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.
Back in January, I wrote about Harry Morris & his disappearance. You can see the earlier post published on January 13, 2013. His grandson Joe & I have spent many hours searching online for Harry & have never found anything. He simply disappeared from Kansas City — leaving his wife, Flora (Blume Kremer) Morris, with six children to care for. Because a person can’t completely vanish in today’s world, I have had a hard time accepting that he just walked out. I understand divorce and separation, but I can’t imagine never coming back to see your children. Thanks to Flora’s other recent immigrant family members from Russia and Lithuania, she somehow managed to keep her family together. And she eventually remarried and lived to be 81 years old, living from 1890 to 1971. Flora (Blume Kremer) was a resourceful and resilient woman.
Now with better communication, computers, DNA tests, etc., it is a rare occurrence that a man (or woman) can go to the corner store for a pack of cigarettes & never return. Harry’s grandson, Joe, has had his DNA tested on familytreedna.com and maybe some day, someone will be a good DNA match and the pieces can be put together.
My interest in Harry Morris started when I began trying to help my daughter’s Russian & Eastern European side of her family create a family tree. Over the last weeks, I have read many articles about the difficulties that these new immigrants had in adjusting to their lives in America. I bought a used book titled “Mid-America’s Promise: A Profile of Kansas City Jewry” that was edited by Joseph D. Schultz & published in 1982.
I bought this book hoping that it might contain some references to my daughter’s family members. Unfortunately, there aren’t any with the one exception of a photo of Robert “Bob” Bernstein who invented the McDonald’s Happy Meal. But, from this wonderful book I have learned how these Russian & Eastern European immigrants, at the turn of the 20th Century, ended up in Kansas City, MO.
I will try to keep this short, but a brilliant man named Jacob Billikopf was instrumental in the Kansas City immigration story. He was a recent immigrant from Lithuania who worked with other Jewish leaders to try and remedy the situation in New York. The wave of immigrants had begun to overwhelm New York’s resources and the city leader’s were quickly becoming desperate. The book explains how Jacob created the “Billikopf Route”. Many representatives of American Jewish charities traveled to Hamburg & Bremerhaven to try and convince the immigrants to land and move further west from NYC. Jacob Billikopf basically created the Galveston, TX route in order to help the immigrants find a “more assured future”. He managed Kansas City’s Jewish social services and found jobs and housing for the people willing to travel further west.
That said, it doesn’t explain what happened to Harry Morris. While many Eastern European immigrants were able to quickly assimilate, some were not. The ones who landed in NYC could hold onto their old ways, Yiddish language, and customs longer than the immigrants who moved further west. There was more pressure on those who took the “Billikopf Route” and some felt very isolated in their new country. There were also social and cultural rifts between the older German Jewish population and the new poorer Eastern European immigrants.
Desertion, the poor man’s “divorce”, happened so often among the Eastern Europeans that a National Desertion Bureau was formed to help locate the wayward Jewish husbands and fathers. Jacob Billikopf became very disturbed by the problems created by desertion and death. He and Judge Edward Porterfield wrote and passed a bill in 1911 that established a “Mothers’ Assistance Fund” in Kansas City. This bill was a forerunner to the Aid to Dependent Children programs across the country.
The problems caused by desertion didn’t occur only in Kansas City. The situation was so bad that the Jewish Daily Forward, the largest-circulation Yiddish daily in the world, began running the “Gallery of Missing Men,” a page full of mug shots of these husbands. It was published to shame them into returning to their families. Or maybe to warn other women about these scoundrels.
I don’t have a lot of information about my biological father’s family, so I have been slowly working backward from my father’s records to his father, etc.
It is always surprising when you find an early death or an interesting newspaper article about one of your relatives. Today I found that Olivette Engle, my paternal Great Aunt (sister to my paternal grandfather) was murdered by her 2nd husband Frank Wesley Johnson. And she wasn’t divorced from her first husband, Joseph G. Crum.
Olivette Engle was born on 7 Nov 1901 in Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania to Charles F. Engle & Anna Thomas Engle. She was one of six Engle children. The family moved to Union, Broome County, New York at some point between 1910 and 1920. The 1910 U.S. Federal Census shows them living in Taylor, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. And the 1920 U.S. Federal Census has them living in Union, New York.