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Mortimer J. "Martin" Postlewait 1851-1905


Posted By: Debbie Truitt (email)
Date: 1/25/2019 at 14:28:13

Mortimer P. aka Martin Postlewait disappeared from Ottumwa between the evening of March 3 and the morning of March 4, 1905, and was never seen again. He left a note in the pocket of his coat, hanging on the railing near the Market Street Bridge, saying that he was, “going to end it all.” At one point in the investigation, authorities believed that Mortimer was alive and well and working in Shelbina, Missouri.

Mortimer was declared legally dead on March 6, 1913. Following are newspaper articles about Mortimer:

News Article From “Ottumwa Daily Courier,” Saturday, March 4, 1905:


“Good-Bye wife and children, I am going to end it all,” was the message printed in the note book of Mart [sic] P. Postlewait, whose coat was found hanging on the railing of the Market street [bridge] this morning. Mr. Postlewait is a painter residing at 310 Webster street in South Ottumwa and many of his friends fear that he has committed suicide by jumping into the Des Moines river.

Mr. Postlewait attended the democratic primary in the seventh ward last evening and later in the evening was talking with some friends on Church street, regarding the result of the caucus. This is the last seen of him so far as the officers are able to learn. Mrs. Postlewait, who is nearly prostrated with grief and fear, stated to Officer P.J. Hess this morning that Mr. Postlewait had been acting queerly for the past few weeks and that he left home about noon yesterday, stating that he would not be home until about noon today as he had considerable work to do. He has not yet returned, however.

This morning about 6:30 o’clock a coat was found hanging on the railing near the center of the Market street bridge and was taken to the police station where it was identified as the coat worn by the missing man, by his young daughter. In a note book in the pocket of the coat was printed the words stating that he would end it all.

Notwithstanding the note there are many of his acquaintances who doubt the suicide theory and think that he will be found in a few days.

About two years ago, Mr. Postlewait was absent from home for several days and it was thought that he had committed suicide. One cold morning he was found lying unconscious in his own yard, nearly dead from exposure. He was ill for several weeks and was never able to give an account of where he was or how he came to his home. Mr. Postlewait has a wife and five children, the oldest 20 years of age.
News Article From "Ottumwa tri-weekly courier,” Tuesday, May 09, 1905, Page 5:



Coat Found On Bridge May 4 Contained the Message, “Good Bye, Wife and Children, I am Going to End It All.”

M.P. Postlewait, who disappeared from his home, 310 Webster street, on the evening of March 3, and whose coat, found on the railing of the Market street bridge the following morning contained the message, “Good bye wife and children, I am going to end it all,” is believed to be alive and working in Missouri. As the result of investigations made by Constable George Blount it is believed that there is no doubt that the Ottumwa man, whom many believed had committed suicide by jumping in the river, is alive and healthy.

Constable Blount stated this morning that Mrs. Postlewait had received a letter a few weeks ago from a man who had formerly worked with Martin Postlewait at Kirksville, Mo., and was well acquainted with him, to the effect that he had met Postlewait at Shelbina, Mo., recently. He spoke to Mr. Postlewait, calling him by name, but the Ottumwa man denied his identity and insisted that there was some mistake.

Visits Shelbina.

Constable Blount visited Shelbina and found that Postlewait had been there but had left for Hannibal a few days before. He says that there is no doubt but what the man who was working under the name of Frank Phillips, was in reality Postlewait. The officer stated that Mrs. Postlewait was satisfied to know that her husband is alive and does not desire that he be brought back to Ottumwa.

As Mr. Postlewait disappeared from home about two years ago and returned under mysterious circumstances and unable to give an account of where he had been, there were many who doubted the suicide theory, when his coat was found on the Market street bridge a few weeks ago, and believed that he had simply left the city.
News Article From “Ottumwa Courier,” Wednesday, March 5, 1913:
(Note last name is spelled Postlewaite in this article. I have transcribed it as written.)

Postlewaite Case Is Now Being Heard


The story of the disappearance of Mortimer P. Postlewaite was recited to the jury in the district court today by Marion R. Postlewaite, the wife who mourned her husband as dead. The case is that brought by Mrs. Postlewaite against the Merchants Life Association of Burlington, Iowa, in which Mr. Postlewaite held a policy for $2,000. The plaintiff is suing for recovery of the policy, the grounds being that her husband has been missing over seven years, and he is legally dead.

Mrs. Postlewaite told the court that on June 22, 1900, the defendant company insured her husband, and between the evening of March 3 and the morning of March 4, 1905, he disappeared. She further related that she had kept up the insurance dues and at the end of seven years had filed a proof of death. A coat found on the Market street bridge was identified by Mrs. Postlewaite as belonging to her husband. In answer to the allegation in the petition, the insurance company has filed a statement to the effect that Postewaite had been seen in Kansas City by two parties.

The jury in the case is composed of F. Allman, J. Mathews, Thomas Godley, L.O. Carter, Victor Kendall, Frank M. Mast, J.P. Swanson, Tom Odenbaugh, Henry Work, J.W. Parrott, H.P. McDavitt and J.F. Kaiser.
News Article From “Ottumwa Courier,” Thursday, March 6, 1913: (Note last name is spelled Postlewaite in this article. I have transcribed it as written.)



Mortimer P. Postlewaite is legally dead. The jury in the case against the Merchants Life association of Burlington, after considering the evidence in the action less than two hours returned a verdict favoring Mrs. Postlewaite for $2,092.66, being the full amount of the policy carried by Postlewaite with interest at six per cent from March 4, 1912. The defense made by the insurance company was to the effect that the plaintiff did not prove absolutely that her husband was dead, and evidence was shown that W.K. Williamson had seen Postlewaite in Kansas City within a year after he mysteriously disappeared and left his coat on the Market street bridge. The evidence was completed last evening and the morning session before Judge Vermillion was give over to arguments.


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