Before I get started, I need to say that these three died in the years 1922, 1935 and 1948. And that I didn’t know them. I only discovered how they died by reading newspaper clippings and ordering copies of their death certificates while researching my family tree.
To get into the mood for this post, I suggest you click on the link below and listen to Alfred Hitchcock’s album, “Music to be Murdered by”.
Don’t worry — this is a free site. Once you are on the site, click on the audio button and you can hear the entire album, once again, for free. Below is a list of the tracks, and I must add that it is quite humorous. But, I have a macabre sense of humor. Like they say, “what doesn’t kill you only postpones the inevitable”.
1. I’ll Never Smile Again
2. I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You
3. After You’ve Gone
4. Alfred Hitchcock Television Theme
6. Body and Soul
7. Lover Come Back to Me
8. I’ll Walk Alone
9. The Hour of Parting
I’ve already written about Olivette Engle in an earlier post dated February 25, 2013. She was shot to death by her deranged husband who had been gassed during World War I. The cause of death on her death certificate is “perforating bullet, wound of chest and skull”. Olivette is from my paternal side of the family.
The other two ancestors who were killed were Roy Britt and his brother William C. Britt. The Britt brothers were the sons of John Franklin Britt and Margaret Jane Strain Britt of Eufaula, Alabama. And brothers to my maternal grandfather, John Mansel Britt. Roy was born in 1892 and William was born in 1894. Both had served in WWI just like Olivette Engle’s deranged husband. Roy and William are from my maternal side of the family.
These three Britt boys must have been quite the characters in Eufaula. My grandfather and Roy both left Alabama to work in New Jersey during and after WWI. John Mansel and Roy married girls from New Jersey, but ended up returning to Alabama without their wives. They never got divorced, but they also never got back together with their wives. As far as I can tell, William C. Britt never married.
I can only guess that the brothers had some status in Alabama and could rely on their father’s name whereas New Jersey was probably a very foreign environment. They ditched the North and returned to the South. Eufaula is a lovely town with beautiful antebellum homes and a nice slow pace.
William was killed first in 1935. I am going to post a newspaper clipping about his death, but first I need to add a disclaimer. It was written in the South in 1935 and I apologize for the article’s racist tone.
I don’t know where William’s gas station was in Eufaula, AL, but the photo above is an actual abandoned filling station in Eufaula. I found this photo in the Library of Congress Archives, and to give credit where credit is due, the web connection to this print is http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.08369
Roy was killed in 1948. He had lived in New Jersey for a short time and married Melda Zitzner. Melda Z. Britt stayed on in New Jersey and died in 1986. She never remarried even though Roy died years before.
I haven’t found out why Roy got into an argument or why it lead to his murder. But I have found some interesting information about soft drinks and the South.
The article below is copied from the Wikipedia article, “The Culture of the South”.
Many of the most popular American soft drinks today originated in the South (Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Big Red, Royal Crown Cola and its related Nehi products and Dr Pepper). In many parts of Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Texas and other parts of the South, the term “soft drink” or “soda” is discarded in favor of “Coke”. Some people use the term “co-cola” when ordering a soft drink. In most restaurants, when someone orders “coke” or “co-cola”, it is understood to bring whatever brand of cola the establishment offers.
Yesterday I received an email from a Kenneth Schaeffer, a volunteer at http://www.findagrave.com He found my birth mother’s gravestone & posted a photo of it on the findagrave site.
Kenneth Schaeffer has added 3,876 memorials to findagrave and has taken 580 volunteer photos in the Pennsylvania area.
What is Find A Grave?
Find a Grave’s mission is to find, record and present final disposition information from around the world as a virtual cemetery experience.
If you haven’t taken a look at this site, I urge you to do so. It is a great genealogical resource. Plus, if you have photos to add, it will help the future generations with their research. Anyone with a digital camera can check out the photo requests in their area and post a picture.
Thank you Kenneth!
Both of my biological parents are dead. I wish I had met one of them to hear the story of how they met, why Grace Britt took the train to Kansas City to give birth to me and much more. The one thing that I know they had in common was drinking. Unfortunately, it was also the cause of both of their deaths.
My bio. father, Bill Engle, was born on April 1, 1919 in Montana and died on December 27, 1966 in Bay Head, NJ. I’ve talked to my 1/2 brother and 1/2 sister on the Engle side and, although they didn’t know that I existed, they weren’t terribly surprised. Their (& my) father was an avid horseman and polo player. He could even ride a horse standing on its’ back. Bill was a pilot, was in the Masonic Lodge and a character. His son volunteered to have his autosomal DNA tested. I had already had my DNA tested at http://www.familytreedna.com and the test proved our 1/2 sibling relationship.
When Grace met Bill, he was married and had a family. Whether she knew about his family or learned about it later, I’ll never know. Bill’s wife has also passed away. If she was alive, I’d never write this in a post. But it certainly explains Grace’s going to Kansas City on the train. Men aren’t always honest and, as the saying goes, “all is fair in love and war”.
Bill Engle was a military man and served in both WWII and the Korean War. During Korea, he was in the armored tank division and was hit by a tank tread. After coming back to New Jersey, he started a successful real estate agency called “Town & Country”.
I wish I knew more about him as he was a character. It was his wish to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Below is a photo of Bill Engle taken from a Graceland College yearbook.
On the Britt side, Madison D. fought for the Confederate Army.
Madison D Britt (1836 – 1912)
is your 2nd great grandfather
John Franklin Britt (1862 – 1929)
Son of Madison D
John Mansel Britt (1896 – 1970)
Son of John Franklin
Grace Adele Britt (1928 – 1975)
Daughter of John Mansel
Janet K. Page (aka Ellen Britt)
You are the daughter of Grace Adele
Madison D. Britt was born April 17, 1836 in Columbus, Muscogee, Georgia. He married Frances A. Vessels. Frances (Fannie) was born about 1835 in Midway, Bullock County, Alabama. I haven’t found how long he fought, but according to the attached record, he enlisted in August of 1862.
On the Britt side of my family, I had the Confederates. On the Dickinson side, I had the Union Soldiers.
John W. Dickinson (1843 – 1916)
is your 2nd great grandfather
Mary Emma Dickinson (1877 – 1919)
Daughter of John W.
Florence Adele Lamb (1903 – 1984)
Daughter of Mary Emma
Grace Adele Britt (1928 – 1975)
Daughter of Florence Adele
Janet K. Page (aka Ellen Britt)
You are the daughter of Grace Adele
John W. Dickinson was born at Oyster Bay, NY in 1843. John W. married Emma Woodruff, who was born in Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey in about 1847. He enlisted in the war originally on May 6, 1861 and then reenlisted on August 22, 1862. From September 28 of 1864 until June 19, 1865 (when he mustered out) he was in the hospital. Part of the time he was in Ward U.S.A. General Hospital, Newark, NJ. The records don’t say if he was injured or sick — many of the men caught communicable diseases like typhoid, Camp Fever, dysentery or tuberculosis.
I was born at the Willows Maternity Sanitarium in April and my mother (Grace) took the train back to New Jersey soon after. Grace got married two months later in June and not to my bio. father. She must have had great care at the Willows to be able to get married so quickly after giving birth. In my case, I have no discipline and thirty seven years later everyone is still asking when my baby is due. . . .
text on the back of the card reads (I apologize for the political incorrectness of the times)
As bends the sapling, so grows the giant oak.
‘Tis not the reversal of species, but the development of species the forester seeks and attains.
Pride not yourself that you are better than your humble neighbor, the untutored lout, or the depraved Apache. Rather thank the fates that fortune favored you in your education and training during the formative years.
If the royal offspring falls into the hands of the depraved at birth and the child of the gutter occupies the royal cradle, then the royal one is educated a “gutter snipe” and the humble blood grows a prince.”
Where are the records for the Willows Maternity Home?
When the Willows Maternity Sanitarium closed in 1969, after 64 years of providing a haven and help for “unfortunate” girls and adoption services for their newborns, “the records were piled in the backyard and burned.” This statement, published in The Kansas City Star, June 22, 1975, was repeated again in 1982 by Mrs. Sam Ray about the Willows in the historical article that accompanied the postcard in her column “Postcards from Old Kansas City” in The Kansas City Star.
Its central location in the United States with easy access by railroad contributed to Kansas City becoming “the baby hub of the United States.” The back page of a Willows pamphlet called Interesting Willows’ Statistics (1921) features a map of railroad lines across the United States all leading into Kansas City. The caption reads, “A glance at a railroad map of the United States will show the splendid position of Kansas City for the care of unfortunate young women. Its easy access from all directions, excellent train service and central location gives it the pre-eminent position in the country for its work.”
At the Willows alone, it is estimated that, over its 64-year existence, 25,000 to 35,000 babies were adopted, lending credence to the observation in 1991 by Kate Burke, president of the American Adoption Congress in Washington, that indeed, Kansas City was “the baby hub of the United States.”
Librarian Sherrie Kline Smith
Pictured on a photographic post card in black and white, and dated Nov. 5, 1909, is the Willows Maternity Sanitarium, 2929 Main Street.
The sanitarium was actually a home for unwed pregnant women in a day when the privacy of such an institution was sought. Such situations were not even discussed in polite society.
The Willows was founded by Edwin and Cora May Haworth in their white frame home at 2929 Main. It was opened as a refuge for unwed mothers. Later the home was given a brick facade, remembered by those who rode the Main Street trolley cars downtown.
A young woman who found she had been born and adopted at the Willows visited Kansas City in June 1975 and gave an interview to The Star.
Let’s get it straight that it was no baby mill, she said. They were fine upstanding people who ran the home and only the most socially prominent Midwestern women were taken in. It had a lot of snob appeal. It was like the Ritz or Waldorf of homes for unwed mothers. It cost more to go there than it did to attend a finishing school.
Pregnant girls were met at the railroad station and escorted in limousines to the steps of the Willows and remained up to eight months.
Operation of the Willows was very strict. Not just every unwed mother could get in. They were recommended by prominent doctors throughout the U.S.
The post card seems to bear out the last statement. The reverse side of the card, which was mailed to a Dr. Thomas J. Shreves, Des Moines, bears this printed promotional message: Dear Doctor: Our new steam heating plant and hot-water storage system is to be completed Nov. 15. (1909). Meanwhile we have heating accommodations adequate to properly care for our seclusion patients.
At present we have 10 babies for adoption. Hoping to serve you when occasion arises, I am, fraternally yours, E.P. Haworth, Supt.
At one time as many as 102 young women occupied the facility and as many as 125 babies were in the nursery, awaiting adoption.
Some of the original staff included Dr. John W. Kepner, obstetrician from 1905 to 1931; Miss Hannah Dore, secretary; Miss Ada Jaggers, head nurse; Charles Laybourne, maintenance engineer, and Dr. Frank Neff, pediatrician.
At the closing and razing of the Willows in 1969, records of its 64 years of operation were piled in the back yard and burned. It was the end of an era.
Kansas City Times
May 7, 1982