If I May Have It
If I may have it when it's dead
I will contented be;
If just as soon as breath is out
It shall belong to me,
Until they lock it in the grave,
'Tis bliss I cannot weigh,
For though they lock thee in the grave,
Myself can hold the key.
Think of it, lover! I and thee
Permitted face to face to be;
After a life, a death we'll say, -
For death was that, but this is thee.
The State Journal, August 23, 1878.
Suicide in Saline County.
A correspondent of the Bazoo at Marshall, Saline county, gives an account of the suicide of Miss Hattie Miller, daughter of J. K. Miller, a respectable farmer of Grand Pass township, on Friday last. She was a beautiful, fascinating young lady of about eighteen years, well beloved by all who knew her--except one. The cause of her self-destruction seems to have been unrequited love. On the morning of the suicide she got up in her usual cheerful, merry spirit and there was nothing in her manner that would have led any one to suppose that in three hours she would be dead, and that at her own hands.
She had been keeping company with a young man by the name of Charles Miller, and after breakfast they had a short interview which ended in an unpleasant manner. Shortly after she said to her sister, "tell papa I have swallowed strychnine" and went to her room. In a few minutes she was dead. After taking the poison she wrote the following and left it on her table:
Darling Mother:--I come to the conclusion that I cannot live any longer happy. If you want to know anything go to Charley Miller; he can tell you all. I ask forgiveness of all the children and Papa. I know what fate I will meet--death; but that is nothing to this world's troubles. Tell Aunt Liza I am thankful for all the good advice she has given me. I know it will be a great trouble to you, Ma; but try and bear it. Ma, don't grieve for me. Give everything I have to Nannie, and ask her to send Bigger's ring home. Give my pig to Addie. Ask Charlie to forgive me. I forgive him with all my heart. Tell him for his mother's sake not to be so fickle-minded. It is with regret I write this, and take my own life; but I will meet Johnnie.
Bury me at the side of Johnnie, and I hope we will be the only ones that will commit such an act. My dying love to all. Ask Papa to forgive me. O, forgive me.
Go, Ma, tell Aunt Nancy Gauldin everything. I am going to take some strychnine.
The note was folded and addressed as follows:
To my darling mother and father, and sisters and brothers. Write to Maggie Spears. Tell her all, and write to Cousin Gabe.
She had a cousin, Johnnie, referred to in the above, who committed suicide a few months ago, because of unrequited love.
She was buried as requested. The grief stricken parents and friends have the sympathy of all who knew them.
The curtains were half drawn, the floor was swept
And strewn with rushes, rosemary and may
Lay thick upon the bed on which I lay,
Where through the lattice ivy-shadows crept.
He leaned above me, thinking that I slept
And could not hear him; but I heard him say,
‘Poor child, poor child’: and as he turned away
Came a deep silence, and I knew he wept.
He did not touch the shroud, or raise the fold
That hid my face, or take my hand in his,
Or ruffle the smooth pillows for my head:
He did not love me living; but once dead
He pitied me; and very sweet it is
To know he still is warm though I am cold.
After several years spent combing through the newspaper archives of pre-1920 Missouri, I have read countless stories of death. Some brought about by accidental circumstances - a frightened horse, venturing too far into the murky waters while bathing, coal oil fire starters, or falling asleep in the company of a train; while others faced death on their own terms by procuring a vial of arsenic, a swallow of carbolic acid, or a leap from great heights. The stories of Missouri's unremarkable, and mostly forgettable, souls have resided in a dark file on my computer, after being deemed too disturbing to be shared with my FB page audience (aside from Morbid Mondays, of course). The names of the dead, whether unintentional or deliberate, have been buried by the passage of time, only to be dug up from the archives and passed through my mind...wondering what lives they led before greeting Death.
These stories fascinate me with a morbid curiosity; the way a child feels when presented with the trappings of a present-day funeral. Sometimes I skim through an obituary and silently congratulate the deceased for a life well-lived. Others, like the sudden death of a young mother with five children and a newly widowed husband who hasn't a clue what to do with them, pull me into their story and lead a search for how the family survived after such a loss.
As a genealogist, I am constantly reminded that the names of the long ago deceased are someone's people. Ancestors to many who, most likely, still reside in Missouri and may stumble upon these posts by chance only to be met with a gruesomely described account of death. To soften this blow, I will include any useful information (burial location, other life details...) with my posts, when available.
"Cineri gloria sera venit" ~ Fame comes too late to the dead.
This is my humble effort to offer a moment of remembrance for those who have slipped quietly through time.