feud

When news got to the family of Winifred Pierce and Elmo Noakes, two of Pearl Pierce's sisters showed up to Enid and Harry Daniel's home on Thanksgiving day. According to reports, the police were called to the home and both women were charged with "disturbing the peace" after screaming obscenities to their niece when she refused them entry into her mother's home.

At court, Harry Daniels, Russell Pierce, son of Pearl Pierce, and his sister Enid went before Judge Don. L. Bass explaining that on the evening of Thanksgiving that their aunts showed up “abusing and cursing,” after they were turned away at the door. Enid Daniels stated that her mother was in no condition to receive anyone in the home at that time because of the shock and grief of learning of the tragedy. It was then that the two sisters started causing a scene forcing the police to be called to the home.

After hearing the testimony of family members, the Judge convicted the two women of the disturbing the peace and gave them 90 day suspended sentences. The two women had a fit in the courtroom, one even throwing herself on the floor, pounding the ground with her fists and kicking violently, until the Judge threatened to put her in jail. 

The Investigation 

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, detectives were still putting the pieces together to try to figure out the details of the case. Fingerprint analysis proved that the man found dead in the railroad shanty outside Duncansville was in fact Elmo Noakes. The rare foot deformity found on the foot of the female found at the scene proved Winifred Pierce's identity as well. Detectives confirmed that Winifred had been shot and that Elmo committed suicide with the same gun.

Earlier, in nearby Altoona, Winifred had sold her coat to purchase the old .22 caliber rifle that was used to take their own lives. Their bodies were eventually brought over to Carlisle, the same place that the three little girls were being held before burial.

The coroner determined the deaths of the three girls was due to “external suffocation.” There was no signs of struggle or attack on any of the children, leaving the authorities to believe that they were either smothered or that they died by accident, while inside the vehicle from carbon monoxide poisoning.

In a recent article by the Pennsylvania Sentinel Newspaper, letters from a resident of Carlisle were mentioned that brought to light several key pieces of information. For one, according to what was published in the newspaper, the letter by Mrs. Mamie Zinn to Pearl Pierce claimed that Winifred Pierce's body was examined by the local doctor in Carlisle prior to being buried, and he confirmed that she died a virgin. This is a big discovery, because it disproves all the rumors of her having some sort of sordid love affair with her uncle, when in fact, she died without having sexual relations.

Mrs. Zinn also mentioned the fact that the way the children were laid out, it was clear that "loving hands" had done it, meaning they took extra care on how they rested the girls on the ground and covered their bodies. The most important information that Mrs. Zinn gave was the one that may have cracked the case. You see, Mrs. Zinn told Pearl Pierce that Elmo and Winifred had been seen going from house to house, knocking on doors asking for food. They had left the kids in the car. Remember this was the end of November in 1934, and it had been cold and rainy. Many speculated that Elmo and Winifred left the girls in the car with the engine running and perhaps the fumes from the car overcame them.

I spoke to a friend who works on classic cars and he told me that in the old days a lot of times if an exhaust pipe had even a small crack, the exhaust could creep up into the floor boards inside of the older model cars. After discussing all the possibilities, he said that it was very likely if there was a crack in the exhaust pipe or even if they had backed into a space and parked where the exhaust pipe was not getting enough space for the fumes to escape, that they could very easily be pushed back toward the inside of the vehicle. This gives me enough reasonable doubt to believe that death by "carbon monoxide poisoning" was very possible.

Back in Roseville, the Chief of Police E.E. York was also convinced that the girls died by carbon monoxide poisoning even going so far as to state that he believed the girls died from fumes inside the car, and that must have been an accident.

Why Did They Leave?

The question on my mind was, if the girls died by accident, then why did they leave them in the woods? Why would they drive the car all the way to McVeytown, ditch it, and then hitchhike another 50 miles to Altoona?

I had to go back to the initial reason he left in the first place. If someone had questioned his parenting skills and even threatened him with taking the girls away, can you imagine what sort of fears he must have had once he realized that the girls had died?  I cannot speak for Elmo, because I cannot understand his reasoning.

After reaching Altoona, Winifred sold her coat to purchase the rifle that would ultimately take both their lives. After making their way up to a railroad shack near Duncansville, Elmo shot Winifred and then turned the gun on himself.

So why did Elmo and Winifred end their lives?

If it was an accident, did they believe that they would be blamed for the girls deaths? Did they feel guilty for leaving them in the car?  When looking over the facts of the case, I found so much more than I expected.  Sadly, as much as the evidence points to the possibility that the girls died by accident, it also leaves a possibility that they were smothered. If they were killed, the question is, why?

After the deaths many people came forward pointing the police in all different directions. Some people swore they saw Winifred and the girls on a bus from New York, others claimed they saw them in a restaurant or camp ground. Some leads were dead while others seemed credible. One of the families who came forward said that when they were dining at a restaurant in Philadelphia, they noticed a family matching their description and the father was going to make all three girls share one dinner plate. The mother of the observing family offered to let the youngest daughter eat with them and they accepted. While eating, Cordelia mentioned that her "daddy was looking for work." When leaving the establishment the owner claimed that a man who he later believed to be Elmo, stated that the girls were beginning to be a burden on him.

Could it have been possible that they ran out of money and Elmo, in a desperate and temporary  state of insanity somehow convinced himself that ending their lives was sparing them from a life of poverty? As much as I do not want to believe this alternate scenario, the facts are that this is also a possibility.

If the girls died by accident, more than likely Elmo took his own life and that of Winifred's because of the grief they both may have felt. Had he intentionally killed the girls, the murder-suicide was probably because of remorse or a guilty conscience.


Before the funeral of the three girls, their cousin Junius Pierce and uncle Robert Noakes were said to have attempted to go back to Pennsylvania to retrieve the bodies of all the family members. They wanted to have the three girls buried next to their mother in Salt Lake City, but their attempts were unsuccessful.

The residents of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where the girls bodies were found, buried the three girls in their local cemetery. The girl scouts and the boy scouts acted as pallbearers at the funeral and many residents chipped in to pay for all the costs. The American Legion held the funeral for the three girls in Carlisle, where over 1,000 people showed up to the viewing the day before.  Elmo Noakes was respectfully given a military salute funeral, while Winifred was given a spot in the same cemetery as well, after her family had to pay to have her body brought to Carlisle. The headstone at her grave was also paid for by her family. (Oddly, Elmo's headstone has his death date wrong).

In the end Elmo Noakes’ family seemed clearly divided on their theories of just what happened out there in the woods that day. Some of them believed it was an accident, while one of the aunts was convinced that it was Winifred’s manipulation of Elmo to get rid of the children. Something tells me that those ideas were unfounded, being that evidence showed that Winifred died a virgin.  It's likely that the rumors were just vicious lies used to hurt and embarrass Elmo and Winifred.

I have to wonder if certain people had only minded their own business from the beginning, if this story would not have turned out as it did. Yes, Elmo may have had some underlying mental illness that came out towards the end, and based on his actions leading up to the girls deaths, I would have to say he wasn't making the best choices. We may never know what really happened that day..was it an accident? Or did Elmo just snap? The answers seem to elude us even 80 years later. One thing we do know for sure is that ultimately five people died, and more than likely the entire chain of events started with one rumor.

It seems that only God knows what really happened, and in the end that is all that matters now..."The wages sin pays is death."-Romans 6:23

Rest In Peace,- Norma Sedgwick, Dewilla Noakes, Cordelia Noakes, Elmo Noakes and Winifred Pierce. --

(Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio)

Sources;, Family Search
Census Records, Death Records, Birth and Marriage Records,
Various Newspapers
Lewiston Daily Sun 12/1/ 1934
Deseret News 12/21/1934
Berkeley Daily Gazzette 12/1/1934
Prescott Evening Courier 12/1/1934
Gettysburg Times 11/30/1934
Pittsburgh Post Gazzette 12/1/1934

Friday, April 24, 2015

Lost into the Sea - The Tragic Story of Agnes Jaycoax

Cypress Point, 1908
I took a trip down the coast of California recently. While I was there admiring the scenery, I thought of a story I began researching a few years back. I had started to work on it, but sat it aside to finish at a later time due to my busy schedule.

The story was of a Sacramento school teacher named Agnes Jaycoax. I had first heard about her on a website where someone mentioned that her death seemed suspicious. It was also thrown around that perhaps she had committed suicide and that her death was not an accident as the papers said. I really wanted to get down to the facts of the story but became side tracked with other investigations and every day life, and so Agnes' story was shelved temporarily.

So as I mentioned above, while on a trip down the coast I started thinking about Agnes again and decided that now was the time to write her story, finally.

Who Was Agnes Jaycoax?

Agnes Jaycoax was born Agnes L. Stevenson, in New York on June 12, 1846. The Census records I found for 1850, show Agnes (age 4) living with Susannah (age 38), Elizabeth (age 48), Mary (age 50) and Head of Household, James Stevenson (age 70) who was a physician.  Their neighbors were also named "Stevenson," so it is safe to assume they were related. There is no roles listed in the Census so we are not sure how any of them are related to Agnes, although Elizabeth is buried near Agnes at Sacramento City Cemetery, so I believe she was Agnes' mother.

Agnes and Charles Edward Jaycoax (sometimes spelled Jaycox) were married at some point in the late 1860's.  The Census records show they lived in Placerville, where Charles worked as a landscaper and painter. Agnes worked as a school teacher in the basement of the old Methodist church on Main Street. On December 1, 1869, Agnes gave birth to a son, Burgess Bonte Jaycoax. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Sheldon, California. It was in Sheldon that baby Burgess grew very ill and later passed away from "brain congestion," on August 11, 1872. He was only 2 years, 8 months and 11 days old.

It appears that after the death of their son, Agnes and Charles' marriage fell apart. Charles went back to El Dorado County while Agnes chose to move to Sacramento. The 1874 Sacramento Directory shows Agnes as a "grammar school teacher" and living on the West Side of 7th Street in between K and L Streets. By 1876, Agnes was living between 10th and 11th streets on  I Street.

Losing her child must have devastated her, although I believe that keeping busy with the children she taught at school may have been the best thing to keep her spirits up. In fact, she was loved by her pupils so much that they bestowed the greatest gift, a golden watch as a token of their love and appreciation for their teacher. The feeling was mutual for Agnes. In fact, the Sacramento Daily Union newspaper proves this when she published a message to her students thanking them for such a wonderful gift.

Sac Daily Union, 5/16/1874

On March 9, 1876 the 6th District Court gave Agnes a divorce decree from Charles. Agnes continued her teaching in Sacramento, later being promoted to Vice Principal at Sacramento City High School in June of the same year. Only 30 years old, divorced and now a Vice Principal of a high school,  it seemed that her life was on its way to become even greater. Sadly this was not the case.

Tragedy Strikes

On the night of July 3, 1876, after visiting friends on the coast at Cypress Point near Monterey, Agnes reached the end of the line. Eye witness accounts claimed that she had ran out onto the rocks and was blissfully taking in the beautiful scenery when sudden waves struck her causing her to lose her balance, and falling into the cold waters.

One of the members of the group was quoted with this statement:

"Mrs. Jaycoax, venturing out too far on the rocks, was washed to sea by the waves.  I was not in sight of her at the time, When I reached the embankment she was already floating. We watched the body till it disappeared from sight. Mr. Jacks took off some of his clothes, but being assured that it was sure death to undertake her rescue, desisted....The party consisted of four ladies, two gentleman, and a boy, all of whom, except myself, saw her swept away. I was told that the second wave swept her off, and that she made little or no outcry. The body floated off and finally disappeared alltogether."--- Sac Daily Union, July 14, 1876

Honestly, I think they should have let Mr. Jacks go in after her. A gentlemen risks his life for another, and I wonder if that haunted him the rest of his life that he allowed the group to stop him from what he was compelled to do? Yes, he may have lost his life in the process but he would have died knowing he was doing the right thing, trying to save another person. I have often wondered just what type of friends they really were to Agnes, knowing she fell in and yet no one attempted to go in after her?

It took some time but Agnes' body washed up at the mouth of the Salinas River, 15 miles north of where she had fell into the sea.  The son of property owner, Mr. Keating discovered Agnes' body on July 6th. Her body appeared to be in good condition for a corpse, with the only mark noticed being on her knee. Another thing that Mr. Keating noticed was that she had on her person, a golden watch. I believe this was the same watch that her students had gifted her in 1874.  Mr. Keating, along with Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Williamson, retrieved the body and brought it to town where it was properly identified and returned to Sacramento for burial.

Agnes' mother had died earlier that year, and so Agnes was then buried next to her mother and her infant son, Burgess, who had died just four years earlier. The headstone that sits on top of Agnes' grave was donated by her students who raised the money to have it placed there. The scroll on a small marker cites her name and age, as well as date of death. On the top sits a dove holding an olive branch. The dove symbolizes peace, while the branch symbolizes Agnes' untimely or premature death.


When I was out at the beach recently, not too far from where Agnes died, I witnessed the same beauty Agnes witnessed over a century earlier. I was compelled by joy and overtaken by the sheer beauty of nature and the sea, that I ran out to the waves myself. I could understand how she felt just moments leading up to her death. I am sure she had no idea how dangerous it actually was, being so close to the water. Standing on those rocks, as those waves slowly crept in, perhaps around high tide, she just was too close and lost her balance.

Did she kill herself? I don't think so. Do I think her death could have been prevented? Yes. I think her friends gave up to easily and that cost Agnes her life. I wonder what those people in that group thought of themselves after that tragic day. Did they feel bad? Did they move on with their lives, and never give it a second thought? From the way it appeared in the papers, the only one who seemed truly concerned was Mr. Jacks.  Was he her male suitor? Did he care for her? So many questions, and not enough answers.

I believe that although Agnes faced many hardships in her life: the loss of a child, a failed marriage, the death of her mother, she also experienced great joys. She was needed by her students, by the school and by all those who looked to her as an anchor of security, knowledge and stability. Her own words published in the newspaper just two years earlier said it all by showing she liked to focus on what the future held for her, and her incentive to get there. That watch represented great memories of the past and for the future. She had that on her when she died. It just doesn't seem logical to me that she would purposely end her life, then and there, at that time.

If you ever stop by the Historic Sacramento City Cemetery, please stop by Agnes' grave in Section 63. Remember her as the dedicated teacher, the mother who suffered the loss of her own baby, the daughter who lost her mother and remember that tragic day she lost her own life, into the sea.

Rest In Peace, Agnes!


(Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio)


Family Search
Sacramento City Directories
U.S. Census
Great Register
Sac Daily Union
3/10/1876, 8/15/1872, 5/16/1874, 7/14/1876
Marysville Daily Appeal

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Interview with Scott Thomas Anderson: "Truth Seeking Rather Than Profit Seeking"

Scott Thomas Anderson, Author
In the past I have posted various interviews with actors, artists and authors that seem to be making a positive mark in the world. I am delighted to have interviewed Scott Thomas Anderson, who is not only an award winning crime reporter, investigative journalist and author, but also a very driven newspaper editor. Scott has dedicated several years researching in depth into many of the dark elements that most people would rather avoid thinking about: crime, drugs and prison culture. In a world where the truth seems to be swept under the rug, ignored or buried, Scott works even harder at uncovering that truth and shining a light on it for all to see.  Readers of my blog who know me and what I stand for, know that I am 100% a truth seeker. That is why although most of my posts here are my own investigative stories, every once in awhile I will take the time to interview someone or write a review about a book if I feel strongly for their cause or passion. 

Scott Thomas Anderson goes the extra mile in order to get the real story out to the public. That is something I admire and respect as a writer, and as a person of integrity. He does not buckle under pressure or take the easy way out, and his work proves that. I have had the esteemed pleasure to interview him briefly about his new book, as well as asking him a couple choice questions that have really been on my mind, as well as many others today in regards to the field of journalism, the obstacles the industry faces and the credibility of writers today.  


1)  What do you think is the biggest problem journalists face today in mainstream media? (newspapers, television news, etc.)

Scott Thomas Anderson:

"The biggest challenge newsrooms are facing today is that most of them are completely outmatched by the resources and personnel numbers of the government agencies they are supposed to be watch-dogging. The newsrooms may not be outmatched by talent on an individual-to-individual level, but they're outmatched by bodies and budgets. For example, one of the part-time writers who works for me at the Roseville Press Tribune recently published a simple 750-word news story on the amount of money California is spending to house prison inmates with private, for-profit corporate detention centers. Within hours of his story publishing online, two full-time "public information officers" from the Department of Corrections had collectively written me more than 4000 words of text in emails, all in an attempt to alter, change or control that story. Think about the ratio of resources between the newspaper and the government on that single report: One part-time journalist on a limited deadline versus two full-time spin doctors with seemingly unlimited amounts of employee hours dedicated to pushing back on the story - all paid for with tax dollars to boot. A government agency like the California's Department of Corrections has far more former journalists working at its "information center" than most of the newsrooms in the state have actual reporters investigating issues. As newsrooms are hit with continual layoffs, major cities, counties and law enforcement agencies are all hiring more and more of these "public information specialists" to gain as much control as they can over news stories; and the shocking thing is that it's really starting to work."      

2) Do you feel the impact the internet has made has caused a decline of print journalism?

Scott Thomas Anderson:

Courtesy: Scott Thomas Anderson
"I don't think you can blame all of print journalism's challenges on the Internet: And the main reason is that there was a mind-staggering amount of greed on the part of newspaper ownership groups back in the 1990s, when their net profits were incredible, and they were still cutting back the quality of their products to make as much money as they possibly could. That management culture created a newspaper industry that was completely unprepared by 2004 to ask people to pay for its content over free, less-polished imitations. What the Internet did to journalism is really a History question now. At this point, I think it's more vital to be asking the question of what the Internet can do to rescue journalism through innovation and opening new platforms for both professional journalists and talented writers and bloggers."

3) Would you agree or disagree that journalism is a dying field? Why or why not? 

Scott Thomas Anderson:

"To look at the pay and stability attached to most journalism jobs right now, it certainly looks like a dying field. However, I think at some point enough communities will be rail-roaded by powerful special interest groups, exploiting companies and bad political actors that a sense of outrage will remind the public about why local and regional journalism matters so much. At that point, I think they'll be a lot of smart and concerned people trying to figure out how a community can pay for professional reporters."

4) Why do you think many journalists have taken to blogging as well as writing for the mainstream media? Do you think bloggers are taken seriously? 

Scott Thomas Anderson:

"There are so few news agencies who are willing to support real investigative journalism and meaningful beat coverage these days that I think walking away from that to start a news blog becomes appealing to a lot of talented individuals. I also think that some bloggers who have never been professional writers are being taken seriously now by the public if they have skills, drive and passion. We're a story-telling species, and blogs that find a way to illuminate fascinating stories that haven't been told before are going to resonate with people emotionally - they are going to find an audience and be important to that audience. The only concern is that some blogs will try to pass off nonsense and rumors as "factual reporting." Readers have to be more careful than ever to check and cross-reference the blogs they decide they are going to follow. I don't think blogs can take the place of journalism as profession, but I think good blogs can help push back against some of the ways that journalism is being devastated as a profession." 

 5) Your new book, "The Cutting Four-piece: crime and tragedy in an era of prison overcrowding" is a new, eye-opening approach in publishing today. You are going around the big publishing houses, who do not hold the same high factual standards that are upheld in magazines and newspapers, and making your own way to get the facts to the public. Please tell me more about your book and why you chose this approach? 

Scott Thomas Anderson:

Courtesy: Scott Thomas Anderson
"Similar to my first book, "Shadow People: how meth-driven crime is eating at the heart of rural America," this new journalism project is reaching the public with the help of publishing forces that are grant-funded as opposed to profit-motivated. In my experience, a book publishing house whose main concern is a specific earning margin is going to make the book more expensive than it needs to be, meaning a lot of people can't afford to read it, and - more disturbingly - is also going to try to cut the most uncomfortable sections of the journalism because of a belief the public can't handle it, and therefore the book's marketability is diminished. Working on "The Cutting Four-piece" has been a three-year mission for me to bring to light all of the corners of the American justice system people never hear about, but are affecting the safety of their neighborhoods and the health of their communities. 

It takes the readers into the streets to see how prison overcrowding, prison culture, the power of addiction and the crumbling of the U.S. mental health care system are all connected in ways that rarely if ever get reported. Like "Shadow People," I spent a lot of time embedded with law enforcement for it - but this time I also spent a good deal of time with the people rotating in and out of the prison system. Hopefully that split lens in the storytelling gives readers a kind of unified vision of American crime that they might not have seen before. Right now, people can order advanced copies on for $10, which also pledges into a fund that will help us get hundreds of free copies to community foundations and other nonprofit groups. I know people like buying from Amazon and their local book stores, but in this case I'm hoping folks who want to read this particular book get their copy from Kickstarter, partly to send a message to people in my industry that journalism is still about truth-seeking rather than profit seeking."----

Having lived for several years in a high crime area, not unlike the element that Scott's book is focused on, I couldn't agree more with his approach and his message. I don't know about you, but I am very excited to read this book and simply cannot wait to get my copy. Please check out the video on his Kickstarter page and see for yourself what Scott's book is all about!

To order your advanced copy, simply click on the link that will take you over to Scott's KICKSTARTER page : "The Cutting Four-piece: crime and tragedy in an era of prison overcrowding"

Website:  Check out his FACEBOOK: Scott Thomas Anderson, Author

(Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio, Dreaming Casually)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Long Way Down-- The Story of Elna Zimmerman

R.A. Long Building
She stood there for a moment, pausing to take it all in, and then after the moment had passed she took one last breath, clasped her hands together and dove headfirst as if diving into a swimming pool. Sadly, it was not a pool that she was diving into. No, on February 10, 1914, Miss Elna Zimmerman had just committed suicide, by jumping off the northwest corner of the R.A. Long building near the fire escape into the alleyway below.

Leaped To Her Death

The newspapers were quick to grab the story, literally detailing the moments leading up to and after Elna's fatal last steps. According to eye witnesses, she was a beautiful woman, dressed in very "fashionable" attire. The newspaper reported that she paid the head elevator man 10 cents to take her to the roof. Why on earth he left her there we'll never know. It makes you wonder if he was fired for that horrible lapse in judgment. 

After getting off the elevator, Elna had made her way to the rooftop on the northwest corner of the R.A. Long building, located at 928 Grand Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri. With $6.75 tucked away in the pocket of her overcoat, a very well dressed Elna made her way to the parapet. Inching along to the edge she stopped to remove her plumed hat, as witnesses across the way in the building next door screamed in horror as they watched her plunge to her death. 

The Topeka State Journal read,

Plumed Hat, Model 1914
 "The body was identified as that of Miss Elna Zimmerman, a stenographer, employed by an implement company. The cashier of the company made the identification. At the house where Miss Zimmerman roomed it was said that she had shown despondency for weeks but had confided in no one. She had attempted to take her life before by swallowing acid, it was said.

So carefully did the woman choose the point from which to leap, few persons passing in the street knew of the suicide until long after the mangled body had been taken away....The woman removed her hat, a black beaver affair with two plumes, before she climbed over the parapet and leaped.

L.L. Adams, with office in a neighboring office building, saw the woman climb over the parapet. The woman evidently made a premeditated dive for death. She struck headfirst and that part of the body was badly mangled. She wore a gray overcoat, black gloves, a grayish silk waist, and had dark brown hair. Dr. Fritz Moeninghoff, deputy coroner, said death was instantaneous. Several telephone linemen were working the alley. As the woman jumped they saw her and screamed. A clerk in the New York Central offices in the R.A. Long building, heard the scream and ran into the alley."--

So what caused Miss Zimmerman to feel that suicide was her only way out? 

According to the newspapers, her roommates stated that they could tell she had been depressed and had not spoken to anyone about it.

But why was she depressed? 

Quickly rumors started to spread that she may have killed herself over an ended love affair, but this idea was quickly dismissed by Elna's friends.  "She had many friends..but I never knew of her going out with young men," a friend, Mary Lamb stated.

So if it wasn't a love affair gone wrong, why then was Elna in such a volatile state of mind that day? After digging deeper into her background the pieces of the puzzle started to make a little more sense. 

Family History

Elna was born in August of 1883, in the state of Kansas, to parents Isaac and Flora Zimmerman. She had two older brothers, Walter and Miles.  According to accounts I found, Elna's mother was very ill for many years and was considered an invalid.  In August of 1901, after a severe heat wave, it seemed that mental state of 45 year-old Flora had been affected. Perhaps she was tired of feeling like a burden to her family, not being able to care for them but instead needing them to take care of her. 

After Elna had went to bed for the night, Flora knew that it was her only chance to make a move. You see, Elna took care of her every single moment she could, literally staying by her mother's side to care for her every need. Obviously, Elna didn't see that taking care of her mother was a burden at all, but instead lovingly accepted the task to show her mother the same care she had once received from her. Sadly, once Elna had went to bed there was no telling to what Flora had in mind. 

After fashioning for herself a makeshift noose, Flora attempted to hang herself. Succeeding only in the sense that she was dangling by the neck, but not well enough to cause sudden death, she hanged there until she was discovered by a family member. Although not dead when she was finally cut down, she expired shortly thereafter.

One can only imagine the terrible loss that Elna must have felt, especially since she had taken it upon herself to care for her mother. It is only natural to wonder if Elna had some feelings of guilt, although it was beyond her control what happened to her mother.

The tragedies didn't stop there.  The newspapers mentioned that her older brother Miles had passed away, along with mentioning another very sad story about Elna's father.  In May of 1908, Isaac Zimmerman shot himself in the head in his hotel room for reasons unknown. After that, the only family Elna had left were her grandparents in Oberlin, Kansas, where she was originally from, and her brother, Walter in California. At one point Elna moved out to California to live with Walter for an undisclosed amount of time, only returning to Kansas City, Missouri, about a year prior to her suicide. 

In concluding this story, it is obvious that Elna had seen her fair share of death. Perhaps she felt its sting swarming around her at every turn. Maybe, just maybe she felt that she could not bear one more loss, deciding that her own demise would be the only peace she could find. Due to so many suicides in her family, I wonder if both of her parents suffered from some sort of  mental illness, or perhaps severe melancholia. One can only speculate since we have no further information.

c/o Sherry @ Findagrave
In the end, Elna chose to take that tragic leap over the edge, to the darkness of death that waited for her below. The sadness and pain she must have felt inside had to have overwhelmed her to the point she couldn't stand one more moment on this earth. It saddens me that she was unable to reach out, or be reached by someone that could have possibly made the difference between her life and death. Maybe then that terrible tragedy could have been averted that day on Grand Avenue.

Elna is buried at Mount Washington Cemetery in Independece, Missouri at Plot: River Terrace 72-3834.  To visit her Findagrave memorial CLICK HERE! 



(Copyright, 2015- J'aime Rubio)

Photo Credit for Elna's grave : Sherry on Findagrave

Topeka State Journal, Feb 11, 1914
The Guthrie daily leader. (Guthrie, Okla.) 1893-1996, February 11, 1914
The Day Book, February 11, 1914
The Daily Ardmoreite. (Ardmore, Okla.) 1893-current, February 10, 1914, 
Omaha Daily Bee., February 11, 1914, 
The Guthrie daily leader. (Guthrie, Okla.) 1893-1996, August 10, 1901, 
Topeka Daily Capital, Feb 11,1914 
Hopkinsville Kentuckian, Feb 14,1914
1900 Census Records